KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Praise For Insurers’ Move To Keep Consumer Protections; Supreme Court’s Reputation Falters

The New York Times: Health Reforms Consumers Want
UnitedHealthcare, one of the nation's largest health insurers, announced this week that it would keep some of the popular benefits and consumer protections required by the federal health care law even if the Supreme Court strikes down all or part of it. ... But such voluntary actions are not a substitute for the broader mandatory reforms that will take effect after 2014 under the law (6/11).

Los Angeles Times: A Fair-Minded Health Insurer? UnitedHealth Steps Up
I'm checking my pulse as I write these words: UnitedHealth Group, the largest U.S. health insurer by market value, says it will maintain some of the changes in President Obama's health care reform law even if it's struck down by the Supreme Court. What's this? A fair-minded, consumer-friendly health insurer? Apparently so (David Lazarus, 6/11).

Los Angeles Times: WellPoint's Buying 1-800-Contacts May Portend Troubling Trend
At first glance, there doesn't seem anything untoward about WellPoint, the insurance giant that owns Anthem Blue Cross, buying contact-lens retailer 1-800-Contacts. ... But a major health insurer's acquisition of a major health care provider -- 1-800-Contacts is the country's largest direct-to-consumer seller of contact lenses --highlights an emerging trend in the medical world and raises troubling questions about conflict of interest (David Lazarus, 6/12).

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare's Secret History
On Friday House Republicans released more documents that expose the collusion between the health care industry and the White House that produced ObamaCare, and what a story of crony capitalism it is. If the trove of emails proves anything, it's that the Tea Party isn't angry enough (6/11).

Baltimore Sun: Supreme Court Falls Into Disfavor
It should come as no surprise that in the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll, less than half of Americans surveyed -- 44 percent -- said they approve of the U.S. Supreme Court. Furthermore, three-quarters said they believed individual personal and political views sometimes determine the justices' votes, rather than legal analysis. ... The nation's eyes will be on the court again soon as it is scheduled to render judgment on the constitutionality of the new health-care insurance act, unlovingly labeled "Obamacare" by its critics. However it decides, the once untouchable Supreme Court will remain the center of controversy over how politically blind is the justice it now dispenses (Jules Witcover, 6/12).

Boston Globe: Senate Should Accept Supreme Court Justices With Records On Abortion
However, after (Justice Sandra Day) O’Connor’s nomination, ... the overwhelming model for a successful Supreme Court nominee is of a person heavily rooted in academia, and groomed through presidential appointments to lower courts and top Justice Department jobs. One doesn’t have to speculate too much to understand why this particular resume has been so successful: Those who never enter electoral politics don't register their views on abortion. ... With its single-issue litmus test, the Senate has effectively ruled out many of the experiences that have helped make previous justices attentive to all aspects of a case (6/12).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Health Care: Takeover Continues
Massachusetts has long given the U.S. a glimpse of what the future of American health care might look like. Now it's offering another even more troubling look at what might happen if the Supreme Court does not overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Massachusetts' takeover of health care -- ushered in with the blessing of its then-governor, Mitt Romney -- is moving on to the next logical step: rationing (6/12).

Kansas City Star: Benefits Communication Needed Year-Round
When open enrollment ends and every employee has checked a box for a health plan, some may think the employer's job is finished. But actually, it has just begun. The true challenge of health care runs the rest of the year. An employee could get a diagnosis of diabetes or heart disease or be dealing with improper diet or stress-driven behaviors that could degrade individual health and overall employee well-being. And lost productivity due to illness could cause bottom-line damage to the employer's financial performance. To truly get a grip on health care, employers need to engage employees all year long on practical issues of personal and financial health (Dennis Triplett, 6/11).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Pharmaceutical Laws Hopelessly Out Of Date
Today we live in an era where over 80 percent of the active ingredients in our pharmaceuticals are manufactured abroad.  Current law forces the FDA to inspect American facilities every two years, but there are no mandates on how often it inspects facilities overseas. … To remedy this, in a rare and exceptional moment of bipartisanship, the Senate and the House in consecutive weeks in late May passed an FDA reform bill.  This bill would implement a risk-based inspection schedule for both foreign and domestic manufacturing sites (Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., 6/11).

Archives of Ophthalmology: Educating A Nation
During the past 2 decades, professional fees at some of our public medical schools increased by a whopping 1000 percent. ... In an unfortunate feedback loop, the quality of the education available in our public medical schools has become so high that the education is being seen primarily as a private benefit rather than a public good. As such, the obligation for funding rests with the individual. When this is the case, tuitions increase and students leave school with more debt. ... Others, particularly those from middle or lower income backgrounds, never enter the profession in the first place (Dr. Michael V. Drake, 6/12).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Proposed Regulations Are Bad Law, Bad For Women
On Friday, the Virginia Board of Health will consider whether to finalize burdensome new regulations for women's reproductive health centers. The proposed regulations would treat these centers like hospitals, imposing onerous new building and administrative requirements. A favorite tactic of the anti-abortion movement, these "TRAP" regulations (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) are flawed policies resulting from a flawed process, and they're likely to have concerning, and unintended, consequences (Meredith Johnson Harbach, 6/12).

Los Angeles Times: Mental Illness And Lessons From Kelly Thomas' Last Cry For Help
Here's what I hope: that just as the Rodney King video led to an important national conversation about race, the horrific video of Thomas calling out to his father for help will lead to a national conversation about mental illness (Dr. Neal Halfon, 6/12).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Project Health Colorado A Forum Outside The Fray
Our agenda -- which we call our "vision" -- is to achieve access to health for all Coloradans. A BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) if ever there was one, we know that our ability to help expand health coverage to more of the 829,000 uninsured Coloradans and to increase access to affordable, high quality health care will truly require all hands on deck (Christie McElhinney, 6/11).

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