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KHN First Edition: April 29, 2016


First Edition

Friday, April 29, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: FAQ: Medicare Lays Out Plans For Changing Doctors’ Pay
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey reports: "Federal officials have unveiled their roadmap to a revamped Medicare physician payment system designed to reward doctors and other clinicians for the quality of care delivered, rather than the quantity. The proposed regulation would replace a patchwork of programs that now govern physician payments in Medicaid. It would allow doctors to choose from a new menu of measures and activities that officials said would be tailored to the type of care clinicians provide in Medicare’s traditional fee-for-service program." (Carey, 4/29)

Kaiser Health News: HHS Acts To Help More Ex-Inmates Get Medicaid
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock reports: "Administration officials moved Thursday to improve low Medicaid enrollment for emerging prisoners, urging states to start signups before release and expand eligibility to thousands of former inmates in halfway houses near the end of their sentences. Health coverage for ex-inmates “is critical to our goal of reducing recidivism and promoting the public health,” said Richard Frank, assistant secretary for planning for the Department of Health and Human Services." (Hancock, 4/29)

Kaiser Health News: Even As Birth Rates Fall, Teens Say They Are Getting Less Sex Education
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Teenage girls are catching up to teenage boys in one way that does no one any good: lack of sex education, according to a recent report. The proportion of teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 who were taught about birth control methods declined from 70 to 60 percent over two time periods, from 2006-2010 and 2011-2013, the analysis of federal data found. Meanwhile, the percentage of teenage boys in the same age group who were taught about birth control also declined, from 61 to 55 percent." (Andrews, 4/29)

Kaiser Health News: Pregnant Women In Houston And Their Doctors Weigh Risks Of Zika
Houston Public Media's Carrie Feibel, in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "As summer approaches, anxiety about Zika is growing in states like Florida and Texas. The virus hasn't spread to mosquitoes along the Gulf Coast, and it may not, but experts are preparing nonetheless. And because Zika can cause birth defects in newborns, many women — and their doctors — are nervous. In the waiting room at Houston IVF, patients are handed a map of Zika-affected countries and asked to fill out a questionnaire. "The first thing I'm discussing now is Zika," said Dr. Jamie Nodler." (Feibel, 4/28)

USA Today: Feds Expand Medicaid Coverage To Most Of Those In Halfway Houses
Most inmates in halfway houses after release from prison will be eligible for Medicaid benefits under a new federal policy announced Thursday. The change, part of a larger push by the Obama administration to help former inmates or reduce sentences, means nearly 100,000 people in halfway houses in states where they would be eligible for Medicaid should soon have access to health care, mental health and substance abuse treatment. (O'Donnell, 4/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Administration Takes Steps To Help Former Prisoners Get Medicaid
Community activists have long seen the law’s expansion of Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor, as an opportunity to secure health care for people leaving prison, where they do receive treatment. It could also prevent them from sharp relapses that could result in costly emergency room admissions. Ex-inmates often have particular needs for HIV, mental health and substance abuse treatment, activists and federal officials agree. But there have been practical obstacles involved in signing people up before they are released, and questions over their eligibility if they are living in halfway houses or on parole. Incarcerated people aren't allowed to be in Medicaid, and states are responsible for their health care instead through the prison health system. (Radnofsky, 4/28)

The New York Times: Colorado Weighs Replacing Obama’s Health Policy With Universal Coverage
For years, voters in this swing state have rejected tax increases and efforts to expand government. But now they are flirting with a radical transformation: whether to abandon President Obama’s health care policy and instead create a new, taxpayer-financed public health system that guarantees coverage for everyone. The estimated $38-billion-a-year proposal, which will go before Colorado voters in November, will test whether people have an appetite for a new system that goes further than the Affordable Care Act. That question is also in play in the Democratic presidential primaries. (Healy, 4/28)

NPR: Teen Birth Rates Plummet For Hispanic And Black Girls
The nation's falling teen birth rate saw an even bigger drop over the past decade, with dramatic declines among Hispanic and black teens. Birth rates are down a whopping 51 percent among Hispanics age 15 to 19 since 2006, and down 44 percent among black teens, according to a survey of census data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teen pregnancy rates among whites also fell by a third. (Ludden, 4/28)

The Associated Press: CDC: Teen Birth Rates Plunge, But Racial Disparities Persist
Birth rates are falling dramatically for black and Hispanic teenagers, but they continue to be much higher than the birth rate for white teens. The Hispanic teen birth rate fell by half over about eight years, and the black teen birth rate dropped nearly that much. But even with those declines, the white teen birth rate is still only half as high, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. "Despite this historic progress, profound disparities remain," said Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (4/28)

The Washington Post: Teen Birthrate Hits All-Time Low, Led By 50 Percent Decline Among Hispanics And Blacks
Theories on the reasons for the dramatic shift include everything from new approaches to sex education to the widespread availability of broadband Internet. But most experts agree on the two major causes. The first is the most important and may be obvious: Today's teens enjoy better access to contraception and more convenient contraception than their predecessors, and more of them are taking advantage of innovations like long-acting injectable and implantable methods that can last years over a daily birth control pill. But the second cause is something that goes against the conventional wisdom. It's that teens -- despite their portrayal in popular TV and movies as uninhibited and acting only on hormones -- are having less sex. (Cha, 4/28)

The Baltimore Sun: CDC: Pregnancies Among Black, Hispanic Teens Drop Nationally
“The United States has made remarkable progress in reducing both teen pregnancy and racial and ethnic differences, but the reality is, too many American teens are still having babies,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director, in a statement. “By better understanding the many factors that contribute to teen pregnancy we can better design, implement, evaluate, and improve prevention interventions and further reduce disparities.” The CDC also reported that research shows the cost to U.S. taxpayers from teen pregnancy and childbirth is estimated at $9 billion a year. To reduce the rates, public health officials have been concentrating on community-level programs. That includes reproductive health services such as contraception. (Cohn, 4/28)

The New York Times: Health Care Companies See Scale As The Only Way To Compete
A spate of deals on Thursday showed that health care companies are convinced, regardless of tax benefits, that bigger is not only better, it is necessary. The whole industry seems to be reading from the same playbook: Pair up with a company that makes the same product to become a leading provider, and thus gain more clout to negotiate business with hospitals and health insurers. (Picker, 4/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Drugmakers Place Big Bets On Cancer Medicines
Despite a growing outcry over the rising cost of cancer treatments, drugmakers are placing multibillion-dollar bets on new medicines they expect will command premium prices and generate big sales. ... The flurry of deal activity surrounding cancer drugs comes as politicians, doctors and health-insurance companies blast the pharmaceutical industry for its pricing—particularly for new cancer treatments with monthly costs that commonly exceed $10,000 a patient. (Loftus, Bisserbe and Kostov, 4/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Abbott Agrees To Buy St. Jude In $25 Billion Deal
Abbott Laboratories’ deal to acquire medical-products maker St. Jude Medical Inc. for $25 billion was the largest in a flurry of health-care deal-making Thursday that could total more than $40 billion. France’s Sanofi SA said Thursday it made an unsolicited, $9.3 billion offer to purchase San Francisco-based Medivation Inc., which sells a lucrative prostate-cancer drug. AbbVie Inc. of North Chicago, Ill., agreed to pay $5.8 billion, plus up to an additional $4 billion in potential future payments, to acquire privately held cancer-treatment developer Stemcentrx Inc. of South San Francisco, continuing AbbVie’s aggressive push to build an oncology business. The deals show health care remains an engine of M&A activity despite a crackdown on tax-lowering maneuvers known as inversions that drove a number of large deals in recent years. (Walker and Stahl, 4/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant: Swapping Scandal For Growing Pains
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International is getting a much-needed refresh of its leadership and strategy. But this is a gut renovation and it is going to take a while. As many as four new directors will be joining the board, as well as new CEO Joseph Papa, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. A slew of holdovers will step down. With Valeant’s audited financial statements expected—finally—before the weekend, the tumult that has lately characterized the company and battered the stock price seems to be ebbing. (Grant, 4/28)

The Associated Press: Gilead 1Q Profit Tumbles On Slower Hepatitis C Drug Sales
Gilead Science Inc.'s earnings tumbled more than 17 percent in the first quarter as steeper discounts and rebates on its blockbuster hepatitis C drugs cut into sales. The maker of Harvoni, the first once-daily, single-pill regimen for hepatitis C, said Thursday that sales of the best-selling drug fell 15 percent to $3 billion in the quarter, with the biggest drop-off in the U.S. and Japan. (4/28)

The Associated Press: Senate Committee OKs Millions To Aid Flint In Water Crisis
A Senate committee on Thursday approved a $220 million aid package for Flint, Michigan, as the city struggles to deal with a water crisis and public health emergency from lead-contaminated pipes. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee backed the bipartisan deal as part of a broader, $4.8 billion bill that authorizes water-related projects across the country for flood control, harbor deepening and other steps. The bill was approved, 19-1, and could come up for a Senate vote in May. (4/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Brain Damage In Zika Babies Is Far Worse Than Doctors Expected
The scale and severity of prenatal damage by the Zika virus are far worse than past birth defects associated with microcephaly, a condition characterized by a small head and brain abnormalities. Scans, imaging and autopsies show that Zika eats away at the fetal brain. It shrinks or destroys lobes that control thought, vision and other basic functions. It prevents parts of the brain not yet formed from developing. “These aren’t just microcephaly, like a slightly small head. The brain structure is very abnormal,” said Jeanne Sheffield, director of maternal-fetal medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who has been counseling pregnant women about microcephaly for two decades. (Magalhaes and McKay, 4/28)

The Washington Post: Stupid Cancer: The Nonprofit For Young Patients That Mixes Advocacy With Edge
Matthew Zachary has always been something of an angry rebel, naturally predisposed “to hate authority,” he says. In nursery school, he was expelled for biting the teacher and the principal because he didn’t like the sleeping mats. So when he got brain cancer as a college senior in 1995, he found plenty of things to get mad about. ... But what really infuriated him, and ultimately sent him in a new direction, was the federal report on adolescents and young adults with cancer that he read several years after doctors excised a golf-ball-size tumor from inside his head. The report’s key finding: Compared with other age groups, the 15-to-39 set was neglected and had gone decades with little to no improvement in survival rates. (McGinley, 4/28)

The Associated Press: South Dakota Tribe Sues Feds Over ER Closure
A Native American tribe in South Dakota sued the federal government Thursday over the nearly five-month closure of the only emergency room on its reservation. The federal lawsuit filed Thursday by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe asks that federal officials be forced to re-open the emergency room at the hospital administered by the Indian Health Service. The agency shuttered the ER in early December, two weeks after federal inspectors uncovered serious failures that they said put patients' lives at risk. (4/28)

The Associated Press: Massachusetts Senate Approves Under-21 Ban On Tobacco Sales
The Massachusetts Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to raise the minimum age for purchasing cigarettes and other tobacco products across the state, which could make it the second to raise its threshold to 21 years old. The higher age is already in effect in Boston and more than 100 other cities and towns, covering about half the state’s population. (Salsberg, 4/28)

The Associated Press: Texas’ Fetal Tissue Research Questioned Before Court Hearing
Texas legislators who passed one of the nation’s toughest abortion laws turned their attention to fetal tissue research Thursday, ahead of a Houston court appearance by two anti-abortion activists on charges related to their filming of undercover videos at a Planned Parenthood clinic. The Legislature doesn’t return until 2017 — meaning that by then the state will lag behind other Republican-controlled statehouses pushing new laws to ban fetal tissue sales, which is already illegal, and donations of fetal tissue. The measures follow last year’s release of edited videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue for profit. (Weber, 4/28)

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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