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KHN First Edition: July 8, 2016


First Edition

Friday, July 08, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Study Finds Doctors Quick To Change Practice For Breast Cancer Patients
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews reports: "Doctors cling to comfortable, widely used medical practices, even if they’re no longer particularly effective, right? A new study disputes that popular perception. In the case of a particular breast cancer treatment at least, many physicians quickly abandoned it after a clinical trial showed it was ineffective. The study, published in the July issue of the journal Health Affairs, tracked treatment patterns before and after the results of a major clinical trial that examined the effectiveness of removing lymph nodes near the breast to prevent the spread of cancer." (Andrews, 7/8)

Kaiser Health News: House Panel Extends Funding For Medicare Program To Help Consumers
Susan Jaffe, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "A House subcommittee voted on Thursday to continue $52 million in funding for a program that helps seniors understand the complexities of their Medicare coverage. Two weeks ago, a Senate committee voted to eliminate it. The measure preserving the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, known as SHIP, is part of a massive spending bill for federal health, education and labor programs, approved by the Republican majority of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees those departments. Democrats opposed the bill, which would cut money for the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and the Social Security Administration. It would also bar the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from research into gun violence." (Jaffe, 7/7)

Kaiser Health News: Report: ‘Convergence Science’ Has Potential To Accelerate The Research-To-Product Pipeline
Zhai Yun Tan for Kaiser Health News reports: "A few years ago, Elizabeth Jaffee, a professor of oncology in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, probably wouldn’t have imagined that she would team up with an aerospace engineer to advance her research on cancer therapies. Advancements in mapping out genetic sequences had already given biomedical researchers a wealth of information to study tumors and cells — but they didn’t have existing tools to handle that data. So Jaffee reached out to a professor in the department of physics, thinking that the computer system used to analyze complex data from outer space might be able to accommodate the huge trove of information she had on her hands." (Tan, 7/8)

Kaiser Health News: A Young Latina In Baltimore Struggles To Keep Her Family Healthy
Mary Wiltenburg, for Kaiser Health News and WYPR, reports: "Nathaly Uribe works in a busy insurance office in East Baltimore. But while she sells car and home insurance all day, she can’t afford health coverage for herself. Uribe is a DREAMer, meaning she qualifies for the Obama administration’s “deferred action” program for people who came to this country as small children. Her mother is undocumented and her sister is a citizen. Reporting for WYPR and Kaiser Health News, Mary Wiltenburg explores how this mix of immigration status and low income have been barriers to health care for the family." (Wiltenburg, 7/8)

California Healthline: ‘Don’t Cut Me!’: Discouraged By Experts, Episiotomies Still Common In Some Hospitals
Jocelyn Wiener, for California Healthline, reports: "Episiotomy, a once-common childbirth procedure that involves cutting tissue between the vagina and anus to enlarge the vaginal opening, has been officially discouraged in most cases for a decade. Yet it is still being performed at much higher than recommended rates in certain hospitals and by certain doctors. In 2006, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a recommendation against routine use of episiotomy, finding that it benefited neither mothers nor babies. In 2008, the National Quality Forum also endorsed limiting the routine use of episiotomies. The procedure is still supported for use in certain emergency situations." (Wiener, 7/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Affordable Care Act Battle Returns To Court And Capitol Hill
The battle between congressional Republicans and the White House over the Affordable Care Act is again escalating—in court and on Capitol Hill. The administration on Wednesday appealed a federal trial judge’s ruling that the government is improperly reimbursing insurers under a program to cover discounts for low-income consumers. And House Republicans on Thursday began two days of hearings to hammer away at the issue. They released a report that said the administration distributed the funds even though it was aware it needed Congress’s approval. (Armour, 7/7)

The New York Times: U.S. Bans Theranos Founder From Running Lab For Two Years
United States regulators have banned Elizabeth Holmes, the chief executive of Theranos, from owning or operating a medical laboratory for at least two years, in a major setback for the embattled blood-testing firm and its once widely lauded founder. In a statement late Thursday, Theranos said the regulators also yanked the operating license of its Newark, Calif., laboratory and forbade the laboratory from taking Medicare and Medicaid payments for its services. Regulators will also levy a monetary penalty that Theranos did not specify. (Tejada, 7/8)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Regulator Bans Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes From Operating Labs For Two Years
The sanctions, which include an unspecified monetary penalty, cap eight months of public scrutiny that began in October when The Wall Street Journal raised questions about the company’s ability to perform a wide variety of blood tests with just a few drops of blood. Theranos once was a leading light in the technology boom, with the private company valued at $9 billion in 2014. (Siconolfi, 7/8)

Reuters: Justice Dept. Has Concerns Over Aetna-Humana Deal: Source
The U.S. Department of Justice has significant concerns about Aetna Inc's proposed acquisition of health insurer Humana Inc, a source familiar with the situation said on Thursday, sending shares of Humana down as much as 11 percent. Aetna's purchase of Humana would combine two of the largest providers of Medicare Advantage plans for elderly people, and investors have long been concerned the deal might pose a competition issue for antitrust regulators. (7/7)

Reuters: U.S. Democrats Pressure Republicans For Bipartisan Zika Funding
The White House and congressional Democrats pressured Republicans on Thursday for bipartisan Zika-funding legislation, saying the public health battle against the mosquito-borne virus is being undercut by efforts to ram through a bill with less funding. But there was no sign that Republicans would abandon their $1.1 billion measure, raising the chance that Congress will leave the growing health crisis unattended until September. (Morgan, 7/7)

The New York Times: Suicide Rate Among Veterans Has Risen Sharply Since 2001
The suicide rate among veterans has surged 35 percent since 2001, driven in part by sharp increases among those who have served since 2001, according to the largest study of such suicides. Of particular concern is the suicide rate among women, which has increased 85 percent in that time. The Department of Veterans Affairs released key findings Thursday of a recently completed study examining the death records of more than 55 million veterans from 1979 to 2014 from every state. (Philipps, 7/7)

The Wall Street Journal: KaloBios Takes Measures To Limit Martin Shkreli’s Shareholder Rights
KaloBios Pharmaceuticals on Thursday said it had reached an agreement with ousted Chief Executive Martin Shkreli to limit his shareholder rights, a week after the rare disease drugmaker said it had emerged from bankruptcy. Mr. Shkreli, who now holds less than 14% of the South San Francisco-based biotech firm’s shares according to the company, was arrested in December on securities-fraud charges unrelated to KaloBios. Soon after, the company filed for bankruptcy protection, fearing the turmoil surrounding Mr. Shkreli created an “imminent threat” to its liquidity. (Steele, 7/7)

The Associated Press: US House Probes Response To Toxic Chemical In Drinking Water
A congressional committee is asking state officials and federal environmental regulators for information about their responses to drinking water contaminated with the toxic chemical PFOA in an upstate New York village. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said in letters Wednesday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy it is concerned about the time it took New York officials to take action on the findings in Hoosick Falls and a possible communication breakdown at EPA. (7/7)

The Washington Post: Justice Department To Make $40 Million Available For Victims Of Deadly Meningitis Outbreak
The Justice Department plans to make as much as $40 million available for victims of a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that federal investigators traced to a batch of contaminated steroid injections after a dispute over whether those affected by the outbreak qualified for such financial assistance was finally resolved, officials said. While some of the details still need to be worked out, the Office for Victims of Crime has decided to make the money available from its Crime Victims Fund, which is financed by fines and penalties paid by those convicted of crimes, the officials said. (Zapotosky, 7/7)

Los Angeles Times: Meningitis Outbreak In L.A. Gay Community Prompts Plea For Vaccinations
Los Angeles County public health officials and LGBT advocates are urging gay and bisexual men to get meningitis vaccinations, citing a recent outbreak of potentially deadly meningococcal disease that is disproportionately affecting men who have sex with men. There have been 17 confirmed cases of invasive meningococcal disease confirmed in the county so far this year, including 12 in the last two months, Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the interim director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said Thursday. Eight have been among gay or bisexual men, including seven within the last two months, he said. (Branson-Potts, 7/7)

The Associated Press: Indiana Sued Over Ultrasound 18 Hours Before Abortion Rule
A new Indiana mandate that women undergo an ultrasound at least 18 hours before they have an abortion is unconstitutional and will prevent some women from getting abortions, a federal lawsuit filed Thursday contends. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky argue in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis that the provision which took effect July 1 as part of a new law places "an undue burden" on women's constitutional right to seek an abortion. (7/7)

The New York Times: Why Do More Black Women Die Of Breast Cancer? A Study Aims To Find Out
Black women are at a greater risk of dying of breast cancer and of suffering from aggressive subtypes of the disease. Recent advances in survival rates among women of other races haven’t applied to them, and scientists aim to better understand why through a large study. A $12 million grant will finance a study of more than 20,000 black women with breast cancer, comparing them with thousands of black women who do not have the disease and white women who do. (Victor, 7/7)

The Washington Post: Brain Changes Persist In Student Athletes Six Months After A Concussion, Study Suggests
Despite all the recent attention to cases of long-term traumatic brain injury in National Football League players, concussions in daily sports among the rest of us are still often treated as temporary. There's a lot of evidence to back up this way of thinking. Numerous studies have shown that although players may experience headaches, difficulty balancing and memory or thinking problems immediately following an impact to the head, these symptoms usually disappear in a week or two. According to the current medical criteria for treating concussions, the athletes should then be considered fully recovered and allowed to return to their previous level of activity. (Cha, 7/7)

NPR: Synthetic Stingray May Lead To A Better Artificial Heart
Scientists have created a synthetic stingray that's propelled by living muscle cells and controlled by light, a team reports Thursday in the journal Science. And it should be possible to build an artificial heart using some of the same techniques, the researchers say. "I want to build an artificial heart, but you're not going to go from zero to a whole heart overnight," says Kit Parker, a bioengineer and physicist at Harvard University's Wyss Institute. "This is a training exercise." (Hamilton, 7/7)

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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