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4. Political Cartoon: 'Pick Your Poison?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Pick Your Poison?'" by Ralph Hagen.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Time to drain the pool.
When overspending is vogue.
The duct tape won't hold.

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Summaries Of The News:

Administration News

5. CDC Confirms Zika Can Be Transmitted Through Anal Sex

Officials do not know how long the virus can live in semen. In other Zika news, experts are divided over what to tell women looking to get pregnant in affected areas, the White House gets an unlikely champion in its funding efforts and infections are confirmed in Florida and Ohio.

The New York Times: Zika Virus Can Be Transmitted Through Anal Sex, C.D.C. Says
The Zika virus can be transmitted by anal sex as well as vaginal sex, according to a report issued on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency described a case of man-to-man sexual transmission in January. The case, which was previously disclosed by health officials in Texas without identifying the genders of the partners, was the first known case of sexual transmission of Zika within the United States in the current epidemic. It involved a Dallas resident who became infected with Zika through a mosquito bite while visiting Venezuela and then infected his male partner through unprotected sex upon his return. Both had relatively mild symptoms, and blood was not detected in either man’s semen. (McNeil, 4/14)

The Wall Street Journal: CDC Confirms Sexual Transmission Of Zika Virus Involved Two Men
Semen samples from both patients showed no evidence of the virus, so it is still unclear how long the virus persists and how it is shed from semen, said John T. Brooks, a co-author of the report and a medical epidemiologist in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the CDC’s National Center for HIV, Hepatitis, TB and STD Prevention. Dr. Brooks said the case study should encourage doctors to report any suspected cases of Zika to health officials. “Every piece of data we have helps,” he said. (Long, 4/14)

NPR: Zika Virus Can Be Transmitted Through Anal Sex, Too
During a previous outbreak, the virus was detected in the semen of one man two months after his fever had set in. In a more recent case, researchers found the virus in the semen of a French traveler two weeks after he'd been sick (there was a lot more virus in semen than there was in blood or urine, leading them to wonder if the virus can replicate in the male genital tract). (Bichell, 4/14)

The New York Times: Health Officials Split Over Advice On Pregnancy In Zika Areas
As the Zika virus bears down on the United States, federal health officials are divided over a politically and ethically charged question: Should they advise American women to delay pregnancy in areas where the virus is circulating? Some infectious disease experts are arguing that avoiding conception is the only sure way to prevent the births of deformed babies, according to outside researchers who serve on various advisory panels. Women’s health specialists, on the other hand, counter that the government should not tell women what to do with their bodies. (McNeil, 4/14)

Politico Pro: White House Finds Ally In Rubio
The White House has found an unexpected ally in its fight to get Congress to approve $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight the Zika virus: former Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio. (Haberkorn, 4/14)

The Hill: White House, GOP Play Blame Game On Zika
The White House and GOP leaders are pointing fingers over the stalled effort to increase funding for the fight against the Zika virus. The Obama administration has ramped up attacks on Republicans this week, accusing them of holding up billions of dollars needed to prevent a widespread outbreak of the disease. But House leaders say the Obama administration has actually delayed the funding by ignoring recent letters and refusing to answer questions about what one lawmaker called a $2 billion "slush fund." (Ferris, 4/14)

The Miami Herald: New Zika Virus Infections Confirmed In Miami-Dade
Florida health officials, contending with the greatest number of Zika virus infections in the nation, confirmed two new cases in Miami-Dade on Thursday, raising the statewide total to 87 people affected by the infectious disease since February. Among the 15 counties identified as having had Zika virus infections, Miami-Dade has experienced the most, with 35 cases. Nearly all of Florida’s cases were acquired by people traveling outside the country, except for one case of sexual transmission in Polk County. (Chang, 4/14)

6. In Effort To Prevent Devastating Birth Defects, FDA Will Allow Folic Acid To Be Added To Corn Flour

Critics say the decision was long overdue.

PBS NewsHour: Health Advocates Score A Major Victory With Folic Acid
The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it would allow folic acid to be added to corn flour in order to prevent certain types of birth defects. The decision was a major victory for health advocates around the nation, who credit the additive with preventing some 1,300 birth defects per year. (4/14)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

7. Taxes For Employer Health Plans Getting Renewed Attention On The Hill

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, raises concerns about the health law's Cadillac tax at a hearing Thursday. Also, insurers' are complaining about problems they encounter in the health insurance marketplaces.

Morning Consult: Both Parties Will (At Least) Discuss Employer Health Taxes
The tax treatment of employer-sponsored health insurance under Obamacare is one of the few provisions of the law that Congress has touched since passage. It’s also clear that members on both sides of the aisle think the topic needs more work. ... Employees pay for their premiums under employer-provided health insurance with “pre-tax dollars,” which leads to about 30 percent savings for the typical worker. There are several critiques of this system. First, it’s very expensive for the federal government. (Owens, 4/14)

The Hill: Insurers Warn Losses From ObamaCare Are Unsustainable
Health insurance companies are amplifying their warnings about the financial sustainability of the ObamaCare marketplaces as they seek approval for premium increases next year. Insurers say they are losing money on their ObamaCare plans at a rapid rate, and some have begun to talk about dropping out of the marketplaces altogether. (Sullivan, 4/14)