KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Opposing Views Of HHS’ Contraception Rule; Health Care Costs And The Liberal Agenda

Los Angeles Times: In Defense Of Family Planning
The administration's rule leaves the decision in the hands of patients, where it belongs, while respecting the rights of religions. It holds true to the original and wise idea that access to preventive medicine is a good idea for the nation's physical and financial well-being (1/22).

The Washington Post: Respecting Religious Exemptions
The best approach would have been for HHS to stick to its original conclusion that contraception coverage should generally be required but to expand the scope of its proposed exemption for religiously affiliated employers who claim covering contraception would violate their religious views. The administration’s feint at a compromise — giving such employers another year to figure out how to comply with the requirement — is unproductive can-kicking that fails to address the fundamental problem of requiring religiously affiliated entities to spend their own money in a way that contradicts the tenets of their faith(1/22).

The New York Times: What We Give Up For Health Care
[L]iberals are wrong to ignore costs. The more we spend on health care, the less we can spend on other things we value. ... Over the past 30 years, health care inflation has been a major reason average wages have remained stagnant (Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 1/21).

The Washington Post: A Supreme Obamacare Test
The Supreme Court can pack large portents in small details. When in late March it considers the constitutionality of Obamacare, there will be 5 1/2 hours of oral argument — the most in almost half a century. This is because the individual mandate (Does Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce extend to punishing the inactivity of not buying insurance?) is just one of the law's constitutionally dubious features (George F. Will, 1/20).

The Wall Street Journal: Who Paid For Your Doctor's Bagel?
Embedded in ObamaCare is a toxic rule called the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. The Act requires all companies that manufacture medical products purchased by the government to disclose on a public website anything they give physicians valued above $10. Last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued draft guidelines (Thomas P. Stossel, 1/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Should Everyone Be Required To Have Health Insurance?
It is one of the most contentious issues in U.S. politics today: the federal health-care law's requirement that everybody have health insurance or pay a penalty (Karen Davenport and Michael Cannon, 1/23).

Chicago Tribune: Our Bodies, Our Fertility
Sunday marks the 30th anniversary of my first novel. It was synchronicity, perhaps, that V I Warshawski was born on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Like Roe, though in smaller ways, V I has helped change women's lives. Justice William Brennan, writing for the U.S. Supreme Court, believed (as I believe) that women are full citizens and moral agents, able to make decisions without a father, a church or legislator telling us what to do (Sara Paretsky, 1/22).

The Baltimore Sun: Eat Less Fat And Exercise, Y'All
Paula Deen … received considerable attention last week when it was revealed that she has had type 2 diabetes for the past three years. … What is troubling, however, is that Ms. Deen wants to have her cake and deep fry it, too. Southern-style cooking doesn't require some of the egregious food and preparation choices that many of her recipes promote (her bacon cheeseburger meatloaf among the long list of offenders). In order to embrace a different future, the 65-year-old chef needs to, at least to some degree, renounce the excesses of her past (1/23).

Denver Post: Better Health With A Friendly Doctor
I am one of my son's fathers, but he has another and two moms. And though our kids call both of us dad, in the wrong setting my son could potentially lay on a stretcher alone in a cold, antiseptic exam room while awaiting comfort from another of his parents. Truth be told, I am petrified that someone unfriendly, perhaps only because of lack of experience with gay families like ours, might keep me from holding my son's hand while he is poked and prodded. My fears are not unfounded. Indeed, in a recent study, one out of five of almost 1,300 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Coloradans surveyed were refused medical services simply because they were LGBT (Dr. Mark Thrun, 1/22).

Los Angeles Times: Sue Your Own State? Why Not?
In 1993, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which entitled employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in four situations: because of the birth of a child; when an employee adopts a child; when an employee must care for an ill relative; or when the employee himself has a "serious health condition." Congress explicitly included public agencies in its definition of employer, but the state of Maryland has asked the Supreme Court to shield it from a suit filed by a state employee who was fired after he asserted his right to sick leave. The court should rule against the state, and in the process reexamine decisions making it hard for citizens to sue their own states (1/23).

St. Paul Pioneer Press: Is Polio Eradication Worth A Billion?
On January 13, India became the latest country to celebrate a year completely polio-free. After more than a century as a global scourge and hundreds of thousands lives lost, polio may now be on the verge of being the second human disease wiped off the face of the Earth, after smallpox, which was eradicated 36 years ago. But the global battle to defeat polio is expensive , and we're by no means sure of victory. That does raise the question: Is it worth it? (Charles Kenny, 1/20). 

San Jose Mercury News: State Still Has Far To Go On Prison Health Care
It's hard to celebrate California's progress in meeting constitutional health care standards for prison inmates when it's spending the outrageous sum of $10,000 per inmate each year to do it. ... The task for the state is clear: The governor and Legislature must not allow prison medical standards to slip so low that the state again violates inmates' basic constitutional rights. At the same time, California must cut its prison health care costs per inmate in half (1/22).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: GOP Leaders: Our Minnesota Agenda
Health care is another key area of reform. A year ago, state spending on health care was growing at an astronomical rate of 37 percent. Today that growth is 6 percent due to difficult decisions made last session. This session our health care reforms focus on streamlining government management of health care to further reduce costs and deliver quality service, reforming welfare so our standards parallel those of our border states, and putting people -- not the government -- in charge of their health care (Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers and House Majority Leader Matt Dean, 1/22).

CBS News: Long-Term Care Conundrum
When my mother turned 65, all she wanted was a shiny, new long-term care insurance policy. As an obliging daughter, I found the perfect fit! Mom was on to something. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 70 percent of people over age 65 will require some type of long-term care (LTC) during their lifetime, and more than 40 percent will need care in a nursing home (Jill Schlesinger, 1/20).

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