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KHN First Edition: April 22, 2016


First Edition

Friday, April 22, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: More Exchange Plans Offer Patients Easier Access To Some Expensive Drugs: Report
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Some people with cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis have better access to high-cost specialty drugs in marketplace plans this year, yet a significant proportion of these plans still place many expensive drugs in cost-sharing categories that require the highest patient out-of-pocket costs, according to a new analysis. The report by Avalere Health examined how silver-level plans handled 20 classes of medications that are used to treat complex and expensive diseases such as HIV, cancer, hepatitis C and bipolar disorder." (Andrews, 4/22)

Kaiser Health News: Using Novel Line-Item Veto, Ark. Governor Extends Medicaid Expansion
David Ramsey, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson Thursday signed an appropriation bill into law and used a line-item veto to insure continuation of the state’s Medicaid expansion, ending a two-week budget standoff. The Medicaid expansion covers more than 267,000 Arkansans who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $16,000 for an individual or a little more than $33,000 for a family of four). The expansion, which came from a 2013 compromise between Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe." (Ramsey, 4/21)

Kaiser Health News: Some Firms Save Money By Offering Employees Free Surgery
WFAE's Michael Tomsic, in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Lowe's home improvement company, like a growing number of large companies nationwide, offers its employees an eye-catching benefit: certain major surgeries at prestigious hospitals at no cost to the employee. How do these firms do it? With "bundled payments," a way of paying that's gaining steam across the health care industry, and that Medicare is now adopting for hip and knee replacements in 67 metropolitan areas, including New York, Miami and Denver." (Tomsic, 4/22)

The New York Times: U.S. Suicide Rate Surges To A 30-Year High
Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, with increases in every age group except older adults. The rise was particularly steep for women. It was also substantial among middle-aged Americans, sending a signal of deep anguish from a group whose suicide rates had been stable or falling since the 1950s. The suicide rate for middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64, jumped by 63 percent over the period of the study, while it rose by 43 percent for men in that age range, the sharpest increase for males of any age. The overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, which released the study on Friday. (Tavernise, 4/22)

The Washington Post: U.S. Suicide Rate Has Risen Sharply In The 21st Century
Last decade’s severe recession, more drug addiction, “gray divorce,” increased social isolation, and even the rise of the Internet and social media may have contributed to the growth in suicide, according to a variety of people who study the issue. But economic distress — and dashed hopes generally — may underpin some of the increase, particularly for middle-aged white people. The data showed a 1 percent annual increase in suicide between 1999 and 2006 but a 2 percent yearly hike after that, as the economy deteriorated, unemployment skyrocketed and millions lost their homes. (Keating and Bernstein, 4/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Suicides In The U.S. Climb After Years Of Declines
While more men kill themselves than women, the suicide rate for women rose faster between 1999 and 2014 than it did for men. “It narrowed the gap,” said Sally Curtin, a statistician at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and an author of the report. The report showed a surge in suicides among middle-age men and women, a factor noted in rising death rates among middle-aged people and a decline in white Americans’ life expectancy in 2014. The suicide rate for white women ages 45 to 64 rose 80% and for white men of that age group 59% between 1999 and 2014, according to a second CDC report released on Friday. There were increases in the suicide rate of every age group for both sexes except those 75 and older. That includes a startling tripling in the suicide rate for the youngest girls, ages 5 to 14. (McKay, 4/22)

Los Angeles Times: U.S. Suicides Have Soared Since 1999, CDC Report Says
All told, some 42,773 Americans died of suicide in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That made suicide the 10th leading cause of death for all ages. "This is definitely harrowing: The overall massiveness of the increase is to me the biggest shocker--the fact that it touched pretty much every group," said Katherine A. Hempstead, who recently published an analysis of U.S. suicide trends in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. (Healy, 4/21)

NPR: Suicide Rates Climb In U.S., Especially Among Adolescent Girls
There is one age group that really stands out — girls between the ages of 10 and 14. Though they make up a very small portion of the total suicides, the rate in that group jumped the most — it experienced the largest percent increase, tripling over the last 15 years from 0.5 to 1.7 per 100,000 people. And, Curtin points out, in any given year, there are a lot more suicide attempts than there are suicide deaths. "The deaths are but the tip of the iceberg," she says. (Bichell, 4/22)

The Associated Press: Arkansas GOP Governor Uses Veto To Save Medicaid Program
Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday effectively saved Arkansas' first-in-the-nation hybrid Medicaid expansion by voiding part of a budget bill that would have ended the subsidized insurance for more than 250,000 poor people. The Republican governor vetoed a provision in the Medicaid budget that ordered a Dec. 31 end to the program, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor. "A lot of courage on all sides of this issue led to this result today," Hutchinson told reporters after issuing the veto. (4/21)

Politico: Trump Girds For Showdown With Anti-Abortion Groups
As Donald Trump hurtles toward the Republican convention, he is on a collision course with the anti-abortion movement — a crucial conservative constituency that contends Republicans must own that issue to win a general election. Leaders of the movement are suspicious, if not outright opposed, to the three-time married billionaire who only recently came to oppose abortion and whose gaffes suggest he does not understand the issue. The latest flap exploded Thursday after Trump vowed he would "absolutely" change the Republican platform opposing abortion "for the three exceptions" — rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother. The platform is silent on exceptions, but anti-abortion groups such as March for Life shot back that Trump's revisions would undermine the party's "solidly pro-life" position. (Haberkorn, 4/21)

The Associated Press: House Tries To Sort Out Legislative Response To Drug Abuse
More than a month after the Senate acted on legislation to reduce heroin deaths, the House is trying to figure out how to deal with the election-year issue. Heroin and opioid painkiller abuse is a growing, deadly problem that has become a top political issue in many states. More than 47,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2014 in cities and rural areas alike, more than double the death rate in 2000. (4/21)

Los Angeles Times: In Search Of Fair Drug Prices
When CVS Health in February began taking over pharmacy operations at more than 1,600 Target stores, CVS Pharmacy President Helena Foulkes called the changeover "an important milestone." "Our heart is in every prescription we fill, and providing accessible, supportive and personalized healthcare is part of our DNA," she said. Accessible, supportive, personalized — those are all good things. But noticeably missing from Foulkes' list of consumer-friendly DNA components was this: affordable pricing. (Lazarus, 4/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Sarepta’s Shares Drop After FDA Casts More Doubts On Proposed Drug
Sarepta Therapeutics Inc.’s share price was nearly cut in half Thursday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration further questioned the efficacy of the company’s drug candidate to treat a fatal form of muscular dystrophy. Sarepta is seeking approval to sell eteplirsen as a treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a condition that destroys muscles and frequently kills patients by their 30s. The disease, which has no effective treatments, affects roughly one in every 3,500 boys world-wide. (Steele, 4/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Finalizing Contract With Perrigo’s Joseph Papa As Next CEO
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. is finalizing a contract to name Perrigo Co. Chief Executive Joseph Papa as its next CEO, hoping a fresh face and an experienced pharmaceutical-industry boss will calm nervous investors. Valeant has reached a contract deal with Mr. Papa and had aimed to announce as soon as next week that he would succeed longtime chief Michael Pearson, according to people familiar with the matter. (Rockoff, Benoit and Hoffman, 4/21)

The New York Times: A Marriage Gone Bad: Walgreens Struggles To Shake Off Theranos
Many boldface names enabled the stratospheric rise of the blood-testing start-up Theranos: two former secretaries of state, a former secretary of defense, two former senators, a retired admiral, venture capitalists, scientific luminaries and a prestigious clinic. None has been more important to Theranos than Walgreens. (Stewart, 4/21)

NPR: New Overtime Rules May Put Squeeze On Caregivers For Those With Disabilities
In coming weeks, the White House is expected to finalize key new rules on overtime pay that could benefit an estimated 6 million lower-paid salaried workers. Workers' advocates say it's a long-awaited change. Most employer groups vocally oppose the new rules, because they might have to raise their minimum salaries, pay overtime — or limit their workers' hours. Much of the debate has pitted workers against employers. But at least one group is sympathetic to both sides: the American Network of Community Options and Resources, or ANCOR, an association that represents employers offering support services to intellectually disabled people. (Noguchi, 4/21)

The New York Times/ProPublica: New York Hospital To Pay $2.2 Million Over Unauthorized Filming Of 2 Patients
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital has agreed to pay a $2.2 million penalty to federal regulators for allowing television crews to film two patients without their consent — one who was dying, the other in significant distress. Regulators said on Thursday that the hospital allowed filming to continue even after a medical professional asked that it stop. At the same time, regulators clarified the rules regarding the filming of patients, prohibiting health providers from inviting crews into treatment areas without permission from all patients who are present. That could end popular television shows that capture emergencies and traumas in progress, getting permission from patients only afterward. (Ornstein, 4/21)

The Associated Press: Los Angeles Hospital Settles Over Leaving Patient On Street
A fourth Los Angeles-area hospital in less than three years has settled a lawsuit over a chronic problem in the nation's second-largest city — turning homeless patients out on the streets after they have been discharged, sometimes while still needing medical attention. Without acknowledging fault, Good Samaritan Hospital near downtown Los Angeles settled for $450,000 and agreed to follow protocols to properly release homeless patients, City Attorney Mike Feuer said Thursday. That brings the amount of such settlements with area hospitals to $1.9 million since January 2014. (4/21)

The Washington Post: NIH Hospital Needs Sweeping Reform To Better Protect Patient Safety, Panel Says
Practices at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, the hospital where cutting-edge medical research is conducted, require sweeping reform to better protect patient safety, a task force appointed by the agency reported Thursday. The panel of experts, appointed by NIH Director Francis S. Collins, found that the hospital’s research focus sometimes took priority over the safety of the critically ill patients treated there. It also said that the center has many “outdated or inadequate facilities” and that personnel lack expertise on regulations that apply to the hospital and its research and drug-manufacturing units. (Bernstein and McGinley, 4/21)

NPR: Task Force Calls For More Safety Oversight At NIH Research Hospital
That's the conclusion of a sweeping review by a task force of independent experts convened by the NIH. The team has made a slew of recommendations, including the creation of an outside hospital board to oversee the clinical center, and a new central office to coordinate research quality and safety oversight. "The emphasis on research is so great, and on trying to save people's lives, that there became a cultural attitude that overshadowed handling some of the details that are important details," says Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin, who chaired the task force. (Greenfieldboyce, 4/21)

The Washington Post: ‘Both Of Them Made This Decision': The Apparent Murder-Suicide Of A Death-With-Dignity Advocate And His Ailing Wife
One gunshot. Then another. Within minutes, a prominent death-with-dignity advocate was shot dead along with his ailing wife in an assisted living center in Florida. Eighty-one-year-old Frank Kavanaugh — who served on the national advisory board for the Final Exit Network, an advocacy organization in the right-to-die debate — was discovered dead in the early morning hours Tuesday alongside his wife, 88-year-old Barbara Kavanaugh. (Bever, 4/22)

NPR/Nashville Public Radio: Overcrowding Forces Tennessee VA Clinic To Stop Accepting New Patients
It's been nearly two years since the Department of Veterans Affairs came under fire for the amount of time veterans had to wait to see a doctor. The agency scrambled to find a fix, including allowing vets the option of seeing a private doctor via a program they call Veterans Choice. But the fix isn't working, so some VA clinics are coming up with other ideas to reduce wait times. In the city of Clarksville, Tenn., the VA clinic decided it simply couldn't take any new patients. (Siner, 4/22)

NPR: Half Your Brain Stands Guard When Sleeping In A New Place
When you sleep in unfamiliar surroundings, only half your brain is getting a good night's rest. "The left side seems to be more awake than the right side," says Yuka Sasaki, an associate professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University. The finding, reported Thursday in the journal Current Biology, helps explain why people tend to feel tired after sleeping in a new place. And it suggests people have something in common with birds and sea mammals, which frequently put half their brain to sleep while the other half remains on guard. (Hamilton, 4/21)

The Associated Press: Medical Center, Insurer Negotiating Contract Dispute
A rift between a medical center and a health care company threatens to suspend coverage for thousands of patients. The News Journal of Wilmington reports that the current contract between Bayhealth Medical Center and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware to reimburse the hospital for its care of the insurer’s customers expires May 15. The medical center and the insurer say they want a resolution but are preparing for a contract lapse. A portion of the 18,000 Highmark customers that use Bayhealth would be affected. (4/21)

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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