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KHN First Edition: July 15, 2016


First Edition

Friday, July 15, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Despite Opioid Concerns, Seniors Often Exit The Hospital With Prescription: Study
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews reports: "It’s a common scenario: Someone checks into a hospital for surgery or an illness and leaves with a prescription for an opioid painkiller, opening the door to long-term use and dependence. A recent study examined this pattern and found the prescriptions are used and renewed more often than you might imagine. Researchers analyzed the pharmacy claims of a random sample of more than 623,000 Medicare beneficiaries who were hospitalized in 2011. They only included people who did not have a prescription claim for opioids for at least 60 days before being hospitalized." (Andrews, 7/15)

Kaiser Health News: Hispanics Least Prepared For A Major Disaster In Los Angeles
Cynthia H. Craft, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "In Los Angeles County the question is not whether a major disaster will happen, but when. Experts expect an earthquake measuring 7.0 or greater in the next 30 years. The area is prone to wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters. Infectious disease outbreaks and terrorist attacks are also possible. Though aware of the risks, less than half of the population is prepared for such emergencies. Surveys show Hispanic communities are least prepared of all." (Craft, 7/15)

Kaiser Health News: Psychotherapists Gravitate Toward Those Who Can Pay
KQED's April Dembosky, in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: "There’s something that really bothers Stanford psychiatry professor Keith Humphreys. When he thinks of all the years he spends training the next generation of psychiatrists, the enormous investment in medical school and residency, he wants them to devote that education to taking care of people with serious mental illness. But many of them instead set up a private practice, where they can charge $400 an hour in cash to help people who Humphreys calls “the worried well” — people who enjoy the self-exploration of therapy but do not necessarily have a mental health problem." (Dembosky, 7/15)

California Healthline: A Chat With The Head Of California’s Doctor Lobby
California Healthline staff writer Emily Bazar reports: "The California Medical Association, which represents about 41,000 doctors, has been at the heart of health care deliberations in Sacramento for decades. This year, it has staked out strong and sometimes surprising positions on the legalization of marijuana, Medi-Cal provider rates and the role it believes nurse practitioners should play in patient care. California Healthline discussed these positions with current CMA president, Steven Larson, a primary care and infectious disease physician who practices in Riverside. Larson is also CEO of Riverside Medical Clinic, a multispecialty medical group." (Bazar, 7/14)

The Associated Press: Lawmakers To Go On Recess Without Addressing Zika
Congress is about to leave for a seven-week vacation without giving the Obama administration any of the $1.9 billion it’s seeking to battle the Zika virus, and a Senate effort to revive the nuts-and-bolts process of passing agency budgets was dealt a significant setback at the hands of Democrats. (7/15)

The Associated Press: What Congress Did And Didn't Do So Far This Year
Lawmakers exited Washington for a seven-week recess with several major accomplishments to highlight for voters — the first overhaul of rules for asbestos and other dangerous chemicals in 40 years, a rescue package for cash-strapped Puerto Rico — and plenty of unfinished business. Partisanship and election-year politics prevented Congress from fulfilling President Barack Obama's $1.9 billion emergency request to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus, a plea made in February. (7/15)

The Wall Street Journal: The Top Three Things Congress Couldn’t Get Done This Year
A partisan fight widened in recent weeks over how Congress should pay for money directed at combating the Zika virus and lawmakers didn’t resolve it before they left Thursday. House and Senate Republicans backed a measure that would have provided $1.1 billion in Zika funding, balanced with cuts to the 2010 health-law and money previously earmarked for fighting Ebola. Democrats said they could live with some of the budget cuts, but objected to a provision that would have prevented funding from going to ProFamilias, a group that partners with Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico, which has been hard hit by Zika. (son, 7/14)

Los Angeles Times: Zika Epidemic In Latin America May Have Peaked, And Scientists Predict It Will Be Over In 3 Years
Researchers modeling the rampant spread of the Zika virus say that, like a wildfire consuming a parched landscape, the epidemic that has caused a plague of birth defects in Brazil is already showing signs of slowing and is likely to largely burn itself out in three years. Peak Zika spread may already have passed, said researchers writing in the journal Science. At a slower rate and with seasonal ebb and flow, the Zika virus’ march across the Americas, they reckon, will likely grind to a halt. (Healy, 7/14)

Politico: Why Obama's 'Public Option' May Disappoint
President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over the past week have both called for a new government-run insurance option. But the "public option"— which some Democrats have been trying to enact since health law negotiations in 2009 — isn't a panacea for the problems plaguing Obamacare, Harvard expert Katherine Baicker tells POLITICO's "Pulse Check" podcast. (Diamond, 7/14)

USA Today: Republicans Say Abortion Clinics Broke The Law By Selling Fetal Organs
Republicans on a special House panel investigating the practices of abortion providers said Thursday those providers and their middlemen have violated federal law by selling tissues and organs from aborted fetuses. In an interim report to Congress, the panel’s GOP majority said it has uncovered evidence that some providers were so eager to profit from selling fetal tissue that they altered abortion procedures to put financial benefit above the health of women. (Collins, 7/14)

Reuters: Senators Urge U.S. To Close Lead Testing Gaps, Citing Reuters Investigation
Some influential U.S. senators are urging a federal agency to take action to ensure more children are tested for lead poisoning, citing a Reuters investigation that found millions are missing required lead tests, leaving some vulnerable to lifelong health effects. In a three-page letter to be sent on Friday, U.S. senators including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Deborah Stabenow of Michigan, all Democrats, called on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), to re-evaluate its lead screening policy for millions of Medicaid-eligible children. (Schneyer and Pell, 7/14)

NPR/ProPublica: Social Media Abuse Of Nursing Home Residents Often Goes Unchecked
When a certified nursing assistant in Hubbard, Iowa, shared a photo online in March of a nursing home resident with his pants around his ankles, his legs and hand covered in feces, the most surprising aspect of state health officials' investigation was this: It wasn't against the law. The Iowa law designed to protect dependent adults from abuse was last updated in 2008, before many social media apps existed. ... The Iowa incident is just one illustration of how regulators and law enforcement officials nationwide are struggling to respond when employees at long-term care facilities violate the privacy of residents by posting photos on social media websites. (Ornstein and Huseman, 7/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare Backs ID Numbers For Medical Devices
The federal Medicare agency has endorsed the use of unique identification numbers in billing records for medical devices, a move safety advocates say is crucial in helping detect malfunctions in devices such as heart defibrillators, blood filters and hip and knee joints. The move is a shift for the agency, which hadn’t recommended such a step before, though it has for years been advocated by many lawmakers and officials at the Food and Drug Administration. (Burton, 7/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Trying To Serve More Veterans Faster, VA Opens Door To Disability Fraud
The Department of Veterans Affairs, fiercely criticized in recent years for slow and shoddy work, has reacted by expanding coverage and speeding up claims processing. Now critics say the reduced evidence requirements and briefer investigations can mean claims get padded, wasting funds and time better directed to more-qualified veterans, according to interviews with more than 40 current and former VA staffers, doctors, veterans and government agents. (Huang, 7/14)

Reuters: Ex-Drug Executive Shkreli To Face U.S. Fraud Trial In June 2017
Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical executive who last year became a lightning rod for criticism of soaring prescription drug prices, is now scheduled to go on trial in June 2017 in the U.S. government's securities fraud case against him. U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, in Brooklyn, New York, set a June 26, 2017, trial date in the case against Shkreli, 33, and Evan Greebel, a former lawyer for Retrophin Inc, a biopharmaceutical company which Shkreli founded and headed until 2014. (Raymond, 7/14)

The New York Times: K2 Overdoses Surge In New York: At Least 130 Cases This Week Alone
Almost as soon as the young man crouching on a trash-strewed street in Brooklyn pulled out a crumpled dollar bill from his pocket and emptied its contents of dried leaves into a wrapper, he had company. A half-dozen disheveled men and women walked swiftly to where the young man was rolling a cigarette of a synthetic drug known as K2 to wait for a chance to share. The drug has been the source of an alarming and sudden surge in overdoses — over three days this week, 130 people across New York City were treated in hospital emergency rooms after overdosing on K2, almost equaling the total for the entire month of June, according to the city’s health department. (Nir, 7/14)

The Washington Post: Here Are Some Scary Side Effects Of Common Medications
The Men’s Health article starts with a cautionary tale: A Michigan man named Bernard Zeitler was doing well at quelling his lottery addiction when suddenly he started to get renewed urges to buy a scratchable lottery ticket. What had changed? His doctor had prescribed a new antidepressant — one that the Food and Drug Administration has linked, in rare cases, to an uncontrollable urge to gamble. Reporter Cindy Kuzma quotes medical experts and FDA warnings to describe five drugs whose “scary side effects,” even though usually rare, are worth noting. (Szokan, 7/14)

Reuters: Yogurt Maker Dannon Considers Ways To Cut More Sugar
U.S. yogurt maker Dannon, a unit of France's Danone, is looking at ways to make its products less sweet, in the latest industry response to rising concerns about excessive sugar consumption. The company, whose brands include Dannon, Oikos and Activia, is working with the American Heart Association and other health groups to find ways to reduce sugar after having cut the sweetener in most of its products to 23 grams or less per six-ounce serving, executives said at press conference on Thursday. (Prentice, 7/14)

The Associated Press: Republicans Launch New Panel On Healthcare Reform
Republican lawmakers have announced a new workgroup focused on loosening government oversight of new or expanded health care facilities in Virginia. House Speaker William J. Howell and Senate President Pro-Tem Stephen D. Newman said Thursday they had created a new workgroup and were rededicating themselves to changing the state’s certificate of need law. (7/15)

USA Today: Shuttered Business Ordered To Pay $8.7M
An Appleton-based business that was accused of running a multi-state medical insurance scheme, tricking seniors and Spanish-speaking customers, has been ordered to pay $8.7 million in restitution. The judgement against Partners in Health Care and its principal, Gary L. Kieper, concludes a nearly five-year case. (Safran, 7/14)

The Associated Press: Ex-Dentist Gets House Arrest For Bilking Medicaid
A former Oklahoma oral surgeon whose filthy clinics led to thousands of patients being tested for HIV and hepatitis was sentenced Thursday to six months' house arrest for fraudulently billing Medicaid for anesthesia services that were performed by unlicensed dental assistants. W. Scott Harrington pleaded guilty in April to money laundering and agreed to pay nearly $30,000 in restitution under an agreement with federal prosecutors. He was also sentenced Thursday to two years' probation and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine within a month. (7/14)

USA Today: How To Avoid Deadly Flesh-Eating Bacteria
Warm waters and one case of a potentially deadly flesh destroying bacteria in Brevard County have prompted Florida health officials to urge the public to avoid exposure to the rare bacterial infection. Brevard's warning came two days after state health officials in Volusia County similarly urged residents and tourists to take precautions to prevent exposure to Vibrio vulnificus, a potentially deadly saltwater bacteria that has killed four people so far this year in Florida. (Waymer, 7/15)

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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