Longer Looks: KHN’s Best Health Policy Picks From Thought-Provoking Publications
In this new weekly feature, we provide a selection of thought-provoking articles from a variety of sources. If you have seen anything you think we should include, please send us an e-mail at KHNnews@kff.org, and please put "Worth Reading" in the subject line.
The Weekly Standard: Obamacare On The Ropes
When U.S. District Court judge Roger Vinson struck down President Obama's health care program as unconstitutional, the White House declared the decision an "outlier." It was anything but that. The ruling on January 31 was in harmony with limits the Supreme Court has imposed on the use of the Constitution's commerce clause to justify far-reaching legislation by Congress. And it came as the assault on Obamacare has expanded to many fronts-the courts, Congress, statehouses, the small business community, and the grass roots, where tea parties and the small-government movement are energetic (Fred Barnes, 2/14).
The Root: Health Care Rulings: No "Sputnik Moment"
The decision of two federal district courts to deem the new health care law unconstitutional should not be viewed solely as a blow to Obama or to Democrats in Congress (it will be gratifying to read an appellate court's full disposition of the constitutional question over the next few months, since we've yet to read a full-throated, robust analysis in support of the law's constitutionality). Despite a recent move by a Mississippi judge to throw out a lawsuit challenging the health care law, the decisions in Virginia and Florida seem reflective of a country that is essentially stuck -- unable and often unwilling to embrace forward-looking, progressive change -- even in the face of devastating, even crippling flaws in many of our country's most important institutions and policies (Sherrilyn A. Ifill, 2/8).
National Review: Scalia and the Commerce Clause: Could A Conservative Judge Vote To Uphold Obamacare?
As the challenge to Obamacare's constitutionality approaches the Supreme Court, the question on everyone's mind is: How will Anthony Kennedy vote? But perhaps we should also ask: How will Antonin Scalia vote? Scalia is known as one of the Court's most conservative justices, but a concurrence he wrote in a 2005 case should give opponents of the health-care law pause. At the center of the Obamacare case are the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. According to the Constitution, the federal government has the power to "regulate Commerce . . . among the several States," and also to "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper" to do so (Robert VerBruggen, 2/9).
CQ Weekly: Sharpening Clause: Health Care Law's Legal Saga Comes To A Point
Last week's federal court ruling declaring the health care law unconstitutional surprised no one and settled nothing. It merely evened the score, as one more court at the lowest level weighed in on a case bound for the highest. Yet the name of the federal judge in Florida who made the decision, Roger Vinson, rocketed into the top 20 on Google's "hot" list of searches - "on fire" in Google parlance, along with Kim Kardashian. Searches for the "Commerce Clause" surged too. Outside the Beltway, Wisconsin's attorney general advised the governor that the 2010 overhaul was "dead" and that state officials were under no obligation to implement it (Seth Stern, 2/7).
Scientific American: The YouTube Cure: How Social Media Shapes Medical Practice
When vascular surgeon Paolo Zamboni reported in December 2009 that inflating a tiny balloon inside twisted veins in the neck provided relief from multiple sclerosis, he created quite a stir. ... many people with MS, which affects at least 250,000 people in the U.S., immediately began clamoring for the unproved treatment. Their demands, amplified through a wide range of social-networking platforms, soon proved impossible to resist. ... Doctors found themselves playing catch-up every step of the way. ... This episode highlights a growing challenge for patients: how to temper enthusiasm for experimental therapies, now widely and effectively marketed through personal testimonials posted online, until evidence shows that the treatments are likely to do more good than harm (Katie Moisse, 2/8).
The Atlantic: The Next Tech Revolution Is For Seniors
In the U.S. alone, 80 million baby boomers will enter their 60s and 70s in the next 20 years. For Washington, this offers a financial headache, with rising Medicare and Social Security costs. But for tech companies, it offers a remarkable and historically unique opportunity to target older consumers. If you want to bet on the epicenter of the "gray tech" revolution, you'd look to Japan, where the population is aging faster than any country in the world. Already, the country has witnessed an explosion in gaming for seniors and retirement homes. The government has guaranteed to roll out a fleet of nurse robots by 2014. Creepy? Maybe. Useful? Heck yes. But that's just the tip of the iceberg (Derek Thompson, 2/8).
Huffington Post: Why Are Hospitals The Worst Place To Be When You Are Sick?
Looking over the bills for my mother's last six months of hospitalization and home care, over 90 percent of her medical expenses were attributable to infections that she shouldn't have gotten in the first place. ... My mother had entered the hospital with a head injury from a fall that healed beautifully. She remained in the hospital due to the barrage of infections that bombarded, ravaged and debilitated her. The complacency about hospitals being breeding grounds for infection was painfully evident in the written remarks of my mother's primary care physician in her discharge papers. He wrote such statements as, "Patient had an uneventful hospital course," and, "Patient's stay at the hospital was unremarkable." What does it take to be eventful and remarkable? (Judith Johnson, 2/6).
National Journal: Dueling Diagnoses
Richard Foster does not seek the spotlight, but it nevertheless has a way of finding him. He's a numbers guy at an agency-the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services-that tracks some of the biggest figures in town. Yet every so often, official Washington likes to put words to Foster's numbers, data sets, and charts. Frequently, those words have a political bent. This time around, the Republicans are again embracing Foster. His office has consistently offered its own estimates on how Obama's reform package might affect health care coverage and cost-not only its impact on the federal budget but also on overall national health care spending. It's an incredibly difficult task, pockmarked with caveats and footnotes (Matthew DoBias, 2/3).