KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: An ‘Easy’ SCOTUS Case?; Is Painkiller Addiction Really An Epidemic?

The New York Times: 'Embarrass the Future'?
Nothing in the Supreme Court arguments in the health care case last week, or in the subsequent commentary, has changed my opinion that this is an easy case. It’s the court that made it look hard (Linda Greenhouse, 4/4).

The Wall Street Journal: The Dissent That Wasn't
One way of understanding the liberal left's response to ObamaCare's constitutional infirmities is through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's five stages of grief. We've seen examples of denial (of course ObamaCare is constitutional, only crazy people think otherwise), anger (the Supreme Court loves insurance companies and hates poor people) and depression (what a train wreck!). (James Taranto, 4/5)

The Washington Post: Obama v. SCOTUS
Obamacare passed the Congress without a single vote from the opposition party -- in contradistinction to Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, similarly grand legislation, all of which enjoyed substantial bipartisan support. In the Senate, moreover, Obamacare squeaked by through a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation that was never intended for anything so sweeping. The fundamental deviation from custom and practice is not the legal challenge to Obamacare but the very manner of its enactment (Charles Krauthammer, 4/5).

The New York Times: Toward Universal Health Coverage
Two recent events underscore the disparity between the United States and the rest of the world on health coverage. Last week, American reactions to the Supreme Court hearings showed how deeply divided the nation is on the subject. This week, at an international forum in Mexico City, country delegates from around the globe made clear that they are not only aiming for universal coverage but also rapidly getting there (David de Ferranti and Julio Frenk, 4/6).

The New York Times: That Other Obama
Then the president turned to Ryan’s Medicare proposal. The Ryan plan, he charged, "will ultimately end Medicare as we know it." In 2011, when Ryan first proposed a version of this budget, Politifact, the truth-checking outfit, honored this claim with its "Lie of the Year" award. Since then, the Ryan Medicare proposal has become more moderate and much better. Obama’s charge is even more groundless (David Brooks, 4/5).

Los Angeles Times: Painkiller Addiction: Is It Really An Epidemic?
Prescription painkillers are growing in popularity in new parts of the country, according to a new Associated Press analysis that has experts sounding alarms of a new addiction epidemic. "Pharmacies, hospitals and physicians dispensed the equivalent of 69 tons of pure oxycodone and 42 tons of pure hydrocodone in 2010," according to the study. "That’s enough to give 40 5-mg Percocets and 24 5-mg Vicodins to every man, woman and child in the United States" (Alexandra Le Tellier, 4/5).

The Fiscal Times: Obama And Paul Ryan's Conflicting Budget Visions
Perhaps the biggest disagreement between the president and Ryan is over how to reform the entitlement programs that are driving this country toward bankruptcy. Ryan would restructure Medicare for those under age 55 to give recipients a choice between the traditional program and a voucher that would allow them to purchase private insurance. ... The president makes no significant changes to Medicare, relying instead on expansion of changes contained in the new health care law to save a projected $364 billion over the next 10 years (Michael Tanner, 4/6).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Law's Unjust Consequences
House Bill 954 hinges its basis for a challenge to the U.S. Constitution on the notion that a growing baby inside the womb feels pain at 20 weeks. Although all recent research from the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists refutes this rationale, its proponents pressed on. … Why? Because HB 954 was really not about fetal pain. … When laws include unintended consequences, care suffers. Georgia’s pregnant women and their doctors are now left with the consequences (The Infertility and Perinatology Consortium of Georgia (4/6).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: State Guards Babies In Utero
The law will protect children who have reached 22 weeks from the mother’s last menstrual period from elective termination, at a time when the baby can experience pain and even survive the delivery. … Babies who have reached this gestational age deserve the protection of the state (Kathleen M. Raviele, 4/5).

Fox News: Medicaid's Cruel Status Quo
It turns out that Medicaid’s profoundly inefficient design leads to hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud. As a result, fewer funds are left over to care for actual Medicaid patients. Medicaid pays physicians, on average, about half of what they get from private insurers. Indeed, a study by two MIT economists found that nearly 60 percent of doctors gained more revenue from the uninsured than from Medicaid patients, because many uninsured patients pay out-of-pocket for their care. And you don’t have to fill out any government forms when your patient pays you in cash. Medicaid's paltry payments, in many cases, amount to less than what it costs to care for these patients. As a result, doctors are faced with two choices: caring for Medicaid patients and going broke, or shutting their doors to the poor (Avik S. A. Roy, 4/5).

The Philadelphia Inquirer/The Philadelphia Daily News: Hush, Doctors: Gas Industry Gags Physicians
Act 13, the hydraulic fracturing law passed in February, already qualified as a major corporate giveaway to the natural-gas industry, giving companies the right to overturn local zoning laws and pretty much drill anywhere. But buried in the law, which goes into effect April 14, is a gag order on doctors. If physicians want to learn the exact chemicals being used in fracking they must sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevents them from sharing what they know with their patients or other doctors (4/6).

San Jose Mercury News: This Time, Truth In Mammograms Law Must Succeed
We're still not entirely sure why Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Sen. Joe Simitian's bill last year to make doctors tell women when their breast tissue is too dense for mammograms to be effective. But the Democrat from Palo Alto is trying again, this time with more evidence that the law will save lives. It should easily pass the Legislature again, and this time the governor needs to get on board (4/5).

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