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KHN First Edition: February 12, 2016


First Edition

Friday, February 12, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

NOTE TO READERS: KHN's First Edition will not be published Feb. 15. Look for it again in your inbox Feb. 16. Here's today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: Top Hospitals Likely Are Available On A Marketplace Plan, Study Finds
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Despite much hand-wringing over the size and quality of provider networks on the health insurance marketplaces, many top-notch hospitals are available in-network in marketplace plans this year, a new study found. However, more than half of those hospitals participated in fewer plans than last year, limiting their in-network availability to just one marketplace plan in a growing number of cases." (Andrews, 2/12)

The New York Times: In Democratic Debate, Hillary Clinton Paints Bernie Sanders’s Plans As Unrealistic
Hillary Clinton, scrambling to recover from her double-digit defeat in the New Hampshire primary, repeatedly challenged the trillion-dollar policy plans of Bernie Sanders at their presidential debate on Thursday night and portrayed him as a big talker who needed to “level” with voters about the difficulty of accomplishing his agenda. ... Throughout the debate, Mr. Sanders demonstrated little capacity to broaden his political message in compelling new directions beyond overhauling the economy, campaign finance and health care. While he noted that his “Medicare for all” program would save the average middle-class family $5,000 a year, he did not present his vision in any new way or frame the issue in personal terms for average voters. (Chozick and Healy, 2/11)

The Associated Press: Debate Takeaways: Clinton, Sanders Appeal To SC, Nevada
Clinton took an aggressive stance on health care from the outset, arguing that Sanders' plan to create a universal health care system by expanding Medicare would undermine Obama's Affordable Care Act. She argued repeatedly that Sanders had failed to provide a specific way to pay for his plan, and turned the exchange into an overall critique of the Vermont senator's proposals. "In my case, whether it's health care, or getting us to debt-free tuition, or moving us toward paid family leave, I have been very specific about where I would raise the money, how much it would cost, and how I would move this agenda forward," Clinton said. Sanders countered that Clinton was not being accurate, casting the fight for universal health care as a matter of courage. He said he was the candidate willing to take on drug companies, the insurance industry and medical equipment suppliers who might be opposed to an overhaul. (2/11)

Reuters: Clinton And Sanders Battle In Debate Over Healthcare, Wall Street Ties
In a sixth presidential debate that featured several sharp exchanges but a more sedate tone than their last meeting, Clinton said Sanders' proposal for a single-payer, Medicare-for-all healthcare plan would mean dismantling Obamacare and triggering another intense political struggle. Sanders said he would not dismantle the healthcare plan known as Obamacare and was simply moving to provide what most industrialized countries have - healthcare coverage for all. (2/11)

USA Today: Clinton On Health Care: 'We Are Not England. We Are Not France'
Perhaps no issue illustrates the philosophical differences Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have to governing more than health care, the issue that led off Thursday's debate in Milwaukee. In detailing their approaches Thursday, Sanders emphasized his view that "health care is a right of all people." ... Clinton countered that she shares the goal of universal health care but that Sanders' plan amounted to starting over on the issue. "We are not England," she said. "We are not France," arguing that the U.S. health care system has historically been an employer-based system and that the focus should be on improving the existing Affordable Care Act. (Allen, 2/12)

The Associated Press: Fact Check: Clinton, Sanders On Health Care, Donors
In their latest debate, Hillary Clinton glossed over the big-money donors juicing her White House ambitions while Bernie Sanders offered disputed numbers behind his plan for a government-financed health system. ... More detail and analysis are needed on Sanders' plan for cradle-to-grave government-financed health care for all. But two early assessments suggest that the accounting comes up short. (2/11)

The Washington Post: Sanders Says Single-Payer Health Care Can Happen In His First Term If ‘People Demand It’
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said that he has no hard timetable for moving to a single-payer health-care system if he wins the White House but that he hopes it’s something he could accomplish in his first term. ... In an interview Wednesday, Sanders acknowledged that his plan wouldn’t pass “on Day One” of his presidency and said the lobbying strength in Congress of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries remains a big impediment. (Wagner, 2/11)

The Associated Press: Dems Seek Drug Abuse Funds As Election-Year Issue Sharpens
Congressional Democrats called Thursday for hundreds of millions in emergency spending to fight drug abuse but ran into Republican resistance as another health issue spiraled into an election-year showdown. With the calendar edging deeper into the campaign season, the latest dispute echoes other clashes over whether the federal government should use more taxpayer dollars to contain the Zika virus and help Flint, Michigan, recover from a public health crisis in which its water system has been contaminated with lead. (2/11)

The New York Times: Kentucky Ex-Governor Aims To Halt Rollback Of Obamacare Changes
The former governor who made Kentucky a national leader in health care expansion under the Affordable Care Act is moving to protect that legacy from his successor, who has set out to dismantle parts of it. Steven L. Beshear, the former Democratic governor, announced on Thursday the creation of a nonprofit group, Save Kentucky Healthcare, to marshal opposition to changes being made by Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican who took office in December. (Perez-Pena, 2/11)

The Associated Press: Health Care Battle Brewing Between Governors In Kentucky
Kentucky's two most recent governors went to war over the state's health care system Thursday, raising the stakes in a battle that could tarnish the legacy of the Obama administration's health care law. Former Kentucky Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear formed a tax-exempt organization that will pay for an online campaign he said will "educate voters" about Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's plans to make fewer people eligible for Medicaid and to dismantle a state program where some can purchase private insurance plans at a discount. Bevin said he was amused that Beshear "seems offended by the idea that I would keep a campaign promise," adding it "tells you a fair bit about ... why I won." (2/11)

The Wall Street Journal: GlaxoSmithKline Fined $53 Million In Generic Drug Delay Ruling
U.K. pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline PLC has been fined £37.6 million ($53.7 million) by the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority for trying to delay the potential entry of competitors into the U.K. generic-drugs market for antidepressant drug paroxetine. Between 2001 and 2004, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to make payments and provide other benefits, together valued at more than £50 million, to suppliers of generic versions of paroxetine, the CMA said in a news release. (Walker, 2/12)

Reuters: UK Watchdog Fines GSK $54 Million Over 'Pay-For-Delay' Drug Deals
Britain's competition watchdog has fined GlaxoSmithKline $54.4 million for market abuse in striking deals to delay the launch of cheap generic copies of its former blockbuster antidepressant Seroxat. The CMA move is the latest example of regulators trying to curb "pay-for-delay" deals by drug companies and follows previous actions by U.S. and European antitrust authorities. The watchdog first accused GSK of anti-competitive behaviour over Seroxat in April 2013, but it has only now handed out fines. (2/11)

Politico: Troubled Health Start-Up Theranos Faces Washington Reckoning
Theranos, a $9 billion health care startup, is becoming a poster child for the limited value of having a board stocked with Washington powerbrokers. With insiders ranging from Henry Kissinger to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Theranos still faces a federal regulatory call Friday that could capsize the firm and threaten an innovative healthcare sector along with it. The Palo Alto, Calif., company, headed by 32-year-old Elizabeth Holmes, has faced growing scientific and financial skepticism over its bold central claim: that it can replace the scary hypodermic needle with a cheap finger prick to test human blood, overturning the lab testing industry in the process. (Tahir, 2/11)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Authorities Investigating DaVita HealthCare Unit
Federal authorities are looking into whether a pharmacy provider owned by DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. was involved in false claims being filed to the government for prescription medications, the company disclosed on Thursday. Interim Chief Financial Officer James K. Hilger said during a conference call that DaVita executives had contacted the government in September after an internal compliance review found some potential billing irregularities and other issues at its DaVita Rx LLC unit. (Armental, 2/11)

Politico: Senate To Hold Test Vote On FDA Nominee After Recess
The Senate will hold a procedural vote on the nomination of Robert Califf for FDA commissioner on Monday, Feb. 22, after the Presidents Day recess. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled the cloture vote late today, after Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski lifted her hold on his nomination. Three Democrats still have holds on the nomination. (Karlin, 2/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Fighting The ‘Cockroach Of Mosquitoes’
Experts working to halt the spread of the Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses face a stubborn foe in the main mosquito that transmits them, and some of the many methods under consideration for fighting them are stirring controversy. The Aedes aegypti mosquito primarily responsible for spreading these diseases has been called “the cockroach of mosquitoes.” It thrives around people, particularly in the densely packed neighborhoods that are common in the tropics. It bites during the day and hides at night in dark corners, including in closets and under beds. (McKay, Johnson and Jelmayer, 2/11)

The Associated Press: Brazil, Texas State Hospital Reach Deal On Zika Vaccine
Brazil has signed an agreement with a Texas research hospital to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus, the country's health minister said Thursday, adding the goal is for the vaccine to be ready for clinical testing within 12 months. Minister Marcelo Castro said at a news conference that the government will invest $1.9 million in the research, which will be jointly conducted by the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and the Evandro Chagas Institute in the Amazonian city of Belem — two facilities specializing in study of mosquito viruses. (2/11)

The Washington Post: NIH Officials Accelerate Timeline For Human Trials Of Zika Vaccine, Saying They Will Now Begin In The Summer
National Institutes of Health officials said this week that researchers may be closer to developing a Zika vaccine than previously thought and that tests on human subjects could begin in as soon as a few months. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview that government scientists have been able to leverage previous research done on two similar viruses — West Nile and dengue — to very quickly create a hybrid vaccine that targets Zika. (Eunjung Cha, 2/11)

The Associated Press: Panel Advances Bill To Require Ultrasounds Before Abortions
Abortion opponents increasingly on the offensive in Kentucky’s statehouse advanced legislation Thursday that would require doctors to perform ultrasounds prior to abortions and to describe what is seen to the pregnant women. It’s part of a series of measures being pushed in Kentucky by abortion foes to impose conditions before abortions, ban the sale of fetal body parts and put Planned Parenthood clinics at the end of the line for family planning funds. (Schreiner, 2/11)

NPR: Can Dementia Be Prevented? Education May Bolster Brain Against Risk
The odds of getting Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia are declining for people who are more educated and avoiding heart disease, a study finds. The results suggest that people may have some control over their risk of dementia as they age. This isn't the first study to find that the incidence of dementia is waning, but it may be the best so far. Researchers looked at 30 years of records from more than 5,000 people in the famed Framingham Heart Study, which has closely tracked the health of volunteers in Framingham, Mass. (Shute, 2/11)

Reuters: California Insurance Regulators Probing Zenefits
Software company Zenefits is being investigated by the California Department of Insurance over questions about its business practices, the agency said Thursday. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones revealed in a statement that the agency had launched an investigation into Zenefits in 2015. Jones said he had directed the agency to use additional resources to investigate whether Zenefits had complied with regulations that require the licensing and training of insurance agents and brokers.

The Associated Press: Nearly 421,900 Sign Up For Plans On Health Care Marketplace
Gov. Terry McAuliffe says nearly 421,900 Virginia residents have signed up for health coverage through the marketplace. The Democratic governor said total enrollment on the marketplace in Virginia this year exceeded the state’s expectations. The figures reflect the number of people who signed up during the latest open enrollment period, which ended Jan. 31. (2/11)

The Associated Press: Jury Rules Against Montana Woman’s Wrongful-Birth Lawsuit
A Montana jury ruled Thursday against a woman who sought millions of dollars from health care providers that she said failed to diagnose her unborn daughter’s cystic fibrosis. Kerrie Evans of Gardiner had testified that she would have had an abortion if she had known her daughter, who is now 5 years old, would be born with the genetic disease. The mucus cells of a cystic fibrosis patient produce a thick and sticky fluid that damages the lungs and digestive system. While each case is different, many patients now live to be adults with proper treatment and care. (2/11)

The Associated Press: Jury: Smokers Didn’t Prove Marlboros Have Defective Design
A federal jury has rejected claims by a group of Massachusetts smokers who sued Philip Morris USA to try to force the cigarette maker to pay for lung cancer screenings. The jury in its verdict Wednesday found that smokers in the class-action lawsuit didn’t prove that Marlboro cigarettes were defectively designed. The smokers were not seeking money. Instead, they wanted Philip Morris to pay for a medical-monitoring program, including 3-D chest scans that can detect signs of early-stage lung cancer. (2/11)

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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