KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: Women’s Advantages In Health Law; Health Effects Of The ‘American Dream’

Every week reporter Ankita Rao selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The Atlantic: How Women Get More Than Men Do From Obamacare
In the wake of a recent report showing that about 2 million additional people may stay out of the workforce because of Obamacare, for example, the law was heralded/derided as a win for the lazies. ... Young men will probably pay more for coverage than they did previously, though. And if we look at a breakdown of the actual conditions that the Affordable Care Act will cover, it looks like the law will disproportionately help, yes, the ladies. Some of the benefits are well-known: Private insurance is now required to cover birth control free of charge. And health insurers can no longer discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions by charging them extra. Such "conditions," in extreme cases in the past, have included pregnancy and being the victim of spousal abuse. But there are other, hidden ways women benefit from Obamacare (Olga Khazan, 2/11).

60 Minutes: Sex Matters: Drugs Can Affect Sexes Differently
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration made an unusual and surprising announcement. It cut the recommended dose of the most popular sleep drug in the country, Ambien, in half for women. It turns out men and women metabolize Ambien, known generically as Zolpidem, very differently, leaving women with more of the drug in their bodies the next morning, and therefore at a greater risk of impaired driving. ... it is far from an isolated example of differences between the sexes we never imagined. More and more, scientists are realizing that the differences are dangerously understudied and that pervasively and fundamentally, sex matters (Leslie Stahl and Shari Finkelstein, 2/9).

Politico: The Rise Of Ron Wyden
[Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon], a one-time backbencher with a penchant for big ideas, is now poised to take over the Senate’s most powerful committee. It will instantly vault him into the ranks of the chamber’s most influential, giving him a major say over taxes, health care, trade and programs like those Build America Bonds that made its way into Obama’s stimulus plan. Wyden, who will officially become chairman of the Finance Committee as soon as Tuesday, will confront a raft of unfinished business. ... He’s proposed taxing health care benefits that employers provide their workers, something that earned him the enmity of unions; Wyden would have replaced the health care tax exclusion employers get with a deduction for individuals, with the goal of breaking the link between having a job and having health care coverage (Brian Faler, 2/11).

U.S. News and World Report: The 'American Dream' May Be Bad For Your Health
My heart warmed when I saw Coca-Cola's Super Bowl ad last week and heard the first strands of "America the Beautiful" sung in Hindi. As an Indian immigrant, I felt pride seeing the faces and voices that reflect a modern, diverse United States. ... It didn't take long, however, before my stomach turned. ... The real message behind the ad was not about embracing diversity, but rather, "Drinking Coca-Cola is American. Coke is part of the American Dream."  ... For more than a decade, the U.S. food, tobacco and alcohol industries have been targeting immigrants as a distinct market segment. As a physician whose research focuses on heart disease and diabetes prevention in immigrants, I have seen the terrible impact that targeted advertising has on the health of immigrants. It is well known that the over-consumption of sodas and other sugary drinks is an important driver of the high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease in the U.S. (Dr. Namratha Kandula, 2/11).

Medscape: "Coma" Author-Physician On His New Medical Thriller, "Cell"
Medscape Editor-in-Chief Eric J. Topol, MD, recently spoke with New York Times best-selling author Robin Cook, MD, about his work as a physician and writer. Dr. Cook's 33rd medical thriller, Cell, is out on February 4. ... [Dr. Cook:] We're looking for primary care physicians; we're looking to lower costs; we want to incorporate genomics. Nanotechnology is coming down the line. It is advancing so rapidly, particularly with wireless sensors, etc., that you have the convergence of all of these things. I woke up in the middle of the night and said, "The cell phone is going to be the doctor" (Drs. Eric J. Topol and Robin Cook, 2/3).

The New York Times: Prescription Painkillers Seen As A Gateway To Heroin
The life of a heroin addict is not the same as it was 20 years ago, and the biggest reason is what some doctors call "heroin lite": prescription opiates. These medications are more available than ever, and reliably whet an appetite that, once formed, never entirely fades. Details are still emerging about the last days of Philip Seymour Hoffman, the actor who died last week at 46 of an apparent heroin overdose. Yet Mr. Hoffman's case, despite its uncertainties, highlights some new truths about addiction and several long-known risks for overdose. ... Millions of people use these drugs safely, and doctors generally prescribe them conscientiously. But for some patients, prescription painkillers can act as an introduction — or a reintroduction — to an opiate high (Benedict Carey, 2/11).

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