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KHN First Edition: December 7, 2015


First Edition

Monday, December 07, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Jobs For Medical Scribes Are Rising Rapidly But Standards Lag
Kaiser Health News staff writer Lisa Gillespie reports: "A national campaign for electronic health records is driving business for at least 20 companies with thousands of workers ready to help stressed doctors log the details of their patients’ care — for a price. Nearly 1 in 5 physicians now employ medical scribes, many provided by a vendor, who join doctors and patients in examination rooms. They enter relevant information about patients’ ailments and doctors’ advice into a computer, the preferred successor to jotting notes on a clipboard as doctors universally once did." (Gillespie, 12/7)

Kaiser Health News: Oakland Minister Stripping Away Church’s Knowledge-Gap On Mental Health
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Leila Day writes: " For Rev. Donna Allen’s congregation in West Oakland, the New Revelation Community Church is a place to share with other African-Americans and to find support when facing life’s small and big crises. And for Allen, one of the most important messages is that their community has too often ignored the scourge of mental illness." (Day, 12/7)

The Washington Post: Pressure Mounts For A Year-End Spending Deal
A bipartisan group of negotiators worked through the weekend in hopes of striking a year-end spending deal by Monday so Congress has enough time to pass the legislation before Dec. 11 and avert a government shutdown. The weekend sessions came after Democrats rejected an initial proposal from Republicans last week that included dozens of policy riders that GOP lawmakers wanted to attach to the must-pass legislation. ... The biggest issue facing negotiations on the omnibus spending bill is the policy riders being pushed by Republicans. ... mocrats said they will not budge on any riders aimed at attacking abortion rights, curbing funds for Planned Parenthood or undermining President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. (Snell, 12/7)

The Wall Street Journal: House Conservatives Work To Shape Spending Bill
Congress has until Friday to pass a $1.15 trillion spending bill to keep the government running once its current funding expires Friday. Lawmakers agreed to the bill’s overall spending level when they passed a two-year budget agreement in late October, during Mr. Boehner’s final week in office. But Republicans and Democrats have found plenty to disagree over since then as they hashed out funding for individual government programs and sparred over which other policy measures should get attached to the bill. ... Conservatives said they also need to see some antiabortion measures included in the spending bill. Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said more than 100 Republicans signed a letter to GOP leaders backing antiabortion provisions, including one permitting states to decide whether to withhold federal Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood Federation of America. (son, 12/6)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: On Health Law Repeal Bill, Amendment Votes Were Symbolic But Politics Are Real
Senate Republicans Thursday employed a special budget maneuver to pass a bill that would repeal the 2010 health care law and strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding for a year. The tactic allowed them to get around the Senate’s usual 60-vote threshold; this one could pass with a simple majority. The White House has said President Barack Obama would veto the bill, so the measure is largely symbolic. At the same time, the open amendment process involved in passing the bill, known as a reconciliation measure, ended up putting some senators on the record on some hot-button issues and on aspects of the health care law itself. The votes could provide a window into the kind of support some of these measures could get as standalone bills, if senators were to bring them up. They also could be used by the opponents of incumbents running for re-election next year (or running for president). As a result several of these votes could have meaning down the line. (Armour and Hughes, 12/4)

The New York Times: Not Even Catharsis Is Seen In Senate Vote To Repeal Health Law
Senate Republicans have finally fulfilled their long quest to pass legislation repealing President Obama’s landmark health care law, and Congress will soon send the measure to the White House, where it might have a chance of being folded into origami or a fleet of paper airplanes, but no possibility of being signed into law. ... So, what next? It is unclear that lawmakers have drawn constructive lessons from the experience, and there is no sign that either party will use the repeal vote as a cathartic turning point onto a more cooperative path. (Herszenhorn, 12/4)

The Washington Post: New Patient Coalition Aims To Take On Cost Of Health Care, Access To Quality Treatment
A group seeking to lead a broad national effort by consumers to make health care more affordable and available has formed in Washington, contending that even with more widespread insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, many people cannot obtain the care they need. Partners for Better Care claims it already represents 10 million patients through affiliations with other advocacy groups such as AIDS United, the Parkinson’s Action Network and United Cerebral Palsy. The organization also is hoping to enlist larger health care advocacy groups. (Bernstein, 12/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Rising Drug Costs To Be In Focus At Congressional Hearing
Dramatic price increases for several medicines are scheduled to be the subject of a congressional hearing in the coming week. Companies including Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and Turing Pharmaceuticals AG have been under fire this year from doctors, patients and lawmakers over rising drug costs. Such increases have prompted investigations by congressional committees, and House Democrats have established a task force to probe drug pricing. On Wednesday, the Senate Special Committee on Aging is scheduled to hold a hearing further exploring the matter. (Rockoff, 12/5)

The New York Times: Martin Shkreli, The Bad Boy Of Pharmaceuticals, Hits Back
A former hedge fund manager, Mr. Shkreli drew the wrath of consumers, became a talking point in the presidential campaign, and spurred federal and state inquiries as well as a dialogue about how and whether to control rising drug prices. As proof of Mr. Shkreli’s toxicity, Bernie Sanders rejected his $2,700 campaign donation, turning it over to a health clinic instead. ... Mr. Shkreli’s price increase is likely to take another pummeling at a Senate committee hearing investigating skyrocketing drug prices next Wednesday. Rather than cower as he takes a beating, Mr. Shkreli seems to relish his time in the ring. (Creswell and Pollack, 12/5)

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Clinics Are Open, But On Guard
Bulletproof glass and armed security are nothing new at medical clinics that provide abortions. But in the wake of a deadly shooting last week at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, clinics nationwide are redoubling security efforts, checking surveillance cameras and reviewing evacuation plans. Police say they're adding patrols to clinics to guard against those who might be inspired to mimic a shootout that killed three people and injured nine. (Wyatt, 12/4)

Politico: SCOTUS Blocks Appeal From Man Behind Planned Parenthood Videos
The Supreme Court denied a request from the activist behind the Planned Parenthood sting videos to block a federal judge’s order to turn over the names of people who supported his work. Lawyers representing David Daleiden had asked Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy on Friday evening to block the order from the district judge, which was upheld by an appeals panel Thursday. (Haberkorn, 12/4)

The Washington Post: Doctors Prescribe Old-Fashioned House Calls When Treating The Old And Frail
A study published last year in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, supported by other research, found that home-based primary care lowered costs as well as emergency room visits and hospitalization rates while increasing patients’ satisfaction with care. Now, a group of doctors — including Hernandez’s — is pushing to bring house calls to the nation’s 2 million oldest, frailest and costliest patients, saying it has the potential to save the government billions of dollars. Independence at Home was developed by a group of doctors around the country who were already making house calls to such patients. (Bahrampour, 12/6)

The New York Times: As Aging Population Grows, So Do Robotic Health Aides
The ranks of older and frail adults are growing rapidly in the developed world, raising alarms about how society is going to help them take care of themselves in their own homes. Naira Hovakimyan has an idea: drones. ... Her research is just one example of many approaches being studied to use technology to help aging people. (Markoff, 12/4)

NPR: Is It Safe For Medical Residents To Work 30-Hour Shifts?
Since 2003, strict rules have limited how long medical residents can work without a break. The rules are supposed to minimize the risk that these doctors-in-training will make mistakes that threaten patients' safety because of fatigue. But are these rules really the best for new doctors and their patients? There's been intense debate over that and some say little data to resolve the question. So a group of researchers decided to follow thousands of medical residents at dozens of hospitals around the country. (Stein, 12/7)

The Washington Post: Superbug Known As ‘Phantom Menace’ On The Rise In U.S.
A particularly dangerous superbug, dubbed the "phantom menace" by scientists, is on the rise in the United States, according to a report Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This superbug's strains belong to the family of bacteria known as CRE, which are difficult to treat because they are often resistant to most antibiotics. They are often deadly, too, in some instances killing up to 50 percent of patients who become infected, according to the CDC. Health officials have called CRE among the country's most urgent public health threats. (Sun, 12/4)

The Washington Post: Research Making Progress On Why Young Non-Smokers Get Lung Cancer
Little attention has been paid historically to the small population of younger adults with lung cancer. Yet as science begins to link many lung cancers to genetic mutations, a group of researchers is trying to identify more abnormalities among younger patients. They are finding disease types that are treatable with existing medications, giving people hope they did not have before. (Bernstein, 12/5)

The New York Times: Officials Rally For An Extension Of A 9/11 Health Bill
Standing in the shadow of the towering rebuilt World Trade Center, scores of firefighters and police officers, led by Mayor Bill de Blasio and two United States senators from New York, rallied on Sunday to press Congress to extend a 9/11 health bill. The bill would pay for medical care for emergency medical workers and others, including police officers, firefighters and construction workers who risked their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, or in the weeks and months after to recover bodies and begin the cleanup. They were exposed to toxic chemicals that have sickened or killed many of them. (Foderaro and Schlossberg, 12/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Families Rally At Ground Zero For 9/11 Health Act
Lawmakers, however, are pushing for the Zadroga Act to be included in one large bill, known as a omnibus, that must be passed by Dec. 11, when the congressional session ends for the holidays. “We will not, we cannot, we won’t walk away without a permanent 9/11 bill to protect the health care and the lives of our first responders,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer. (Morales, 12/6)

Los Angeles Times: HMO Giant Kaiser Eyes Expansion And Agrees To Buy Washington State Insurer
Healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente has agreed to acquire a big insurer in Washington state and signaled the pursuit of similar deals across the country. The nonprofit HMO and health system said Friday that it was buying Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative, which insures nearly 600,000 people. Because the deal involves two nonprofit organizations, Kaiser said it would contribute $1.8 billion to a new foundation in Washington to complete the transaction. (Terhune, 12/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Kaiser Permanente To Buy Major Insurer In Washington State
Kaiser Permanente has agreed to acquire a major health insurer in Washington state, signaling a more aggressive expansion strategy for the big California-based managed-care operator at a time when its integrated model is increasingly fashionable. The nonprofit’s acquisition of Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative, which like Kaiser includes both an insurance arm and health-care providers, would bring about 590,000 new members and a far broader geographic footprint in the state of Washington. (Wilde Mathews, 12/4)

The New York Times: Mount Sinai Sheds Roosevelt Name As Hospital Moves On
Roosevelt. Love it or hate it, the name resonates in American history. ... And in New York City, since the years just after the Civil War, it has meant an important hospital on the West Side of Manhattan. No longer. In November, the Mount Sinai Health System, into which Roosevelt Hospital was merged two years ago, formally dropped the Roosevelt name. After 146 years, it announced, the hospital would now be called Mount Sinai West. (Dunlap, 12/4)

NPR: In California, Aid Withers For People With Developmental Disabilities
Surrounded by stacks of packages in a brightly lit room, Michael Palone gingerly folded a box and taped it shut. His eyes averted, he shuffled to the front of the warehouse to retrieve scissors, skirting by people and tables in his path. Palone, 26, has Asperger's and mild autism that makes it nearly impossible for him to socialize with others and adjust to the constant changes of a full time job. Instead, he assembles packages with about 40 others at a Union City, Calif., work center run by The Arc of Alameda County. (Hellman, 12/4)

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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