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KHN First Edition: June 16, 2016


First Edition

Thursday, June 16, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Advisory Panel Targets Rising Medicare Drug Costs In Its Latest Report To Congress
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "Congress should move to slow spending in Medicare’s drug benefit by adopting a package of changes that could save billions, but would also add costs to insurers and have mixed effects on enrollees, an independent advisory commission said Wednesday. In its June report to Congress, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission warned that rising drug costs and other factors have helped drive Medicare Part D spending up nearly 60 percent from 2007 to 2014. The commission recommends an interrelated set of proposals it estimates could save at least $10 billion over five years, partly by encouraging more use of generic drugs and also by creating incentives for insurers to negotiate better prices from drug makers." (Appleby, 6/16)

Kaiser Health News: Feds Urge State Medicaid Programs To Encourage Long-Acting Contraceptives
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "The federal government, which spends billions of dollars each year covering unintended pregnancies, is encouraging states to adopt policies that might boost the number of Medicaid enrollees who use long-acting, reversible contraceptives. LARCs, as they are known, “possess a number of advantages,” Vikki Wachino, deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, wrote to state programs in a recent bulletin. “They are cost-effective, have high efficacy and continuation rates, require minimal maintenance, and are rated highest in patient satisfaction.” And, Wachino stressed, “more can be done to increase this form of contraception.” (Andrews, 6/16)

The New York Times: Orlando Shooting Renews Debate Over Limits On Gay Men Donating Blood
In the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., 53 people were alive but wounded, many in desperate need of blood. Blood banks in the area put out a call for donors. Gay men were ready to volunteer. Rumors even went around that blood centers in Orlando had relaxed a ban on donations from sexually active gay men. But the rumors were false. The ban, imposed by the Food and Drug Administration, remains in place, infuriating some gay rights activists. (McNeil, 6/15)

The Associated Press: In Wake Of Mass Shootings, Dem Senator Wages Filibuster
A Democratic senator who mourned the loss of 20 children in his home state of Connecticut four years ago waged a nearly 15-hour filibuster into the early hours of Thursday morning, demanding votes on gun control measures just days after a mass shooting at a Florida nightclub. As compromise on the gun issue remained improbable, Sen. Chris Murphy stood on the Senate floor for most of Wednesday and into Thursday, saying he would remain there "until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together." He yielded the floor at 2:11 a.m., EDT, saying he had won commitments from Republican leaders that they would hold votes on amendments to expand background checks and ban gun sales to suspected terrorists. It is unlikely that those amendments will pass. (6/16)

The Associated Press: Spiraling Drug Costs Prompt Call For Major Medicare Changes
Calling the rising cost of drugs "unsustainable," congressional advisers on Wednesday recommended major changes to Medicare's popular outpatient prescription program, now 10 years old.The proposal from the nonpartisan Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, or MedPAC, steers clear of calling for the government to negotiate drug prices directly, an option both presidential candidates advocate. For beneficiaries, the plan is a mixed bag. All seniors would get better protection from extremely high costs, but some may have to spend more. (6/15)

The Associated Press: Zika Infections Late In Pregnancy Led To No Defects In Study
A study of women who were infected with the Zika virus late in pregnancy found that none had babies with apparent birth defects. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine online Wednesday, seems to confirm that the greatest risk to infants comes early in pregnancy. Researchers tracked women infected in Colombia and also found troubling cases of severe birth defects in babies born to women who never realized they had contracted Zika. (6/15)

The Wall Street Journal: Zika Risk To Babies Of Pregnant Women Infected Late Appears Less
Pregnant women who are infected with Zika in their third trimesters may not face a major risk that their babies will develop the type of abnormalities linked to the virus, according to a study published Wednesday. None of the babies born to 616 women in Colombia who were diagnosed with Zika during their third trimesters was born with microcephaly or brain abnormalities, according to the study, published by public-health scientists in Colombia and at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the New England Journal of Medicine. The majority—82%—of the babies were born at term at normal birth weight. (McKay, 6/15)

The Washington Post: Zika Can Cause Microcephaly Even If Moms Have No Symptoms, Report Says
Pregnant women who become infected with the Zika virus are at risk of having babies with the severe birth defect known as microcephaly, regardless of whether they have symptoms of the disease, according to a new report. The findings, part of the first comprehensive look at the Zika outbreak in Colombia, one of the countries hardest hit by the mosquito-borne virus, add to the growing body of evidence about the potentially devastating consequences of Zika. (Sun, 6/15)

The Associated Press: Republican Negotiators Promise Quick End To Zika Talks
Republicans in control of negotiations on long-delayed funding to combat the Zika virus are promising a quick agreement, as behind-the-scenes negotiations have focused on a potential deal in the range of a $1.1 billion measure passed by the Senate last month. A trickier issue involves whether to pair the Zika funds with cuts to other programs as called for by House Republicans to defray the measure's effect on the budget deficit. Democrats, whose votes may be needed to pass the final measure, are against the idea. (6/15)

NPR: Summer Camps Say They're Not Sweating Over Zika Risk
Summer camp and mosquitoes go together like chicken and waffles, particularly in the South. But Zika virus may raise the stakes in the age-old struggle of campers versus pests. The mosquito species capable of carrying Zika can be found in much of the southern United States. Anxious parents need not panic; no Zika-infected mosquitoes have been identified in the country. Nonetheless, Tisha Bolger, board president of the American Camp Association, says camp administrators are particularly interested in what they can do to prevent mosquito bites this summer. (Jacewicz, 6/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Visium Insider-Trading Case Ensnares Former FDA Official
A hedge-fund insider-trading case has ensnared a former Food and Drug Administration official, one of the first criminal actions focused on how Wall Street gathers information from Washington. Federal prosecutors on Wednesday unveiled charges against a current and a former portfolio manager of hedge- fund firm Visium Asset Management LP, accusing them of trading on confidential government information about generic-drug approvals. (Viswanatha and Matthews, 6/15)

The Washington Post: Hedge Fund Manager Charged With Reaping $32 Million Profit From Washington-Style Insider Trading Scheme
Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged a hedge fund manager with engaging in a Washington-style insider trading scheme, allegedly reaping a $32 million profit using confidential government information. The scheme involved Sanjay Valvani, a 44-year-old New York hedge fund manager, and Gordon Johnston, 64, of Olney, Md., who spent more than a decade working at the Food and Drug Administration, according to allegations filed in a complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney of Manhattan. Johnston served as a “political intelligence” consultant to Valvani, making as much as $5,000 a month for bringing the hedge fund manager confidential information mined from his relationships with former FDA colleagues, the complaints alleged. (Merle, 6/15)

The Wall Street Journal: Envision Healthcare, AmSurg To Merge
Envision Healthcare Holdings Inc. and AmSurg Corp. agreed to merge, in a deal that will create a company providing a range of hospital-related services worth some $10 billion. The all-stock deal has a fixed exchange ratio of 0.334 AmSurg share per Envision share, the companies confirmed in a statement. Envision shareholders will own about 53% of the combined company, which is to be named Envision Healthcare Corp. It will have dual headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., and Greenwood Village, Colo. (Cimilluca and Mattioli, 6/15)

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Sues Mississippi Over Defunding Law
Planned Parenthood is suing Mississippi over a new state law that will ban Medicaid from spending money with any abortion provider. Records show that from July 2013 to August 2015, Mississippi Medicaid spent $439 with Planned Parenthood. The state could easily spend more than that to defend itself in the lawsuit. (6/15)

Reuters: Kentucky Court Grants Injunction Against Abortion Clinic
A Kentucky appeals court on Wednesday granted Republican Governor Matt Bevin a temporary injunction against a Lexington abortion clinic his administration said was not properly licensed. In a 3-0 ruling, the Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned a March decision from a lower court judge that denied the governor an injunction against EMW Women's Clinic. In Wednesday's order, the judges said the state's Cabinet for Health and Family Services had the right to regulate how abortions were performed and how clinics were licensed. (Bittenbender, 6/15)

NPR: Dying In A Hospital Means More Procedures, Tests And Costs
People who die in the hospital undergo more intense tests and procedures than those who die anywhere else. An analysis by Arcadia Healthcare Solutions also shows that spending on people who die in a hospital is about seven times that on people who die at home. The work confirms with hard data what most doctors and policymakers already know: Hospital deaths are more expensive and intrusive than deaths at home, in hospice care, or even in nursing homes. (Kodjak, 6/15)

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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