KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Contraception As Obama’s ‘Gospel'; The Right Balance? Freedom At Risk?; Examining Medicaid Mandate

The Washington Post: A Rule That Protects Women And Respects Faith
These guidelines, which increase access to contraceptive services for women while upholding the religious liberty of churches, mosques and synagogues, strike the proper balance between respecting the religious beliefs of all Americans and protecting the health of American women and families. They will reduce health costs, end long-standing gender discrimination in prescription drug coverage and further enable women to lead healthier lives (Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, 2/9).

The Washington Post: The Gospel According to Obama
Obama declares good works to be the essence of religiosity. Yet he turns around and, through Sebelius, tells the faithful who engage in good works that what they're doing is not religion at all. You want to do religion? Get thee to a nunnery. You want shelter from the power of the state? Get out of your soup kitchen and back to your pews. Outside, Leviathan rules (Charles Krauthammer, 2/9).

Chicago Tribune: 'Free' Birth Control For All, Right Here, Right Now
We should remove all employers and insurance companies from the equation and reimburse providers of contraceptive services with tax dollars. We already do so for many low-income patients via Medicaid without anyone squawking that it violates their religious rights, so expanding the offering to include the entire population could be done with minimal explosions of umbrage (Eric Zorn, 2/10).

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: All People's Freedom Is At Risk
This unwise and unjust mandate therefore should concern not only Catholics, but all Americans. This edict says mandating free contraception, sterilization and even some abortifacients is more important than the First Amendment, religious liberty and the consciences of Americans. It is a dangerous precedent that concerns many who do not share our teaching on contraception, but value religious ministries that serve the poor or believe that government does not have the power to decide what is religious and what is not (Wilton D. Gregory, 2/9).

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Rule Strikes The Right Balance
I have worked very closely with the Catholic leadership on many projects that help people in our communities, and it is with this in mind that I respectfully disagree with the assertion that religiously affiliated employers in the U.S. should be able to claim an expansive exemption from the law. Under the Obama administration decision, individual employees can follow their own faith traditions, regardless of their employer's religious perspective. This is fair and just (Timothy McDonald III, 2/9).

The Dallas Morning News: Fairness For Both Employer And Employee
This newspaper agrees that an option needs to be found that will give more leeway to those religious objections. Federal policy must accommodate all religious organizations that object to providing coverage for contraceptives, while also ensuring that employees of those organizations have access to coverage (2/9).

San Francisco Chronicle: Contraception Rules Must Respect Religion, Health
It is also critical to note that neither those state laws, nor the Obama plan, force anyone to advocate or use contraception. Those states have made a reasonable, and constitutionally defensible, distinction between a church's religious and secular endeavors. These rules, and the Obama plan, strike a proper balance between respect for religious beliefs and assurance of an essential health care option for women who work in church-affiliated nonprofits (2/10).

Fox News: Liberalizing 'Morning-After' Pill Availability Sends Dangerous Message
When the public sees a push by government agencies to liberalize medications to be obtained without a prescription, they forget what they are putting into their bodies is a chemical that can have serious side effects and complications. ... The truth is, the 'morning-after' pill is a hormone, and for some people, it could have significant side effects and potentially hurt them. And while studies show it may be safe to take for most people, you can’t account for what could go wrong if it’s not taken properly under the guidance of an adult (Dr. Manny Alvarez, 2/9).

MSNBC: Catholic Bishops' Birth Control Stance Harms Employees, Bioethicist Says
Keep in mind the factual evidence for the value of contraception in preventing unwanted pregnancies, abortions and even diseases such as endometriosis is not in dispute. Disregard the fact that the majority of states already require contraceptive coverage by entities operated by the Catholic Church. Ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of sexually active Catholic women ignore the church position on contraception and, following their conscience, use it regularly. Somehow making birth control affordable violates some unfathomable view of government-church-employer relations (Art Caplan, Ph.D, 2/9).

Politico: The Female Body As Battlefield 
The abortion pushback has been going on since the Supreme Court decided Roe v.Wade almost four decades ago. Within three years, we had the Hyde amendment, barring any federal funding for abortion. Since then, there has been constant effort by the activists. They always had a rhetorical edge: the language of "life" versus the language of "choice." One sounded big, emotional, a matter of deep values, while the other seemed wimpy and selfish by comparison (Anne Taylor Flemming, 2/9).

The Minneapolis Star Tribune: Don't Surrender On Key Health Care Tool
Minnesota shouldn't give up on its first-in-the-nation attempt to publicly rank state hospitals and clinics by the quality and cost of the care they provide. Lawmakers need to make sure these comparisons are credible and accurate, but they also need to give this pioneering "health care report card" effort a chance to work through the challenges bound to accompany any complex, groundbreaking undertaking. Consumers and employers faced with mounting medical insurance premiums deserve to know where they're getting the best value for their dollars (2/9).

The Des Moines Register: Birth Control Shouldn't Be A Partisan Issue
This may be great campaign fodder, but fertility control shouldn’t be seen as a partisan issue. Employer-covered insurance is a workplace issue. Those who object to birth control shouldn’t use it, but nor should they get to prevent others’ access. As employers, religious institutions can certainly find ways to meet the law that acknowledge the individual values and needs of their employees (Rekha Basu, 2/9).

The Wall Street Journal/Reason: ObamaCare's Medicaid Mandate
Can a technically voluntary program also be coercive? The 26 states challenging the federal government's expansion of Medicaid called for by ObamaCare are going to the Supreme Court to argue that it can. ... Strictly speaking, states are allowed to opt out of the program. But the program's financial incentives are structured in such a way that the states feel they have no choice but to comply with the expansion, and the additional costs that come with it (Peter Suderman, 2/10).

Houston Chronicle: Texas Must Increase Access to Primary Health Care
During this interim period, our Senate Health and Human Services Committee will emphasize strengthening our primary-care infrastructure and removing underlying barriers to access. Specifically, we need to grow our primary-care residency slots. … We also need to examine how existing payment inequities between primary care physicians and specialists impact our primary-care work force (Jane Nelson, 2/9).

The Baltimore Sun: Insurance 'Prior Authorization' Wastes Time, Money
E-prescribing and the electronic ordering of procedures can cut costs by introducing much-needed efficiency to a system weighed down by paper and protocols. … However, according to a new report from the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC), one of the greatest impacts of e-prescribing and ordering procedures electronically could prove to be their potential to expedite a dysfunctional insurance company protocol called "prior authorization" (Gene Ransom, 2/9).

The Sacramento Bee: Vision Plans Should Be Included In Proposed Health Care Exchanges
The way things are currently defined, only qualified health plans and stand-alone dental plans will be able to offer coverage through the state exchanges. Other than dental, all other stand-alone plans – benefit companies that are not directly tied to a health plan – are excluded from the exchanges. Stand-alone plans that are able to demonstrate a value in continuing to be offered separately from a health plan should be given the same opportunity as dental (Thomas Fleischmann, 2/10).

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