KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Real ‘Doc Fix,’ Saint Santorum And Why Supreme Court TV Is ‘A Bad Idea’

The New York Times: A Real 'Doc Fix'
In last week's flurry of budget deals, Congress patched together yet another temporary fix for a flawed formula used to calculate the fees paid to doctors by Medicare. It will hold payments flat for the next 10 months instead of cutting them by 27 percent as the formula required, and the $18 billion to pay for it will be taken from other health care programs. But the fix only lasts until the end of the year. On Jan. 1, doctors will face another big cut unless Congress again steps in (2/21).

The New York Times: Contraception, Against Conscience
EWTN cannot comply with the recent mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services requiring the insurance plans of all employers, with the exception of some houses of worship, to cover the contraceptives and sterilization procedures approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These include emergency contraceptives like Plan B and Ella that can destroy human embryos — an act that we consider a violation of church teaching that all life is a sacred gift that begins at conception (Michael P. Warsaw, 2/21). 

McClatchy: Obama Boosted By GOP Birth-Control Stance
I've been puzzled for weeks by all the talk about how Obama has supposedly blown it with Catholic voters after requiring that many Catholic institutions offer free birth control in their employee insurance plans. Church leaders are naturally upset, but they don't speak for most Catholics on the issue of contraception. And Republicans, eager to gin up anything against Obama now that the economy is improving, are naturally cranking up the hyperbole about a supposed "war on religion," but they too seem blind to how most Catholic women conduct their private lives (Dick Polman, 2/21).

The Washington Post: The Trials Of Saint Santorum
You've likely heard by now that the presidential election may pivot on the unlikely "controversy" of birth control. This is the latest trope to evolve from a campaign that is already two years too long. A conspiracy-minded person might imagine that this faux battle over reproductive rights was designed to distract from other more pressing concerns and to demonize — or would that be angelize? — Republicans who, we’re also told, want to turn back the clock to the 1950s (Kathleen Parker, 2/21).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Religious Exemption For Contraception Is Bad Medicine
The message from Washington politicians that contraception access has nothing to do with medicine is news to the 99 percent of women in the U.S. who are or have been sexually active. ... It is news to the women who use contraceptives to manage menstrual complications, avoid unintended pregnancy, and ensure the social and economic stability of their families. ... It is bad news for the 1.5 million women nationwide who use contraceptives only as treatment for serious medical conditions (Dr. Paula A. Johnson, 2/21).

Los Angeles Times: Health Care Reform's Missing Link – Nurse Practitioners
Within the next two years, if federal health care reforms proceed as expected, roughly 30 million of the estimated 50 million uninsured people in the United States — 6.9 million in California — will be trying to find new health care providers (Patricia Dennehy, 2/22).

USA Today: Televise Supreme Court's Health Care Case? Bad Idea
Not since Bush v. Gore has a U.S. Supreme Court case roused as much public interest as next month's highly anticipated review of the 2010 health care law. It would make a spectacular TV show and lift the curtain on the workings of the nation's highest court. But cameras in the high court are a bad idea (Peter Funt, 2/21).

Des Moines Register: Rhode Island Health Plan Reform Good Model For Iowa
Health insurance is expensive because medical care is expensive. Medical care is expensive because the prices we pay are too high and the numbers of services are too numerous. We will never fully recover if higher insurance premiums and fewer benefits remain the new normal. And, more affordable rates will not occur until we change the way our medical care is organized and delivered. This is the reason Democrats are introducing a proposed Iowa Health Insurance Affordability Reform (Iowa HIAR) program. It is modeled after Rhode Island’s successful reform, which is considered one of the most innovative methods developed to tackle the high costs of health care insurance (Iowa state Sen. Jack Hatch, 2/21).

Des Moines Register: Bill Would Redesign Iowa's Mental Health And Disability Services
After months of public discussion and interim committee meetings, the House Human Resources Committee has begun work on three pieces of the legislation that will redesign Iowa’s mental health and disability services system. ... The group put together a series of recommendations ranging from ongoing mental health and disability services training for law enforcement officers, the ability of residential care facilities to determine whether to accept people referred to them by the court, and clearing up conflicts within the law on which mental health professionals may be involved in the commitment process (Iowa state Rep. Scott Raecker, 2/21).

Chicago Sun-Times: Hospitals' Impact
So when government at the state and national levels begin talking about Medicaid cuts and property taxes on hospitals, not only health-care officials are taking notice, but so should Illinois residents and taxpayers. Such actions would harm one of the few sectors that has been creating jobs and could damage the state’s health-care system as well (2/21).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Overpaying On Health?  Let's Really Find Out
A truly independent third-party audit is important to gain the information we need to better oversee this large expenditure of $3.8 billion. I now encourage the Republicans to work in bipartisan fashion with those of us who have been pushing for more transparency for a long time. Republicans and Democrats may disagree about how best to reform our health care system, but neither side can promote effective change without this accurate information (Carolyn Laine, 2/21).

Detroit Free Press: A Cruel, Costly Restriction On Certain Mental Health Drugs
But the new budget also includes some misfires — and none more off-target than a shortsighted plan to restrict mental health drugs to Medicaid patients. Legislators ought to remove this proposal from the budget. Efforts to undo Public Act 248 of 2004, which has protected access to brand-only medication for some of the state's poorest patients, are especially troubling coming from a governor who has supported improving Michigan's anemic mental health care system (2/22).

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