KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: CLASS Decision Ends Fear Of Government Bailout; The Strengths And Failings Of U.S. Health Care

The Washington Post: A Sensible End To The Federal Long-Term Care Program
The problem, as numerous experts warned at the time, was whether the program could be run, as the law required, in a way that made it financially solvent for at least 75 years. The difficulty with the CLASS Act was ensuring that premiums could be set low enough to attract widespread participation but high enough to pay the promised benefits. The risk was that the program would attract the sickest participants, who thought they might need its protections, and thereby drive premium prices ever higher in a spiral of dysfunction. Once the program was underway and millions had paid their premiums, the temptation for a government bailout would have been significant (10/17).

The Washington Post: Canceling CLASS Should Make Us More Confident About Health Care Reform 
But the CLASS Act's construction made this a rare moment when the administration could act alone. It will need congressional cooperation to modify much of the rest of the bill. And if Republicans decide they would prefer to see the legislation fail than to pitch in to make it work, then so long as they have enough votes to mount filibusters in the Senate, they can make CLASS the last mistake the White House is able to correct (Ezra Klein, 10/17).

USA Today: Editorial: For Health Care Model, Look To Netherlands
Behold the American health care system. It produces most of the world's prescription drugs, medical technologies and Nobel laureates in medicine. It also attracts patients from around the world in search of the best treatments money can buy. Impressive, indeed. But what looks like the world's best health care system by those standards fares much worse when one considers its staggering costs and breathtaking inefficiency (10/17).

USA Today: Opposing View: Despite Flaws, U.S. Health Care The Best
When Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi needed heart surgery, he didn't go to an Italian hospital. He didn't go to Austria or the Netherlands. He had his surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Similarly, when Canadian Human Resources Minister Belinda Stronach needed treatment for breast cancer, she had it done at a California hospital. And, when then-Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams needed to have a leaky heart valve repaired, he had it done at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Florida. These high-profile patients were following in the footsteps of tens of thousands of patients from around the world who come to the United States for treatment every year (Michael Tanner, 10/17).

The Washington Post: Accepting Death Is Difficult For Patients And Doctors, But It Needs To Be Done
My experience tells me that whatever our trajectory, we are grossly ill-equipped to handle the dying process. Often I wonder how we — doctors, patients, the health-care system and society — can better prepare for death (Manoj Jain, 10/17).

Sacramento Bee: Obama Shouldn't Be Hiding Records On Doctor Errors
Last month, the Obama administration made the boneheaded decision to remove the Public Use File from public view. President Barack Obama, who came to office promising to be transparent, needs to reverse that terrible decision immediately. The administration's action is all the more troubling because of what led to it (10/18).

The Dallas Morning News: Public Needs More Details On Patient Safety At Hospitals 
If you were about to undergo surgery, would it serve you well to know how your hospital ranked when it came to ensuring the safety of its patients? If you realized you faced a greater risk of being accidentally lacerated or punctured during an operation, would that give you pause? The sensible answer to both is yes. But few, if any, of us have any clue to how well hospitals and doctors perform because this information is practically impossible to unearth. … It took The Dallas Morning News six months of analysis and a review of 9 million discharge records from hospitals in the state to provide a measuring stick for patient safety (10/17).

San Francisco Chronicle: The 'Let Women Die' Bill
Occasionally, late in the pregnancy, there are complications necessitating an emergency lifesaving abortion. I can't imagine how devastating it would be to be told that my wife's life is in so much danger that my child will have to be aborted. Many pregnant mothers may not have to worry about that psychological trauma much longer because if House Resolution 358 is enacted, they could die instead (Ross Becht, 10/18).

California Healthline: What Can California Learn From Healthy San Francisco?
A new study suggests that Healthy San Francisco, the country's first government-sponsored effort to provide health care access to all residents, is working. San Francisco's previously uninsured residents seem to be getting healthier, and providers are generally satisfied with the program and intend to continue participating. ... Can state, county and city policymakers apply lessons learned in the Healthy San Francisco program to help the rest of California make the most of health care reform? (Responses from six experts) (10/17). 

Chicago Sun-Times: State Must Do More To Meet Minority Health Care Needs
I am concerned about how the (Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review) Board and the Illinois Department of Public Health estimate the need for dialysis stations and how they can more effectively identify and address barriers that impede improved health outcomes for those populations with high incidence of chronic kidney disease and end stage renal disease. Clearly, demographics have an impact on the need for dialysis health facilities in planning areas (Ill. State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, 10/17).

Chicago Sun-Times: Changes On PSA Test Confusing To Many
We should all do everything we can to lead long, healthy lives, and this goes for men and their partners as well. Studies have shown that women often lead the household when it comes to making healthy choices as a family and orchestrating doctor’s visits, so it is often a good idea to take the reins and speak up if you feel your partner is neglecting his health. But, at the same time, we have to keep in mind that medical research is constantly growing, so it is no surprise that certain tests and techniques fall under scrutiny and beg for improvement (Dr. Laura Berman, 10/17).

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