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KHN First Edition: April 20, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Need Exercise? Go To The Mall
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "Flora Yang is small, spry and not afraid to tell you her age: "90-something." She walks twice a week at Mazza Gallerie in Northwest Washington, D.C., and says mall walking keeps her young and fit. Health officials are starting to notice that effect too and say more malls should open their doors to walkers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put out a guide saying the mall is a perfect place for seniors to get in their steps." (Gorman, 4/20)

Kaiser Health News: UnitedHealthcare To Exit All But ‘Handful’ Of Obamacare Markets In 2017
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "UnitedHealthcare will operate only in a "handful" of health insurance exchanges in 2017, down from 34 states this year, company officials said Tuesday. The company did not provide the anticipated details in its first-quarter earnings announcement released Tuesday morning or in a subsequent teleconference with securities analysts. But a spokesman confirmed Nevada and Virginia would be among the states where it will retain a presence. In the past week, UnitedHealthcare said it would leave Georgia, Michigan, and Arkansas." (Galewitz, 4/19)

The New York Times: UnitedHealth To Pull Back From Insurance Exchanges, Citing Losses
The UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, told investors on Tuesday that it continued to lose hundreds of millions of dollars selling individual policies under the federal health care law. The company said it planned to pull out of a majority of states where it offered coverage and would offer policies on the public exchanges in “only a handful of states” for 2017. (Abelson, 4/19)

The Wall Street Journal: UnitedHealth Tops Expectations, To Leave Some Affordable Care Act Markets
After losses on the exchanges, UnitedHealth Group Inc. will pare its presence from 34 states this year to “only a handful” in 2017, said Chief Executive Stephen J. Hemsley during the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call Tuesday. Mr. Hemsley said that the “smaller overall market size and shorter-term, higher-risk profile within this market segment continue to suggest we cannot broadly serve it on an effective and sustained basis.” UnitedHealth also steepened its projected loss on the 2016 exchange business to $650 million from around $525 million, amid signs that new enrollees’ health status appeared worse. (Wilde Mathews, 4/19)

Reuters: UnitedHealth's Obamacare Exit Adds Pricing Pressure On Rivals
UnitedHealth Group Inc's decision to exit most of its Obamacare health insurance exchanges next year means rivals will need to raise prices further to prop up an unprofitable business, healthcare analysts and policy experts said on Tuesday. The largest U.S. health insurer's move would likely reduce consumer choices, particularly in states where UnitedHealth has been one of only a handful of players to offer insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare law, they said. (Humer, 4/19)

The Wall Street Journal: UnitedHealth: Who Needs Obamacare?
UnitedHealth said in the fall it expects to lose more than $500 million this year on plans sold on public exchanges. But those are a small part of UnitedHealth’s business. And, since the insurer booked most of those expected losses last year, these exits mean that shareholders can cross a worry off their list. No wonder the stock is handily outperforming major indices this year. These days, peace of mind doesn’t come cheap. The shares trade at 16 times forward earnings; well above historical norms for a health insurer. The dividend yield on the shares lies well below 2%. (Grant, 4/19)

Politico: Insurer’s Obamacare Exit Raises New Concerns Over Law
The company’s startling losses cast a spotlight on problems that insurers have been warning about for months: Fewer Americans have signed up for the exchanges than predicted, enrollees have proved to be sicker and more costly than anticipated, and losses are mounting. UnitedHealth’s exit may be more of a symbolic blow to the law than anything — the company is still profitable, and its exchange business was relatively small. But it poses a fresh headache for the White House ahead of the fall sign-up period for 2017 health plans, the final enrollment season under the Obama administration. The White House is scrambling to set the insurance marketplaces on firm footing before it leaves office. (Demko, 4/19)

The Washington Post: Obama Officials Warn States About Cutting Medicaid Funds To Planned Parenthood
The Obama administration on Tuesday warned officials in all 50 states that actions to end Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood may be out of compliance with federal law. Ten states have taken action or recently passed legislation to cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood after antiabortion activists released covertly filmed video in the summer purporting to show that the women’s health organization and abortion provider illegally sold fetal tissue for a profit. Planned Parenthood supporters have criticized the videos as deceptively edited, and multiple state investigations have turned up no wrongdoing on the part of the organization. (Sun, 4/19)

The Wall Street Journal: States Pressured To Restore Funding Stripped From Planned Parenthood
The guidance outlined in a letter from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services explains to state Medicaid directors that the law requires that Medicaid beneficiaries may obtain services, including family planning, from any qualified provider. States that terminate their Medicaid-provider agreements with Planned Parenthood affiliates because they offer abortions may be in violation of that law because they are restricting access by not permitting recipients to get services from providers of their choice. (Armour, 4/19)

NPR: Life Expectancy Drops For White Women, Increases For Black Men
White women are dying at a slightly younger age than they used to. That's according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. The life expectancy for non-Hispanic white women in the United States declined by one month — from 81.2 years to 81.1 years — from 2013 to 2014. Though just one month may not seem like much, demographers worry — it's the first time since the government began keeping records that white women saw their life expectancy decline, according to the report. (Kodjak, 4/20)

The Associated Press: Report: Life Expectancy Dipped A Bit For White Women In US
The last time there was a one-year drop for white women was in 2008. That was considered a statistical blip, said Robert Anderson of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. That could also be the case for the 2014 decline "or it could be a harbinger of things to come," Anderson said. That won't be known until data from more years comes in, he added. Some recent reports have shown rising suicide and drug overdose death rates for white women — particularly middle-aged ones. (4/20)

The Washington Post: Life Expectancy For White Females In U.S. Suffers Rare Decline
Amid the bleak news for whites have been the improving numbers for African Americans and Hispanics, the new study indicates. Hispanic life expectancy rose from 81.6 to 81.8 years between 2013 and 2014; gains were seen for both males and females. Life expectancy for blacks rose from 75.1 to 75.2 years, driven by a particularly large jump among black males, from 71.8 to 72.2 years. "The gap between the white and black populations is quickly closing, and it's mainly because the black population is experiencing a great drop in mortality," said [Elizabeth Arias, a demographer with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics]. (Achenbach, 4/20)

Reuters: J&J Shares Hit New High On Strong Drug Sales, Weaker Dollar
Johnson & Johnson beat quarterly earnings forecasts on strong prescription drug revenue and a weakening dollar, and it reassured investors that it did not expect its blockbuster Remicade arthritis drug to face U.S. competition this year. The company also said on Tuesday that it remained on track to boost profit margins significantly this year, in part from cost cuts. (4/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Express Scripts Countersues Anthem In Contract Dispute
Express Scripts Holding Co., the largest administrator of U.S. prescription drug benefits, on Tuesday denied allegations that it is overcharging health-insurer Anthem Inc. for prescription drugs, the latest volley in a bitter contract dispute between the health-care giants. Anthem, the second-largest U.S. health insurer, sued Express Scripts in March for about $15 billion in damages, alleging that the pharmacy-benefit manager, or PBM, violated its contract by refusing to renegotiate pricing terms in good faith and failing to meet certain operational duties. (Walker, 4/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Inquiry Halts Work At Two NIH Labs
The National Institutes of Health shut down production of clinical-study drugs at two laboratories after an internal inquiry found them “not in compliance with quality and safety standards.” One lab of the National Cancer Institute, and another of the National Institute of Mental Health, weren’t suitable to produce the sterile or infused drugs that have been used in clinical studies, the inquiry found. However, NIH officials said they are working rapidly and hope to have the laboratories up and running again soon. (Burton, 4/19)

The New York Times: Marijuana Legalization In New England Is Stalled By Opiate Crisis
First came Colorado and Washington. Then Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. Now advocates for legal marijuana are looking to New England, hoping this part of the country will open a new front in their efforts to expand legalization nationwide. But this largely liberal region is struggling with the devastating effect of opiate abuse, which is disrupting families, taxing law enforcement agencies and taking lives. And many lawmakers and public officials are balking at the idea of legalizing a banned substance, citing potential social costs. (Bidgood, 4/19)

The Associated Press: Maine Could Be 1st State To OK Medical Pot To Treat Addicts
Maine could become the first state to add addiction to opioid prescriptions and illegal narcotics like heroin to its list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. Nearly 30 medical marijuana caregivers and patients told state regulators at a public hearing on Tuesday that marijuana eases the symptoms of opioid withdrawal and offers a healthier alternative to the prescription painkillers that can lead to addiction. (4/19)

USA Today/Detroit Free Press: Criminal Charges Expected In Flint Water Crisis
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette will announce criminal charges Wednesday in connection with his ongoing investigation of the Flint drinking water crisis, three sources familiar with the investigation told the Detroit Free Press Tuesday. Among those to be charged is a city of Flint official who signed a document saying the homes Flint used to test tap water under the federal Lead and Copper Rule all had lead service lines — a statement investigators allege was false. (Egan and Dolan, 4/19)

The Associated Press: FDA Campaign Takes Aim At Chewing Tobacco Use By Rural Teens
Government health officials will team up with minor league baseball as part of a new $36 million campaign to discourage rural teenagers from using chewing tobacco. Baseball stadiums will feature the campaign's central message this summer — "smokeless doesn't mean harmless" — via advertising and promotions with players. Ads will also run on local television, radio and online in 35 markets across the U.S., including cities in Michigan, Montana, South Carolina and Tennessee. (4/19)

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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