KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: ‘Good News’ On Calif. Insurance Rates; Battle Against Dementia Needs Stronger Efforts; Dental Care For The Disabled

The New York Times: The Obamacare Shock
The Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare, goes fully into effect at the beginning of next year, and predictions of disaster are being heard far and wide. ... No doubt there will be problems, as there are with any large new government initiative, and in this case, we have the added complication that many Republican governors and legislators are doing all they can to sabotage reform. Yet important new evidence — especially from California, the law's most important test case — suggests that the real Obamacare shock will be one of unexpected success (Paul Krugman, 5/26). 

Los Angeles Times: Good News On Health Costs
The state's new health insurance exchange gave an encouraging preview Thursday of the sweeping effects that the 2010 federal healthcare law will have on consumers next year, announcing lower-than-expected prices for individual policies. Still, the success of the exchange — which goes by the name Covered California — hinges on its ability to attract a large number of uninsured Californians to its policies, and to persuade health plans, doctors and hospitals to hold the line on costs. If it doesn't, Covered California could face a vicious cycle of ever-escalating premiums and dwindling customers (5/24). 

Los Angeles Times: Fear Not, The IRS Won't Be Collecting Your Medical Records
Led by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a number of House Republicans asserted this week that the newly scandalized Internal Revenue Service, in its role as Obamacare enforcer, would collect sensitive personal medical records. That was one of the latest reasons cited for repealing the 2010 law, formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Where they came up with this specious idea is a bit of a mystery, because you won't find any support for it in the law itself or the IRS regulations implementing it. Let's just say it emerged from the same place as Sarah Palin's death panels (Jon Healey, 5/24). 

Columbus Dispatch: Medicaid Expansion Deserves To Have A Vote
One superficial argument against Medicaid expansion (because it sounds more respectable than the standard Statehouse poor-bashing) is a claim that Washington might not provide states with Medicaid expansion subsidies as big as promised (100 percent for three years, then 90 percent a year). (Gov. John) Kasich's counterargument, which is foolproof (and for today's General Assembly, that's saying something): He wants any Medicaid expansion law to require Ohio to shut down expansion if Washington doesn't pay up. And that, among many other solid features, is precisely what Sears' bill would do (Thomas Suddes, 5/26).

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Rep. Sears' Bill Offers A Credible Answer To GOP Concerns About Expanding Medicaid
The issue in Columbus isn't whether Ohioans will or won't pay to cover the cost of medical treatment for those men and women. Ohioans already do, via hospital charges and insurance premiums that are pricier than they otherwise would be to cover hospitals' costs for uncompensated care. The question Kasich poses is whether Ohioans who do pay for their care -- and, de facto, medical care for the uninsured -- should continue bearing alone the extra burden of backstopping their neighbors' health care. Kasich says -- and he's correct -- that expanding Medicaid in Ohio would let taxpayers in the other 49 states help Ohio taxpayers carry that (5/25).

Los Angeles Times: Saving Our Warriors From Themselves
As the nation marks Memorial Day, here is a statistic that offers sobering insight into the lives of the military men and women who have, over the decades, sacrificed so much for so many: Last year, 349 active servicemen and women committed suicide, more than the number who died in battle and the highest number in a decade of war (5/27).

Los Angeles Times: How To Defeat Alzheimer's
It is projected that by 2050, unless breakthroughs are made, 14 million Americans will have dementia, at an annual cost of $1.2 trillion. Finding effective treatment or prevention of Alzheimer's would help avert a huge and costly healthcare disaster. Yet during the last few years, there has been very little funding available for developing dementia drugs or conducting the required clinical trials (David Schubert, 5/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Ovarian Cancer And Its Insidious Threat
As a breast cancer oncologist and a breast cancer survivor, I am very aware of the tough treatment choices women are forced to make when facing this disease. Angelina Jolie performed a useful service with her recent announcement that she had undergone prophylactic double mastectomies after learning that she had a BRCA1 gene abnormality that indicates a propensity for breast cancer. The news shed light on the difficult decisions that hundreds of thousands of women who face a breast cancer diagnosis—including my patients—make every day. ... Unfortunately, the insidious risk of ovarian cancer that these same genetic mutations pose has received far less attention—despite reports that Ms. Jolie plans to have both of her ovaries removed(Marisa Weiss, 5/27). 

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Festering Cavities, Missing Teeth: Desperately Needed Dentistry For Disabled
Most people consider going to the dentist a minor inconvenience. But for patients with an intellectual or physical disability, it can be a major ordeal. ... Even with excellent care provided by dentists who are highly trained to treat people intellectual and developmental disabilities, there remains a high prevalence of disease, which signals the need for additional support and education among caregivers (Dr. John Morgan, 5/24).

Boston Globe: Patients Healing Patients
Several years ago I cut my hand badly on a broken glass and required surgery to reattach a tendon. For a few weeks after the operation, I attended regular sessions in a physical therapy department devoted to people with hand injuries. There were no closed curtains in the large therapy room — we bared only our hands, after all. As I had my fingers warmed, splinted, or stretched, I observed other patients receiving similar treatments. Some had far worse injuries than mine. Some had similar injuries, but were farther down the road to recovery than I was. Camaraderie arose among the wounded. We shared tips, along with words of encouragement and commiseration. Without realizing it, I had participated in an informal version of a new trend in medicine: the group visit (Suzanne Koven, 5/27).

Boston Globe: When The Brain Is Under Attack
Annalisa Meier dreamed about moving to Manhattan for college and voting in her first presidential election in 2008. But with freshman year about to begin, the assertive and lively 18-year-old's behavior changed. She grew indecisive, withdrawn, and quick to anger. Then, Meier had a seizure. Susannah Cahalan was a young New York Post reporter when she started to forget assignments. She became fixated on the idea that her home was infested with bedbugs.  ... The women’s slow unraveling could have been the beginning of a psychotic break, followed by a lifetime of hospitalization and medication. Instead, they were found to have a newly described disease called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, caused when the body’s immune system goes haywire and attacks a protein in the brain  (Dr. Daniela Lamas, 5/27).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.