KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Iowa ‘Botched’ High Risk Pool; Clinton Praises Family And Medical Leave Act; HHS Contraceptive Policy’s ‘Sensible Balance’

Des Moines Register: State Insurance Pools Have Been A Disservice
The health reform law will get millions of Americans coverage in 2014. Until then, Congress offered Iowa up to $35 million to provide temporary insurance for people whose health prevent them from buying coverage on their own. Iowa botched the entire concept behind the high-risk pool, and state and federal officials stood by and failed to take corrective action. That is simply inexcusable (2/5).

Politico: Why I Signed The Family And Medical Leave Act
Twenty years ago today, barely more than two weeks into my presidency, I stood in the White House Rose Garden to sign the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provided millions of Americans with the opportunity to take time off to care for a new child or sick relative. It was then and remains today the embodiment of my governing philosophy of empowerment through opportunity and responsibility. To this day, I receive more thanks from citizens for the FMLA than any other single piece of legislation I signed into law (former President Bill Clinton, 2/5).

The Miami Herald: FMLA Still Helping Families Cope With Illness
In our struggle to balance our family lives and our work lives, one law has made a giant difference for me and 35 million other American workers — the Family Medical Leave Act. This week, the FMLA celebrates its 20th year in existence. It's been a godsend for those of us who want time to bond with our newborn, care for an aging parent or deal with a health emergency without the fear of losing our jobs (Cindy Krischer Goodman, 2/5).

Arizona Republic: Medicaid Expansion Not An Economic Issue
The benefits of the Medicaid expansion proposed by Gov. Jan Brewer greatly exceed the costs (indeed, there are actually state savings) and risks. That does not mean, however, that all the arguments being made on its behalf are valid. The claim that expansion is an important economic issue is particularly dubious (Robert Robb, 2/5).

Bloomberg: Why Opposition To Medicaid Expansion Is Nuts
Like declining to expand Medicaid, purposefully excluding your state from exchange subsidies is terrible policy that will end up being politically untenable. These recommendations -- decline Medicaid expansion even when there's almost no cost to state taxpayers; purposefully exclude your state’s residents from federal insurance subsidies -- are the dying gasps of a political movement that can't understand it was defeated. Reform opponents lost the fight over the program and it will be financed with federal tax dollars (Josh Barro, 2/5).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Medicaid Expansion An Investment In Colorado's Future
Young adults: What defines us? Taking pictures of our food and fixing computer problems for our parents? Unfortunately lacking health insurance may be the most common characteristic of our generation because young adults comprise one of the largest uninsured groups in the United States. ... Thanks to Obamacare, Colorado is creating the new Medicaid program to help young adults and other Coloradans find health care. Individuals earning $15,000 or less (and families of four making up to $30,000), will be insured through the new Medicaid program in 2014. The expansion is expected to reduce the number of uninsured Coloradans by 160,000 (Matt Valeta, 2/5)

The Washington Post: A Contraception Compromise In Good Faith
President Obama's 2010 health-care law requires large employers to provide health insurance and, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), that contraception be covered by those policies. From a policy perspective, the contraception mandate makes sense. But when the employers in question are affiliated with religious groups that object to birth control, balancing their religious liberty against public health is far from simple. On Friday, the Obama administration elaborated on its attempt — in our view, a successful one — to strike a sensible balance (2/5).

Seattle Times: Ensure Access To Birth Control Through Affordable Care Act
Last Friday, the administration announced that churches and other religious organizations would not have to provide or pay for coverage of contraceptive services. The revision also covers nonprofit religious organizations — such as universities, charities and hospitals — with religious objections. ... The debate has no end in sight, because others want an exemption for secular employers who have private religious objections. The Obama administration drew a reasonable line (2/5).

USA Today: Bring Mental Illness Out Of The Shadows
The vast majority of Americans with a mental health condition are not violent. In fact, just 3% to 5% of violent crimes are committed by individuals who suffer from a serious mental illness. But we know that some instances of mental illness can develop into crisis situations if left untreated, and those crises can lead to violence. More often than not, those with mental health conditions direct these violent acts at themselves. Tragically, there are more than 38,000 suicides in America each year, more than twice the number of homicides (HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, 2/4).

Georgia Health News: Whistleblowers Are Our Best Weapon Against Fraud
In 1986, Congress rejuvenated the Civil War-era False Claims Act by permitting citizens with knowledge of fraud involving Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs to not only sue on behalf of the government but to be compensated for their part in fighting fraud with a portion of the funds recovered, typically 15 percent to 25 percent. In the years since, the whistleblower has become the single most effective weapon in the fight against health care fraud (Peter Canfield, 2/5). 

San Jose Mercury News: U.S. Needs To Reform Long-Term Care Assistance
Millions of elderly and disabled Americans need help with the basic activities of daily life -- from getting dressed to preparing meals and taking medications. Yet few can afford the care they need under the current system. In an important move, the U.S. Congress and the White House are setting up a new congressional commission that will deliver a plan -- within six months -- to reform long-term care assistance. I hope the commission will conclude that our country urgently needs a long-term care insurance program that is widely available and affordable (Larry Minnix, 2/5). 

Sacramento Bee: All Options Need To Be On Table For Medi-Cal Dental Program
The lack of timely and appropriate access to dental care for low-income children and adults is one of the most overlooked problems of California's health care system. It can also be life-threatening when not addressed. The challenges facing California policymakers will become more substantial as the state embarks on a massive expansion of Medi-Cal, the state's public insurance program for the poor (Barbara Aved, 2/6). 

JAMA: Patients Face Too Many Burdensome Care Transitions At The End Of Life
A growing number of older adults in the United States are dying at home, but many continue to face multiple health care transitions to different care sites and receive aggressive inpatient care in their final days, according to a study published in JAMA today. The majority of individuals report that they would prefer to die at home rather than in a health care facility (Bridget Kuehn, 2/5).

Kansas City Star: Health Care Pricing Makes No Sense
We can and should do better. The “we” are the health care providers. Everyone knows health care spending is out of control. Of the sacred triad of health care policy, (cost , access, and quality) the cost is the most important issue to address. Can we reduce cost, thus increasing access without affecting the quality of care? The answer is certainly “yes” (Stephen Kunz, 2/5). 

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