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KHN First Edition: July 13, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Democrats Unite, But What Happened To 'Medicare For All'?
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Rovner reports: "After a raucous debate lasting nearly a year, the Democrats are united on health care. But that unity does not include a call for a single-payer “Medicare for all” health system. ... Sanders did win a few health care concessions in the negotiations leading to the endorsement. Clinton vowed to support more funding for community health centers and access to a “public option” government insurance plan, which she has supported in the past. But on Sanders’ top health priority — his “Medicare for All” plan — there was not a word. At the Democratic Platform Committee meeting over the weekend, an amendment to add a single-payer plan to the document was defeated." (Rovner, 7/13)

Kaiser Health News: Vaccines Are Not Just For Kids
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman 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, 7/13)

NPR: HHS Report Says Obamacare Plans Are Cheaper Than They Look
Obamacare health plans have been getting a bad rap this year. Critics say the premiums are too high, the out-of-pocket costs are out of control, and the requirements and red tape are too thick. But now the Obama administration is pushing back. A study released Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services argues that the cost-sharing isn't nearly as heavy as previous analyses have shown, because most consumers get subsidies that limit their deductibles and copayments. (Kodjak, 7/12)

Politico: Q&A: Sylvia Mathews Burwell On 6 More Months Of Health Care Fixes
Last summer, when the Supreme Court ruled on a major challenge to President Barack Obama’s marquee health care law, the name on the court case wasn’t Obama’s. The case was called King v. Burwell, and front and center — as she is in all attacks on Obamacare — was Sylvia Mathews Burwell. As HHS secretary, Burwell has become the most public face of Obamacare, its chief defender and the person driving the president’s final push for a health care legacy. With only six months left in the president’s term, Obama wants to use his remaining time in office to make medicine more efficient and less expensive, and Burwell is the point person to get that done. (Haberkorn, 7/13)

Politico: The One That Got Away: Obamacare And The Drug Industry
President Barack Obama’s landmark health care bill shook up the health care system. One key player escaped the upheaval largely unscathed: Big Pharma. Scrounging up all the money to pay for Obamacare’s massive coverage expansion brought deep pay cuts to hospitals and health plans. And for those industries, it fundamentally changed the rules of the game. ... The pharmaceutical industry, on the other hand, hasn’t much changed — except its prices are higher and there’s nothing in the health law that allows the government to push back. Prescription drugs are now the fastest growing category of medical costs. Pharma companies are charging $84,000 for a new hepatitis C cure, more than $14,000 for new cholesterol treatments. Novel cancer therapies routinely run six figures. (Karlin-Smith and Norman, 7/13)

Politico: Obamacare And Mental Health: An Unfinished Story
America’s mental health system is having a breakdown. Suicide rates are at a record high; drug addiction is epidemic. There aren’t enough therapists, particularly not enough who accept insurance. And too often the most vulnerable and severely ill end up on the streets, or fill our prisons and jails. The Affordable Care Act was never meant to mend every crack in the system. It did zero in on the insurance side of reform — but there’s still a lot of heartbreak. (Ehley, 7/13)

The Associated Press: Illinois Moves To Shut Down Failing Health Insurance Co-Op
An Illinois health insurance co-op with 49,000 policyholders in the state has become the latest casualty among a dwindling group of nonprofit alternative insurers set up under the Affordable Care Act. Illinois regulators took steps Tuesday to shut down Land of Lincoln Health, a 3-year-old startup that lost $90 million in 2015 and more than $17 million through May 31. (7/12)

The Wall Street Journal: Zika Stalemate Hardens As Senate Republicans Reject New Democratic Proposal
Negotiations over legislation for funding to combat the Zika virus hit a new impasse Tuesday, heightening the chances that Congress will leave Washington for the summer without acting on a measure to stem the spread of the mosquito-borne illness. The stalemate hardened Tuesday when Senate Republicans rejected a new Democratic proposal aimed at finding a middle ground in the battle over Zika funding. Congress is expected to adjourn Friday for a seven-week recess through Labor Day and there was little evidence Tuesday that any bipartisan agreement would arrive before week’s end. (son and Armour, 7/12)

The Associated Press: Inaction On Zika Funding Likely To Delay Vaccine Testing
The Obama administration on Tuesday cautioned top lawmakers that continued gridlock over legislation to combat the Zika virus could delay research and development of a vaccine to protect against Zika and tests to detect it. The warning came in a letter from White House budget chief Shaun Donovan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and says that failure by Congress to pass anti-Zika funds before exiting Washington for its extended summer recess would "significantly impede the administration's ability to prepare for and respond" to the Zika threat this summer and beyond. (7/12)

The Wall Street Journal: Silicon Valley Looks For Lessons In Theranos
Silicon Valley’s best-known venture investors have emerged largely unscathed from the rapid descent of Theranos Inc., but the decline offers a cautionary tale for a community that bets big on visionary founders touting revolutionary technology. ... Silicon Valley investors say Palo Alto, Calif.-based Theranos—which was valued at $9 billion in a 2014 funding round—offers lessons about the importance of oversight and due diligence in the venture-capital business, which bets sometimes on nothing more than an idea. (Winkler, 7/13)

The Washington Post: Maker Of $84,000 Drug Avoided $10 Billion In U.S. Taxes, Report Says
Over the last few years, Gilead Sciences has grown into one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, fueled by the sales of expensive specialty treatments for hepatitis C. The company’s revenue has tripled since 2012, to $32.6 billion last year. According to a report to be released Wednesday, Gilead has also developed another specialty: Avoiding billions in taxes. (Merle and Johnson, 7/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Juno To Resume Clinical Trial Of Anticancer Treatment
Juno Therapeutics Inc. will resume a drug trial of a potential leukemia treatment that had been placed on clinical hold last week following two patient deaths. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has removed the hold, Juno said Tuesday. The two deaths, and another in May, occurred in a Phase 2 study of Juno’s experimental treatment JCAR015 in adult patients with B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In after-hours trading, Juno shares rose 25.3% to $34.83. The stock fell 32% Friday from its previous close of $40.82 after the hold was announced. (Beckerman, 7/12)

The Associated Press: Study Of Juno Therapeutics Leukemia Treatment Is Allowed To Resume
A study of an experimental treatment for leukemia that was halted last week after the death of two patients has been allowed to resume after a modification. The Food and Drug Administration suspended a trial by Juno Therapeutics after the company reported that two patients had died from swelling of the brain. Juno said the problem stemmed not from its treatment but from a chemotherapy drug used in pretreatment. The agency said it would allow the trial to resume without the chemotherapy drug. (7/12)

The Wall Street Journal: Merck Cutting Drug Research Jobs At Three East-Coast Sites
Merck & Co. said it plans to lay off research-and-development workers at three East Coast sites in a shake-up of its early-stage drug-hunting efforts that also includes a new focus on the health effects of micro-organisms that populate the human body. A Merck spokeswoman said the job cuts, and some employee transfers, would affect less than 10% of “discovery, preclinical and early development” employees in Kenilworth, N.J., Rahway, N.J., and North Wales, Pa. The company’s headquarters are in Kenilworth. (Loftus, 7/12)

The Associated Press: Lower-Cost Biotech Drug Gets Thumbs Up From FDA Panel
The second-biggest selling drug in the world could get some cheaper competition in the U.S., after a federal panel endorsed an alternative version of the pricey medication used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. A panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers voted unanimously in favor of Amgen’s version of AbbVie’s Humira, a biotech drug that raked in nearly $15 billion last year, according to IMS Health. While not binding, the recommendation likely paves the way for FDA approval of the knockoff drug. (Perrone, 7/12)

USA Today: New Tool Searches Health Prices By Doctor, Insurance
Starting Tuesday, consumers worried about high out-of-pocket health costs can search for procedure prices ranging from knee surgeries to vasectomies, based on their doctor and type of insurance so they can eliminate most of the surprise bills that show up long after their wounds have healed. Amino, a health data company that launched last fall, was already helping connect patients to doctors in their areas based on quality data. The new tool greatly expands its pricing data and covers about 550,000 physicians, 49 procedures and 129 insurance companies. (O'Donnell and Ungar, 7/12)

The Associated Press: Court Sides With Utah's Planned Parenthood In Defunding Case
The Utah governor's order to block funding to Planned Parenthood was probably a political move designed to punish the group, a federal appeals court wrote in an ruling that ordered the state to keep the money flowing. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver decided Tuesday there's a good chance the governor's order violated the group's constitutional rights. (7/13)

The New York Times: Immigration Detention Center In Arizona Failed To Contain Measles Outbreak
Health officials in Arizona are pressing federal officials for better cooperation after an outbreak of measles at an immigration detention center was prolonged because some employees were slow to be vaccinated. The outbreak started in late May in the detention center in Eloy, Ariz., and has grown to 22 cases, currently the largest episode in the country of the disease, which was once eradicated in the United States. The cases include nine employees of the facility, which is overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency. (Preston, 7/12)

NPR: Parents Can Help Reduce Pain And Anxiety From Vaccinations
Now that the nasal spray FluMist is no longer considered an effective vaccine against influenza, parents will have to resort to the old, unpopular standby for their kids: a shot. It's not unusual for a child to have as many as 20 vaccinations by age 5 — all typically administered by injection. The pain of those shots can sometimes be a barrier to getting kids vaccinated, but several studies have shown that the pokes don't have to be so painful or petrifying, and parents can actually play a big role in soothing the sting. (Dalrymple, 7/12)

The Washington Post: The CDC And WHO Are Teaming Up To End The ‘Contagious Disease’ Of Child Violence
The world can be a dark place for many children: the "lost boys" from Sudan, refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, child sex workers in Brazil, baby girls abandoned in China, kids pulled into gang drug wars in the United States. Such suffering by children is more common than most people might think and represents what some believe to be one of our biggest public-health crises of all time. A study published in January in the journal Pediatrics puts that violence into stark perspective by estimating that as many as half of the world's 2 billion children experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence in the previous year. (Cha, 7/12)

Los Angeles Times: Safe Sex Without Condoms? With Drugs Keeping HIV In Check, Infected Partners Didn't Spread Virus
One of the surest ways to prevent the spread of HIV is to use condoms during sex. But that doesn’t always happen, especially when medicines are keeping the virus at very low levels. Is this safe? Health experts are divided on the question. In 2008, a national commission in Switzerland gave HIV-positive adults the go-ahead to have unprotected sex as long as they were taking antiretroviral drugs, and those drugs had kept their viral load “undetectable” – that is, below 40 copies per milliliter of blood – for at least six months. (A third requirement was that people have no other infections that could be spread through sex, such as gonorrhea or syphilis.) (Kaplan, 7/12)

Los Angeles Times: A Genetic Link Between Red Hair, Freckles And Skin Cancer
Whether you call them gingers, the devil’s spawn or just-plain sexy, be sure to call redheads out of the sun because along with their fiery tresses comes a powerful propensity to develop melanoma, a particularly deadly form of skin cancer. And now, scientists are beginning to uncover why redheads — and probably the non-gingers who carry a genetic variant common to redheads — may be so vulnerable: For those who carry an allele, or gene variant, associated with red hair and freckles, cancer-causing genetic mutations occur at a rate 42% greater than they do for people who don’t carry that gene variant. (Healy, 7/12)

The Associated Press: New York Sues Jail Medical Provider, Claims Inadequate Care
The state’s attorney general claims in a lawsuit that a medical provider has failed to provide proper services to inmates in a suburban New York City jail, where 12 have died in the past five years, including four since March. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the allegations Tuesday in a lawsuit filed against Armor Correctional Health Medical Services, which is being paid $11 million annually to care for inmates at the Nassau County Correctional Center on Long Island. (Eltman, 7/12)

The Associated Press: HIV-Positive Surgery Tech Pleads Guilty In Painkiller Theft
A surgery technician pleaded guilty Tuesday to taking fentanyl — an opiate more powerful than morphine — from a suburban Denver hospital — a crime that raised concerns that hundreds of patients might have been exposed to HIV. Rocky Allen, a former Navy medic who authorities say is HIV positive and got hooked on painkillers while serving in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty to federal charges of tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deception. (Slevin, 7/12)

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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