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KHN First Edition: March 25, 2016


First Edition

Friday, March 25, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Device Maker Olympus Hiked Prices For Scopes As Superbug Infections Spread
Kaiser Health News staff writer Chad Terhune and Melody sen, of the Los Angeles Times, report: "Soon after doctors at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center traced deadly infections to tainted medical scopes last year, they pressed the device maker to lend them replacements. But Olympus Corp. refused. Instead, the Tokyo company offered to sell UCLA 35 new scopes for $1.2 million — a 28 percent increase in price from what it charged the university just months earlier, according to university emails obtained from a public-records request." (Terhune and sen, 3/25)

Kaiser Health News: Primary Care Doctors Often Don’t Help Patients Manage Depression: Study
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Although primary care doctors frequently see patients with depression, they typically do less to help those patients manage it than they do for patients with other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma or congestive heart failure, a recent study found. That is important because research has found that it can be good for patients' health when physician practices have procedures in place to identify and provide targeted services to patients with chronic conditions and to encourage patients to get involved in actively managing their own care. But physicians were less likely to use those “care-management processes” with patients who have depression than with those who had other chronic conditions, according to the study in the March edition of the journal Health Affairs." (Andrews, 3/25)

The New York Times: Report Offers A Mixed View Of Health Care Law Costs
More people will be enrolled in Medicaid than predicted a year ago, fewer will be covered through the new public insurance marketplaces and the overall cost of insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act will be higher than expected last year, the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday. But the cost of insuring people will be substantially lower than the budget agency expected when the law was passed, on party-line votes, in 2010. It now estimates that the cost will total $465 billion in 2016-19, which is 25 percent less than its original estimate. (Pear, 3/24)

The Associated Press: New Analysis: 'Obamacare' Coverage Costs Rising
Expanded health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature legislative legacy, will cost the government more, according to an official study released Thursday. Still, on balance, the measure more than pays for itself. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the health care law will cost $1.34 trillion over the coming decade, $136 billion more than the CBO predicted a year ago. That 11 percent hike is mostly caused by higher-than-expected enrollment in the expanded Medicaid program established under the law. (3/24)

The Associated Press: 'Obamacare' Foe Tries To Save Expanded Medicaid In Arkansas
Two years after winning office by promising to fight President Barack Obama's policies, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has become the leading rescuer of a key element of the president's health care law in his state. The Republican governor is urging GOP lawmakers to keep Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion and is warning about the consequences of ending the coverage in a rural state with many living below the poverty line. (3/24)

The Washington Post: Budget Scorekeeper: Obamacare Costs Rising As More Enroll In Medicaid
The budget office attributed the vast majority of the expected cost increase to greater-than-expected Medicaid enrollment numbers. Overall, CBO projected, the cost to the government of those enrolled in Medicaid and in the marketplaces created under the law will be $1.4 trillion over 10 years, which is $136 billion more than the scorekeeper previously expected. (Snell, 3/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Enrollment In Health Law’s Exchanges Projected To Reach 12 Million In 2016
Enrollment under the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges is projected to reach about 12 million people in 2016, congressional budget analysts said in a report Thursday that illustrates the Obama administration’s ongoing challenge in getting the remaining uninsured covered. The projection, from the Congressional Budget Office and staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, was down from an estimate of 13 million in January and 21 million a year ago. (Armour, 3/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Illegal Immigrants Get Public Health Care, Despite Federal Policy
When federal lawmakers wrote the act overhauling the nation’s health-care system six years ago, they ruled out any possibility of extending health insurance to illegal immigrants. Local officials where many of those immigrants live are treating them anyway. A Wall Street Journal survey of the 25 U.S. counties with the largest unauthorized immigrant populations found that 20 of them have programs that pay for the low-income uninsured to have doctor visits, shots, prescription drugs, lab tests and surgeries at local providers. (Radnofsky, 3/24)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Issues New Generic Painkiller Guidance Amid Opioid-Abuse Concerns
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday gave guidance to support the development of generic versions of approved abuse-deterrent opioids, the agency’s latest step to reduce deaths from abuse of the powerful drugs. As the FDA pushes the industry to develop pain medicines that are more difficult or less rewarding to abuse, it is recommending studies to demonstrate that a generic opioid is no less abuse-deterrent than the brand name product. (Steele, 3/24)

The Associated Press: FDA Outlines Standards For Anti-Abuse Generic Painkillers
The Food and Drug Administration published draft guidelines outlining testing standards for harder-to-abuse generic painkillers. The agency has already approved five brand-name opioid pain drugs which are designed to discourage abuse. The current version of OxyContin, for example, is difficult to crush, discouraging abusers from snorting or dissolving the tablets to get high. But these abuse-deterrent painkillers represent a small fraction of the market for opioid pain drugs, which is dominated by low-cost generics. (3/24)

The New York Times: Indiana Governor Signs Abortion Bill With Added Restrictions
Indiana’s governor signed a bill on Thursday that adds broad limits to women’s access to abortions, banning those motivated solely by the mother’s objection to the fetus’s race, gender or disability, and placing new restrictions on doctors. The law, which passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled General Assembly with large majorities, builds on Indiana’s already restrictive abortion rules, and was cheered by anti-abortion groups that had encouraged Gov. Mike Pence to sign it. (Smith, 3/24)

The Washington Post: Indiana Governor Signs Fetal Defects Abortion Ban Into Law
Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law Thursday making Indiana the second state to ban abortions because of fetal genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome. Pence signed the measure just hours ahead of his deadline to take action on the proposal approved by the Republican-dominated Legislature two weeks ago, the governor’s office said. It is due to take effect in July, but Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky said it will ask a court to block the measure before that can happen. (Chokey, 3/24)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: John Kasich’s Abortion Policies In Ohio: Pro-Life Except For Rape, Incest And Life Of The Mother?
Ohio is often considered a success story for opponents of abortion rights and an oppressive state for abortion-rights supporters. Yet voters listening to Kasich on the campaign trail may never know the significance of Ohio in the abortion debate. As he acknowledges, Kasich doesn’t like to like to talk about the issue or answer questions directly when asked about it. That’s where we come in. We took a deeper look at Kasich’s record on passing laws related to women’s access to abortions and whether his record reflects his antiabortion view with the exceptions of rape, incest and the life of the mother. (Lee, 3/25)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Why Pediatricians Care So Much About The Supreme Court’s Birth Control Case
For the second time in two years, the Supreme Court justices tangled over a question about personal beliefs and birth control: Must employers who are religiously opposed to it cover it in their health plans? A prominent group of pediatricians hopes the answer will be yes. Erecting hurdles to the pill, in this case, could jeopardize the health of America’s children, said Benard Dreyer, president of the the American Academy of Pediatrics. It could even encourage the next Disneyland measles outbreak. The link, he acknowledges, isn’t immediately obvious. (Paquette, 3/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare Officials Halt Proposal To Penalize Doctors For Some Prostate Cancer-Screening Tests
Medicare officials said they have temporarily abandoned a proposed measure that would have penalized doctors for ordering “non-recommended” prostate-specific antigen tests to screen for prostate cancer, citing a wave of negative comments. The proposal, part of the federal effort to define and reward quality in health-care services, sparked confusion and criticism among urologists and others who said whether men should be screened for prostate cancer remained too controversial to link to a penalty in Medicare reimbursement. (Beck, 3/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Gilead To Pay Merck $200 Million In Damages Over Hepatitis C Drug Patents
A federal jury in California ordered Gilead Sciences Inc. to pay Merck & Co. and a partner $200 million for infringing two Merck patents in a case involving Gilead’s two blockbuster drugs for treating hepatitis C, Merck said Thursday. The award follows the jury’s decision on Tuesday upholding the validity of two patents held by Merck and its partner Ionis Pharmaceuticals Inc. that Merck says should entitle the companies to a portion of the sales of Gilead’s drugs Sovaldi and Harvoni. (Winslow, 3/24)

Reuters: Ackman's Hedge Fund Cooperating With U.S. On Drug Pricing Probe: Letter
Billionaire investor William Ackman, whose hedge fund is one of the biggest investors in drug company Valeant, has been asked to supply information to U.S. legislators probing price hikes in the pharmaceutical industry. Ackman told investors in his Pershing Square Capital Management on Thursday that the firm received a request on Friday from the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging as part of an investigation into pricing of off-patent drugs. (Herbst-Bayliss, 3/24)

Los Angeles Times: Surprise! You're Covered For The Hospital, Not The Doctors
After Dave Connors' teenage son broke his leg, he was rushed to an Orange County hospital that Connors knew was in his insurer's coverage network. It was only after the bills recently started arriving that he learned the doctors and anesthesiologist in the operating room were out of network, requiring him to pay thousands of dollars more. "When you're at a hospital that you know is in-network, who would think to ask individual people if they're also in-network?" Connors said. "Especially when your son is being operated on." (Lazarus, 3/25)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Older Americans Are Taking Their Vitamins — And That Could Be Dangerous
The number of older Americans at risk for a potentially life-threatening drug interaction doubled between 2005 and 2010, according to a new study -- but not just from the prescriptions they fill at the pharmacy or the medicines they buy over the counter. The study of more than 2,000 people between ages 62 and 85 found that the majority of potentially dangerous drug combinations came from interactions between conventional drugs, such as a blood pressure drug and a cholesterol drug that together can increase risk of muscle damage and kidney failure. But there was an alarming uptick in the number of older Americans taking unproven vitamins and supplements, too -- a scary trend since the safety of those combinations is poorly understood. (Johnson, 3/24)

The New York Times: In N.F.L., Deeply Flawed Concussion Research And Ties To Big Tobacco
The National Football League was on the clock. With several of its marquee players retiring early after a cascade of frightening concussions, the league formed a committee in 1994 that would ultimately issue a succession of research papers playing down the danger of head injuries. Amid criticism of the committee’s work, physicians brought in later to continue the research said the papers had relied on faulty analysis. Now, an investigation by The New York Times has found that the N.F.L.’s concussion research was far more flawed than previously known. (Schwarz, Bogdanich and Williams, 3/24)

NPR: Scientists Build A Live, No-Frills Cell That Could Have A Big Future
Scientists announced Thursday that they have built a single-celled organism that has just 473 genes — likely close to the minimum number of genes necessary to sustain its life. The development, they say, could eventually lead to new manufacturing methods. Around 1995, a few top geneticists set out on a quest: to make an organism that had only the genes that were absolutely essential for its survival. A zero-frills life. It was a heady time. (Bichell, 3/24)

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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