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KHN First Edition: February 26, 2016


First Edition

Friday, February 26, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Majority Of Young Men Don’t Know About Emergency Contraception, Study Finds
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist writes: "Less than half of young men have heard of emergency contraception, a recent study found, even though it’s available over the counter at drug stores and is effective at preventing pregnancy after sex. The study, published in the March Journal of Adolescent Health, analyzed survey responses by 93 men between the ages of 13 and 24 who visited the adolescent medicine clinic at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora for a physical exam, illness or injury between August and October 2014. Most had been sexually active. The computerized survey asked patients about their knowledge of contraceptives, and whether they had talked about birth control with their partners or health care providers." (Andrews, 2/26)

Kaiser Health News: The Agonizing Limbo Of Abandoned Nursing Home Residents
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "Nursing home residents are entitled to hearings under federal law to determine whether they should be readmitted after hospitalization. The state Department of Health Care Services holds the administrative hearings, but has said it is not responsible for enforcing the rulings. But the state Department of Public Health, which oversees nursing homes, neglects to enforce the rulings and sometimes disagrees with them, according to advocates and court documents. That leaves residents with little recourse — and not many places to go." (Gorman, 2/26)

The New York Times: Republican Debate Takeaways: Descent Into A Free-For-All
It was the messiest and most confrontational debate of the Republican presidential primary, repeatedly descending into free-for-alls of cross talk and name-calling. ... Challenged on health care, Mr. Trump reiterated a vague set of promises to replace the Affordable Care Act by making “many plans” available to consumers. (Burns, 2/26)

The Associated Press: Debate Takeaways: Rubio, Cruz Aggressively Take On Trump
It was the final opportunity for Donald Trump's opponents to change the trajectory of the Republican presidential race before Super Tuesday, and they made the most of it. ... The Republican front-runner struggled Thursday night when pressed for details — especially on health care. Pushed by his competitors and the moderators to explain how he would replace President Barack Obama's signature federal health-care law, Trump repeated his call to allow people to buy health insurance across state lines. Given a final opportunity by the moderator to explain another way he'd replace the federal health care law, Trump offered only, "There's nothing to add." (2/25)

Politico: 11 Most Interesting Moments Of The GOP Debate
Donald Trump took center-stage Thursday night in Houston as the irrefutable front-runner in the final Republican debate before Super Tuesday. ... Trump said he would defund the women's health organization because he's anti-abortion, but he also lavished praise. "I'm totally against abortion having to do with Planned Parenthood, but millions and millions of women, cervical cancer, breast cancer, are helped by Planned Parenthood," Trump said. "So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood, that are helped greatly." ... Challenging each other on insurance proposals, Trump bragged that his would have “many different plans” before reiterating it would have “so many different plans” and adding it would have “many, many different plans.” He also repeatedly emphasized that the federal government should have gotten rid of “the lines around each state” to create more competition. “Now he’s repeating himself,” [Marco] Rubio jeered. (McCaskill, 2/25)

The Associated Press: Fact Check: Trump Objects To Cursing
A look at statements in the debate and how they compare with the facts. "It is a health care law that is basically forcing companies to lay people off, cut people's hours, move people to part-time. It is not just a bad health care law, it is a job-killing law," [Marco Rubio said]. The claim that Obama's health care law is a job killer is hard to square with the fact that the economy has added more than 13.4 million jobs since the law took effect. The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9 percent from 9.9. percent since Obama signed the act. Nor is there evidence that workers are being moved en masse to part-time hours. (2/26)

The Associated Press: Analysis: Rubio Finally Makes Move On Trump -- But Too Late?
Marco Rubio unleashed a campaign's worth of harsh criticism on Donald Trump in the final Republican debate before Tuesday's crucial primaries. ... Rubio punched holes in the real estate mogul's vague proposal for replacing President Barack Obama's health care law. "What is your plan, Mr. Trump? What is your plan on health care?" Rubio pressed. (2/26)

The New York Times: Amid Gloomy Rhetoric, John Kasich Sticks With Optimism
The most valuable currency in politics is emotion. And the coin of the 2016 Republican presidential race has been anger and fear. It’s no surprise, then, that Gov. John R. Kasich remains a pauper in the Republican campaign. ... It’s not Mr. Kasich’s policies that distinguish him from the field. He’s an anti-abortion social conservative who signed a law this week in Ohio barring state contracts with Planned Parenthood. Mr. Kasich’s more potent distinction, his strategists believe, is his optimism. ... Mr. Kasich defends his decision to expand Medicaid under Mr. Obama’s health law, apostasy to Republican rivals, as a hand up to the drug-addicted and mentally ill that saves money. “I think my candidacy represents hope to people,” he said. (Harwood, 2/25)

The Associated Press: Cruz Lifts Hold On Bill To Resolve Flint Water Crisis
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Thursday lifted a hold he placed on bipartisan legislation to address the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where lead-contaminated pipes have resulted in an ongoing public health emergency. Senators had reached a tentative deal a day earlier for a $220 million package to fix and replace the city's lead-contaminated pipes, make other infrastructure improvements and bolster lead-prevention programs nationwide. (2/25)

The New York Times: An Insurance Penalty From Postpartum Depression
In January, a government-appointed panel recommended that all pregnant women and new mothers be screened for depression. Public health advocates rejoiced, as did untold numbers of women who had not known that maternal mental illness even existed before it hit them like a freight train.But the panel did not mention one possible consequence of a diagnosis: Life and disability insurance providers have sometimes penalized women with these mental illnesses by charging them more money, excluding mental illness from coverage or declining to cover them at all. And it’s perfectly legal. (Lieber, 2/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Republicans Question Viability Of Health Co-Ops
Republican lawmakers on Thursday expressed concern that eight health cooperatives set up under the Affordable Care Act have been put on some type of enhanced oversight or correction plan, saying the situation raises questions about their long-term viability. Some lawmakers questioned whether the co-ops help keep the price of health-insurance premiums in check by providing competition with large insurers. And they lambasted the Obama administration for awarding federal loans to co-ops that failed. (Armour, 2/25)

The New York Times: President Weighs In On Data From Genes
President Obama on Thursday waded into the complex and high-stakes debate over whether patients own their genetic information, saying that he believes that his tissues and any discoveries that stem from his DNA belong to him. “I would like to think that if somebody does a test on me or my genes, that that’s mine, but that’s not always how we define these issues,” Mr. Obama said during a White House forum on a major biomedical research initiative he began last year. The president said that the success of his Precision Medicine Initiative, which aims to collect genetic data on one million American volunteers so scientists can develop drugs and treatments tailored to individual patients, hinged at least in part on “understanding who owns the data.” (Hirschfeld Davis, 2/25)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. ‘Precision Medicine’ Study Seeks Genetic Patterns Of Disease
The National Institutes of Health said on Thursday it hopes to enroll 79,000 volunteers by the end of 2016 toward what it hopes will be a one-million-patient “precision medicine” study of the genetic causes of diseases. The NIH and the White House launched the $215 million precision medicine initiative a year ago as an effort to find genetic patterns of cancer and other diseases. The centerpiece of that initiative is the one-million person cohort by the end of 2019, and the NIH said it has awarded an initial grant to Vanderbilt University to explore the best way to recruit volunteers for the study. (Burton, 2/25)

The Associated Press: NIH Taking First Steps On Huge Precision Medicine Project
President Barack Obama held out the promise of medical breakthroughs Thursday as his administration moved ahead with a major project to learn how to better tailor treatments and preventive care to people’s genes, environment and lifestyle. “This is an extraordinarily exciting time,” Obama told a White House summit to highlight progress on his Precision Medicine Initiative. “We may be able to accelerate the process of discovering cures in ways that we’ve never seen before.” (Neergaard, 2/25)

The Wall Street Journal: McKesson To Buy Two Cancer-Focused Firms For $1.2 Billion
McKesson Corp. agreed to acquire cancer-care company Vantage Oncology LLC and oncology pharmacy-services firm Biologics Inc. in separate deals with a combined value of roughly $1.2 billion. McKesson’s shares rose 3.5% to $160.08 in recent premarket trading. The San Francisco company said the acquisitions will expand the scale of its specialty-drug distribution operations and increase its other capabilities, including its cancer-focused pharmacy offerings. (Stynes, 2/25)

The Associated Press: Tax Group Blasts Pfizer, Urges Stop To Its Tax-Cutting Deal
A consumer coalition is accusing drugmaker Pfizer of seeking to avoid $35 billion in U.S. taxes by buying fellow drugmaker Allergan, a deal structured to nominally move Pfizer's address to lower-tax Ireland, Allergan's home. In a report, Americans for Taxpayer Fairness says that would also slash New York-based Pfizer's future U.S. taxes. (2/25)

The Washington Post: New FDA Head Robert Califf Vows To Use ‘Bully Pulpit,’ Better Explain Agency Decisions
Robert Califf, a longtime Duke University cardiologist and researcher, was confirmed as the next leader of the Food and Drug Administration this week by a wide margin. The Senate voted 89 to 4 in favor of placing Califf in the agency's top post, where he replaces former FDA commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg. ... Aside from a confirmation hearing last fall, in which he defended his past work and said he had no intentions of lowering the FDA's standards for safety and effectiveness of drugs and devices, Califf largely remained silent. But after winning confirmation Wednesday, he spoke in a brief interview with the Post about his priorities as FDA commissioner. (Dennis, 2/25)

NPR: Why Scientists Hope To Inject Some People With Zika Virus
One of the best ways to understand Zika virus might be to deliberately inject it into volunteers. That idea may sound a little crazy, but it's not unprecedented. And some researchers are hoping the approach could help speed up the search for an effective Zika vaccine. Right now, a bunch of labs are pursuing different ways of making a vaccine against Zika, mostly because of the concern that the virus might be linked to the birth defect called microcephaly. (Greenfieldboyce, 2/25)

NPR: The AIDS Crisis Hasn't Ended In The Black And Latino Communities
HIV rates have been on the decline in the U.S. for years now, but stark disparities remain, with some groups of people at high risk of infection. Here's the good part: The number of people diagnosed annually has dropped by about 20 percent in the last decade. But that leaves this bad part: Rates are increasing in African-American and Hispanic men who have sex with men, according to data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At current rates, half of black and one quarter of Latino gay or bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes. (Bichell, 2/25)

NPR: Treating Addiction As A Chronic Disease
With the opioid epidemic reaching into every corner of the U.S., more people are talking about addiction as a chronic disease rather than a moral failing. For researcher A. Thomas McLellan, who has spent his entire career studying substance abuse, the shift is a welcome one, though it has come frustratingly late. (2/25)

The Associated Press: Puerto Rico's Elite Linked To $10M Health Care Fraud Case
U.S. authorities say a group of people in Puerto Rico who made more than $100,000 a year received Medicaid coverage as part of a $10 million health care fraud scheme. U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez says several artists, lawyers, government employees and a well-known model participated in the scheme. She says only those who make $24,000 or less qualify for Medicaid. (2/25)

The New York Times: Appeals Court Upholds Law Restricting Louisiana Abortion Doctors
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously voted to allow a 2014 state law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals to go immediately into effect. After the law passed, five of the six abortion doctors in the state — including the doctor who performs abortions at Delta Clinic — applied and were turned down at the hospitals near to at least one of the clinics where they work (several of the doctors work at multiple clinics). (Robertson, 2/25)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Why Abortion Clinics In The U.S. Are Rapidly Closing
The United States' wave of abortion clinic closures continued Wednesday in Louisiana, where an appeals court issued an emergency order that abortion-rights groups say will shutter three of the state’s four providers. Louisiana's measure is just the latest abortion clinic restriction in a recent surge that has exacerbated the closures of clinics nationwide over the last five years. Between 2011 and 2014, state lawmakers have enacted 231 abortion restrictions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization. The new laws include required waiting periods, state-mandated counseling, parental consent — and, under review now in Texas, an order that, among other physical updates, clinics must maintain certain hallway lengths. (Paquette, 2/25)

The Associated Press: Louisiana Hit With Credit Rating Downgrade, Blow To State
Louisiana's credit rating was downgraded for the first time in more than a decade Thursday, in response to years of budget instability that leave public colleges and government services wallowing in continued financial uncertainty. The national rating agency dropped the state's rating by one notch, to Aa3. Moody's cited the steep drop in oil price's effect on state tax collections, years "of structural imbalance" in the budget and declining financial reserves. It raised concerns about state retirement debts and the growing cost of Louisiana's Medicaid program. (2/25)

The Associated Press: VA Disciplines 2 Officials In Cincinnati Center Probe
The Department of Veterans Affairs ousted the head of its Ohio-based regional network Thursday and disciplined an official at the Cincinnati VA medical center in connection with a probe of the hospital’s management and veterans’ care. The agency said its findings are being referred for a possible federal criminal investigation. (Sewell, 2/25)

The Associated Press: Husband Of Brittany Maynard Lobbies For NY Right-To-Die Bill
Dan Diaz has lobbied lawmakers across the country and gone on Oprah, all to fulfill a promise to his late wife, Brittany Maynard, who put a face on the debate over allowing terminally ill patients to seek life-ending drugs. On Thursday, Diaz was in Albany to tell Maynard’s story again, this time to New York lawmakers considering a right-to-die bill. Maynard attracted national attention in 2014 when, at age 29, she moved to Oregon to legally end her life after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given six months to live. She died later that year. (Klepper, 2/25)

The Associated Press: NY Home Care Agencies Urge Medicaid Hike For Higher Wage
Providers of home health care in New York say most of their services are reimbursed through Medicaid and they would need increases to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Association of Health Care Providers, representing more than 350 licensed home care agencies, says there are hundreds of thousands of home care aides who earn between $10 and $11.50 an hour. The group says the proposed wage hike would cost agencies more than $1.1 billion the first two years. (2/26)

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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