KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: A Doctor Finds Father’s Hospital Care Frightening; Politicization Of Science Has Hurt Research Funding

WBUR: Cognoscenti: Even A Doctor Can't Keep His Father Safe In The Hospital
Three years ago, on a Friday afternoon, I received a frantic phone call from my mother. My active and healthy father was in the hospital with a suspected stroke. I immediately started driving to New Jersey, where they lived. I knew I had to be there to ensure that my dad would be safe. He had been taken to one of the most dangerous places in the world: a hospital. The story of my dad's three day stay in a major American teaching hospital is remarkably unremarkable (Ashish Jha, 4/5).

Journal of the American Medical Association: The Future of Biomedical Research
For decades the importance of biomedical research was a reliable pillar of bipartisan agreement, as evidenced by the continuous high levels of funding that both parties have sustained during the last 3 presidential administrations. ... This coming year, there will almost certainly be no increase in NIH funding. Moreover, sequestration means that the NIH will actually lose approximately 5.1% of its current level of funding, or about $1.55 billion. Bipartisan support has all but evaporated, and biomedical research is quickly becoming just another partisan issue. ... Four factors contribute to the erosion of support for the NIH. First, there is increasing politicization of science in general (Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 4/4).

Los Angeles Times: Blowing Smoke On Workplace Health
The best way to hire productive employees is to look for people with qualifications, talent, honesty and commitment. Now, however, a small but growing number of employers are looking for something else as well: job applicants who don't smoke. As much as we despair of the death and damage caused by tobacco, this new employment criterion strikes us as a lamentable and unwarranted intrusion into applicants' private lives — and one that should worry anyone in this country who has an elevated risk for any sort of injury or illness. In other words, most of us (4/4). 

The Washington Post: Obama Must Take The Lead On Medicare Reform
Reforming Medicare must be part of long-term deficit reduction. Alas, between House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) plan to replace Medicare with a "premium support" and President Obama's refusal to countenance it, Washington is hopelessly deadlocked. Or maybe not. There are ways to generate meaningful savings that don’t involve either abolishing Medicare "as we know it" or perpetuating the status quo (4/4). 

The Washington Post: The Politics Of Roe V. Wade And Gay Marriage
Arkansas last month enacted a law that bans abortion after 12 weeks. North Dakota went even further, banning abortion after six weeks. These blatantly unconstitutional statutes aren't the product of a 40-year-old Supreme Court ruling. They are the result of a sincere and intense belief — one I do not share — that abortion is the taking of a human life. They do not demonstrate the folly of the justices' intervention in Roe. They demonstrate its necessity (Ruth Marcus, 4/4).

The Washington Post: Let's Go Down The Aisle Toward Legalized Pot
Anytime now, Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to make an announcement about marijuana, one of the administration's trickier policy problems. In November, two states, Colorado and Washington, passed ballot initiatives — by strong margins — to legalize marijuana use. Both states established regulatory systems akin to those for alcohol, though Washington's is somewhat more stringent. And both states acted in defiance of federal marijuana policy: The 1970 Controlled Substances Act makes marijuana illegal and places it in the same class as heroin. How should the administration respond to this frontal challenge? The answer is: View it not as a threat but as an opportunity (Jonathan Rauch, 4/4).

Boston Globe: BC Should Work With Students To Resolve Issues Over Condoms
Boston College has taken action against a student group that dispenses condoms, intending to reinforce Catholic Church teachings in favor of marriage and against premarital sex. Administrators are certainly within their rights, as overseers of a private Catholic institution, to crack down. But it's still an unfortunate move: The administration and the student group coexisted respectfully for four years before the administration abruptly changed course. There's no reason to believe they can't do so again. And BC's leaders would earn the admiration of students by being mindful of their interests and needs — which might, in turn, make them more receptive to church teachings (4/5). 

Bloomberg: How To Finish the Last, Hard Path To Polio Eradication
The end of polio is in sight. Last year, there were fewer cases of the disease -- 223 -- in fewer endemic countries -- three -- than ever. Still, the eradication campaign can seem like Achilles' effort to outrun the tortoise in Zeno's paradox: There's always a little more ground to cover. The goal can be achieved only if health workers can find and inoculate the last unvaccinated children on earth. That's going to take an estimated $5.5 billion (in addition to the $9 billion spent so far), a huge commitment from endemic-country governments and a push by Muslim leaders to counter anti-vaccination extremists (4/3).  

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