KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Supporting Abortion Rights For Women Soldiers; If We Ban Big Sodas, What About Cheesesteaks?

The New York Times: The Rights Of Female Soldiers
Republicans — even a small number of them — joining with Democrats on Capitol Hill to protect women’s reproductive rights is a rare and welcome sight. Last week, Senators John McCain of Arizona, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Susan Collins of Maine voted with nearly all the Democrats on the Armed Services Committee to lift a cruel and insulting law that requires female service members who are victims of rape or incest to pay for abortion care they receive at military facilities (5/31).

The New York Times: Opinionator: Do The Bishops Have A Case Against Obama?
Religion often comes alive in the face of persecution. Recently, Daniel Jenky, the bishop of Peoria, Ill., did not hesitate to play the persecution card in the dispute with the Obama administration over required health insurance coverage of birth control (Gary Gutting, 5/31).

The Washington Post: The Real War On Women
It is a sad day in America when the president of the United States endorses sex-selection abortion by opposing the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act. It is no less sad that this bill did not pass the House — although a significant majority, 246 members, did vote for it — given its laudable aim of outlawing this egregious assault on baby girls. Sex-selection abortion is cruel, it's discriminatory and it's legal (Rep. Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., 6/1).

Philadelphia Daily News: Ban Big Sodas? Nanny State Amok In Bloomberg's NY
I asked our mayor’s office if Green Genie Nutter wanted a piece of this misguided idea. Nutter’s idea to tax sugar drinks — following (New York Mayor Michael) Bloomberg’s lead — got euthanized in Council. "The health commissioner will take a look at this proposal and will focus on whether it could have an impact on obesity," said mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald. Well, it "could" have an impact on obesity, but so would banning cannolis and cheesesteaks. That would never be contemplated. Or would it? Hard to say in this brave new world of government concern for the "masses" (Stu Bykofsky, 6/1).

Philadelphia Daily News: Why New York's Soda Ban Is A Good Idea
Bloomberg's proposal won't ban all sugary drinks. Nor will it have an impact on diet drinks or fruit juices. But it will help control the amount that diners and restaurant-goers are served in certain venues. If that goes even a little bit toward curing New York’s obesity epidemic, it would be a good thing. Here’s hoping Philly follows suit (Jenice Armstrong, 6/1).

CNN: Big Gulp? Meet Big Brother
Bloomberg justifies his nanny-state interventions by pointing to the social costs of obesity, but there is no direct causal link between obesity and 20-ounce sodas with sugar in them, and neither would it be anyone's business at all except for the increasing government control and subsidies for health care. Bloomberg's insistence on dictating consumer choices has a more direct connection to an assumption that government should control our access to health care than obesity has to a couple of Big Gulps (Edward Morrissey, 6/1).

The Washington Post: Post Partisan: When Republicans Attack On Health Care
There is, of course, something deeply cynical about a Republican Party that blasts Obama and the Democrats for cutting Medicare in health-care reform at the very same time (sometimes in the same sentence!) as they attack Obama and the Democrats for refusing to cut ("reform") Medicare. And then there's the constant Republican carping about "Mediscare" — the idea that Democrats supposedly unfairly attack Medicare cuts, a complaint that hardly squares either with GOP support for the Medicare-cutting Paul Ryan budget or with the Medicare-based attacks on the ACA (Jonathan Bernstein, 5/31).

Boston Globe: Choosing Politics Over Kids
Each party's plan to pay for the [student loan] subsidies would make a different problem worse. Republicans' desire to plunder the health care funds reflects a general hostility to the Obama health care overhaul. Meanwhile, the Senate Democrats' desire to close Medicare and Social Security tax loopholes makes sense, but the futures of the two major entitlements are cloudy enough that any proceeds should be put aside to strengthen and reform those plans (6/1).

Los Angeles Times: A Sports Injury Leads To A Big Foul In Medical Billing
It's amazing how easily the smallest healthcare mix-up can spin out of control and leave the patient on the hook for thousands of dollars in medical bills (David Lazarus, 6/1).

Baltimore Sun: The High Cost Of Waiting
A physician's time is perhaps the scarcest resource in our health care system and needs to be utilized optimally. Doctors play a noble role in our society — they save lives and relieve pain. Their time is valuable. And it is preferable if the patient waits rather than the doctor. But what about my time (Ritu Agarwal, 5/31)?

Boston Globe: The Perils Of Health Care Price Controls
So lawmakers and the governor need to identify the specific purpose for passing a new price-control system now. Is it to rebalance pricing power across the health care industry? Should it redistribute money and other assets from the rich to the poor in the medical world? In a word, no. The purpose of a new health care cost-control law should be simply to control the future growth of medical costs in the best way possible (Steven Syre, 6/1).

Des Moines Register: Prostate Test Push-Back Is Out Of Line
The screenings cost money and lead to unnecessary, even harmful, follow-up tests and treatments that can cause impotence and incontinence. The bottom line: Decisions about routine medical care should be made based on evidence, not tradition. That is particularly important when this aging country needs to make the best use of its limited health care money. And the task force is not part of some conspiracy to strip people of health care services (5/31).

Chicago Sun-Times: Pension Reform Poses Difficult Financial Questions For State Retirees
Despite the impasse in Springfield, pension reform will come, and when it does state employees will be asked to make a very tough choice: Should they forego the 3 percent annual compound inflation adjustment in the pension benefit? Or should they keep the inflation protection and give up retiree medical benefits? … And one more question: If you choose the health insurance over the inflation protection, who’s to say the state won't renege on parts of this promise, too (Terry Savage, 5/31)?

Arizona Republic: Arizona's Anti-Abortion Czar ... For D.C.?
You can take the zealot out of Arizona, but you can't take the Arizona out of the zealot. Just ask the good folks of Washington, D.C., who can't figure out why an obscure congressman from 2,000 miles away wants to tell them how to live their lives. Trent Franks, the long-time representative of Arizona’s second congressional district, is pushing legislation that would ban abortions in the district after 20 weeks of pregnancy (E.J. Montini, 6/1).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Patients Lose When Care Isn't Top Goal
Faced with thinning patient-care margins and mounting pressure to cut costs, hospitals across the nation will need to rely more on outside vendors to save on staffing costs and provide expertise in information technology. ... That reality is why it is so important to intensely scrutinize what went wrong at Fairview and what the lessons are for other hospitals. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota continued this much-needed postmortem at a U.S. Senate field hearing on Wednesday in St. Paul (5/31).

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