KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Health Care Is MIA In The State Of The Union; Gingrich’s Earnings For Health Views

Forbes: State Of The…Health Care Reform
President Obama's largest legislative accomplishment to date was the passage of the health care reform law, which has been going into effect in stages, with regulations currently being written for the most substantial changes due to take effect in 2014. So it is odd the President mentioned health care only briefly, and in passing, in his State of the Union address last night. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the law remains deeply unpopular with a skeptical public, or the fact that despite some provisions "to increase coverage" have already gone into effect, the percentage of American adults without health coverage has increased to an all-time high of over 17% (Robert Book, 1/25).

The Washington Post: Newt In Wonderland
Yet another mother lode for (Newt) Gingrich has been the health care industry. Various companies paid Gingrich $55 million between 2001 and 2010, according to Bloomberg News. When asked what the companies received in return, Gingrich told The Post that they got to visit with "a really important guy who really knows a lot and who really has lots of information." That person would be Gingrich's Holy Trinity — Me, Myself and I (Kathleen Parker, 1/24).

Bloomberg: To Shop Smart, Patients Need To Know Price Of Care
Another initiative, one that's typically promoted by conservatives, is increased price transparency. For consumers to be able to play their role in keeping costs down, they need to know what those costs are…. In addition, private health-consulting companies have begun promoting transparency in ways that may work better than the state government efforts (Peter Orszag, 1/24).

Politico: Roberts To America: Trust Us
(Chief Justice John) Roberts's biggest problem is that it is not clear how some justices' conduct squares with the law. For example, we need a reasoned explanation — much as Justice Antonin Scalia attempted to explain his duck hunting boondoggle with then-Vice President Dick Cheney — of the propriety of the recent decision by Justices Clarence Thomas and Scalia to headline a fundraiser for The Federalist Society, where law firms bought tables for thousands of dollars. Some of these lawyers were participating in the health care litigation the court agreed that day to hear (William Yeomans and Herman Schwartz, 1/24).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Affordable Care Act Litigation
The legal, political, and policy stakes of the Supreme Court's decision are vast. The ACA will achieve near universal coverage, something that seemed unimaginable just a short time ago. Health reform envisages a social contract in which everyone shares the cost, recognizing that virtually everyone will become ill one day. The ACA and its individual mandate are not unjustified limits on freedom, but rather are vital to a decent society (Lawrence O. Gostin and Kelli K. Garcia, 1/25).

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare And Religious Freedom
Religious freedom is the lifeblood of the American people, the cornerstone of American government. ... Yet the Obama administration has veered in the opposite direction. It has refused to exempt religious institutions that serve the common good—including Catholic schools, charities and hospitals—from its sweeping new health-care mandate that requires employers to purchase contraception, including abortion-producing drugs, and sterilization coverage for their employees (Timothy M. Dolan, 1/25). 

Boston Globe: Patrick's Call For Courage Goes Far, But Not Far Enough
After years of disturbing increases in health care costs, the recent news has been more encouraging. State insurance regulators' refusal to approve higher rates has given insurers a push to drive harder bargains with health care providers. Insurance companies are developing tiered plans that reward more cost-effective providers. Yet over the long term, health care costs can't be clubbed down by regulatory fiat; the rules of the market have to be reshaped so that consumers can exert downward pressure on costs, and so that providers are paid for maintaining patients' health rather than for providing more services (1/24).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Physician Autonomy and Health Care Reform
Many physicians are distressed as they look toward the future. ... Part of this malaise is driven by concerns that reforms contained in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will further erode physicians' autonomy. On the contrary, the ACA has provisions that will mitigate the long-standing concern that payers determine what physicians can and cannot do and will instead enhance the role and authority of the medical profession(Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Dr. Steven D. Pearson, 1/25).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Science, Politics, and Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraception
In his inaugural address in January 2009, (President Barack) Obama heralded a new era that would "return science to its rightful place" in government. ... Less than 3 years later, (Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius) rejected Plan B One-Step for nonprescription use without an age restriction because of a lack of confidence that the youngest girls of reproductive age could use the medication properly. Sebelius's decision renewed concerns about the relation between science and politics in the federal government, regardless of the party in office (Dr. Robert Steinbrook, 1/25).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colorado news service): A Healthy Mouth Means A Healthier Colorado Economy
Diseases of the mouth get little attention compared to the many other medical issues, but these diseases directly impact the economic health of our state. In 2010, Americans spent an estimated $108 billion on dental services. Oral diseases, pain and infections account for 164 million lost work hours nationally ... Because oral diseases are almost entirely preventable, this is a public health and finance battle we can and must win (Dr. Chris Urbina and Kate Paul, 1/24). 

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