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KHN First Edition: June 2, 2016


First Edition

Thursday, June 02, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Death Talk Is Cool At This Festival
WFYI's Jake Harper, in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "In a sunny patch of grass in the middle of Indianapolis' Crown Hill Cemetery, 45 people recently gathered around a large blackboard. The words "Before I Die, I Want To ..." were stenciled on the board in bold white letters. ... The cemetery tour was part of the city's Before I Die Festival, held in mid-April — the first festival of its kind in the U.S. The original one was held in Cardiff, Wales, in 2013, and the idea has since spread to the U.K., and now to Indianapolis. The purpose of each gathering is to get people thinking ahead — about topics like what they want to accomplish in their remaining days, end-of-life care, funeral arrangements, wills, organ donation, good deaths and bad — and to spark conversations." (Harper, 6/2)

The Associated Press: Insurance Rates Going Up: New Concerns For Obamacare
Fresh problems for "Obamacare": The largest health insurer in Texas wants to raise its rates on individual policies by an average of nearly 60 percent, a new sign that President Barack Obama's overhaul hasn't solved the problem of price spikes. Texas isn't alone. Citing financial losses under the health care law, many insurers around the country are requesting bigger premium increases for 2017. That's to account for lower-than-hoped enrollment, sicker-than-expected customers and problems with the government's financial backstop for insurance markets. (6/2)

USA Today: Feds Say Medicaid Can Pay For Mosquito Repellent To Prevent Zika
Medicaid can be used to cover mosquito repellent to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, federal regulators told state and private Medicaid officials in a letter sent Wednesday. Coverage of repellent — when prescribed by a health professional — with the federal matching dollars given other Medicaid-covered treatments is the primary change in the new Department of Health and Human Services guidance. The letter is intended to clarify how low-income people covered by Medicaid can protect themselves so they don't contract the virus or get tested and treated in case they do. HHS alerted about 50,000 people involved in Medicaid plans. (O'Donnell, 6/1)

The Associated Press: Florida: Disaster Coming Without Help On Zika Fight
Florida will experience a “disaster” with the Zika virus if federal authorities don’t immediately provide money to help battle the virus, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday. Scott, who had already visited Washington, D.C., in an effort to get Congress to act, sent a strongly worded letter to President Barack Obama asking the federal government to do something. The Republican governor called it “profoundly disappointing” that Congress has not taken “immediate action.” (Fineout and Kay, 6/1)

The New York Times: F.D.A. Proposes Guidelines For Salt Added To Food
The Food and Drug Administration proposed voluntary guidelines for the food industry to reduce salt on Wednesday, a move long sought by consumer and public health advocates who said the standards could eventually help save thousands of American lives. Though the guidelines are not mandatory, consumer advocates said they are meaningful because they will serve as a benchmark by which companies can be measured. More than 70 percent of sodium consumed is already in food before it reaches the table, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and health advocates say the guidelines could help reduce that. (Tavernise, 6/1)

The Washington Post: FDA Proposes Guidelines To Prod Food Industry To Cut Salt In Products
“Many Americans want to reduce sodium in their diets, but that’s hard to do when much of it is in everyday products we buy in stores and restaurants,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is about putting power back in the hands of consumers, so that they can better control how much salt is in the food they eat and improve their health.” The agency said that many food companies -- including General Mills, Mars and Nestle -- already have cut back on salt but that the overall level in the food supply remains too high. After a lengthy analysis, the FDA created 150 categories of foods and set targets for sodium reductions. (McGinley, 6/1)

The Associated Press: Teen Births Fall Again, Another Drop In Decades Of Decline
Teen pregnancies fell again last year, to another historic low, a government report shows. "The continued decline is really quite amazing," said Brady Hamilton, the lead author of the new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, the birth rate for U.S. teens dropped 8 percent. Rates have been falling since 1991, and this marks yet another new low. (6/2)

The New York Times: Fearing Drugs’ Rare Side Effects, Millions Take Their Chances With Osteoporosis
Millions of Americans are missing out on a chance to avoid debilitating fractures from weakened bones, researchers say, because they are terrified of exceedingly rare side effects from drugs that can help them. Reports of the drugs’ causing jawbones to rot and thighbones to snap in two have shaken many osteoporosis patients so much that they say they would rather take their chances with the disease. Use of the most commonly prescribed osteoporosis drugs fell by 50 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to a recent paper, and doctors say the trend is continuing. (Kolata, 6/1)

The Associated Press: Why Aren't You Shopping For Lower Prescription Drug Prices?
Most people don't shop for lower prescription drug prices. They should, especially now that there are easier ways to do so. More than a dozen websites and apps are vying to help U.S. consumers find the lowest prices for prescription drugs by comparing prices and searching for deals, similar to the way Expedia looks for cheap airfare or looks for low mortgage rates. ... Recent studies show that more than one in five prescriptions in the U.S. go unfilled, in part due to financial hardship. Yet only 17 percent of U.S. consumers are willing to check multiple pharmacies for lower drug prices, according to a survey by Consumer Reports. (6/1)

Los Angeles Times: Drugmakers Would Give Advance Notice Of Price Hikes Under Plan Approved By State Senate
The state Senate on Wednesday took action to shine a light on skyrocketing prices for many prescription drugs, approving a bill that requires drug manufacturers to provide 60-days notice to purchasers if the cost is going to be increased by more than 10%. The bill by Sen. Ed Hernández (D-West Covina) said his bill would also require drugmakers to give notice when a new drug will cost $10,000 or more annually or during a course of treatment. (McGreevy, 6/1)

Reuters: Forbes Estimates Theranos Founder's Net Worth Now Zero
Forbes magazine on Wednesday reduced its estimate of the net worth of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and chief executive of health technology company Theranos Inc, to zero from $4.5 billion last year. Holmes' blood-testing company has been under investigation by several federal and state agencies and was accused in a suit filed last week of endangering customer health through "massive failures" that misrepresented the accuracy and quality of its blood tests, according to court papers. Forbes said private investors had bought stakes in Theranos that implied a $9 billion valuation but said $800 million is a more realistic figure. (Tennery, 6/1)

The Wall Street Journal: Medivation Sets Wednesday As Cutoff For Vote On Sanofi’s Proposal To Remove Board
Medivation Inc.’s shareholders as of close of business Wednesday will be able to vote on Sanofi SA’s proposal to replace the oncology drugmaker’s board. San Francisco-based Medivation set Wednesday as the so-called record date, hours after the French pharmaceutical company pressed forward its $9.3 billion hostile takeover bid. The biotech company has rejected Sanofi’s offer, calling it “substantially inadequate and opportunistically timed” and filed a revocation solicitation with the Securities and Exchange Commission. (Armental, 6/1)

Politico: Karen DeSalvo On How Data Will Transform Health Care
Growing up, Karen DeSalvo never planned to have one of the nation’s most important health care jobs. Now she has two of them. As National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, she’s the White House’s point person on digitizing health care — and as acting Assistant Secretary for Health, she also helps guide the nation's public health strategy. (Diamond, 6/1)

The Wall Street Journal: Senior NIH Doctors Protest Hospital Restructuring
A high-level revolt is erupting among National Institutes of Health doctors who are disputing an outside panel’s assessment that an unsafe culture existed at the agency’s renowned hospital, and are protesting a shake-up of senior leadership based on the findings. Central to the quarrel is NIH Director Francis Collins, an eminent gene scientist who announced plans in May to replace the top three officials at NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., with a new management structure. His decision came after an expert panel in April concluded that drug-sterility problems had occurred because doctors there allowed patient safety to be “subservient to research.” (Burton, 6/1)

The Washington Post: 14 States Have Passed Laws This Year Making It Harder To Get An Abortion
As state legislatures across the country wrap up their 2016 sessions, one of the most active areas of legislating hasn't been red-hot LGBT issues or immigration. It's been the decades-old issue of abortion. And on that issue, social conservatives are on a roll. This year, antiabortion advocates passed some 30 laws in 14 states to make it harder for people to get abortion. ... Antiabortion advocates aren't just celebrating one good year: 2016 marks the fifth straight year they've passed a large number of abortion restrictions. In 2011 alone, Republican legislatures passed some 92 laws limiting abortions. In total, the past five years account for a quarter of all abortion restrictions enacted since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973. (Phillips, 6/1)

Los Angeles Times: 11 Deaths At Huntington Hospital Among Patients Infected By Dirty Scopes, City Report Says
Pasadena health officials said Wednesday that 16 patients were infected by dangerous bacteria from medical scopes at Huntington Hospital from January 2013 to August 2015, including 11 who have now died. Many of those patients were already severely ill, including some with cancer. Health officials said that only one of the 11 death certificates listed the bacteria as the cause. It was not clear if infection was a factor in any of the other deaths. (sen, 6/1)

NPR: Poll: Nearly 1 In 4 Americans Reports Having Had A Concussion
Concussions have become part of the daily news. But how much have these brain injuries become part of daily life? To find out, we asked people across the country about concussions in the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll. The poll, conducted during the first half of March, found that nearly a quarter of people — 23 percent of those surveyed — said they had suffered a concussion at some point in their lives. Among those who said they'd had a concussion, more than three-quarters had sought medical treatment. (Hensley, 5/31)

NPR: A Med Student Decides To Be Upfront About Her Mental Issues
At first Giselle wasn't sure what to put on her medical school application. She wanted to be a doctor, but she also wanted people to know about her own health: years of depression, anxiety and a suicide attempt. (We're using only her first name in this story, out of concern for her future career.) "A lot of people were like, you don't say that at all," she said. "Do not mention that you have any kind of weakness." Giselle remembers having her first intense suicidal thoughts when she was 10 years old. (Aronczyk, 6/1)

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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