Viewpoints: Health Costs Can Be Contained By States; Tech Media Partially To Blame For Theranos Mess
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
The New York Times:
States Can Contain Health Care Costs. Here’s How.
The architects of the Affordable Care Act counted on competition in the health insurance market to keep costs down and quality high. While the law has accomplished many of its coverage and cost-containment goals, its vision of a more competitive insurance market seems to be fading. The nation’s second-largest health insurer, Anthem, is poised to acquire Cigna, the fourth- largest. Aetna, the third-largest insurer, is seeking to acquire Humana, the fifth-largest. If approved by the Justice Department, these mergers would produce companies controlling about 35 percent of the health insurance market. These mergers would likely leave that market with far fewer competitors — a disappointing result for those who hoped it would increase “choice and competition.” (Richard M. Scheffler and Sherry Glied, 5/2)
The Secret Culprit In The Theranos Mess
Over the past few years, when media outlets reached out to Theranos about whether its wunderkind founder, Elizabeth Holmes, would have time to sit for an interview, her P.R. team generally responded with two questions: What time and where? Holmes was a star. She bounced between TV networks like a politician giving a stump speech. She sat across from tech bloggers, reporters, and TV cameras who slurped up her delectable story—that she had come up with Theranos, her blood-testing company, as a Stanford freshman who was fearful of needles—and they largely regurgitated it, sometimes beat for beat. Yet in April of 2015, when John Carreyrou, an investigative reporter with The Wall Street Journal, reached out for an interview with Holmes, he said he got a very different response. (Nick Bilton, 5/3)
The Wall Street Journal:
Elderly, Ailing — And Treated At Home
A few years ago, Luberta Whitfield suffered a stroke that left her right side paralyzed. The wheelchair-bound 87-year-old has emphysema and diet-controlled diabetes, is dependent on oxygen, and recently tore the right rotator cuff on her good arm. She also, amazingly, still lives in her own apartment. Ms. Whitfield is a participant in Independence at Home, a congressionally authorized pilot program. The program gives the sickest Medicare patients primary care right where they live. Since launching in 2012, it has been a tremendous success, delivering high-quality care at a lower cost than traditional Medicare. (Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 5/2)
Why One Top Hospital Is Going Public With Its Mistakes
Hospitals celebrate their safety records, but rarely discuss their mistakes. Yet it’s difficult, if not impossible, to improve safety without identifying and learning from errors. That’s why Brigham and Women’s Hospital has launched Safety Matters. This blog aims to describe mistakes made at the hospital along with steps the hospital is taking to prevent them in the future. (Karen Fiumara, 5/3)
The New York Times' Upshot:
Missing From Medicare Advantage: True Competition
If you were contracting for a kitchen remodeling, you’d probably solicit bids and select the lowest one that meets your quality standard. Many goods and services purchased by the government are bought in a similar way, including certain medical equipment like walkers and wheelchairs for Medicare patients. But a big part of Medicare isn’t: private coverage through Medicare Advantage. And that accounts for about a quarter of Medicare’s budget and a third of its enrollees. (Austin Frakt, 5/2)
Los Angeles Times:
Will The Cancer Moonshot Work? Cancer Experts Cite Need For Money And Data
In calling for "a new national effort to ... cure cancer" during his State of the Union speech in January and labeling it a "cancer moonshot," President Obama deliberately evoked John F. Kennedy's 1961 commitment to "achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." But are the two efforts comparable? President Kennedy cited NASA's need for a $5.4-billion budget aimed at a very specific goal; Obama is hoping Congress will heed his call for a $1-billion launching fund for a much more nebulous and complicated goal. (Michael Hiltzik, 5/2)
America’s Drug Crisis: When Will We Wake Up To The Tragedy Of The Opiate Epidemic?
But while it’s incredibly sad that a celebrity like Prince may have died of an opiate overdose, the even sadder news is that mothers, brothers, sons and daughters are dying every single day of prescription drug overdoses. Not just limited to the stereotype of “street junkies”, opiate abuse and death can affect anyone: Less than 3 weeks ago, my twin sons’ 28-year-old triathlon-winning, physically fit second grade teacher was found dead in what the local newspapers described as an opiate overdose. Indeed, most Americans know someone or know a family that’s been touched by this deadly plague. (Nicholas Kardaras, M.D., 5/2)
In Illinois And Elsewhere, Do State Rules Drive Suicide Rates?
Suicide is not a minor social problem for Illinois communities; it's a health care crisis. Multiple factors have been linked to climbing suicide rates, including drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness and family history. Research also shows one of the greatest causes of suicide is lack of access to mental health services. In order to improve access, the proportion of Americans insured needs to rise and the number of doctors needs to expand. (Justin Haskins and Jacquelyn Corley, 5/2)
Warren Buffett: Brilliant Investor, Lousy Nutritionist
While soda drinking might be good for [Warren] Buffett's portfolio, it's unquestionably harmful for public health. Many studies show that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages every day leads children and adults alike to gain weight, mostly because few soda drinkers compensate by cutting other calories. This could help explain why obesity rates worldwide have risen along with increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. (5/3)