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KHN First Edition: July 26, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Insurers May Share Blame For Some Generics’ Price Hikes
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Generic drug price hikes have come under close scrutiny lately, as reports continue to surface of significant and seemingly inexplicable increases, often for widely used drugs like levothyroxine or digoxin, a heart medicine, whose out-of-pocket costs to consumers have been modest for years. What gives? Health care professionals like your pharmacist often blame drug manufacturers, claiming they raise prices simply because they can, said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, a consulting firm. There’s no question that happens. But there are other reasons that generic drug prices may increase as well." (Andrews, 7/26)

Kaiser Health News: CDC Urges Doctors To Aggressively Test Pregnant Women For Zika
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling on doctors to more aggressively screen pregnant women for the Zika virus and to take advantage of new testing technology to improve the diagnosis, follow-up and monitoring of those who have been infected. The guidance, published Monday, comes amid growing concerns about Zika, which is spread by mosquito bite and sexually transmitted. If contracted by pregnant women, it can result in severe birth defects — including microcephaly, which stunts children’s brain development. It has also been implicated in miscarriages and diseases like Guillain-Barre, a neurological disorder that causes temporary paralysis." (Luthra, 7/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare Proposes Fixed Payments For Treating Heart Attacks
Medicare wants to pay hospitals fixed amounts for treating heart attacks, following a move to offer set reimbursements for hip and knee replacements rather than letting providers bill for every service provided to older Americans, the Obama administration said Monday. The proposal represents the most significant extension of the Obama administration’s efforts to curb costs and improve quality of care funded by Medicare. (Radnofsky and Evans, 7/25)

The Washington Post: Arizona Becomes The Last State To Provide Health Insurance To Low-Income Children
Arizona is rejoining a children's health insurance program for low and middle-income families, becoming the last state in the union to provide coverage for health care, dental care, speech therapy and other services to families who don't qualify for Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Monday that it had approved Arizona's plan to unfreeze enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), effective Tuesday. The insurance program, funded jointly by the state and federal governments, covers children up to age 18 whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but don't have their own health insurance. (Bernstein, 7/25)

The Associated Press: Doctors Urged To Check Pregnant Women For Zika At Each Visit
U.S. health officials are strongly urging doctors to ask all pregnant women about a possible Zika infection at every checkup. So far, there have been no confirmed cases of a Zika infection from a mosquito bite in the United States, although officials expect mosquitoes will start spreading it in Southern states. All U.S. illnesses have been connected to travel to areas with Zika outbreaks. (7/25)

The Washington Post: CDC Issues Updated Guidance For Zika Testing In Pregnant Women
The new guidance, issued Monday, also applies to pregnant women who have no symptoms. The agency is updating its guidance because of new research showing the virus can stay in the blood of pregnant women for longer than the previously recommended seven-day window for testing after symptoms begin. Even pregnant women without symptoms can have evidence of the virus in their blood and urine, the CDC said. (Sun, 7/25)

The New York Times: Colombia Declares End To The Zika Epidemic
Health officials here on Monday declared an end to the Zika epidemic in Colombia, the first time a South American country had turned the tide on the disease, they said. ... While health officials said the number of new infections had decreased to 600 new cases a week, they added that they still expected a limited number of new cases in the coming months as the disease wound down. (Casey, 7/25)

Los Angeles Times: Why The Rio Olympics Are Not Likely To Increase The Spread Of Zika Across The World
More than a dozen athletes have dropped out of the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro citing fears of spreading the Zika virus, but a new study from researchers at Yale University finds that the international sporting event poses little risk of increasing the transfer of the virus around the world. “Yes, Zika is a serious disease, but transmission linked to the Olympics and ParaOlympic Games is not a substantial public health threat and policy should be guided by this fact,” said Gregg Gonsalves, co-director of the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership and an author on the paper. (Netburn, 7/25)

The Washington Post: More Than Half Of Adults Misuse Medications, Study Finds
More than half of adults and 44 percent of children who were drug-tested by a national clinical laboratory last year misused their prescription medications, according to a study released Monday by Quest Diagnostics. Misuse of medications can mean that patients were either taking too much, too little or none of their medications. It also can mean test results showed they were using other drugs that had not been prescribed, including illicit drugs -- as 45 percent of adults were doing, the study found. (Kindy, 7/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Gilead Sales Of Hepatitis C Drugs Fall 19%
Gilead Sciences Inc. said its revenue from its hepatitis C drugs continued to fall, dropping 19% during the second quarter, with sales of Harvoni missing expectations as competition from rival drugs and pricing pressures intensified. Shares of the company slipped 3% to $85.90 after hours. The Foster City, Calif., biopharmaceutical company also lowered its 2016 product sales outlook to $29.5 billion to $30.5 billion, from its previous estimate for products sales of $30 billion to $31 billion. (Stynes, 7/25)

NPR: Children Exposed To Hepatitis C May Be Missing Out On Treatment
Several times a month, Jessica Wen, a pediatrician specializing in liver diseases, has a teenager show up at her clinic at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia with an unexpected diagnosis: hepatitis C. Hepatitis C virus, or HCV, is the most common bloodborne infection in the U.S. and a leading cause of liver failure and cancer. Injection drug use is a common risk factor, as is receiving a blood transfusion before 1992. But some of the teens Wen sees picked up the illness another way: at birth, from their mothers. (Gordon, 7/26)

Reuters: Zenefits Fined $62,500 By Tennessee Regulators In First Settlement On Licensing
Software startup Zenefits must pay the state of Tennessee $62,500 for violating insurance requirements, state officials said on Monday, marking the first settlement with regulators as the scandal-hit company seeks to redeem itself after revelations it had flouted the law. "Under the company's past leadership, compliance with insurance laws and regulations was almost an afterthought," Julie Mix McPeak, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, said in a statement. "Under the old Zenefits model, they were not complying with state laws. Fortunately, new company leadership has demonstrated a dedication to righting the ship." (Somerville, 7/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Zenefits Settles With Tennessee Regulator Over Sales Practices
Zenefits faces several continuing investigations from other states, including Washington, California and Massachusetts, after the company failed to get the necessary licenses for its sales staff to broker health-insurance benefits, the primary way the startup makes money. Zenefits reported its licensing issues to all 50 states earlier this year and said it has stopped the unlicensed practices. The company won’t be restricted from doing business in Tennessee, said Zenefits’s chief executive, David Sacks, in an email to employees that was released by the company. (Winkler, 7/25)

The New York Times: Surgery Fixes A Ligament (If It Exists). Does It Fix The Knee?
For professional athletes and weekend warriors alike, it appeared to be welcome news: the discovery by researchers of a new knee ligament that, if repaired, might help tens of thousands of people with an injury from sports or an accident. In the fall of 2013, a study about the finding was published in a small medical journal, generating extensive press coverage in the United States and Europe. A Florida company quickly began marketing a repair procedure those researchers helped develop. And soon, patients were asking about the knee surgery, and doctors were performing it. (Meier, 7/25)

The New York Times: Study Finds Sharp Increase In Marijuana Exposure Among Colorado Children
To a child on the prowl for sweets, that brownie, cookie or bear-shaped candy left on the kitchen counter is just asking to be gobbled up. But in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, notably Colorado, that child may end up with more than a sugar high. A study published on Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics says that in Colorado the rates of marijuana exposure in young children, many of them toddlers, have increased 150 percent since 2014, when recreational marijuana products, like sweets, went on the market legally. (Hoffman, 7/25)

The Associated Press: Grant Creates Alternative To Jail For Opioid Offenders
Gov. Larry Hogan is announcing a $540,000 state grant to test an alternative to incarceration for those convicted of nonviolent crimes linked to heroin or opioid addiction. It’s called a day reporting center, and it’s planned for a vacant office building near the Washington County Sheriff’s Office near Hagerstown. Hogan said in a statement Monday that the center will combine drug-addiction treatment with supervised probation. Offenders who are sent there will have to be employed or actively seeking employment. (7/25)

The Associated Press: New Texas Women’s Health Program Has Family Planning Focus
Texas unveiled Monday a revamped women’s health program for low-income residents that includes a boost in family planning services that the conservative state will no longer let Planned Parenthood and other organizations affiliated with abortion providers offer. More than 5,000 health care providers are part of the new program, Healthy Texas Women, said Charles Smith, head of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. That’s a 30 percent increase from 2014, and about triple the number of providers in the state women’s health program as recently as 2011. (Weissert, 7/25)

The Wall Street Journal: New Voices In Medical Advocacy Often Are Patients
In the world of advocacy for children with disabilities, life-threatening conditions and chronic disease, a new generation of advocates is emerging: the patients themselves. ... Advocacy has often been dominated by parents of children with the disorders. One of their greatest successes is that, through better daily care, funding, and advocacy, even in cases of lethal illness, the children generally are living longer, better lives. Some of those children now are at an age where they are forcing advocacy groups and their own parents to take their views into account, even when opinions diverge. (Dockser Marcus, 7/25)

The Washington Post: A Family Tree Entwined By Cancer
“My paternal grandfather had breast cancer.” That always makes whoever is charting my medical history look up. “He had a radical mastectomy in the 1970s. And his sister had it, too — she died young. And one of his nieces. And his daughter — my aunt.” At age 37, I have just been diagnosed with breast cancer, and the genetic counselor is furiously sketching out my family tree on a sheet of paper. There are squares and circles, the cancer victims marked with X’s. Lots of X’s. (Riggs, 7/25)

The Washington Post: When A Cry For Help Rings Out On Facebook, Who Answers — And How?
If the Internet is a public forum, then social media is the megaphone installed at the center of it. Certainly it attracts oversharers, the ones who hash out breakups in Facebook statuses and live-tweet their days in embarrassing detail. We lurk in the cyber shadows and tsk and snicker — this is modern voyeurism at its most entertaining. But then there are people like my acquaintance who seem to be in a different, more dangerous kind of distress that seems private but is broadcast, intentionally or not, to a wide network of onlookers. It looks suspiciously like mental illness. (Tepper Paley, 7/25)

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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