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KHN First Edition: January 6, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Hospitals Required To Keep Caregivers In The Loop
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman writes: "Diana Matsushima cares for both her husband and sister-in-law full time. ... But when either ends up hospitalized, Matsushima said her role as their primary caregiver is often overlooked. She isn’t always included in the discussions at the hospital, and she sometimes leaves confused about how to best care for them when she gets home. When they are discharged, she said the nurses hand her a stack of papers without much — if any — explanation. Beginning in January, family caregivers like Matsushima could have a much different experience. A new California law, SB 675, requires hospital staffers to involve a family caregiver during the hospitalization and discharge process, which supporters say will improve patients’ overall health and reduce their chances of readmission." (Gorman, 1/6)

Kaiser Health News: Heavy Use Of CT Scans Raises Concerns About Patients’ Exposure To Radiation
Sandra Boodman, for Kaiser Health News, writes: "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, 1/6)

Kaiser Health News: Gaps Remain Among States’ Medicaid Efforts To Help People Kick Smoking Habit
Kaiser Health News staff writer Sefali Luthra reports: "The 2010 federal health law has a provision that was supposed to make it easier for people on Medicaid to quit smoking. But in a number of states, it’s not, so far, having widespread success. That’s the main takeaway from a study published Tuesday in the journal Health Affairs. The law says all state Medicaid programs have to cover tobacco cessation drugs — meaning they have to pay for things like nicotine patches, Chantix, nicotine gum or Wellbutrin, when patients are using them to try to quit smoking. But it leaves states relative freedom in how they go about doing so and what conditions they place on how the benefit is applied." (Luthra, 1/5)

Kaiser Health News: Feds Funding Effort To Tie Medical Services To Social Needs
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Rovner reports: "The federal government has announced a $157 million project to help hospitals and doctors link Medicare and Medicaid patients to needed social services that sometimes have a bigger impact on their health than medical interventions. ... The goal of the “Accountable Health Communities” project is to find better ways to identify patients’ non-medical needs and connect them to available services in their communities." (Rovner, 1/5)

The Associated Press: House Vote To Send Health Law Repeal To Obama For First Time
After dozens of failed attempts to undo President Barack Obama’s health care law, the GOP-led Congress will finally put a bill on the president’s desk striking at the heart of his signature legislative achievement. Obama will veto the bill, and so the ultimate outcome will be the same as the many previous GOP attempts to repeal “Obamacare.” But Wednesday’s vote in the House will mark the first time such a bill makes it all the way to the White House. (Werner, 1/6)

The New York Times: Better Health Care Access In Kentucky And Arkansas, Study Says
Low-income adults in Kentucky and Arkansas have had similar improvements in access to medical care under the Affordable Care Act, a new study found, despite the two states’ differing approaches to expanding Medicaid. ... The study, published in Health Affairs, found that Arkansas and Kentucky had significant reductions in the number of low-income adults without insurance from 2013 to 2014. (Goodnough, 1/5)

USA Today: Study: Expanding Medicaid Aids Health Access
Poor adults in two states that expanded Medicaid saw much bigger improvements in access to health care than their peers in Texas, which didn’t expand the government insurance program, a new study says. The research shows that the uninsured rate dropped 14 percentage points more in Kentucky and Arkansas than in Texas. ... “The big message we found is an expansion — any expansion — makes a big difference compared with no expansion,” says lead author Benjamin Sommers. (Ungar, 1/5)

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Helping Improve Access To Medical Care For The Poor, New Studies Show
States’ Medicaid expansions through the Affordable Care Act are helping low-income patients access medical care and improving hospitals’ bottom lines, according to two new studies that add to growing evidence about the benefits of the health law. ... Researchers also found major gains in the share of residents who said they had a check-up in the prior year, which increased more than eight percentage points in both Kentucky and Arkansas. And they found sizable increases in the percentage of patients with chronic medical conditions who got regular care, which increased more than 6 percentage points in the two states. (Levey, 1/5)

The Washington Post: John Kasich Broke With The GOP On Obamacare. And He’d Do It Again.
[John Kasich] is in the bottom tier of presidential candidates, polling around 2 percent nationally, but he’s burdened by more than poor numbers. As governor of Ohio he made a decision to accept the expansion of Medicaid as part of Obamacare — a choice that brands him as a moderate or, worse, a RINO (Republican in name only). ... His decision, he knows, is a radioactive credential for a Republican seeking the endorsement of a base that wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. As he would observe in a GOP debate several weeks later, “People have accused me of, at times, having too big a heart.” Why Kasich approved the Medicaid expansion — and how — forecasts the type of president he would be: sometimes compassionate and often cunning. (Zak, Ommanney, Mara and Davis, 1/5)

The Associated Press: GOP Candidates Call For End To Stigma Around Drug Addiction
Republican presidential hopefuls called for a more compassionate discussion around drug addiction Tuesday, with emphasis on substance abuse as a curable disease, not a moral failing. "This is a national calling," former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said at the New Hampshire Forum on Addiction and the Heroin Epidemic. "We should be able to talk about this without all the stigma attached to it. We need to eliminate the stigma." (1/5)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: One Of The Biggest Fears About Obamacare Never Happened
During the debate over President Obama's signature health care law, opponents warned that the law would discourage large numbers of Americans from working, force millions into part-time jobs and make it more difficult to find work. Three new studies released this week suggest that, so far, it hasn't happened. The new analyses are still early, since a key requirement of the law began to be phased in just last year, but they add to a growing body of evidence that, if the law has had any effect on the labor market, it's been a small one. (Ehrenfreund and Johnson, 1/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Law Tax-Credit Payments To Insurers Questioned
The Obama administration wasn’t able to ensure that all tax-credit payments made to insurers under the health law in 2014 were on behalf of consumers who had paid their premiums, according to a federal oversight agency. However, the agency noted the Obama administration this year is moving to a new automated system that should alleviate potential problems identified in its investigation. The Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General is scheduled to release the report Wednesday. (Armour, 1/6)

The Associated Press: Medicare To Test If Seamless Social Work Can Improve Health
Doctors and community workers have long recognized a link between the hardships of poverty and health problems. Now the government is launching an experiment to see if seamless social work can improve the health of vulnerable Medicare and Medicaid recipients, and perhaps even lower costs by heading off emergency room visits. (1/5)

The Associated Press: Drugmaker Lilly's 2016 Forecast Misses Street Expectations
Eli Lilly has dropped a lower-than-expected 2016 forecast on Wall Street after wrapping up a year in which its stock soared above the broader market. ... Lilly, also known for the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis and its portfolio of cancer treatments, has been recovering from the loss of patents protecting key products like the antidepressant Cymbalta from cheaper generic drugs. (1/5)

The Associated Press: Merck CEO: Eager For Deals, Strong Prospects For New Drugs
Merck's chief executive says the drugmaker is "raring to go" on deals this year, particularly for small and midsize acquisitions of companies or their experimental drugs. CEO Kenneth Frazier, speaking Tuesday at a Goldman Sachs conference of CEOs of health care companies in Boston, also said he expects more approvals and growing sales from new cancer drug Keytruda. (1/5)

The Wall Street Journal: MannKind, Sanofi End Licensing Pact For Diabetes Medicine Afrezza
MannKind Corp. on Tuesday announced the termination of its licensing pact with Sanofi-Aventis in the U.S. for the development and sale of its inhaled insulin product Afrezza and signaled that it might look to sell the drug. Shares of the company tumbled 27% in midday trading. Over the past three months, shares have dropped 67%, including Tuesday’s decline. (Beilfuss, 1/5)

Los Angeles Times: A Rare Stumble For Biotech Pioneer Alfred Mann
Over seven decades, billionaire Alfred Mann has founded 17 companies, including ones that help the blind see and the deaf hear. Along the way, he's built a fortune that at one point topped $2 billion, but in what could be his final act, the 90-year-old biotech entrepreneur has stumbled. His latest big venture, a treatment that lets diabetics inhale their insulin instead of injecting it, has been a huge disappointment. (Rufus Koren, 1/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Aetna Leaves Health Insurance Industry’s Largest Trade Group
Aetna Inc. on Tuesday became the second major insurer to leave the health insurance industry’s largest trade group, a setback to the membership organization that was a major force during the crafting of the Affordable Care Act. Aetna, the third-largest U.S. health insurer, said it wouldn’t renew its membership for 2016 with America’s Health Insurance Plans, a national association with almost 1,300 companies. (Armour, 1/5)

The Associated Press: NY Senators To Examine Health Republic Failure
Two state senators plan to examine the failure of the insurance cooperative Health Republic, which got behind financially and shut down last year. Sens. James Seward and Kemp Hannon chair the Senate's insurance and health committees. They say their discussion Wednesday will include lead agencies, health insurers, providers, consumers and experts in the field and explore what went wrong and steps needed to avoid repeats. (1/6)

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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