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KHN First Edition: December 22, 2015


First Edition

Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: ER Doctors Say Federal Rules Could Raise Patients’ Out-Of-Network Bills
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Two professional organizations representing emergency doctors warn that a new federal rule could lead to higher out-of-pocket costs for consumers when they need emergency care outside their health plan’s network of providers. But consumer advocates and health policy experts say the groups’ proposed solution doesn’t adequately protect consumers." (Andrews, 12/22)

Kaiser Health News: Pharmacists Prescribing Birth Control And What It Means For Wider Access To The Pill
KHN staff writer Julie Rovner joins The Diane Rehm Show to discuss California and Oregon's laws allowing women to bypass their doctors and get birth control prescribed by a pharmacist. Many doctors say this is safe, but others argue that these measures don’t go far enough in ensuring women have access to these contraceptives and would prefer birth control pills be offered over the counter. (Rovner, 12/21)

Reuters: Obamacare, Tech Stocks Boost Wall Street
U.S. stocks ended stronger on Monday, helped by bounces in Apple and Microsoft as well as a rally in hospital stocks after more Americans signed up for subsidized health insurance. About 6 million people have signed up for subsidized health insurance, including 2.4 million new customers, the U.S. government said on Friday. Tenet Healthcare Corp jumped 11.6 percent, its best day since June. Universal Health Services Inc rose 3.64 percent. (12/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Surge In Prescription Costs Hit Medicare In 2014
Hefty price increases for a number of prescription drugs contributed to higher spending by the U.S. Medicare program in 2014, according to new government data released Monday. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services identified at least five drugs that were covered under Medicare’s Part D drug benefit and had increases of 100% or more in cost per unit from 2013 to 2014. (Loftus, 12/21)

Reuters: Super PAC To Tout Rubio's Efforts Against Obamacare In Early-State Ad
A Super PAC supporting Republican Marco Rubio will tout the White House hopeful's fight against President Barack Obama's health care law in an advertisement set to run in Iowa and New Hampshire starting on Tuesday, a source familiar with the plan said. "On Obamacare, some Republicans gave up. Some talked tough but got nowhere," an announcer says in the ad. (12/21)

The New York Times: Some Revealing Moments As Congress Closes The Door On 2015
The big legislative wrap-up to Washington’s year was not only productive but instructive, providing plenty of insight into the players and policy fights ahead in 2016. ... There were telling developments, such as deficits no longer seem to matter: The compromise on Medicare doctor fees struck this year added $141 billion to the deficit." (Hulse, 12/21)

NPR: FDA Lifts Ban On Blood Donations By Gay And Bisexual Men
"Relying on sound scientific evidence, we've taken great care to ensure the revised policy continues to protect our blood supply," said Marks, deputy director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. In 1983, the FDA banned gay and bisexual men from ever being eligible to donate blood to protect people receiving blood transfusions from the possibility of getting infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. (Stein, 12/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Taking Titles To Drugs On Walgreens’ Shelves
Buried in the details of a new 20-year distribution agreement between Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. is a $150 million financial hit to Valeant that underscores the unusual nature of the deal. The amount reflects the one-time revenue impact on Valeant of the drug-distribution pact. Essentially, Valeant is buying back its own drugs from Walgreens and then reselling them on consignment to the pharmacy, said a person familiar with the matter. (Rockoff, 12/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Norwegian Biotech Company Flags Evidence For Efficacy Of ‘Kick And Kill’ HIV Treatment
A small Norwegian biotechnology firm said Monday it had the first evidence of real promise in a new approach widely considered to be a potential cure for HIV, prompting both cautious optimism and skepticism from experts. One approach thought to be a possible route to a cure, known as “kick and kill” or “shock and kill,” seeks to expose these latent HIV-infected cells so they can be cleared away by the immune system. Bionor Pharma ASA said its method had reduced the size of the latent HIV reservoir by an average of 40% across 17 patients. (Roland, 12/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Why A Drug To Prevent HIV Infection Is In Low Demand
Public-health officials are pushing for much wider use of a drug that has proved effective at preventing HIV infection. PrEP, or preexposure prophylaxis, is a daily medication that people at high risk for HIV can take to protect against acquiring the virus. Still, fewer than 22,000 people are estimated to have taken PrEP for prevention. (Reddy, 12/21)

The Associated Press: Support For Legal Abortion At Highest Level In 2 Years
upport for legal abortion in the U.S. has edged up to its highest level in the past two years, with an Associated Press-GfK poll showing an apparent increase in support among Democrats and Republicans alike over the last year. Nearly six in 10 Americans — 58 percent — now think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 51 percent who said so at the beginning of the year, according to the AP-GfK survey. (12/22)

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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