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KHN First Edition: April 7, 2016


First Edition

Thursday, April 07, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Hospital Software Often Doesn’t Flag Unsafe Drug Prescriptions, Report Finds
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "Medical errors are estimated to be the third-highest cause of death in the country. Experts and patient safety advocates are trying to change that. But at least one of the tools that’s been considered a fix isn’t yet working as well as it should, suggests a report released Thursday. That’s according to the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization known for rating hospitals on patient safety. Leapfrog conducted a voluntary survey of almost 1,800 hospitals to determine how many use computerized-physician-order-entry systems to make sure patients are prescribed and receive the correct drugs, and that medications won’t cause harm. The takeaway? While a vast majority of hospitals surveyed had some kind of computer-based medication system in place, the systems still fall short in catching possible problems." (Luthra, 4/7)

Kaiser Health News: Major Employers Decry Sutter Health's Tactics In Dispute Over Prices
Kaiser Health News staff writer Chad Terhune reports: "Sutter Health, long accused of abusing its market power in California, is squaring off against major U.S. employers in a closely watched legal fight over health care competition and high prices. The latest fight has erupted over Sutter’s demand that employers sign an arbitration agreement to resolve disputes. Without it, Sutter says employers must pay sharply higher rates — 95 percent of its full charges — for out-of-network care at its hospitals, surgery centers and clinics." (Terhune, 4/7)

The Wall Street Journal: White House To Shift About $500 Million For Fighting Ebola To Combating Zika
The White House will shift about $500 million designated for fighting Ebola to combating the Zika virus, saying the step is necessary because Congress hasn’t acted on the administration’s request for emergency funding to tackle the mosquito-borne disease. The $510 million in existing Ebola funding, plus almost $80 million from other sources, will be redirected to allow for an immediate Zika response, Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Wednesday. (Armour, 4/6)

The New York Times: Obama Administration To Transfer Ebola Funds To Zika Fight
In an effort to break the two-month deadlock over funding to fight the encroaching Zika virus, Obama administration officials announced on Wednesday that, as congressional Republicans had demanded, they would transfer $510 million originally intended to protect against Ebola to the Zika battle. Officials from the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the State Department said they would move a total of $589 million to efforts to contain Zika. In addition to funds moved from the Ebola budget, an additional $79 million would come from several other accounts, including money previously allotted to the national strategic stockpile of vaccines and other emergency supplies for epidemics, said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. (McNeil, 4/6)

The Associated Press: White House: $589M To Go To Fight Zika Virus
While the administration has acknowledged that substantial Ebola funding is left over, it has already committed much of it to helping at least 30 other countries prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks and epidemics. It also wants to preserve money to keep fighting Ebola should it flare up again. (4/6)

The Wall Street Journal: New Tax Rules On Inversion Deals Are Met With Protest
A day after the Obama administration limited the ability of U.S. companies to do international deals to lighten their tax burdens, Pfizer Inc. and Allergan PLC terminated their planned $150 billion merger and other companies around the globe raced to assess the impact of the new rules. The new Treasury Department rules—the third such attempt to rein in a spate of so-called tax-inversion deals—drew swift condemnation from Allergan Chief Executive Brent Saunders, who criticized them as “un-American” and “capricious.” (Rubin and Rockoff, 4/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Allergan CEO Saunders Criticizes Treasury Rules That Scuttled Pfizer Deal
Allergan Chief Executive Brent Saunders criticized as “un-American” and “capricious” the new Treasury Department rules that scuttled the drug company’s $150 billion tie-up with Pfizer Inc. “The rules are focused on the wrong thing: Our government should be focused on making America competitive on a global stage, not building a wall locking companies into an uncompetitive tax situation,” Mr. Saunders said in an interview. (Rockoff, 4/6)

Reuters: Tax Rules That Killed Allergan-Pfizer Deal May Be Hard To Challenge
U.S. tax rules are more difficult to sue over than other regulations that emanate from Washington, presenting a challenge to anyone considering a lawsuit over an Obama administration plan to discourage deals known as inversions, tax lawyers say. Business trade groups have frequently gone to court since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 to try to block rules about the environment, health or labor unions, but taxes are different because of a law that generally bars suits until a tax is assessed, the lawyers said in interviews this week. (Ingram, 4/6)

The Associated Press: Experts Expect Corporate Tax Inversions To Survive New Rules
President Barack Obama scored a victory this week when Pfizer scrapped a $160 billion overseas deal that would have kept a chunk of the drugmaker's profits beyond the U.S. tax man's reach. But recent, aggressive federal actions that discouraged Pfizer Inc.'s combination with another drugmaker, Allergan PLC, won't stop all so-called inversions, or deals that end with a company relocating to another country — at least on paper — and trimming its U.S. tax bill in the process. Tax and legal experts say these deals, which have come under growing criticism from politicians, will remain attractive to some companies until the U.S. pursues a massive tax law overhaul. ... Inversions have become particularly popular in health care. (4/6)

The New York Times: Pfizer Faces Limited Options After Its Dead Deal With Allergan
Pfizer needs a Plan C. Two years ago, the pharmaceutical giant tried — and failed — to take over the British rival AstraZeneca in a bid to become the world’s largest drug company and lower its tax bill in the process. On Wednesday, Pfizer said another big overseas merger had failed, this time a $152 billion merger with Allergan, after the Obama administration introduced rules that would make the deal much less attractive. Now, Pfizer finds itself at yet another crossroads. (Thomas and Bray, 4/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Johnson & Johnson To Develop Tesaro’s Drug For Prostate Cancer
Johnson & Johnson on Wednesday said it will invest $50 million in Tesaro Inc. and license a potential prostate cancer treatment from the pharmaceutical company. Johnson’s Janssen Biotech Inc. will develop and commercialize Tesaro’s Niraparib for treatment of prostate cancer. Niraparib is an oral, once-daily treatment that is currently in late-stage clinical trails for use in ovarian and breast cancer. (Hufford, 4/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Drug For Rare Disorder Linked To Reducing Cholesterol Plaque
Cyclodextrin, a compound now in testing to treat a very rare genetic disease, may have a potential use in treating a much more common condition too: heart disease. Researchers reported Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine that in mice, cyclodextrin was able to reduce plaque and dissolve cholesterol crystals, which some research suggests could play a role in atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries. (Dockser Marcus, 4/6)

The Washington Post: Long-Term Care Premiums For Federal Employees Set To Rise
Premiums in the long-term care insurance program for federal employees and retirees are expected to increase later this year for most enrollees, the government has said, but exactly when and by how much is yet to be determined. The Office of Personnel Management on Tuesday awarded a new seven-year contract to the John Hancock Life and Health Insurance Company to administer the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program. The program provides in-home, assisted living and nursing home benefits for those unable to fully care for themselves due to physical or mental conditions. (Yoder, 4/6)

The Associated Press: Addiction Epidemic Fuels Runaway Demand For 'Sober Homes'
The nation's epidemic of addiction to painkillers and heroin is fueling runaway demand for a once-obscure form of housing known as "sober homes," where recovering addicts live together in a supervised, substance-free setting to ease their transition back to independence. The facilities are rarely run by credentialed professionals and are only lightly regulated — a situation that has prompted at least five states to pass or consider legislation to impose basic rules on how they operate. Some homes have been accused of tolerating drug use and participating in insurance fraud. (4/6)

The Associated Press: At Chicago Sober Home, Help With Recovery Comes With Rules
On a recent morning, Henry McGhee checked in on the residents of one of the four sober homes he owns in Chicago. He’s been in business 15 years and estimates he’s provided housing for more than 8,000 people, many of them black men who completed prison terms for drug crimes. The Associated Press toured one of McGhee’s homes — a small apartment building in a tidy working-class neighborhood — to get a look at a growing segment of an industry responding to strong demand for addiction treatment. (Johnson, 4/6)

Politico: Anti-Abortion Leaders Disappointed To Not Hear From Trump
Anti-abortion activists gathered in Washington on Wednesday had expected to hear from Donald Trump about his abortion positions. They left disappointed. Trump did not address the 115 Forum, a conference of abortion foes in Washington organized by Priests for Life. Three sources associated with the group said organizers had initially led attendees to believe that Trump would be speaking to them by phone. Yet later on Wednesday, organizers said the mogul would not be speaking. (Isenstadt, 4/6)

The Washington Post: Barve Ad Focuses On Law Requiring HMOs To Pay For Blood Work
For the first television ad in his 8th Congressional District Democratic primary campaign, Del. Kumar P. Barve recounts the story behind the passage of a 1997 law requiring HMOs to pay for blood work. Barve (D-Montgomery) sponsored the measure after he learned about the crisis confronting Osama Farrag, a Gaithersburg constituent, who faced bankruptcy because his infant son required daily transfusions not covered by his health maintenance organization. (Turque, 4/6)

The Associated Press: Louisiana House Agrees To 72-Hour Wait Period For Abortion
The Louisiana House voted Wednesday to triple the wait time for women seeking an abortion to 72 hours, an increase that would match Louisiana to five other states with the longest waiting periods in the country. The change to Louisiana's abortion restrictions is supported by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and sailed through the House with an 89-5 vote. It moves next to the Senate for consideration. (4/6)

The Associated Press: Pence, Lawmakers Face Backlash Over New Indiana Abortion Law
Following on a campaign in which women called Gov. Mike Pence's office to tell him about their periods, activists plan a more traditional protest this weekend of a new law banning abortions sought because of genetic abnormalities that makes Indiana one of the most restrictive states in the country. Women taking part in the phone blast have been offering information about their menstrual cycles, if they had cramps and other updates to the governor's flustered phone staff and posting the conversations to Twitter or a Facebook group. The "Periods for Pence" page has amassed thousands of "likes" in nearly a week. One caller asked if Pence could recommend a gynecologist. (4/6)

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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