KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Can’t Americans Be ‘Fat And Happy’? Trying To Intimidate WellPoint; Generous Coverage Helps GOP Sen. Kirk Recuperate

Los Angeles Times: Fat And Happy? You Must Be American
If we’re going to be fat, can’t we also be happy? That way, when you read this -- "a new report estimated that the cost of treating those additional obese people for diabetes, heart disease and other medical conditions would add up to nearly $550 billion over the next two decades" -- you won't despair. Instead, you'll channel your inner Warren Buffett -- and buy stock in health insurance companies and hospitals and medical supply firms (Paul Whitefield, 5/8).

The Washington Post: The Sweet Tooth That Spawned An Epidemic
Close your eyes and picture 110 million obese people waddling around America's sidewalks. You'll probably want to keep your eyes closed. Such is the scenario suggested by a new study projecting that 42 percent of American adults will be obese by 2030. That's 32 million more than today's 78 million. Of course, they probably won't be waddling. They'll be in their cars in the fast-food lane, as they are now. Recall that independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me") gained 24.5 pounds after one month of eating exclusively at McDonald's (Kathleen Parker, 5/8).

Boston Globe: Obesity, A New Kind Of Smoke
The war on smoking can help guide the nation's fight against obesity. Trash food can be the cigarette. Obesity can be lung cancer. This week, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Weight of the Nation conference in Washington, researchers projected that 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030. That is more than triple the rates a half-century ago. The health care costs of obesity have, by most accounts, surpassed the medical costs of smoking (Derrick Z. Jackson, 5/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Intimidation By Proxy 
The campaign to intimidate companies from exercising their free-speech rights is in high gear as shareholder proxy season arrives, and the most prominent early target is health-insurer WellPoint. ... insurers still make inviting political targets because they are unpopular and have no choice but to raise premiums due to ObamaCare's new coverage mandates. The White House wants to blame insurers for these increases, and it doesn't want the insurers to be able to fight back. In addition to attacking WellPoint, Change to Win has already begun a shareholder campaign targeting Cigna for contributing to the insurance trade association (5/8).

Chicago Sun-Times: Kirk Talks About Tax Cuts Due To Quality Health Care
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) on Tuesday released a brief videotape of his recovery process from a severe stroke he suffered Jan. 21. … As a U.S. senator, Kirk is covered by excellent health insurance. He also can raise money through influential friends and political party members to whom most Americans do not have access if he needs it to pay other medical costs. … I want Kirk to release an itemized list of his health care bills since the stroke. I want to see if any 401(k)-type self-insurance plan, supported by Republicans, could have financed the Kirk Care Plan (Phil Kadner, 5/8).

Politico Pro: Patients Facing Unnecessary Barriers On Imaging Services
As the founder of Patient Advocate Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping patients with cancer and other serious conditions access the care they need, I believe that recent changes to public policies that reduce reimbursement for imaging services, restrict utilization and encumber patients’ ability to have more than one diagnostic procedure per day are counterintuitive (Nancy Davenport-Ennis, 5/9).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: What Does Pa. Have Against Mom?
Consider this: The proposed Pennsylvania state budget would slash funds paid to hospitals for the delivery of babies. Einstein Healthcare Network is one of only six medical centers in Philadelphia that still delivers babies. Over the past 15 years, 18 local hospitals closed their obstetrics departments primarily because of the financial burden of rising malpractice costs combined with inadequate reimbursements. To make matters worse, the state proposes to reduce Medicaid payments to hospitals for deliveries, and slash a special fund to compensate hospitals that have kept their obstetrics departments open for their increased patient load (Barry Freedman, 5/9).

The Lund Report (an Oregon news service): Economist Challenges Governor Kitzhaber to Make Evidence-Based Practice The Standard Of Care
Regence's recently announced decision to drop contracts with certain provider networks used by individual policyholders in the Portland area is an ominous and dangerous development. Not only does it challenge the single thing most healthcare consumers think is best about the current payment system -- wide choice and dependable coverage of one's personal caregivers -- it is inexplicable as a first line of response to the problem of costs (Larry Kirsch, 5/8).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.