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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Tongue Cried'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Tongue Cried'" by John Deering.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

SEE YOU IN THE IN THE NEW YEAR

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. New Louisiana Governor Faces Challenges In Plans To Expand Medicaid

Gov.-Elect John Bel Edwards will take office Jan. 11, and he's promised to take advantage of the federal health law's provision to expand the state's Medicaid program. Meanwhile, in Georgia, advocates of expansion pressed their case in Athens.

The Times-Picayune: 3 Challenges Louisiana Could Face In Medicaid Expansion
Health care advocates are eager to see Medicaid expansion get off the ground in 2016, sometime after Gov. elect John Bel Edwards' Jan. 11 inauguration. The new governor has said Medicaid expansion -- which would provide health insurance for more than 250,000 uninsured working poor -- is "among the highest priorities" of his new administration. But there also are several challenges Edwards' new administration could face as the expanded program takes off. (Litten, 12/23)

The Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald: Athens For Everyone Presses Case For Medicaid Expansion
In a prelude to what the group says will be an all-out effort in the upcoming state legislative session, members of the local activist organization Athens For Everyone showed up for a recent pre-legislative meeting of Athens-Clarke County’s mayor and commission and the five members of the state legislative delegation to press for Medicaid expansion in Georgia. While they didn’t have a place on the agenda for last week’s pre-legislative meeting — an annual session in which Athens-Clarke officials ask for state legislative assistance on a broad range of issues — the handful of Athens For Everyone representatives who came to the City Hall meeting held up cards reading “600 Georgians will die in 2016 without Medicaid expansion,” and “7,998+ Athenians in Medicaid gap” as Commissioner Jared Bailey made a case for the expansion. (Thompson, 12/23)

Coverage And Access

5. Obscure 'Orphan Drug Act' Could Lead To Price Hikes For Older Drugs

The New York Times reports on how pharmaceutical companies are taking advantage of the provision to seek FDA approval — and the profits — for drugs that may already be benefiting patients. And NPR examines the common practice of aggressive pharmaceutical pricing spikes in developing areas of the world.

The New York Times: Patients Fear Spike In Price Of Old Drugs
A showdown between two companies fighting over a drug for a rare neuromuscular disease powerfully illustrates the growing tension in the United States over the rising prices of drugs. The issue has drawn increased scrutiny from policy makers and prompted rising public outrage, much of it directed at Martin Shkreli, who has become a symbol for pharmaceutical price gouging. Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company he formerly headed, and others have been harshly criticized for abruptly raising the prices of medicines after acquiring them — without having taken the risks involved in research and development. (Tavernise, 12/22)

NPR: Pill Prices Are Hiked Up All The Time In The Low-Income World
The price of drugs is making headlines this year. But aggressive pricing tactics are not new — and those affected most are the poorest in developing countries, says Judit Rius Sanjuan, an international law specialist and U.S. manager and legal policy adviser for Doctors Without Borders' Access Campaign. (Shaikh-Lesko, 12/23)

Meanwhile in Ohio —

The Associated Press: Signatures Submitted In Ohio 'Drug Price Relief' Proposal
Signatures have been submitted in an effort aimed at keeping Ohio agencies and publicly-funded entities from buying prescription drugs at prices higher than what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays. Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices and AIDS Healthcare Foundation group say more than 171,000 signatures were turned in Tuesday in their campaign to force a vote on the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act. (12/23)

And the Martin Shkreli arrest continues to make waves across the pharmaceutical industry —

The Associated Press: Nasdaq To Delist Company Run By Drug Price Gouger Shkreli
One of the biotech companies run by Martin Shkreli, the reviled drug price-gouger charged with securities fraud last week, was informed Wednesday that its stock will be delisted by Nasdaq because of Shkreli's arrest and other issues. Meanwhile, KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc. also is dealing with the abrupt resignation of its accounting firm and a void left by its firing of Shkreli. (12/23)

Medicare

6. Pilot Programs To Improve Care For Elderly Or Disabled Poor Patients Stumble

The experiments -- mandated by the health law -- are designed to reduce spending and boost the quality of care for people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid, but they have failed to attract much enrollment. Also in the news, a study finds gender differences among patients taking advantage of new Medicare rules for screening colonoscopies.

The Wall Street Journal: New Health Programs For Elderly Poor Make Rocky Start
A federal experiment to curb health spending and improve care for disabled and elderly poor people is off to a rocky start, with enrollment falling short of expectations as patients prove reluctant to switch to the new programs. The struggles experienced by the pilot plans, which aim to streamline care for people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid, come despite a growing national urgency about caring for the aging impoverished. (Kamp and Levitz, 12/23)

Public Health And Education

7. HIV Patients' Treatment Inordinately Determined By Socioeconomic Circumstances

While the life-expectancy of white, affluent men with HIV/AIDS is on the rise, 66 percent of the 1.2 million Americans living with it are not in treatment. And, compared to white men, African-American men are more than seven times more likely to die from HIV-related complications. Latino men are twice as likely.

Kaiser Health News: Worlds Apart: Vast Disparities In Treatment Separate Americans With HIV
A major insurer said recently it would offer life insurance to HIV-positive people because of their rising life expectancies, prompting cheers from AIDS activists. But on the very same day, the nation’s top disease control official described an America falling far short in its fight against AIDS. It might seem a jarring disconnect — but it reflects very different realities dividing the estimated 1.2 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS. (Feder Ostrov, 12/24)

8. Peace Corps Volunteers Coming Back To US Health System That Fails Them, Report Finds

The task force found a pattern of frustration and a feeling of abandonment from those returning from abroad, some of whom had to wait years or decades before receiving acceptable medical care. In other public health news, the illegal sale of tiny pet turtles is linked to salmonella outbreaks; and after the death of his friend's son, one lawmaker's fight to improve access to a heroin antidote becomes personal.

The Washington Post: After Their Return, Some Peace Corps Volunteers Find Byzantine Health System Neglects Them
The Peace Corps says its top priorities are the health, safety and the security of its volunteers. But a new internal report acknowledges that some volunteers who come home sick or injured have been waiting years — even decades — for adequate medical care and have fallen deeply through the cracks of a federal insurance bureaucracy. The report, by a task force set up by the agency in March, is a particularly candid assessment by top Peace Corps officials of government failure to provide top-notch health-care access to thousands of young people who serve in far-flung developing countries. (Rein, 12/23)

NPR: Illegal Trade In Tiny Pet Turtles Keeps Spreading Salmonella
Forty years ago, the U.S. outlawed the sale of small turtles as pets because they harbor salmonella, a bacterium that causes a highly unpleasant and occasionally deadly illness in humans. Now salmonella infections tied to the tiny critters are back, public health officials reported Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics. From May 2011 through September 2013, turtle-associated salmonella was linked to eight outbreaks across 41 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, covering 473 illnesses. Some 28 percent of those sickened had to be hospitalized. (Hobson, 12/23)

St. Louis Public Radio: His Friend's Son Died Of An Overdose. Now, Legislator Tries New Push For Heroin Antidote Bill
For a long time, Gary Carmack of Waynesville watched his 25-year-old son James battle a heroin addiction. “He would look at me with these big, sad eyes, and he wanted so bad to get off of it,” Carmack said. “Everyone would be saying, ‘you just have to tell him to quit.’ And of course that’s virtually impossible without the right kind of help.” As a paramedic, Carmack had seen countless overdoses. The family tried desperately to get James into treatment. But in 2013, his son was one of 258 Missourians who died after using heroin that year. (Bouscaren, 12/23)

Health IT

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