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KHN First Edition: May 5, 2016


First Edition

Thursday, May 05, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Is There Gunk On Your Greens? 4 Things To Know About The Listeria Recall
Kaiser Health News' Lydia Zuraw reports: "Frozen vegetables are a staple in many diets, so a huge recall of them has us peering at the packages in our freezers. On Tuesday evening, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an outbreak of the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria and frozen vegetables and fruits are believed to be the cause. More than 350 products like green beans, broccoli, peas and blueberries sold under 42 brands at U.S. and Canadian grocers including Safeway, Costco and Trader Joe’s have now been recalled." (Zuraw, 5/5)

Kaiser Health News: Expectant Moms: You Have Nine Months For Delivery Decisions, You Better Shop Around
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "If you’re expecting, you might want to do some homework before choosing the hospital where you’ll have your baby. According to a report released Thursday, most hospitals overuse some medical interventions that can create health risks for both mother and child, while falling short in meeting other safety standards. The report comes from the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that rates hospitals and emphasizes patient safety, working in conjunction with San Francisco-based Castlight Health, a company that compares quality and price among health care providers." (Luthra, 5/5)

Kaiser Health News: Aid-In-Dying: Not So Easy
Kaiser Health News' Emily Bazar reports: "Starting June 9, terminally ill Californians with six months or less to live can request a doctor’s prescription for medications intended to end their lives peacefully. If that sounds simple, it won’t be. California’s End of Life Option Act creates a long list of administrative hurdles that both patients and their doctors must clear." (Bazar, 5/5)

The Associated Press: Change Is In The Works For Humana ACA Exchange Participation
Humana became the latest health insurer to serve notice that it might leave some Affordable Care Act exchanges next year, creating more uncertainty for customers ahead of this fall's enrollment window and presidential campaign, during which the law is sure to remain a hot debate topic. The insurer, which is being acquired by rival Aetna, said Wednesday that it expects to make a number of changes to its business for 2017, and that may include leaving some markets both on and off the exchanges or changing prices. Humana Inc. sold coverage in 15 states this year. (5/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Health Insurers Struggle To Offset New Costs
Insurers have begun to propose big premium increases for coverage next year under the 2010 health law, as some struggle to make money in a market where their costs have soared. The companies also have detailed the challenges in their Affordable Care Act business in a round of earnings releases, the most recent of which came on Wednesday when Humana Inc. said it made a slim profit on individual plans in the first quarter, not including some administrative costs, but still expects a loss for the full year. The Louisville, Ky.-based insurer created a special reserve fund at the end of last year to account for some expected losses on its individual plans in 2016. (Radnofsky and Wilde Mathews, 5/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Humana Profit Falls 46%, Hurt By Costs From Aetna Merger
Humana Inc. on Wednesday reported its profit tumbled 46% in the first quarter of the year, hurt by costs related to the Aetna Inc. merger and a rise in a key measure of the company’s medical costs. Still, results for the health insurer, which in July agreed to be acquired by rival Aetna, topped expectations. Chief Financial Officer Brian Kane said the company is encouraged by early indicators in its Medicare and health-care services businesses “but remain cautious while our health-care exchange experience continues to develop.” (Steele, 5/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Anthem Names John Gallina CFO
Anthem Inc. on Wednesday named company veteran John Gallina its new chief financial officer, effective June 1. He will replace Wayne DeVeydt, who, after more than a decade with the No. 2 U.S. health insurer—including nine years as CFO—decided to step down, citing family commitments and philanthropic work. (Steele, 5/4)

The Associated Press: Fired Up By Sanders, Democrats Shift Left On Health Care
With the Obama administration counting down its final year, many Democrats are finding less to like about the president's health care law, unsure about its place among their party's achievements. Sen. Bernie Sanders' call for "Medicare for all" seems to have rekindled aspirations for bigger changes beyond "Obamacare." That poses a challenge for Hillary Clinton, who has argued that the health care law is working and the nation should build on it, not start over. (5/5)

The New York Times: Prince’s Addiction And An Intervention Too Late
Prince Rogers Nelson had an unflinching reputation among those close to him for leading an assiduously clean lifestyle. He ate vegan and preferred to avoid the presence of meat entirely. He was known to eschew alcohol and marijuana, and no one who went on tour with him could indulge either. But Prince appears to have shielded from even some of his closest friends that he had a problem with pain pills, one that grew so acute that his friends sought urgent medical help from Dr. Howard Kornfeld of California, who specializes in treating people addicted to pain medication. ... But he arrived too late. (Eligon, Kovaleski and Coscarelli, 5/5)

USA Today: Prince's Death, Day 14: DEA, U.S. Attorney Join Case To Add 'Expertise'
The U.S. Attorney and the Drug Enforcement Administration in Minnesota are officially joining the investigation into the circumstances of Prince's death, they announced Wednesday. The federal law enforcement agencies issued a statement saying they could "augment" the local Carver County Sheriff's Office investigation with "federal resources and expertise about prescription drug diversion," which may have played a role in Prince's sudden and still officially mysterious death at his Paisley Park compound on April 21 in suburban Minneapolis. (5/4)

The Associated Press: Attorney: Prince Arranged To Meet Addiction Doctor
In his final weeks, Prince hid signs of trouble from his fans, stonewalling reports of an overdose that required an emergency plane landing and making a brief public appearance to reassure them. But privately, the superstar was in crisis, seeking help from a prominent addiction expert that ultimately came too late. The day before he died, Prince’s representatives reached out to a prominent California doctor who specializes in treating addiction and set up an initial meeting between the two, the doctor’s Minneapolis attorney, William Mauzy, said Wednesday. He said the doctor, Howard Kornfeld, couldn’t leave right away so he sent his son, Andrew, who flew out that night. (Burbach, 5/4)

The Associated Press: Panel: Painkiller Training Should Be Required For Physicians
Doctors who prescribe painkillers should be required to undergo training aimed at reducing misuse and abuse of the medications, according to federal health experts, though they acknowledge the challenge of putting such a mandate in place. The group of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously Wednesday that the agency should change its risk-management programs for opioid painkillers, highly addictive medications at the center of a national epidemic of addiction and abuse. (Perrone, 5/4)

Los Angeles Times: 'You Want A Description Of Hell?' OxyContin's 12-Hour Problem
The drugmaker Purdue Pharma launched OxyContin two decades ago with a bold marketing claim: One dose relieves pain for 12 hours, more than twice as long as generic medications. Patients would no longer have to wake up in the middle of the night to take their pills, Purdue told doctors. One OxyContin tablet in the morning and one before bed would provide “smooth and sustained pain control all day and all night.” On the strength of that promise, OxyContin became America’s bestselling painkiller, and Purdue reaped $31 billion in revenue. But OxyContin’s stunning success masked a fundamental problem: The drug wears off hours early in many people, a Los Angeles Times investigation found. (Ryan, Girion and Glover, 5/5)

The New York Times: Hepatitis C Deaths In U.S. Rose In 2014, But New Drugs Hold Promise
Deaths from hepatitis C in the United States continued climbing in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday, but experts hope the trend will reverse over the next few years as more people with the virus receive highly effective new treatments. The agency also found that more Americans died from complications of hepatitis C in 2013 than from 60 other infectious conditions combined, including H.I.V., tuberculosis and pneumococcal disease. But while there has been an explosion in new hepatitis C cases among young opioid addicts who inject heroin and other drugs with shared needles, the rising deaths are largely among baby boomers who contracted the virus decades ago and have deteriorated over time. (Goodnough, 5/4)

The Washington Post: Hepatitis C-Related Deaths Hit Record High In U.S., CDC Says
Deaths from the liver disease hepatitis C reached an all-time high in 2014, killing more Americans than HIV, tuberculosis and staph infections. New data released Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more Americans die now as a result of hepatitis C infection than from 60 other infectious diseases combined. Baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965, are the hardest hit group. They account for 75 percent of all hepatitis C infections. (Sun, 5/4)

The New York Times: ‘I’ve Got Your Back,’ Obama Tells Flint Residents
President Obama vowed federal support for the beleaguered residents of this city on Wednesday and said government officials at all levels should have prevented Flint’s water supply from being contaminated with lead. In his first visit to the city since the water crisis began, Mr. Obama received updates from local officials and residents, made a show of drinking filtered tap water, and told a crowd of about 1,000 people at a high school that they deserved more from their leaders. (Shear and Bosman, 5/4)

The Washington Post: Obama Tries To Reassure Flint Residents That Their City Can Survive Water Crisis
President Obama arrived here Wednesday to check in on a disadvantaged city that has been denied a most elemental government service — safe drinking water — but his visit turned into an outpouring of emotion from a community aggrieved by years of neglect from its elected officials. The president’s day in a city that has become a national symbol of disenfranchisement was intended to bolster confidence over a public health crisis related to toxic levels of lead contamination in Flint’s tap water. Obama drank from a glass filled with filtered Flint water to drive home his message that recovery efforts, slow off the mark, were finally making gains. (Nakamura, 5/4)

The Associated Press: Flint Official Takes Deal, Pledges To Cooperate In Probe
A Flint municipal official struck a deal with prosecutors Wednesday, pledging cooperation in exchange for reduced charges as authorities continue investigating lead contamination of the impoverished Michigan city's drinking water supply. Utilities administrator Mike Glasgow entered a plea to one count of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor, in exchange for dismissal of a felony charge of tampering with evidence. The state attorney general's office said the deal will take effect in one year. (5/4)

The New York Times: Arizona Doesn’t Restore Federal Child Health Care Program
Lawmakers here early Wednesday reaffirmed Arizona as the only state to not participate in a program that offers health care to children of the working poor. A proposal to restore the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, known in Arizona as KidsCare, stalled in the State Senate this week as lawmakers passed a $9.6 billion budget. Senate leaders voiced concern that the federal government would eventually cut payments to the children’s health care program and that the state would be forced to assume the cost. (Santos, 5/4)

The New York Times: When Can Fetuses Feel Pain? Utah Abortion Law And Doctors Are At Odds
Starting later this month, women in Utah seeking an abortion 20 weeks or more into a pregnancy will first have to be given anesthesia or painkillers — drugs that are intended not for them, but for the fetus. Those are the terms of a new law that has made Utah the first state in the country to require what doctors here are calling “fetal anesthesia” for the small percentage of abortions that occur at this point in a pregnancy. The law, passed by the Republican-controlled State Legislature and signed in late March by Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, has opened a new front in the heated debate over fetal pain. (Healy, 5/4)

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Sues Kansas For Ending Medicaid Funds
Two Planned Parenthood affiliates filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday over a decision by Kansas to cut off Medicaid reimbursements to the abortion provider that was largely based on allegations lodged against its affiliates in other states. The lawsuit filed by the Planned Parenthood affiliate for Kansas and Mid-Missouri and another for the St. Louis region came only a day after the state Department of Health and Environment sent a letter to the Kansas and Mid-Missouri organization that its Medicaid funding would be cut off as of next week. (5/4)

The Associated Press: Oklahoma Medicaid Agency Ending Planned Parenthood Contracts
Oklahoma is ending its contracts with two Planned Parenthood organizations that provide health services to thousands of mostly low-income women and families, the head of the state's Medicaid agency said Wednesday. Oklahoma Health Care Authority Chief Executive Officer Nico Gomez said the agency notified Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma and Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma in February of its intent to terminate provider agreements with the two affiliates. (5/4)

NPR: Can A Hospital Tell A Doctor To Stop Talking About Abortion?
One of the country's most outspoken abortion providers has filed a civil rights complaint against the hospital where she works, saying that it has wrongly banned her from giving media interviews. Last fall Diane Horvath-Cosper, an obstetrician and gynecologist, did a lightning round of media interviews after a shooting attack killed three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, raising new safety concerns at health care facilities that perform abortions. But one week after that, Horvath-Cosper says, she was called to a meeting with top officials at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in the District of Columbia. They said it was a security matter. (Ludden, 5/5)

Los Angeles Times: Three Patients Died In Suspected Pasadena Outbreak Tied To Scopes
At least three patients died last year at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena in an outbreak suspected to have been caused by tainted medical scopes, according to a newly discovered regulatory report. Huntington hospital officials had confirmed in August that three patients were sickened the previous month but declined to say more about their condition. They later told Olympus Corp., the scope’s manufacturer, of the deaths, according to the company’s report to federal regulators. (sen, 5/5)

The Associated Press: House Bill Would Curb Regulation Of E-Cigarettes, Cigars
Vape away. Increasingly popular e-cigarettes and cigar varieties could be exempt from some government safety regulations if House Republicans have their way. It’s a move that alarms Democrats and public health advocates who argue that it could lead to unsafe products. Legislation approved by a House committee last month would ease rules proposed by the Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarettes for the first time. The legislation would prevent the FDA from requiring retroactive safety reviews of e-cigarettes that are already on the market and exempt some premium and large cigars from those same regulations. E-cigarette products introduced in the future would still undergo the safety reviews. (Jalonick, 5/5)

The Associated Press: Clock Starts For Voters To Reject New California Tobacco Age
California has become the second state in the nation to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, starting the clock for opponents to ask voters for a reversal this November. Gov. Jerry Brown's signature on Wednesday means, beginning June 9, it will be a crime in California to sell or give tobacco to anyone except military personnel under age 21. He did not say why he signed the measure along with four others restricting tobacco use in various ways. (5/5)

The Wall Street Journal: California Governor Signs Bill Raising Tobacco-Purchase Age To 21
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed into law a bill raising the legal purchase age for cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21 years from 18. The new law, which takes effect June 9, is a big boost to a movement that is turning into the next major challenge to the $100 billion tobacco industry. It capped a difficult day for the tobacco industry. (Mickle and Lazo, 5/4)

Los Angeles Times: California's Smoking Age Raised From 18 To 21 Under Bills Signed By Gov. Brown
Brown did not comment on the other bills that he signed, but state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) said approval of his bill raising the smoking age will save lives. “The governor’s signature on Tobacco 21 is a signal that California presents a united front against Big Tobacco," Hernandez said in a statement. "Together, we stand to disrupt the chain of adolescent addiction." The package of bills was touted as the “most expansive” effort to control tobacco use in the state in more than a decade. The bills were backed by a coalition of medical groups including the American Heart Assn, American Lung Assn., American Cancer Society and the California Medical Assn. (McGreevy, 5/4)

NPR: Advance In Human Embryo Research Rekindles Ethical Debate
Scientists have been able to make and study human embryos in their labs for decades. But they have never been able to keep them alive outside a woman's womb for more than about a week. That limitation meant scientists were unable to conduct a range of detailed research into early human development. But now researchers say they have discovered a way to keep human embryos alive in the laboratory about a week longer than ever before, and through a critical period of development. (Stein, 5/4)

Los Angeles Times: How Often Do You Go To The Doctor? It Depends On Where You Live, Study Says
The odds that you’ve seen a doctor in the last year vary quite a bit depending on where you live — but so far, the way your state has implemented the Affordable Care Act doesn’t seem to have much to do with it, government data show. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that 17.3% of American adults did not have a home base for their medical care in 2014, and 34% had not seen or talked to a doctor in the last year. (Kaplan, 5/5)

NPR: After A Long Day At The Computer Do You Have A Medical Problem?
It's 2:00 p.m. and you have a few more hours until the end of your workday. Your eyes sting, your vision is getting blurry and your head hurts. The computer screen that you've been staring at for the past six hours seems so bright that you want to shut your eyes. ... Depending on whether you consult an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, you might get different answers on what ails you. Is it computer vision syndrome? Is it digital eyestrain? Is it just dry eyes and some eyestrain? The most common definition is given by the American Optometric Association, which coined computer vision syndrome and digital eyestrain as a group of vision-related problems from viewing digital screens for a long time. (Tan, 5/4)

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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