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KHN First Edition: April 19, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Competition Suffers Most If UnitedHealth Exits Obamacare In 2017: Analysis
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "If UnitedHealthcare follows through on its threat to quit the health insurance marketplaces in 2017, more than 1 million consumers would be left with a single health plan option, forecasted an analysis released Monday. A UnitedHealthcare pullout would be felt most in several states, generally in the South and Midwest, where consumers would be left with little choice of plans, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) In most of the 34 states where United operates this year, though, the effect would be modest for premiums and the number of plan options, Kaiser said." (Galewitz, 4/18)

Kaiser Health News: Study: Medicaid Expansion Encourages More Poor Adults To Get Health Care
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "In states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, low-income adults were more likely to see a doctor, stay overnight in a hospital and receive their first diagnoses of diabetes and high cholesterol, according to a study published Monday. Yet researchers found no improvement in adults’ own assessments of their health, a conclusion echoed by similar studies, the authors wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine." (Galewitz, 4/18)

Kaiser Health News: Free Clinics Expanding Mission To Help Insured Patients With High Expenses
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Denise Johnson works two jobs, but neither of them offers health insurance to part-timers like her. She signed up for a marketplace plan this year, but for routine medical care, Johnson still goes to the free clinic near her Charlottesville, Virginia, home. The problem is her plan’s deductible of at least $1,000. She can’t recall the precise figure, but it doesn’t really matter. “It’s absolutely high,” said Johnson, 58. “Who can afford that?” She struggles to pay her $28 monthly premium. By continuing to visit the free clinic where she’s been a patient for a few years, Johnson said she saves hundreds of dollars a year on blood pressure and diuretic medications, her EpiPen and allergy pills." (Andrews, 4/19)

The New York Times: Theranos Under Federal Criminal Investigation, Adding To Its Woes
Theranos, the embattled blood-testing laboratory, said on Monday that federal officials were conducting a criminal investigation into the company, adding to a series of questions from officials about its inner workings. In a note to outside partners, the company said that the Justice Department had requested documents and that the investigation was active. The note also said that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the company. (Abelson and Pollack, 4/18)

USA Today: Blood Lab Theranos Under Federal Investigation
"The investigations by the SEC and the U.S. Attorney's Office, which began following the publication of certain news articles, are focused on requesting documents and ongoing," the statement read. "The company continues to work closely with regulators and is cooperating fully with all investigations." (della Cava, 4/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Is Subject Of Criminal Probe By U.S.
People familiar with the matter said the subpoenas seek broad information about how Theranos described its technologies and the progress it was making developing those technologies. Investigators are also examining whether Theranos misled government officials, which can be a crime under federal law, some of the people said. Such subpoenas don’t necessarily mean prosecutors are actively seeking an indictment. People familiar with the matter said the investigation is at an early stage. (Weaver, Carreyrou and Siconolfi, 4/18)

The New York Times: Panel Would Make Insurers Help Contain Rising Drug Costs
An influential federal advisory panel is calling for Congress to force private insurers to rein in rapid increases in prescription drug costs — by cutting some Medicare payments to insurance companies while shielding older Americans from higher out-of-pocket expenses. The recommendations by the nonpartisan Medicare Payment Advisory Commission would squeeze private insurers and drug makers alike, creating strong new incentives for insurance companies to manage the use of prescription medicines by beneficiaries and negotiate larger price discounts with pharmaceutical manufacturers. The Obama administration agrees with the reasoning. (Pear, 4/18)

USA Today: Feds Should Negotiate Medicare Prices With Drugmakers, Seniors Say
The federal government should negotiate drug prices for Medicare and force drugmakers to explain how they set drug prices, according to a survey out Tuesday of people 50 and older by AARP, the nation’s largest organization of people this age. The survey showed more than 93% of adults 50 and older said they favored the Medicare price negotiations, a policy advocated by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. President Obama included such price negotiation authority for drugs known as biologics and "high-cost drugs" in his recent budget proposals. (O'Donnell, 4/19)

The Associated Press: States Seek Ways To Regulate Steep Air-Ambulance Costs
As the air ambulance industry has grown, so too have complaints about costs and the lack of regulations. States that try to set rules are met with lawsuits that argue air ambulances — specially equipped aircraft, usually helicopters, used to ferry sick or injured people in emergencies — fall under the Airline Deregulation Act, which prevents states from interfering with fares, routes and services. (4/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Roche Revenue Lifted By Cancer And Immunology Drugs
Roche Holding AG on Tuesday reported an increase in first-quarter revenue following strong sales of its cancer and immunology drugs. Basel, Switzerland-based Roche said sales for the three months ended March 31 rose 5% to 12.41 billion Swiss francs ($12.88 billion), from 11.83 billion francs a year earlier. At constant exchange rates, sales increased 4%. That beat analysts’ forecasts of 12.28 billion francs, largely because of a stronger-than-expected performance from Tamiflu, boosted by a late flu season in the U.S. The flu medicine generated 367 million francs in revenue, well above the 244 million francs that analysts had expected. (Roland, 4/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Startup Aims To Revive Failed Drug
A London-based startup is making a risky bet that a surprising genetic variation will enable it to find success in one of the pharmaceutical industry’s biggest flops. DalCor Pharmaceuticals said it has raised $150 million in venture financing to mount a 5,000-patient trial of a cholesterol drug called dalcetrapib that Roche Holding AG shelved after the pill failed to prevent heart attacks and strokes in a phase 3, or late-stage, study of nearly 16,000 patients. (Winslow, 4/19)

The New York Times: Hope For Reversing Type 2 Diabetes
Many experts believe Type 2 diabetes is an incurable disease that gets worse with time. But new research raises the tantalizing possibility that drastic changes in diet may reverse the disease in some people. Recently, a small clinical trial in England studied the effects of a strict liquid diet on 30 people who had lived with Type 2 diabetes for up to 23 years. Nearly half of those studied had a remission that lasted six months after the diet was over. While the study was small, the finding offers hope to millions who have been told they must live with the intractable disease. (Rabin, 4/18)

The Associated Press: Study Backs Pancreas Cell Transplants For Severe Diabetes
Transplants of insulin-producing pancreas cells are a long hoped-for treatment for diabetes — and a new study shows they can protect the most seriously ill patients from a life-threatening complication of the disease, an important step toward U.S. approval. These transplants are used in some countries but in the U.S. they're available only through research studies. Armed with Monday's findings, researchers hope to license them for use in a small number of people with Type 1 diabetes who are most at risk for drops in blood sugar so severe they can lead to seizures, even death. (4/19)

The Washington Post: Veterans Still Can Face Long Waits For Care — If They Get It At All
Veterans newly enrolling for health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs and requesting an appointment can endure a months-long wait before they first see a medical provider, according to an audit issued Monday. The Government Accountability Office also said that the department’s method of measuring wait times understates the delay a veteran experiences. The average waiting time — as measured from the time veterans requested that VA contact them to schedule appointments to when they were seen — at the six medical centers GAO studied ranged from 22 to 71 days. (Yoder, 4/19)

Politico: Planned Parenthood Aims At Ayotte
Planned Parenthood is making a major splash into the battle for control of the upper chamber, going up with its first Senate ad of the year in New Hampshire — a marquee race that could become ground zero for women’s issues. The organization’s political arm is going after Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) with a nearly $400,000 ad buy that highlights two top-tier issues that have become entwined for abortion-rights groups: The future of Roe vs. Wade and the current Supreme Court vacancy following the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. (Kim, 4/19)

The New York Times: Zika Virus Campaign Planned By New York City
New York City announced plans on Monday to combat the spread of Zika virus, a largely mosquito-borne disease that has spread rapidly in the Western Hemisphere and raised concern that it may cause birth defects in infants if their mothers are infected during pregnancy. The city’s plans are based on a health department program to combat the spread of West Nile virus, a relative of Zika that is also spread by mosquitoes, the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. (Stack, 4/18)

The Wall Street Journal: New York City To Spend Over $14 Million To Fight Zika Virus
Mr. de Blasio said the city would work to reduce mosquito populations, track new infections and start a public-information campaign. The plan also will include an additional $7.4 million in state support. “We do not see a scenario in this city or this country where there will be a widespread outbreak, but that does not stop us from wanting to address even more limited problems,” said Mr. de Blasio, who stood with health officials at the Public Health Lab in Manhattan. (Gay, 4/18)

Reuters: California Governor, Agencies Face Legal Claims In Gas Blowout
Hundreds of Los Angeles homeowners who live near the site of the worst U.S. methane leak have filed claims against state regulators and the governor, seeking $3.5 million each in damages for government failures they blame for the gas blowout. Those cases marked the first batch of more than 3,000 such claims expected by the end of this week, opening a new front in litigation stemming from the accident at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field, said an attorney for the claimants on Monday. (Gorman, 4/18)

Los Angeles Times: Doctors' Message To Asian Americans: Watch Out For Diabetes Even If You're Young And Thin
The Silicon Valley techies visiting his office were typically slender Asian Americans in their 30s who worked out regularly and ate healthy meals. But, as Sinha repeatedly found, they either already had or were about to get diabetes. "It was such a discordance from what I'd learned about in medical school," Sinha said. "Maybe, I thought, this is just an anomaly." It wasn't. What Sinha noticed a decade ago is now supported by a growing body of scientific research: Asians, in part for genetic reasons, are disproportionately likely to develop diabetes. They get the disease at younger ages and lower weights than others, experts say. (Karlamangla, 4/19)

The Associated Press: Appeals Court Upholds $1B NFL Concussion Settlement
A federal appeals court has upheld an estimated $1 billion plan by the NFL to settle thousands of concussion lawsuits filed by former players, potentially ending a troubled chapter in league history. The decision released Monday comes nearly a year after a district judge approved the revised settlement. If there are no further appeals — either to a full panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia within two weeks, or the Supreme Court within 90 days — former players already diagnosed with brain injuries linked to repeated concussions could begin receiving benefits within 3-4 months, a plaintiffs’ attorney said. (Dale, 4/18)

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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