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KHN First Edition: July 14, 2016


First Edition

Thursday, July 14, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Note to readers: We would also love to hear your thoughts on our newsletters. Click here to take a short survey to tell us what you think. Here are today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: Seven Remaining Obamacare Co-Ops Prepare Survival Strategies
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "New failures are piling up among the member-run health insurance co-ops carrying out one of the Affordable Care Act's most idealistic goals, leaving just seven remaining when the health law's fourth enrollment season starts in the fall. There were 23 in 2014. The public knows them as co-ops. They’re officially called consumer operated and oriented plans in the health law. Eleven are still in business, but four in Oregon, Ohio, Connecticut and Illinois will disappear by fall due to financial insolvency. Oregon’s Health Co-Op and Connecticut’s HealthyCT were told to close by their state’s regulators last week. Tuesday, the Land of Lincoln Mutual Health Insurance Co. in Illinois was ordered to close by state regulators." (Galewitz, 7/13)

Kaiser Health News: Palliative Care Sometimes Adds To Families’ Stress Burden, Study Finds
Kaiser Health News staff writer Rachel Bluth reports: "Palliative-care counseling from trained specialists is not routinely needed for all families of patients with chronic critical illnesses and sometimes it might worsen their emotional distress, cautions a new study. Habitually providing scarce palliative care services to cases indiscriminately may be ineffective when the meetings are limited to just one or two sessions, reported researchers in the July 5 issue of JAMA." (Bluth, 7/14)

California Healthline: Hospital Finance Measure On State Ballot May Stump Voters
California Healthline staff writer Pauline Bartolone reports: "California voters will be asked to weigh in this November on a hospital financing measure so politically and financially complicated that they might be tempted to avoid it altogether. The initiative, Proposition 52, would make permanent the “Hospital Quality Assurance Fee,” which the state collects from private hospitals to bring in additional federal dollars for Medi-Cal, California’s version of the federal Medicaid health care program for the poor. The federal government matches money that California puts up to fund Medi-Cal services." (Bartolone, 7/13)

The New York Times: National Health Spending To Surpass $10,000 A Person In 2016
National health spending will average more than $10,000 a person this year for the first time, the Obama administration said Wednesday, a milestone that heralds somewhat faster growth in health spending after several years of exceptionally low growth. By 2025, the administration reported, health care will represent 20 percent of the total economy, up from 17.8 percent last year. By 2025, one of every five Americans will be on Medicare, and the program will spend an average of nearly $18,000 a year for each beneficiary. Medicare spent about $12,000 per beneficiary in 2015. (Pear, 7/13)

The Washington Post: Health Care Spending Is Projected To Grow Much Faster Than The Economy
The report, compiled by a team of government actuaries, shows overall health spending picking up after a historic slowdown, but the growth remains lower than the nearly 8 percent annual growth in the two decades before the Great Recession. The Obama administration — including the president himself in a recent essay — has credited the Affordable Care Act with keeping health expenditures in check. But economists remain uncertain whether the slowdown in spending is because of provisions of the law or might be explained by other factors. (Johnson, 7/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Pace Of U.S. Health Spending Increased In 2015, With Further Rise Expected
The pickup in the past two years follows five consecutive years in which average spending growth through 2013 was less than 4% annually, the lowest rates since the government began tracking health-care spending in the 1960s. The acceleration is largely attributed to a stronger economy, faster growth in medical prices and an aging baby boom generation. Spending growth in 2014 and 2015 was also driven by expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act because it means more people are using health services. At the same time, the law has helped rein in spending growth, administration officials said. However, the actuaries said quantitative estimates that measure the impact of the ACA aren’t yet available. (Armour, 7/13)

The New York Times: Senate Approves Bill To Combat Opioid Addiction Crisis
The Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to tackle the nation’s opioid crisis, sending to the president’s desk the most sweeping drug legislation in years in a rare instance of consensus in Congress. The measure, which passed, 92 to 2, would strengthen prevention, treatment and recovery efforts, largely by empowering medical professionals and law enforcement officials with more tools to help drug addicts. It would also expand access to a drug that emergency medical workers could use to help reverse overdoses and improve treatment for the incarcerated. (Huetteman, 7/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Congress Passes Bill To Fight Opioid Abuse, But Funding Clash Continues
The legislation will authorize almost $900 million over five years for prevention, treatment and law enforcement efforts to fight the health crisis. “This is a historic moment, the first time in decades that Congress has passed comprehensive addiction legislation, and the first time Congress has ever supported long-term addiction recovery,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), who along with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) introduced the Senate version of the bill. (O'Keeffe, 7/13)

The Associated Press: Congress Sends Obama Compromise Drug-Abuse Bill
In a statement, the White House said Obama would sign the bill while expressing disappointment that it failed to provide significant money to deal with the epidemic. "Some action is better than none," the White House said, but Obama "won't stop fighting to secure the resources this public health crisis demands. Congressional Republicans have not done their jobs until they provide the funding for treatment that communities need to combat this epidemic." (7/13)

The Associated Press: In Rare Show Of Unity, Governors Vow To Fight Opioid Crisis
Nearly every U.S. governor pledged Wednesday to combat the opioid crisis that is leaving a trail of overdose deaths and misery in their states. At least 45 state governors signed on to the Compact to Fight Opioid Addiction committing to fight the epidemic, fueled by the overprescribing of prescription pain relievers. The National Governors Association released the compact ahead of its summer meeting, which starts Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. (7/13)

The Associated Press: House Bill Allows Companies To Deny Abortion Coverage
The House backed legislation designed to circumvent a California order that requires health insurance companies to pay for elective abortions. The legislation passed 245-182 on a mostly party-line vote on Wednesday. Republicans say the California order upheld by the Obama administration last month would discriminate against companies and employees that oppose abortion on ethical and moral grounds. (7/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Bill Would Forbid Firms From Getting Workers’ Birth-Control Details
A Democratic congresswoman is proposing legislation that would keep employers from accessing data about individual employees’ birth-control prescriptions. The Birth Control Privacy Act, introduced in the House of Representatives on Wednesday by Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington, would explicitly prevent workplace health vendors from sharing information about individual workers’ use of birth control. Rep. DelBene said she introduced the bill in response to a story published this year in The Wall Street Journal that described how some workplace health programs mine employee health data— such as claims for birth-control prescriptions and other information, including age and search data—to predict whether an employee might be pregnant. (Silverman, 7/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Antiabortion Group Lays Out Central Goals For 2016
A prominent antiabortion group says banning terminations after 20 weeks of pregnancy and blocking taxpayer funding of abortion and Planned Parenthood are the key issues that it will use to rally support for its congressional and White House candidates this fall, following recent setbacks in the courts. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said at a press conference Wednesday that she was encouraging candidates to focus on aspects of the abortion debate where they have the most support — such as getting a bar on abortions later in pregnancy, and preserving restrictions on federal dollars being used for abortion, or for any services at Planned Parenthood, the clinic network that also provides contraception and reproductive health screening. (Radnofsky, 7/13)

The Washington Post: Four Countries Face The Highest Risk Of Zika Virus From The Olympics
Four countries face the highest risk of a Zika outbreak if a single one of their athletes or travelers becomes infected during the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, according to a risk analysis published Wednesday by U.S. health officials. The four countries -- Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea and Yemen -- have the factors that could result in a sustained spread of the mosquito-borne virus in a worst-case scenario, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Sun, 7/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Global Zika Risk Is Low For Rio Olympics, CDC Says
The 350,000 to 500,000 visitors expected at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in August and September represent less than 0.25% of the total estimated travel to Zika-affected countries in 2015, the CDC analysis found. Estimated travel to the U.S. from Rio for the Games is 0.11% of all 2015 U.S. travel from countries where Zika is now spreading, the CDC said. “The relative contribution of the Olympics is really quite small,” said Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s division of global migration and quarantine, who led the analysis. (McKay, 7/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Drugmakers’ Pricing Power Remains Strong
Pharmaceutical companies’ power to raise prices is firmly intact despite pushback from health insurers, scrutiny by U.S. lawmakers and anxiety about rising prescription drug spending. More than two-thirds of the 20 largest pharmaceutical companies said price increases boosted sales of some or most of their biggest products in the first quarter, according to a Wall Street Journal review of corporate filings and conference-call transcripts. (Walker, 7/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant’s Ex-CEO Michael Pearson Sells Nearly $100 Million In Company Stock
Michael Pearson has sold nearly $100 million of his stock in Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. in the past two weeks, according to securities filings, following his firing as the troubled drugmaker’s chief executive in March. Mr. Pearson sold 288,441 shares on June 30 for $5.8 million, and sold another 411,601 shares for $8.2 million on July 5, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. One filing also indicates Mr. Pearson sold another 4,144,687 shares—a large portion of his remaining Valeant stake—for $82.9 million on July 1. (McNish and Grant, 7/13)

The Washington Post: One Striking Chart Shows Why Pharma Companies Are Fighting Legal Marijuana
There's a body of research showing that painkiller abuse and overdose are lower in states with medical marijuana laws. These studies have generally assumed that when medical marijuana is available, pain patients are increasingly choosing pot over powerful and deadly prescription narcotics. But that's always been just an assumption. Now a new study, released in the journal Health Affairs, validates these findings by providing clear evidence of a missing link in the causal chain running from medical marijuana to falling overdoses. (Ingraham, 7/13)

The Washington Post: Here Are Some Ways Cancer Can Thwart The New Immunotherapy Drugs
A new type of cancer drug designed to unleash the immune system is revolutionizing treatment for advanced melanoma, lung cancer and other malignancies. But some patients who initially respond to the therapy relapse, and researchers are anxious to figure out how and why the delayed resistance occurs. "Does the immune system stop working, or does the cancer change so that it's no longer responding to the immune system?" said Antoni Ribas, director of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Tumor Immunology Program at the University of California at Los Angeles. (McGinley, 7/13)

NPR/KQED: Frustrated You Can't Find A Therapist? They're Frustrated, Too
There are a lot of people suffering from a mental health condition who need therapy. And there are a lot of therapists who want to help them. But both sides believe the insurance companies that are supposed to bring them together are actually keeping them apart. Insurance companies, for their part, say there's a shortage of therapists. But it's not that simple. Especially in urban areas, there are lots of therapists. They just don't want to work with the insurance companies. (Dembosky, 7/14)

Los Angeles Times: Brain Changes Wrought By Gene Linked To Alzheimer’s May Begin In Childhood, Scientists Say
The gene that makes some people more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease as adults also affects the brain development and mental abilities of children, a new study shows. Researchers who examined brain scans of 1,187 kids and teens found distinct patterns in the size and structure of the cortex, hippocampus and other important structures. These patterns were linked with different versions of a gene known as APOE, which may play a role in up to 25% of Alzheimer’s cases. (Kaplan, 7/13)

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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