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KHN First Edition: November 25, 2015


First Edition

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

NOTE TO READERS: KHN's First Edition will not be published on Thanksgiving and Friday. Look for it again in your inbox Nov. 30. Here's today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: Fight Over Medicaid Managed Care Tax Punches Hole in California Budget
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Barbara Feder Ostrov reports: "California lawmakers are staring down a $1.1 billion hole in next year’s health budget after failing to come up with a way to replace the state’s 'managed care organization tax' on health insurance plans that serve Medi-Cal managed care recipients. It’s a hole big enough that state Gov. Jerry Brown recently used it as a reason to veto 15 health care and other bills sent to him by the state legislature. And unless it’s filled, Brown, a Democrat, is expected to issue a preliminary state budget in January with sizeable cuts to health and human services programs." (Feder Ostrov, 11/25)

The Associated Press: GOP Sets Senate Push Against Health Law, Planned Parenthood
Congressional Republicans hope a post-Thanksgiving drive to obliterate President Barack Obama's health care law and block Planned Parenthood's federal funds will spotlight their fierce support for top-tier conservative causes. The certain veto waiting at the White House will only help them sharpen their stance for voters, they say. Yet even as GOP leaders express optimism that they'll push the bill through the Senate, the run-up to the debate reveals the tightrope they face to win the needed votes. (Fram, 11/24)

The New York Times: Rise In Early Cervical Cancer Detection Is Linked To Affordable Care Act
Cancer researchers say there has been a substantial increase in women under the age of 26 who have received a diagnosis of early-stage cervical cancer, a pattern that they say is most likely an effect of the Affordable Care Act. Starting in 2010, a provision of the health law allowed dependents to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. The number of uninsured young adults fell substantially in the years that followed. The share of 19- to 25-year-olds without health insurance declined to 21 percent in the first quarter of 2014 from 34 percent in 2010 — a decrease of about four million people, federal data show. (Tavernise, 11/24)

USA Today: Early Detection Of Cervical Cancer Increased After ACA Expanded Coverage
The Affordable Care Act may have helped more women get early treatment for cervical cancer, according to a preliminary new study. The fraction of young women whose cervical cancers were found and treated early -- when women have a better chance of survival -- increased after 2010, when the ACA expanded insurance coverage to young people by allowing them to remain on their parents' health plans. (Szabo, 11/24)

The Associated Press: Health Co-Op Failure In NY Leaves Doctors Owed Millions
The sudden collapse of the largest nonprofit insurance cooperative created by President Barack Obama's health care law is causing headaches in New York, especially for medical providers owed millions of dollars for treating the failed plan's patients. More than 200,000 people insured through Health Republic Insurance of New York have until Monday to sign up with another company if they want to maintain coverage in December. State regulators ordered the insurer to shut down at the end of the month because of severe financial problems. They are also investigating what they say were inaccurate financial filings by the company. (Caruso, 11/24)

The Associated Press: Arizona Health Insurance Co-Op To Close Shop Dec. 31
Executives with Arizona's nonprofit health insurance co-op said Tuesday that they have failed to come up with additional financial backing and the insurer plans to shut down all operations Dec. 31. The announcement by Meritus Health Partners means 59,000 Arizonans it now covers need to find a new insurer by Dec. 15 if they want coverage on Jan. 1. The decision comes nearly a month after the state Department of Insurance suspended its right to sell new policies or renew current ones and placed it under formal supervision. Federal officials also pulled its policies from the health insurance marketplace website late last month. (Christie, 11/24)

Politico: Carsoncare: The Doctor's Ill-Fated Dream Of Solving America's Health Care Woes
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson thought he had a way to create a system of universal health care to cover millions of uninsured Americans. In 2003, he helped set up a charity to test his bold idea and build a fund of contributions to dole out to needy patients. Long before he considered a presidential bid, the world famous neurosurgeon envisioned building Angels of the OR into an endowment that would generate enough interest income to cover uninsured patients expenses for neurological surgeries and other medical costs. He even pitched the idea to a congressional subcommittee in 2006, testifying that a small federal grant could help the charity prove that the concept could work on a grander scale. ... But it didn't work out that way: The national fund did not materialize, and over nine years of operation, Angels of the OR [Operating Room] generated less than $150,000 for patient care and helped 34 patients cover portions of their medical bills, according to its tax forms. (Arnsdorf and Cheney, 11/25)

The Associated Press: Rubio Finesses Abortion Stance Criticized By Democrats
When Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio staked out a hard-line position on abortion in the first GOP debate, Hillary Rodham Clinton took notice. The Democratic front-runner quickly blasted Rubio's assertion that he did not support abortion exceptions for victims of rape and incest as "offensive and troubling." ... Since then, Rubio has been finessing his statements. In an interview with The Associated Press, Rubio said he unequivocally backs abortion exceptions when the life of the mother is in danger. He said he also would back legislation with allowances for cases of rape and incest — even though he personally doesn't support those exceptions. (Pace, 11/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Turing To Discount Daraprim Anti-Parasitic Drug As Much As 50%
Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, which drew the ire of patient groups and politicians after raising the price of an anti-parasite tablet more than 50-fold, said it will discount the drug as much as 50% to hospitals and take other steps to help patients afford the cost. ... The amount of the discount Turing announced on Tuesday will depend on how much of the drug hospitals use. Even at the full 50% off, however, the drug will still cost far more than before Turing increased its price. In addition, health insurers would have to pick up the tab for patients who keep taking the drug after leaving the hospital. (Rockoff, 11/24)

The New York Times: Turing Refuses To Lower List Price Of Toxoplasmosis Drug
Turing Pharmaceuticals, which sparked a fury two months ago by sharply increasing the price of a 62-year-old drug, said on Tuesday that it would not reduce the list price of that drug after all. But it said it would offer discounts of up to 50 percent to hospitals and would take other measures to help patients afford the medicine. (Pollack, 11/24)

NPR: A Controversial Rewrite For Rules To Protect Humans In Experiments
Throughout history, atrocities have been committed in the name of medical research. Nazi doctors experimented on concentration camp prisoners. American doctors let poor black men with syphilis go untreated in the Tuskegee study. The list goes on. To protect people participating in medical research, the federal government decades ago put in place strict rules on the conduct of human experiments. Now the Department of Health and Human Services is proposing a major revision of these regulations, known collectively as the Common Rule. It's the first change proposed in nearly a quarter-century. (Stein, 11/25)

The Marshall Project: Testing For Hepatitis C In Prisons Could Save Many Lives On The Outside
Around the country, prisoners are clamoring to be cured of a potentially deadly disease, while prison administrators are reeling from the treatment’s price tag. Hepatitis C, a virus that can eventually cause cirrhosis, liver cancer, and other serious outcomes, affects some three million Americans, one-third of whom pass through U.S. prisons and jails each year. One 12-week treatment course can cost upwards of $90,000. With a constitutional obligation to provide medical care to inmates, prison officials—whose health-care budgets are a zero-sum proposition—are struggling to treat even a fraction of those with the disease. (Schwartzapfel, 11/24)

The Washington Post: CDC On HIV Prevention Pill: How To Tell Whether You Should Be Taking The Medication
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is making a big push to get more people at "substantial" risk of getting HIV to start on a daily pill that has been shown to dramatically reduce their risk of infection. Known as PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis, the therapy involves taking a daily pill — Truvada — that makes it more difficult for the virus to establish a permanent infection when a person is exposed to it through sexual contact or injectable drug use. Studies have shown that it can reduce risk by 70 to more than 90 percent. (Cha, 11/24)

USA Today: A Daily Pill Can Prevent HIV Infection, But Few Take It
Although a daily pill can prevent HIV infection, very few people actually take it. About 1.2 million Americans are at high risk for HIV and could benefit from taking the pill, sold under the brand name Truvada, in a strategy that doctors call “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” or PrEP, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies in men who have sex with men show that taking PrEP reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 92%. Studies in injection drug users have found that PrEP reduced the risk of infection by more than 70%. Yet only about 21,000 people – less than 1% of those who could benefit – are taking PrEP, the CDC’s Jonathan Mermin said. (Szabo, 11/24)

The Associated Press: Missouri Down To 1 Abortion Clinic After Columbia Stops Them
A Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia has stopped performing abortions, leaving only one clinic in the state still offering them. The clinic on Monday stopped offering non-surgical abortions, which are induced with a pill, because a clinic doctor was set to lose a crucial hospital privilege on Dec. 1. State law requires physicians or centers providing abortions to have certain agreements with local hospitals for patient care, although lawmakers and health department officials are at odds over what specific privileges meet that requirement. (11/24)

The Associated Press: FDA Aims To Publish Essure Safety Review In February
Federal health officials aim to release their findings on a much-debated contraceptive implant by the end of February. The Food and Drug Administration posted a brief statement online about its review of the metallic device, Essure, which has been subject to thousands of complaints by women reporting chronic pain, bleeding and headaches. (Perrone, 11/24)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Panel: BioMarin Muscular Dystrophy Drug Trials Didn’t Prove Effectiveness
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel concluded that a new drug from BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. hasn’t been proven to effectively treat the fatal disease called Duchenne muscular dystrophy, saying studies simply didn’t prove the medicine worked in most patients. The outside panel found that trials of the drug, called drisapersen, fell short of proving it helped children with the illness, which is progressive, crippling and afflicts male children. But some panelists left open the possibility that individual children might yet respond to the drug, despite the overall negative finding. (Burton, 11/24)

The New York Times: Coke’s Chief Scientist, Who Orchestrated Obesity Research, Is Leaving
Coca-Cola’s top scientist is stepping down after revelations that the beverage giant initiated a strategy of funding scientific research that played down the role of Coke products in the spread of obesity. Rhona S. Applebaum, Coke’s chief science and health officer, helped orchestrate the establishment of a nonprofit group known as the Global Energy Balance Network. The group’s members were university scientists who encouraged the public to focus on exercise and worry less about how calories from food and beverages contribute to obesity. (O'Connor, 11/24)

NPR: Worried About The Flu Shot? Let's Separate Fact From Fiction
Every year before influenza itself arrives to circulate, misinformation and misconceptions about the flu vaccine begin circulating. Some of these contain a grain of truth but end up distorted, like a whispered secret in the Telephone game. But if you're looking for an excuse not to get the flu vaccine, last year's numbers of its effectiveness would seem a convincing argument on their own. By all measures, last season's flu vaccine flopped, clocking in at about 23 percent effectiveness in preventing lab-confirmed influenza infections. But that's not the whole story, said Lisa Grohskopf, a medical officer in the influenza division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Haelle, 11/24)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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