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KHN First Edition: July 1, 2016


First Edition

Friday, July 01, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

NOTE TO READERS: KHN's First Edition will not be published July 4. Look for it again in your inbox July 5. Here's today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: 5 Things To Know About The Supreme Court’s Texas Abortion Decision
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Rovner reports: "The Supreme Court this week delivered its strongest affirmation of a women’s right to abortion in two and a half decades. By a margin of 5-3, it struck down two key provisions of a Texas law restricting the procedure. But where does the decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt fit into the court’s long history of outlining abortion rights and restrictions? And what impact might the case have on similar laws in other states and this fall’s elections? Here are five insights about the case that provide some context." (Rovner, 7/1)

Kaiser Health News: Anthem, Express Scripts Face Legal Challenge Over Prescription Drug Prices
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "Anthem and its pharmacy manager Express Scripts overcharged patients with job-based insurance for prescription drugs, alleges a lawsuit that seeks class action status for what could be tens of thousands of Americans. It’s the latest wrinkle in a battle that has already pitted the major national insurer and its pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) against each other in dueling legal actions — and further illustrates the complicated set of factors that determine what consumers pay for prescription medications." (Appleby, 7/1)

Kaiser Health News: Catastrophic Insurance Could Help With Long-Term Care Expenses: Studies
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "As aging baby boomers swell the ranks of elderly Americans, we’re nowhere near a solution to providing the long-term care services many of them will need. Researchers at the Urban Institute have been examining the spending tradeoffs between two public long-term care insurance programs: a catastrophic plan and a short-term plan that would pay benefits up front. Both would be financed through a payroll tax. They also explored how differences in the timing of payouts would affect consumers' and government spending." (Andrews, 7/1)

California Healthline: For This Man, Reducing Gun Violence Is A Life’s Mission
Cynthia H. Craft, for California Healthline, reports: "As the ancient Chinese proverb says, from crisis comes opportunity. That is certainly true for Garen Wintemute, a leading gun-violence researcher and emergency room doctor who finds “teaching moments” in the grief-filled days and weeks following mass shootings in America. He is currently seizing a window of opportunity recently opened by the recent mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. Wintemute, once named a “hero of medicine” by Time magazine, has led the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis Medical Center for 25 years." (Craft, 7/1)

California Healthline: Advance Planning For Your End-Of-Life Care
California Healthline staff writer Emily Bazar reports: "Millions of Californians are newly eligible for a health care benefit that could determine the treatment they receive in their final days — and most don’t know it. Medi-Cal, which covers more than 13 million Californians, and Medicare, with more than 5 million California enrollees, now pay for “advance care planning” discussions with doctors. Advance care planning isn’t about long-term care options, such as nursing homes or assisted living." (Bazar, 7/1)

The Associated Press: Louisiana 1st State In Deep South To Expand Medicaid
Louisiana is becoming the first state in the Republican-dominated Deep South to expand its Medicaid program, with more than 233,000 people already enrolled in the government-financed insurance coverage that begins Friday. Medicaid expansion fulfills one of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' main campaign promises, embracing the health law championed by President Barack Obama after years of GOP stonewalling in Louisiana. (6/30)

The Associated Press: About 1.6M Drop-Outs From Health Law Coverage This Year
About 1.6 million people who signed up for coverage this year under President Barack Obama's health care law dropped out by the end of March, according to administration figures released late Thursday. The report from the Health and Human Services department said some 11.1 million people were still signed up. But that's a drop of nearly 13 percent from the 12.7 million who initially enrolled for subsidized private coverage this year. Those dropouts failed to seal the deal by paying their premiums. (6/30)

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Seeks Repeal Of Abortion Laws In 8 States
Planned Parenthood says it will work with its abortion-rights allies in eight states to repeal laws that may be vulnerable following the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down tough abortion restrictions in Texas. The repeal campaign, announced Thursday, will initially target laws in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as measures in Texas that were not directly addressed by the Supreme Court ruling. Laws in other states may be targeted later. (6/30)

Los Angeles Times: Planned Parenthood Targets Eight States' Abortion Restrictions
In addition to Texas, five other states have enacted laws with surgical center requirements, including Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee, where the law was temporarily blocked by a judge, according to the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights. The group noted nine other states had passed laws that require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals: Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin. But until this week, the laws had been blocked by the courts in all but Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee. (Hennessy-Fiske, 6/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Abortion-Rights Supporters To Take Clinic Fight To 8 States After Supreme Court Ruling
Monday’s 5-3 ruling struck down parts of a Texas law regulating abortion clinics, saying courts must independently examine abortion rules to determine if they offered health benefits to women that outweighed hurdles they might pose to access. Abortion-rights advocates believe the opinion is an opportunity to challenge hundreds of state laws passed since 2010 by antiabortion legislators. (Radnofsky, 6/30)

The New York Times: Federal Judge Blocks Indiana Abortion Law
A federal judge on Thursday blocked an Indiana law that would have banned abortions based solely on a fetus’s disability or genetic anomaly, suggesting that it was an illegal limit on a woman’s long-established constitutional right. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, of Federal District Court for Southern Indiana, also held up a state ban on abortions motivated solely by a fetus’s race or sex. In the preliminary injunction, Judge Pratt said limiting the reasons for an abortion was “inconsistent with the notion of a right rooted in privacy concerns and a liberty right to make independent decisions.” (Smith and Eckholm, 6/30)

The Associated Press: Federal Judge Blocks New Florida Abortion Law
A federal judge late Thursday put on hold key portions of a new Florida law that would block public funding for Planned Parenthood and greatly increase inspection requirements for abortion clinics. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued his ruling just hours before the law passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature was due to take effect. (7/1)

The Associated Press: Missouri Won't Immediately Halt Planned Parenthood Funding
Planned Parenthood facilities in Missouri will continue to receive government funding for women's health services for a while, despite a new budget provision attempting to stop it. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday that state officials will eventually implement the budget's ban on Medicaid money going to organizations that provide abortions. But the prohibition won't start when the budget takes effect Friday, as Republican lawmakers had intended. (6/30)

The Associated Press: Texas Abortions Fell Sharply Under Law Supreme Court Voided
Abortions in Texas plummeted about 15 percent during the first year after approval of tough restrictions that the U.S. Supreme Court has since struck down — a decline that activists say shows how hard it had become to get an abortion in America's second-largest state. The health department released the statistics Thursday, after lengthy delays it blamed on finalizing the data. But providers and abortion-rights groups spent months complaining that officials were intentionally stalling, and the American Civil Liberties Union even recently accused the state of "concealing" the information. (7/1)

The Washington Post: Americans Were More Worried About Ebola Than They Are About Zika
The global spread of the Zika virus and its links to severe birth defects have yet to worry most Americans, and few are taking measures to limit their exposure to the mosquito-borne disease, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Two-thirds of Americans say they are “not too” or “not at all” worried about Zika infecting them or a family member, while one-third are at least “somewhat worried.” Fewer Americans are concerned about Zika infections today than were worried about the deadly Ebola epidemic at its height. (Dennis, Sun and Clement, 6/30)

The Washington Post: First-Of-Its-Kind CDC Study Finds Clues About Why Only Some Survive Ebola Virus
The most terrifying aspect of Ebola may not be how it kills but how many. In the outbreak in West Africa that peaked in 2014, about half of people infected with the virus survived. Scientists have been mystified about what distinguishes the lucky ones from the less fortunate. Now, for the first time, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides some clues about what may be going on in people’s bodies, and it turns out that those with severe disease experienced an out-of-control inflammatory response. (Cha, 6/30)

The Washington Post: Unregulated Stem-Cell Clinics Are Proliferating Across The United States
For years, American "stem-cell tourists" have flocked to unregulated clinics in Mexico, the Caribbean and China in search of everything from heart treatments to facelifts. But now, these kinds of clinics are popping up across the United States. According to a new study, at least 351 companies with 570 clinics are marketing unapproved treatments for conditions such as osteoarthritis, Alzheimer's, autism and injured spinal cords, as well as for cosmetic enhancements. (McGinley, 6/30)

Los Angeles Times: Hundreds Of Companies In The U.S. Are Selling Unproven Stem Cell Treatments, Study Says
From coast to coast, at least 351 businesses at 570 locations are marketing stem cell therapies that have not been fully vetted by medical researchers or blessed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell. Paul Knoepfler, a bona fide stem cell researcher at UC Davis with a doctorate in molecular pathology, and Leigh Turner, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota who studies the ramifications of medical tourism, scoured the Internet to find companies advertising all sorts of stem cell treatments directly to patients and their families. They used nearly 100 search terms to identify as many websites as they possibly could — and turned up a lot more than they thought they would. (Kaplan, 6/30)

The Associated Press: NY Regulators Want Insurer Risk-Adjustment Program Changed
New York insurance regulators say the federally mandated program for adjusting financial risk under the Affordable Care Act unduly affects the finances of newer and smaller insurers. Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo says in a letter to federal authorities there should be immediate changes in the risk-adjustment program, which transfers pooled funds to plans with higher-risk clients. (6/30)

The New York Times: Zenefits Compensates Investors Over Past Misconduct
Zenefits investors are getting a larger piece of the troubled human resources start-up because they overpaid for their stakes, unaware that the company’s sales teams flouted regulations to enhance growth, Zenefits announced on Thursday. The move will cut the company’s valuation in half, to about $2 billion. The unusual agreement comes after months of turmoil at Zenefits, once a high-flying company that helps small businesses buy insurance. (Benner and Isaac, 6/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Zenefits Investors Cut Valuation By Half
Embattled health-benefits broker Zenefits on Thursday said it struck a deal with some investors to cut its valuation by more than half to $2 billion, giving them additional shares in exchange for releasing the company of potential legal claims. Zenefits, a once highflying startup that in just two years after its founding was valued at $4.5 billion, has been reeling from regulatory investigations, stalled sales, layoffs and management missteps. On Thursday, Zenefits’s recently installed chief executive, David Sacks, said the company has been trying to work out a deal with investors to move past the problems. (Winkler, 6/30)

Reuters: Scandal-Hit Zenefits Slashes Own Valuation As It Cuts Deal With Investors
Software startup Zenefits has cut a highly unusual deal with investors to increase their ownership while slashing the once-hot firm's valuation as it seeks to avoid litigation and mend damage in the wake of revelations of cheating. The deal, a concession to investors in the firm's latest funding round, will boost the investors' combined stake to about 25 percent from about 11 percent but cuts the Zenefits' valuation by more than half to $2 billion from $4.5 billion. (Somerville and Todd, 7/1)

The Associated Press: Vilsack, McAuliffe, Haslam Convene On Drug Abuse Issue
Kicking off a national tour on opioid addiction, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack brought together the governors of Tennessee and Virginia on Thursday to talk about stemming Appalachia's drug abuse epidemic. The town hall reinforced President Barack Obama's call for Congress to pump $1.1 billion more into substance abuse treatment. It also was an opportunity to show that governors of opposite parties want to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, despite Republican efforts to stop them. (6/30)

The Washington Post: New Study Shows Chronic Fatigue Syndrome May Have To Do With Gut Microbes
Chronic fatigue syndrome, perhaps more than any other disease, has a bad rap. It makes you debilitatingly tired from normal tasks but no amount of rest can help. There's no blood test or other easily read biomarkers, so many doctors are reluctant to diagnose the condition no matter how bad things get. Scientists have finally shed some light on the condition, finding that your gut bacteria and inflammatory agents in the blood may have something to do with it. (Cha, 6/30)

NPR: For Centuries, A Small Town Has Embraced Strangers With Mental Illness
At the center of Geel, a charming Belgian town less than an hour's drive from of Antwerp, is a church dedicated to Dymphna, a saint believed to have the power to cure mental disorders. It's a medieval church with stone arches, spires and a half-built bell tower, and it has inspired an unusual centuries-old practice: For over 700 years, residents of Geel have been accepting people with mental disorders, often very severe mental disorders, into their homes and caring for them. It isn't meant to be a treatment or therapy. The people are not called patients, but guests or boarders. They go to Geel and join households to share a life with people who can watch over them. Today, there are about 250 boarders in Geel. (7/1)

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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