Viewpoints: Health law distorting--or 'undistorting' the labor market; gas stations should follow CVS' lead; ways to fight heroin

Published on February 10, 2014 at 1:50 AM · No Comments

The New York Times: Health, Work, Lies
On Wednesday, Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, said the obvious: losing your job and choosing to work less aren't the same thing. If you lose your job, you suffer immense personal and financial hardship. If, on the other hand, you choose to work less and spend more time with your family, "we don't sympathize. We say congratulations." And now you know everything you need to know about the latest falsehood in the ever-mendacious campaign against health reform. Let's back up. On Tuesday, the budget office released a report on the fiscal and economic outlook that included two appendices devoted to effects of the Affordable Care Act (Paul Krugman, 2/6).

Los Angeles Times: Does Obamacare 'Distort' The Labor Market – Or Undistort It?
A fascinating debate has broken out among economists and economic pundits concerning the Congressional Budget Office's projections that the Affordable Care Act will allow -- or induce -- some workers to leave the job market. The debate is over whether, or how much, this is a "distortion" of the labor market caused by the healthcare law. Tyler Cowen of the free-market Mercatus Center takes a shorthand look at the issue here. But the real question should be whether Obamacare is distorting the labor market or removing a distortion that previously existed. The evidence points to the latter (Michael Hiltzik, 2/6).

USA Today: Obamacare Cures 'Job Lock'
On February 4, the Congressional Budget Office released new long-term economic projections. Over the next ten years, they envision millions of new jobs in a growing economy – but up to 2.5 million fewer full-time equivalent workers by 2024 compared with what would have been the case without the Affordable Care Act. This was decried by opponents of health reform as evidence that the law is a "job killer" (Theda Skocpol and Katherine Swartz, 2/6). 

USA Today: Obamacare Attacks American Dream
Can I really afford that paycheck? Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, two and a half million Americans will ask that question over the next decade and say "no." The Congressional Budget Office -; the federal government's official number cruncher -; now estimates that the ACA will cause these people to voluntarily leave the workforce or prevent them from entering it by 2024. They'll do so because it would actually be more expensive for them to draw that extra paycheck (Tim Phillips, 2/6).

Bloomberg: The Obamacare Retirement Plan
The ACA subsidies don't "kill jobs," they cause work to be abandoned. Let's give liberals that vital point. I'd say they're also right in thinking (for once) that people mostly know what's good for them. At least, it's a fair working assumption that people are the best judges of their own welfare. That just leaves one thing -- the small and strangely neglected matter of who pays for the subsidies. As a taxpayer, I'm more than happy to finance a subsidy that guarantees access to decent health care for all. I'm not so happy to subsidize your early retirement or improved work-life balance. Health care is, or should be, a basic entitlement. Your lifestyle choices aren't (Clive Crook, 2/5).

Los Angeles Times: To Help Rein In Healthcare Costs, Give 'Narrow Networks' A Try
In an effort to cut costs, many insurers in the new state health insurance exchanges are offering plans with "narrow networks" that include fewer doctors and hospitals -; particularly the costlier ones with famous names, such as Cedars-Sinai. The trade-off has sparked complaints from some policyholders who've had trouble seeing their favorite doctor or, in some cases, any doctor in the right specialty. Although regulators have to address those issues, narrow networks can actually be a good thing for patients if done the right way (2/7).

Bloomberg: How To Judge Obamacare Alternatives
The rocky rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has forced President Barack Obama to express his openness, albeit half-heartedly, to reforms that might accomplish the law's goals. In response, congressional Republicans have offered no fewer than three major alternatives to Obamacare, the most recent being an overhaul plan from Republican Senators Tom Coburn, Richard Burr and Orrin Hatch. All these proposals address the issue at the heart of the law's name -- the affordability of health care (Lanhee Chee, 2/6).

The Washington Post: The Health-Care Myths We Live By
Swedish researchers report that antioxidants make cancers worse in mice. It's already known that the antioxidant beta-carotene exacerbates lung cancers in humans. Not exactly what you'd expect given the extravagant -; and incessant -; claims you hear made about the miraculous effects of antioxidants. In fact, they are either useless or harmful, conclude the editors of the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine. ... But if that's how dicey biological "facts" can be, imagine how much more problematic are the handed-down verities about the workings of our staggeringly complex health-care system (Charles Krauthammer, 2/6). 

The New York Times: Taking Tobacco Off The Shelves
CVS Caremark, the giant drugstore chain, deserves a big round of applause for deciding to phase out the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 stores by Oct. 1. The decision will cost the company a substantial amount of money but will place CVS where it and other pharmacy chains belong -; on the side of customer health and against a product that still kills 480,000 Americans a year (2/6). 

Bloomberg: CVS Kicks The Tobacco Habit
It never made much sense that pharmacy chains would also sell cigarettes in this day and age. Sure, tobacco is a drug. Nicotine addicts crave it. And public companies are supposed to be all about boosting sales, earnings and shareholder value. But you wouldn't expect to see an adult-movie theater in the middle of Disney World, or a pot dispensary inside a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant, or a cigarette machine inside the lobby of a physician's office. Sometimes building a brand and reputation is more important than incremental gains in revenue (Jonathan Weil, 2/5).

The Boston Globe: Gas Stations Need To Kick The Habit, Too
Leo Vercollone doesn't like smoking, but his customers do, so that's why he keeps selling cigarettes at his gas station convenience stores. CVS, the nation's second-largest drugstore chain, got a lot of props this week for declaring it would stop selling death sticks. But if this country really wants to reduce smoking, we need to get gas stations and convenience stores to stop carrying packs of smokes, too. Here's why: More than 60 percent of cigarette sales take place there compared with only 3.6 percent at drugstores, according to Euromonitor International, a consumer research group (Shirley Leung, 2/7).

The New York Times: How To Stop Heroin Deaths
I am an emergency physician at NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital, but I rarely see victims die of heroin overdose because most fatalities occur before patients get to the hospital. ... The most frustrating part is that each of these deaths is preventable, because there is an antidote to heroin overdose that is nearly universally effective. Naloxone, an opioid antidote, is a simple compound that has been in clinical use for more than 30 years. It can be administered via needle or as a nasal spray .... An analysis in the Annals of Internal Medicine last year suggested that up to 85 percent of users overdose in the presence of others. This provides an opportunity for friends, family and other non-health care providers to intervene (Robert S. Hoffman, 2/6).

Bloomberg: Breaking The Bond Of Heroin And Painkillers
A definitive cause of what killed [Philip Seymour] Hoffman hasn't been determined yet. If he moved from prescription pills to heroin (he entered a rehabilitation program last May after a reported reliance on painkillers led him back to heroin briefly), he was following a familiar path. Many individuals who have become addicted to prescription painkillers (a group that includes OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and Roxicodone) at some point realize that, depending on where they live, heroin, which is pharmacologically similar, is cheaper and easier to get (Sally Satel, 2/6).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

 

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First Edition: August 28, 2014