KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Longer Looks: A ‘Renegade’ Bill Frist?; The Pharmacist’s Expanding Role

Every week Shefali S. Kulkarni selects interesting reading from around the Web.

Politico: The Bill Frist Rx
Meet former Sen. Bill Frist, a renegade "Obamacare"-loving Republican who is in the mood for some real bipartisanship. Yes, the same Frist who as Senate majority leader led an army into the culture wars over Terri Schiavo and whose efforts in 2004 to unseat his then-rival, Minority Leader Tom Daschle, led to a nasty — and personal — Washington battle royal. Now, Frist is pushing for a national conversation on end-of-life care and dismissing "caricatured" talk of death panels. He's committing Republican heresy in endorsing elements of the loathed Affordable Care Act (Brett Norman, 9/16).

Fox Business: Secret Weapon In Health Care: Your Pharmacist
With primary care physicians in short supply, doctors' schedules on overload and about 30 million people scheduled to enter the health care system by 2014, patients may start to feel neglected. But experts say consumers often overlook the skills and expertise of their pharmacists ... Medication adherence is a priority for improving outcomes and containing individual and system costs, experts say. According to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the overall spend resulting from poor medication adherence is approximately $290 billion per year (Barbara Mannino, 9/13).

The Atlantic: How The Catholic Church Misunderstands Death With Dignity
My father, a lifelong atheist, died at 91 in a Catholic hospice center. He received excellent, compassionate care from his nurses and from a doctor who willingly administered the morphine needed to ease his suffering -- although, she advised, it would hasten his death. Did she violate the doctrine of a church actively opposing a Death with Dignity proposal now on the ballot in Massachusetts? The medical team was administering palliative care, not assisting in a suicide. ... sometimes, palliative care involves not just "the risk of shortening life" but the knowledge that it will shorten life. What if the only way to ease pain is to shorten life? (Wendy Kaminer, 9/17).

The New York Times: Life Went On Around Her, Redefining Care By Bridging A Divide
The story of Lia, the severely brain-damaged daughter of Hmong refugees who had resettled in California, became the subject of (Anne) Fadiman's first book, "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down," published in 1997. ... Ms. Fadiman’s book is a cautionary tale about the cultural chasm between Lia’s family, with its generations-old animist beliefs, and her rationalist American doctors. ... That cultural divide — despite the best intentions of both sides, Ms. Fadiman wrote — may have brought about Lia's condition, a consequence of a catastrophic seizure when she was 4. ... Lia Lee died in Sacramento on Aug. 31. ... Lia's story, as few other narratives have done, has had a significant effect on the ways in which American medicine is practiced across cultures, and on the training of doctors (Margalit Fox, 9/14).

Detroit Free Press: Michigan Patients Receive Free Flights To Get Them To The Care They Need
(Elaine Jerry), who moved to the remote area in the Upper Peninsula 18 years ago, needed to get to Ann Arbor to have surgery on her right eye. ... Getting to and from Munising -- population 2,355 -- can be time-consuming and expensive, especially when driving isn't an option. Volunteer pilots such as Richard (Dick) Lawrence make it possible for Jerry and others in similar financial and geographic situations to get where they need to go for specialized medical treatment. Dozens of organizations nationwide -- several of them based in Michigan -- coordinate thousands of flights for people in need each year (Elisha Anderson, 9/17).

The American Interest: Fixing Health Care Calls for Evolution, Not Intelligent Design
It’s true that central direction and planning can sometimes be what’s needed to reach a specific, identifiable goal, like winning a war or landing a man on the Moon. But spurring innovation in the organization and delivery of health care is like constantly improving our education system or ensuring that American industry is always continuously creative. It is about a process and not about achieving a specific, known result. And it cannot be centrally directed because it is about encouraging creativity without knowing what the best future should or will look like (Stuart Butler, 9/17).

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