Viewpoints: Approving drugs quickly; Berwick: In health care, cheaper can mean better; Health costs 'persistent' concern

The Washington Post: Approving Drugs Quickly
For about 20 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has charged pharmaceutical companies "user fees" for reviewing drug-approval applications. The revenue allows the FDA to hire more evaluators, which allows useful drugs to reach patients faster. Now the Prescription Drug User Fee Act needs reauthorization, as it does every five years. Legislators should not dillydally (5/13).

Boston Globe: In Health Care, Cheaper Can Mean Better
An Irish adage says: "When you come to a wall that is too high to climb, throw your hat over the wall, and then go get your hat." That's what Massachusetts started with its 2006 law requiring just about everyone to get coverage and arranging to make that coverage affordable. Now, it's time to get the hat. Legislation to contain costs is the necessary sequel. Reducing costs won't just rescue health care; it will also help rescue our schools, our roads, our museums, our wages, and the competitiveness of our corporations; that's because every additional nickel we spend on health care comes from somewhere else -- somewhere also important (Donald M. Berwick, 5/14).

Boston Globe: On Beacon Hill, Some Good Ideas, Some Overreach On Health Care
After many months of work, the House and the Senate have now both unveiled plans to contain the cost of health care in Massachusetts. The Senate legislation is mostly a worthwhile effort; despite a number of laudable provisions, the House bill is marred by regulatory overreach. But both have important areas of common ground that should help keep care affordable -; as long as both chambers are willing to compromise and scale back (5/14).

Boston Globe: Why Not Let The Bake Sale Crumble?
Defenders of the school bake sale, rejoice! The Massachusetts Legislature is stepping in to save your homemade lemon squares from the horrors of government overreach! That was the triumphant news from Beacon Hill this week, after a loud and predictable brouhaha over rules handed down by the state Department of Public Health. ... So goes another round in the battle over obesity: a problem, not of concept, but execution (Joanna Weiss, 5/13).

Roll Call: Trautwein: Health Care Affordability Is Persistent Concern
The Supreme Court is not expected to rule until late June on the constitutionality of the individual mandate and the fate of the 2010 health care law, but no matter what decision is handed down, the affordability of health care coverage remains an unmet and enduring challenge. Rising health care costs are the most significant barriers to access to health care coverage, for both families and those employers who offer health insurance to almost 157 million Americans.  From 2000 to 2011, average annual health insurance premiums more than doubled for employers, from $4,819 to $10,944, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (Neil Trautwein, 5/14).

Arizona Republic: Heading Off A Doctor Shortage
Arizona needs to confront a problem. You need to help design a solution. There's a big hole in the pipeline between medical school and a physician's office near you. If it's not fixed, you could find yourself facing a long wait for a doctor's appointment. "The iceberg is coming," says Dr. Stuart D. Flynn, dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix. Arizona's impending doctor shortage "is real," he says (5/12).

Reuters: Will Puerto Rico's Governor Part Ways With Grover Norquist?
As part of their effort to stave off the impending, automatic cuts to the defense budget, House Republicans passed legislation that kills a special provision of the Affordable Care Act increasing Medicaid grants to Puerto Rico. Faced with the threat of losing billions of dollars in federal payments each year, [Governor Luis] Fortuño now seems to think that lower federal spending is not that appealing. He pushed back on these cuts in an op-ed on CNN.com (Cate Long, 5/11).

Des Moines Register: Piles Of Crumbs Left At Iowa's Capitol
[Mental health reform] was the most significant achievement of the two-year general assembly. It makes real strides toward resolving a festering problem of decades. Iowa's 99 disparate and unequal mental health systems will come under one state umbrella, standardizing basic services while keeping local providers. Legislators in coming years will have to work out the bugs and it will be a continual challenge to pay for this system (Kathie Obradovich, 5/12).

CNN: Can We Educate Future Physicians To Be More Human?
The revamped MCAT confronts a problem that's only getting worse. For all the strides we've made through technological innovation, medicine is failing at the very human art of treating patients. Doctors are ill-equipped to deal with factors like diet and poverty, which are now responsible for over half the cases of premature disease and death in the United States. Armed with state-of-the art drugs and machines, they don't always consider whether using these resources will cause more harm than good. In many cases, it no longer makes much sense to call what physicians and patients have a "relationship" at all (Brooke Holmes, 5/14).

The Fiscal Times: Big Pharma's Sinking Business Model
[T]he udders on the cash cows that for decades made the industry the most profitable in America are running dry. The insurers who manage Medicare and Medicaid's drug plans are watching every penny. ... Industry scientists need to focus on unsolved problems like dementia or cancer, not on research that seeks to justify peddling pills to people who don't really need them (Goozner, 5/11).

Denver Post: Should Congress Enact Taxes On Obesity-Producing Foods? No
Proponents of an American Nanny State have a plan to improve your health: tax sugar and "junk" food so you will eat less of it.  Subsidies for broccoli and beets are close behind.  These plans for bureaucrats and politicians to remake your diet are bad news for four reasons. First, it is no one's business but yours what you eat (Andrew P. Morriss, 5/13).

Denver Post: Should Congress Enact Taxes On Obesity-Producing Foods? Yes
It is time for the federal government to stop subsidizing, with billions of dollars of public tax money, the factory-farmed crops and animal products such as corn, soybeans, cotton, dairy and meat that create the artificially low-prices that prop up the nation's junk food industry. We need to subsidize healthy organic food, not junk food, and promote sustainable food and farming practices, instead of subsidizing factory farms and chemical-intensive farming and food processing (Ronnie Cummins, 5/13).

Arizona Republic: All Arizonans Have To Turn The Tide Against Obesity
Arizona is 15th in the nation for childhood obesity. Two out of every three adults are either overweight or obese. Obesity is expensive -- for society and for individuals. For society, it's financial. Whether it's private insurance, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System or none at all, the cost is absurd. It's estimated that an obese patient pays $1,400 more in medical bills every year than someone who is a normal weight (Will Humble, 5/13).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Increase In Infant Deaths Is A Public Health Crisis
State requirements and tougher laws will help, but ultimately it's up to parents and child-care providers to end unsafe sleep practices. They need to protect children in their care and send a strong signal to less-informed caretakers who don't comprehend that infants' lives are at stake (5/13).

Sacramento Bee: Prop. 29: Voting Yes May Save The Life Of Someone You Love
California has the opportunity to lead the way in the battle against all forms of cancer, including lung cancer. Proposition 29 will provide more than $700 million annually for cancer research and smoking prevention. Over time, Proposition 29-funded research will result in better diagnosis and treatment of all cancers – and other diseases related to tobacco – and it may just lead to cures. Proposition 29 will save lives (Timothy J. Howe, 5/12).

Sacramento Bee: Prop. 29: Plan To Raise Millions Is Latest Ballot-Box Budgeting Boondoggle
Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." When I was director of Finance, trying to get the state's budget into balance and running up against roadblocks in the Legislature, I had a similar view of our legislative process. Thus, I cannot argue that the state should never raise tobacco taxes (Michael C. Genest, 5/12).


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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