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KHN First Edition: July 12, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Obama Renews Call For A Public Option In Health Law
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Rovner reports: "President Barack Obama Monday called on Congress to revisit the controversial idea of providing a government-run insurance plan as part of the offerings under the Affordable Care Act. The so-called “public option” was jettisoned from the health law by a handful of conservative Democrats in the Senate in 2009. Every Democrat’s vote was needed to pass the bill in the face of unanimous Republican opposition. But in a “special communication” article published on the website of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the president said a lack of insurance plan competition in some areas may warrant a new look." (Rovner, 7/11)

Kaiser Health News: NIH’s Fauci On Combating Zika: ‘You Have To Have The Resources To Act Quickly’
Carmen Heredia Rodriguez, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "Every day there are headlines about the Zika virus. The number of travel-related cases is growing, and public health officials — especially in states such as Florida, which could be among the hardest hit — predict it is only a matter of time until the first locally transmitted case is confirmed. They are scrambling to prepare strategies to combat Zika’s spread. On the research front, at least one private pharmaceutical company is slated to begin human trials on a Zika vaccine in the fall, and National Institutes of Health researchers hope to bring their version to clinical trials as soon as summer’s end. ... At the center is Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases." (Heredia Rodriguez, 7/12)

Kaiser Health News: Doctors Get Creative To Distract Tech-Savvy Kids Before Surgery
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: "Surgery can make anyone anxious, but it is especially hard for young children. Kids going into surgery may be separated from their parents for the first time in a frightening new environment, and they may not understand what’s happening. ... Panicking before surgery can cause both physical and emotional problems. ... It is dangerous enough that many children are given an anti-anxiety medication before general anesthesia. But medications always carry risks." (Gold, 7/12)

Kaiser Health News: Many Toddlers Fail To Get Necessary Medicaid Renewal At Their First Birthday
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Many babies born to mothers who are covered by Medicaid are automatically eligible for that coverage during the first year of their lives. In a handful of states, the same is true for babies born to women covered by the Children's Health Insurance Program. Yet, this smart approach is routinely undermined by another federal policy that requires babies’ eligibility be reevaluated on their first birthday. Although they’re likely still eligible for coverage, many of these toddlers fall through the cracks." (Andrews, 7/12)

Kaiser Health News: Heart Failure Patients Warned About The Dangers Of Mixing Prescriptions
Carmen Heredia Rodriguez, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "[Mike] O’Meara has been diagnosed with diabetes, kidney problems and heart failure. He depends on 16 medicines -- 26 pills a day -- to manage his health. Taking a variety of pills is not unusual for older patients, but the American Heart Association Monday warned heart failure patients and their doctors that they need to monitor the variety of drugs because of the possibility of unintended consequences. In the journal Circulation, the American Heart Association said heart failure patients take an average of nearly seven prescription medicines a day and 40 percent of Medicare patients with heart failure also have five or more other chronic diseases." (Heredia Rodriguez, 7/12)

The New York Times: Obama Offers Ways To Improve His Health Care Law
After defending the Affordable Care Act in all its intricacies for six years, President Obama proposed ways to improve it on Monday, saying that Congress should provide larger subsidies for private health insurance and create a public plan like Medicare to compete with private insurers in some states. At the same time, he accused the pharmaceutical industry of trying to protect its profits by opposing any constraints on drug prices. Mr. Obama offered his views in a valedictory message summarizing what he sees as his legacy on health care, together with his ideas to improve the Affordable Care Act. (Pear, 7/11)

The Associated Press: Obamacare 2.0: Obama Calls For Revisiting The Public Option
President Barack Obama is laying out a blueprint for addressing unsolved problems with his signature health law, including a renewed call for a "public option" to let Americans buy insurance from the government. Obama's assessment of the Affordable Care Act comes in an eight-page article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a peer-reviewed publication. The article debuted Monday on the journal's website, and Obama plans to echo the themes in public events and speeches in the coming weeks. (7/11)

The Washington Post: The Latest Medical Journal Study Of Obamacare Is By … President Obama
This isn't your typical medical journal article: For one, the author has a law degree, not a M.D. Second, that author is President Obama. In an unusual "special communication" published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, President Obama reflects on his signature health care law, calling it the "most important health care legislation enacted in the United States since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965." (Johnson, 7/11)

The Wall Street Journal: President Obama Calls For ‘Public Option’ In Affordable Care Act
The piece reflects the president’s efforts to solidify the legacy of his signature law in his last year in office, especially as it comes under attack from Republicans who have vowed to repeal it. It also arrives in the middle of an election campaign in which the health law is a defining issue for the two parties’ candidates for president and Congress. The presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton backs the addition of a public option. On the Republican side, GOP House leaders have released their platform to strike most of the health law, and create different and potentially more limited tax credits and insurer requirements so people could buy coverage on their own. (Radnofsky, 7/11)

Politico: Obama Backs Health Care Public Option
Obama argued that the public option would bring much-needed competition in markets where only one or two plans sell coverage – areas accounting for 12 percent of Obamacare customers. Obamacare tried to create more competition through federal loans to create insurance co-ops, but 15 of the 23 co-ops supported by the law have failed. Besides the public option, Obama offered other prescriptions for making health care more affordable. Obama urged Congress to offer even more generous assistance to middle class families paying for premiums on the law’s insurance marketplaces – many who qualify for subsidies say they still can’t afford to pay for coverage. (Wheaton, 7/11)

The New York Times: How An Arcane Spending Fight Could Alter The Federal Balance Of Power
The fight between House Republicans and the Obama administration over billions of dollars in disputed health care spending sounds arcane, but it could have major — some might say huge — consequences for our constitutional democracy. Consider it in this context: How would lawmakers react if a willful new chief executive, unable to win money from Congress for a wall on the Mexican border, simply shifted $7 billion from another account and built it anyway? How about if a future president were so determined to cut college costs that she bypassed Congress and funneled billions of dollars into a new tuition grant program without approval? (Huse, 7/11)

The Associated Press: Trump: Plan To Revamp Veterans Care Will Save Lives
Republican Donald Trump pledged Monday to expand programs that allow veterans to choose their doctor and clinics — regardless of whether they're affiliated with Department of Veterans Affairs — and still receive government-paid medical care. In a policy speech announcing a 10-point plan for veterans, Trump said he "begins with a simple promise: Every veteran will get timely access to top-quality care." (7/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump Says He Would Make VA System More Privatized
Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump on Monday said that as president he would press for an extensive overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs, making it a more privatized system of care and giving veterans a direct line to the White House. During a campaign speech in Virginia Beach, Va., Mr. Trump presented a 10-point plan for the embattled department, calling for greater privatization of veterans’ care than presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. (Kesling, 7/11)

The New York Times: Dr. Paid Less: An Old Title Still Fits Female Physicians
Female physicians at some of the nation’s most prominent public medical schools earn nearly $20,000 less a year on average than their male colleagues, according to an analysis published on Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. Before adjusting for factors that could influence income, the researchers found that the absolute difference between the genders was more than $51,000 a year. (Saint Louis, 7/11)

The Washington Post: Gender Gap In Medical Schools: Female Doctors Make $20k Less Than Male Doctors
For a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday, Anupam B. Jena obtained salary information for academic physicians at 24 public medical schools through the Freedom of Information Act. ... Jena also found that female physicians were less likely than their male counterparts to be full professors. This was not controlled for age or experience so it could at least partially have to do with the fact that they also tend to be younger and that getting tenure in academia can take a long time. It also could have to do with the fact that the women in the study had fewer total publications and were less likely to have conducted a clinical trial or have funding from the NIH. It could also have to do with the fact that they are more likely to choose different specialties than men. It turns out that women are more likely to be in internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics. (Cha, 7/11)

USA Today: Pharma Trade Group Helps Fund Patient Fight Against Medicare Project
Groups that advocate for patients' and doctors' interests are working in near lockstep with the big pharmaceutical companies that fund the groups to fight a proposed Medicare rule that could affect the companies' bottom lines, documents and interviews show. At stake is a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposal to test the effect of cutting what doctors get from Medicare for administering high-priced infusion drugs. (O'Donnell and Crescente, 7/11)

Politico: Republicans Building Stronger Anti-Abortion Plank In Platform
Republicans are considering strengthening the already strict anti-abortion language in their party platform by condemning Planned Parenthood and calling for Supreme Court justices who will reverse decisions in favor of abortion rights. Platform committees that are meeting in Cleveland before next week's Republican National Convention have given preliminary approval of the Planned Parenthood condemnation, according to attendees. (Haberkorn, 7/11)

The Associated Press: Clinics Ask Judge To Block Alabama Abortion Restrictions
Lawyers for abortion providers have asked a federal judge to block new Alabama laws that ban abortion clinics near schools as well as the procedure most commonly used in the second trimester. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a request for a temporary restraining order before the laws go into effect Aug. 1. The group said the location restriction would close two of the state's busiest abortion clinics, while the procedure ban would severely curtail second-trimester abortion access in Alabama. (7/11)

The Associated Press: Advocates Fear More Heroin Withdrawal Deaths In Jails
In the days following her 18-year-old daughter’s first arrest on heroin charges, Stephanie Moyer took solace in thinking she would be safe in jail until she got into a treatment program. However, Victoria “Tori” Herr sounded disoriented on a call home three days later. She feared she was dying and begged for something to drink, her mother said. Herr, who had a 10-bag-a-day habit, collapsed following days of severe vomiting and diarrhea at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility. She spent five days in the hospital, then died on Easter Sunday 2015. Her case is one of at least a half-dozen deaths nationwide during the last two years involving jail heroin withdrawal, and advocates fear the number will grow given the nation’s heroin crisis. (Dale, 7/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Radiologists Take On Bigger Role In Diagnosing
One of the top radiology departments in the country is trying a simple but unusual arrangement: Radiologists play an active role in helping to make medical decisions for patients. The move, at NYU Langone Medical Center, aims to counter a decadeslong shift that has relegated radiologists, who interpret CT scans, MRIs and other images, to hospitals’ backrooms. Digitization of radiology also has meant some hospitals can rely on cheaper private services. (Lagnado, 7/11)

The Washington Post: Superbug Gene Detected In A Second Person In The U.S.
Researchers have found bacteria resistant to the antibiotic of last resort in a sample from a second patient in the United States, according to a study published Monday. The patient had surgery at a New York hospital last year, researchers said. The news comes after researchers reported in late May that a patient in Pennsylvania carried a strain of E. coli bacteria that was resistant to the antibiotic colistin, the antibiotic that doctors use to treat patients who have infections that don't respond to other drugs. (Sun, 7/11)

The Washington Post: Thumb-Sucking And Nail-Biting Might Prevent Allergies
If you’re a parent, you might want to think twice about shooing a thumb from your child’s mouth. Researchers in New Zealand have found that children who suck their thumbs or bite their nails are less likely to develop allergies later in their lives. The research comes from a long-term project known as the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which has followed more than 1,000 children from Dunedin, New Zealand, since birth. The study is now in its fifth decade. (Beachum, 7/11)

The New York Times: Researchers Try Grindr App To Give Out H.I.V. Self-Testing Kits
Grindr, the gay dating app, is an effective way to get gay black and Hispanic men to try home H.I.V. self-testing kits, according to a recent study. The small study was confined to Los Angeles, and fewer than 400 test kits were distributed, but the idea has broader potential. Grindr is used by at least five million men in 192 countries, according to its developer. (McNeil, 7/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Giving Patients Some Choice May Boost Drugs’ Effectiveness
Allowing patients to choose among different medications that do the same thing may increase the effectiveness of the selected drug and reduce possible side effects, according to a study in Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Participants who got to pick between two different formulations of a medication reported significantly fewer side effects after 24 hours compared with those not allowed to choose, the study found. The subjects weren’t aware that the drugs were harmless placebos. (Lukits, 7/11)

Los Angeles Times: Can The Government Encourage The Development Of New Antibiotics?
It's been nearly 30 years since scientists have found a new class of antibiotics. But U.S. lawmakers tried to give the drug industry a boost in 2012. That year, they passed the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. It included provisions — collectively known as Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now, or GAIN — aimed at streamlining the government approval process for new antibiotics. It also boosted financial paybacks to drug companies that develop them. The law has spurred the introduction of several new medicines. But none so far represents a new class of antibiotic or treats a drug-resistant strain for which effective medicine does not already exist. (Healy, 7/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Doctors Treat First Patient With Newly Approved Heart Stent
The first significant advance in heart stents in more than a decade is providing U.S. patients and their doctors with a new option for treating blockages in the coronary arteries that cause chest pain and heart attacks. Last week, cardiologists began implanting Abbott Laboratories’ new biodegradable stent called Absorb in patients following its approval last Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Unlike the permanent metal devices that have been used to prop open diseased vessels for more than 20 years, Absorb is designed to fully dissolve within two to three years after it is deployed. (Winslow, 7/11)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Approves Shire’s Dry-Eye Treatment
U.S. health regulators have approved Shire PLC’s dry-eye treatment, a potential blockbuster drug that is expected to go on sale in the third quarter. The drug, which would be sold under the name Xiidra, is a twice-a-day prescription eye drop solution to treat the signs and symptoms of dry eye disease in adult patients. Xiidra, or lifitegrast, which Shire added to its portfolio as part of its 2013 SARcode Bioscience acquisition, could top $1 billion a year in sales, according to some analysts’ estimates. (Armental, 7/11)

The New York Times: A Cavity-Fighting Liquid Lets Kids Avoid Dentists’ Drills
Nobody looks forward to having a cavity drilled and filled by a dentist. Now there’s an alternative: an antimicrobial liquid that can be brushed on cavities to stop tooth decay — painlessly. The liquid is called silver diamine fluoride, or S.D.F. It’s been used for decades in Japan, but it’s been available in the United States, under the brand name Advantage Arrest, for just about a year. (Saint Louis, 7/11)

The Washington Post: Deadly And Beautiful: The Mesmerizing Images Of Cancer Research
Delicately colored mosaics. Swirling currents of neon green. Who knew that cancer, so terrifying, could be so weirdly beautiful? Adam Marcus, for one. A cancer researcher at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute, he embedded lung cancer cells in a gel and let them invade surrounding tissue for 24 hours. The resulting image he created looks like a gaily lit mainland, with a handful of tiny vessels — individual cancer cells — setting out for distant shores. (McGinley, 7/11)

Los Angeles Times: Why Lawmakers Are Trying To Make Ransomware A Crime In California
Sate legislation to outlaw ransomware is drawing broad support from tech leaders and lawmakers, spurred by an uptick in that type of cybercrime and a series of recent attacks on hospitals in Southern California. The bill, authored by state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), would update the state’s penal code, making it a felony to knowingly use ransomware, a type of malware or intrusive software that is injected into a computer or network and allows a hacker to hold data hostage until money is paid. (Ulloa, 7/12)

The Associated Press: Kaiser Accuses California Ex-Employee Of Embezzling $7 Million
A subsidiary of healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente has filed a lawsuit in California accusing a former employee responsible for investigating insurance fraud claims of embezzling $7 million. The suit by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan accuses Michael Albert Quinn o

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