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KHN First Edition: June 27, 2016


First Edition

Monday, June 27, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: For Many In Baltimore’s Growing Latino Community, Health Care Is A Challenge
Michael Anft, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "[Cecilia Ramirez's] predicament is shared by thousands of Hispanic immigrants in East Baltimore, and millions nationally, who cannot afford regular medical services and are uninsured because they lack the benefits attached to legal U.S. residency and citizenship. Ramirez’s parents came illegally to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 10. Her immigration status now — “lawfully present” — allows her to work and study here without fear of deportation, but she has no path to citizenship. She is ineligible for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act or any public insurance program. (Anft, 6/27)

Kaiser Health News: Minnesota's Largest Health Insurer To Drop Individual Plans
Minnesota Public Radio's Mark Zdechlik, in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: "Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will retreat from the sale of health plans to individuals and families in the state starting next year. The insurer, Minnesota's largest, said extraordinary financial losses drove the decision. "Based on current medical claim trends, Blue Cross is projecting a total loss of more than $500 million in the individual [health plan] segment over three years," the insurer said in an emailed statement. The Blues reported a loss of $265 million on insurance operations from individual market plans in 2015. The insurer said claims for medical care far exceeded premium revenue for those plans." (Zdechlik, 5/27)

California Healthline: California Drug Price Measure Fiercely Opposed By Pharmaceutical Industry
California Healthline staff writer Pauline Bartolone reports: "Drugmakers are waging a fierce campaign against a proposed California law that would require them to justify the costs of their treatments and disclose major price hikes. The bill has widespread support of health care providers, insurers, patients, labor and business groups. But the pharmaceutical industry is behind scathing social media messaging, warning that passage of the bill could lead to shortages of crucial drugs in some parts of the state. The industry is also applying other pressure to change the language of the bill." (Bartolone, 6/24)

The New York Times: Suit Challenges U.S. Over Abortions And Birth Control For Immigrant Minors
The federal government is placing unaccompanied immigrant minors caught crossing the Southern border, including teenage girls who were raped on the journey north, in the care of religion-based agencies that refuse to provide legally required access to contraception and abortion, according to a lawsuit filed on Friday. Like the dispute over the requirement that health plans cover contraception, the lawsuit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Department of Health and Human Services, highlights a clash between federal rules and the beliefs of Roman Catholic and other groups that say they are exempt from the requirements on grounds of religious freedom. (Eckholm, 6/24)

The New York Times: When You Dial 911 And Wall Street Answers
The business of driving ambulances and operating fire brigades represents just one facet of a profound shift on Wall Street and Main Street alike, a New York Times investigation has found. Since the 2008 financial crisis, private equity firms, the “corporate raiders” of an earlier era, have increasingly taken over a wide array of civic and financial services that are central to American life. Today, people interact with private equity when they dial 911, pay their mortgage, play a round of golf or turn on the kitchen tap for a glass of water. Private equity put a unique stamp on these businesses. Unlike other for-profit companies, which often have years of experience making a product or offering a service, private equity is primarily skilled in making money. (Ivory, Protess and Bennett, 6/25)

The Associated Press: Report: Lead Levels Higher In Flint Kids After Water Switch
Flint children under the age of 6 had significantly higher blood-lead levels after the city switched its water source in 2014 to save money, according to a report released Friday by U.S. disease experts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's report said the likelihood a child would have a concerning blood-lead level — at least 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood — was about 50 percent higher after the April 2014 switch from Detroit's water system to the Flint River. (6/24)

The Washington Post: New Data Shows Blood Lead Levels Spiked In Children In Flint, Mich.
Researchers found that Flint children had a 50 percent higher chance of having elevated blood lead levels after the switch in 2014. After the city switched back to Detroit water in late 2015, the percentage of children with elevated blood lead results "returned to levels seen before the water switch took place," the agency said. "This crisis was entirely preventable, and a startling reminder of the critical need to eliminate all sources of lead from our children's environment," Patrick Breysse, director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, said in a statement Friday. (Dennis, 6/24)

The Associated Press: Senator Renews Scrutiny Of Pharma Ties On Federal Panel
A high-ranking Senate Democrat is pushing for more answers on why doctors and patient advocates with financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry came to serve on a panel that advises the federal government on pain issues. Sen. Ron Wyden says he is "even more concerned" about these apparent conflicts of interest after receiving a response from the National Institutes of Health, which vetted and selected the panel members. (6/24)

The Washington Post: Without Federal Funding, Counties Brace To Confront Zika On Their Own
Communities across the country are preparing for the arrival of the Zika virus, but they aren’t preparing equally. One county is ready to leap into action with a fleet of helicopters and planes to spray for disease-transmitting mosquitoes. Others facing a similar risk of the disease can’t afford much more than educational coloring books. Some localities have signed up private contractors to wage war on disease-carrying mosquitoes. For others, the only line of defense is an overworked parks employee responsible for all kinds of maintenance — “Chuck in the truck,” as one expert put it. (Dennis and Sun, 6/25)

The Washington Post: You Have One Week To Tell The Government What To Do About Cancer
Have an idea about how to make progress against cancer? The federal government wants to know, but the suggestion box closes next Friday. For months, the National Cancer Institute has been gathering research ideas from the public and experts around the country via a special portal, The suggestions are being funneled to seven working groups looking for the best opportunities for speeding up progress against cancer. But the NCI is facing a series of deadlines, so the portal will be shut down at end of the next work week. (McGinley, 6/24)

The Wall Street Journal: The Difficult Ethics Of Organ Donations From Living Donors
Robert Osterrieder, a 52-year-old project manager, returned home to Pittsburgh from a business trip complaining about problems with his vision. Two days later, he was in the hospital on a ventilator. For the next five months, Mr. Osterrieder fought for his life. His brain swelled, and he underwent numerous medical procedures. He struggled with pneumonia and needed a feeding tube. Finally, as he lay in the hospital unconscious and with little likelihood of recovery, his family decided to remove his life support. But first, they wanted him to become an organ donor. Organ transplants are based on a longstanding rule: You can only take vital organs—a heart, for instance, or both kidneys—from someone who is dead. And removing any organ cannot be the cause of the donor’s death. (Dockser Marcus, 6/26)

NPR: Inside A Secret Government Warehouse Prepped For Health Catastrophes
When Greg Burel tells people he's in charge of some secret government warehouses, he often gets asked if they're like the one at the end of the Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the Ark of the Covenant gets packed away in a crate and hidden forever. "Well, no, not really," says Burel, director of a program called the Strategic National Stockpile at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thousands of lives might someday depend on this stockpile, which holds all kinds of medical supplies that the officials would need in the wake of a terrorist attack with a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon. (Greenfieldboyce, 6/27)

The Wall Street Journal: How Telemedicine Is Transforming Health Care
After years of big promises, telemedicine is finally living up to its potential. Driven by faster internet connections, ubiquitous smartphones and changing insurance standards, more health providers are turning to electronic communications to do their jobs—and it’s upending the delivery of health care. Doctors are linking up with patients by phone, email and webcam. They’re also consulting with each other electronically—sometimes to make split-second decisions on heart attacks and strokes. (Beck, 6/26)

The Wall Street Journal: How Technology Can Deliver Broad Improvements In Health Care
As director of the Institute for Population Health Improvement at the University of California, Davis, Kenneth W. Kizer brings plenty of experience in the use of technology to help manage large populations. A physician by training who is board-certified in several specialties, Dr. Kizer was California’s top health official before serving as undersecretary for health in the Department of Veterans Affairs in the 1990s. At the VA, he is credited with modernizing the nation’s largest health system, including adopting one of the first major electronic health records systems. ... He recently answered questions from The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Landro. (Landro, 6/26)

The Wall Street Journal: To Get Doctors To Do The Right Thing, Try Comparing Them To Their Peers
Can an electronic nudge help doctors do the right thing when it comes to patient care? Health-care providers are exploring how electronic record keeping and digital communication can be used to influence doctors on a wide range of actions, including following up on worrisome test results, making a correct diagnosis and choosing the right treatment. The challenge: getting doctors to accept prodding that might interfere with their own judgment or intentions when they already feel overloaded with electronic alerts, reminders and other messages. (Landro, 6/26)

The Associated Press: Health Insurer's Limit On Insulin Pumps Worries Patients
Stephanie Rodenberg-Lewis wasn't happy with her insulin pump and finally switched two years ago to another brand. Now her health insurer is pushing her to go back. UnitedHealth Group Inc. has made a deal with device maker Medtronic that will slash options for diabetics who use the portable pumps, which costs thousands of dollars. The move has angered Rodenberg-Lewis and others who will be limited to three pump choices instead of nine. (6/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Why Knowing Your Genetic Data Can Be A Tricky Proposition
Personal genome sequencing may be the next great technology frontier in public health—but how do patients feel about knowing, sharing and acting on their genetic information? That’s a question researchers are exploring as more health-care providers, companies and research groups begin providing results of personal genome sequencing to patients and their doctors. (Landro, 6/26)

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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