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KHN First Edition: July 20, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

California Healthline: Covered California Health Plan Rates To Jump 13.2 Percent In 2017
Chad Terhune and Pauline Bartolone report for California Healthline and Kaiser Health News: "California’s Obamacare premiums will jump 13.2 percent on average next year, a sharp increase that is likely to reverberate nationwide in an election year. The Covered California exchange had won plaudits by negotiating 4 percent average rate increases in its first two years. But that feat couldn’t be repeated for 2017, as overall medical costs continue to climb and two federal programs that help insurers with expensive claims are set to expire this year." (7/19)

California Healthline: What Do Covered California’s Big Rate Hikes Mean For You?
Emily Bazar reports for California Healthline and Kaiser Health News: "The average rate hike doesn’t tell the full story for individual consumers. Health plan prices vary across the state, and within regions. How much you’ll pay depends on a variety of factors: where you live, how much money you make, what level of coverage you want and which insurer you choose. Keep in mind that these premium increases affect only a fraction of insured Californians — not the majority, who get their coverage through work or a government program such as Medicare or Medi-Cal." (7/19)

Kaiser Health News: Anti-Abortion Forces Regroup In Wake Of Supreme Court Decision
KHN reporter Julie Rovner writes: "Delegates at the Republican convention in Cleveland have approved the strongest anti-abortion platform in the party’s history. But groups that oppose abortion — and that lobbied for the strong language — are far from unified. In fact, in the wake of last month’s Supreme Court decision reaffirming a woman’s right to abortion, leaders of a movement known for speaking largely with one voice are showing some surprising disagreement." (7/20)

Kaiser Health News: New Funding Seeks To Help Clinics Swamped By Demand For Dental Care
KHN reporter writes Zhai Yun Tan: "Dental care has become a luxury item for many middle- and low-income families, especially for adults. Cost is the primary barrier. Twenty percent of low-income adults say their mouth and teeth are in poor condition, according to the American Dental Association. While dental benefits are guaranteed for lower income children under Medicaid and CHIP, dental coverage for adults in Medicaid is not compulsory and varies from state to state." (7/20)

Bloomberg: U.S. Said Readying Suits Against Anthem, Aetna Insurer Deals
U.S. antitrust officials are poised to file lawsuits to block Anthem Inc.’s takeover of rival health-insurer Cigna Corp. and Aetna Inc.’s deal to buy Humana Inc., according to a person familiar with the matter. Justice Department officials, who are responsible for protecting competition, are concerned that the deals, which would transform the health-insurance industry by turning its five biggest companies into three, would harm customers, according to several people familiar with the situation. (McLaughlin and Forden, 7/19)

New York Times: Justice Dept. Will Seek To Block 2 Health Insurance Mergers
The proposed mergers would greatly reshape the health insurance landscape. The combination of Anthem with Cigna would create a powerful presence in the market to offer insurance administration to large employers. And Aetna’s combination with Humana threatened to further consolidate the market for private Medicare plans. (Picker and Abelson, 7/19)

The Washington Post: Antitrust Officials Reportedly Preparing To Block Insurance Mega-Mergers
Those involved in the deals have argued that the mergers would benefit consumers and shareholders, giving the companies more clout to drive better deals with hospitals and physician groups. But politicians, state regulators and the American Medical Association have raised questions about whether the deals would reduce competition and drive up costs for patients. (Merle and Johnson, 7/19)

USA Today: Obama Admin May Sue To Block Health Mergers
In the event of a lawsuit, a federal judge would decide whether the mergers must be killed under antitrust provisions — and although there's no guarantee the Justice Department will prevail, corporations often choose to give up instead of waging an uncertain, lengthy and costly fight against the government. (Bomey, 7/19)

The Washington Post: Florida Is Checking Possible Local Case Of Zika
The Florida health department said late Tuesday that it is investigating what could be the first case of locally spread Zika virus in the continental United States. In a brief statement, the department said it is "actively conducting an epidemiological investigation" of a non-travel-related case in Miami-Dade County in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Sun, 7/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Florida Health Officials Investigate Possible Case Of Locally Acquired Zika
Florida health officials are investigating a case of Zika in a person in Miami-Dade County who may have been infected locally rather than in an area outside the continental U.S. where the virus is known to be circulating. If the person is confirmed to have acquired the virus locally, that could mean that it was transmitted by mosquitoes—possibly the first such instance of that occurring. (McKay, 7/19)

The Washington Post: Obamacare’s Surcharge For Smokers May Have Backfired
A provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows insurers to charge smokers higher premiums may have discouraged smokers from signing up for insurance, undercutting a major goal of the law, according to a study published this month. The surcharges, of up to 50 percent over nonsmokers' premiums, also showed no sign of encouraging people to quit. (Johnson, 7/19)

Los Angeles Times: California Obamacare Rates To Rise 13% In 2017, More Than Three Times The Increase Of Last Two Years
Premiums for Californians’ Obamacare health coverage will rise by an average of 13.2% next year — more than three times the increase of the last two years and a jump that is bound to raise debate in an election year. The big hikes come after two years in which California officials had bragged that the program had helped insure hundreds of thousands people in the state while keeping costs moderately in check. (sen and Levey, 7/19)

The New York Times: California Staff Workers Are Sidelined By Illness
The first signs of illness, thought to be norovirus, the highly contagious intestinal illness, appeared on Thursday night, just after the staff members arrived in the Cleveland area. By early Monday, symptoms had sufficiently spread among the group to notify the Erie County Health Department. (Purdy, 7/19)

Stateline: With Uptick In Home Births, Midwives Seek To Practice In More States
But what’s clear is the state regulatory terrain for midwives poses a problem for consumers when the nation is experiencing an increase in the number of births taking place outside hospitals, usually in homes or freestanding birthing centers. The percentage of out-of-hospital births crept up from 0.87 percent of all births in 2004 to 1.36 percent in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Ollove, 7/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Tackling Workers’ Mental Health, One Text at a Time
As employers seek to reduce the costs of untreated mental illness among staffers, more companies are trying mobile apps that help workers easily find and receive treatment. Some apps mine data about employees’ phone usage, or medical and pharmaceutical claims, to determine who might be in need of care. Others allow workers to text and video chat with therapists—in what are being called “telemental” health services. (Silverman, 7/19)

NPR: Maryland Switches Opioid Treatments, And Some Patients Cry Foul
Maryland Medicaid officials have made what appears to be a small change to the list of preferred medications to treat opioid addictions. The agency used to pay for the drug in a dissolvable film form. Now it's steering patients to tablets, which some doctors say are not as effective for their patients. Those doctors say the change is having a profound effect on some people struggling to stay clean. (Kodjak, 7/19)

The New York Times: I.V.F. Does Not Raise Breast Cancer Risk, Study Shows
Women undergoing in vitro fertilization have long worried that the procedure could raise their risk for breast cancer. ... But the largest, most comprehensive study to date, published Tuesday, provides further reassurance: It finds no increased risk among women who have undergone I.V.F. (Saint Louis, 7/19)

The New York Times: Cutting Sugar Rapidly Improves Heart Health Markers
Obese children who cut sugar from their diets saw improvements in markers of heart disease after just nine days, a study in Atherosclerosis found. For the study, researchers evaluated 37 children ages 9 to 18 who were obese and at high risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. (Peachman, 7/19)

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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