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KHN First Edition: April 5, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, April 05, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: IRS Could Help Find Many Uninsured People, But Doesn't
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "Nearly a third of people without health insurance, about 10 million, live in families that received a federal earned income tax credit (EITC) in 2014, according to a new study. But the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t tell those tax filers that their low and moderate incomes likely mean their households qualify for Medicaid or subsidies to buy coverage on the insurance exchanges. That’s a lost opportunity to identify people who are eligible but not receiving government assistance to gain health coverage, the researchers say." (Galewitz, 4/5)

Kaiser Health News: Patients’ Assessment Of Their Health Is Gaining Importance In Treatment
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "For Erin Moore, keeping her son’s cystic fibrosis in check requires careful monitoring to prevent the thick, sticky mucous his body produces from further damaging his lungs and digestive system. Moore keeps tabs on 6-year-old Drew’s weight, appetite, exercise and stools every day to see if they stray from his healthy baseline. When he develops a cough, she tracks that, too. It’s been nearly a year since Drew has been hospitalized; as a baby he was admitted up to four times annually. Erin Moore credits her careful monitoring, aided by an online data tracking tool from a program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center called the Orchestra Project, with helping to keep him healthy." (Andrews, 4/5)

Kaiser Health News: By Not Discussing Cost Issues, Doctors, Patients May Miss Chances To Lower Out-Of-Pocket Expenses
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Lutha reports: "Talking about money is never easy. But when doctors are reluctant to talk about medical costs, a patient’s health can be undermined. A study published in Monday’s Health Affairs explores the dynamics that can trigger that scenario. Patients are increasingly responsible for shouldering more of their own health costs. In theory, that’s supposed to make them sharper consumers and empower them to trim unnecessary health spending. But previous work has shown it often leads them to skimp on both valuable preventive care and superfluous services alike." (Luthra, 4/4)

The New York Times: Despite Fears, Affordable Care Act Has Not Uprooted Employer Coverage
The Affordable Care Act was aimed mainly at giving people better options for buying health insurance on their own. There were widespread predictions that employers would leap at the chance to drop coverage and send workers to fend for themselves. But those predictions were largely wrong. Most companies, and particularly large employers, that offered coverage before the law have stayed committed to providing health insurance. (Abelson, 4/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Federal Regulators Issue Medicare Advantage Rates For 2017
Federal regulators said Monday that payments to insurers that offer private Medicare plans to older Americans would rise slightly, but somewhat less than the government indicated earlier this year. The increase represents a boost for companies who offer the plans under Medicare Advantage, the program in which beneficiaries can get Medicare policies from private companies, which are then reimbursed by the federal government. (Radnofsky and Armour, 4/4)

The Associated Press: Modest Payment Increase For Medicare Advantage In 2017
Medicare says private insurance plans serving as an alternative for 17 million beneficiaries will get a modest payment increase next year. Factoring in adjustments for the health of patients covered by a plan, the final number works out to about a 3 percent increase for Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription plans. That's slightly less than an originally proposed increase of around 3.5 percent. (4/4)

Reuters: U.S. To Raise Payments To Insurers For Medicare Advantage 2017 Plans
The U.S. government will pay U.S. health insurers who provide Medicare Advantage plans to elderly and disabled Americans about 0.85 percent more on average in 2017 than in 2016, reflecting mostly stable medical costs, a government agency said on Monday. The Department of Health and Human Services' final plan to raise payments was a bit less than the 1.35 percent increase the agency proposed in February. It said the lower figure reflected revisions to medical services cost calculations. (Humer, 4/4)

The Washington Post: Study Finds Surprising Reason Why More Black, Latino Children Aren’t Insured
Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) were developed to give society’s most vulnerable kids a chance at health care. But there’s a catch: In many states, parents must sign their kids up for the programs to receive coverage. And to sign their kids up, parents must know that their kids are eligible in the first place. A new study published in the International Journal for Equity in Health found a distressing information gap among parents of uninsured Latino and African American kids. (Blakemore, 4/4)

The Associated Press: GOP Appeals To Conservatives With Health Care, Immigrant Cuts
Trying to win over conservatives, House Republicans are sweetening their budget proposal by putting several programs on the chopping block, including President Barack Obama's health care law and tax credits for children of immigrants living in the country illegally. But cuts to programs like food stamps are on hold and a drive to cap medical malpractice awards has faltered before a GOP-controlled committee, though cuts to Medicaid and a popular program that provides health coverage to children have advanced. (4/5)

The Associated Press: Senate: Few Answers On US Theft That Risked Data Of Millions
Senate investigators indicated Monday they've received few answers from the Obama administration after a laptop and portable hard drives — likely containing names and Social Security numbers of millions — were stolen from a federal building in Washington state. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the Republican chair of the Senate government affairs panel, asked Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Monday if the drives stolen from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement in Olympia, Washington, were ever recovered. (4/5)

The New York Times: Hillary Clinton Roundly Criticized For Referring To The Unborn As A ‘Person’
Hillary Clinton faced criticism from both sides of the abortion debate on Monday after she waded into the fraught argument about when life begins by describing the unborn as a “person.” Mrs. Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, made the comment during an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” after she was asked about abortion restrictions and the rights of the unborn. “The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights,” Mrs. Clinton said. She added: “That doesn’t mean that we don’t do everything we possibly can, in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support.” (Rappeport, 4/4)

The Associated Press: Missouri GOP Combs Past For Planned Parenthood Censure Rules
Missouri Republicans are looking back more than a century for guidance as they consider whether to hold a regional Planned Parenthood CEO in contempt of the Senate — a rare judgment that could carry jail time. Senators from both parties have raised questions about how they'd carry out a process that may include testimony before the entire chamber, arrests and sentencing decisions. They've found little direction from recent history; so far, legislative librarians say the last contempt proceeding they've found occurred in 1903. (4/4)

Reuters: Makers Took Big Price Increases On Widely Used U.S. Drugs
Major drug companies took hefty price increases in the U.S., in some cases more than doubling listed charges, for widely used medications over the past five years, a Reuters analysis of proprietary data found. Prices for four of the nation's top 10 drugs increased more than 100 percent since 2011, Reuters found. Six others went up more than 50 percent. Together, the price increases on drugs for arthritis, high cholesterol, asthma and other common problems added billions in costs for consumers, employers and government health programs. (Humer, 4/4)

The Wall Street Journal: New Rules On Tax Inversions Threaten Pfizer-Allergan Deal
The Treasury Department imposed tough new curbs on corporate inversions Monday, shocking Wall Street and throwing into doubt the $150 billion merger between Pfizer Inc. and Allergan PLC, which was on track to be the biggest deal of its kind. The Treasury move, which was more aggressive than anticipated, sent Allergan’s shares tumbling 19% in after-hours trading and could stall a trend in corporate deal-making that has seen companies searching for ways to escape the U.S. tax net. Pfizer shares edged 0.9% higher. (Rubin and Hoffman, 4/4)

The Associated Press: Gilead Paying Up To $1.2B For Nimbus Unit, Drug Candidate
Biologic drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc. said Monday that it will buy a subsidiary of Nimbus Therapeutics LLC and its experimental pill for an increasingly common metabolic disorder that causes life-threatening fat buildup in the liver. Gilead, based in Foster City, California, will pay $400 million for Nimbus Apollo Inc. Parent company Nimbus Therapeutics, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, could receive another $800 million if Nimbus Apollo’s drug development program meets certain milestones in testing results and medicine approval and sales. (Johnson, 4/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Why Walgreens Hasn’t Escaped Its Rut
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. isn’t afraid to be bold. The largest U.S. drugstore chain is in the middle of many of the pharmaceutical industry’s major story lines. The company signed a 20-year agreement in December with embattled Valeant Pharmaceuticals Inc., a pact it has since defended. It is trying to finalize its $9.4 billion acquisition of drugstore rival Rite Aid Corp., a deal that is facing regulatory scrutiny. And it is also a major partner of controversial upstart Theranos Inc., a relationship it has threatened to terminate. What’s more, Walgreens formed a key partnership in February with UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s OptumRx, a benefit manager. And it has said it won’t shy away from more big deals. (Russolillo, 4/4)

Reuters: Narcotic Fentanyl Linked To At Least 10 California Overdose Deaths
At least 42 drug overdoses in the past two weeks have been reported in northern California, 10 of them fatal, in what authorities on Monday called the biggest cluster of poisonings linked to the powerful synthetic narcotic fentanyl ever to hit the U.S. West Coast. The rash of overdoses, which Sacramento County public health authorities began to report on March 24, have been centered in and around the California capital. Nine of the fatal cases were reported there, with the tenth occurring in neighboring Yolo County. (Gorman, 4/4)

The Associated Press: Hawaii Researchers Focus On Data To Combat Zika Virus
As the Zika outbreak takes hold in Latin America, researchers thousands of miles away in Hawaii are using data to figure out where it might spread next. In the last three months, researchers from the University of Hawaii at the Pacific Disaster Center have focused on combating the mosquito-spread virus. So far, the Maui-based center has worked to map the spread of Zika, which can help health officials and local governments figure out where to target mosquito eradication efforts or increase access to health services. (Starleaf Riker, 4/5)

The Washington Post: Bowser’s Pick For St. Elizabeths CEO Resigns Amid Questions About Qualifications
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s recently installed pick to lead the city’s long troubled public psychiatric facility has resigned amid questions over his qualifications, including a brief stint leading a hospital later deemed unsafe by federal authorities. James Edward Kyle on Monday stepped down as chief executive of St. Elizabeths Hospital after just a month on the job, said a spokesman for Bowser (D). The mayor had no comment and Kyle offered no reason for his resignation from the post, which pays $171,000 a year, the spokesman said. Kyle could not be reached for comment. (Nirappil, 4/4)

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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