KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: NRA Shouldn’t Derail Surgeon General Nominee; Democrats Need To Stand Up For Health Law

A selection of editorials and opinions on health care from around the country.

The New York Times: The Gun Lobby's Latest Bizarre Crusade
The National Rifle Association has mounted an outrageous campaign to torpedo President Obama’s nomination of an outstanding young doctor to be the next surgeon general of the United States because of his attitudes on gun control. The sad part is, the campaign is causing some nervous Democrats whose votes may be needed for Senate confirmation to consider breaking with the president to bolster their own chances for re-election in states where the gun lobby is powerful (3/17). 

NBC News: Bioethicist: Surgeon General Nominee Is Right -- Guns Are A Public Health Issue
President Barack Obama's choice for Surgeon General has a lot of people gunning for him. Why? He thinks guns are a public health problem. Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, a 36-year-old Harvard Medical School physician, has voiced support for putting limits on who can buy guns. This doesn't sit well with the National Rifle Association. ... I don't know Murthy, but I know that science supports his views about guns being a health issue. And it is also likely that his revulsion at the continuing parade of mass killings, accidental shootings, crimes involving guns and suicides that continue to plague our nation is based on a burst of research about preventing harm and slaughter by guns. And, probably, a bit of common sense too (Caplan, 3/17).

Bloomberg: The NRA Versus Public Health 
"The surgeon general has the important tasks of providing the American public with information to better inform decisions related to their health and directing much of the federal government's public health efforts," said the NRA's lobbying arm on its website. The crucial words are "information" and "public health." The extreme gun-rights movement makes expansive claims about the benefits of gun ownership. Few of those claims pass even the crudest standards of scholarship. Indeed, many such claims are already bending under the weight of public health research indicating, for example, that gun ownership may be more likely to lead to instances of suicide or homicide than self-defense (3/17).

The New York Times: Lowering The Deadly Cost Of Drug Abuse
As even quaint New England towns deal with desperate residents chasing their next hit of heroin, pain killers or other hard drugs, and with overdose deaths increasing, officials trying to stem drug abuse have begun to focus more on treatment, rather than punishment. ... what are the best, or boldest, ways that experts around the world have proposed to take care of the problem? (3/17). 

The Washington Post: Democrats Should Play Offense On Obamacare
Here is what Democrats should learn from their party's loss in a special House election in Florida last week: Wishy-washy won't work. Republicans obviously are going to make opposition to the Affordable Care Act the main theme of their campaigns this fall. Democrats will be better off if they push back hard — really hard — rather than seek some nonexistent middle ground (Eugene Robinson, 3/17). 

Los Angeles Times: Why The GOP's Healthcare 'Reform' Plan Looks So Danged Familiar
Via Jonathan Cohn and Kevin Drum, it transpires that the House GOP majority is crafting a new healthcare "reform" program to substitute for the Affordable Care Act. It should surprise no one that the new plan incorporates two provisions that have been Republican nostrums, like, forever, and that are distinguished by their utter irrelevance to the goal of making healthcare more accessible and affordable to anybody. These nostrums are (1) allow health insurance to be sold across state lines and (2) make it harder to sue for malpractice. These are two of the most anti-consumer ideas ever proposed in the healthcare field (Michael Hiltzik, 3/17). 

Bloomberg: Republicans Need to Rewrite Their Obamacare Script
The takeaway is that despite its fits and starts, the ACA is the law of the land. Meanwhile, most Republicans are still stuck in fall 2009 or at best fall 2010, and appear to reject new information about what the law actually is doing. That doesn’t matter for electoral politics, most likely. But it does make Republicans ill-equipped to govern on this issue -- at least, if governing entails more than symbolic gestures (Jonathan Bernstein, 3/17).

Los Angeles Times: These Claims Shouldn't Have A Prayer
Are secular, for-profit corporations free to violate the rights of their employees by claiming that the law violates their corporate religious conscience? That's the big question at the heart of the two blockbuster challenges to a key provision of Obamacare that will be heard by the Supreme Court next week. In its 225-year history, the Supreme Court has never held that secular, for-profit corporations are entitled to the free exercise of religion. It should not start now (David H. Gans, 3/18). 

Bloomberg: Obamacare's Dropouts Are Middle-Age Men
Anyone wondering why Obamacare is having a hard time meeting its enrollment projections, even after the problems with HealthCare.gov have mostly been fixed, will want to look at a survey released today by Bankrate. The headline number from the telephone survey of more than 3,000 people is that 34 percent of respondents without insurance say they plan to stay that way, even after being told that the new law requires them to get covered or pay a penalty. What's more interesting is who's saying that: It's not just the young(Christopher Flavelle, 3/17).

The Dallas Morning News: Schnurman: Texans Pass On Obamacare
Texas, the land of missed opportunity. Last year, elected leaders rejected the chance to expand Medicaid, forgoing billions in federal dollars. Now Texas residents have been slow to enroll in health insurance, leaving more money on the table and more uninsured in the state. In Texas, 295,000 had enrolled by March 1. That's just 9.4 percent of 3.14 million eligible for coverage. The sign-up rate is lower than the U.S. average and the worst among the largest states (Mitchell Schnurman, 3/17).

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