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KHN First Edition: March 8, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, March 08, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Retail Clinics Add Convenience But Also Hike Costs, Study Finds
Kaiser Health News' Chad Terhune reports: "Retail clinics, long seen as an antidote to more expensive doctor offices and emergency rooms, may actually boost medical spending by leading consumers to get more care, a new study shows. Rather than substituting for a physician office visit or trip to the hospital, 58 percent of retail clinic visits for minor conditions represented a new use of medical services, according to the study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs. Those additional visits led to a modest increase in overall health care spending of $14 per person per year." (Terhune, 3/8)

Kaiser Health News: Managing Depression A Challenge In Primary Care Settings, Study Finds
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "Often referred to as the “common cold of mental health,” depression causes about 8 million doctors’ appointments a year. More than half are with primary care physicians. A new study suggests those doctors may not be the best to treat the condition due to insurance issues, time constraints and other factors. The paper, published Monday in the March issue of Health Affairs, examines how primary care doctors treat depression. More often than not, according to the study, primary care practices fall short in teaching patients about managing their care and following up regularly to track their progress. That approach is considered most effective for treating chronic illnesses." (Luthra, 3/8)

Kaiser Health News: Report Details Senior Health Care That Misses The Mark
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Quality over quantity. As people get older, their health care goals may shift away from living as long as possible to maintaining a good quality of life. In key areas, however, the medical treatment older people receive often doesn’t reflect this change, according to a new study. The wide-ranging report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project uses Medicare claims data to examine aging Americans’ health care. Among other things, it identified five key areas where too many older people continue to receive treatments that don’t meet established guidelines or, often, their own goals and preferences." (Andrews, 3/8)

The New York Times: Retail Health Clinics Result In Higher Spending, Survey Finds
Insurers and employers are eager to have workers explore new ways of getting care, like visiting a clinic at a drugstore when they have a sore throat. The care they receive not only is more convenient, but also costs much less than a visit to the emergency room or a doctor’s office. But a new study published on Monday in Health Affairs, a policy journal, casts fresh doubt on whether these popular retail clinics will save money. Researchers concluded that the clinics led to slightly higher spending because people used them for minor medical conditions they would typically have treated on their own. (Abelson, 3/7)

The New York Times: Bernie Sanders And Hillary Clinton Draw Sharp Questions At Fox News Forum
The night after a testy Democratic debate, Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton had the chance to confront another adversary: Fox News. ... Pressed on his budget-busting plans for universal health care, Mr. Sanders reiterated his belief that health care is a right for all people. “Excuse me, where does that right come from, in your mind?” Mr. Baier asked. “Being a human being,” Mr. Sanders replied, “being a human being.” Both Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton said they believed abortion — a topic that rarely comes up at Democratic debates but that sometimes dominates the Republican stage — is a decision best left to women, their doctors and their families.

The Washington Post: Clinton, Sanders Asked About Abortion At Fox News Town Hall — Some Say Too Late
For more than a generation, the Democratic Party has been the party of choice. With the Republican field tripping over itself to prove its anti-abortion bona fides, there seems no need to ask Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders what they think about the procedure, or what limits, if any, should be imposed on the women who seek abortions and the doctors who provide them. Not in the minds of some. For months now, as seven Democratic debates have passed without a question about abortion, those who want Sanders and Clinton to clarify their positions on Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood and the right to choose have been complaining about unasked questions. Hashtag: #AskAboutAbortion. (Moyer, 3/8)

The New York Times: Bill Clinton Has Tough Words For Bernie Sanders In North Carolina
As Hillary Clinton focused on Bernie Sanders in Michigan on Monday, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had some tough words for Mr. Sanders in North Carolina. If Mr. Clinton’s line of attack was familiar – that Mr. Sanders dismisses all critics as being part of “the establishment” – the former president added some sharp language at a small rally here at Elon University law school. He argued that Mr. Sanders was ducking arguments over his health care plan, then kicked his speech up a notch as he accused Mr. Sanders of resorting to name-calling with his tirades against the “establishment.” “That’s killing America, that kind of politics,” Mr. Clinton said after describing Mr. Sanders’s rejection of skeptical reports by liberal economists on his Medicare-for-all plan. (Healy, 3/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Ran Tests Despite Quality Problems
A federal inspection report said a Theranos Inc. laboratory ran an important blood test on 81 patients in a six-month period despite erratic results from quality-control checks meant to ensure the test’s accuracy, people familiar with the report said. The report hasn’t been publicly released but is far more detailed than the letter that summarized the results of last fall’s inspection of the Newark, Calif., lab by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and was sent to Theranos in late January, these people said. (Carreyrou and Weaver, 3/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Expects To Report Results, Update Guidance Next Week
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. said it would outline its fourth-quarter results and update investors on its financial guidance next week, a move that comes after the Canadian drugmaker had delayed the call. Valeant had previously been slated to report results Feb. 29, but the night before, the company postponed the call and withdrew its guidance as it said Chief Executive Michael Pearson had returned from medical leave. The call will now happen March 15, Valeant said Monday. (Steele, 3/7)

The Associated Press: Utah Planned Parenthood To Challenge Defunding Order
The Utah branch of Planned Parenthood is set to ask a federal appeals court Tuesday to reverse a judge's decision that allowed governor to cut off funding to the organization after the release of secretly recorded videos showing out-of-state employees discussing fetal tissue from abortions. Planned Parenthood contends its employees did nothing wrong, and blocking the money that funds STD and sex education programs would leave thousands of people at risk. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has issued an emergency order keeping the federal money flowing, and Planned Parenthood wants to extend it. They argue that U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups abused his discretion when he allowed the governor's decision to stand. (3/8)

The Washington Post: Zika Has Pregnant Women In The U.S. Worried, And Doctors Have Few Answers
Across the country, obstetricians and specialists in high-risk pregnancies are fielding concerns ... because of Zika. Patients are alarmed given recent trips to the countries with growing outbreaks in the Caribbean and Latin America. They want reassurance that they’re not infected, that their babies will be safe from the potentially devastating birth defects associated with the virus. Some are even putting fertility treatments on hold. There’s only so much their doctors can tell them since so much about Zika remains unknown. (Sun and Dennis, 3/7)

The Washington Post: Google To The Rescue! Volunteer Engineers Join Zika Fight.
Google engineers have long been known for their do-gooder tendencies. In 2008, the company launched a free, publicly available service that aimed to predict the outbreak of the flu. In the fall of 2013, when President Obama's signature insurance site was crashing at every turn, several of them took leave to help get the site back online. Now Googlers are putting their tech prowess to fighting the Zika outbreak. A group of volunteer engineers, designers and data scientists are teaming up with UNICEF to analyze data on things such as the weather and travel patterns to try to predict where the virus is heading next. (Eunjung Cha, 3/7)

The Wall Street Journal: In Brazil, Zika Makes Getting Pregnant A Fraught Choice
As her homeland battles a viral epidemic that may cause babies to be born with undersized skulls and brains, Brazilian radiologist Juliana Salviano has a plan for giving birth to a healthy child: moving to Miami. Ms. Salviano and her husband want to conceive a baby this year. But they have no confidence that their native country will soon tame the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which authorities strongly suspect is linked to a surge in the number of Brazilian babies born with the congenital condition known as microcephaly. (Johnson and Magalhaes, 3/7)

NPR: Venezuela Struggles To Contain Zika Outbreak Amid Economic Crisis
For pregnant women in Venezuela, the possibility of getting the Zika virus is scary. The country's economy has collapsed, doctors are leaving in droves, and there's no medicine on the shelves. On top of that, the government seems to be downplaying the spread of the disease in the country. (Otis, 3/7)

The Washington Post: You've Never Heard Of The Powerful Doctors Making Decisions About Your Health
They are the most powerful group of doctors no one has ever heard of — 16 physicians who decide which checkups and tests Americans need to stay healthy. But increasingly, their work is more controversial than obscure. The doctors sit on the national task force that told most women to forget about yearly mammograms until they turn 50, raising an uproar that had barely quieted by the time the group then decided most men shouldn’t be screened for prostate cancer. (Sun, 3/7)

The New York Times: Unplanned Pregnancies Hit Lowest Level In 30 Years
The rate of unintended pregnancy in the United States has declined to its lowest level in the last three decades. The level in 2008 was 54 per 1,000 women and girls aged 15 to 44. By 2011, it was 45 per 1,000. Of the 6.1 million pregnancies in 2011, 2.8 million were unintended. A recent analysis in The New England Journal of Medicine found variations in rates of unintended pregnancy by income, race, ethnicity, education and age. But there were declines, some quite large, in almost every demographic group. (Bakalar, 3/7)

The New York Times: Hopeful Start For First Uterus Transplant Surgery In U.S.
Just minutes after the patient’s name was placed on the waiting list for a transplant, details about a matching donor popped up. “I was shocked,” said Dr. Andreas G. Tzakis, the director of solid organ transplantation at the Cleveland Clinic’s hospital in Weston, Fla. “I really considered it an act of God.” Less than 24 hours later, on Feb. 24, the patient, a 26-year-old woman from Texas, became the first in the United States to receive a uterus transplant, in a nine-hour operation here at the Cleveland Clinic. Born without a uterus, she hopes the transplant will enable her to become pregnant and give birth. (Grady, 3/7)

The New York Times: Screening For Alzheimer’s Gene Tests The Desire To Know
In the extended Reiswig family, Alzheimer’s disease is not just a random occurrence. It results from a mutated gene that is passed down from parent to child. If you inherit the mutated gene, Alzheimer’s will emerge at around age 50 — with absolute certainty. Your child has a 50-50 chance of suffering the same fate. The revelation came as a shock. And so did the next one: [Brothers, Marty and Matt Reiswig,] learned that there is a blood test that can reveal whether one carries the mutated gene. They could decide to know if they had it. Or not. (Kolata, 3/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Seeking Elixir Of Life, A Scientist Studies Fruit Flies
A research lab at a University of California campus has a big ambition—to extend the number of years people live disease-free. The animal model it uses for its experiments is decidedly smaller: the tiny fruit fly. The Jafari Lab, located at UC Irvine, has run tests on substances as diverse as green tea, cinnamon and an Arctic plant called Rhodiola rosea, looking for an elixir of life. To pass muster, each experimental compound must help the fruit flies live longer and not have adverse effects. (Chen, 3/7)

Los Angeles Times: As Measures Of Health, Fitness And Fatness Matter More Than Weight
Researchers are nurturing a growing suspicion that body mass index, the height-weight calculation that distinguishes those with "normal healthy weight" from the overweight and obese, is not the whole picture when it comes to telling who is healthy and who is not. Two new studies drive that point home and underscore that BMI offers an incomplete picture of an individual's health. Fitness matters, as does fatness. And the BMI is an imperfect measure of both. (Healy, 3/7)

Los Angeles Times: Deadly Superbugs From Hospitals Get Stronger In The Sewers And Could End Up In The Pacific Ocean
Every day Southern California hospitals unleash millions of gallons of raw sewage into municipal sewers. The malodorous muck flows miles to one of the region's sewage plants, where it is treated with the rest of the area's waste and then released as clear water into a stream or directly to the Pacific. Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced they had discovered a lethal superbug — the same one that caused outbreaks at UCLA and two other Los Angeles-area hospitals — in sewage at one of those plants. They declined to name the facility. (sen, 3/7)

The Associated Press: Hospital Deregulation Efforts Fail In Virginia Legislature
An effort by doctors, tea party groups, conservative lawmakers and others to loosen government oversight of new or expanded health care facilities failed Monday, marking a much-lobbied win for the state’s hospitals. The Virginia Senate used a procedural move Monday to effectively kill legislation aimed at reforming the state’s decades-old certificate of public need law, which requires medical providers to prove to the State Board of Health that proposed new facilities, expansions or major equipment purchases are necessary in a geographic area. (3/7)

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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