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KHN First Edition: April 1, 2016


First Edition

Friday, April 01, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: The Wait For Opioid Treatment Can Mean Life Or Death In New Hampshire
WBUR's Rachel Gotbaum, in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "For years, Eileen Shea says her former partner Eddie Sawyer struggled with a heroin addiction. But after losing his job and time with his daughter, he was ready to get help. He was on the waiting list for a bed at the Friendship House, northern New Hampshire’s only residential treatment facility. He never made it to treatment. Instead, Sawyer was one of 428 people in New Hampshire who died last year from a drug overdose. When the police found him in his apartment, there was list of rehab facilities on the table next to his bed. It was a list Shea had given to him a month earlier, and there were check marks next to the name of each one. Sawyer had called every place on the list." (Gotbaum, 4/1)

Kaiser Health News: Workers’ Desire Grows For Wage Increases Over Health Benefits
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews: "More wages, less health insurance. In a recent survey, one in five people with employer-based coverage said they would opt for fewer health benefits if they could get a bump in their wages. That’s double the percentage who said they would make that choice in 2012. “I do these surveys all the time, and it’s rare where you see things change that quickly,” said Paul Fronstin, director of the health research and education program at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, which conducted the survey of 1,500 workers with Greenwald & Associates." (Andrews, 4/1)

The New York Times: Donald Trump Acknowledges Misstep On Abortion Question
Donald J. Trump on Thursday allowed that he might have misspoken on the topic of abortion when he told the MSNBC host Chris Matthews that women who have abortions should face some form of punishment if the procedure is banned. But he insisted the media attention to a misstep — amid the volume of questions he answers — gets outsize attention. “If you answer one question inartfully or incorrectly in some form, or you misunderstood it or you misspoke, it ends up being a big story,” he said. “That doesn’t happen with other people.” (Haberman, 3/31)

The Associated Press: Trump Says Abortion Comments Were Taken Out of Context
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump now says his contentious comments on abortion were taken out of context. Trump was answering questions during an MSNBC town hall taping Wednesday when he said there should be "some form of punishment" for women who get abortions if the procedure is outlawed. He later reversed his position in a statement. In an interview Thursday night on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," Trump blamed the flub on a "convoluted" interview. (3/31)

The Associated Press: Anti-Abortion Movement Unified In Swift Rebuke Of Trump
Trump soon backtracked from Wednesday's comments, but not before anti-abortion leaders forcefully repudiated him. "There was no time to get on the phone and compare talking points, but all the comments were consistent," said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. "The foundational premise of the pro-life movement is to protect both the mother and the unborn child. We don't leave one of them behind." The anti-abortion movement is by no means monolithic — there are sometimes sharp splits over political tactics and the question of whether abortion bans should make exceptions for rape and incest. But there is common ground around the belief that life begins at conception, and a consensus that this belief takes precedence over short-term political calculations. (3/31)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Fiorina’s Claim That Hillary Clinton Supports Abortion ‘Up Until The Moment’ Of Birth
Former GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina, now a supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), appeared on Fox to make the case that front-runner Donald Trump had fishy credentials as an opponent of abortion rights, even before Trump caused new controversy for saying women who get abortions should be punished. But we were also interested in her attack on Hillary Clinton’s abortion position. Is it correct that Clinton supports abortion up to the moment of birth? (Kessler, 4/1)

The Associated Press: Arizona Governor Signs 3 Bills Targeting Abortion Providers
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday announced he had signed three bills targeting abortion providers, including one requiring them to follow outdated federal guidelines for the most common abortion drug and prescribe it at much higher doses than needed. The law boldly defies new FDA rules implemented this week on abortion drugs. The signing of the bill, Senate Bill 1324, is likely to jump-start a federal court case that had blocked a previous version of the legislation. The bill bars doctors from prescribing the drug commonly known as RU-486 after seven weeks of pregnancy and requires it to be taken only at Food and Drug Administration-approved doses in effect until this week. It also requires the two doses of the drug to be taken at a clinic, while providers now send the patient home with the second pill to be taken days after the first. (3/31)

USA Today: Insurers Cut Commissions To Restrict When And What Plans People Buy
Insurers increasingly are dropping agents' commissions to discourage the sale of the Affordable Care Act plans they're losing the most money on, especially when the consumers are more likely to be sick, according to health care industry officials and experts. The moves by nearly every major insurer over the last few months are often focused on times of the year and plans that attract the sickest people and starting to prompt action by state officials and legislators. Some, including the head of California's state insurance exchange, say federal regulators should help assure consumers get the help and plans they need, especially during special enrollment periods when they lose jobs, move or have babies. (O'Donnell, 3/31)

The Washington Post: Federal Employee Health Program To Boost Autism Benefits
Federal employee health-care plans will have to cover applied behavior analysis for children on the autism spectrum starting next year, and they are being encouraged to step up the incentives for enrollees to participate in wellness programs. The Office of Personnel Management since 2013 has encouraged carriers in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to cover that treatment for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but “coverage has been uneven for this intense one-on-one therapy that is becoming a leading form of treatment for these children,” acting director Beth Cobert said Thursday morning. (Yoder, 3/31)

The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Devices Often Failed Accuracy Requirements
The blood-testing devices that Theranos Inc. touted as revolutionary often failed to meet the company’s own accuracy requirements for a range of tests, including one to help detect cancer, according to a federal inspection report. A redacted version of the report was released late Thursday. A full version was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The 121-page document details deficiencies found by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during its inspection of the closely held company’s Newark, Calif., laboratory last fall. (Carreyrou and Weaver, 3/31)

The New York Times: Report Shows Theranos Testing Plagued By Problems
Medical testing done by the closely watched start-up Theranos was plagued by quality control problems that could have led to inaccurate results for patients, according to an inspection report released by federal regulators on Thursday. Among other findings in the report, which ran 121 pages, the company used unqualified or inadequately trained personnel and stored samples in freezers that were not at the proper temperature. It also failed to ensure that the quality control for an important blood-clotting test was acceptable before reporting results for patients. (Pollack, 3/31)

The Wall Street Journal: Hospitals Brace For New Medicare Payment Rules
Starting Friday, nearly 800 U.S. hospitals face sweeping new payment rules that could have a direct impact on their bottom line, but not everyone is ready, industry experts say. The rules will hold hospitals accountable for all the costs of hip and knee replacements for 90 days. If patients recover and go home quickly, hospitals could reap savings. If they have complications or need lengthy stays in a rehab facility, hospitals could owe Medicare instead, starting next year. (Beck, 3/31)

The Associated Press: Medicare Opens New Push On Hip, Knee Replacement
From Akron to Tampa Bay, from New York City to San Francisco, Medicare on Friday launches an ambitious experiment changing how it pays for hip and knee replacements in an effort to raise quality and lower costs. The idea is to follow patients more closely to smooth their recovery and head off unwanted complications that increase costs. (3/31)

Reuters: Drug Shortages Prompt Question: Are Some Medicines Too Cheap?
Philip Aubrey buys medicines for British government-funded hospitals across London, capital of the world's fifth-largest economy, but last year he struggled to secure supplies of a basic AIDS drug. He is not alone. Shortages of essential drugs, mostly generic medicines whose patents have long expired, are becoming increasingly frequent globally, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to suggest minimum prices may be needed to keep some products on the market. (4/1)

The Wall Street Journal: FTC Sues Endo, Alleges Company Paid Off Generic Drugmakers
The Federal Trade Commission said Thursday it sued drugmaker Endo International PLC, alleging the company violated federal antitrust laws by paying hundreds of millions of dollars to delay generic competition against two of its biggest drugs. The suit, filed under seal on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, is the latest by the FTC to target alleged “pay-for-delay” agreements. (Walker and Hufford, 3/31)

The Wall Street Journal: Glaxo To Stop Seeking Drug Patents In Low-Income Countries
GlaxoSmithKline PLC said it would stop seeking patents for its drugs in low-income countries, a move the drugmaker said could help the world’s poorest people access copycat versions of its medicines at affordable prices. The U.K.-based company said it would take this approach in low-income and least-developed countries, a group totaling around 85 nations. In so-called lower-middle-income countries, a group of 51 nations that includes Vietnam, Cameroon and Sri Lanka, it said it would file patents but aim to grant licenses to generic manufacturers to supply low-cost versions of its drugs in those markets in return for a small royalty. (Roland, 3/31)

The Wall Street Journal: Regeneron, Sanofi Say New Eczema Drug Met Targets In Late-Stage Studies
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Sanofi SA said their experimental drug for a debilitating skin condition called atopic dermatitis met all of its major treatment targets in two late-stage studies, a key step in advancing a potential blockbuster medicine toward the market. The drug, called dupilumab, substantially improved rash, itching and other symptoms of the condition, the companies said, which is a serious type of eczema that in its moderate to severe form affects about 1.6 million American adults and a significant number of children. By some estimates, as many as 3% of adults world-wide suffer from some form of the disease. (Winslow, 4/1)

The Washington Post: Spread Of Zika Virus Appears To Be Slowing In Parts Of Latin America
In several Latin American nations hit hard by the Zika epidemic, the transmission of the virus appears to have peaked, with the number of infections declining in recent weeks, according to governments in the region and the latest World Health Organization data. The slowdown has prompted some countries, including Colombia, to significantly scale back their projections of the impact of the virus. (Miroff, 3/31)

NPR: Zika Is Linked To Microcephaly, Health Agencies Confirm
The World Health Organization says there is now scientific consensus that the Zika virus is connected with microcephaly — a condition in which babies are born with very small heads and brain damage. Scientists have been working for months to confirm a link between Zika and microcephaly, ever since Brazil reported a startling increase in cases last fall. Zika infection during pregnancy appears to increase the risk for several types of birth defects and miscarriages, a recent study found. And scientists have found the virus in the brains of affected babies. (Doucleff, 3/31)

The Associated Press: Ad Campaign Launched Over Bill To Refuse Patient Counseling
A coalition of groups has launched an ad campaign against House Speaker Beth Harwell and other lawmakers over a controversial bill that would allow counselors to refuse to treat patients on the basis of "sincerely held religious beliefs." One of the online ads addresses Harwell and warns that "businesses won't come to a state that discriminates." Opponents say the proposal would allow therapists to turn away people in crisis because they are gay, transgender or practice a different religion. (3/31)

NPR: Elevated Levels Of Suspected Carcinogen Found In States' Drinking Water
Water safety concerns aren't just in Flint, Mich., these days. Communities in three states in the Northeast have found elevated levels of a suspected carcinogen — perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. Used to make Teflon, the chemical has contaminated water supplies in New York, New Hampshire and Vermont. (Wang, 3/31)

NPR: Industrial Science Hunts For Nursing Home Fraud In New Mexico Case
One of the keys to providing good care in nursing homes is simply having enough staff. The federal government says about a quarter of all nursing home complaints can be traced back to low staffing levels. And studies have connected low staff levels to lousy treatment. The state of New Mexico connects it to fraud. The state's Attorney General is suing a chain of nursing homes, alleging that the facilities were so severely under-staffed, they couldn't possibly have provided the care they charged for. Now New Mexico wants its money back. (Jaffe, 3/31)

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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