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KHN First Edition: December 21, 2015


First Edition

Monday, December 21, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: New Kaiser Permanente Med School Part Of A Growing Trend
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Rovner reports: "Thursday's announcement by Kaiser Permanente that it plans to open its own medical school in Southern California has attracted a lot of attention in the health care community. But Kaiser is actually at the trailing edge of a medical school expansion that has been unmatched since the 1960s and 1970s, say medical education experts." (Rovner, 12/18)

Kaiser Health News: Single-Payer Health Care On Colorado Ballot In 2016
Colorado Public Radio's John Daley, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "The group ColoradoCareYES has gathered enough signatures — more than 100,000 — to put a single-payer health system on the ballot next fall. Under the plan, Coloradans would still pick their own providers, but the new system would pick up all the bills. There would be no deductibles, and fewer and smaller copays." (Daley, 12/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Enrollment Heats Up For New York State Health-Insurance Exchange
New York state health officials say it has been a busy few weeks for the state health-insurance exchange’s open-enrollment period as it adjusts to the collapse of the system’s only co-op and incorporates a new low-cost coverage plan. The exchange’s customer-service center answered more than 170,000 calls from Dec. 7 to 11, averaging 34,000 a day. Normally, outside of open enrollment, calls average 11,700 a day, according to the New York State Department of Health. (Ramey, 12/20)

The Washington Post: At The Democratic Debate, Only Clinton Promises No Middle Class Tax Increases
Hillary Clinton was the only one of the three Democrats on stage Saturday night willing to pledge that she wouldn’t raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year. ... Her chief rival Bernie Sanders said he wants to move to a “Medicare for all” health-care system under which taxes would increase for many middle-class Americans. But Sanders argued the overall cost of care would go down for most people by “thousands of dollars” because they would no longer pay premiums or co-pays. (Wagner, 12/19)

Los Angeles Times: President Obama Signs Massive Year-End Tax Cut And Spending Package
Congress gave final approval Friday to one of the most ambitious legislative packages in years — a $1.1-trillion funding bill, up to $680 billion in tax breaks and dozens of other substantial policy initiatives. The measure, which averts another shutdown and keeps the federal government running through September, was sent to President Obama, who signed it into law. (Mascaro, 12/18)

The Washington Post: For Obama, Next Year Looms With Fewer Chances For Big Agenda Gains
Now that the Affordable Care Act has survived two Supreme Court challenges and has suffered only a small financial blow in this week’s spending deal, the president plans to press ahead with expanding health-care coverage. Obama noted that new ACA customers “are up one-third over last year, and the more who sign up, the stronger the system becomes.” (Eilperin, 12/18)

The Associated Press: Education, Transportation Highlight 2015 In Congress
In a chaotic year, when Republicans in the House unseated a speaker, Congress produced a significant amount of bipartisan legislation that affects every American. It enacted laws recasting federal education policy, restricting government access to bulk phone records, renewing highway and transit programs and even resolving a longstanding problem of how Medicare reimburses doctors. (Daly, 12/21)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Probes Theranos Complaints
U.S. health regulators are investigating complaints about laboratory and research practices at Theranos Inc. by two former employees of the blood-testing startup company, according to people familiar with the inquiries. (Carreyrou, 12/20)

The New York Times: Theranos Founder Faces A Test Of Technology, And Reputation
A Silicon Valley story with intoxicating appeal, Theranos by some measures has a $9 billion valuation because, in part, of its claims that its proprietary technology has the potential to disrupt the established players in health care. But an investigation published in The Wall Street Journal in October changed the narrative by raising serious concerns about whether the company’s technology actually works. (Abelson and Creswell, 12/19)

The Associated Press: Bold Bid To Rein In Painkiller Prescriptions Hits Roadblocks
A bold federal effort to curb prescribing of painkillers may be faltering amid stiff resistance from drugmakers, industry-funded groups and, now, even other public health officials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was on track to finalize new prescribing guidelines for opioid painkillers in January. The guidelines — though not binding — would be the strongest government effort yet to reverse the rise in deadly overdoses tied to drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet. (Perrone, 12/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Employers Battle Drug Costs
Rising drug costs are forcing tough decisions on those who foot the bill for much of American health care: employers. The pinch is most acute for the many large employers that are self-insured—hiring an insurance company to administer benefits but paying the bill themselves. (Loftus, 12/18)

The Associated Press: Maryland Firm To Pay $10M In False Claims Act Settlement
Federal officials say Maryland-based splint supplier Dynasplint Systems and its founder and president have agreed to pay more than $10 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act. Dynasplint, founded by George Hepburn, was accused of mischarging Medicare for splints used by patients in Medicare-certified skilled nursing facilities. (12/18)

NPR: When Mom Has Alzheimer's, A Stranger Comes For Christmas
Some 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, and more than 13 million family members care for them. "There are families in every town, in every state across the country that are dealing with the realities of Alzheimer's disease at this holiday season," says Ruth Drew, who runs the national phone helpline for the Alzheimer's Association. (Rancano, 12/21)

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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