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KHN First Edition: July 11, 2016


First Edition

Monday, July 11, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Sounds Like A Good Idea? Regulating Drug Prices
This is the second in a series of videos about health care promises from presidential candidates that “sound like a good idea.” Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News explores why proposals to regulate drug prices may not be such a good idea after all. (Rovner and Ying, 7/11)

California Healthline: Busting Myths About Mental Illness
California Healthline's Barbara Feder Ostrov reports: "Nearly 20 percent of American adults will suffer from a mental illness at some point in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The condition can range from a mild, short-lived bout of depression to severe schizophrenia that may require hospitalization or lifelong medication. As common as mental illness is, though, certain myths are surprisingly persistent and prejudice continues to be widespread. Here are four common beliefs debunked. (Feder Ostrov, 7/11)

Kaiser Health News: Zika Traveling Tips: Some Issues To Consider
Carmen Heredia Rodriguez, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "In a span of 13 months, a relatively unknown virus morphed into a global health emergency thanks to a pest less than four millimeters wide. The Pan American Health Organization reports more than 50,000 people in the Western Hemisphere are infected with the Zika virus. The primary mode of transmission is by mosquitoes — the Aedes aegypti, to be precise — and its relative the Aedes albopictus. But the virus can also be transmitted sexually. ... So far, no cases of locally transmitted Zika infection have been reported in the U.S. But, with summer vacations on many people’s minds, here is a breakdown of what travelers should know about where the virus is most likely to circulate and how the risks could affect travel plans." (Heredia Rodriguez, 7/11)

California Healthline: Vaccines Are Not Just For Kids
Anna Gorman, for California Healthline, reports: "The word “immunization” has long evoked images of nervous children wincing as they get injections to protect them from measles, mumps and other diseases. Now California’s doctors are turning their attention to adults, who haven’t been as diligent about getting their own shots. The California Medical Association Foundation, the charitable arm of the Sacramento-based physicians’ organization, published a vaccine schedule last year to inform doctors and patients about recommended vaccines for adults." (Gorman, 7/11)

California Healthline: Inaccurate Provider Lists A Major Barrier To Care, Study Finds
California Healthline staff writer Emily Bazar reports: "Provider directories for some health plans sold through Covered California and in the private market are so inaccurate that they create an “awful” situation for consumers trying to find doctors, according to the lead author of a new study published in the journal Health Affairs. In the study, “secret shoppers” posing as patients were able to schedule an appointment with a primary care physician less than 30 percent of the time." (Bazar, 7/8)

The Associated Press: In Nod To Sanders, Clinton Offers New Health Care Proposals
In another nod to primary rival Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton is proposing to increase federal money for community health centers and outlining steps to expand access to health care across the nation. Clinton's campaign says the proposal is part of her plan to provide universal health care coverage in the United States. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee also is reaffirming her support for a public-option insurance plan and for expanding Medicare by letting people age 55 year and older opt in. (7/9)

USA Today: Hillary Clinton Offers Health Care Proposal Sought By Bernie Sanders
Hillary Clinton on Saturday announced her plan to expand investments in community health care centers, the second of two proposals in a week apparently aimed at courting supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders ahead of his possible endorsement. The presumptive Democratic nominee's proposal would double funding for primary care services at Federally Qualified Health Centers, which serve populations with limited access to health care. Community health care centers have been a key priority for Sanders, I-Vt., who successfully fought for the inclusion of $11 billion in funding for such centers in the Affordable Care Act of 2010. (Gaudiano, 7/10)

Los Angeles Times: Hillary Clinton Vows To Expand Funding For Healthcare Centers, Sanders Lauds Effort As Two Move Toward Unity
Hillary Clinton pledged Saturday to double federal support for primary care at community health centers serving low-income patients nationwide, building on her plans to expand the Affordable Care Act. The move drew quick praise from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, her one-time rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. And it underscored Democrats' commitment to expanding the reach of the health law that President Obama signed in 2010. (Lee, 7/9)

The Associated Press: Trump's Speech To Spell Out Veteran Health Care Proposal
Republican Donald Trump will deliver a speech on veterans' health care reform Monday, his latest in a series of prepared remarks aimed at articulating his policy agenda and convincing still-reticent Republicans that he has the discipline and control to mount a credible general election bid against likely rival Hillary Clinton. Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, will be speaking in Virginia Beach, Virginia, not far from the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, where he first unveiled his plan to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs last October, promising to modernize the system, while minimizing wait times for patients and improving care. (7/11)

Reuters: Aetna Meets With Justice Department Over Merger With Humana
Aetna Inc executives met with top Justice Department antitrust officials on Friday to convince the government that asset sales it proposed would address potential competitive problems that could threaten its deal to buy rival Humana Inc, according to a source familiar with the matter. Aetna's plan to buy Humana would combine two of the largest providers of Medicare Advantage plans for elderly people, and investors are concerned that antitrust regulators could oppose the deal. (7/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Big Insurers Defend $34 Billion Merger
Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. face resistance from the Justice Department to their proposed $34 billion merger and an uphill battle persuading antitrust enforcers the deal won’t harm competition, according to people familiar with the matter. The insurers on Friday met with top government officials in a late-in-the-game attempt to make their case that the deal has public benefits and won’t hurt consumers, and that they could address competitive concerns through asset sales, people familiar with the matter said. (Kendall and Wilde Mathews, 7/8)

Reuters: WellCare, Centene Make Offers For Aetna Assets-Sources
WellCare Health Plans Inc and Centene Corp have made competing offers for the Medicare Advantage insurance plans that Aetna Inc looks to shed in seeking clearance for its acquisition of Humana Inc, people familiar with the matter said. The potential divestiture is a central pillar of Aetna's efforts to win over regulators for its $34-billion Humana deal. The health insurer met U.S. Department of Justice officials on Friday in a bid to address their antitrust concerns. (O'Donnell and Humer, 7/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Surprise Medical Bills Fuel Fight Between Providers, Insurers
The growth of insurance plans built around small networks of health-care providers is fueling new fights over surprise medical bills, when patients inadvertently get care from out-of-network doctors. Providers and insurers are blaming each other for sticking patients with higher bills in such cases, and nearly two dozen states have passed or are considering legislation to protect consumers. (Beck, 7/8)

Los Angeles Times: How Black-Market OxyContin Spurred A Town's Descent Into Crime, Addiction And Heartbreak
For years, Jevon “Goldie” Lawson dealt crack on the steps of a 7-Eleven in a rough part of this blue-collar town. He smoked the rocks he didn’t sell and often appeared as strung out as his customers. But in 2008, he moved into a $400,000 house, started driving a champagne-colored Humvee, and made himself the star act of his own hip-hop label. He abandoned the crack business. Found something better, he told associates. (Ryan, Glover and Girion, 7/10)

Los Angeles Times: Inside An L.A. OxyContin Ring That Pushed More Than 1 Million Pills. What The Drugmaker Knew
In the waning days of summer in 2008, a convicted felon and his business partner leased office space on a seedy block near MacArthur Park. They set up a waiting room, hired an elderly physician and gave the place a name that sounded like an ordinary clinic: Lake Medical. The doctor began prescribing the opioid painkiller OxyContin – in extraordinary quantities. In a single week in September, she issued orders for 1,500 pills, more than entire pharmacies sold in a month. In October, it was 11,000 pills. By December, she had prescribed more than 73,000, with a street value of nearly $6 million. (Ryan, Glover and Girion, 7/10)

The Associated Press: House OKs Compromise Bill Reinforcing Anti-Drug Programs
The House overwhelmingly approved a compromise package bolstering federal steps against illicit drugs on Friday, as lawmakers of both parties flocked to cast an election-year vote to stem the nation's surge of deaths among drug abusers. The legislation was approved 407-5, underscoring the broad support it has attracted to combat a problem that claims victims across racial, economic and geographic lines. (7/8)

The Washington Post: Congress Set To Pass Bill To Combat Opioid Abuse
Congress this week is expected to send President Obama legislation to combat heroin and painkiller abuse, despite lingering disputes over whether there is enough funding to support new treatment and prevention programs. Senate Democrats have pushed for additional funding arguing that without it the bill will not be able to deliver on its promise to help thwart the opioid epidemic. But they do not plan to block the agreement that House and Senate negotiators finalized last week, according to a spokesman for Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). It’s unclear how many Democrats will support the bill, but it is expected to easily be approved just in time for the height of the election season. (Demirjian, 7/11)

The Associated Press: 1st Death Related To Zika Virus Seen In Continental US
A person infected with Zika has died in Utah, and while the exact cause is unclear, authorities said Friday it marks the first death related to the virus in the continental U.S. The unidentified Salt Lake County resident contracted the virus while traveling abroad to an area with a Zika outbreak, health officials said.The patient who died in late June was elderly and also suffered from another health condition, according to the Salt Lake County Health Department. (7/8)

The Washington Post: First Zika-Related Death In Continental U.S. Reported In Utah
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that it had been notified of the death. In April, the CDC reported the first U.S. death from Zika in a patient in Puerto Rico. That man, who was in his 70s, died from internal bleeding after developing severe thrombocytopenia -- a rare immune reaction to his infection that cause low levels of platelets that help blood clot. (Sun, 7/8)

The Washington Post: Under Fire, Theranos CEO Stifled Bad News
At a presentation to Theranos Inc. employees last month, Elizabeth Holmes displayed a slide saying the company had developed 304 tests using small volumes of blood, according to an attendee. Left unsaid: Most of those experiments hadn’t progressed beyond laboratory research, according to the attendee. The slideshow was part of a pattern: Ms. Holmes has continued to put a positive spin on her embattled blood-testing company—while broadly keeping employees in the dark on many issues—even as Theranos’s regulatory and legal troubles mount. (Carreyrou, 7/10)

The Associated Press: Organ Transplants Have Come A Long Way But Hurdles Remain
With more than 120,000 people on the national waiting list for a kidney or other donated organ — but only about 30,000 transplants performed each year — new moves are getting underway to try to ease the critical shortage. Efforts range from smartphone apps letting would-be donors register with a few clicks, to helping transplant centers use some organs that today would be discarded for fear they're not good enough. (7/11)

NPR: Hassle Of Being A Patient Can Turn Into A Crisis Without Sick Leave
So here's a typical scenario when you have a medical problem. You go to your doctor's office, then have to run across town to a lab for a blood test and then you also have to get an appointment for an X-ray or MRI. There's a good chance this will all require a phone call — or a lot of phones calls — with your insurance company. It's a hassle and it's time-consuming. But for many people it's even worse than that. (Kodjak, 7/11)

NPR: Hope Still Races Ahead Of Evidence In Magnet Treatment For Autism
The story is a familiar one: the saga of a loving parent's quest to save a child. This time it's about the mother of a boy with autism. The mother scours the medical literature in search of any kind of treatment, however far-fetched and experimental. She finds one that seems promising, something involving magnetic fields, and moves mountains to get it for her son as part of a research protocol. Then, seeing that it helps, she devotes herself to getting more of it. Ultimately the mother starts a foundation to promote research into the new treatment, hoping to prove its value and one day make it part of standard care, not just for her son but for other children with autism, too. This particular version of the story, though, is tinged with irony. (Marantz Henig, 7/9)

The Associated Press: Advocates Hope Shaming Drugmakers Discourages Price Spikes
Frustrated by the rising cost of prescription drugs, California health advocates hope sunlight and a dose of shame will discourage drugmakers from raising their prices too quickly or introducing new medications at prices that break the bank. They're promoting legislation that would require drugmakers to provide advance notice before making big price increases. Pharmaceutical companies have come out in force against the measure, warning it would lead to dangerous drug shortages. (7/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Bronx Project Sees Health In Affordable Housing
A 150-year-old health-care institution in the Bronx has a new prescription for wellness that starts with affordable housing. SBH Health System, which includes St. Barnabas Hospital, has joined with developers L+M Development Partners and Hornig Capital Partners LLC to create a 450,000-square-foot complex designed to address many of the hurdles to healthy living facing low-income residents in the Bronx. (Morris, 7/10)

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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