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KHN First Edition: June 15, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Screen Flashes And Pop-Up Reminders: ‘Alert Fatigue’ Spreads Through Medicine
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "Some people receive constant reminders on their personal smartphones: birthdays, anniversaries, doctor's appointments, social engagements. At work, their computers prompt them to meet deadlines, attend meetings and have lunch with the boss. Prodding here and pinging there, these pop-up interruptions can turn into noise to be ignored instead of helpful nudges. Something similar is happening to doctors, nurses and pharmacists. And when they're hit with too much information, the result can be a health hazard. The electronic patient records that the federal government has been pushing -- in an effort to coordinate health care and reduce mistakes -- come with a host of bells and whistles that may be doing the opposite in some cases. What's the problem? It's called alert fatigue." (Luthra, 6/15)

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Releases Draft Proposal For Patient Observation Notice
Susan Jaffe, for Kaiser Health News, reports: "In just two months, a federal law kicks in requiring hospitals to tell their Medicare patients if they have not been formally admitted and why. But some physician, hospital and consumer representatives say a notice drafted by Medicare for hospitals to use may not do the job. The law was a response to complaints from Medicare patients who were surprised to learn that although they had spent a few days in the hospital, they were there for observation and were not admitted. Observation patients are considered too sick to go home yet not sick enough to be admitted. They may pay higher charges than admitted patients and do not qualify for Medicare's nursing home coverage." (Jaffe, 6/15)

Kaiser Health News: Study Projects Sharper Increases In Obamacare Premiums For 2017
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "Next year’s premiums for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act could rise more than in past years in most markets and declines might be rare, according to a preliminary analysis of insurers’ plans. Overall, premiums for a popular type of plan -- the second-lowest silver plan -- could rise 10 percent on average next year in 14 major metropolitan areas, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser based its projections on insurers’ preliminary rates filed with state regulators, which remain subject to state or federal review. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)" (Galewitz, 6/15)

The New York Times: Orlando Injuries Were Severe, But Trauma Care Was Nearby
In a scene more like a battlefield than an emergency room in a large American city, dozens of people hit by gunfire poured into the Orlando Regional Medical Center in the dark predawn hours of Sunday morning, lining the hallways and filling the operating rooms. The largest mass shooting in American history happened just a few blocks from the region’s only major trauma care hospital — an event that illuminates the new challenges facing emergency medicine. The gunman fired on his victims in a packed gay nightclub with an assault rifle that caused deep, gaping wounds. He also shot at them with a handgun whose smaller-caliber rounds, in some cases, bounced around inside their bodies, inflicting internal injuries. “If they had not been three blocks from the hospital, they might not have made it to the hospital,” said Dr. William S. Havron, a trauma surgeon at the center. (Grady, 6/14)

The Associated Press: Report: New Evidence Of Rising 'Obamacare' Premiums
A new study says premiums for popular low-cost medical plans under the federal health care law are expected to go up an average of 11 percent next year. The analysis from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation foreshadows sharp increases in an election year. The study looked at 14 metro areas with complete data available. It found that premiums for a level of insurance called the "lowest-cost silver plan" will go up in 12 of the areas, while decreasing in two. (6/15)

The Washington Post: Consumers Could Be Facing Sticker Shock With ACA Health Premiums Next Year
Premiums for health plans sold through the federal insurance exchange could jump substantially next year, perhaps more than at any point since the Affordable Care Act marketplaces began in 2013. An early analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that proposed rates for benchmark silver plans — the plans in that popular tier of coverage that determine enrollees’ tax subsidies — are projected to go up an average of 10 percent across 14 major metropolitan areas. The analysis, released Wednesday, is based on insurers’ initial filings in 13 states and the District of Columbia. As in previous years, it shows how differently the health-care law is playing out across the country depending on regions and insurers. (Levine and Sun, 6/15)

The New York Times: W.H.O. Says Olympics Should Go Ahead In Brazil Despite Zika Virus
The Olympic Games should go on as planned, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, and athletes and spectators, except for pregnant women, should not hesitate to attend so long as they take precautions against infection with the Zika virus. Pregnant women were advised not to go to Brazil for the event or the Paralympics. The W.H.O. previously told them to avoid any area where Zika is circulating. Some attendees may contract the mosquito-borne infection and even bring it back home, but the risk in August — midwinter in Rio de Janeiro — is relatively low, W.H.O. officials said. (McNeil and Tavernise, 6/14)

The New York Times: Republicans, Who Warned Of Dithering On Ebola, Now Hesitate On Zika
Lawmakers say Washington is dithering while a dangerous epidemic threatens American shores. They suggest darkly that the government is playing down the risk to avoid panic. They warn: Don’t wait for it to arrive at the airports and establish a perilous foothold. Fear of the Zika virus today? No, those were Republicans in 2014 as they hammered the Obama administration in the final weeks of the midterm campaign for failing to react quickly and decisively enough to the possible spread of the Ebola virus, which never really became a domestic threat. The politically heated attacks cooled quickly after the election, but the message was credited with helping Republicans sow unease about the administration as they chalked up big wins in Congress. (Hulse, 6/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Risk Of Zika’s Spread By Olympics Is ‘Very Low,’ WHO Says
The WHO’s emergency committee on Zika said that while mass gatherings can pose a risk to attendees and amplify the spread of infectious diseases, it had found a “very low risk” of further international spread of the virus from the Olympics, which open Aug. 5 and are expected to attract up to 500,000 tourists and more than 10,000 athletes. Brazil is hosting the Games during its winter, when the concentration of mosquitoes that spread Zika and other viruses is low, the panel noted. The country is also intensifying its efforts to control mosquitoes around cities and event venues, the panel said. (McKay, Connors and Futterman, 6/14)

The New York Times: Judge Rejects F.T.C. Effort To Block Health System Merger
A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the merger of two large Illinois hospital systems could proceed despite the efforts by the Federal Trade Commission to block it. The decision represents a significant setback in the agency’s continuing attempts to police the industry during a flurry of deal making among hospitals and physician groups. Without explaining his reasoning, the judge, Jorge L. Alfonso, denied the agency’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the proposed merger of Advocate Health Care, the state’s largest health system, and NorthShore University HealthSystem. His decision will be made public after the parties have the opportunity to redact sensitive competitive information. The case was heard in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. (Abelson, 6/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Judge Denies FTC Request To Block Advocate Health Care-NorthShore Merger
A federal judge on Tuesday didn’t block the merger of two major Chicago-area hospital operators, a notable loss for U.S. antitrust enforcers who have been active in policing a wave of hospital consolidations following the federal health-care law. U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso denied a request by the Federal Trade Commission for a preliminary injunction halting the combination of Advocate Health Care and NorthShore University HealthSystem. Judge Alonso said the FTC hadn’t shown it would succeed in proving the hospital merger was anticompetitive. The judge, who held a six-day court hearing in April, in an order didn’t elaborate on the reasons for his decision. His full written ruling wasn’t immediately made public because it contains confidential business information. (Kendall, 6/14)

The Washington Post: How Drug Companies Use Gifts And Internships To Buddy Up To Their Most Valuable Patients
When Philip Kucab was a boy at a summer camp for kids with hemophilia in 1990, a staff member casually sat down next to him on the last day and asked where Kucab's family got their medication. After the boy explained it came from the hospital pharmacy, the camp staffer, who worked for a specialty pharmacy, explained that he could save them a trip and send the drugs in the mail. "At the time, we actually liked it. This nice man came to our house, had dinner with us," Kucab said. "It was kind of a nice relationship in a way because it was very personal. So when we used to order medication, we'd call up this nice person on the phone — 'How are the boys doing?' It was like a friend, almost." Kucab, today a physician starting residency at Detroit Medical Center, remembers big baskets of cheese and crackers arriving at Christmas — a thank-you for their business. He remembers thinking it was kind of cool. (Johnson, 6/14)

The Associated Press: Opioids Linked With Deaths Other Than Overdoses, Study Says
Accidental overdoses aren't the only deadly risk from using powerful prescription painkillers — the drugs may also contribute to heart-related deaths and other fatalities, new research suggests. Among more than 45,000 patients in the study, those using opioid painkillers had a 64 percent higher risk of dying within six months of starting treatment compared to patients taking other prescription pain medicine. Unintentional overdoses accounted for about 18 percent of the deaths among opioid users, versus 8 percent of the other patients. (6/14)

The Associated Press: Surgeon General Calls For Greater Investment In Opioid Fight
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Tuesday called for more government investment in addressing the nation's opioid epidemic, saying only half of the 2 million people who need treatment for addictions have access to it. Murthy's comments came as he toured a substance abuse center in Albuquerque, New Mexico's largest city. New Mexico had one of the highest overdose death rates in 2014, especially among adults 21 to 35, the most recent federal data showed. (6/14)

The Associated Press: NY Gov. Cuomo, Lawmakers Agree On Plan To Combat Heroin
New York state may limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to seven days as part of a broader effort to combat a staggering rise in addiction and overdose deaths. The new limits on prescriptions are one of several proposals contained in a deal announced by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders on Tuesday. The full Legislature is expected to formally pass the proposals later this week. (6/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Zenefits Lays Off Another 9% of Staff
Zenefits on Tuesday said it is laying off another 9% of its staff, the latest restructuring by the once highflying health-benefits broker that is reeling from regulatory issues and missed sales targets. In an email to staff Tuesday morning, Chief Executive David Sacks said Zenefits would let go 106 employees. That figure includes 61 people in the company’s Arizona sales office, which is being shut down, and 45 others, mostly from the company’s operations team. (Winkler, 6/14)

The Associated Press: Kansas Drops Planned Parenthood Providers From Funds Cutoff
Kansas is abandoning plans to block 11 people who have provided services to Planned Parenthood from participation in its Medicaid program, though the state still intends to cut those funds from the organization's regional affiliates. A lawyer for the state's health department announced the move in a letter filed Monday with a Kansas City, Kansas, federal judge weighing two Planned Parenthood affiliates' request to scuttle any halting of Medicaid reimbursements. (6/14)

The New York Times: Facebook Offers Tools For Those Who Fear A Friend May Be Suicidal
With more than 1.65 billion members worldwide posting regularly about their behavior, Facebook is planning to take a more direct role in stopping suicide. On Tuesday, in the biggest step by a major technology company to incorporate suicide prevention tools into its platform, the social network introduced mechanisms and processes to make it easier for people to help friends who post messages about suicide or self-harm. With the new features, people can flag friends’ posts that they deem suicidal; the posts will be reviewed by a team at the social network that will then provide language to communicate with the person who is at risk, as well as information on suicide prevention. (Isaac, 6/14)

The Washington Post: The Soda Industry Is On The Verge Of Losing One Of Its Biggest Battles Ever
From New York state to Seattle to Chicago, proposed taxes on soda and other sugary drinks have failed in just about every place that has tried to enact one. That’s largely thanks to Big Soda — specifically, spending by the American Beverage Association. In New York, for instance, the ABA spent $12.9 million in 2010 to halt a sugary drink tax — almost more than the next three biggest lobbying groups combined that year. The group dropped $9.1 million in San Francisco two years ago. It says it has defeated 45 soda tax measures nationwide since 2008. But one big city is now on the verge of defeating Big Soda. That’s Philadelphia, whose City Council this Thursday is expected to finalize a new tax on sugary beverages. (Premack, 6/14)

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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