KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: VA Failing To Provide Timely Care; Roll Up Your Sleeves To Help Fight AIDS; Primary Care Doctors’ Uncertain Future

San Francisco Chronicle: Veterans Wait Too Long On Disability Claims
Those who have served know the military rules: Be on time, do it now. Once they file disability claims with the Department of Veteran Affairs, however, veterans wait, and wait longer…. Delay is not without consequences for the individual or the community…. We sent these young men and women off to battle. We owe them timely care (5/18).

The Washington Post's Plum Line: The Latest 'Repeal And Replace' Bait-And-Switch
The ongoing saga of the "replace" portion of repeal-and-replace has moved forward again. You'll recall that Republicans campaigned on the idea that after they got rid of the dreaded "Obamacare" they would immediately move to replace it with Republican health care reform. But then they ignored that pledge for the next fifteen months. Then, last week, one key GOP Member of the House said that replace was dead. This week, Republicans have yet another strategy in place (Jonathan Bernstein, 5/17).

Georgia Health News: Enlist In The War Against HIV
On Friday, HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, consider becoming a local participant in these trials at the Hope Clinic. If you are not infected with HIV, this is a powerful way to — literally — roll up your sleeves, take a shot, and help fight HIV (Dr. Mark Mulligan, 5/17). 

The New England Journal of Medicine: The Evolving Primary Care Physician
The primary care doctor is a rapidly evolving species — and in the future could become an endangered one. As the United States grapples with the dual challenges of making health care more widely available and reducing the national price tag, it's hard to say how primary care physicians will fit into the delivery models that emerge (Dr. Susan Okie, 5/17).

The New England Journal of Medicine: Emergency Departments, Medicaid Costs, And Access To Primary Care — Understanding The Link
In December, 2011, Washington State's Health Care Authority announced its intention to stop paying for emergency department (ED) visits by Medicaid beneficiaries "when those visits are not necessary for that place of service." ... Washington Governor Chris Gregoire suspended implementation in order to try a less drastic alternative. ... Instead of blocking the doors to the ED, policymakers in Washington State and elsewhere should ... unlock the doors to primary care (Dr. Arthur L. Kellermann and Robin M. Weinick, 5/17).

The New England Journal of Medicine: Lost in Translation — ¿Cómo se dice, "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act"?
Putting aside the issue of illegal immigration, it is clear that undocumented immigrants' access to care is in jeopardy under the ACA. Deliberately excluded from insurance access, they are forced to fend for themselves in an artificial market system where inflated charges are set by insurance and governmental third parties, with fees for basic services beyond the reach of most working people. Economics notwithstanding, physician workforce shortages loom ahead and threaten to crowd out the uninsured with a deluge of newly arrived paying patients (Dr. James O. Breen, 5/17).

MinnPost: Women Will Always Need Access To Safe, Legal Abortions
The lives that we lead are complicated: often wonderful, often terrible, with many twists and turns along the way. There will always circumstances that result in unintended pregnancies. Sadly, there will always be ectopic pregnancies and fetal anomalies, no matter how wanted or planned the pregnancy is. And, I fear, our society will always have to deal with the risk of rape, and I am loath to imagine a woman forced through a pregnancy under such circumstances (Linnea House, 5/18).

Medscape: Which Complementary And Alternative Therapies Merit Study?
Since the founding in 1992, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has received about $1.6 billion of federal money to study a variety of things. What they have studied has been disappointing. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to see whether prayer treated AIDS; to see whether prayer could promote wound healing after breast reconstruction surgery; to see whether coffee enemas could treat pancreatic cancer; to see whether magnets (in mattresses or otherwise) could improve carpal tunnel syndrome, migraines, or arthritis. ... I think the disappointing part of these studies is that they are not based on any biological principle (Dr. Paul A. Offit, 5/17).

Medscape: Facebook: Pressuring Users To Become Organ Donors?
But listing yourself [as an organ donor] on Facebook has an even more important consequence. A lot of people sign [the organ donor line] on their driver's license or carry a card from the Kidney Foundation, but they do not tell anyone that they have done this. That means that other people do not know their wishes, and if their driver's license somehow is separated from them after an accident ... then people may not know that this person wanted to be an organ donor. Having this information on your account lets people know your wishes. It not only increases the number of donors, it increases the chance of donation (Art Caplan, 5/17).

Sacramento Bee: Feud Colors Clash Over California's Health Care Rates
The stage is set for an immense political clash over regulation of health insurance with multibillion-dollar stakes and an impact on virtually every Californian. Consumer Watchdog battled insurers over regulation of auto and other personal insurance 24 years ago and won, claiming that it has saved consumers tens of billions of dollars since. Now it wants regulation of health insurance, promising to cut costs by cracking down on bloated insurer overhead and profits. It launched the initiative after rate-regulation legislation, sponsored by Consumer Watchdog and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, stalled last year (Dan Walters, 5/18).

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