Longer Looks: Health Policy Picks That Will Fascinate, Captivate

Every Thursday, reporter Jessica Marcy plumbs the Web to find interesting health policy reading.

The Root: Notorious HIV: The Criminal Prosecution Of A Virus
Thirty-four states have some type of HIV-criminalization law. Depending on the state, it may be illegal to expose someone else to HIV, transmit the virus or conceal your own HIV-positive status from potential sexual partners. This criminalization extends even to cases in which condoms were used or when the virus was not transmitted, as well as to acts, such as spitting or biting, that pose minuscule to no risk. More than 80 HIV-specific prosecutions have occurred in the past two years alone, and HIV-positive people are increasingly required to register as sex offenders after conviction. With African Americans accounting for more than half of new HIV infections in the country, and Latinos representing 22 percent, it's no surprise that the issue hits communities of color hardest. … A growing coalition of organizations, including the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Center for HIV Law and Policy, are framing the criminalization of HIV as a civil rights struggle (Cynthia Gordy, 3/11).

National Journal: Adapt or Else
At more than 2,700 pages, the health reform law may be dense, abstruse, and complex, but it’s not necessarily new. Holding the promise of reshaping the country’s entire health care system, the act is a clearinghouse, of sorts, for policies that have circulated among health care analysts for years but struggled to gain traction. The law has changed that dynamic and, with it, the tone and tenor of the way health care providers communicate with each other and their patients. Just a year in, it has reshaped the conversation in fundamental ways. In the past, quality-improvement and patient-safety initiatives either took root or they didn't. Now, facing an explicit directive, providers know they must improve care—or else. For members of the medical community, there's no going back (Matthew DoBias, 3/10).

National Review: Obamacare Marches On
One wonders what the Republican leadership is doing to stop Obamacare. Sure, they took a vote to repeal it. But since there was no chance that a repeal bill could get through the Senate and past a presidential veto, the vote was mostly symbolic. Since then, what have Republicans done? ... Cutting off funding for Obamacare now is all the more important because the administration is pushing full speed ahead on implementation (Michael Tanner, 3/16).

Kaiser Family Foundation: Health Reform Quiz
The health reform law promises to deliver big changes in the U.S. health care system. But, as with other sweeping pieces of legislation, it can be hard to get the real facts about what it does. And it is all too easy for misinformation about the law to spread. Take our short, 10-question quiz to test your knowledge of the law, and then find out how you compare to the rest of the country, as represented by the findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation's monthly Health Tracking Poll (March, 2011).

The Nation: Vermont's Struggle for Single-Payer Healthcare
After years of political frustration, Earl Mongeon had to see it to believe it. … There, at the state Capitol, Mongeon and other supporters of single-payer healthcare gathered to hear Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, Congressman Peter Welch and new Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin explain that last year's national healthcare bill—a costly mix of subsidies to private medical plans, some insurance market reforms, Medicaid expansion and a mandate that people buy coverage if they don't already have it—isn't good enough for the Green Mountain State. The top state and federal officeholders pledged to work together for something better. ... "We firmly believe we can be the state that passes the first single-payer system in the country," Shumlin declared. ... Getting from here to there will not be easy. The Green Mountain State's single-payer initiative could be delayed unnecessarily by the implementation timeline of PPACA (Steve Earley, 3/10).

Related, earlier KHN story: Vermont Gov. Proposes Single-Payer Health Plan (Aimee Miles, 2/8)

Time: Making Sense Of Medical Statistics: What Patients Should Do
A growing body of research shows that presenting the same information in different ways, with different statistics, can lead people to very different decisions. We know that we don't always fathom risk easily. More surprising, perhaps, is that — at least when it comes to some very commonly used risk statistics in medicine — there is no evidence that doctors process the numbers any better than patients do (Laura Blue, 3/16).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.