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KHN First Edition: June 20, 2016


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First Edition

Monday, June 20, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Despite Overdose Epidemic, Georgia Caps The Number Of Opioid Treatment Clinics
WABE's Michell Eloy, in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: "Zac Talbott sees the irony of running an opioid treatment program from a former doctor's office. ... Outpatient clinics like the one Talbott co-owns dispense drugs like methadone and buprenorphine, which are legal synthetic opioids that block cravings and withdrawal symptoms. ... More than 1,200 people died of an overdose in Georgia in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with opioid drugs frequently implicated in those deaths. That's a 10 percent increase over the previous year. So Talbott is outraged that Georgia has put a one-year moratorium on issuing licenses to clinics that use medicine to treat people addicted to heroin or painkillers. "We're in the middle of an opioid addiction and overdose epidemic," Talbott said. "You just think about that for a minute." (Eloy, 6/20)

Kaiser Health News: Study Promotes Battlefields’ Lessons To Advance National Trauma Care
Kaiser Health News staff writer Rachel Bluth reports: "Tens of thousands of American lives could be saved each year with a concerted national effort to emulate what top military and civilian trauma centers are doing, a prestigious panel of top medical experts reported Friday. “It is time for a national goal owned by the nation’s leaders: zero preventable deaths after injury,” said a committee from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in an ambitious report released six days after the nation’s worst mass shooting took place in Orlando, Florida, ending 49 lives and injuring 53. Citing the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment’s performance in Afghanistan and Iraq, the report praised the special operations force for its successes in treating combat casualties under difficult conditions while virtually eliminating preventable deaths." (Bluth, 6/17)

The New York Times: Struggling For Profit Selling Health Insurance In State Marketplaces
Oscar Health was going to be a new kind of insurance company. Started in 2012, just in time to offer plans to people buying insurance under the new federal health care law, the business promised to use technology to push less costly care and more consumer-friendly coverage. “We’re trying to build something that’s going to turn the industry on its head,” Joshua Kushner, one of the company’s founders, said in 2014, as Oscar began to enroll its first customers. These days, though, Oscar is more of a case study in how brutally tough it is to keep a business above water in the state marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act. (Abelson, 6/19)

The Associated Press: Seasonal Farmworkers Face Uphill Battle For Health Insurance
Seasonal agricultural workers were just finishing a meal after a long day of planting sweet potato seeds when Julie Pittman pulled up to their camp. Pittman, a paralegal with the Farmworker Unit of Legal Aid of North Carolina, worked to get their attention. The health care law that passed in 2010 requires you to have health insurance, she said, speaking in Spanish. If you don't get it, she said, you could be fined. "Cuánto cuesta?" asked a worker, wanting to know the cost. In the United States legally through the H-2A visa program, these farmworkers, like most American citizens and legal residents, must be insured. But reaching them is an uphill battle. (6/20)

The Associated Press: For Dems, A Stepping Stone To Common Ground On Health Care
Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for all" plan seems even less likely now that he's all but out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, but there's a way that he and Hillary Clinton could still find common ground on government-sponsored health care. It's a "public option" for states to set up their own insurance plans that compete against private industry. Sanders helped to pass the federal legislation that would allow it, and Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, says if elected she'd work with interested governors to implement it. (6/20)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Clinton’s Claim Of Working With Democrats And Republicans To Create A Child Health Program
[A] new ad features a 1998 clip of Hillary Clinton speaking about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) signed into law by her husband, then-President Bill Clinton. The ad is an interesting example of how images and words can be assembled to present an image of leadership, while giving a misleading impression about what exactly happened. ... Given the facts about CHIP and the reporting at the time, you could assemble a somewhat less favorable account about Clinton’s role in creating CHIP. The ad is correct that about 8 million low-income children receive health care through the program. But it’s questionable that she played a key leadership role to creating CHIP. (Kessler, 6/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Antitrust Regulators Concerned About An Anthem-Cigna Merger
U.S. antitrust regulators have privately expressed concerns about Anthem Inc.’s $48 billion proposed acquisition of Cigna Corp., and are skeptical that the health insurers can offer concessions that would fully preserve competition in the industry, according to people familiar with the matter. Company representatives met June 10 in Washington with Justice Department staffers and representatives of more than a dozen state attorneys general, the people said. At the meeting, government officials outlined their worries about combining two of the nation’s top health insurers, the people said. (Hoffman, Kendall and Wilde Mathews, 6/19)

The New York Times: How Can Communities Prepare For Mass Shootings? Orlando Offers Lessons
As doctors treated the horrific injuries of victims shot in the Pulse nightclub massacre here, a mistaken report of a gunman nearby forced officials to briefly lock down the emergency room; the medical staff shoved heavy X-ray machines against the doors, creating a makeshift barricade in a treatment bay. Emergency room physicians ran low on tubes needed to reinflate the lungs of patients shot in the chest. The doctors scrambled to make sense of gunshot wounds because paramedics had rushed victims in with no time to assess their conditions. The hospital’s emergency preparedness manager, asleep at home, received an urgent email but did not respond until awakened by text. (Stolberg and Grady, 6/19)

The Washington Post: Up To 1 In 5 Trauma Deaths Could Be Prevented, Study Says
Up to 1 in 5 people may be dying unnecessarily from car crashes, gunshots or other injuries, a stark conclusion from government advisers who say where you live shouldn’t determine if you survive. The findings take on new urgency amid the increasing threat of mass casualties like the massacre in Orlando. The Orlando shooting happened just blocks from a major trauma care hospital, an accident of geography that undoubtedly saved lives. But Friday’s call to action found that swaths of the country don’t have fast access to top care, and it urges establishing a national system that puts the military’s battlefield expertise to work at home. (Neergaard, 6/18)

The New York Times: As Zika Threat Grows In U.S., Testing Lags For A Vulnerable Group
As the Zika virus swept north from Brazil into the Caribbean, bringing with it frightening risks for pregnant women and their unborn children, United States health officials decided in February that all expectant women who had visited the countries affected should be tested for the disease. But after the guidelines were put in place, public health officials and doctors in New York City found that large numbers of women, many uninsured or low-income immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America, were not being screened and tested in a systematic way. (Santora, 6/17)

The Associated Press: As Zika Looms, US Health Officials Worry About The Neighbors
Saron Wyatt pointed to the secluded end of her small street in Houston's impoverished Fifth Ward, where a mound of old tires keeps popping up. Always a trashy nuisance, it's now a growing danger. Tires collect water and become prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes — especially the ones that spread Zika virus disease and other tropical mosquito-borne illnesses. (6/20)

The Associated Press: Recovery Schools For Addicted Teens On The Rise
Preston Grundy started drinking at 14 to escape from his depression. He soon moved on to marijuana, Xanax, Adderall and cocaine, smoking pot when he woke each day and snorting pills in the bathroom between classes. The Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, teen went to treatment, but quickly relapsed upon returning to school, where he had constant access to drug dealers. Now 18, Grundy has been clean for 17 months and will begin college this fall to study social work and chemical dependency counseling. He credits his switch to a recovery school, PEASE Academy in Minneapolis, which he attends with about 60 other teens trying to beat addiction and where he says he wouldn't be able to find drugs if he tried. (6/19)

The Associated Press: Store Owner Who Lost Customers To Overdoses Warns On Drugs
A Wisconsin convenience store owner who said he has lost more than 30 customers to overdoses is speaking out against the heroin epidemic by posting signs on his store warning of the dangers of drugs. Dick Hiers said he posted the signs to raise awareness about the problem, Sheboygan Press Media reported. Hiers has posted about a dozen different signs on the Northeast Standard BP station in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, including "Heroin is killing people — help wanted" and "Wake up! Your kids are dying — heroin." (6/19)

The Associated Press: Keeping The Drugs Out: Jails, Prisons Find A Steep Challenge
As New Hampshire stares down a heroin and opioid crisis, corrections officials and lawmakers are seeking new ways to keep drugs out of jail cells as visitors and inmates continually find ways to smuggle them in. While drugs in jails have always been an issue, officials say the present crisis is bringing new challenges and, at some facilities, a higher volume of drugs. (6/19)

USA Today: All Eyes Are On These Three Supreme Court Cases
Thirteen cases remain to be decided at the Supreme Court this month, but all eyes are on three of them. With the tumultuous 2015-16 term marked by Justice Antonin Scalia's death winding down, decisions on access to abortion, the use of affirmative action in college admissions, and the fate of millions of undocumented immigrants will determine whether the evenly-divided court tilted liberal or conservative. ... Another case from Texas challenges a state law that imposed major restrictions on abortion clinics, ostensibly to protect women's health. The law requires clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers and forces doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals — rules that threaten to leave only nine fully functioning abortion clinics in a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age. (Wolf, 6/19)

The New York Times: Birth Control Via App Finds Footing Under Political Radar
A quiet shift is taking place in how women obtain birth control. A growing assortment of new apps and websites now make it possible to get prescription contraceptives without going to the doctor. The development has potential to be more than just a convenience for women already on birth control. Public health experts hope it will encourage more to start, or restart, using contraception and help reduce the country’s stubbornly high rate of unintended pregnancies, as well as the rate of abortions. (Belluck, 6/19)

NPR: Vermont Insurers Must Now Cover Vasectomies
Vermont has become one of several states working to make sure vasectomies are among the birth control options couples can afford. Gov. Shumlin last month signed into law a bill that adds vasectomies to the list of procedures that most health insurance coverage in Vermont must pay for. (Sananes, 6/18)

The Washington Post: Cancer Doctors Leading Campaign To Boost Use Of HPV Vaccine
The nation’s leading cancer doctors are pushing pediatricians and other providers to help increase use of the HPV vaccine, which studies show could help avert tens of thousands of cancer cases during young Americans’ lives. Yet a decade after its controversial introduction, the vaccine remains stubbornly underused even as some of those diseases surge. The vaccine’s low uptake among preteens and adolescents belies its universally acknowledged effectiveness in preventing the most common sexually transmitted infections linked to the human papillomavirus. (McGinley, 6/19)

The Associated Press: Lawmakers Seek To Lift Ban On IVF Treatments For Veterans
Veterans whose injuries have left them unable to conceive children may soon be getting long-sought help as congressional negotiations on legislation funding the Department of Veterans Affairs near a close. At issue is a Senate-passed measure that would lift a 1992 law that prohibits the VA from paying for infertility treatments, such as in-vitro fertilization. The measure, by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., enjoys bipartisan support but there appears to be lingering resistance from anti-abortion forces who are opposed because IVF treatments result in the destruction of fertilized embryos. (6/17)

The Associated Press: VA Won't Use Law That Allows Expedited Firing Of Executives
The Department of Veterans Affairs will no longer use its authority to fire senior executives in an expedited manner — dropping a key portion of a law Congress passed two years ago in response to a nationwide scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking medical care. Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the agency was forced to abandon the new authority after the Justice Department said it would no longer defend the provision in court. (6/17)

The New York Times: Decades Later, Sickness Among Airmen After A Hydrogen Bomb Accident
It was a late winter night in 1966 and a fully loaded B-52 bomber on a Cold War nuclear patrol had collided with a refueling jet high over the Spanish coast, freeing four hydrogen bombs that went tumbling toward a farming village called Palomares, a patchwork of small fields and tile-roofed white houses in an out-of-the-way corner of Spain’s rugged southern coast that had changed little since Roman times. It was one of the biggest nuclear accidents in history, and the United States wanted it cleaned up quickly and quietly. But if the men getting onto buses were told anything about the Air Force’s plan for them to clean up spilled radioactive material, it was usually, “Don’t worry.” (Philipps, 6/19)

USA Today: Pediatricians: U.S. Not Doing Enough To Halt Childhood Lead Poisoning
Despite dramatic declines in childhood lead poisoning over the past few decades, the United States is doing too little to prevent new poisonings, the nation’s leading group of pediatricians said Monday. The statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, published in the journal Pediatrics, comes at a time when lead is receiving renewed public attention, largely due to the apparent poisoning of thousands of children who drank contaminated water in Flint, Mich. (Painter, 6/20)

NPR: Pediatricians Call For More Testing And Tighter Rules On Lead Exposure
When lead was taken out of products like paint and gasoline, levels of the metal in the blood of U.S. children dropped. But the American Academy of Pediatrics says the problem is not over. "Most existing lead standards fail to protect children," members of the AAP's environmental health council report in a statement published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. Standards for the amount of lead that can be present in paint, water, dust and soil are not based on health standards, the pediatricians say, but instead on what's been feasible to attain. Such standards, they write, create "an illusion of safety." (Bichell, 6/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Employers Cut Down On Wellness Benefits
A big new survey of benefits from the Society for Human Resource Management found that employers are cooling toward certain wellness benefits. Originally designed to cut employers’ health costs, benefits like on-site flu shots, 24-hour nurse hot lines, health coaching and insurance-premium discounts for weight loss all have declined over the past year, the study found. As employers begin to analyze return-on-investment and participation data, they “may be taking a step back,” said Evren Esen, director of survey programs at SHRM, the world’s largest society for human-resources professionals. (Silverman, 6/20)

NPR/KQED: Baby Boomers With Hemophilia Didn't Expect To Grow Old
Randy Curtis was in second grade when he and his parents got devastating news from a specialist in blood disorders. Curtis had merely fallen and bumped his knee, but he remembers the doctor's words: " 'You know, these kids don't really live past 13.' " "So, I went back to school the next day," Curtis remembers, "and told my math teacher, 'I don't have to learn this stuff. I'm going to be dead!' " But, he was wrong. (McClurg, 6/20)

The Associated Press: Nurses At 5 Minneapolis-Area Hospitals Begin Weeklong Strike
About 4,800 nurses at five Minneapolis-area hospitals began a weeklong strike Sunday over a contract impasse. Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association began striking at 7 a.m. at the hospitals, all operated by Allina Health. The main dispute is over Allina’s effort to switch union nurses to the same health insurance plans as more than 30,000 other Allina employees that carry lower monthly premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs. (6/19)

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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