What We're Reading: Long-Term Hospice Care Weighs on Medicare

What we're reading, February 19, 2016: long-term hospice care is weighing on Medicare; both the pope and the World Health Organization suggest women in Zika infected countries have access to contraception; and Texas health official steps down after co-authoring study on Planned Parenthood.

Although the Medicare hospice program is supposed to cover patients with 6 months or less to live, care is being routinely extended to patients with ailments whose declines cane take years. The Wall Street Journal reported that between 2005 and 2013, more than 100,000 patients received hospice care for nearly 1000 days over the course of 4 or more years. Although these patients account for just 1.3% of Medicare’s hospice patients, they cost the program 14% of its overall hospice spending.

With cases of the Zika virus multiplying in Latin America, 2 very different authorities have suggested the use of contraception. The World Health Organization issued a call for women in countries with the Zika virus to have access to emergency contraception, and Pope Francis suggested that the use of contraceptives may be morally acceptable to prevent the spread of the virus. The pope, returning from Mexico, made it clear that abortion was absolutely out of the question, but that contraception to prevent pregnancies may be a solution.

After co-authoring a study that suggested cuts to Planned Parenthood restricted access to women’s healthcare in Texas, a state health official is stepping down from his post. According to The New York Times, the official broke policy by working on the study during taxpayer time and he faced strong criticism from Republicans. The official is eligible for retirement and will leave in March.