KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Super Committee Clock Is Ticking; Replacing CLASS; ‘Personhood’ Amendment In Miss.

The New York Times: Tales From The Supercommittee
There are only three weeks left for the Congressional supercommittee to come up with a plan to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion, and there is no sign that the panel is anywhere close to reaching an agreement. Only one side, in fact, seems to be trying — the Democrats — and it is being far too accommodating, given the fierce obstructionism of the other side, the Republicans (10/31).

Forbes: CLASS Aside, Long-Term Care Is A Key To Entitlement Reform
The demise of CLASS is a welcome one. The program was transparently used by Democrats to engineer a more favorable fiscal score for Obamacare, even though internal documents show that they were aware of the program’s fatal flaws. However, it’s critical that fiscal hawks don’t see the end of CLASS as the end of their involvement in long-term care reform. You can’t get the budget deficit under control with flowery speeches: you have to do the hard work of rewiring these large federal programs. Long-term care reform is necessarily a big part of that effort (Avik Roy, 10/31).

New England Journal of Medicine: The Shortage Of Essential Chemotherapy Drugs In The United States
These shortages have increased the already escalating costs of cancer care. Brand-name substitutes for generic drugs can add substantial cost. ... The only good news is that the drug shortages may catalyze a shift from a mostly market-based system to one that rewards the provision of high-quality cancer care at an affordable cost (Mandy L. Gatesman and Dr. Thomas J. Smith, 10/31).

New England Journal of Medicine: Drug Shortages — A Critical Challenge For The Generic-Drug Market 
A license to market lifesaving products should entail a public obligation to meet demand. After all, if we can afford to spend billions of dollars on medical research, we should, as a society, enjoy the fruits of that investment by assuring the manufacture of generic drugs. (Dr. Bruce A. Chabner, 10/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Cooking The Books On Grandma's Health Care
The British medical journal Lancet reported last month that 32% of elderly American patients undergo surgery in the year before they die, a statistic culled from Medicare data. In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Amy Kelley of Mount Sinai School of Medicine labeled the 32% figure a "call to action"—to reduce costly surgeries, intensive-care stays and other high-intensity care for the elderly. Her call was parroted in hundreds of media outlets nationwide. But advocates for limiting health-care spending on the elderly are distorting science to make their argument (Betsy McCaughey, 11/1).

The New York Times: Mississippi's Ambiguous 'Personhood' Amendment
On Nov. 8, Mississippi voters will be asked to decide on a proposed amendment to the state constitution, which would define as a person "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof." Most of the debate on this proposal has fallen on traditional lines. In our charged political climate, that is understandable, but it is also profoundly misleading. Whether one supports abortion rights or not, there are serious issues with this amendment — not because of the principles it seeks to represent, but because, as a legal matter, it is profoundly ambiguous (I. Glenn Cohen and Jonathan F. Will, 10/31).

The Baltimore Sun: For Abortion Foes, An Ultrasound Is Worth 1,000 Words
U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles last Tuesday granted a request for a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks a provision in North Carolina's new abortion-restriction law that would require women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound image of their womb within four hours of the procedure. In her decision to suspend this one requirement, while upholding other provisions in the law pending resolution of the lawsuit by several plaintiffs, Judge Eagles said the ultrasound requirement likely violates patients' First Amendment rights. Come again? …  Judge Eagles' decision, and the rationale behind it, is unabashedly political (Cal Thomas, 11/1).

The Baltimore Sun: Protect Programs That Keep Kids Out Of Poverty
Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and other members of the congressional "supercommittee" created by this summer's federal deficit ceiling law are charged with making a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit. That's a daunting task. But as new Census Bureau data shows, kids in Mr. Van Hollen's 8th District and in Maryland as a whole face an even more daunting one: staying afloat as more and more of them sink into poverty. ... The decisions Mr. Van Hollen and other supercommittee members make will determine whether federal initiatives can continue to protect kids in Maryland and all over the country from the economic downturn's worst effects (Bruce Lesley, 10/31).

Los Angeles Times: HPV Vaccine For Boys? Yes
A government panel now recommends that the vaccine against human papillomavirus should be routinely given to boys as well as girls. Our question is: What took so long? (11/1).

The Sacramento Bee: Patient Safety Is Priority In Medical Pot Policy
Under current law, medical cannabis has been decriminalized in California, but is still illegal on a federal level. ... The goal of our call for legalization is not to make the drug more available, but rather to create a strict regulatory system, ultimately limiting distribution and standardizing medical cannabis.
(Dr. Paul R. Phinney and Dr. Luther F. Cobb, 11/1).

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