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KHN First Edition: February 8, 2016


First Edition

Monday, February 08, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Some Dialysis Patients Give Medicare Failing Grade On Ambulance Trial
Kaiser Health News staff writer Lisa Gillespie reports: Charles Prozzillo’s life changed for the worse when Medicare stopped paying for his ambulance rides to dialysis a year ago. ... In December 2014, Medicare began a pilot program in three states, including Pennsylvania, to cut down on what officials believed were improper payments, including some possible fraud and abuse, in nonemergency ambulance services. The program moved to more aggressively enforce Medicare’s long-standing policy requiring that beneficiaries be so weak they could only be moved on a stretcher before it would pay for repeated, nonemergency ambulance service — the kind that Prozzillo had been getting but technically wasn’t entitled to. And ambulance companies had to get Medicare’s approval in advance so that Medicare could be sure beneficiaries qualified." (Gillespie, 2/8)

Kaiser Health News: Narrow Marketplace Plans In Texas Pose Problems For Autistic Children
Kate Harrington, for Kaiser Health News, writes: "When Jennifer Nechetsky Maupin’s son was diagnosed with autism in May 2014, she and her husband quickly started looking into early intervention therapies for him. Their employers’ insurance plans offered limited coverage, so for 2015 the Houston family purchased an individual plan for their son on the marketplace set up by the federal health law. Because Texas mandates that individual plans must cover applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy, other parents of autistic children have made a similar choice. But many of those families are facing difficulties finding adequate coverage in 2016." (Harrington, 2/8)

Kaiser Health News: Burwell Says ‘Beat Goes On’ As HHS Seeks To Expand Health Law’s Influence
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey writes: "Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell on Friday hailed the health law’s 2016 enrollment gains and said the department was already beginning to gear up for the next enrollment period. In addition to the health law, Burwell’s agency is juggling many other priorities these days, including coordinating her agency’s response to the emerging threat of the Zika virus, President Barack Obama’s “Moonshot on Cancer” initiative and the growing epidemic of opioid abuse. “The beat goes on,” she said during a briefing with reporters at HHS headquarters." (Carey, 2/5)

Reuters: Rubio Comes Under Heavy Fire At Republican Presidential Debate
Rising Republican contender Marco Rubio came under heavy attack in a presidential debate on Saturday from rivals who accused him of being too inexperienced for the White House and walking away from an immigration reform plan he championed. In a fiery debate three days ahead of Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump also battled with rival Jeb Bush over the use of eminent domain to seize private property and called for a compassionate approach to those who might lose their health insurance if Republicans repealed Obamacare. (2/6)

The Associated Press: Fact Check: Skewed GOP Claims On Taxes, Health Insurance
Viewers of the latest Republican presidential debate didn't get a straight story from the candidates on U.S. taxes vs. the world, the state of the health insurance marketplace under "Obamacare" or what might happen if that law is taken away. ... "We will adopt commonsense reforms, No. 1, we'll allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines," [Ted Cruz said]. Allowing the interstate sale of health insurance policies is not a new idea, and not the straightforward solution that it may sound. This long-standing Republican proposal has previously run into opposition from regulators in many states. State insurance and consumer protection regulators say such an approach could trigger a "race to the bottom," allowing skimpy out-of-state policies to undercut benefits that individual states require. (2/6)

Politico: On Abortion, Kasich Is No Moderate
John Kasich is hoping for a candidacy-saving showing in New Hampshire on Tuesday by positioning himself as a pragmatic GOP budget-balancer, more moderate than his rivals. But on abortion, the Ohio governor is anything but moderate, signing a slew of restrictive laws that have closed nearly half his state’s clinics. During months of campaigning, Kasich has scarcely talked about that record, however, even though abortion is an issue that drives many Republican primary voters. “He’s the classic under-commit, over-perform guy,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. “Certainly on this issue, it’s hard to find a governor or anyone who has a better record.” (Haberkorn, 2/5)

The Associated Press: Sanders Campaign Plans Clash With Political Realities
Bernie Sanders promises voters a "political revolution" that will fundamentally remake the American economy and its education and health care systems. Often left unsaid by Sanders, but increasingly at the center of Hillary Clinton's arguments against her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, is that the political reality of achieving such goals is likely to be a whole lot more complicated. ... Clinton's advisers often point out how difficult it was for President Barack Obama to convince a Democratic-led Congress to support the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Sanders' plan — called "Medicare for All" — would go significantly further by establishing a national health care system run entirely by the government. (2/7)

The New York Times: Faith In Agency Clouded Bernie Sanders’s V.A. Response
There were reports of secret waiting lists to hide long delays in care. Whistle-blowers said as many as 40 veterans had died waiting for appointments. And Congress was demanding answers. Despite mounting evidence of trouble at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Senator Bernie Sanders, then the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, initially regarded the complaints as overblown, and as a play by conservatives to weaken one of the country’s largest social welfare institutions. (Eder and Philipps, 2/6)

The New York Times: Hillary Clinton Lobbied On Health Care As Secretary Of State, Emails Show
On Christmas Eve in 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was awake before dawn to personally monitor a critical moment in the nation’s history. But Mrs. Clinton, the country’s top diplomat, was not observing a covert operation in the Middle East or tracking pivotal negotiations with a foreign power. Her television was tuned to C-Span, and she was watching the Senate vote on President Obama’s landmark health care law. Emails released last week by the State Department that were found on Mrs. Clinton’s private server show that she was keenly interested in the administration’s push to win passage of the health care law. (Herszenhorn, 2/5)

The Washington Post: At N.H. Rally, Sanders Says His Ideas Aren’t As ‘Radical’ As Clinton Camp Suggests
Appearing at a boisterous rally here, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday repeatedly pushed back against claims that his agenda is too ambitious and that he lacks the chops to be commander in chief. ...Turning to his plan to move to a single-payer, “Medicare for all” health-care system, Sanders was equally dismissive of concerns that Clinton has raised about a new congressional battle that would be necessary to replace the Affordable Care Act championed by President Obama. “For the benefit of my critics, let me say it as loudly and clearly as I can: Health care is a right, not a privilege,” Sanders said, noting that 29 million Americans remain without health insurance. (Wagner, 2/7)

USA Today: Medicaid Across U.S. A Matter Of When, Not If, Says Federal Health Chief
The 4 million new people who signed up for insurance on the federal exchange for 2016 are one of several signs the open enrollment period that ended Sunday was a success, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said Friday. As further evidence of the administration's successes, Burwell also pointed to her continued discussions with states considering expanding Medicaid to all of those earning too little to get subsidized ACA plans. (O'Donnell, 2/6)

USA Today: Abortion Opponents Urge Supreme Court To Uphold Texas Law
Opponents of abortion took their turn this week telling the Supreme Court how to rule on the biggest abortion case the justices have considered in a generation. Just as professional women, including more than 100 lawyers, flooded the court last month with personal stories of their abortions and subsequent achievements in life, women who regret their abortions and relatives of some who died following procedures urged the justices to see things their way. (Wolf, 2/5)

The Washington Post: Laws Written By Men To Protect Women Deserve Scrutiny, Supreme Court Told
History holds a lesson for the Supreme Court, the brief warns: Be skeptical of laws protecting women that are written by men. The nation’s past is littered with such statutes, say the historians who filed the friend-of-the-court brief, and the motives were suspect. The brief is filed by professors from across the country in the court’s upcoming abortion case, Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. It urges the justices to examine the intent of Texas legislators who say they approved new restrictions on abortion providers as health safeguards for the women undergoing the procedure. (Barnes, 2/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Drug Industry Launches Ad Campaign Aimed At Lawmakers
The pharmaceutical industry, under fire this election season for rising drug prices, is ramping up a new advertising campaign designed to improve its reputation with lawmakers as it lobbies against any effort to rein in prescription costs. The sector’s largest trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, says it intends to spend several million dollars this year, and 10% more than in 2015, on digital, radio and print ads that emphasize the industry’s role in developing new drugs and advancing medical science. (Walker, 2/7)

USA Today/Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal: Here's How Millennials Could Change Health Care
With a presidential election fast approaching, healthcare is an issue that’s getting plenty of traction on both sides of the political aisle. For Republicans, taking down President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act remains a red meat issue. Republican presidential candidates are also trotting out an ACA repeal as a key incentive for voting a member of the party into the Oval Office. Healthcare has been a key issue in the Democratic debates as well, with Hillary Clinton pushing back on rival Bernie Sanders’ plan for universal health care. Amid all the debate, however, one group could prove to be the wild card. As more millennials interact with the healthcare system, the industry will find itself facing a more sophisticated and demanding group that won’t stand for its inefficiencies with the same begrudging acceptance of previous generations, said Kathy Hempstead, director of insurance coverage for the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. (Hidalgo, 2/7)

Los Angeles Times: Why It Took Years For The FDA To Warn About Infections Tied To Medical Scopes
An outbreak at a Pennsylvania hospital in late 2012 should have been an early warning that a reusable medical scope was spreading deadly infections and nearly impossible to disinfect. But staff at the federal Food and Drug Administration lost the report, one of multiple missteps that allowed doctors and hospitals to continue using the scope for three more years even as dozens of patients were sickened. The missing paperwork, revealed in a recent Senate inquiry, underscores the serious shortcomings in the antiquated national database used to monitor the safety of medical devices, which even the FDA has long admitted is flawed. (son, 2/8)

NPR: Zika May Not Spread In Saliva Or Urine, Health Officials Say
U.S. health experts cautioned Friday that the apparent discovery of the Zika virus in saliva and urine from people in Brazil does not necessarily mean the virus can be spread by more casual contact with infected people, such as through kissing. "I think we need to be careful that don't we jump to any conclusions about transmissibility," Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. (Stein, 2/5)

NPR: Is It Time To Stop Using Race In Medical Research?
Genetics researchers often discover certain snips and pieces of the human genome that are important for health and development, such as the genetic mutations that cause cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia. And scientists noticed that genetic variants are more common in some races, which makes it seem like race is important in genetics research. But some researchers say that we've taken the concept too far. (Chen, 2/5)

The New York Times: Cuomo Moves Against Therapy That Claims To Make Gay Children Straight
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York on Saturday announced a series of measures intended to eliminate so-called conversion therapy, a practice that claims the ability to reverse same-sex attraction in some people but that has been widely discredited by scientists. Mr. Cuomo’s plan relies on economic incentives. Insurers in New York, for instance, will now be prohibited from covering the cost of such therapy for anyone under 18. That action would be combined with a new regulation from the State Health Department that would prohibit the use of Medicaid to pay for conversion therapy. (McKinley, 2/6)

The Wall Street Journal: New York Restricts Funding For ‘Gay Conversion’ Therapy
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is restricting funding for so-called conversion therapy, which seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation through psychological treatment. Under new regulations, announced by Mr. Cuomo over the weekend, the state will bar insurers from covering conversion therapy for minors and will ban Medicaid coverage of the therapy for residents of all ages. Mental-health centers licensed, funded or operated by the state’s Office of Mental Health will be prohibited from providing conversion therapy to residents under 18. Those that fund the treatment will put their license and/or funding at risk. (Ramey, 2/7)

The Washington Post: Maryland Lawmaker Calls For State To Exit Drug War, Focus On Treatment
Maryland Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) on Friday proposed four bills that would radically change the state’s approach to dealing with drug problems, in part by removing criminal penalties for low-level possession and adding emphasis on addiction treatment. One measure would create “safe spaces” for drug use, with facilities that provide sterile injection equipment, medical care and connections to social services. (Hicks, 2/5)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2016 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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