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KHN First Edition: March 29, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: A Nurse's Lesson: Babies In Opioid Withdrawal Still Need Mom
WNPR's Jeff Cohen, in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Like many hospitals across the country, [Hospital of Central Connecticut] has seen the number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome go up dramatically in recent years. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports more than 21,000 infants in the U.S. were born in withdrawal from opioids in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available. The hospital says each baby costs roughly $50,000 to treat. These fragile and fitful babies present new challenges for hospitals. There’s research that suggests they may do best when they can be held for hours, by their mothers, in a quiet, private room as they go through the process of being weaned off the drugs. But delivering that care means changing hospital systems and attitudes about addiction among doctors and nurses." (Cohen, 3/29)

Kaiser Health News: Mortgages For Expensive Health Care? Some Experts Think It Can Work.
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "A Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist and Harvard oncologist have a proposal to get highly effective but prohibitively expensive drugs into consumers’ hands: health care installment loans. Writing last month in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the authors liken drug loans to mortgages, noting that both can enable consumers to buy big-ticket items requiring a hefty up-front payment that they could not otherwise afford. Some consumer advocates and health insurance experts see it differently." (Andrews, 3/29)

Kaiser Health News: When Medicare Advantage Drops Doctors, Some Members Can Switch Plans
Susan Jaffe, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "Medicare Advantage plans sold by private insurers are an alternative to traditional Medicare, but they cover services only from doctors, hospitals and other providers that are in the insurer’s network. Although providers are allowed to drop out of the plans any time, members can usually change only during the annual sign-up period in the fall. There are exceptions, but until recently losing a provider was not among them. After insurers dropped hundreds of providers in 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued rules giving people a "special enrollment period" to change plans or join regular Medicare if there was a "significant" change in their provider network. The policy took effect last year and applies only to Medicare Advantage members, not to the plans CMS oversees in the health law’s marketplaces." (Jaffe, 3/29)

The Associated Press: Obama To Address Nation’s Growing Opioid Problem
The Obama administration will issue a proposed rule Tuesday that aims to increase medication-based treatment for tens of thousands of people addicted to opioids. The proposed rule, along with a commitment from 60 medical schools to heighten training for prescribing opioids, will coincide with President Barack Obama’s visit to Atlanta where he will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit. (Freking, 3/29)

Reuters: Obama To Announce Steps To Fight Heroin, Opioid Epidemic
U.S. President Barack Obama is set to announce steps on Tuesday to expand treatment for people addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers, the White House said. Obama will travel to a summit in Atlanta to meet addicts in recovery, family members, medical professionals and law enforcement officials to talk about the opioid epidemic, which has become an issue in the 2016 presidential election campaign. (3/29)

The Associated Press: As Crisis Rages, Hospital Works To Reduce Opioids In The ER
To combat what health professionals say is a nationwide epidemic ... St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, has been using opioid alternative protocols in its emergency room since January. The goal of the Alternatives to Opiates (ALTO) program is to try to treat most patients without opioids before considering using them. In the first two months, 75 percent of the 300 patients that have gone through the program did not need opioids, Rosenberg said. Patients with cancer or those with chronic pain who are already dependent on opioids aren't part of the program. (3/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Officials Emphasize Drug Treatment, Mental Health In Medicaid Push
In its latest effort to get more states to states to expand their Medicaid programs, health officials are emphasizing its role in paying for treatment of opioid abuse and mental health issues. Federal health officials are still pressing to get more states to agree to extend Medicaid eligibility to all low-income residents under the Obama health law, in the wake of a 2012 Supreme Court decision that effectively gave governors and state legislators a choice over whether to do so. To date, 30 states have opted in; 20 are sitting out. (Radnofsky, 3/28)

Los Angeles Times: Vilsack, At Drug Abuse Summit, Recalls His Mother's Struggles
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack remembers his adoptive mother struggling with alcohol and prescription drug addictions when he was growing up. She tried to commit suicide a couple of times. And he nearly flunked out of high school as his parents separated. The former Iowa governor and former Democratic presidential candidate said his mother eventually got help from a 30-day treatment program and never drank again. Vilsack's grades shot up and he landed on the honor roll when his parents reunited. The experience, he said, taught him drug and alcohol addictions are diseases not character flaws that require responses from whole communities. (Redmon, 3/28)

The Associated Press: FBI Probing Virus Behind Outage At Medstar Health Facilities
Hackers crippled computer systems Monday at a major hospital chain, MedStar Health Inc., forcing records systems offline for thousands of patients and doctors. The FBI said it was investigating whether the unknown hackers demanded a ransom to restore systems. A computer virus paralyzed some operations at Washington-area hospitals and doctors' offices, leaving patients unable to book appointments and staff locked out of their email accounts. Some employees were required to turn off all computers since Monday morning. (3/28)

The Washington Post: Virus Infects MedStar Health System’s Computers, Forcing An Online Shutdown
A virus infected the computer network of MedStar Health early Monday morning, forcing the Washington health-care behemoth to shut down its email and vast records database and raising additional concerns about the security of hospitals nationwide. The FBI is investigating the breach, which comes just weeks after similar cyberattacks on at least three other medical institutions in California and Kentucky. Still, MedStar officials said they had found “no evidence that information has been stolen.” (Cox, Turner and Zapotosky, 3/28)

The Washington Post: Why Hackers Are Going After Health-Care Providers
Washington is reeling from the news of a hack at MedStar, one of the largest medical providers in the area. A computer virus infecting the organization's computer systems forced MedStar to shut down much of its online operations Monday. The exact nature of the attack is not yet known, but MedStar is just the latest victim in a string of cyberattacks that have hit the health-care industry hard. Here's what you need to know about how health-care providers became the latest digital battleground. (son, 3/28)

Reuters: U.S. Lawmakers Want Health Agencies To Lower Prostate Cancer Drug Cost
A group of lawmakers is calling on the National Institutes of Health and Department of Health and Human Services to step in and reduce the cost of Medivation Inc's and Astellas Pharma Inc's prostate cancer drug Xtandi. In the letter signed by Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Welch (D-Vt.), the lawmakers urged NIH to hold a public hearing to consider overriding the patent on Xtandi to make the drug available at a lower price. (Kelly, 3/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant’s Outgoing CEO To Testify At Senate Hearing On Drug Prices
Michael Pearson, the outgoing chief executive at Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., is expected to testify next month in front of a Senate committee investigating increases in the prices of certain prescription drugs. The Senate Aging Committee, which is holding the hearing, said it sent Mr. Pearson a subpoena. According to the committee, its hearing on April 27 will “examine how Valeant Pharmaceuticals dramatically increased the price of certain lifesaving drugs that it acquired.” (Stahl, 3/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Results Could Throw Off Medical Decisions, Study Finds
A study by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai showed that results for cholesterol tests done by Theranos Inc. differed enough from the two largest laboratory companies in the U.S. that they could throw off doctors’ medical decisions. The Mount Sinai study was published online Monday in the peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Investigation. The authors recruited 60 healthy adults in the Phoenix area and sent them for 22 commonly prescribed blood tests over a five-day period in July 2015. (Carreyrou, 3/28)

The Wall Street Journal: New Model For Meeting The Needs Of The Most Fragile Children
Hospitals are creating special clinics to coordinate care for the close to three million U.S. children—about one in 25—who suffer from complex medical conditions and will in many cases require a lifetime of care. Children with medical complexity, known as CMC, are the sickest and most fragile children; an estimated one-third to one-half of all U.S. spending on children’s health care goes to filling their medical needs. (Landro, 3/28)

The Associated Press: State-By-State Strategy Wielded To Defund Planned Parenthood
Though congressional Republicans' bid to defund Planned Parenthood was vetoed by President Barack Obama, anti-abortion activists and politicians are achieving a growing portion of their goal with an aggressive state-by-state strategy. Over the past year, more than a dozen states have sought to halt or reduce public funding for Planned Parenthood. The latest to join the offensive is Florida; GOP Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday that bars Planned Parenthood from accessing state funds. (3/28)

The Associated Press: Florida Drops Complaints Against Abortion Clinics
Florida health regulators are dropping their push to fine three Planned Parenthood centers, saying such action would be redundant now that the governor has signed a law that puts new restrictions on abortions and prohibits any state money from going to the clinics. Court documents show the Agency for Health Care Administration last Friday asked an administrative judge to dismiss complaints first filed last year against clinics located in St. sburg, Naples and Fort Myers. (3/28)

The Associated Press: Utah Governor Signs Bill Requiring Abortion Anesthesia
The governor has signed a bill that makes Utah the first state to require doctors to give anesthesia to women having an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later. The bill signed by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert Monday is based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that point. "The governor is adamantly pro-life. He believes in not only erring on the side of life, but also minimizing any pain that may be caused to an unborn child," Herbert spokesman Jon Cox said. (3/29)

USA Today/The Arizona Republic: McCain Calls For Universal, Permanent VA Choice Card
Arizona Sen. John McCain unveiled a new action plan for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at a Monday town hall in Phoenix, declaring that after nearly two years of reform efforts "our veterans still have not gotten the care they need and deserve." The Republican senator's new initiative calls for the VA Choice Card — which allows some patients to obtain private care at the department's expense — to be made universal and permanent. (Wagner, 3/29)

The Washington Post: Bloomberg, Others Give Hopkins $125 Million For Cancer Research That Helped Jimmy Carter
Research into immunotherapy, which cancer experts are calling the most promising approach in decades, will get a big boost Tuesday when Michael Bloomberg and other philanthropists announce $125 million in donations to Johns Hopkins University for a new institute focused solely on the therapy and accelerated breakthroughs for patients. Michael Bloomberg, the businessman, philanthropist and former New York mayor, will donate $50 million, as will Sidney Kimmel, a philanthropist and founder of Jones Apparel Group. (McGinley, 3/29)

The Washington Post: You Survived Cancer. Now What?
Cancer patients used to be told to go home and take care of themselves without too many specifics for life after treatment. Now, as soon as they’re feeling strong enough, they’re advised to mind their lifestyle: lace up their sneakers, eat healthy, watch their weight and avoid tobacco and excess alcohol. Roughly a third of cancers are considered preventable and the lifestyle recommended to help avoid them is the focus of ongoing research to help cancer survivors live healthier and, perhaps, longer. (Levingston, 3/28)

The Washington Post: Blood Test That Can Find Evidence Of A Concussion Days Later Is Closer To Becoming A Reality
When head injuries aren't treated or are under-treated, it puts patients at risk of more serious injury. This is why children with concussions are often asked not to return to class or sports until their symptoms have resolved and adults often have to take days off work. One of the challenges has been that concussions are tricky to diagnose, and it isn't uncommon for a patient to rush to the ER only to be met with a vague response from the doctor about whether there's anything worrisome. Symptoms often aren't apparent for hours or even days after the initial injury, and the imaging technology we have can't pick up anything other than larger bleeds and lesions. How different could things have been if there was a simple blood test to detect a concussion? (Cha, 3/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Public-Hospital Network Aims For Recovery
At 4 a.m. Saturday, when the city’s public-hospital network expects to switch on its new electronic medical-records system at two hospitals in Queens, its president and chief executive plans to be at Elmhurst Hospital. “I will be physically present,” said Ramanathan Raju, a trauma surgeon who became head of the system in 2014. “People will be anxious.” The $764 million implementation is the latest step in what hospital officials hope will be a five-year transformation of the financially troubled public health system. NYC Health + Hospitals, which until a $250,000 rebranding in November was called New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, concluded last fiscal year with a $58 million operating loss. (Ramey, 3/28)

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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