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KHN First Edition: June 30, 2016


First Edition

Thursday, June 30, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Ga., Calif. Hospitals Sue Blue Cross Plan For Sending ER Reimbursements To Patients
Georgia Health News Andy Miller, in partnership with KHN, reports: "Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia faces separate lawsuits accusing it of sending reimbursement money for emergency room care directly to patients — and not to the hospital because it isn’t part of the insurer’s network. That’s costing the hospitals money since patients don’t always turn over the funds, according to the lawsuits, filed by Polk Medical Center in northwest Georgia and Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles — 2,000 miles apart. Each suit also says some patients have sought to profit from receiving the direct payments for their ER care." (Miller, 6/30)

Kaiser Health News: Most Americans Want More Federal Money To Stop Zika: Poll
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "A large majority of Americans want the federal government to increase funding to prevent Zika’s spread in the U.S. and also help women at risk in affected areas get access to abortion, contraception and family planning services, according to a poll released Thursday. The virus, which has reached epidemic levels in Latin America and the Caribbean and is likely to spread further this summer, has been linked to serious birth defects in babies born to infected mothers." (Galewitz, 6/30)

The Washington Post: FDA Raises Questions About ‘Data Gaps’ Regarding Safety, Effectiveness Of Hand Sanitizer
The colorful gels have become the front lines in our fight against germs. Antiseptic hand sanitizers in greens, blues and reds are now ubiquitous in schools, workplaces and hospitals. They are must-haves in moms' pocketbooks. And they have been distributed in West Africa to fight Ebola and in South Korea against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Although these products were designed to be used when old-fashioned soap and water aren't available, many people use them multiple times a day even when a sink is nearby under the belief that they are killing more bacteria. (Cha, 6/29)

The Associated Press: FDA Has A Few Questions For Makers Of Hand Sanitizer
Federal health officials want to know whether hand sanitizers used by millions of Americans work as well as manufacturers claim — and whether there are any health risks to their growing use. The Food and Drug Administration is asking for new studies on how the antiseptic gels and rubs fight germs and get absorbed into the body, with a particular focus on children and pregnant women. The proposal unveiled Wednesday is part of an ongoing government effort to review decades-old chemicals that have never had a comprehensive federal review. (6/29)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Seeks Proof Of Safety, Effectiveness Of Hand-Sanitizing Products
The FDA said it was particularly interested in accumulating evidence concerning the safety of long-term, repeated exposure, especially in pregnant women and children. “The idea of the rule is to fill in data gaps, particularly with safety,” said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “We don’t know how much they’re absorbed into the body in maximum use.” Dr. Woodcock noted that such products used to be primarily at events such as lobster dinners, but are today omnipresent in sites such as elevator lobbies. (Burton, 6/29)

The Washington Post: Biden Threatens Funding Cuts For Researchers Who Don’t Report Clinical-Trial Data
An impatient Vice President Biden threatened Wednesday to cut funding to research facilities that fail to report clinical-trial results quickly enough and took a swipe at drug companies that jack up the prices of cancer drugs. At an all-day cancer summit he convened at Howard University in Washington, Biden showed flashes of anger as he expressed concern that many medical institutions that receive millions of dollars in government grants weren't reporting results to a publicly accessible database in a timely fashion. (McGinley, 6/29)

Reuters: Zika Sex Research Begins Despite U.S. Congress Funding Impasse
It could take years to learn how long men infected with Zika are capable of sexually transmitting the virus, which can cause crippling birth defects and other serious neurological disorders. In the meantime, health officials have warned couples to refrain from unprotected sex for six months after a male partner is infected. The extraordinary recommendation, based on a single report of Zika surviving 62 days in semen, could affect millions. (6/30)

The New York Times: Travelers To Dominican Republic Lead New York City In Positive Zika Tests
More than half of those who have tested positive for the Zika virus in New York City had traveled in recent months to the Dominican Republic, the city’s health department said on Wednesday, releasing data from its latest round of testing. The results were a stark reminder that, as the summer travel season begins, many of the most popular destinations for New Yorkers in the Caribbean and Latin America pose a serious health risk, especially for pregnant women. (Santora, 6/29)

The Associated Press: Zika Virus A Concern For Poor Urban Areas Along Gulf Coast
The poorest parts of Houston remind Dr. Hotez of some of the neighborhoods in Latin America hardest hit by Zika. Broken window screens. Limited air conditioning. Trash piles that seem to re-appear even after they're cleaned up. On a hot, humid day this month, Hotez pointed at one pile that included old tires and a smashed-in television with water pooling inside. It was a textbook habitat for the mosquitoes that carry and transmit the Zika virus, and one example of the challenge facing public health officials. (6/30)

Politico: Why Lamar Alexander Wants A Deal On Obamacare
Sen. Lamar Alexander says he's more than happy to strike deals with Democrats — even on Obamacare. "Whoever the president is in January, we're going to have to take a good, hard look at Obamacare," the powerful chairman of the Senate HELP committee told POLITICO's "Pulse Check" podcast. "It can't continue the way it is." "I don't think Republicans can go another four years, whether we have a Republican president or not, and say just give us a couple more Republicans and we'll repeal Obamacare," he added. (Diamond, 6/29)

The Associated Press: HMO, EPO, PPO, OMG! How To Navigate Insurance Plans
Hunting for the right health insurance plan outside the workplace used to involve a much lower risk of losing hair — from tearing it out in frustration. If a shopper could get coverage, the chain of events was often straightforward: Pick a plan, see a doctor and then wait for the insurer to eat most of the bill for that visit. But rising health care costs and the Affordable Care Act are changing the health insurance market. (6/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Brexit Could Boost Drug Costs For Britain’s National Health Service
A funding boost for Britain’s National Health Service was one of the campaign promises that carried the Vote Leave campaign to victory in last week’s historic referendum. But in at least one way, the Brexit vote is likely to hurt the cash-strapped health system. The sharp fall in the pound is hurting traders that sell cut-price drugs to the NHS after importing them from other parts of Europe. (Roland, 6/29)

The Associated Press: New Laws On Abortion Set To Take Effect Around The Country
New laws targeting abortion are set to take effect Friday in about one-fifth of the states, initiating another wave of restrictions just days after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas measure that led several clinics to close. Some of the laws limit when and how the procedure can be performed. Others restrict what can be done with tissue from aborted fetuses. Still others seek to block abortion providers from getting government funding. They are part of a raft of laws that are going on the books around the country with the start of the new fiscal year July 1. (6/29)

Los Angeles Times: Heart Disease And Cancer Are Responsible For Nearly Half Of All Deaths In The U.S., Report Says
What are the most common ways to die in America? The answer depends on how old you are, whether you’re a man or a woman, and your racial and ethnic background, a new report shows. Alzheimer’s disease accounted for 5% of deaths among U.S. women, for instance, but only 2.1% of deaths among men. Accidents and unintentional injuries caused 39.7% of deaths among people between the ages of 10 and 24, but only 7.4% of deaths for adults between the ages of 45 and 64. Diabetes was responsible for 4.3% of African American deaths and 2.7% of white deaths. (Kaplan, 6/29)

Los Angeles Times: Church Attendance Linked With Reduced Suicide Risk, Especially For Catholics, Study Says
Against a grim backdrop of rising suicide rates among American women, new research has revealed a blinding shaft of light: One group of women — practicing Catholics — appears to have bucked the national trend toward despair and self-harm. Compared with women who never participated in religious services, women who attended any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide between 1996 and 2010, says a study published Wednesday by JAMA Psychiatry. (Healy, 6/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Expats And Their Parents: How To Handle Aging Issues From Afar
When my family and I moved from White Plains, New York to Raanana, Israel in 2011, my then 74-year-old father had recently been diagnosed with dementia. It was a toss-up as to what weighed more—my mind or my heart. ... When, two years later, the diagnosis changed to early Alzheimer’s, I flew back to make sure paperwork and finances were in order and visit memory care facilities—just in case, for later. Eighteen months passed. He lost all short-term memory. I returned home to propose to my mother, one year younger but in good health and now the sole decision-maker for both of them, to move to Israel so my brother, also living here, and I could help in the years to come. (Lang, 6/29)

NPR: Heat On White House To Scrap Redo Of Human Research Rules
An influential federal panel has taken the unusual step of telling the Obama administration to withdraw a controversial proposal to revise regulations that protect people who volunteer for medical research. The proposal is "marred by omissions, the absence of essential elements, and a lack of clarity," according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The conclusions are part of a 283-page report released Wednesday. (Stein, 6/29)

NPR: A Hospital Offers Frequent ER Patients An Out — Free Housing
For a lot of us, the hospital's emergency room is a stressful place. Not so for Glenn Baker. When Baker, 44, steps into the emergency room at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago, he's completely comfortable. ... Patty Zion, a nurse at the hospital on the West Side, says she knows Baker well: "He's one of our very famous patients who comes around and sees us quite often when he's not feeling well." ... Baker says that last winter he spent about 20 nights every month checked into different Chicago hospitals. ... In the medical world, patients like Baker are often called "superutilizers" or "frequent fliers" — people with a mix of chronic medical problems, mental health issues and homelessness that drive them to visit the hospital far more than the average patient. (Bryan, 6/29)

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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