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KHN First Edition: December 1, 2015


First Edition

Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

WEB BRIEFING FOR MEDIA: On Wednesday Dec. 2 at 1 p.m. ET, KHN will host an interactive web briefing to help reporters explore new ways to cover caregiving issues. Interested? Register now.

Kaiser Health News: Aid-In-Dying Laws Only Accentuate Need For Palliative Care, Providers Say
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "More times than she can count, Dr. Carin van Zyl has heard terminally ill patients beg to die. They tell her they can’t handle the pain, that the nausea is unbearable and the anxiety overwhelming. If she were in the same situation, she too would want life-ending medication, even though she doubts she would ever take it. 'I would want an escape hatch,' she said. Earlier this month, California law became the fifth — and largest — state to allow physicians to prescribe lethal medications to certain patients who ask for it." (Gorman, 12/1)

Kaiser Health News: Major Insurer Says It Will Offer Individual Life Insurance Coverage To People With HIV
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Barbara Feder Ostrov writes: "Prudential Financial Inc., one of the nation’s largest life insurers, plans to announce this week that it will offer traditional individual policies to eligible people living with HIV, a condition that for decades has excluded most of them from any but the skimpiest of coverage, company officials said. It is the first such offering to be publicly announced by a major American insurer, and it signals a growing recognition that HIV/AIDS has evolved from a death sentence into a chronic but manageable disease, HIV advocates and insurance agents said." (Feder Ostrov, 12/1)

Kaiser Health News: Sweet Name Of Kids’ Clinic Gives Some People Heartburn
WFAE's Michael Tomsic, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "The name that UNC Health Care is giving its children’s clinic in North Carolina has been raising a lot of eyebrows. The facility is slated to be renamed the Krispy Kreme Challenge Children’s Specialty Clinic. But criticism from the medical community at the University of North Carolina and elsewhere is making the health care system rethink that choice." (Tomsic, 12/1)

The Wall Street Journal: Why The U.S. Pays More Than Other Countries For Drugs
Norway, an oil producer with one of the world’s richest economies, is an expensive place to live. A Big Mac costs $5.65. A gallon of gasoline costs $6. But one thing is far cheaper than in the U.S.: prescription drugs. A vial of the cancer drug Rituxan cost Norway’s taxpayer-funded health system $1,527 in the third quarter of 2015, while the U.S. Medicare program paid $3,678. An injection of the asthma drug Xolair cost Norway $463, which was 46% less than Medicare paid for it. (Whalen, 11/30)

The New York Times: Top Prescription Plan To Offer $1 Alternative To $750 Pill
Turing Pharmaceuticals’ effort to charge $750 a pill for a 62-year-old drug is facing a new headwind: The nation’s largest prescription drug manager plans to back an alternative that costs only $1 per pill. The prescription drug manager, Express Scripts, was expected to announce on Tuesday that it will promote use of a compounded medicine that contains the same active ingredient as the Turing drug, Daraprim. (Pollack, 12/1)

The Associated Pressd: Express Scripts Offers Low-Cost Alternative To Turing Drug
Other drugmakers have also recently purchased the rights to old, cheap medicines that are the only treatment for serious diseases and then hiked prices. The practice has triggered government investigations, politicians' proposals to fight "price gouging," and heavy media scrutiny. The Express Scripts decision means that a cheaper alternative to Daraprim created by Imprimis Pharmaceuticals will now be available to about 25 million customers through its formulary. What those customers pay will depend on their insurance coverage. That could mean prescriptions that come with a co-payment as low as $10 or $20 for the whole bottle of pills. (12/1)

Politico: GOP Candidates Struggle To Address Public Ire Over Drug Costs
What the 2016 GOP presidential candidates don’t say is that Medicare should negotiate drug prices or that the government should limit drug maker’s profits, steps that might dramatically shake up the marketplace. For the most part, they’re not even making modest suggestions to stem rising costs, focusing instead on hammering a few headline-making companies that they portray as bad actors. Even as they try to address an issue that polls show is voters’ No. 1 health concern, the candidates are caught in the box of Republican free market orthodoxy — and also, of long-standing relationships with the pharmaceutical industry, a lobbying powerhouse on the Hill. (Demko and Karlin, 12/1)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Bipartisan Talks Aimed At Making Tax Breaks Permanent
Republicans could win permanent extensions of the research and development tax credit, the deductibility of state sales taxes and a handful of other business tax breaks that expired at the end of 2014. The GOP would also get an extension, though perhaps not permanent, of bonus depreciation, a tax break for capital investment that’s been in place in some form since 2008. ... Democrats would get permanent extensions of tax credits for low-income families that are expiring at the end of 2017. They could also get an extension of the solar energy tax credit. The wind energy credit could also get extended and would be phased out, Hatch said. Delays of two pieces of Obamacare—the medical device tax and the Cadillac tax on high-cost health insurance—could also be included, Hatch said. Those taxes have bipartisan opposition. (Rubin, 11/30)

The Wall Street Journal: National Security Will Be Focus In Year-End Spending Bill, GOP Leader Says
The California Republican’s comments suggested that party members won’t make defunding Planned Parenthood their primary focus in the negotiations over the spending bill. “Security is becoming the top issue I’m hearing [from lawmakers], especially in the last couple of weeks,” Mr. McCarthy said, when asked whether lawmakers were pushing to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding. Mr. Ryan has been reluctant to rule out the possibility of a shutdown, saying that doing so would diminish Republicans’ bargaining power in negotiations over the bill. But Mr. McCarthy said he expects Congress would pass the spending bill by Dec. 11 or in the following week. (son, 11/30)

The New York Times: No Shutdown Expected On Planned Parenthood
Days after a gunman killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said that Republicans were not planning to force a showdown with the White House over cutting federal financing to the group as many conservative lawmakers had been demanding just a few weeks ago. “I do not hear people shutting the government down over it right now, so that’s the bottom line,” Mr. McCarthy said at a news conference at the Capitol on Monday, where he was pressed about whether a measure cutting off Planned Parenthood’s funding would be attached to a must-pass spending measure later this month. (Herszenhorn, 11/30)

Politico: Obamacare Repeal May Finally Land On Obama's Desk
Republicans are closer than ever to putting a repeal of Obamacare on the president’s desk. After an all-out effort by emissaries and allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the past two weeks to woo skeptical GOP senators, Senate Republicans are lining up behind a more aggressive plan to gut President Barack Obama's signature achievement through a majority-vote budget mechanism known as reconciliation. Obama, of course, would veto the proposal. But it would allow Republicans to finally say that Congress voted to overturn the health care law they've been railing against since it was signed into law nearly six years ago. Republicans have voted more than 50 times over the past five years to repeal Obamacare, with most of the attempts made in the House. (Everett and Haberkorn, 11/30)

The Washington Post: Senate To Vote On Obamacare Repeal This Week
Senate Republicans plan to vote this week on legislation that would repeal large parts of President Obama’s signature health care law, setting up a veto fight in the coming weeks. Leaders expect a final vote on a budget reconciliation bill targeting Obamacare as early as Thursday with debate beginning no later than Wednesday. The legislation would also cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, allowing Republicans a chance to force a veto confrontation with Obama over both issues before the end of the year. (Snell, 11/30)

The Associated Press: GOP Leader Defends House Planned Parenthood Investigation
A Republican congressional leader on Monday defended a House investigation of Planned Parenthood’s provision of fetal tissue to researchers, offering no suggestion that last week’s shooting deaths at one of the group’s clinics will cause the GOP to retreat from that probe. But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., also indicated that the Republican-run Congress will not risk a government shutdown fight with President Barack Obama over GOP efforts to halt federal funding for the organization, which provides abortions and other health services to women. (Fram, 11/30)

Los Angeles Times: California Senators Are Worried About Planned Parenthood Rhetoric
Friday's shooting deaths of three people at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado, and a series of arson incidents in recent months — including one in the Los Angeles area — have prompted California’s senators to urge colleagues to tone down partisan rhetoric on Planned Parenthood. “Doctors, nurses and patients shouldn’t be terrorized or threatened. The poisonous rhetoric must stop,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) tweeted Monday. (Wire, 11/30)

The Wall Street Journal: UnitedHealth Sees 2016 Revenue Slightly Below Estimates
UnitedHealth Group Inc., ahead of its investor day on Tuesday, projected revenue next year that falls just shy of analysts’ estimates, less than two weeks after it said weak performances on public health exchanges would cut into profit. UnitedHealth said it expects 2016 revenue of $180 billion to $181 billion, while analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast $182.36 billion on average. ... The guidance comes shortly after UnitedHealth said it had suffered huge losses on its policies sold on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges and would consider withdrawing from them, which stoked worries about the future of the marketplaces. (Becker, 11/30)

USA Today/The Arizona Republica: Arizona Inspectors Find Theranos Lab Issues
Before the Silicon Valley lab-testing company Theranos suspended use of its finger-prick blood draws in September because of U.S. Food and Drug Administration concerns, the company tangled with Arizona lab regulators over testing instruments and lab practices. Theranos, which operates retail locations inside 40 Walgreens stores across metro Phoenix, did not always meet lab regulations before taking corrective steps, according to inspection reports reviewed by The Arizona Republic. (Alltucker, 11/30)

The New York Times' DealBook: AppDynamics Expected To Announce Raising Of $158 Million
With customers as varied as large banks, Tesla and the Container Store, AppDynamics helps corporations find anomalies in computer code before they cause major problems, a sub-industry called “application performance management.” ... Among AppDynamics’ customers is Xerox Government Healthcare, which creates applications for Medicaid in multiple states. Gorkey Vemulapalli oversees the unit, which is responsible for seven million lines of code, and he said that before using AppDynamics, five people would spend a 40-hour workweek trying to pinpoint any issues. Now it takes minutes, he said. This business is growing rapidly but is filled with many heavy-hitting and deep-pocketed rivals. (Picker, 11/30)

The Washington Post: Ted Cruz Cites Reports That Planned Parenthood Shooter Could Be ‘Transgendered Leftist Activist.’ What?
Officially, the motive of alleged Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear remains unclear. ... But abortion rights advocates and opponents have quickly formed vastly different theories based on their own hand-picked media reports. On one side, Dear is basically what you’d imagine an abortion clinic attacker to be — an antiabortion activist. On the other, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) put it Sunday, Dear might be a "transgendered leftist activist." Cruz's campaign later said he was not making this allegation himself, but simply pointing out that there are conflicting reports — including some that Dear was registered to vote as a woman. (More on that later.) (Borchers, 11/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Suspect In Colorado Planned Parenthood Shootings Makes First Court Appearance
The man accused of killing three people and wounding numerous others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., said little in his first court appearance Monday. Robert Lewis Dear, 57 years old, who allegedly opened fire at the clinic on Friday before surrendering to police after a lengthy standoff, appeared via a video feed in a courtroom in Colorado’s El Paso County. (Frosch, 11/30)

The Washington Post: The Very Bitter Debate Over Planned Parenthood, In 6 Moments
The shootings at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., over the holiday have put the debate over the women's health services and abortion provider back in the news. And already, left and right are arguing in very heated terms over the shooter reportedly saying "no more baby parts" while discussing his motives. (Phillips, 11/30)

The Associated Press: Officials Say Influential Health Survey Needs To Slim Down
When the government launched what would become most influential survey to monitor the nation's public health, there were just 75 questions — and 95 percent of those asked agreed to sit for it. But that was nearly 60 years ago, and the National Health Interview Survey has mushroomed along with the government and its interests. There are now 1,200 potential questions, and the average family takes more than 90 minutes to complete the survey. (11/30)

The New York Times' Well Blog: Minorities Get Less Pain Treatment In E.R.
White and black patients reported severe pain with the same frequency — about 59 percent. But after controlling for age, insurance status, income, degree of pain and other variables, the researchers found that compared with non-Hispanic white people, non-Hispanic blacks and other minorities were 22 percent to 30 percent less likely to receive pain medication. Patients were also less likely to receive pain medicine if they were over 75 or male, lacked private insurance or were treated at a hospital with numerous minority patients. The study is in the journal Medical Care. (Bakalar, 11/30)

The Associated Press: AP News Guide: Summit Opens Debate On Ethics Of Gene Editing
Hundreds of scientists and ethicists from around the world gather in Washington this week to debate the boundaries of human genome editing, sort of a biological cut-and-paste tool that allows researchers to spot a gene defect inside living cells and swap it out. It's all experimental so far, but the promise for new treatments is huge. The ethical quandary: Should it also be attempted in human embryos, altering a gene in not just one person but his or her descendants? Already, China has reported the first laboratory experiment with embryos to start learning how. (Neergaard, 12/1)

The Associated Press: Alabama Ends Effort To Cut Off Funds To Planned Parenthood
Alabama on Monday gave up its effort to cut off Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood clinics after the state lost an initial round in federal court. Lawyers for Gov. Robert Bentley’s administration and Planned Parenthood Southeast submitted a proposed settlement agreement to a federal judge to end the lawsuit brought by the health care provider against the state. Alabama lawyers said Planned Parenthood had been reinstated as a Medicaid provider. (Chandler, 11/30)

The Associated Press: Judge Blocks Missouri From Pulling Clinic's Abortion License
A judge on Monday temporarily blocked Missouri's health department from revoking the abortion license held by a Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia as its physician loses hospital privileges required under state law. The clinic stopped terminating pregnancies last week, but Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit Monday in hopes of retaining its abortion facility license from the state Department of Health and Senior Services while its physician regains privileges or the clinic finds a new doctor. U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey issued her order at the end of a hearing by telephone conference call. (11/30)

The Washington Post: McAuliffe Positive On Budget, Prepares For Showdown With GOP Legislature
Yet one area of major discord remains. McAuliffe’s goal of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is a nonstarter in the House. “I don’t see Medicaid expansion happening,” Jones said in an interview. “If that’s put in the budget, that won’t stay in the budget.” But health care — as well as education and economic development dollars — will be debated in the upcoming session. (Portnoy, 11/30)

The Associated Press: 10 Individuals Convicted And Sentenced In Medicaid Fraud
Ten former employees of a counseling business have been convicted and sentenced for their roles in a scheme to defraud the Virginia Medicaid program. The Department of Justice tells media outlets the sentences of the 10 employees from Progressive Counseling Services, LLC range from 41 months to 108 months in prison. (12/1)

NPR: A Mother Asks If She's Selfless Enough To Care For A Son With Autism
Sophie Sartain had long worked in documentary filmmaking as a writer and editor. For her first film as a director, she turned the camera on her own family. Starting in 2009, she began filming her grandmother Mimi, then 92, who had cared for Sartain's aunt, Dona, for decades. Dona has an intellectual disability and "perhaps some undiagnosed autism," Sartain says. From there the film Mimi and Dona was born. It was released last week on PBS' Independent Lens. (Aliferis, 11/30)

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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