KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Health Law No Threat To Innovation; Failure To Expand Medicaid Would ‘Doom’ Thousands; Don’t Stigmatize Mentally Ill

The Chicago Tribune: Technological Innovation Will Thrive Under Health Reform
For better or worse, the Democrats incorporated a good deal of mainstream Republican thinking about health care reform from the past decade, including mandated coverage and health insurance exchanges, into the Affordable Care Act. This leaves the GOP, embarrassingly, with little to say about what is wrong with the act. Aside from the appeal to the far right's hatred of anything the federal government does, the rationale for repeal consists of fear-mongering. And one fear that has reared its head and is likely to get a lot more air time as the election draws closer is that health care reform will crush innovation (Arthur Caplan, 7/29).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Can't Abandon Health Reform
Two new reports provide striking evidence that President Obama's health care overhaul will keep countless Americans healthier, cut the federal deficit, and even save millions of lives -- though how many will depend on whether Republican-run states opt for good medicine over partisan politics (7/30).

The New York Times: Medicaid After The Supreme Court Decision
Last week there were two disturbing reports about Medicaid, a program of health insurance for the poor that is mostly managed by the states and jointly paid for by the federal and state governments. The Congressional Budget Office predicted that states with a large number of poor people would not expand their Medicaid programs as required by the health care reform law now that the Supreme Court had made expansion optional. And a Harvard study unrelated to the court decision made it clear that a failure to expand Medicaid would likely doom thousands of low-income people to death or poor health (7/28).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Expanding Medicaid Is A No-Brainer
The recent Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) left Virginia with a choice: expand Medicaid -- at a bargain-basement price -- or leave more than 400,000 Virginians out in the cold without insurance options. Imagine a single mom who earns minimum wage working as a cashier. Her employer doesn't offer health insurance, and she can't afford to buy it on her own. Currently in Virginia, that mom makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid, the health insurance program that covers mostly seniors in nursing homes, people with disabilities, and children. But the health care law gives states a strong financial incentive to expand Medicaid to include adults -- like that single mother -- with incomes up to about $26,000 a year for a family of three (138 percent of the federal poverty level), many of whom don't have insurance now because they can't afford it (John McInerney, 7/29).

The New York Times: Republicans Vs. Women
Even with a persistent gender gap in a presidential election year, House Republicans have not given up on their campaign to narrow access to birth control, abortion care and lifesaving cancer screenings. Far from it (7/29).

Los Angeles Times: Rethinking Cancer
For a long time, we thought we knew the drill for battling cancer: Screen regularly to catch it early. Then, if it was operable, root it out. Follow up with chemotherapy and/or radiation to lower the chances of a return. Though some or all of those tactics are still called for much of the time, the last couple of years have produced a bumper crop of studies telling us that the situation can be more complicated. Sometimes the most aggressive tactics against cancer and other illnesses might be not only unnecessary but downright bad for us (7/29).

USA Today: Massacres No Excuse To Stigmatize The Mentally Ill
The Aurora deaths not only caused tremendous pain and loss, they further stigmatized persons with mental disorders. A poster being circulated on the Internet belittles mental illnesses, dismissing them as a flimsy excuse for Holmes' actions. It is important to remember that persons with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of violence than to harm others. ... Millions of ordinary Americans, including my son, are the real face of mental illnesses. None of them has killed anyone. They should not be stigmatized and their illnesses should not be trivialized because of the violence of a few. Nor should anyone believe that our hearts are not breaking because of these senseless murders (Pete Earley, 7/29).

Richmond Times Dispatch: Abortion Proponents Press (Again) For Dangerously Low Clinic Regs
Is abortion simple and similar to taking an aspirin as advocates so often claim? Should abortion clinics be held to the same standards as other ambulatory clinics (as required by new standards in Virginia)? Should doctors be required to possess hospital admitting privileges (as required by a new law in Mississippi) if they commit abortions? For those who might not have the time or desire to drill down on these topics, let me point you not toward erroneous rhetoric on this topic but instead toward data and research compiled almost entirely by governmental bodies. Then you be the judge (Jeanne Monahan, 7/30).

WBUR: A Patient's Death Highlights Medicine's Promise And Failure
A new class of doctors entered the world this spring. ... (The Harvard Medical School) graduation speaker was Dr. Donald Berwick, the former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. ... Dr. Berwick dedicated his address "To Isaiah," as he told the story of one of his patients from many years ago. ... Dr. Berwick met Isaiah when he was 15 years old, a rough kid from a rough neighborhood. ... Isaiah had a bad case of leukemia and a worse case of despair. As Dr. Berwick put it, in the sanctity of his clinic at Children's Hospital, "the glory of biomedical care came to Isaiah's service" and over time Isaiah was cured of leukemia. But years later, Isaiah was found convulsing on a street corner, brain dead as the result of uncontrolled diabetes. ... As Dr. Berwick said, "Isaiah, my patient. Cured of leukemia. Killed by hopelessness" (Jonathan Adler, 7/30).

The Oregonian: Medical Malpractice Reforms: One Rx For Oregon
Health care reform almost died in the Oregon Legislature last year during a fight over new proposed caps for damages in malpractice lawsuits. Gov. John Kitzhaber's reform effort prevailed without caps, but the politically charged questions surrounding medical liability in this state went unanswered. That can't last. ... Last week, Kitzhaber released his proposal for reforming Oregon's medical malpractice laws. ... The plan needs fleshing out, but it has two central elements: It creates a better way to talk about medical errors without increasing liability, and it favors mediation over litigation (7/29).

iWatch News: The Cost Of Care For Colorado's Victims
News reports informed us last week that three of the five hospitals where the victims were taken have said they will absorb most, if not all, of the cost of their care if they don’t have insurance. But who will pay for the care they’ll need after they’re discharged? And who will pay the medical bills of those who were unlucky enough to be taken to a hospital that decides not to be so generous? (Wendell Potter, 7/30).

Miami Herald: Gov Scott Stokes Fears, Misleads Public On ACA
However much some wish to repeal or replace ACA, it is the law of the land. We now have the responsibility to implement it. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has foolishly put partisanship before pragmatic governance by stating his intention to reject key opportunities available under the new law. The ACA allows Florida to expand Medicaid to cover individuals who earn less than roughly $15,000 a year and families of four earning less than about $31,000. This translates to about $20 billion in federal Medicaid funds to cover as many as 1.8 million Floridians who will otherwise go uninsured (Margaret M. Byrne, Katheryn E. McCollister and Harold Pollack, 7/29).

Houston Chronicle: Let's Take Full Advantage Of Affordable Care Act
The fundamental question in the health care debate is simple: Is access to quality health insurance a right or privilege? I believe everyone has the right to affordable health care, and the contents of one's wallet should not determine the quality of one's care. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me, but thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court did the right thing and upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While not perfect, this law is the greatest step toward universal access to affordable health care since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid, and it will help millions of uninsured Americans receive the care they need and deserve (Texas State Sen. Rodney Ellis, 7/27).

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