Opinion writers weigh in on these health topics and others.
The New York Times: Surprise! It’s Not Guns, It’s The …
Perhaps you missed it, but this week the House of Representatives held its first hearing on gun violence in eight years. I know, I know. You’ve had a lot to keep track of, what with everything from the meltdown in Virginia to Jeff Bezos’ selfies. But about the hearing. Testimony centered on a bill that would make it harder for people to buy guns without thorough background checks. Supporters pointed out that right now it’s ridiculously easy to get lethal weapons from an unlicensed seller who is not going to check to see if said purchaser might have a record of violence, stalking or involuntary commitment for mental illness. (Gail Collins, 2/8)
The New York Times: When The Cure Is Worse Than The Disease
Katie Tulley suffers from an incurable bladder disorder so painful that it feels “like tearing skin off your arm and pouring acid on it, 24/7,” she said. On scans, the organ looks like an open sore. Ms. Tulley, a 37-year-old Louisianan who used to work with autistic children, manages her pain with a fentanyl patch. The opioid gives her a few precious hours out of bed to help her parents, do online volunteer work and occasionally leave home for something other than a medical visit. “I don’t get a euphoric feeling,” she said, noting that she has lowered her dose to avoid feeling woozy and impaired. Now, because of legal concerns about overdose risk, her doctors have considered stopping her medication, even though she has never misused it. (Maia Szalavitz, 2/9)
Cleveland Plain Dealer: In Ohio’s Fight Against The Opioid Epidemic, Coverage For All Aspects Of Addiction Treatment Is Key
Policymakers in Ohio and across the country have begun to recognize [medication-assisted treatment] as an important tool in treating addiction – and recent efforts to integrate these elements into our state Medicaid program are an important step toward widespread adoption.There are still many barriers to overcome. (Dr. Shawn A. Ryan, 2/7)
The Hill: Patients Of Air Ambulance Services Need Coverage When It Counts
Many important issues were debated during the recent midterm elections, but few more than Americans’ desire to fix our health-care system. Whether its drug prices or the cost of emergency room visits, pre-existing conditions or the opioid epidemic, patients are often stuck in the middle between providers of care and how to pay for services. Patients of air ambulance services are no different. While these issues are complex and the solutions challenging, it’s clear that one industry in particular needs to do more for patients — private insurers. Consumers who pay monthly premiums for insurance deserve to know they’ll have coverage when it counts. (Carter Johnson, 2/9)
The Wall Street Journal: It’s Time To Fire Your Doctor
Barack Obama famously and falsely said, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period.” But . . . what if you don’t like your doctor? Let’s say you, like me, are one of the 20 million Americans who work for themselves—no boss, but also no corporate-tax deduction for health insurance. The smart move is to get a high-deductible insurance plan. Now it suddenly matters what doctors charge: $ 500 to take your blood pressure and bang your knee with a rubber hammer, $ 1,200 for a blood test that uses pennies worth of chemicals to tell you your hemoglobin levels are fine. Plus four months to get an appointment, and then the doctor asks you to fax an authorization. What? It’s 2019. It’s time to fire your doctor. (Andy Kessler, 2/10)
Stat: ‘Gag Rule’ Threatens To Restrict Women’s Access To A Highly Effective HIV Therapy
The Trump administration’s disregard for women’s rights is reflected in its attempt to remove the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurers cover birth control and its expansion of the “global gag rule” banning U.S. funding to international organizations that so much as discuss abortion. The latter policy is now set to prevent women across the globe from receiving a powerful new HIV medication when it is made available, while men will have unfettered access to it. (Meredith Kernan and Cameron Nutt, 2/8)
The New York Times: Do You Know What’s In Your Cosmetics?
In a 1988 hearing, Congress took the cosmetics industry to task for a rash of health and safety problems. Cosmetologists were reporting serious respiratory and nervous system damage. At least one woman had been permanently disfigured by flammable hair spray. And according to government data, nearly 1,000 toxic chemicals were lurking in countless other personal care products. … That was 30 years ago. To date, no such reforms have been passed. (2/9)
Stat: HIMSS: It’s Time To Focus On Patients And Their Caregivers
Two decades ago, my personal and professional lives collided when my wife was diagnosed with cancer. Together we experienced the lack of transparency and synchronization across the health care continuum. That changed the lens through which I viewed my role in the health care technology community from profession to purpose. (Leigh Anderson, 2/11)
The Washington Post: Don’t Expand Social Security. Our Elderly Are Mostly Fine.
One of the great challenges of our time is to prevent Social Security and other programs for the elderly from taking over the national government. It may already be too late. Recently, the Congressional Budget Office reported that federal spending on the 65-plus population amounts to 40 percent of non-interest outlays, up from 35 percent in 2005. By 2029, the CBO projects it to be 50 percent. (Robert J. Samuelson, 2/10)
The New York Times: The Neuroscience Of ‘Rock-A-Bye Baby’
Want to fall effortlessly into profound slumber and sleep like a baby? Everyone knows that infants can be lulled to sleep by gentle rocking. Well, now it seems that what works for babies works for adults, too. New research shows that a slow rocking motion not only improves sleep but also can help people consolidate memories overnight. And this, in turn, tells us something interesting about how much the brain is affected by what seem to be purely physical interventions. (Richard A. Friedman, 2/10)
Los Angeles Times: An Alzheimer’s Epidemic Is Coming. Here’s How To Prepare
Mention the words “women’s health,” and Alzheimer’s disease may not immediately come to mind. It should. The greatest emerging risk to women’s health can be summed up in this stark statistic: Every 65 seconds in the United States a new brain develops Alzheimer’s. Two-thirds of them belong to women, and no one knows why that is. (Maria Shriver, 2/11)
The New York Times: Day Care For All
When Bernie Sanders ran for president, he promised to fight for free public college, universal health insurance and a $ 15 minimum wage. … A few years later, these supposedly pie-in-the-sky proposals are wildly popular among Democrats and have entered the political mainstream as important topics of discussion. Free public college, health care for all, a living wage: These are all important causes that will improve life for millions. But there’s another proposal that belongs on the progressive to-do list: universal affordable high-quality child care. In fact, I would put it ahead of free public college: It would help more people and do more to change society for the better. (Katha Pollitt, 2/9)
The New York Times: The Real Mommy War Is Against The State
A lawyer and I stepped into a windowless conference room in her office building in Washington, D.C., and she reflexively closed the door. I had forgotten to restock my tissues and would soon regret that. By then, I had been interviewing American mothers about their work-family conflict for several weeks. I asked women I had just met what their bosses said to them when they announced a pregnancy, what their parental leave was like, if they could ever work remotely when a child was sick. This time, I didn’t get even 20 minutes into the conversation before the woman I was interviewing dissolved in tears. (Caitlyn Collins, 2/9)
Boston Globe: Vaccine Rejections Based On Religious Exemptions Are Rising Sharply In Massachusetts
An outbreak of measles, which is causing a full-blown public health emergency in the Pacific Northwest, is a wake-up call to states like Massachusetts that have seen a worrying rise in vaccine rejection. The Commonwealth’s numbers are headed in the wrong direction, and it shouldn’t take a crisis here to tighten the rules that have allowed too many parents in Massachusetts to skip shots for their kids and thereby endanger the entire community. (2/8)
The New York Times: Our Brains Aren’t Designed To Handle The Trump Era
Many evolutionary biologists are fond of pointing out that the human body is not adapted to modern life, which often involves sitting for hours at a time and toiling in artificial light and consuming mounds of processed sugar (“There’s no food in your food,” as the Joan Cusack character says in “Say Anything”). But the same design problem, it could be argued, is true of the human brain: It was not engineered to process the volume of information we’re getting, and at the rate we’re getting it. “Our brains evolved to help us deal with life during the hunter-gatherer phase of human history, a time when we might encounter no more than a thousand people across the entire span of our lifetime,” writes the neuroscientist Daniel Levitin in “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.” (Jennifer Senior, 2/9)
San Jose Mercury News: California’s Unsafe Drinking Water Is A Disgrace
About 1 million Californians can’t safely drink their tap water. Approximately 300 water systems in California currently have contamination issues ranging from arsenic to lead to uranium at levels that create severe health issues. …Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes taxing water across California to create a dedicated fund to solve the problem. (2/10)
Sacramento Bee: We Need To Take Action On Our Climate Change Health Emergency
Health professionals are cheering California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “California for All” vision. Newsom’s early actions to expand health care access and prioritize housing, jobs and income security and early childhood education — the “social determinants of health” — are vital strategies to reduce persistent and unacceptable health inequities across the state. (Linda Rudolph and Will Barrett, 2/10)
Kansas City Star: What’s Causing A Syphilis Outbreak In Kansas City?
The consequences of an ongoing syphilis outbreak in Kansas City have been dire.One child died in 2018, and eight others were born with congenital syphilis, a lethal infection passed from pregnant mothers to babies. In fact, pregnant women in Kansas City are increasingly contracting syphilis and passing the potentially deadly disease to their newborn children, according to Kansas City Health Department officials. (2/8)
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.