Opinion writers tackle these and other health issues.
The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Hospitals Aren’t Ready For The Coronavirus
No one knows whether the coronavirus will substantially threaten the U.S., where it has already been detected, but one thing is certain: American hospitals aren’t ready for the deadly virus or a future global contagion. Travelers from China’s Wuhan region are being diverted to five U.S. airports, where they can be screened. That’s sensible, but it’s no substitute for improving hospital readiness. If the virus becomes a domestic threat, American public safety will depend on what hospitals do when someone unknowingly infected with the coronavirus shows up in the emergency room. That is the lesson of severe acute respiratory syndrome, better known as SARS, which is caused by another coronavirus. (Betsy McCaughey, 1/25)
The New York Times: Do Quarantines Even Work?
It’s the largest quarantine in human history, but will it stop the disease? In response to the new and still poorly understood coronavirus that recently emerged in Wuhan, central China, the Chinese government has placed the city and a dozen others in lockdown — in effect quarantining an estimated 56 million people. (Howard Markel, 1/27)
The Washington Post: People Are Quitting Smoking — Even Though Many Doctors Aren’t Telling Them To
More than a half-century of efforts in the United States to get people to stop smoking tobacco has had a remarkably good effect. From 1965 to 2017, the prevalence of current smoking has tumbled from 52 percent to 15.8 percent among men and from 34.1 percent to 12.2 percent among women. At the same time, there are still 34.2 million adult smokers in the United States, many of whom want to quit but still suffer the addictive power of nicotine. The surgeon general’s latest report is about how to help them, and it raises two very important issues that require more attention and research. (1/25)
Axios: Ditching Insurance Companies Doesn’t Help Employers Cut Health Care Costs
Conventional wisdom holds that big, self-insured companies do a better job controlling health care costs than firms that rely entirely on insurance companies to provide their workers’ coverage. But that’s not true. Why it matters: Although a handful of big self-insured companies get a lot of attention for their cost-control efforts, the data tell a different story: Self-insured and fully insured companies are equally bad at controlling health care costs. (Drew Altman, 1/27)
Kansas City Star: Will Longtime Foe Of KS Medicaid Expansion Fight For It Now?
You know that cliché about the zeal of the newly converted? We’re about to find out whether it applies to Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning’s new support, after years of opposition, for expanding Medicaid coverage to as many as 150,000 more low-income Kansans. After nine years of can-kicking on making KanCare available to more of those who need it, the message from Denning’s constituents in increasingly diverse and Democratic Johnson County is pretty close to “get this done or else. ”In an election year, with a serious challenge from Democratic state Rep. Cindy Holsher, the Republican from Overland Park has every reason to stand up for his own Medicaid compromise with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. (1/27)
WBUR: The Real Epidemic: Not Burnout But ‘Moral Injury’ Of Doctors Unable To Do Right By Patients
At that small hospital, the specialists treating my husband had recently transitioned from private practice to being employees of a health system. The system had bound the physicians so tightly with scheduling control, data and metrics, policies and punishments that they, too, could barely breathe. They had almost no control over their patient interactions or their referral options. (Wendy Dean, 1/24)
The New York Times: Looking On The Bright Side May Be Good For Your Health
My husband and I were psychological opposites. I’ve always seen the glass as half-full; to him it was half-empty. That difference, research findings suggest, is likely why I pursue good health habits with a vengeance while he was far less inclined to follow the health-promoting lifestyle I advocated. I’m no cockeyed optimist, but I’ve long believed that how I eat and exercise, as well as how I view the world, can benefit my mental and physical well-being. (Jane E. Brody, 1/27)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Ga. Will Persist In Fighting Human Trafficking
Recognizing that education and awareness are critical weapons in this battle, I collaborated with the Department of Administrative Services to develop human trafficking awareness training program for 80,000 state employees and the general public. By taking this half-hour video course, citizens can learn the signs of trafficking and how to report suspicious activity. We are creating an army of trained eyes – in urban, suburban, and rural Georgia – equipped with the right knowledge and tools to save lives. (Marty Kemp, 1/25)
Stat: Epic’s Call To Block A Proposed Data Rule Is Wrong For Many Reasons
Epic, the nation’s largest electronic health record (EHR) company and a major beneficiary of a $ 48 billion Obama-era federal program to promote the adoption of EHRs, has launched a full-scale effort to block the flow of data out of its software and into apps that benefit doctors and patients. That’s wrong for many reasons. Epic is attempting to scuttle finalization of a rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would implement the interoperability and information blocking provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act. (Kenneth D. Mandl and Isaac S. Kohane, 1/27)
Austin American-Statesman: Foster Kids Need Housing, Not Cots At State Offices
Children who have been removed from abusive homes, often saddled with trauma and hurting for support, should not be left to sleep in government offices.And yet a shocking number are.As the Statesman’s Julie Chang recently reported, Texas had an average of 678 foster kids per month sleeping in temporary digs last year because case workers couldn’t find homes or other facilities to take them. Sometimes the kids were taken to hotels. Often they slept in state offices. (1/26)
Cleveland Plain Dealer: DeWine Administration Deserves Ohioans’ Thanks For Uncovering – And Vowing To Fix
Kudos to Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration for its candor in exposing big flaws in a computer system, called Ohio Benefits, that’s supposed to help the state manage its part of the Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food stamp (SNAP) programs. Instead, a system into which the state has already sunk more than a billion dollars — yes, nine zeros — is so flawed that it’s wrongly thrown an unknown number of Ohioans off Medicaid by erasing their eligibility histories, failing to handle renewals correctly or simply causing applications to disappear from the system. (1/26)
The Washington Post: We Need To Start Paying Attention To The Fate Of Prisoners In Guantanamo Bay
The details of the U.S. government’s descent into torture as an anti-terrorism tactic have been publicly rehearsed many times in the 18-plus years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Nevertheless, the mistreatment of alleged al-Qaeda detainees at CIA “black site” prisons around the world retain their power to shock. And so it was shocking to hear a retired Air Force psychologist describe it in his first public sworn statement, even though he has written a book and given many interviews. (1/26)
Sacramento Bee: SB 50 Will Create More Housing And Affordability In CA
I grew up in public housing in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood, where I was raised by my grandmother. Violence was never far away, poverty was all around us and the odds were never in my favor that I would be the first person in my family to go to college, let alone one day become the Mayor of San Francisco. Earlier this month, when I was sworn in for my first full term as mayor, I looked into the crowd and saw friends, family and people from my community who helped raise me. I was so proud to see them, but I was also saddened. The truth is the majority of them no longer live in San Francisco, or even in California. Those who remain are barely hanging on. (San Francisco Mayor London Breed, 1/23)
The Washington Post: Dog Listening Research Helps Scientists Understand Babies Better
I’m always curious about how much my dogs understand when I talk to them. I do know one thing: They know their names. Call either “Watson” or “Raylan,” and one looks up, even in a noisy room. They know who they are. Dog name recognition is valuable to scientists who study language perception and response in humans, especially in research on how babies process spoken words in noisy places. Studying dogs may be able to tell them. Experts already know that babies have difficulty with speech when it is noisy and that dogs respond better to it. (Marlene Cimons, 1/26)
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.