KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Longer Looks: Unknowns In Sports Medicine; Shackling Pregnant Prisoners

Every week, reporter Jessica Marcy selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The New York Times: As Sports Medicine Surges, Hope And Hype Outpace Proven Treatments
Medical experts say (that) multiple futile treatments is all too familiar and points to growing problems in sports medicine, a medical subspecialty that has been experiencing explosive growth. ... now researchers are questioning many of the procedures, including new ones that often have no rigorous studies to back them up. … "Patients come in and say, ‘I want the same thing that Tiger Woods had,’ ” said Dr. McDevitt, the sports medicine orthopedist in Maryland. “I say, ‘It really hasn’t been proven.’ And they say, ‘Well, I don’t care.’ ” And when he refuses to provide the treatment to patients, Dr. McDevitt adds, “They usually say: ‘No offense, Doctor. You seem like a nice guy, but I will go to see one of the many, many other doctors who will do it'" (Gina Kolata, 9/4).

American Medical News: Medicare Battles Depression: Payment Parity Aims To Increase Treatment
[T]he symptoms of clinical depression have been known since ancient times -- Hippocrates referred to the condition as melancholia in Greece more than 2,000 years ago. But for some physicians and other mental health professionals, it wasn't until this year that the U.S. government took the steps needed to bring coverage for depression and other mental health disorders into the modern age. ... Medicare payment for mental health treatment, which for decades placed a higher out-of-pocket burden on patients than treatment for physical disorders, soon will be put on par with the program's other areas of coverage. To professionals who are treating seniors and disabled people for depression -- or who want to be doing more -- the moves are long overdue (Charles Fiegl, 9/5).

Huffington Post: Addressing Mental Health During This Economic Downturn
Poverty is a leading cause of clinical depression, not just on account of causing one's mood to drop, but loss of access to healthy food, loss of sleep due to prolonged employment search, and overall decline of physical health are also contributing factors to depression and anxiety. Left untreated, this in turn can lead to increased rates of suicide. … Suicide is already the third leading cause of death for black men between the ages of 15 and 24 (rates are lower in black women and black men are seven times more likely to commit suicide). With a rate of unemployment for black male teenagers up near 50 percent and what we know about the correlation between joblessness/poverty and depression/suicide, this is a potentially dangerous and deadly moment (Mychal Denzel Smith, 9/2).

Governing: How One Florida County Reduces Its Homeless and Jail Populations Simultaneously
Putting homeless people behind bars for nonviolent crimes may temporarily keep them from disturbing the public. But it fails to address the chronic issues -- like substance abuse and mental health problems -- that will likely land them back in jail again and again. That revolving door burdens police officers, crowds local jails, costs taxpayers money and fails to help those in need. … To address these issues and divert people from jail, Lee County [Florida] opened a triage center in April 2008 for people with mental health disorders and substance use problems. Rather than jailing homeless people for low-level crimes like loitering or public intoxication, police officers can bring them to the center for food, shelter and case management services (Caroline Cournoyer, September 2011).

Newsweek / The Daily Beast: Stop Shackling Pregnant Prisoners!
In 36 states, it is legal to shackle pregnant inmates during labor and not uncommon to cuff a woman's limbs to a hospital bed until delivery. Due to health risks to both mother and child, however, a growing number of states are banning the practice with anti-shackling bills. ... most recently, a woman in Tennessee was awarded $200,000 after she sued the state for being shackled when she went into labor shortly after she was arrested for driving without a license (Alex Berg, 9/4).

AARP: Amazing Medical Discoveries
Imagine fighting cancer with a vaccine. Or treating depression with a magnet. Or even growing a new liver or bladder using cells from your existing organs. Many of these novel approaches, for treating heart disease, cancer, and even blindness, are already in place or coming soon. Of course, as with any new procedure or medication, there may be as-yet-unreported side effects. And not all new technologies are covered by insurance (Beth Howard, September/October 2011).

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