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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Political Cartoon: 'Priorities'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Priorities'" by Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


First came questions of
Safety, quality and cost.
Now it’s about fraud.

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Summaries Of The News:

Administration News

5. Health Officials Probing Mysterious Transmission In Fatal Utah Zika Case

The disease does not appear to have been transmitted through a mosquito bite or sexual contact, the two ways previously identified by researchers for Zika to spread.

The New York Times: New Utah Zika Case Baffles Health Officials
In another puzzling twist to the Zika epidemic, the Utah Department of Health on Monday reported the diagnosis of a new case of the virus that did not appear to have been contracted through either of the known sources of transmission: a mosquito bite or sexual contact. The patient, who has fully recovered, was a “family contact” who helped care for an older man who had become infected with the virus after traveling abroad. (Tavernise, 7/18)

The Washington Post: Elderly Zika Patient In Utah May Have Infected A Family Contact
An elderly Utah man who died after contracting Zika from travel abroad may have spread the virus to a family contact who did not leave the country, raising troubling questions about a possible new route of transmission of the mosquito-borne virus, state and federal officials said Monday. Officials said they are investigating how the second person became infected. One possibility is close contact between the critically ill patient and the caregiver, who has since recovered. (Sun and Dennis, 7/18)

The Hill: Health Officials Puzzled By Zika Case In Utah
Dr. Erin Staples, an epidemiologist who is on the ground in Utah, wrote in a statement that the spread of Zika through any means other than mosquitoes “does not appear to be common.” Out of 1,306 cases of Zika in the U.S., only 14 have been spread through sexual contact and one was the result of a laboratory exposure. Still, Staples acknowledged the new case in Utah “is a surprise, showing that we still have more to learn about Zika.” (Ferris, 7/18)

NPR: A Case Of Zika Apparently Spread From A Patient To A Family Caregiver
Health officials stressed to reporters in a press briefing that mosquitoes remain the main way that Zika spreads. And there is no evidence at this point that the virus can be spread from one person to another "by sneezing or coughing, routine touching, kissing, hugging or sharing utensils," Dr. Satish Pillai, the CDC's incident manager, told reporters. (Stein, 7/18)

Stat: US Health Officials Investigating Mysterious Case Of Zika Virus
The man who died had exceptionally high levels of the Zika virus in his system at the end of his life. Health officials acknowledged the younger man was related to the man who died earlier this month but declined to provide further details; they were father and son, according to a person who was familiar with the case but who was not authorized to speak for attribution. A statement from the CDC said the older man’s blood contained 100,000 times more virus than is normally seen in Zika infection. (Branswell, 7/18)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Zika Mystery: How Did An Elderly Patient Infect A Family Contact?
To unravel the mystery, the CDC has dispatched an emergency response team to Utah after a request for help from the state’s health department. The team is similar to others the agency has sent to outbreak regions in Brazil and Puerto Rico where the virus is rampant. A virologist, infection control and mosquito control experts, investigators and health communication officers are currently in Utah. (Bentley, 7/18)

And in news on Zika research and prevention --

The Wall Street Journal: Public Health Officials Across U.S. Race To Build Defenses Against Zika Virus
With summer in full swing, public-health and mosquito-control officials are pulling out the stops to stop the Zika virus taking root and spreading in the continental U.S. The mosquitoes that are able to spread the virus are flourishing this summer in Key West, Fla., just as they did six years ago during an outbreak of dengue—another disease they can transmit, said Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. “We’re on high alert,” he said. (McKay and McWhirter, 7/18)

Stat: Antibiotic May Help Limit Zika’s Damage, New Study Suggests
New research shows that the Zika virus has two routes by which it can infect a developing fetus, depending on when during a pregnancy the infection occurs. It also shows an existing drug might be able to limit the damage wreaked by the virus. The new study, by scientists at the University of California at San Francisco and the University of California at Berkeley, suggests that an antibiotic called duramycin seems to be able to block Zika’s ability to latch onto the cells it wants to affect. (Branswell, 7/18)

The New York Times: Zika Data From The Lab, And Right To The Web
Of the hundreds of monkeys in the University of Wisconsin’s primate center, a few — including rhesus macaque 827577 — are now famous, at least among scientists tracking the Zika virus. Since February, a team led by David H. O’Connor, the chairman of the center’s global infectious diseases department, has been conducting a unique experiment in scientific transparency. The tactic may presage the evolution of new ways to respond to fast-moving epidemics. ... But then, instead of saving their data for academic journals, the researchers have posted it almost immediately on a website anyone can visit. (McNeil, 7/18)

The New York Times: Confronting A Lingering Question About Zika: How It Enters The Womb
As scientists learn more about how the Zika virus can cause brain damage in a developing fetus, a major question has remained: How does a virus that infects a pregnant mother through a mosquito bite on her skin get into her womb? It is not a simple question. Most viruses that infect a pregnant woman cannot cross from her bloodstream through the placenta, the organ that forms to nourish and protect the fetus as it grows and develops. (Belluck, 7/19)

Albany Herald: Knowledge Is Power Against Mosquito-Borne Illness
The presence of mosquito-borne illness is apparent both with the season and the Zika news coverage, in turn prompting a need for the public to know how to protect themselves. Dr. Charles Ruis, director of the Southwest Public Health District, said that — apart from Eastern Equine Encephalitis in a horse in Valdosta — there is nothing particularly new to report as far as mosquito-borne illness in the region. Aside from Zika, West Nile is another health concern — the peak season for which is usually August. (Parks, 7/16)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. California Bracing For Hefty Insurance Rate Increases

Covered California is scheduled to unveil its 2017 rates today, and experts predict that the increases could be far higher than in previous years. Also, outlets report on insurance co-op news in Wisconsin, New Mexico and Oregon.

KQED: Your Obamacare Premiums Are Probably Going Up Next Year. Here’s Why.
California’s Obamacare customers can expect a hefty increase in their monthly health insurance premiums next year. Covered California will announce new 2017 rates Tuesday morning for people who buy their plan through the state marketplace, and experts are predicting that increases will be double or even triple what they were last year. ... Covered California’s proposed budget for 2017, released in May, projected average rate increases of 8 percent. Industry insiders are suggesting the average jump could be even higher. (Dembosky, 7/18)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative Faces A Few Fateful Months
Fifteen of the health insurance cooperatives started with federal dollars through the Affordable Care Act have failed — four of them just this month — saddling taxpayers with an estimated $1.7 billion in bad loans. Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative is one of seven still standing. But the next few months will determine whether Common Ground, which insures about 20,000 in 19 counties in eastern Wisconsin, manages to survive. (Boulton, 7/18)

Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal: More ACA Health Co-Ops Close, But NM’s Is Safe
Martin Hickey, CEO of New Mexico Health Connections says the cooperative here is on sound financial footing with over $63 million in reserves. The co-op’s membership has doubled over 2015 and is showing a slight first-quarter profit. Nevertheless, Hickey said the Albuquerque-based nonprofit insurance cooperative is seeking sharp increases in its individual rates next year because it will have to pay a “risk adjustment bill” of $14.6 million to the Centers fo

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