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KHN First Edition: July 27, 2017


First Edition

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Coming soon: We will be launching a Weekly Roundup that highlights original KHN articles from the past week. Adjust your settings here if you would like to receive it.

California Healthline: Congressman Decries Olympus' Failure To Warn U.S. Hospitals About Tainted Scopes
California Healthline staff writer Chad Terhune reports: "A U.S. lawmaker is renewing his push for Congress to toughen requirements on medical-device warnings, calling Olympus Corp.’s 2013 decision against issuing a broad alert to U.S. hospitals about scope-related superbug outbreaks “despicable.” U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said internal Olympus emails about that decision, detailed for the first time in a Los Angeles Times/Kaiser Health News article, were “incredibly disturbing” and the company officials involved should face questions at a Congressional hearing. At least 35 patients in American hospitals have died since 2013 after developing infections tied to tainted duodenoscopes." (Terhune, 7/27)

Kaiser Health News: Some Seniors Surprised To Be Automatically Enrolled In Medicare Advantage Plans
Susan Jaffe reports for KHN: "With Medicare’s specific approval, a health insurance company can enroll a member of its marketplace or other commercial plan into its Medicare Advantage coverage when that individual becomes eligible for Medicare. Called "seamless conversion,” the process requires the insurer to send a letter explaining the new coverage, which takes effect unless the member opts out within 60 days." (Jaffe, 7/27)

California Healthline: Warning: Government Listing Of Clinical Trials Doesn’t Disclose Costs To Patients
California Healthline staff writer Emily Bazar writes: "The website, run by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through its National Library of Medicine, is the most comprehensive such database available to the public in the United States, with listings for more than 210,000 clinical studies both here and abroad. But Smith’s experience exposes one of its little-known limitations: It does not require trial sponsors to disclose charges to patients — and does not even independently vet the listings." (7/26)

The Washington Post: The Nation’s Opioid Crisis Garners Attention At Party Conventions
The nation’s epidemic of opioid abuse, which has killed thousands of people over the past decade through powerful prescription painkillers and heroin, has taken on a prominent role at the Democratic National Convention — a sign of the issue’s growing importance in both parties. On Monday night, a woman whose daughter has struggled with addiction gave a prime-time speech, followed by the former governor of New Hampshire, where more than 400 people died of drug overdoses last year. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, people packed into a Quaker conference center in Philadelphia to hear delegates, elected officials and others talk about recovering from substance abuse and what needs to be done to combat it. A similar forum was held at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. Both conventions featured a recovery and wellness room for those suffering from addiction. (Zezima, 7/26)

The Washington Post: Why Tim Kaine Can Oppose Abortion And Still Run With Hillary Clinton
Eleven years ago, as he ran for governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine made clear his stance on abortion: “I have a faith-based opposition,” he wrote on his campaign’s website. “I will work in good faith to reduce abortions.” Kaine went on to laud adoption as the best solution to an unwanted pregnancy. He promoted abstinence-only sex education (and later slashed funding to the program, citing research that found it wasn’t effective). He authorized the sale of “Choose Life” license plates to fund religious counseling clinics that discouraged abortion. He backed Virginia’s “informed consent” law, which requires women seeking the procedure to undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds. In short, he was conservative on reproductive issues, by his party's standards. (Paquette, 7/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Guns, China, Abortion: How The Democratic Platform Has Changed
The Democratic platform bears some of the hallmarks of the drive to the left that Sen. Bernie Sanders led this year on economic policy. And on social issues, the party has abandoned many of the views it held in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We compare and contrast highlights in this year’s Democratic platform with those of recent decades on the following issues: guns, drugs, abortion, China, trade, gay marriage, higher education and health care. (Rubin, 7/26)

The Associated Press: Senator: Is Medicare Drug Plan Vulnerable To Exploitation?
A senior senator wants to know if Medicare's prescription drug benefit is vulnerable to manipulation by pharmaceutical companies that set very high prices for medications. In a letter Monday to Medicare's top administrator, Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, said policymakers must ensure the Part D prescription program serving some 38 million beneficiaries "is free from exploitation," and asked if it meets that test as currently structured. (7/27)

Los Angeles Times: Study: Covered California Health Insurance Coverage Doesn't Guarantee Doctor Access
The recent announcement that Covered California premiums will rise by double digits in 2017 is only part of the challenge for the nation’s largest health exchange. A newly released study found that 4.38% of Covered California policyholders enrolled in Blue Shield or Blue Cross plans were rejected by doctors who were supposedly accepting their insurance, compared with 1.41% for people with the same plans purchased outside the exchange. (Sisson, 7/27)

The Washington Post: Most Long-Term Insurance Care Enrollees Are Eligible For Little-Known Benefit
Three-fifths of enrollees in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program who are facing steep premium increases will be eligible to invoke a little-known feature of the program that will allow them to stop paying premiums but still keep some coverage, the Office of Personnel Management has said. The paid-up provision allows enrollees whose premium is increased beyond a certain percentage to stop paying premiums, with benefits then reduced. The triggering percentages vary according to the age at enrollment and take into account all increases since that time; FLTCIP rates also increased for many enrollees in early 2010. (Yoder, 7/26)

The New York Times: Should You Get Screened For Skin Cancer?
Every summer as Americans slather on sun lotion, they are reminded of the dangers of skin cancer. This year alone, more than 76,000 people in the United States will develop melanoma, the deadliest form of the disease, and about 10,000 will die from it. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said on Tuesday, however, that there still isn’t enough evidence to recommend total-body screenings and declined to take a position on the practice. (St. Fleur, 7/26)

The Washington Post: Expert Panel Declines To Recommend Routine Full-Body Screening For Skin Cancer
The federally appointed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force gave the visual screening a rating of "I" — meaning there was insufficient evidence for it to weigh the potential benefits against possible harms — for Americans of average risk. Yet its statement drew immediate pushback, with some physicians saying the outcome might encourage people to skip the awkward ritual of stripping down for an examination by their doctor for melanoma and other skin cancers. "We make recommendations based on evidence only, not on expert opinion, and we put equal weight on the potential benefits and the harms," said David Grossman, vice chairman of the task force and a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute. "And we really don’t have good evidence on the benefits of screening." (McGinley, 7/26)

Reuters: Charges Dropped Against Anti-Abortion Activists For Texas Video
Houston-area prosecutors dropped charges on Tuesday against two anti-abortion activists indicted for using illegal government identifications to secretly film a Texas Planned Parenthood facility, saying they could not adequately investigate the case. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were indicted by a grand jury in January and faced up to 20 years in prison after being charged with tampering with a governmental record. Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a statement her office was limited in what it can investigate under Texas law due to procedural matters with the grand jury process. (Herskovitz, 7/26)

The Washington Post: Last Charges Dropped In Case Over Planned Parenthood Videos
Texas prosecutors on Tuesday dropped the last remaining charges against two California anti-abortion activists who made undercover videos of themselves trying to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood, agreeing with the defense’s argument that the grand jury exceeded its authority by investigating the activists after clearing Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. District Judge Brock Thomas dismissed the tampering with government records charges against David Daleiden, 27, and Sandra Merritt, 63, at the request of the Harris County prosecutor’s office. (Graczyk, 7/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Judge Drops Charge Against Antiabortion Activists In Planned Parenthood Case
David Daleiden, one of the activists, said just hours after the ruling that he plans to release “more shocking and damning” footage involving Planned Parenthood once a gag order is lifted in a civil case in California. Mr. Daleiden, 27 years old, and Sandra Merritt, 63, each faced a felony charge of tampering with government records for using fake California driver’s licenses to access a Planned Parenthood clinic. The charge carried a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison. (Hobbs, 7/26)

The New York Times: Naloxone Eases Pain Of Heroin Epidemic, But Not Without Consequences
Every day across the country, hundreds, if not thousands, of people who overdose on opioids are being brought back to life with naloxone. Hailed as a miracle drug by many, it carries no health risk; it cannot be abused and, if given mistakenly to someone who has not overdosed on opioids, does no harm. More likely, it saves a life. ... But naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, has also had unintended consequences. Critics say that it gives drug users a safety net, allowing them to take more risks as they seek higher highs. Indeed, many users overdose more than once, some multiple times, and each time, naloxone brings them back. (Seelye, 7/27)

NPR: As Opioid Epidemic Surges, Medical Schools Must Change To Keep Pace
Jonathan Goodman can recall most of the lectures he's attended at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He can recite detailed instructions given more than a year ago about how to conduct a physical. But at the end of his second year, the 27-year-old M.D.-Ph.D. student could not remember any class dedicated to addiction medicine. Then he recalled skipping class months earlier. Reviewing his syllabus, he realized he had missed the sole lecture dedicated to that topic. "I wasn't tested on it," Goodman says, with a note of surprise. (Jacewicz, 7/27)

The Associated Press: White House Drug Official Visits Rhode Island Prison Program
A new Rhode Island prison program that provides medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction is getting attention from the Obama administration’s top drug control official. Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, toured the state women’s prison in Cranston on Tuesday. The state budget passed last month adds $2 million to a pilot program treating inmates with methadone and other medications that can reduce their dependence on opioids. (O'Brien, 7/26)

The Associated Press: Investigators: Heroin, Fentanyl Sting Leads To 24 Arrests
Authorities on Long Island say two dozen people have been arrested and nearly 4 kilograms of heroin and fentanyl have been seized in a 10-day drug sting. The Suffolk County district attorney is scheduled to announce the arrests on Wednesday in Hauppauge. Investigators say they found the narcotics at drug overdose scenes wrapped in lottery ticket paper stamped with the words Aleve, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bridge or Clean Up. (7/27)

The Wall Street Journal: Eli Lilly Revenue Helped By Sales Of New Drugs
Eli Lilly & Co. reported Tuesday that revenue rose more than expected in the most recent quarter, as sales of new drugs padded increases in established products. “Lilly is in the midst of one of the most productive periods of new product launches in our company’s history, with new medicines making a substantial contribution to our revenue growth for the first half of the year,” Chief Executive John Lechleiter said. Recently released drugs, including diabetes treatment Trulicity and cancer drug Cyramza, helped push 10% volume growth in the quarter. (Steele, 7/26)

Los Angeles Times: Amid Outbreak, Health Officials Want More Gay Men Vaccinated For Meningitis
Health officials in Los Angeles and Orange counties are recommending that all gay and bisexual men receive meningitis vaccinations, amid an outbreak of the potentially fatal disease disproportionately affecting men who have sex with men. Local health departments were previously recommending vaccinations only for people considered high-risk, such as men who are HIV positive. “We acknowledge this broadens our prior recommendations, but, after careful consultation with the CDC and health officers in other affected jurisdictions, we consider that this expansion of the vaccination recommendations is a necessary step to suppress this outbreak,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, L.A. County Interim Health Officer, in a statement Tuesday. (Karlamangla, 7/26)

NPR: A Sniff Test For Alzheimer's Checks For The Ability To Identify Odors
Two studies released at an international Alzheimer's meeting Tuesday suggest doctors may eventually be able to screen people for this form of dementia by testing the ability to identify familiar odors, like smoke, coffee and raspberry. In both studies, people who were in their 60s and older took a standard odor detection test. And in both cases, those who did poorly on the test were more likely to already have — or go on to develop — problems with memory and thinking. (Hamilton, 7/26)

The New York Times: W.H.O. Weighs Dropping Transgender Identity From List Of Mental Disorders
The World Health Organization is moving toward declassifying transgender identity as a mental disorder in its global list of medical conditions, with a new study lending additional support to a proposal that would delete the decades-old designation. The change, which has so far been approved by each committee that has considered it, is under review for the next edition of the W.H.O. codebook, which classifies diseases and influences the treatment of patients worldwide. (Belluck, 7/26)

The Associated Press: Texas Attorney General Took Gift While Investigating Company
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is under indictment on felony charges of duping investors in a tech startup, accepted $100,000 for his criminal defense from the head of a medical imaging provider while his office investigated the company for Medicaid fraud. Dallas-based Preferred Imaging LLC settled a $3.5 million whistleblower lawsuit in a case handled by the U.S. Justice Department and Paxton’s Texas Civil Medicaid Fraud Division, the head of which co-signed the agreement in June. (Weber, 7/26)

The Washington Post: Va. Man Claimed He Had Cure For Cancer, Charged $1,200 Per Bottle. Cops Say It’s Bogus, Bust Him.
Though a low-slung medical office building in Manassas City, Va., may seem like an unlikely place to find a cure for cancer, that’s where B. Adeniji was offering his miracles, police say. For only $1,200 a bottle, Adeniji’s special herbal mixture would do what science and proven medications could not, authorities say he promised numerous patients. The promises ended Monday when police from a Prince William County drug task force raided Adeniji’s office and his home in Bristow, seizing medicines, ingredients for Adeniji’s mixtures and $17,000 cash, authorities said. (Jackman and Shapiro, 7/26)

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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