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KHN First Edition: July 25, 2016


First Edition

Monday, July 25, 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: Olympus Told U.S. Executives No Broad Scope Warning Needed Despite Superbug Outbreaks
California Healthline's Chad Terhune reports: "Faced with superbug outbreaks in three countries by early 2013, Japanese device giant Olympus Corp. told U.S. executives not to issue a broad warning to American hospitals about potentially deadly infections from tainted medical scopes, internal emails show. After two dozen infections were reported in French and Dutch hospitals, the company alerted European customers in January 2013 that a scope it manufactured could become contaminated. ... Outbreaks of infection at hospitals in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Denver and other cities followed over the next three years. All told, at least 35 people at U.S. hospitals have died since 2013 after suffering infections from contaminated gastrointestinal scopes manufactured by Olympus, according to hospitals and public health officials." (Terhune, 7/24)

Kaiser Health News: Surgeon Says Apps May Turn Organ Donation Support Into ‘Concrete Action’
Zhai Yun Tan, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "Users of Tinder, the popular online dating app, usually swipe right on their mobile screens to gain a potential match. Come September, the same action might allow them to save lives by registering to be an organ donor. The donor registration drive is the culmination of the partnership between Tinder and a nonprofit group called Organize, which aims to end the organ donor shortage. A similar campaign between Tinder and the National Health Service was carried out in Britain last year. Organize is also partnering with the comedy video website Funny or Die, Facebook, various universities and hospitals to launch apps and social media campaigns to boost registrations for organ donations." (Tan, 7/25)

The Associated Press: Kaine Liberal Appeal Muted By Energy Ties, Abortion Concerns
Hillary Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine are closely aligned on many issues, but Kaine's cautious, left-leaning political profile in a closely contested state is blurred by his ties to energy industry interests and his personal qualms over abortion. ... Clinton and Kaine are avowed champions of women's reproductive rights. But as a self-described "traditional Catholic," Kaine has long said he personally opposes abortion, a stance that drew criticism from women's groups. His personal qualms could cause complications later in the campaign when he debates Republican rival Mike Pence, an anti-abortion crusader. (7/23)

The New York Times: How Tim Kaine And Hillary Clinton Compare On The Issues
As governor of Virginia, Mr. Kaine supported some restrictions on abortion and said as a “traditional Catholic” that he was personally against abortion but supported abortion rights. As a senator, Mr. Kaine has voted in favor of funding Planned Parenthood and against attempts to restrict access to legal abortions. But he has also sought to reduce the number of abortions through education programs advocating adoption and abstinence. (Shepherd and Rappeport, 7/22)

The Associated Press: Pricey Drugs Overwhelm Medicare Safeguard
A safeguard for Medicare beneficiaries has become a way for drugmakers to get paid billions of dollars for pricey medications at taxpayer expense, government numbers show. The cost of Medicare's "catastrophic" prescription coverage jumped by 85 percent in three years, from $27.7 billion in 2013 to $51.3 billion in 2015, according to the program's number-crunching Office of the Actuary. Out of some 2,750 drugs covered by Medicare's Part D benefit, two pills for hepatitis C infection — Harvoni and Sovaldi — accounted for nearly $7.5 billion in catastrophic drug costs in 2015. (7/25)

The Associated Press: What Are The Top 20 Priciest Medicare Prescription Drugs?
A look at Medicare's top 20 priciest prescription drugs in 2015, ranked by their cost above the program's "catastrophic" coverage threshold. Medicare's catastrophic protection kicks in after a beneficiary has spent a given amount of their own money, $4,850 this year. The beneficiary pays only 5 percent, while their insurer pays 15 percent, and taxpayers cover 80 percent. Catastrophic spending is a large and growing share of total costs, threatening to make Medicare's popular prescription plan financially unsustainable. (7/25)

The New York Times: U.S. Says Florida Network Defrauded Medicare And Medicaid Of Over $1 Billion
In the biggest health care fraud case the Justice Department has ever brought, prosecutors charged on Friday that the owner of a network of Florida nursing facilities orchestrated an elaborate scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid of more than $1 billion over the last 14 years. The case, featuring allegations of bribes to Miami doctors, hush money to witnesses, and laundering of huge profits through shell companies, shone a light on a lucrative Medicare black market that has surfaced in the last decade. (Lichtblau, 7/22)

The Associated Press: Authorities: $1B Medicare Fraud Nursing Home Scam, 3 Charged
"This is the largest single criminal health care fraud case ever brought against individuals by the Department of Justice," Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Criminal Division Leslie Caldwell announced in a statement. Authorities said Philip Esformes, who ran 30 nursing homes and assisted living facilities, joined with two conspirators and a complex network of corrupt doctors and hospitals to refer thousands of patients to their facilities even though the patients did not qualify for the services. Some of the treatments were harmful, they added. (7/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Justice Department Charges Three In $1 Billion Medicare Fraud Scheme In Florida
The case was brought as part of an interagency Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which operates in nine locations across the country, officials said. Since its creation in March 2007, the task force has charged nearly 2,900 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $10 billion, they said. Fraud continues to plague the roughly $600 billion Medicare program, though new criminal cases have slowed in recent years. (O'Keeffe, 7/22)

Reuters: U.S. Government's Bid To Block Insurance Mergers Could Spawn New Ones
The potential bust-up of two mega deals among America’s largest health insurance companies may have an unintended result - more mergers. The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday sued to block Aetna Inc's $37 billion purchase of Humana Inc and Anthem Inc’s proposed $54 billion buyout of Cigna Corp, arguing that they would cut competition and boost rates for patients. If no settlement is reached for one or both deals, the fallback strategy for the four insurers to ensure future growth would likely be a familiar one: Another buying spree, this time of smaller insurers less likely to raise the ire of regulators. (O'Donnell and Humer, 7/22)

Reuters: Obama Signs Into Law Opioid Addiction Bill To Protect Newborns
President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a measure that pledges greater efforts to protect drug-dependent newborns and assist their parents. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act also stresses drug treatment and overdose prevention to help stanch the nation’s heroin and opioid drug epidemic. (Wilson, 7/22)

Los Angeles Times: Democrats Aren't The Only Tourists Flocking To Philadelphia. So Are Heroin Addicts
As Democrats from across the country flock to Philadelphia for their national convention, they won’t be the only tourists in town. Hundreds of heroin addicts from other states have washed up in Philadelphia, law enforcement officials say, drawn to a city that has become a major distribution hub for inexpensive, high-grade heroin produced by Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel. Philadelphia is a "mecca" for out-of-town addicts, said Justin Smith, 32, an addict who arrived six years ago from Ocean City, Md., and now sleeps on a stained mattress in a dank roadway tunnel in Kensington in north Philadelphia. (Bennett, 7/23)

The Associated Press: Court: Birth Control Mandate Violates Religious Rights
A federal judge has ruled in favor of a Missouri lawmaker who cited religious objections while challenging the inclusion of birth control coverage in his government-provided health insurance. State Sen. Paul Wieland said Friday that the ruling , while applying only to his family, could serve as a guide for others seeking to challenge the application of a section of President Barack Obama's health care law that requires insurers to include coverage of contraceptives. (7/22)

The Associated Press: Alaska Parental Notification Abortion Law Struck Down
The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday struck down a state law requiring parental notification for girls under age 18 seeking abortions, agreeing with pro-abortion rights advocates that the mandate approved by voters in 2010 was unconstitutional. Justice Daniel Winfree, writing for the majority, said the court was not deciding whether abortions should be available to minors without restrictions but that the abortion notification law violated Alaska’s constitutional equal protection provisions giving the same rights to all Alaskans. (Bohre, 7/22)

The Associated Press: State Won't Enforce New Abortion Restrictions, For Now
Louisiana officials have agreed not to enforce several new restrictions on abortion pending a judge's decision on whether to block the laws. The restrictions include a requirement for a 72-hour waiting period for many women, and a ban on a common second-trimester procedure called dilation and evacuation. They were to take effect Aug. 1. Two clinics and three doctors filed a July 1 lawsuit against the new laws. (7/22)

The New York Times: Planned Parenthood Turns To Tumblr To Reach A Younger Audience
As it undertakes an ad campaign in celebration of its 100th anniversary, Planned Parenthood of New York City is trying to reach a younger generation with a message about sexual and reproductive health. That message does not shy away from what one expert in nonprofit marketing called “the elephant in the room” — abortion. To connect with those who were born after Roe v. Wade, the organization and its advertising agency, Kraftworks, turned to the microblogging social network Tumblr. (White, 7/24)

The New York Times: Uncle Sam Wants You — Or At Least Your Genetic And Lifestyle Information
Government scientists are seeking a million volunteers willing to share the innermost secrets of their genes and daily lives as part of an ambitious 10-year research project to understand the causes and cures of disease. Those selected to be members of the “precision medicine cohort” will be asked to provide a detailed medical history and blood samples so researchers can extract DNA. They will also be asked to report information about themselves — including their age, race, income, education, sexual orientation and gender identity, officials said. (Pear, 7/23)

The Washington Post: Lifelong Care, Heartaches Ahead For Babies Born With Zika In The U.S.
At least 12 babies in the United States have already been born with the heartbreaking brain damage caused by the Zika virus. And with that number expected to multiply, public health and pediatric specialists are scrambling as they have rarely done to prepare for the lifelong implications of each case. Many of Zika’s littlest victims, diagnosed with microcephaly and other serious birth defects that might not immediately be apparent, could require care estimated at more than $10 million through adulthood. Officials who have been concentrating on measures to control and prevent transmission of the virus are now confronting a new challenge, seeking to provide guidance for doctors and others who work with young children with developmental problems. (Sun, 7/24)

The New York Times: A Grim First: New York City Reports Baby Born With A Zika-Related Defect
Health officials on Friday reported the first baby born in New York City with the Zika-related birth defect known as microcephaly, a condition marked by an abnormally small head and impaired brain development. The virus has caused more than 1,500 children to be born with birth defects around the world, mostly in Brazil. As it continues to spread, doctors are struggling to understand the virus and to prepare for its effects. The baby in New York is one of a growing number of children born in the United States with microcephaly, a condition that requires intensive care and can lead to a variety of other problems, including seizures, vision and hearing loss and intellectual disability. (Santora, 7/22)

The New York Times: Summer Travel And The Zika Virus
Health officials have warned pregnant women to avoid travel to the more than 45 countries and territories in which the Zika virus is circulating. Infection during pregnancy can lead to birth defects in infants, particularly brain damage and abnormally small heads, called microcephaly. But with the Olympics nearing and summer tourism in full swing, what about other travelers? What are the risks of visiting a Zika-affected country for a woman who has no plans to get pregnant — or her partner, or her child? Here are some answers to commonly asked questions. (Saint Louis, 7/22)

Los Angeles Times: Brain Training May Forestall Dementia Onset For Years, New Study Says
If you’re intent on keeping dementia at bay, new research suggests you’ll need more than crossword puzzles, aerobic exercise and an active social life. In a study released Sunday, researchers found that older adults who did exercises to shore up the speed at which they processed visual information could cut by nearly half their likelihood of cognitive decline or dementia over a 10-year period. The new clinical trial results, presented Sunday at the Alzheimer’s Assn.’s International Conference in Toronto, establish specialized brain training as a potentially powerful strategy to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease and other afflictions, including normal aging, that sap memory and reduce function. (Healy, 7/24)

The New York Times: Personality Change May Be Early Sign Of Dementia, Experts Say
“Has the person become agitated, aggressive, irritable, or temperamental?” the questionnaire asks. “Does she/he have unrealistic beliefs about her/his power, wealth or skills?” Or maybe another kind of personality change has happened: “Does she/he no longer care about anything?” If the answer is yes to one of these questions — or others on a new checklist — and the personality or behavior change has lasted for months, it could indicate a very early stage of dementia, according to a group of neuropsychiatrists and Alzheimer’s experts. (Belluck, 7/24)

The Washington Post: Tinkering With A Mission: Weekend Inventors Create Affordable Technology
John Gluck’s eyes glistened with joy and amazement when a set of wooden shelves in front of him lit up in bright blue. This is no ordinary shelf: It moves up and down and in and out so that the eight-year-old, who is in a wheelchair, can easily access its contents. The special system was conceived, designed and built at the TOM:DC Makeathon, a three-day marathon design event hosted in Reston by the Tel Aviv-based non-profit startup TOM. The ‘T-O’ part of TOM, which launched in 2013, comes from “Tikkun Olam”, which is Hebrew for fixing the world. The ‘M’ stands for makers: people who take a do-it-yourself approach to inventing, designing and tinkering. TOM takes the maker movement one step further by focusing specifically on assistive technology to address unmet challenges for people with disabilities. (Hui, 7/24)

Reuters: Sitting Can Be Bad, Especially If You Do It For More Than 10 Hours A Day
Being sedentary in moderation is unlikely to cause heart disease, according to a new review of past research. Researchers concluded that only very high levels of sedentary time — more than 10 hours a day — are linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular-disease-related death. Compared with sitting for less than three waking hours a day, more than 10 hours of sedentary time was tied to an 8 percent increase in the risk of developing heart disease, according to results in JAMA Cardiology. (7/24)

The Washington Post: Health-Care Exec: Expect An ‘Oligopoly Of Hospitals’ For The Future
Health-care service is changing not only in Prince George’s County but across the nation. The shifts are so dramatic that small hospitals in communities across the nation will likely not survive what is coming their way, says Neil Moore, chief executive of the private nonprofit Dimensions Healthcare Systems — which operates hospitals in Prince George’s County. (Hernández, 7/22)

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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