Longer Looks: Best Health Policy Picks From Thought-Provoking Publications
Mother Jones: South Dakota Moves To Legalize Killing Abortion Providers
A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus-a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. ... (Jensen) says that he disagrees with this interpretation of the bill. "This simply is to bring consistency to South Dakota statute as it relates to justifiable homicide," said Jensen in an interview, repeating an argument he made in the committee hearing on the bill last week. "If you look at the code, these codes are dealing with illegal acts. Now, abortion is a legal act. So this has got nothing to do with abortion" (Kate Sheppard, 2/15).
The New York Times Magazine: The Husband's Speech
When I crossed the threshold into my husband's hospital room, I entered a world that was unfamiliar, with an unfamiliar man lying in it. He suffered a massive stroke only days before, one tailor-made to his own private hell. In time Paul left the hospital for what has been a six-year odyssey of relearning language on his part and caregiving on mine. We often remember with a shiver those early days in the hospital, when life felt small as a noose, and I thought it was the end of our long love story. I discovered instead that it was only the beginning of a new chapter (Diane Ackerman, 2/11).
National Review: Obamacare Vs. Drug Innovation
With the release of the president's budget, it is now beyond dispute - Beltway spin notwithstanding - that the decision by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) to support the health-care bill was one of the worst self-inflicted wounds in the history of lobbying. For biotech and pharmaceutical companies, the president's budget repudiates one of the most important benefits of their "deal" with the White House: the ability to market biotech drugs without generic competition for twelve years. The president would reduce that period to seven years, precisely the position of the generics industry and a position that the pharmaceutical industry had fought aggressively before it decided to make a deal with the president. [Then] on February 3, health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a letter to all the governors encouraging them to modify their states' Medicaid rules so as to use more generic drugs and to make deeper price cuts for drugs purchased in Medicaid (William S. Smith, 2/16).
TIME: Calorie Counts On Menus: Apparently, Nobody Cares
Chain restaurants have been posting calorie counts on menus in New York City since 2008, but it's not clear that the information actually helps anyone eat better. If the latest study on food-buying behavior at four fast-food chains in the city is any indication, the posted calorie counts are being largely disregarded by both teens and adults. Dr. Brian Elbel, an assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine, and his team surveyed customers at Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's and KFC before and after New York City's 2008 calorie-count law went into effect. More than half of teenagers said they did in fact notice the calorie postings, and 9% said the labeling prompted them to buy lower-calorie foods. But a check of the teens' register receipts showed that the number of calories they actually bought were the same before and after restaurants started posting calories. On average, teens bought 725 calories per meal (Meredith Melnick, 2/16).
The Atlantic: The Ever-More-Desperate Health Care Budget Gimmicks
I attracted a lot of angry comments last October when I wrote that I didn't trust the Democrats to be much more fiscally responsible than the Republicans. What made people especially angry was that I argued that ObamaCare had made our fiscal problems worse--yes, even if its deficit-reduction measures all worked, a proposition of which I am deeply skeptical. That's because ObamaCare used up all the most obvious and politically feasible cuts in Medicare--and when that proved insufficient, some that weren't obvious or politically feasible, like requiring every small business owner in the land to issue 1099s to people they bought supplies from. This graph from Michael Cannon shows exactly what I was worried about. What it shows is how Obama is paying for the two year "Doc fix" As Cannon says, "It's the same old story: dessert today, spinach tomorrow. (Or, never.)" The new budget uses exactly the same trick (Megan McArdle, 2/15).
American Medical News: Reform Law Rollout Forges Ahead Despite GOP Budget Threats
With an outright repeal of the national health system reform law blocked by the Senate, congressional Republicans aim to make 2011 a year of rolling back individual parts of the statute. However, key portions of the law are expected to take effect or move forward significantly this year despite any GOP efforts to cripple it. "It's going to be an extraordinarily busy year," said Robert Doherty, American College of Physicians senior vice president for governmental affairs and public policy. Some of the reform law's programs could fall victim to House Republican-directed cuts, or to their unwillingness to continue funding at levels called for in the statute, Doherty said. Possible targets for cuts include loan forgiveness programs for physicians working in underserved areas and Medicare primary care bonus payments (Doug Trapp, 2/14).
TIME: Why ER Docs Test for Illegal Drugs Without Consent
Do you know that when you walk into an emergency department, your doctor may run a test for illicit-drug use without telling you? Yes, this is something we can and often do. And in many cases, it's done for a good reason. Suppose you come in acting confused or excessively sleepy. Your doctors need to know right now whether your condition is caused by alcohol or drugs, or whether it's something else like a brain infection, a stroke or a seizure. Learning that you have a mind-altering drug in your system is an important piece of the puzzle - especially if you are too confused or incoherent to tell us what is going on (Dr. Zachary F. Meisel, 2/16).