Viewpoints: Abortion rights buffer; coming 'freakout' on health law; repercussions of malaria prevention

The New York Times: A Unanimous Supreme Court: Abortion Rights Lose A Buffer
Yet on Thursday the Supreme Court, in McCullen v. Coakley, struck down that law for violating the First Amendment. Massachusetts's buffer zone, it held, burdened "substantially more speech than necessary" to protect public safety. If individual protesters try to block a clinic entrance or harass a prospective client, the court said, Massachusetts already has laws on the books to deal with them. This ignores what actually happens on the ground. As the factual record of the case made clear, Massachusetts has, like most states, endured a long and sometimes violent history of protest at reproductive-health clinics, including the 1994 murders of two Planned Parenthood workers by an abortion opponent (6/26).

The New York Times: The Supreme Court Was Right To Allow Anti-Abortion Protests
The great virtue of our First Amendment is that it protects speech we hate just as vigorously as it protects speech we support. On Thursday, all nine justices united to reaffirm our nation's commitment to allowing diverse views in our public spaces -; although their unanimous result belied their divided reasoning. Cases like McCullen force us to balance competing constitutional values: free speech against the safety and autonomy of women. Here the balance tips unquestionably toward speech (Lawrence H. Tribe, 6/26).

Bloomberg: Liberals Actually Won Abortion Clinic Case
It's becoming a June ritual: Chief Justice John Roberts joins the liberals to issue a moderate, centrist opinion, and leaves his erstwhile conservative admirers flailing. Roberts's latest foray into moderation comes in today's free-speech case involving a 35-foot no-access zone around hospitals or abortion clinics imposed by Massachusetts law. True, Roberts's opinion, joined by the court's four doubtless relieved liberals, struck down the buffer as a violation of the free-speech rights of pro-life activists who seek to converse with women who might be seeking abortions. But the crucial element in the opinion -- the one that got the liberals on board and enraged the conservatives -- is that Roberts said the law was neutral with respect to the content of speech as well as the viewpoint of the speakers. That conclusion protected the possibility of other laws protecting women seeking abortions that pay more attention to what Roberts said was missing here, namely proof that the law was narrowly tailored. For the liberals, that was enough to get on board (Noah Feldman, 6/26).

Bloomberg: Guns, Abortion And The Way Americans Polarize
Abortion and guns, two of the most divisive issues in American politics, weren't always the stuff of partisan warfare. As it happens, they became more divisive, and more partisan, over roughly the same period -- the past 40 years. And it wasn't all happenstance -- a bit of planning went into it (Francis Wilkinson, 6/26).

The New York Times: The Disturbing Anthrax Accident
It is distressing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is supposedly expert at handling extremely dangerous pathogens, was so sloppy this month that it potentially exposed more than 80 people at its laboratories in Atlanta to deadly anthrax spores. The incident carries a stark warning that even the best laboratories can slip up, with potentially catastrophic consequences should they be working, as some are, with germs that can spread a lot more readily than anthrax (6/26).

The New York Times: The Incompetence Dogma: So Much For Obamacare Not Working
Have you been following the news about Obamacare? The Affordable Care Act has receded from the front page, but information about how it's going keeps coming in -; and almost all the news is good. Indeed, health reform has been on a roll ever since March, when it became clear that enrollment would surpass expectations despite the teething problems of the federal website. What's interesting about this success story is that it has been accompanied at every step by cries of impending disaster (Paul Krugman, 6/26).

Bloomberg: Obamacare's Prognosis Grows Dimmer
A nightmare for Affordable Care Act supporters has been the possibility that only the sick would be left to purchase insurance through its exchanges, driving premiums up and insurers out. While the law's boosters have been quick to dismiss the possibility that such a so-called death spiral could occur, data published in the Wall Street Journal suggest that this chain of events may not be so far-fetched after all (Lanhee Chen, 6/26).

The Washington Post's Plum Line: Get Ready For The Next (Fake) Obamacare Freakout
Health wonks and Dem operatives are quietly mulling the possibility of a new batch of health plan cancellations in October -; just before the midterms. Dems believe a round of "cancellation" headlines could greet this development. They think headlines will be out of sync with the actual problem, perhaps dramatically so. But as the gap between last fall's "horror stories" and subsequent hard data about Obamacare has showed, press coverage of the law tends not to err on the side of proportionality or restraint. And the same hype and distortion could very well happen again -; weeks before Election Day 2014 (Greg Sargent, 6/26).

The Washington Post: Best State In America: California, For Its Smooth Rollout Of The Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act's size and scope led to some incredible flops in states such as Maryland , Nevada, Hawaii and Oregon , where Web sites intended to help people gain health insurance coverage failed miserably. But other states fared better: Love or hate the ACA, California implemented the complex new law better than every other state. The software worked, red tape was cut, and sign-ups, for the most part, went smoothly (Reid Wilson, 6/26).

Los Angeles Times: Why Is California Being Miserly On Medi-Cal?
When the California Endowment, a private foundation that promotes access to affordable healthcare, offered the state government $6 million to help prevent poor Californians from dropping out of the Medi-Cal health insurance program, you might have expected officials to smile and say "Thank you." Instead, the Brown administration, which projected that the state would save money if more people dropped out of Medi-Cal, persuaded lawmakers to remove the funds from the budget for the coming fiscal year. That was a bad call. As important as it may be to control healthcare costs, the wrong way to save money on Medi-Cal is to hope that fewer people use it (6/26).

The New York Times: Malaria Prevention, With Both Reward And Risk
But now those options are running out for antibiotics, and only one malaria drug (based on artemisinin) remains highly effective around the world. Resistance to any given antibiotic or malaria medicine develops rapidly when the drug is misused. But resistance also spreads when people take the drug as prescribed because a small number of bacteria or malaria parasites inevitably have mutations that allow them to overcome the drug. The proportion of these resistant bugs gradually increases over time when a large number of people take the medicine, and kill off sensitive versions (Amy Maxmen, 6/25).

The New York Times: Lock 'Em Up Nation
To get a sense of the tragic absurdity of this federal prosecution, reaching all the way to the desk of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., consider what will happen next month. Pot stores will open in Washington, selling legal marijuana for the recreational user -; per a vote of the people. A few weeks later, the Feds will try to put away the so-called Kettle Falls Five for growing weed on their land to ease their medical maladies. Federal sentencing guidelines, which trump state law, call for mandatory prison terms (Timothy Egan, 6/26).

Journal of the American Medical Association: The Global Slowdown In Health Care Spending Growth
The causes of the slowdown in the growth of health care spending have been widely debated by researchers and policy makers. Does the slowdown reflect merely short-term effects of the financial crisis of 2007-2009 and subsequent years of slow economic growth? Have changes in the health care system more fundamentally altered the mid- and long-term cost trajectory? ... One consideration that has been largely overlooked in this debate is that the 2007-2009 financial crisis precipitated a deep global recession in which the economies of many industrialized countries shrank far more than in the United States. The variation in countries' experiences during and after this period-;including the effect on health care spending-;provides a useful perspective for understanding the US experience (David Squires, 6/26).

The New England Journal of Medicine: Drug Safety In The Digital Age
The Internet is increasingly redefining the ways in which people interact with information related to their health. ... Public health officials have historically focused on printed drug labels and "Dear Health Care Provider" letters from the FDA, but new technologies offer the opportunity to reach patients and physicians more efficiently and effectively. We believe the first step should be improving the accessibility of drug information available through the FDA's website. ... In addition to centralizing these disparate data sources, the agency could make its website more consumer-friendly by better integrating social media (Thomas J. Hwang, Florence T. Bourgeois and John D. Seeger, 6/26).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from 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.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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