Viewpoints: Misreading Hobby Lobby; calmer climate for ACA; danger of tuberculosis, measles

Bloomberg: Gullible Liberals Misread Birth-Control Ruling
Liberals should spend less time lauding the dissents in last week's Hobby Lobby decision by the U.S. Supreme Court and more time reading them. If they did, they'd notice that some of their main arguments find little support -- even from liberal justices. ... And not one of the justices chose to question the relevant beliefs of Hobby Lobby's owners: that the contraceptives to which they object can cause human embryos to die. Unlike many liberal commentators, all the justices grasped that whether the owners' objection has a strong evidentiary basis -- which it does -- is irrelevant to their legal claim (Ramesh Ponnuru, 7/8).

The New York Times: Hobby Lobby's Disturbing Sequel
The Supreme Court violated principles of religious liberty and women's rights in last week's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, which allowed owners of closely held, for-profit corporations (most companies in America) to impose their religious beliefs on workers by refusing to provide contraception coverage for employees with no co-pay, as required by the Affordable Care Act. But for the court's male justices, it didn't seem to go far enough. On Thursday, those justices approved a temporary order that appears to backtrack from assurances in Justice Samuel Alito Jr.'s majority opinion in the Hobby Lobby case that employees would still be covered for all forms of contraception through a process created by the Obama administration to accommodate religious nonprofit organizations beyond churches, which are categorically exempt (7/8).

USA Today: Hobby Lobby Proves Need For ERA
As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's forceful dissent put it, the 5-4 decision rendered in the Hobby Lobby case is one "of startling breadth" that is going to create a "minefield." And because the decision will constrain the ability of women to obtain affordable reproductive health care, the first people to be injured by that "minefield," are women. If you were to ask "Where are the women?" on the list of issues that the conservative members of the Supreme Court considered in making their Hobby Lobby decision, the answer is clearly, at the very bottom (Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., 7/8). 

The New York Times' The Upshot: Does Contraceptive Coverage Pay For Itself?
The Supreme Court took two actions on contraceptive coverage last week that have, appropriately, received considerable attention. But there's a health economics question in the background that warrants some attention as well: Does contraceptive coverage pay for itself? In his opinion last Monday, Justice Alito referred to an assertion made by the departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services that "providing payments for contraceptive services is cost neutral for issuers. Several studies have estimated that the costs of providing contraceptive coverage are balanced by cost savings from lower pregnancy-related costs and from improvements in women's health." Studies the departments cited are suggestive, but far from definitive (Austin Frakt, 7/9). 

The Wall Street Journal: Why The Political Heat On The ACA Is Cooling
Several indicators suggest that the political waters may be calming for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This doesn't guarantee that the law will achieve its goals and be judged a success. It means that the law stands a better chance of being implemented free of constant political turmoil–and will have a better shot at success (Drew Altman, 7/8).

Des Moines Register: Study Shows That Health Insurance Saves Lives
A death certificate might cite an accident or heart disease as the cause of someone's death. You won't see one that attributes a death to a "lack of health insurance." Yet thousands of Americans die each year due to serious illnesses that could have been treated effectively if detected earlier (7/8).

The Tennessean: Why Uncle Sam Is Buying More Health Insurance
The availability of federal assistance has radically changed the purchasing equation of health insurance for millions of Americans. Covering the uninsured is a purposeful and laudable national goal. The national percentage of uninsured is dropping rapidly. The early results are that this drop is largely due to federal subsidies in states where the brand-name insurers are participating. Later this summer, the ACA plans must file their rates for next year. Let's hope the marketplace model is working and that competing plans will keep premium increases at a minimum. As the federal government is now the de facto purchaser of most of the health insurance, the taxpayers are as interested as the purchasers (Dick Cowart, 7/8). 

On other health care issues -

The New York Times: If Tuberculosis Spreads
Drug-resistant tuberculosis is on the rise. The World Health Organization reports around 500,000 new drug-resistant cases each year. Fewer than half of patients with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis will be cured, even with the best medical care. The disease in all its forms is second only to AIDS as an infectious killer worldwide (Polly J. Price, 7/8). 

Los Angeles Times: Never Mind SARS Or MERS, Worry About Measles
The microscopic droplets that spread this virus can remain suspended in the air for up to two hours, and virtually all of those without immunity who are exposed will catch it. Most of those who become ill will, after an incubation period that ranges from eight to 12 days, develop a fever and a characteristic rash. Some patients, with children being the most vulnerable, will develop pneumonia or encephalitis, which can lead to brain damage or death. I'm talking about measles (Mark Gendreau, 7/8). 

The Wall Street Journal: Illinois Tax Mandamus
Alexander Hamilton described the judiciary as "the least dangerous" branch of government, but the Illinois Supreme Court may prove him wrong. Consider its decision last week that invents constitutional protections for retiree health-care subsidies, which amounts to a sealed writ for a tax increase. Health care for state retirees ranks as Illinois's biggest liability after pensions. Taxpayers are $56 billion in hock for this sweetener that few private employers offer. Over the next 30 years, the state's annual retiree health bill is projected to grow to $6.6 billion from $1.4 billion. This is on top of the $7.5 billion the state is spending annually on pensions. An astonishing one of every four tax dollars pays for state worker retirement benefits (7/8). 

WBUR: Project Louise: Lose Ugly Belly Fat Fast! Yeah, Not So Much
I had an epiphany of sorts over the weekend: I hate my belly. Actually, you can't really call it an epiphany if it's something you've felt for just about your entire life. And ever since I got a little chubby in second grade – a chubbiness that lasted until puberty, returned with the classic "freshman 15" in college and has waxed and waned ever since – I have gazed down at the extra flesh between my navel and my hips with a mixture of shame, disgust and self-loathing. And let's just say that passing the 50-year mark hasn't helped with any of this (Louise Kennedy, 7/8).


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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