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From Kaiser Health News:

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

1. Doctors' House Calls Saving Money For Medicare

A pilot project in which doctors provide primary care at home for very frail Medicaid beneficiaries saved $25 million in 2014, and nine of the 14 practices participating earned bonuses totaling nearly $12 million. (Susan Jaffe, 5/23)

3. Political Cartoon: 'En Garde'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'En Garde'" by Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

WE THINK THEY'RE JUST JEALOUS ...

Please stop the haikus.
Awfully awful they are.
Policy fails as poesy.

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Summaries Of The News:

Medicare

4. Din Erupts Over Obama's Proposed Medicare Payment Plan

Patient advocates, doctors and drug companies have all come out strongly against the new payment model that they say focuses more on the costs than quality of care for those who need the medication. In other Medicare news, ever since the program announced it would pay for end-of-life talks the once-controversial conversations have become more common, and an old way of practicing medicine may be a new way to cut costs.

The New York Times: Proposal To Reduce Medicare Drug Payments Is Widely Criticized
An Obama administration proposal to reduce Medicare payments for many prescription drugs has run into sharp bipartisan criticism, suggesting that it is easier to diagnose the problem of high prices than to solve it. Patients’ advocates have joined doctors and drug companies in warning that the federal plan could jeopardize access to important medications. Every member of the Senate Finance Committee — 14 Republicans and 12 Democrats — and more than 300 House members have expressed concern. (Pear, 5/23)

The Associated Press: Elderly Book End-Of-Life Talks Once Labeled 'Death Panels'
The doctor got right down to business after Herbert Diamond bounded in. A single green form before her, she had some questions for the agile 88-year-old: about comas and ventilators, about feeding tubes and CPR, about intense and irreversible suffering. "You want treatments as long as you are going to have good quality of life?" Dr. Manisha Parulekar asked. The retired accountant nodded. "And at that point," she continued, "you would like to focus more on comfort, right?" There was no hesitation before his soft-spoken reply: "Right." Scenes like this have been spreading across the U.S. in the months since Medicare started paying for conversations on end-of-life planning. Seven years after that very idea spurred fears of "death panels," supporters hope lingering doubts will fade. (5/22)

Kaiser Health News: Doctors' House Calls Saving Money For Medicare
Looking for ways to save money and improve care, Medicare officials are returning to an old-fashioned idea: house calls. But the experiment, called Independence at Home, is more than a nostalgic throwback to the way medicine was practiced decades ago when the doctor arrived at the patient's door carrying a big black bag. Done right and paid right, house calls could prove to be a better way of treating very sick, elderly patients while they can still live at home. (Jaffe, 5/23)

Administration News

5. FDA Puts Sugar In Cross Hairs With New Nutrition Fact Labels

Among other changes, the labels will be required to list added sugars and reflect accurate serving sizes. Manufacturers have until July 2018 to comply with the new rule.

Reuters: New U.S. Food Label Rules To Require Added Sugars To Be Detailed
The United States plans a major overhaul of the way packaged foods are labeled, the Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday. Serving sizes will be adjusted to reflect how much people actually eat, and for the first time labels will list added sugars. These are the first significant changes since the Nutrition Facts label was introduced more than 20 years ago. They come as an increasing number of Americans battle obesity, diabetes and heart disease and will affect roughly 800,000 products from Coca-Cola and ice-cream to soup and spaghetti sauce. (Baertlein, 5/20)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Approves New Nutrition Panel That Highlights Sugar Levels
The FDA’s decision to break out added sugar from the total sugar count already on packaging comes amid a yearslong campaign by the Obama administration to curb obesity, diabetes and other ailments. The new sugar rules have faced opposition from food and beverage companies, which say there is no difference between naturally present sugars and added sugars. While foods with naturally occurring sugar like in fruit also have nutrients such as fiber and vitamin C, health officials say, sugars added by manufacturers offer no nutritional value. But they boost caloric intake, helping fuel obesity and diabetes. (Gasparro and Esterl, 5/20)

USA Today: New Nutrition Facts Panel Has Line For Added Sugar
The FDA says the rules better correspond with updated dietary guidelines and health research — for example, "calories from fat" will be eliminated because research shows the type of fat we're eating, such as trans fat or saturated fat, is more important than how many calories come from fat. (Malcolm, 5/20)

The Associated Press: Makeover Coming For Food Nutrition Labels
A new look is coming to Nutrition Facts labels on food packages, with more attention to calorie counts and added sugars. And no longer will a small bag of chips count as two or three servings. Michelle Obama said parents will be the beneficiaries. “You will no longer need a microscope, a calculator, or a degree in nutrition to figure out whether the food you’re buying is actually good for our kids,” the first lady said Friday, announcing the new rules. (Jalonick and Superville, 5/20)

Politico: Michelle Obama Gets Her Way On Nutrition Labels
The impact of the rule is difficult to overstate — labels on products from candy bars and sodas to crackers and cereal, at every point of sale across America, must be overhauled at an estimated cost of $2 billion. And those labels will remind Americans every time they open a package of how much added sugar they are consuming. (Bottemiller Evich, 5/20)

The Washington Post: A First Look At The FDA’s New Nutrition Label — And 10 Reasons It’s Different From The Old One
The new label still retains the minimalist black-and-white, two-column look that designers have praised over the years, and it highlights many of the same categories, such as cholesterol and sodium. But this is where it might get confusing: Even though it doesn’t look all that different, some categories are now emphasized more than others, and the way some numbers are calculated has changed. (Cha, 5/20)

The Washington Post: Why The Sugar Industry Hates The FDA’s New Nutrition Facts Label
In early 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it was going to consider making a few changes to the nutrition facts label found on just about every food item sitting on grocery store shelves around the nation. And the food industry freaked out. For more than two decades, the label had gone unchanged, which, for the most part, food manufacturers seemed to like. Specifically, the industry was content that the label did not reveal the amount of "added sugars" in a product -- the sugar content not present before the food was produced and packaged -- or how much of these added sugars people should consume daily. (Ferdman, 5/20)

Reuters: Major Change In U.S. Food Labels Is Likely To Help Healthiest The Most
The biggest overhaul of U.S. food nutrition labels in more than two decades is likely to help improve the diets of the most health-conscious consumers, but others may need more convincing. Public health advocates welcomed the new rules but said some of the groups most at risk for obesity and diet-related illness may not change habits without other measures to discourage sugar consumption, such as taxes on sugar and food advertising warning labels. (Baertlein and Prentice, 5/20)

In other news, a new label for steaks will help consumers determine how careful they have to be when cooking the meat —

Kaiser Health News: A Tender Steak Could Be A Little Dangerous
A new label on some of the steaks in your grocery store highlights a production process you may have never heard of: mechanical tenderizing. This means the beef has been punctured with blades or needles to break down the muscle fibers and make it easier to chew. But it also means the meat has a greater chance of being contaminated and making you sick. The labels are a requirement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Zuraw, 5/23)

6. CDC Reports Nearly 300 Pregnant Women In U.S. Infected With Zika

Due to a new method in reporting the cases, the known number of pregnant woman who have been affected has nearly tripled. Meanwhile, calls for proper funding to battle the outbreak have increased in urgency, as states try to get control of the virus without the money to do it.

Reuters: U.S. Reports 279 Zika Cases In Pregnant Women, Obama Pushes Congress On Funds
Health officials said 279 pregnant women in the United States and U.S. territories have tested positive for Zika infection, prompting a new call from President Barack Obama for more funding to fight the outbreak spreading through the Americas. Obama wants the U.S. Congress to provide close to $1.9 billion for vaccine development, faster diagnostic tests, and new tools for killing the mosquitoes that carry the virus, which can cause a rare birth defect in newborns and neurological disorders in adults. (Pierson, Berkrot and Rampton, 5/20)

Politico: CDC: Nearly 300 Zika Cases In Pregnant Women In U.S. And Territories
All of the U.S. infections occurred in women who had traveled abroad or, in rare cases, contracted the virus by infected sexual partners who returned from areas where the Zika is prevalent. In Puerto Rico, the virus is being transmitted by mosquitoes. The CDC is tracking the outcomes of these pregnancies, but reported no data today. At least one infected woman in Puerto Rico miscarried and another in Washington, D.C., had an abortion after imaging revealed the fetus had a misshapen head and brain. (Allen, 5/20)

The Associated Pre
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