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KHN First Edition: May 11, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Sounds Like A Good Idea? Selling Insurance Across State Lines
Presidential candidates like to propose solutions to long-standing problems. Health care is no exception. But there’s a reason some problems are “long-standing.” They may have no easy solution. Or the solution is not politically feasible. Or there’s a solution that sounds good on the campaign trail but is not likely to actually work.In this first of a series of videos of health policy promises that “sound like a good idea,” Julie Rovner explores why increasing competition in health insurance by allowing sales of policies across state lines might not be such a good idea after all. (5/11)

The New York Times: Hillary Clinton Takes A Step To The Left On Health Care
For months during the Democratic presidential nominating contest, Hillary Clinton has resisted calls from Senator Bernie Sanders to back a single-payer health system, arguing that the fight for government-run health care was a wrenching legislative battle that had already been lost. But as she tries to clinch the nomination, Mrs. Clinton is moving to the left on health care and this week took a significant step in her opponent’s direction, suggesting she would like to give people the option to buy into Medicare. (Rappeport and Sanger-Katz, 5/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Hillary Clinton Says She’s Weighing Medicare For 50-Year-Olds
Hillary Clinton has spent months berating rival Bernie Sanders for proposing a single-payer, government-run health-care plan, sticking to her more modest proposals aimed at lowering costs and saying she has no interest in another nasty legislative battle over health care. Now, as she tries to close out her primary contest against the Vermont senator, she is floating a new idea: allowing people as young as 50 to buy into Medicare, the health plan that serves those ages 65 and up. (Meckler, 5/10)

The Associated Press: Study: Costs For Most Long-Term Care Keep Climbing
Long-term care grew more expensive again this year, with the cost of the priciest option, a private nursing home room, edging closer to $100,000 annually, according to a survey from Genworth Financial. Americans also are paying more for other care options like home health aides and assisted living communities, while adult day care costs fell slightly compared to 2015, Genworth reported in a study released Tuesday. (5/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Health Insurers Push To Tie Drug Prices To Outcomes
Health insurer Cigna Corp. will get extra price discounts from drugmakers if new cholesterol medications don’t help patients as much as expected, a significant step in a broader push to tie the cost of drugs to how well they work. Such “value-based” deals are becoming more common as rising costs spur customers to demand assurances they are getting what they pay for. U.S. prescription spending rose 12% to nearly $425 billion in 2015, following a 13% increase in 2014, according to research firm IMS Health. Cigna is set to announce on Wednesday that it is the first insurer to reach value-based contracts for an entire new class of cholesterol drugs: Praluent, which is co-marketed by Sanofi SA and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Amgen Inc.’s Repatha are the only two cholesterol-lowering drugs known as PCSK9 inhibitors currently on the U.S. market. (Loftus and Wilde Mathews, 5/11)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Investigates Drugmaker Contracts With Pharmacy-Benefit Managers
Federal prosecutors are investigating drugmakers’ contracts with companies that manage prescription benefits in the U.S., the latest sign of government scrutiny of how drug companies and industry middlemen do business. The U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York has sent demands for information to at least three drug companies: Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co. and Endo International PLC, according to recent company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (Loftus, 5/10)

The Wall Street Journal: From Endo To Allergan: The Sum Of Drug Pricing Fears
Generic drug investors can breathe a sigh of relief. Despite worries, not every company flunked its first-quarter earnings checkup. Generic pharmaceutical stocks sold off last week after Endo International shares plunged on lowered 2016 guidance. The reasons cited for the worsening outlook, including “greater than expected pricing erosion across the generics sector,” rattled investors in a number of stocks. This came after Perrigo cited similar reasons to cut guidance last month. And generic drug distributors had warned of lower prices back in January. But other first-quarter results this week suggest industry-wide fears might be overdone. Teva Pharmaceutical Industriesid Monday “nothing” about the pricing environment had changed since last fall. (Grant, 5/10)

The Washington Post: Patient Safety Issues Prompt Leadership Shake-Up At NIH Hospital
The National Institutes of Health is overhauling the leadership of its flagship hospital after an independent review concluded that patient safety had become “subservient to research demands” on the agency’s sprawling Bethesda campus. The shake-up at the NIH Clinical Center, which was announced to staff Tuesday, represents the most significant restructuring at the nation’s premier biomedical research institution in more than half a century. (Sun, 5/10)

The Wall Street Journal: NIH Shakes Up Leadership At Its Research Hospital
The National Institutes of Health is overhauling the leadership of its renowned research hospital in the wake of what it termed “quality and safety gaps” in the production of sterile drugs used in clinical studies there. The federal agency, based in Bethesda, Md., said it would name a new physician chief executive to run the hospital, which is known as the NIH Clinical Center. This new official will report to a newly selected hospital board. The clinical center treats patients from around the U.S. who have rare and often fatal diseases. (Burton, 5/10)

Politico: Vulnerable GOP Senate Incumbents Talk Up Their Record Fighting Opioid Abuse
The opioid epidemic is playing a starring role in tight Senate races in Ohio, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania — communities hard-hit by addiction, where Republican incumbents are fighting to retain their seats in an anti-establishment year. With the control of the Senate at stake, the opioid battle has morphed into a large enough political issue that the Karl Rove-backed group, One Nation, weighed in by spending $1.12 million in March on an ad touting New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s role in passing bipartisan Senate legislation, known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. She’s in a tight contest with Gov. Maggie Hassan, who has her own record on opioid legislation to run on. (Cook, 5/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Prince’s Death Spotlights Overdose Antidote Dilemma
Prince’s death last month from a possible opioid overdose highlights the challenge for health officials using the overdose-reversal medication naloxone: getting people saved from overdoses into addiction treatment. Six days before he died, the 57-year-old musician overdosed on the painkiller Percocet while on a flight, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Moline, Ill., a law-enforcement official said. Hospital staff revived him with a dose of naloxone, also known as Narcan. ... Across the country, public health officials are embracing naloxone as a key life-saving tool in the opioid crisis. (Kamp and Campo-Flores, 5/11)

The Associated Press: Warrant: Minnesota Doctor Saw Prince, Prescribed Drugs
A Minnesota doctor saw Prince twice in the month before his death — including the day before he died — and prescribed him medication, according to contents of a search warrant that were revealed as authorities returned to the musician's suburban Minneapolis estate as part of their investigation into what killed him. Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg treated Prince on April 7 and April 20, and he prescribed medications for the musician, according to the warrant, which was obtained Tuesday by at least two news outlets before authorities moved to ensure it was sealed. (5/11)

The New York Times: Prince’s Doctor Arrived With Test Results Only To Find Him Dead
During his two visits, Dr. Schulenberg performed tests and prescribed medication for an undisclosed ailment, the affidavit said. Dr. Schulenberg said he had arrived at Prince’s compound to turn over the test results. The warrant sought medical records from the North Memorial Medical Center, which is part of the health system where Dr. Schulenberg used to work. Authorities have not released a cause of death, and have said that a determination might be weeks away. But Dr. Schulenberg’s visit makes clear that Prince was actively receiving medical treatment before his death on April 21. (Eldred and Eligon, 5/10)

The Associated Press: Cuomo Names Task Force To Address Ongoing Heroin Problem
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appointed a task force aimed at ending what he called a crisis of heroin and opioid addiction continuing to plague families and communities in New York. The group is chaired by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, commissioner of the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. The other 21 members include representatives of health care, drug treatment, advocacy, law enforcement and education. (5/10)

Politico: Insiders: Health Care Is 'Being Held Hostage To Hackers'
A stolen credit card is worth about $2 on the black market. A stolen medical record? It's worth $25 or more — just one reason why hackers are stepping up their pursuit of privileged health care information, and why there's every sign the problem will get worse before it gets better. That's according to health care IT leaders and thinkers who participated in POLITICO's health IT advisory forum this week. The forum was convened ahead of POLITICO's Tuesday briefing on cybersecurity. (Diamond, 5/10)

The Associated Press: Utah's First-In-Nation Fetal Pain Law Perplexes Doctors
Utah's first-in-the-nation requirement that fetuses receive anesthesia or painkillers before some abortions takes effect Tuesday, but doctors say it's unnecessary and impossible to comply with. The law requires pain relief for a fetus before any abortion at 20 weeks of gestation or later, based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that stage. Doctors say such pain relief is futile, and there is no science or medicine laying out how they're supposed to administer it. (5/10)

The Washington Post: Hogan Signs Bill To Make Birth Control Cheaper
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed 196 bills into law on Tuesday, including one that advocates say will provide “the most comprehensive insurance coverage for contraception in the country.” Many states have passed laws addressing some aspects of the bill that Maryland lawmakers approved, Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Heather Ford said. But no other state has a law that includes all the provisions in Maryland’s “Contraceptive Equity Act,” which prohibits insurers from charging co-payments for contraceptive drugs, procedures and devices approved by the federal government. (Wiggins, 5/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Baby Lull Promises Growing Pains For Economy
The U.S. is experiencing a baby lull that looks set to last for years, a shift demographers say will likely ripple through the U.S. economy and have an impact on everything from maternity wards to federal social programs. U.S. births have edged up modestly since 2013, a trend likely to continue when last year’s official federal figures are scheduled to come out in June. That has stemmed a sharp drop in child bearing that started with the onset of the recession in 2007. ... The leveling-off in births is weighing on sales at children’s stores, prompting hospitals to rework their birth wards and putting pressure on builders of single-family homes, executives and economists say. (Adamy, 5/10)

NPR: Does Putting On A Few Pounds Help You Cheat Death?
A body mass index under 25 is deemed normal and healthy, and a higher BMI that's "overweight" or "obese" is not. But that might be changing, at least when it comes to risk of death. The body mass index, or BMI, associated with the lowest risk of death has increased since the 1970s, a study finds, from 23.7, in the "normal" weight category, to 27, which is deemed "overweight." That means a person who is 5-foot-8 could weigh 180 pounds and be in that epidemiological sweet spot, according to the NIH's online BMI calculator. The results were published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. (Shute, 5/10)

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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