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KHN First Edition: May 10, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Zooming In On Millennials
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "Lacee Badgley, the mother of a 7-year-old, works full time as an insurance adjuster. Like most working parents, making time for doctor’s appointments is a challenge. “I don’t have the time or energy to drive around town and then wait,” she said. That’s why Badgley, 36, switched from her previous doctors to Zoom+, a medical provider and health insurer that aims to give patients more control and transparency. She can make same-day appointments through a mobile app, and she’s usually in and out within 30 minutes." (Gorman, 5/10)

Kaiser Health News: Women Aren't Taking First Place In Top Medical Journals
KERA's Lauren Silverman, in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "When you're settling in to watch a movie, and the music starts playing, it's hard to ignore the names that flash first in the opening credits: The Director. The Big Stars. Name placement matters in academia, too. A recent study revealed there's a gender gap in who gets top billing on medical studies published in several of the most prestigious research journals. Dr. Carolyn Lam, a cardiologist and faculty member of the Duke-NUS medical school in Singapore, said getting top billing isn't just about ego. The number of times you nab that "first author" spot on a research paper shapes how you're evaluated at work — everything from tenure possibilities to pay." (Silverman, 5/10)

The Associated Press: Study: Sanders' Economic Plan Piles $18T On Federal Debt
Sen. Bernie Sanders' tax and spending proposals would provide new levels of health and education benefits for American families, but they'd also blow an $18-trillion hole in federal deficits, piling on so much debt they would damage the economy. That sobering assessment comes from a joint analysis released Monday by the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and the Urban Institute Health Policy Center, well-known Washington think tanks. Democratic presidential candidate Sanders would raise taxes by more than $15 trillion over 10 years, with most of that paid by upper-income earners. But that wouldn't be enough to cover the cost of his proposed government-run health care system. (5/9)

Politico: Bernie Sanders' $33 Trillion Spending Explosion
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has proposed a whopping $33 trillion federal spending increase over 10 years, according to a new report likely to fuel complaints his campaign promises are unrealistic. His proposed tax increases would not come anywhere close to covering those costs, the centrist Tax Policy Center said Monday. ... The Tax Policy Center got it “half right,” a Sanders aide said in a statement. While the analysis found Sanders' plan would help low- and middle-income people even more than the campaign estimated, Warren Gunnels said the center “wildly exaggerated” the cost of Sanders’ health care plans. “This study significantly understates the savings in administration, paperwork, and prescription drug prices that every major country on earth has successfully achieved by adopting a universal health care program,” said Gunnells, Sanders’ policy director. “If every other major country can spend less on health care and insure all of their people, so can the U.S.” (Faler, 5/9)

Politico: The Guessing Game Begins Over Trump's Health Care Picks
A Donald Trump administration is likely to prove as unorthodox as his campaign — and that extends to the health care realm. The presumptive GOP nominee has not named any advisers with notable health care policy experience, and few names have emerged as possible picks for top administration jobs — and some wouldn't want to serve a President Trump. But a few names are being floated as potential HHS secretary — particularly Ben Carson, given his medical pedigree and strong support for Trump. The other names in the ether: Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who rose to prominence as CEO of hospital chain Columbia/HCA, and former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who held a top HHS post in the administration of George W. Bush and who was a sworn enemy of Obamacare while he was governor. All three have expressed support for Trump now that he's the presumptive nominee. (Demko, 5/9)

NPR: GAO Audit: Feds Failed To Rein In Medicare Advantage Overbilling
Private Medicare Advantage plans treating the elderly have overbilled the government by billions of dollars, but rarely been forced to repay the money or face other consequences for their actions, according to a congressional audit released Monday. In a sharply critical report, the Government Accountability Office called for "fundamental improvements" to curb overbilling by the health plans, which are paid more than $160 billion annually. The privately run health plans, an alternative to traditional fee-for-service Medicare, have proven popular with seniors and have enrolled more than 17 million people. The plans, which were the subject of a Center for Public Integrity investigation, also enjoy strong support in Congress. (Schulte, 5/9)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Seeks To Redefine ‘Healthy’
What’s healthier than a Pop-Tart? Not almonds, according to today’s regulatory rules. That could change as the Food and Drug Administration kicks off a review of the 1990s official definition of “healthy” at the urging of food companies and lawmakers. The regulator is planning to ask the public as well as food experts for comment on what should be the modern definition of healthy, setting off a process that could take years to complete. But the decision to redefine the term marks a major step in the FDA’s effort to catch up to changing ideas about health and eating habits. (Gasparro, 5/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Doctor-Device Deals Need Scrutiny, Report Says
Spinal surgeons are more likely to perform surgery if they profit from the medical devices used in the treatment, according to a congressional study that recommends more safeguards to police such financial incentives. The report by Senate Finance Committee Republicans analyzes the trend in which doctors have ownership interests in commercial entities that act as intermediaries between medical-device makers and hospitals. The surgeons generally get a commission on each sale, which may lead them to perform excessive or unnecessary operations in order to steer business to themselves. (Armour, 5/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Clues To Better Health Care From Old Malpractice Lawsuits
Doctors are learning valuable new lessons from past malpractice cases about mistakes that could put their patients at risk and expose them to lawsuits. Malpractice insurers and medical specialty groups are mining thousands of closed claims from suits that have been tried, dismissed or settled over the past few years. Their goal is to identify common reasons that doctors are sued and the underlying issues that threaten patient safety. They are sharing those insights with doctors and hospitals, which in turn are using them to develop new safety protocols and prevention strategies. (Landro, 5/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Expects To File First-Quarter Earnings Before Default Deadline
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. on Monday said it expects to report its first-quarter earnings earlier than its deadline to avoid defaulting on its debt agreements. The Canadian drug company said it would file its latest 10-Q by June 10, ahead of the July 31 deadline stipulated in the company’s amended credit agreement. Valeant also said it expects to file quarterly filings for the current quarter, which ends June 30—and quarterly filings thereafter—“on a timely basis.” (Steele, 5/9)

USA Today: New Records Shed Light On Valeant's Operations
Shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International sank again Monday, as newly released records shed light on the embattled drugmaker's operations and the company said it would file its quarterly financial report by June 10. The Canada-based company's stock closed down 6.0% at $28.09. The shares have lost roughly 89.3% of their value since early August amid criticism and investigations of Valeant's drug-pricing and distribution policies. (McCoy, 5/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Allergan’s Uterine Fibroids Treatment Shows Efficacy
Allergan PLC and Gedeon Richter PLC on Monday said a late-stage study of ulipristal acetate in women with uterine fibroids met all of its endpoints. Shares rose 6.8% to $215.25 in midday trading, though they are still down 8.7% over the past month. The pharmaceutical companies said patients being treated with the drug showed a statistically significant absence of uterine bleeding. (Steele, 5/9)

The Wall Street Journal: A Better Prostate-Cancer Test?
When Al Piazza learned he had prostate cancer, his first thought was, “Let’s get this out and be done with it,” he says. But his urologist, Jeremy Lieb, said the side effects of treatment could be more harmful than the cancer itself. Dr. Lieb ran a genetic test on the patient’s biopsy sample, which calculated that Mr. Piazza, then 70 years old, had only a 3% chance of dying from prostate cancer over the next 10 years if he left the tumor untreated. ... The procedure done on Mr. Piazza’s tumor sample, called Prolaris by Myriad Genetics, is one of several new prostate-cancer tests that aim to reduce detection and treatment of tumors that are likely to be harmless while still spotting those that are lethal. (Beck, 5/9)

The Washington Post: Lower Odds Of Lung Cancer Surgery For Blacks In Segregated Neighborhoods
African American lung cancer patients who live in low-income, segregated neighborhoods are less likely than their peers in more-affluent communities to get surgery that can add years to their lives, a study suggests. Compared with black patients living in the least-segregated areas, residents of the most-segregated communities were at least 60 percent less likely to receive surgery for what’s known as non-small-cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease. A greater proportion of black patients than whites died during the study, and African Americans typically had fewer months of survival after their diagnosis, the study also found. (Rapaport, 5/9)

The Washington Post: ‘Salvaging Some Good’: The Unexpected Side Effect Of The Tragic Opioid Epidemic
America's opioid epidemic has had far-reaching and generally devastating consequences. Now, the impact is being seen in organ donations. Coinciding with a rise in drug-related deaths, the number of organ donors who died of drug overdoses has sharply increased in recent years — "a silver lining to what is absolutely a tragedy," Alexandra K. Glazier, president of the New England Organ Bank, recently told U.S. News & World Report. Last year, 848 organ donors died of drug intoxication, according to Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network data. And while such organ donors have become more common over the decades, the recent numbers show a staggering jump. (Izadi, 5/9)

The Washington Post: U.S. Maternal Death Rate Is Spiking. Here’s What’s Being Done To Change That.
The relatively high percentage of American women who die as a result of pregnancy, which exceeds that of other developed nations, is prompting a new national prevention campaign that relies on the states to take a leading role in preventing such deaths. The effort encourages states to go beyond the information provided on a typical death certificate by having mortality review panels investigate the causes behind every maternal death that occurs during pregnancy or in the year after delivery. The hope is that the investigations will reveal causes for at least some of the deaths and lead to preventive measures to save the lives of more women. (Ollove, 5/9)

NPR/ProPublica: What Feds' Push To Share Health Data Means For Patients
Two years ago, when the federal government first released data on how much Medicare paid physicians, the media coverage was widespread. Doctors who earned significant sums were dubbed "Medicare millionaires" and journalists highlighted unusual patterns in how some doctors bill for services. When Medicare released its third round of data last Thursday, the coverage was practically nonexistent. In some ways, that's because data releases from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have become almost routine. (Ornstein, 5/9)

The Washington Post: Can Exercise Cure Depression And Anxiety?
A new study by researchers at the University of California at Davis Medical Center found that exercise increased the level of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA, both of which are depleted in the brains of patients with depression and anxiety. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that allow the brain to communicate with the body. Richard Maddock, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and lead author of the study, said he hopes the findings will encourage more doctors and patients to consider exercise as therapy for these two conditions. “It’s becoming more accepted, but there hasn’t been enough research in this area to make people confident.” (Loudin, 5/9)

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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