KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: Vermont’s Single Payer System; Nevada’s Cancer Cluster

Every week KHN reporter Marissa Evans selects interesting reading from around the Web.

Vox: Forget Obamacare Vermont Wants To Bring Single Payer To America
Skatchewan is a vast prairie province in the middle of Canada. It's home to hockey great Gordie Howe and the world's first curling museum. But Canadians know it for another reason: it's the birthplace of the country's single-payer health-care system. ... Saskatchewan showed that a single-payer health-care system can start small and scale big. And across the border, six decades later, Vermont wants to pull off something similar. The state is three years deep in the process of building a government-owned and -operated health insurance plan that, if it gets off the ground, will cover Vermont’s 620,000 residents — and maybe, eventually, all 300 million Americans (Sarah Kliff, 4/9). 

The Atlantic/High Country News: Looking For Answers In A Town Known For Leukemia
One night in May 2008, in a modest ranch house in central Nevada, Ryan Brune woke with a headache. ... his mother, April, drove him to the hospital in Fallon, a farming town of 8,200 where the family had lived for most of Ryan’s 10 years. He was an otherwise healthy boy, with fleshy cheeks and sandy blond hair, but a CT scan revealed a chestnut-sized mass in his brain. ... Ryan had glioblastoma multiforme, a brain cancer that rarely afflicts children. His likelihood of survival was 1 percent. ... From 1997 to 2002, Fallon had also suffered a high incidence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia among children; 16 cases were diagnosed, an alarming number for a small town. Health officials declared it the most significant childhood cancer cluster on national record and launched an investigation unprecedented in cost and scope. They never found the cause (Sierra Crane-Murdoch, 4/5).

Health Affairs: A Family Disease: Witnessing Firsthand The Toll That Dementia Takes On Caregivers
In the summer of 2012 my father-in-law, Ed, telephoned on a Sunday night with some surprising news. Sylvia, his wife of fifty-five years, suddenly did not recognize him. She had recently been diagnosed with very early-stage dementia, but her symptoms had not yet been this severe. ... As a geriatric psychiatrist, I had urged Sylvia to seek care early, which she had done; so she knew options for her treatment included activities to keep her socially engaged, medication to slow the illness course, and possibly experimental treatment. But on a personal level, I was worried. I worried about Ed, my wife, her siblings, and myself. We would be Sylvia's caregivers for the rest of her life. And I understood the devastating toll dementia could take on an entire family (Dr. Gary Epstein-Lubow, 4/7).

The Houston Chronicle: This Scientist Just Might Cure Cancer
Decked out in black tie, Jim Allison stood on the red carpet in Silicon Valley. It was unfamiliar territory for the small-town boy from South Texas who had become a scientist and spent his research career on what many considered a lost cause, the study of the immune system's cancer-fighting potential. … Whatever the source of his genius, Allison, chairman of immunology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, is credited today with one of the most important breakthroughs in cancer history, the discovery that finally frees the immune system to attack tumors -- a dramatic departure from the existing models of treating the disease. Allison did it -- made the discovery, then translated it into a drug -- in a climate that wasn't exactly welcoming (Todd Ackerman, 4/7). 

The Boston Globe: Women With Turner Syndrome Tell Their Stories
Most kids are thrown into puberty whether they like it or not. But Miriam Beit-Aharon, who has a rare genetic disorder, made a choice to enter womanhood. Beit-Aharon has Turner syndrome, a disorder that stunts sexual development and causes infertility in about one in every 2,500 female births. She didn’t start puberty until she began taking estrogen therapy in high school, a transition that the now 22-year-old wrote about in her application to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where she received her diploma last May. Her application essay is now part of a collection of coming-of-age stories written by 18 women with the syndrome (Alyssa Botelho, 4/7).

WBUR: Obesity: A Disease By Any Other Name
When the American Medical Association declared obesity a disease last year, most of us — advocates who work to help those with obesity — were thrilled. We saw the new definition's potential to change how medical professionals regard people with obesity, increase society's focus on obesity, push insurance companies to cover obesity treatments, reduce social stigma and moderate the anxiety and depression often afflicting those with obesity. ... But nothing is that simple or easy (Melinda J. Watman, 4/2).

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