Viewpoints: Health Law Offers 'Lifeline' To Many; National Exchange Could Solve Many Problems With State Insurance; Contrasting Looks At Faulty Hip Replacements

The New York Times: Report Card On Health Care Reform
Republican leaders in Congress regularly denounce the 2010 Affordable Care Act and vow to block money to carry it out or even to repeal it. Those political attacks ignore the considerable benefits delivered to millions of people since the law's enactment three years ago Saturday. The main elements of the law do not kick in until Jan. 1, 2014, when many millions of uninsured people will gain coverage. Yet it has already thrown a lifeline to people at high risk of losing insurance or being uninsured, including young adults and people with chronic health problems, and it has made a start toward reforming the costly, dysfunctional American health care system (3/22). 

The Washington Post: On Health Reform, A Shortsighted Vote
We're all for bipartisanship, but just because Republicans and Democrats agree on a particular policy doesn't necessarily mean it's a good one. Case in point: Thursday's Senate vote to repeal a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices that will help fund Obamacare to the tune of $30 billion over the next decade. ... Reforming health insurance and expanding coverage costs money — a lot of money. The medical-device tax is one part of a funding package that will enable the health-care law to cover 27 million previously uninsured people, at a projected cost of just under $1.2 trillion over 10 years, without adding to the projected federal deficit. Asking the medical device industry to chip in 2.5 percent of that doesn’t seem unreasonable, given the $100 billion-plus sector's profitability (3/22).

Fox News: ObamaCare Turns Three – A Checkup On The Rhetoric Vs. The Reality
Saturday marks ObamaCare's third anniversary, and President Obama and Democrats across the country will surely celebrate its greatest achievement to date: survival. The health care law narrowly survived a Supreme Court challenge, repeated attempts by House Republicans to repeal it and, with President Obama's reelection, seems to be set for implementation next year. But survival is a pretty low bar for the law, and far from the lofty claims made on its behalf (Paul Howard, 3/22).

Reuters: Should Congress Create A National Health-Care Exchange?
Rather than have the federal government build state-based exchanges governed by state insurance regulations, Congress should consider building a national health exchange. Insurance plans sold on the national health exchange would have to be certified by the federal government, just as employer-sponsored health insurance plans offered under ERISA have to meet certain minimum requirements, but regulations and mandates would be kept to a minimum (Reihan Salam, 3/22).

The New York Times Opinionator: A Plan To Fix Cancer Care
This year, more than 1.6 million Americans — 0.5 percent of the population — will receive a diagnosis of cancer. Their treatment will consume at least 5 percent of the country's health care spending, at a cost that is growing faster than all other areas of medicine. Doctors and patients recognize that this is unsustainable and that we need to change the way we deliver care. But we need help. ... Many cancer patients, after getting a diagnosis of a terrifying disease, pursue any potentially promising therapy, regardless of the price. But the main cost driver is the fee-for-service payment system (Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 3/23).

The New York Times: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks, The Sequel
Last week, scientists sequenced the genome of cells taken without consent from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. She was a black tobacco farmer and mother of five, and though she died in 1951, her cells, code-named HeLa, live on. They were used to help develop our most important vaccines and cancer medications, in vitro fertilization, gene mapping, cloning. Now they may finally help create laws to protect her family’s privacy — and yours (Rebecca Skloot, 3/23).

USA Today: Hip Replacement Throws Johnson & Johnson: Our View
In the late 2000s, as evidence mounted that two of its hip implants were failing at high rates, a J&J subsidiary left the devices on the market for several years. It finally recalled them in 2010 — but not before surgeons had put them in 93,000 patients, more than a third in the U.S. This month, a Los Angeles jury found the design of the ASR XL implant defective and awarded $8.3 million to a retired Montana prison guard — one of 10,000 patients who have sued J&J and its DePuy unit (3/24).

USA Today: On Hip Replacement, DePuy Acted Properly: Opposing View
When DePuy, a Johnson & Johnson company, decided to recall the Articular Surface Replacement (ASR) Hip System in August 2010, it was the right decision at the right time. Only at that point did new data from a United Kingdom national joint registry report that 13% of patients were undergoing a second hip replacement surgery, called revision surgery, sooner than expected. We immediately recalled the product in every country where it was sold (Pam Plouhar, 3/24).

The Washington Post: 'Pay-To-Delay' Pharmaceutical Deals Smack Of Illegal Collusion
In 2006 Solvay Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the testosterone-therapy drug AndroGel, settled a dispute with a group of generic pharmaceutical companies, agreeing to allow would-be competitors into the market in 2015, five years before the AndroGel patent expires. So how is this bad for consumers in search of cheaper drugs? (3/24).

Des Moines Register: Medicaid Vote Is About Health Care, Not Politics
The Iowa Senate is expected to vote today on legislation to expand Medicaid health insurance to cover more than 100,000 additional Iowans. With Democrats holding a majority in that chamber, the bill will pass. But simply approving Senate File 296 along party lines isn't enough. Eventually the Iowa House, where Republicans hold a majority, will need to agree to expand Medicaid, too. That is why it is crucial for Senate Republicans to be true leaders today. They can help poor Iowans finally get health insurance by voting to support the legislation (3/24).

The Tennessean: Medicaid Expansion Will Save Lives
It's hard to find a reason not to expand Medicaid. It will add money to our economy, create jobs, help families become healthier and prevent needless deaths. If we don't take the money from the federal government, it won't be used to impact our national deficit — it will go to other states to help their hardworking families (Rebecca B. Kelly, 3/23).

Health Policy Solutions: Expansion Of Medicaid A Boon For Low-Income Baby Boomers
The expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act will help thousands of Colorado families who lack insurance. You've probably heard that. What you might not have heard is that the expansion will greatly benefit a large number of Colorado's aging baby boomers. These are low-income residents between the ages of 50 and 64 who may be in great need of health care coverage but often are not be able to afford it (Bob Semro, 3/22).

Health Policy Solutions: Behavioral Health, Firearms And Suicide: The Public Health Conversation We Aren't Having
The rampage killings that reignited the gun control debate have been inextricably linked in the public consciousness with the issue of mental health. … What the gun control debate in Colorado and across the U.S. has ignored, however, is that the most significant intersection of behavioral health and gun violence is not mass shootings nor violence against others. It is suicide (Michael Lott Manier, 3/22).

Boston Globe: Actors Help Doctors Learn To Convey Empathy
Early one morning when I was an intern, a truck driver, a father of four in his 40s, came to the ER with a cough and a low-grade fever. Two hours later he was dead, from an overwhelming staph infection. The resident on duty thought it would be instructive for me to deliver this news to the man's wife, who stood waiting in the hall, not suspecting that anything was seriously wrong. I stepped into the crowded corridor, found her, and said the first thing that came into my head, something I'd undoubtedly remembered from a B movie: "We lost him. There was nothing we could do" (Suzanne Koven, 3/25).

Los Angeles Times: Discord Over Elder Care Project In Sherwood Forest
Sherwood Forest is not a neighborhood of merry men and women these days. For the last several months, the leafy enclave of rambling homes in Northridge in the San Fernando Valley has been the site of a pitched battle between developers who want to build a 112-unit elder care facility and opponents who complain that the "Costco-size" institution will be an eyesore, and an unnecessary one at that, in a community zoned for single-family dwellings (3/24).

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