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KHN First Edition: January 5, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, January 05, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: More Employers Offer Plans That Provide Lump Sums For Critical Illnesses
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Insurance policies that pay a lump sum if workers get cancer or another serious illness are being offered in growing numbers by employers. Companies say they want to help protect their workers against the financial pain of increasingly high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. But it’s important to understand the limitations of these plans before buying. Critical illness plans have been around for decades, but they have become more common lately as employers have shifted more health care costs onto their workers' shoulders." (Andrews, 1/5)

Kaiser Health News: Cleveland Pressures Hospitals To Keep ERs Open To All Ambulances
WCPN's Sarah Jane Tribble, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "The patient walks woozily out to the ambulance from a tan house on a tree-lined street. Anthony Savoy, the head medic, calls ahead to University Hospitals, which has the closest emergency room. Savoy wants to make sure the ER has space for the patient. The man gets in that day, but it was by no means guaranteed. For years, it’s been common practice for University Hospitals to switch its status to diversion. That means when Savoy would call the hospital, people in the emergency department would say they didn’t have the room or the staff to handle the patient. The EMS team then would have to drive to another hospital — often the Cleveland Clinic — about a mile away." (Tribble, 1/5)

The Associated Press: Medicare Is Changing: What’s New For Beneficiaries
Whether it's coverage for end-of-life counseling or an experimental payment scheme for common surgeries, Medicare in 2016 is undergoing some of the biggest changes in its 50 years. Grandma's Medicare usually just paid the bills as they came in. Today, the nation's flagship health-care program is seeking better ways to balance cost, quality and access. The effort could redefine the doctor-patient relationship, or it could end up a muddle of well-intentioned but unworkable government regulations. (Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, 1/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama to Announce Expansion of Background Checks For Gun Purchases
President Barack Obama is directing administration officials to explore ways to expand the use of technology that can ensure a weapon can be fired only by its owner and proposed efforts to invest in mental-health care and include information in the background-check system about individuals who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental-health reasons. (Nelson and Fields, 1/5)

Politico: Doctors Can Report Some Mentally Ill Patients To FBI Under New Gun Control Rule
Delivering on its promise to deliver "common sense" gun control, the Obama administration on Monday finalized a rule that enables health care providers to report the names of mentally ill patients to an FBI firearms background check system. While the 1993 Brady law prohibits gun ownership by individuals who have been involuntarily committed, found incompetent to stand trial or otherwise deemed by a court to be a danger to themselves or others, federal health care privacy rules prohibited doctors and other providers from sharing information without the consent of their patients. Under the rule, which takes effect next month, for the first time health providers can disclose the information to the background check system without legal repercussions. (Pittman, 1/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Cadillac Tax Delay Gives CFOs Breathing Room
December’s omnibus budget package contained a measure to delay a provision of the Affordable Care Act by two years is giving finance chiefs some extra time to prepare. The tax on high-cost employee health plans puts employers on the hook for a 40% levy on any excess cost of health plans above certain thresholds. Even before the delay, many companies and municipalities had already begun to assess whether their plans would trigger additional payments and make preemptive changes to avoid it. (Murphy, 1/4)

The Associated Press: Democratic US Rep. Jim McDermott Announces Retirement
Longtime Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington state announced Monday that he will not seek re-election for a 15th time when he completes his term at the end of the year. McDermott said he was proud of the many things he has accomplished during his time in office, including reforms to foster care, affordable housing for people with AIDS, but most important, he said, was his work on the national health plan. (1/4)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Right To Rise Super PAC’s Series Of Misleading Claims About Jeb Bush’s Record
The new ad from a pro-Bush Super PAC touts Bush’s record as Florida’s governor, compared to the records of two other governors vying for the GOP nomination: Chris Christie and John Kasich. ... [The ad says Bush] "led the fight to stop Obamacare expansion in his state." Bush’s term as governor ended two years before President Obama took office, and three years before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. So what exactly was Bush’s role? (Michelle Ye Hee Lee, 1/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Administration Opposes Texas Abortion Restrictions
The Obama administration Monday urged the Supreme Court to strike down Texas abortion regulations it said effectively would eliminate access to the procedure for large numbers of women across the vast state. The high court is set to hear argument in March on a 2013 Texas law cracking down on abortion providers by requiring clinics offering the procedure to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers and doctors who perform it to hold admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. (Bravin, 1/4)

The Washington Post: First-Of-A-Kind Drug Approvals Continued Rise In 2015
Approvals for first-of-a-kind drugs climbed last year, pushing the annual tally of new U.S. drugs to its highest level in 19 years. The rising figures reflect an industry-wide focus on drugs for rare and hard-to-treat diseases, which often come with streamlined reviews, extra patent protections and higher price tags. (Perrone, 1/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Gilead Gets FDA Priority Review Of Hepatitis C Combo Drug
Gilead Sciences Inc. said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted a priority review of its experimental hepatitis C combination drug. The Foster City, Calif., drugmaker filed a new drug application for the treatment—a combination of the biopharmaceutical company’s Sovaldi with velpatasvir—in late October. The FDA is expected to decide whether to approve the combination therapy by June 28. (Stynes, 1/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Heart Incidents End Parts Of Two Studies By Teva, Active Biotech
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Active Biotech AB said Monday they were ending the higher-dose portions of two multiple-sclerosis studies with the drug Laquinimod after eight patients suffered nonfatal cardiovascular events. The companies said the incidents occurred in the higher-dose components of a phase 3 and a phase 2 clinical trial. The lower-dose and placebo components of the tests will continue. (Hufford, 1/4)

The Wall Street Journal: At The Hospital, Better Responses To Those Beeping Alarms
In hospitals, alarms on patient-monitoring devices create a cacophony of noise day and night—beeping, pinging and ringing so often that doctors and nurses ignore them, turn them off or just stop hearing them. Now, hospitals are adopting solutions to silence or eliminate unnecessary alarms, while ensuring that staffers don’t miss alerts that could signal a life-threatening crisis. Smarter technology and more-precise monitoring practices are helping prevent false alarms, alert nurses to true emergencies, and identify deteriorating patients before an alarm signals a crisis. (Landro, 1/4)

NPR: Veterans Say Trained Dogs Help With PTSD, But The VA Won't Pay
Service dogs are often trained to help veterans with physical disabilities. Now, a growing number are being trained to meet the demand from vets with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues. So far, though, the Department of Veterans Affairs won't help pay for service dogs for PTSD, citing a lack of scientific evidence. But it's launching a study to find out what effect specially trained service dogs can have on the lives of veterans with PTSD. (Silverman, 1/4)

The Washington Post: Should You Worry About The Radiation From CT Scans?
Jean Hanvik decided that enough was enough. When a painful intestinal inflammation flared in 2014, the 55-year-old benefits communications consultant balked at her doctor’s recommendation that she undergo another abdominal CT scan — her fourth in eight years. ... Hanvik’s questions about the necessity of a CT scan reflect a growing awareness of the potential pitfalls of diagnostic imaging, which in the past two decades has exploded into a $100 billion a year business. (Boodman, 1/4)

The Wall Street Journal: New Weapons In The Fight Against Multiple Myeloma
Few types of cancer research have witnessed more progress in the past decade than the fight against the blood cancer known as multiple myeloma. There are 10 multiple myeloma treatments on the market, including three that won Food and Drug Administration approval during a remarkable 15-day span in November. Other medications in the pipeline hold promise to meet patients’ hopes for even further gains. (Winslow, 1/4)

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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