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KHN First Edition: February 25, 2016


First Edition

Thursday, February 25, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Candidates’ Drug-Price Plans May Miss The Mark
Most of the people running for president say they want to do something about the rising cost of prescription drugs. But most of their proposals probably won’t work because they don’t address the dynamics behind these price increases. ... Democrats Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders each have drug price proposals. Among Republicans, Donald Trump has addressed the issue, as has Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. (Rovner, 2/25)

Kaiser Health News: With Special Tax Suspended, Medical Device Firms Reap Big Savings
U.S. manufacturers of medical devices started 2016 with a windfall — a two-year suspension of a controversial tax on their revenue. Medical devices include a wide range of products and machines used in medical care, such as tongue depressors, endoscopes and MRI scanners, for example. Manufacturers said the tax on devices hurt their business. The Congressional Research Service estimates companies paid out $2.4 billion in 2014. (Zdechlik, 2/25)

The New York Times: Proof Needed To Enroll In Health Plan Post-Deadline
People who want to buy health insurance in the federal marketplace outside the annual open enrollment period will now have to provide documents to show they are eligible, the Obama administration announced on Wednesday. In the last two years, insurers say, many people went without coverage and then signed up under the Affordable Care Act when they became sick and needed care. Insurers say that people who sign up after the deadline tend to generate more claims and more costs, raising premiums. (Pear, 2/24)

The Washington Post: HHS Makes It Tougher To Sign Up For ACA Coverage Outside Of Enrollment Season
Under rules announced Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, people who want coverage under five main reasons for a “special enrollment period” will need to supply documents proving that they deserve an exception from the regular sign-up times. The new requirement will be for people in the 38 states that rely on the federal insurance exchange who need to begin or change coverage because they have moved, had a baby, adopted a child, gotten married or lost other health coverage. (Goldstein, 2/24)

USA Today: Feds Will Soon Require Proof For Special Obamacare Enrollment Periods
It addresses complaints from insurance companies that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was allowing too many people to buy insurance after the open enrollment deadline passed. This, insurers said, left them with many consumers who waited until they were sick to sign up and then dropped coverage after they received treatment. And the companies claim that created a sicker-than-expected pool of customers that was contributing to the losses on Affordable Care Act exchange plans. (O'Donnell, 2/24)

The Associated Press: 6 States Sue Obama Administration Over Affordable Care Act
Six states filed a new lawsuit Wednesday against the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act. The complaint that Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, Indiana and Nebraska filed in the Northern District of Texas takes issue with the Health Insurance Providers Fee assessed to health insurers to cover federal subsidies. The lawsuit says nothing in the Affordable Care Act's language provided clear notice that states would also have to pay the fee. (2/24)

The Associated Press: Possible Choice Of Nevada Governor A Test For Senate GOP
The possible choice of Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval for the Supreme Court vacancy would give President Barack Obama a shot at breaking Senate Republicans' planned blockade of any election-year confirmation. Sandoval, Nevada's first Hispanic governor and a supporter of abortion rights, would test the unified GOP caucus' insistence that voters in November and the next president make the lifetime appointment to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. (Jalonick, 2/24)

The New York Times: Dr. Robert Califf Wins Senate Confirmation to Run F.D.A.
President Obama’s pick to run the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Robert M. Califf, was finally confirmed for the job by the Senate on Wednesday, in a vote of 89 to 4, after weeks of opposition from a handful of lawmakers who had blocked his nomination over what they said was the agency’s poor record on prescription painkillers. (Tavernise, 2/25)

The Washington Post: Senate Confirms Robert Califf As New FDA Commissioner
Califf, who joined the FDA a year ago after decades as a researcher and administrator at Duke University, was nominated by President Obama to run the agency last September. But in the months that followed, his nomination faced opposition from a handful of senators, over everything from the nation's prescription painkiller epidemic to genetically engineered salmon.(Dennis, 2/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Fight For Health Co-Op Funds Looms
Leaders of some health cooperatives set up under the Affordable Care Act said it would be hard for the Obama administration to recoup more than $1 billion in federal loans made to some of the organizations that are now defunct, because most of the money has been spent. A group representing existing co-ops, as well as leaders of some of the organizations, said there is little of the federal loan money remaining and some of what is left is needed to pay providers whose bills have yet to be paid. (Armour, 2/24)

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Faces Spending Fight From the Right
A proposal under consideration by the House Budget Committee would shave that amount through cuts to federal safety-net programs like Medicare and changes to welfare benefits, lawmakers said. But conservatives wary of promises of future savings have said they wouldn’t go along unless those changes are made on spending bills this year. It isn’t clear that would be feasible. (son, 2/24)

The Associated Press: AP-GfK Poll: Support Shaky For Sanders 'Medicare For All'
At first blush, many Americans like the idea of "Medicare for all," the government-run health system that's a rallying cry for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. But mention some of the trade-offs — from higher taxes to giving up employer coverage — and support starts to shrivel. That's the key insight from an Associated Press-GfK poll released Thursday. (Alonso-Zaldivar and Swanson, 2/25)

The Associated Press: Senators Strike Tentative Deal For Flint Water Crisis Funds
Senators from both parties reached a tentative deal on Wednesday to address the water crisis in Flint, Mich.—and allow a long-stalled energy bill to move forward. A proposal by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) and James Inhofe (R., Okla.) would authorize $100 million in emergency aid to fix and replace the city’s lead-contaminated pipes, as well as $70 million in loans to improve the city’s water infrastructure. The deal also authorizes $50 million nationwide to bolster lead-prevention programs and improve children’s health. (2/24)

The Wall Street Journal: India’s Drugmakers Step Up U.S. Investment
India’s pharmaceutical companies went on a buying spree last year to win a bigger share of the U.S. market for generic drugs. The trend is driven by heightened U.S. scrutiny of drugmakers’ Indian facilities, many which have gotten failing marks on safety, and a desire to develop and sell more sophisticated products such as high-powered painkillers, which U.S. regulators say must be manufactured domestically. (Bhattcharya, 2/24)

The Washington Post: Texas Hospitals Announce First Quick Test For Zika That Could Help Identify When The Virus Reaches U.S.
Researchers in Houston have announced that they have developed the first hospital-based, rapid diagnostic test for Zika, an advance that they said should help public health officials identify if -- or, more likely, when -- infected mosquitoes reach the United States this summer. Using a sample of a patient's blood, urine, spinal fluid or amniotic fluid for pregnant women, the test can identify whether the DNA of the virus is present in as quickly as one day. Previously, physicians have had to ship blood or other samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and wait for a response. (Cha, 2/24)

NPR: Nursing Home Evictions Strand The Disabled In Costly Hospitals
What if you had to go to the hospital, and when it came time to return home your landlord said you couldn't move back in? Across the country, thousands of nursing home residents face that situation every year. In most cases, it's a violation of federal regulations. But those rules are rarely enforced by the states. So, in California, some nursing home residents are suing the state, hoping to force it to take action. (Jaffe, 2/25)

NPR: Shortage Of Addiction Counselors Further Strained By Opioid Epidemic
As the drug-related death toll rises in the United States, communities are trying to open more treatment beds. But an ongoing labor shortage among drug treatment staff is slowing those efforts. Each year, roughly one of every four substance-abuse clinicians nationally chooses to leave the job, according to recent research. (Corwin, 2/24)

NPR: Can Baltimore Provide Addiction Treatment On Demand?
Across the U.S., more than 20 million people abuse drugs or alcohol or both. Only about 1 in 10 is getting treatment. People seeking treatment often have to wait weeks or months for help. The delays can jeopardize the chances they'll be able to recover from their addiction. In Baltimore, Health Commissioner Leana Wen has been pushing for treatment on demand, so that the moment people decide they're ready for help, it's available. It's something other health officials have sought to achieve, without success. (Cornish, 2/24)

NPR: For Pot Tourists, The Trip Is More Likely To End In The ER
A lot of visitors to Colorado figure they might give the state's good ganja a try. But they might not be prepared for the effects. When it comes to bad weed trips, out-of-staters have been doing much worse than Colorado residents and are going to the ER more often since recreational sales of marijuana began in 2014. (Chen, 2/24)

USA Today: Studies Mixed On Link Between Talcum Powder, Ovarian Cancer
A court case involving the family of an Alabama woman who blamed the talc in baby powder for causing their mother's fatal ovarian cancer is raising questions about the product's safety — especially for feminine hygienic use. A St. Louis jury late Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the woman's family $72 million in damages. (Szabo, 2/24)

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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