Viewpoints: A Planned Mega Merger Breaks Up; Donating Organs And Health Data

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A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

Los Angeles Times: How Aetna Frittered Away $1.8 Billion On A Merger Destined To Fail
Breakups are always emotional, more so when they’re expensive. Let’s calculate the financial carnage of Aetna’s breakup with Humana, a $34-billion merger deal that was shut down by a federal judge three weeks ago and ended by the two big insurance companies on Tuesday. We figure that Aetna wasted roughly $1.8 billion, pre-tax, in pursuit of a merger that many experts said was so anti-competitive that it probably wouldn’t fly. (Michael Hiltzik, 2/14)

Stat: Why You Should Donate Your Health Data, And Your Organs, When You Die
Data might not seem important in the way that organs are. People need organs just to stay alive, or to avoid being on dialysis for several hours a day. But medical data are also very valuable – even if they are not going to save someone’s life immediately. Why? Because medical research cannot take place without medical data, and the sad fact is that most people’s medical data are inaccessible for research once they are dead. (David Martin Shaw, Basel. J. Valérie Gross and Thomas C. Erren, 2/14)

Stat: A Dying Patient Teaches A Young Doctor About The Limits Of Medicine
One purpose of medical school is to inspire action in the face of daunting illnesses, and to meld that action with compassion and humanity. The medical knowledge accumulated from textbooks and experience is intended to embolden a physician as he or she ventures into the realm of disease. All of this is designed to help physicians provide their patients with refuge and reassurance when faced with a malady like cancer. Yet standing there in front of Janice and her family, everything I knew about her cancer stopped me from offering them any possibility for further curative treatment. That stood in stark contrast to what I thought was my principal task as a physician: making things better again. (Jalal Baig, 2/14)

The New York Times: Disabled, Shunned And Silenced In Trump’s America
I’m a woman. I’m physically disabled. And I’ve never been more scared than I am right now. I sat there staring at my computer screen as the words “page not found” popped up on the White House website. My eyes did a double take and then my heart sank. I felt like I’d just been punched in the gut as I realized that the Disabilities section had been removed from the site in the wake of President Trump’s inauguration. (Melissa Blake, 2/15)

Stat: Humans Are Living Longer Than Ever. But We Aren’t Necessarily Aging Well.
Worldwide, 901 million people are over the age of 60 today. That number is projected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030 and nearly 2.1 billion by 2050. But the success story of longer lives is a worthless prize if the quality of those lives is compromised because of poor health and a loss of autonomy. To ensure that people of all ages, but particularly older people, can do what they value, national health care systems must be able to respond to those with age-related chronic conditions such as type II diabetes to ensure timely access to education, screening, and appropriate treatment. (Jane Barratt, 2/14)

KevinMD: How Much Are Patients To Blame For ER Overuse?
The U.S. rings the bell on health care spending, and some point fingers at patients themselves. But why do patients choose the paths they choose? Just about every shift, I and my coworkers shake our heads, and wonder what may be driving our patients’ decisions. Parents who haven’t yet tried a drop of acetaminophen bring kids in at 2 a.m. with fevers. Patients show up with nose bleeds that have already stopped bleeding out in the car. Sprained ankles roll in by ambulance. (Sam Slishman, 2/14)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The Right To Try: A National Law For Experimental Drugs Is Wise
The Trump administration has signaled support for a federal law to help terminally ill patients get access to drugs that might be their best hope but aren’t fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s a good cause. The FDA currently allows “compassionate use” of experimental drugs in certain cases, and its statistics show that almost every time it is asked to let someone take a drug under that program, it agrees; in fiscal 2015, the applications numbered more than 1,200. (2/15)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.