KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Krugman Cautions Against Locking In Benefit Cuts That May Not Be Necessary; Lift The Freeze On CDC’s Gun Research

The New York Times: The Dwindling Deficit
Well, its probable (although not certain) that, within two or three decades, the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted, leaving the system unable to pay the full benefits specified by current law. So the plan is to avoid cuts in future benefits by committing right now to ... cuts in future benefits. Huh? O.K., you can argue that the adjustment to an aging population would be smoother if we commit to a glide path of benefit cuts now. On the other hand, by moving too soon we might lock in benefit cuts that turn out not to have been necessary. And much the same logic applies to Medicare. So there’s a reasonable argument for leaving the question of how to deal with future problems up to future politicians (Paul Krugman, 1/17). 

The New York Times: The Next Four Years
Polarization is too deep. Special interests are too strong. The negotiators are too rusty. Republicans are not going to give up their vision of a low-tax America. Democrats are not willing to change the current entitlement programs. So as the president enters his second term, there has to be a new controlling narrative, a new strategy for how to spend the next four years (David Brooks, 1/17).

The New York Times: Room For Debate: Guns, Safety And Mental Health
In the days after 20 children and four adults were shot dead in a Connecticut school, calls by gun control opponents for a focus on mental health care were seen as a diversionary tactic to avoid legislation limiting America’s arsenal. But elements of both President's Obama's proposals to address gun violence and new laws on the issue in New York deal with mental health care. Some are widely welcomed, some are more contentious. But can changes in the American mental health system reduce gun violence without creating more problems? (1/18).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Politics Stalls Research On Gun Violence Prevention
President Obama's package of initiatives and proposals includes a memorandum to lift the freeze on the CDC's gun violence research. The president asked Congress to appropriate $10 million to pay for it. But whether it's at the CDC or another organization, whether it's $1 million or $10 million, let's agree that we should gather information to be able to elevate our dialogue to a more productive level. In the name of all victims of shootings, that dialogue should include evidenced-based discourse on weapons availability, accessibility of mental health services, the influence of the entertainment industry and other topics deemed relevant by researchers (Amy Downs, 1/17).

Kansas City Star: To Improve Mental Health, We Must First Understand It
Here’s a better idea for "arming" the nation’s teachers. Let's do it with knowledge, support and resources about the mental health of children. The suggestion comes in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, from people who understand the importance of early detection and intervention. "Teachers must be taught how to identify troubled children early and to guide them into effective supports before these children get into difficulties," wrote Ron Manderscheid, executive director of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors. Manderscheid's note is making the rounds among mental health professionals. Many are crafting similar messages to members of Congress (Mary Sanchez, 1/18).

North Carolina Health News: Early Intervention In Youth Mental Health
Much too frequently in America, we bear witness to horrific shootings. We try to make sense of these events and ask ourselves why they happened and how to prevent future tragedies. We call for gun control – anything – to stop the insanity. No doubt, stricter gun laws are needed in this country. But we also need a humane and effective mental health system that gives priority to young persons with emerging severe mental illness (Barbara B. Smith, 1/17).

The Washington Post: Five Myths About This Year’s Flu
The rapid onset of the flu season this year has led to illness, absenteeism, hospitalizations and, tragically, death. It has also led to speculation, misinformation and just plain falsehoods about the illness and the government’s pandemic policies. Here's a primer on what’s definitely not true about the flu (Tevi Troy, 1/17).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): New Strategy To Tackle Growing Obesity Problem
As Coloradans launch their New Year's diets, with a good percentage of them destined to fail, it's worth noting that the federal Affordable Care Act requires — for the first time — that insurance companies cover obesity screening and management without cost-sharing. Of the roughly 610,000 obese Coloradans with health insurance, many may now be eligible to sign up for treatment programs without co-pays. The health reform law requires that Medicare as well as most private insurance companies, including employer self-insured plans, cover the cost of these services for in-network providers. …  It's a good bet that many eligible Coloradans are unaware of the change (Sara Schmitt, 1/17).

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