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KHN First Edition: April 12, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Even Under Parity Rules, Plans May Charge Higher Specialty Copays For Counseling
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires most health plans to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment benefits that are at least as generous as the plan’s benefits for medical and surgical care. There's no rule of thumb. A health plan may charge a higher copayment in some circumstances under parity rules, said Alan Nessman, senior special counsel for legal and regulatory affairs at the American Psychological Association Practice Organization." (Andrews, 4/12)

Kaiser Health News: A Dearth Of Hospital Beds For Patients In Psychiatric Crisis
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: "Finding an available inpatient psychiatric bed in the state of California can be extremely difficult. Many patients with acute psychiatric conditions spend days deteriorating in hospital emergency departments while they wait. But how exactly to solve the problem has become a controversy in Sacramento. An Assembly bill backed by the California Psychiatric Association and the Steinberg Institute, a mental health policy organization, seeks to improve the process by establishing an online registry to collect and display information to help medical providers find psychiatric beds." (Gold, 4/12)

NPR: Medicare Seeks Savings And Innovation With A Switch In Doctors' Pay
The Obama administration is recruiting as many as 20,000 primary care doctors for an initiative it hopes will change the way physicians get paid and provide care. The program, which was announced Monday, will be run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The aim is to stop paying doctors based on the number of billable services and visits provided to Medicare beneficiaries and instead to tie payments to overall patient health and outcomes. (Kodjak, 4/11)

The Associated Press: US Officials: The More We Know About Zika, The Scarier It Is
The more researchers learn about the Zika virus, the scarier it appears, federal health officials say, as they urge more money for mosquito control and development of vaccines and treatments. Scientists increasingly believe the Zika virus sweeping through Latin America and the Caribbean causes devastating defects in fetal brains if women become infected during pregnancy. "Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought," Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at a White House briefing. (4/12)

USA Today: Zika Linked To Second Autoimmune Disorder Similar To Multiple Sclerosis
The Zika virus has been linked to a second type of autoimmune disorder, according to a small study released today. Doctors have known that Zika is associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition in which the immune system attacks the nervous system, causing paralysis, since the Zika outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013-2014. Now, scientists have linked Zika to a condition similar to multiple sclerosis, called acute disseminated encephalomyeltis, or ADEM, a swelling of the brain and spinal cord that affects the myelin, the coating around nerve fibers, according to a paper to be presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Vancouver. (Szabo, 4/11)

The Washington Post: Zika Is Tied To Second Adult Brain Disease, Deepening Fears Of Virus’s Unknown Dangers
Brazilian scientists studying 151 patients who recently sought help at a local hospital for symptoms similar to those caused by Zika have made a worrisome discovery — that the virus may be associated with a second serious brain issue in adults. ... [Doctor Maria Lucia Brito] Ferreira was cautious in interpreting her findings, emphasizing that most people who experience nervous system problems with Zika do not have brain symptoms and that a definitive causal link between Zika and the ADEM has not been made. (Cha, 4/11)

The Washington Post: Frightening Images Show The Insidious Way Zika Appears To Attack Babies’ Brains
In one of the first studies that sheds light on exactly how Zika attacks, researcher Patricia Garcez of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro took human neural stem cells and infected them with virus taken from a Brazilian patient. Neural stem cells -- which are able to turn into three major cell types that make up our central nervous system -- are the key players in embryonic brain formation. ... Under control conditions, the neurospheres flourished, with hundreds of them growing. But when they added Zika, the virus ended up killing most of the neurospheres within a few days. A similarly disturbing thing happened with the brain organoids. The infected organoids grew to only 40 percent of those that were not exposed to the virus. (Cha, 4/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Kalobios Touts Transparent, No-Gouging Pricing Policy
KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, the drugmaker that was briefly taken over by former pharmaceuticals executive Martin Shkreli last year, said Monday it will charge cost plus a “reasonable and transparent profit margin” for any drugs it produces. Cameron Durrant, the physician who replaced Mr. Shkreli as KaloBios’s chief executive, said in an interview the new drug pricing policy is designed to “set the record straight” and end speculation that the company will follow the controversial price-setting path laid out by its former chief executive. (Brickley, 4/11)

The Wall Street Journal: After Shkreli, KaloBios Sings New Drug Pricing Tune
For the second time in five months, tiny KaloBios Pharmaceuticals is in the news for drug-pricing practices. This time, there’s a twist. Back in November, KaloBios shares rose by nearly 2,000% in three trading days. That happened after controversial pharmaceutical entrepreneur Martin Shkreli acquired a controlling stake and installed himself as CEO. ... Now, KaloBios, trying to work its way out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is taking a very different tack. On Monday, it announced a new pricing model, saying it will publicly share “key elements that go into pricing of its drugs.” (Grant, 4/11)

The Associated Press: Valeant Has Told Outgoing CEO To Cooperate With Senate
Valeant Pharmaceuticals asked its CEO to cooperate with a Senate investigation into drug pricing after he failed to appear for a deposition. The Senate Special Committee on Aging said last week that it planned to start legal proceedings against J. Michael Pearson, who is leaving Valeant after months of turmoil for the drugmaker. Pearson is still under subpoena to appear before the committee for an April 27 hearing. (4/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Asks CEO To Cooperate With Senate Committee
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. requested that Michael Pearson, its outgoing chief executive, cooperate with a Senate committee investigating increases in the prices of certain prescription drugs after he didn’t appear for his deposition last week. Valeant said in prepared remarks Monday, “The board understands that Mr. Pearson is in dialogue with the Senate Committee on Aging regarding his deposition and that those discussions are ongoing.” (Hufford, 4/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Gene-Editing Company Intellia Discloses IPO Plan, Regeneron Pact
Intellia Therapeutics Inc., a biotechnology company working on “editing” defective genes, has disclosed its plans for an initial public offering. The Cambridge, Mass., company is developing potential treatments for liver and blood diseases and cancer. It is one of the companies focused on a technology called Crispr-Cas9 that has raised hopes for future drugs that could home in on specific genes and remove them. Intellia also announced a six-year licensing and collaboration agreement with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Beckerman, 4/11)

NPR: How Do 'Genetic Superheroes' Overcome Their Bad DNA?
Scientists say they've figured out how to track down people they call "genetic superheroes." These are people who remain healthy even though they were born with genetic mutations that would usually lead to devastating disorders. If enough of these people can be identified and studied, the researchers hope they could yield important new insights into the causes of many genetic disorders and possibly lead to new ways to prevent or treat them. (Stein, 4/11)

Los Angeles Times: Patients Increasingly Rely On Mobile Health Apps, But Their Reliability Is An Issue
For Julie Hadduck, a smartphone app that could diagnose cancer seemed like a miracle. When Hadduck photographed one of her daughter's moles, the app offered a diagnosis within seconds. "It came back red, and I was freaked out," said Hadduck, who lives in Pittsburgh. She took her 9-year-old to a dermatologist, who reassured them the mole was benign. Hadduck, 47, deleted the app. The app that Hadduck tried is one of more than 165,000 involving health and wellness currently available for download — a blending of technology and healthcare that has grown dramatically in the last few years. Experts see almost unlimited promise in the rise of mobile medical apps, but they also point out that regulation is sometimes lagging the pace of innovation, which could harm consumers. (Karlamangla, 4/12)

The Washington Post: 7 Tips For Cancer Patients Worrying About The Cost Of Their Care
You've just been diagnosed with cancer. One of your first questions, after the shock wears off, is most likely: How much could all this cost? The answer may be hard to pin down. Of the almost 1.7 million Americans who will learn they have cancer this year, the "lucky" ones will have a single episode mostly covered by generous insurance. But others may face prolonged illness and daunting medical bills. (McGinley, 4/11)

Politico: Cuts To Job Training, Vet Care Stoke Anger In 2016
In searching for meaning in this year’s elections, a lot can be learned by looking at two budget numbers: medical care for veterans and job training for displaced and low-skilled workers. Each is some measure of how Washington cares for the casualties of its decisions, whether in war or trade. And each poses its own Catch-22 that helps explain the alienation many working-class voters are now showing toward their government. In the case of veterans, there’s a huge disparity between how their medical care is budgeted vs. how the government financed the wars in which the same men and women were wounded. (Rogers, 4/11)

The Washington Post: What Was Lost, What Was Gained: Women Share Abortion Stories With The Supreme Court
Kate Banfield and Tammy ­Romo-Alcala have never met. But more than 25 years ago, the two women found themselves in the same position: freshmen in college, pregnant and scared of derailing all they had worked toward. Both women, on a day each recalls vividly, walked into a Dallas abortion clinic. It’s what happened when they walked out, and in the weeks and decades that followed, that places them on opposite ends of the most significant abortion case to be heard by the Supreme Court in a quarter of a century. (Vargas, 4/11)

The Associated Press: Backers Fight For Children's Health Insurance In Arizona
A fight is intensifying in the Arizona Legislature over the Senate leader's refusal to restore a program providing health insurance to poor children, a stance that would maintain the state's position as the only one in the nation that doesn't participate in the plan. Advocates who want the program restarted rallied at the Capitol on Monday in a last-ditch effort. Arizona froze its KidsCare program in 2010 to save money during a state budget crunch. It once covered more than 63,000 children, but fewer than 1,000 now have the insurance. (4/11)

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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