KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: HHS Punts On Essential Benefits; A Doctor’s View Of Medicare

Los Angeles Times: A Detour On Health Reform
The health care reform law passed last year requires insurers to offer, at a minimum, a set of "essential" benefits to individuals and small groups. ... On Friday, however, the (Department of Health and Human Services) put out a bulletin proposing to let each state come up with its own definition. The move — which shielded the administration from a potential firestorm of criticism from patient advocates on one side and business groups on the other — was politically deft. But creating a patchwork of 50 different standards for health coverage would be bad policy (12/21).

Fox News: A Doctor Tells The Truth About Medicare
Not all practicing doctors will readily admit this, but we all look at Medicare (and all health insurance for that matter, public or private), the same way. Medicare is cumbersome, an unnecessary interface between us and our patients, and most importantly, it doesn't pay us sufficiently to justify the work we do, the growing technology we must master, and the series of complex health problems (because of the great treatments we offer) that go along with keeping patients alive much longer. In other words, it is harder to be a doctor taking care of elderly patients than ever, and doctors are being paid less and less to do so (Dr. Marc Siegel, 12/20).

The New York Times: Better Care For The Disabled
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vowed to reform the wasteful and sometimes dangerous system that is supposed to care for more than 125,000 developmentally disabled adults in about 6,000 homes across New York State (12/20).

Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery: No Need To Fear Evidence-Based Medicine 
No Need To Fear Evidence-Based Medicine Evidence-based medicine (EBM) aims to apply the best available evidence gained from the scientific method to clinical decision making. The notion seems noble in its purpose, yet there are some apprehensions and misconceptions among physicians, especially those in a predominantly surgical field such as facial plastic surgery. Developing a sophisticated understanding of the inherent biases and limitations of EBM will become increasingly important for the researcher and practicing surgeon (Drs. John S. Rhee and Opeyemi O. Daramola, 12/20).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Accelerating Identification And Regulatory Approval Of Investigational Cancer Drugs
An approach to improving the ability to more rapidly identify new drugs for the targeted treatment of diseases such as cancer involves focusing on subtypes of patients who at the time of diagnosis are at risk for a poor outcome but who do not yet have metastatic disease. This approach will require and enable the identification of patient populations using defined prognostic and predictive biomarkers (Drs. Laura J. Esserman and Janet Woodcock, 12/21).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): If Obamacare Is To Be Overturned, Somebody Needs To Find A Better Idea
I have had two observation points in my life with regards to health reform. The first was in 1991, when after nearly two decades of working in health care, I took a sabbatical and enrolled at the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs. I was 40 years old and needed refurbishing. The second defining moment has been most recently after a comprehensive economic review of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a., Obamacare. … I now firmly believe that overturning this most recent round of legislation will do more harm than good.  Is that not what we ask doctors to avoid? (Francis Miller, 12/20).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): In Support Of Childhood Immunization: A Pediatrician's Perspective
The diseases vaccines protect against can be deadly. Deaths from these infections are now uncommon, thanks to the remarkable achievement of vaccines, but don't be mistaken — they have happened in our community and in communities close to ours. Despite the fact that many of these deadly diseases have become mostly eradicated from our society due to vaccines, we still live in a world where one individual can spread an infection from one distant community to another simply in one plane ride (Dr. Steve Perry, 12/20).

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