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KHN First Edition: May 31, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: When Adult Children Get Sick, It May Be Hard For Parents To Get Information
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "When Sean Meyers was in a car accident on a November evening three years ago, he was flown by air ambulance to the emergency department at Inova Fairfax Hospital, in Northern Virginia. With his arm broken in four places, a busted knee and severe bruising to his upper body, Meyers, 29, was admitted to the hospital. While badly hurt, his injuries didn’t seem life threatening. When his car went off the road, Meyers had been on his way to visit his parents, who live nearby in Sterling. They rushed to the hospital that night to wait for news and to be available if Sean or the hospital staff needed anything. But beyond the barest details, no one from the hospital talked with them about their son’s condition or care, not that night nor during the next 10 days while he was hospitalized." (Andrews, 5/31)

Kaiser Health News: California’s Glaring Shortage Of School Nurses
Kaiser Health News staff writer Ana B. Ibarra reports: "California falls significantly short of a new recommendation by an influential group of pediatricians calling for every school in the United States to have at least one nurse on site. Fifty-seven percent of California's public school districts, with 1.2 million students, do not employ nurses, according to research from Sacramento State University’s School of Nursing. The call for a nurse in every school appeared this week in a policy statement by the Illinois-based American Academy of Pediatrics. The group’s new guideline replaces its previous one, which recommended that school districts have one nurse for every 750 healthy students, and one for every 225 students who need daily assistance." (Ibarra, 5/31)

The New York Times: I.R.S. Ruling Is Obstacle To Health Care Networks Promoted By Obama
A ruling by the Internal Revenue Service creates a significant obstacle to a new type of health care network that the Obama administration has promoted as a way to provide better care at lower cost, industry lawyers and providers say. ... In its recent ruling, the I.R.S. denied a tax exemption sought by an accountable care organization that coordinates care for people with commercial insurance. The tax agency said the organization did not meet the test for tax-exempt status because it was not operated exclusively for charitable purposes and it provided private benefits to some doctors in its network. (Pear, 5/29)

The New York Times: In A Secret Meeting, Revelations On The Battle Over Health Care
On Jan. 13, 2014, a team of Internal Revenue Service financial managers piled into government vans and headed to the Old Executive Office Building for what would turn out to be a very unusual meeting. Upon arrival, the I.R.S. officials, some of whom had expressed doubts that the Obama administration had the proper authority to spend billions of dollars on a crucial element of its health care law, were ushered into a conference room. There, they were presented with an Office of Management and Budget memo laying out the administration’s justification for spending $3.9 billion on consumer health insurance subsidies. (Hulse, 5/30)

The Wall Street Journal: House Speaker Ryan Is Charting His Own Course
House Speaker Paul Ryan is holding firm so far in not endorsing Donald Trump for president, instead sticking with his strategy of charting a course for the Republican Party from Capitol Hill—even if it differs from Mr. Trump’s. ... [Ryan's] agenda has included an emphasis on free trade and low taxes, combined with a focus on slowing the growth of the country’s debt by remaking entitlement programs like Medicare and repealing the Affordable Care Act. Whether Mr. Ryan’s strategy is successful will depend in part on some semblance of unity in the often-unruly House, where Mr. Ryan has encountered difficulty this year. (Hughes, 5/26)

The Washington Post: Congress Leaves Town With No Zika Resolution, Lengthy Negotiations Ahead
Congress abandoned the Capitol Thursday for an almost two-week break without addressing how to combat Zika, even as public health officials issue dire warnings about the spread of the mosquito-driven virus with summer approaching. Republican leaders insist that a deal can be struck soon to provide the money federal health officials say is needed to develop a vaccine. They also played down the risk of waiting a little longer, arguing existing money is available for the initial steps needed to help contain the virus while lawmakers resolve the larger funding fight. (Kane and DeBonis, 5/27)

The Associated Press: UN Health Agency Rejects Call To Postpone Rio Olympics
The World Health Organization on Saturday rejected a call from 150 health experts to consider postponing or moving the Rio Summer Olympics due to the Zika virus in hard-hit Brazil, arguing that the shift would make no significant difference to the spread of the virus. The U.N. health agency, which declared the spread of Zika in the Americas a global emergency in February, said in a statement there is “no public health justification” for postponing or canceling the 2016 games, which run from Aug. 5-21. (Moulson, 5/28)

The New York Times: New York’s Zika Fight Turns To Travel Precautions And Safe Sex
At a clinic in Harlem where many of the patients have roots in the Dominican Republic, Dr. Juan Tapia-Mendoza talks to patients about the Zika virus daily. He asks if they are planning to visit the island this summer. He reminds them that the virus can be transmitted through sex. In New York City, there have been 109 reported cases of Zika, including 17 women who were pregnant when they learned they had the virus, according to city health officials. They all contracted the virus while visiting other countries. (Fitzsimmons, 5/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Reaches Out To Veterans At ‘Rolling Thunder’ Rally
Donald Trump reached out to veterans at a biker rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday afternoon, drawing applause as he promised to pay for private health care and to announce new donations to veterans groups. ... He promised to give veterans the option of seeing a private doctor if they encounter delays in getting care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. “Of those vets, of our cherished people, thousands of people are waiting on line to see a doctor,” Mr. Trump said. “That is not going to happen anymore. If there is a wait, we are going to give the right for those people to go to a private doctor, or even a public doctor, and get themselves taken care of and we are going to pay the bill.” (Tracy, 5/29)

The Washington Post: To Cut Wait Times, VA Wants Nurses To Act Like Doctors. Doctors Say Veterans Will Be Harmed.
The Department of Veterans Affairs would dramatically expand the authority of nurses to treat patients without a doctor’s supervision in a controversial proposal by the country’s largest health-care system. The plan, which would allow nurses with advanced training to broaden their responsibilities for patients, is drawing attention to a bitter debate over the relative roles of doctors and nurses. Because of VA’s high visibility, it is likely to be closely watched. The agency, through amended regulations, wants to give vast new authority to its most trained nurses to order and read diagnostic tests, administer anesthesia, prescribe medications and manage acute and chronic diseases — without a doctor’s oversight. (Rein, 5/27)

USA Today: Senate Investigation Finds 'Systemic' Failures At VA Watchdog
A Senate investigation of poor health care at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, Wis., found systemic failures in a VA inspector general’s review of the facility that raise questions about the internal watchdog’s ability to ensure adequate health care for veterans nationwide. The probe by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee found the inspector general’s office, which is charged with independently investigating VA complaints, discounted key evidence and witness testimony, needlessly narrowed its inquiry and has no standard for determining wrongdoing. (Slack, 5/31)

The Washington Post: A Troubled Marine Goes To Veterans’ Court: ‘I Didn’t Want To Do This. At All.’
Courtroom 1E is like a big, open confessional. “This is almost like the truth court,” said Marshall Williams, a retired Army sergeant major who decided to scrap all the platitudes he’d planned to say in that Northern Virginia courtroom last week and instead tell the truth. The truths told there in Fairfax County District Court are usually personal and embarrassing. They include the truth about dodging gunfire, watching people die, dousing the nightmares with drugs or alcohol, trying to get out of bed every day when you’re a U.S. military veteran fighting the physical and mental toll of your service. This truth court is an experiment — Fairfax’s first Veterans Treatment Court program. (Dvorak, 5/30)

Los Angeles Times: Senator Calls For Investigation Of Purdue Pharma Following Times Story On OxyContin
A U.S. senator on Friday called for federal investigations of OxyContin’s manufacturer in response to a Los Angeles Times report that found the bestselling painkiller wears off early in many patients, exposing them to increased risk of addiction. Sen. Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat whose state has been hit hard by prescription drug abuse, urged the Justice Department, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to launch probes of drugmaker Purdue Pharma. (Ryan, 5/27)

Los Angeles Times: Prince's Death Casts Spotlight On Anti-Opioid Addiction Drug
It was an intervention that never happened, and it featured two stars: Prince, an adored music icon, and buprenorphine, an obscure drug hailed as a revolutionary tool to fight opioid addiction. Prince died before the first scene, when a drug-addiction consultant, a physician and Prince's associates converged on the star's Paisley Park home near Minneapolis, based on official accounts. The plot twist? The consultant, Andrew Kornfeld of the Recovery Without Walls clinic in Mill Valley, Calif., was carrying a small amount of buprenorphine. Nicknamed “bupe,” it is also known by several commercial names including Suboxone. (Mohan, 5/30)

The Washington Post/ProPublica: Doctors Fire Back At Bad Yelp Reviews — And Reveal Patients’ Information Online
Burned by negative reviews, some health providers are casting their patients’ privacy aside and sharing intimate details online as they try to rebut criticism. In the course of these arguments -- which have spilled out publicly on ratings sites like Yelp — doctors, dentists, chiropractors and massage therapists, among others, have divulged details of patients’ diagnoses, treatments and idiosyncrasies. (Ornstein, 5/27)

The Washington Post: ‘We Lose Money Doing This’: Tiny Company Caught In Abortion Debate Takes On Congress
StemExpress, a tiny biomedical company in [Placerville, Calif., a] foothill town east of Sacramento, has emerged at the heart of the contentious national debate over abortion and the scientific use of human fetal tissue. FBI agents say its floor-to-ceiling windows are security hazards, a potential line of sight for snipers. The backdrop of pine trees and hills provides cover, employees say, to strangers who crouch with cameras. Inside, Melanie Rose, a laboratory technician, knows anyone could be watching. One recent May morning, she opened a foam box with fetal tissue packed in ice — a donation for medical research. ... That work, with fetal tissue, has catapulted the small biotech firm out from under the radar. It is now the target of loiterers, protesters and death threats and the subject of a congressional inquiry. (Paquette, 5/27)

The Associated Press: Oklahoma Fails To Make Doctor-Performed Abortions A Felony
Doctors who perform abortions in Oklahoma won't be guilty of a felony after the state Senate adjourned for the year without trying to override Republican Gov. Mary Fallin's veto of a bill to make it a felony crime. The Senate ended the session Friday before state Sen. Nathan Dahm tried an override on his bill to remove an exemption from the law for licensed doctors. (5/27)

Los Angeles Times: Why Over-The-Counter Birth Control Could Actually Lead To More Unwanted Pregnancies
Women in California who don’t want to wait to get birth control prescriptions from their doctors can now purchase their pills, patches, rings and shots directly from pharmacists. The new program, which began earlier this month, has been widely hailed as a victory for women’s reproductive rights by doctors’ organizations and healthcare advocates. Yet the fanfare misses an important point: Women visiting their pharmacists won’t have access to the most reliable forms of birth control on the market because those methods, such as implantable rods or intrauterine devices (IUDs), will still require a trip to a doctor's office. (Richards, 5/28)

Los Angeles Times: A Question Of Timing: A Lawsuit Claims Gilead Sciences Could Have Developed A Less-Harmful Version Of Its HIV Treatment Sooner
More than a decade ago, researchers at Gilead Sciences thought they had a breakthrough: a new version of the company’s key HIV medicine that was less toxic to kidneys and bones. Clinical trials of the new compound on HIV-positive patients in Los Angeles and several other cities seemed to support their optimism. Patients needed just a fraction of the dose, creating the chance of far fewer dangerous side effects. But in 2004, just as the Foster City biotech firm was preparing for a second and larger round of patient studies, Gilead executives stopped the research. ... More than six years later, though, in 2010, Gilead restarted those trials. The new version of the drug, which the company says is safer, was approved in November under the brand name Genvoya. ... critics believe the new, less harmful form of the drug could have been developed sooner – and wasn’t because the company wanted to extend its patent-protected profits. (sen, 5/29)

The New York Times: Jazz Pharmaceuticals To Buy Celator For $1.5 Billion
Jazz Pharmaceuticals said on Tuesday that it had agreed to buy Celator Pharmaceuticals, which makes a treatment for a form of leukemia, for $1.5 billion in cash. The deal comes amid rapid consolidation in the pharmaceutical sector, with companies using mergers to gain scale or access to new treatments for rare diseases, without having to fund the research and development stage for those therapies. (Bray, 5/31)

Sioux City (S.D.) Argus Leader: IHS Submits Plan For Hospital In 'Immediate Jeopardy'
Two federal agencies have reached an accord to maintain a key federal funding source for a government hospital found to be in "immediate jeopardy" this week. An Indian Health Service spokeswoman said Saturday morning that the agency had submitted a plan of correction for the Rapid City - Sioux San IHS hospital which was approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Friday. (Ferguson, 5/28)

The Associated Press: Altered State: Border Redraw Moves 19 Homes In The Carolinas
Dee Martin may wake up on Jan. 1 and find herself in a whole different state. South Carolina and North Carolina have redrawn the border between the two states with GPS technology that allows them to confirm the boundary lines established under an English king in the 18th century down to the centimeter. ... But the biggest problem may come through the homebound health care she gets for her 89-year-old husband. The provider doesn't serve North Carolina and that state's Medicaid may not pay for the service even if they change doctors and nurses. (5/29)

Los Angeles Times: Fired Hospital Worker's Case Points To A Trail Of Stolen Drugs And Thousands Of Patients At Risk
When a surgical technician named Rocky Elbert Allen was accused in February of stealing drugs from a Denver-area hospital, it was the sort of news that ended up in a police blotter. But as investigators began combing through the 28-year-old former Navy operating-room tech’s past, they say, what emerged was a startling, five-year trail of inside drug thefts at hospitals across the West, the story of a man who was fired repeatedly yet was somehow able to talk his way back into employment – and, authorities say, more drugs. (Anderson, 5/29)

The Associated Press: Health Officials Now Confirm 11 Cases Of Measles In Arizona
An outbreak of measles that began with an inmate at a federal detention center for immigrants in central Arizona has now grown to 11 confirmed cases, officials said Monday. Seven of those infected are inmates at the Eloy Detention Center, and four are workers at the facility, Pinal County Health Services spokesman Joe Pyritz said. The privately-run facility has stopped accepting new detainees or releasing those currently held there. State and county health officials said they’re working to stop new transmissions by isolating patients, vaccinating people detained in the privately-run facility and trying to identify people who were at locations the four infected workers visited. (5/30)

The Associated Press: New Maine Midwifery Rules Reflect Licensure Drive Around US
Maine's midwives will face a new set of rules designed to make homebirth safer as a result of a bill that reflects changes to the profession around the country. ... The changes come as out-of-hospital births are increasingly popular in Maine and throughout the country. The rate of out-of-hospital births in Maine nearly doubled between 2000 and 2013; nationwide, it grew 29 percent between 2004 and 2009. The new rules emerge as midwives in many states are becoming increasingly integrated into mainstream health care, and some see state licensure as the path to further accomplish that. (Whittle, 5/29)

The Washington Post: Cancer Deaths Rose During The Recession. But Why?
Wealthy countries experienced a small uptick in cancer deaths during the global economic crisis, according to a new study — an estimated 260,000 excess deaths between 2008 and 2010. The analysis, published in the medical journal the Lancet, found intriguing evidence that access to medical care might explain the rise: Increases in the unemployment rate were associated with additional cancer deaths except in countries with universal health care, where access to health care coverage would not have depended on employment. (Johnson, 5/26)

The Associated Press: Guarding Against Deadly Blows To The Chest In Kids' Sports
A blow to the chest sometimes knocks the heart out of rhythm, and can kill. Fortunately it's rare. But most victims are otherwise healthy kid athletes. And survival hinges on fast use of heart-zapping defibrillators that not every athletic league or school keeps near the playing fields. Now a U.S. organization that oversees athletic equipment has proposed the first performance standard for chest protectors to reduce the risk. (Neergaard, 5/30)

NPR: Hidden Heart Disease Is The Top Health Threat For U.S. Women
Tracy Solomon Clark is outgoing and energetic — a former fundraiser for big companies and big causes. As she charged through her 40s she had "no clue," she says, that there might be a problem with her heart. It was about six years ago — when she was 44 — that she first suffered severe shortness of breath, along with dizziness. She figured she was overweight and overworked, but never considered heart disease. "That was the furthest thing from my mind," Solomon Clark says. "I was young!" (Neighmond, 5/30)

NPR: Could Thinking Positively About Aging Be The Secret Of Health?
The dictionary defines ageism as the "tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention, or unsuitable for employment." But research indicates that ageism may not just be ill-informed or hurtful. It may also be a matter of life and death. Not that it's literally killing people. Researcher Becca Levy, a professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health, says it depends on how much a given individual takes those negative ideas to heart. (Jaffe, 5/28)


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