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KHN First Edition: June 24, 2016


First Edition

Friday, June 24, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Filling A Prescription? You Might Be Better Off Paying Cash
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "Some consumers who use health insurance copays to buy prescription drugs are paying far more than they should be and would be better off paying with cash, especially for generics. The added cost runs as high as $30 or more per prescription, say pharmacists, and the money is largely being pocketed by middlemen who collect the added profit from local pharmacies. Cash prices started to dip below copays a decade ago when several big box stores started offering dozens of generics for as little as $4 per prescription. But as copays have risen and high-deductible insurance plans become more common, more consumers are now affected." (Appleby, 6/24)

Kaiser Health News: Colon Cancer Screening: Five Things To Know
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "It’s a predictable passage in life: Hit 50, get lots birthday cards with old-age jokes, a mailbox full of AARP solicitations — and a colonoscopy. But millions of Americans — about one-third of those in the recommended age range for colon cancer screening — haven’t been tested. Some avoid it because they are squeamish about the procedure, or worried about the rare, but potentially serious, complications that can occur as a result of it. Now, an influential panel has added some new choices, aiming to get more Americans screened for colorectal cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S." (Appleby, 6/24)

California Healthline: California Insurance Commissioner Weighs In Against Aetna-Humana Deal
California Healthline staff writer Ana B. Ibarra reports: "California’s insurance commissioner on Thursday recommended that federal officials block Aetna Inc.’s proposed $37 billion acquisition of Humana Inc., saying the deal would suppress market competition and harm consumers. The official opinion of Dave Jones came just three days after California’s other health insurance regulator, the Department of Managed Care, approved the planned transaction. Just a week ago, Jones urged the federal government to block another mega-merger, Anthem Inc.’s $54 billion offer for Cigna Corp, also on competitive grounds." (Ibarra, 6/23)

California Healthline: 'Digital Health' Not Just For Well-Heeled Fitness Fiends
California Healthline's Barbara Feder Ostrov reports: "A small but growing effort is ... aimed at using digital technologies — particularly cellphones — to improve the health of Americans who live on the margins. They may be poor, homeless or have trouble getting or paying for medical care even when they have insurance. The initiatives are gaining traction partly because of the growing use of mobile phones, particularly by lower-income people who may have little other access to the internet." (Feder Ostrov, 6/24)

The Associated Press: Obama Threatens To Veto GOP-Backed Bill On Zika Virus Aid
The White House Thursday promised that President Barack Obama would veto the long-delayed response of the Republican-controlled Congress to the president's request for fighting the Zika virus, saying it provided too little money and contained too many partisan provisions. The $1.1 billion measure had already appeared sure to die in the Senate next at the hands of filibustering Democrats backing Obama's $1.9 billion request and opposing spending cuts that House Republicans added to the measure. (6/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Gridlock Over Funding Threatens To Stall Obama Plan To Fight Zika Virus
President Barack Obama indicated he would veto the Republican-backed Zika measure if it reached his desk, White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said Thursday. He called the $1.1 billion deal “totally inadequate,” saying that Republican lawmakers had turned a public health issue into a partisan political exercise. “We urge Republicans to stop turning this into a political football and actually get to work, come up with a proposal that’s going to serve the American people,” Mr. Schultz said. Mr. Schultz ticked through a list of problems with the measure that passed the House, raising objections to what he said was insufficient funding. The bill also would “steal money” from other public-health priorities, he said, cutting unused funds from the Affordable Care Act, funds to fight Ebola and money from the Health and Human Services Department. (Armour and McCain Nelson, 6/23)

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court Decision Deals Blow To Health Coverage Efforts In California
The Supreme Court decision Thursday effectively blocking President Obama’s immigration programs also comes as a blow to California legislators who have been fighting to offer health insurance to people living in the country illegally. Immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization can’t enroll in Obamacare and make up a large portion of those who remain uninsured in California. But an unusual state policy allows those granted temporary relief from deportation to sign up for Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health program. If the court had upheld the deferred action programs, more than half a million unauthorized immigrants in California could have become eligible for state-funded health insurance, according to UC Berkeley and UCLA researchers. (Karlamangla, 6/23)

The Associated Press: Illinois Insurance Co-Op Sues Feds Over Health Law Payments
A struggling Illinois health insurance co-op is suing the federal government, claiming it is being shortchanged $72.8 million in promised payments under the Affordable Care Act. Chicago-based Land of Lincoln Health filed the lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. At least four other insurers have filed similar claims over the so-called risk corridor payments, a temporary provision of the health care law meant to help unprofitable insurers and stabilize consumer prices during the first three years of the law's new insurance exchanges. (6/23)

Reuters: California Insurance Chief Urges U.S. To Block Aetna-Humana Deal
California's insurance commissioner on Thursday urged national antitrust regulators to block health insurer Aetna Inc's proposed $34 billion acquisition of Humana Inc. David Jones, whose state Department of Insurance does not have authority to block the deal, said the acquisition would be anti-competitive in California and nationwide and contribute to higher prices for insurance. (Humer, 6/23)

The Associated Press: Overdose Deaths Overwhelm Medical Examiner, Coroner Offices
Soaring numbers of overdose deaths are adding to woes already plaguing medical examiner and coroner offices, resulting in a shortage of places to store bodies and long delays in autopsies and toxicology testing. The Connecticut medical examiner's office has considered renting a refrigerated truck to store extra bodies because its storage area has neared capacity at times. In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee County medical examiner's office sometimes has to put bodies on Army-style cots in its refrigerated storage area because it runs out of gurneys. The Hamilton County coroner's office in Cincinnati has a 100-day backlog of DNA testing for police drug investigations, largely because of increased overdose deaths. (6/23)

The Associated Press: New York Pharmacies To Dispose Of Unwanted Drugs
Pharmacies in New York are now allowed to collect and dispose of unwanted medication so consumers won't pollute waterways by flushing drugs down the toilet. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed legislation that will facilitate drug collection and safe disposal. State regulators are encouraging all pharmacies to become authorized collectors of unused, expired and unwanted drugs under federal controlled substances disposal rules. (6/24)

USA Today: CDC Failed To Disclose Lab Incidents With Bioterror Pathogens To Congress
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday they have identified 34 incident reports involving bioterror pathogens mishandled at CDC labs that were “inadvertently” not disclosed in 2014 to congressional investigators who had asked for the information. The reports document inventory issues, specimens in unapproved areas and a few potential exposure incidents that occurred from early 2007 through January 2011, primarily at the CDC’s Fort Collins, Colo., infectious disease laboratory complex, said Steve Monroe, the CDC’s top lab safety official. (Young, 6/23)

Los Angeles Times: Sun Valley Hospital Settles For $1 Million In Second Patient-Dumping Lawsuit
A San Fernando Valley hospital has agreed to pay $1 million in civil penalties to settle allegations that it put a mentally ill woman in a taxi and lost track of her for three days, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer announced Thursday. Under the terms of the settlement, Pacifica Hospital of the Valley admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to revamp its protocols for discharging homeless patients. It is the second time in two years that the hospital — a 231-bed facility in Sun Valley — has settled with the city attorney’s office in patient-dumping cases. (Branson-Potts, 6/23)

The Washington Post: Michigan Attorney General Charges Firms He Claims ‘Botched’ Work On Flint Water
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) on Wednesday filed civil charges against two engineering firms that he said “botched” their work on Flint’s water supply system, contributing to the city’s ongoing lead-polluted water crisis. The complaint filed Wednesday in a Genesee County Circuit Court targets Veolia North American, part of a global corporation that specializes in operating water and sewer systems for municipalities, which contracted with Flint in early 2015 to help with its drinking water quality. (Dennis, 6/22)

The Associated Press: Sen. Gillibrand Calls For EPA Action On Toxic Chemical PFOA
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is calling on federal regulators to use new powers under the toxic substances reform bill to determine if the industrial chemical PFOA should be restricted or banned. The New York Democrat says in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday that health concerns about the chemical have been heightened by the recent discovery of drinking water contamination in upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. (6/23)

NPR: A Protein That Moves From Muscle To Brain May Tie Exercise To Memory
Researchers have identified a substance in muscles that helps explain the connection between a fit body and a sharp mind. When muscles work, they release a protein that appears to generate new cells and connections in a part of the brain that is critical to memory, a team reports Thursday in the journal Cell Metabolism. The finding "provides another piece to the puzzle," says Henriette van Praag, an author of the study and an investigator in brain science at the National Institute on Aging. Previous research, she says, had revealed factors in the brain itself that responded to exercise. (Hamilton, 6/23)

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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