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KHN First Edition: August 3, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Medicare's Readmission Penalties Hit New High
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "The federal government’s penalties on hospitals will reach a new high as Medicare withholds more than half a billion dollars in payments over the next year, records released Tuesday show. The government will punish more than half of the nation’s hospitals -- a total of 2,597 -- having more patients than expected return within a month. While that is about the same number penalized last year, the average penalty will increase by a fifth, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis. The new penalties, which take effect in October, are based on the rehospitalization rate for patients with six common conditions." (Rau, 8/2)

Kaiser Health News: The Costs Of The Pulse Nightclub Shooting
Health News Florida's Abe Aboraya, in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: "Mario Perez lives in Miami, but he was in Orlando for a housewarming party Saturday, June 11. After the party, the 34-year-old went to the Pulse nightclub for Latin night. At 2 a.m., he heard gunshots. Loud. He knew it was real. ... The gunshot wound on his side is purple and swollen, and he has nerve damage from the bullet fragment. He cut his elbow from glass on the floor of the nightclub and needed six stitches. Perez doesn't know how much bills coming from specialists, X-rays and tests might cost him. But his bill from Orlando Regional Medical Center's emergency department is $20,000. "$20,000," Perez said. "That's the quote, that's what they told me." Perez has no health insurance. He's working for a temp agency right now and doesn't have the money to be seen by a doctor for follow-up care in Miami." (Aboraya, 8/3)

California Healthline: Obamacare Expansion A Bumpy Ride For Rural Health Clinics
California Healthline staff writer Pauline Bartolone reports: "A network of clinics that serves low-income patients in rural Northern California is finally finding balance after being deluged with newly insured patients under the Affordable Care Act. After a more than two-year moratorium on nearly all new adult patients, the Redding-based Shasta Community Health Center has reopened its doors to some newcomers this month, and it will start accepting more new patients in September." (Bartolone, 7/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Aetna Backs Off Plans To Expand Its ACA Business
Aetna Inc. became the last of the five major national health insurers to project a loss on Affordable Care Act plans for 2016, underscoring concerns about the stability of the insurance marketplaces at the heart of the Obama administration’s signature health law. Aetna said it would re-evaluate its participation in the 15 state exchanges where it currently sells plans, and cancel a planned expansion into more. (Wilde Mathews, 8/2)

The Associated Press: New Insurance Policy: Abandon ACA Exchanges To Avoid Losses
Aetna became the latest health insurer to cast doubt upon its future in the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges after it called off a planned expansion Tuesday and suggested it could abandon that market completely. A departure by Aetna, the nations' third-largest insurer, could further reduce the number of choices for customers and eventually push insurance prices higher. Competition by insurers is a key feature of the exchanges, designed to keep a lid on prices, but several insurers are abandoning them because they are losing enormous amounts of money. (8/2)

Reuters: Anthem Asks For Separate, Speedy Trial In Bid To Save Deal For Cigna
Health insurer Anthem Inc, which is fighting the government to save its merger with rival Cigna Corp, asked a judge on Tuesday to decide on the deal by the end of the year and to split its case off from the government's challenge of a second merger of insurance companies. The Justice Department filed lawsuits on July 21 asking a federal court to stop Anthem's deal for Cigna as well as Aetna Inc's planned acquisition of Humana Inc. This means that a judge will decide if the deals can go forward. (Bartz, 8/2)

The Associated Press: State Bureau Opposes Anthem-Cigna Merger
Virginia’s Bureau of Insurance says a proposed merger between health insurance giants Anthem and Cigna would be bad for consumers. The bureau issued recently issued its analysis ahead of a decision by the State Corporation Commission whether to approve Anthem’s $54 billion acquisition of Cigna. (8/3)

The Washington Post: The Surprising Upside Of Hillary Clinton’s Biggest Failure
The Children’s Health Insurance Program, better known as CHIP, is a somewhat obscure initiative created nearly 20 years ago to help children get health insurance. Last week, it became an unexpected star at the Democratic National Convention, where speakers name-dropped it repeatedly as an example of Hillary Clinton’s efforts to improve children’s lives. In their remarks, Tim Kaine and Howard Dean and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all gave Clinton credit for helping CHIP become reality. In her own speech, Clinton touted her work to “help create the Children's Health Insurance Program that covers 8 million kids in our country.” (Guo, 8/2)

The Associated Press: U.S. Officials Provide Stopgap Zika Funds, Congress Urged To Act
Federal health officials, scrambling to fund efforts to combat the spread of the Zika virus in the United States, said on Tuesday they have provided more stopgap money to various locales while calls grew for Congress to cut short its recess and act. Concern is mounting about the threat posed by the mosquito-borne virus after authorities in Florida last week reported the first signs of local transmission of Zika in the continental United States. (Grover and Clarke, 8/2)

The Washington Post: In Miami, Zika’s Arrival Greeted With Worry — And Shrugs
Liz Tracy, 36, pregnant and worried, has had a long few days. When news came last week about a handful of locally transmitted Zika cases in Miami, she called her doctor right away, eager to get tested for the virus. “It wasn’t easy,” said Tracy, a grant writer for the Perez Art Museum, which is near the neighborhood where authorities confirmed Monday that the outbreak had grown by 10 cases. “You had to be a real pushy person to get a Zika test.” (Alvarado and Dennis, 8/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Biogen Draws Takeover Interest From Rival Drugmakers
Biotechnology giant Biogen Inc. has drawn takeover interest from drug companies including Merck & Co. and Allergan PLC, raising the possibility of another huge deal in the health-care industry. Merck and Allergan have each sounded out Biogen on the possibility of a takeover, people familiar with the matter said. The communications were informal and preliminary, and they may not result in a deal—in part because Biogen may not be interested, they added. Mattioli, Rockoff and Cimilluca, 8/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Pfizer’s Results Beat Expectations
Pfizer Inc. said profit fell by 23% in its latest quarter as sales of its older products declined, though the drugmaker’s results came in better than Wall Street expected and the company reaffirmed its forecast for this year’s overall performance. The company also said it set aside $486 million this year to settle lawsuits related to its painkilling drugs Celebrex and Bextra. Those suits accused Pfizer of covering up negative side effects of the drugs. (Rockoff and Hufford, 8/2)

The Wall Street Journal: CVS Drops Coverage Of 2 Branded Biotech Drugs In Favor Of Copies
CVS Health Corp. is embracing new, cheaper copies of biotech medicines in an attempt to combat rising prescription drug costs. CVS, whose Caremark unit administers drug-benefit plans for employers and insurers, said Tuesday it would drop coverage of two higher-priced medicines used in diabetes and cancer treatments. It will instead cover their replica versions, sometimes called biosimilars, for many of its drug-plan members. (Walker and Ziobro, 8/2)

The Associated Press: Idaho Posts Free Ultrasound List For Women Seeking Abortions
Idaho has advanced its anti-abortion stronghold once again by publishing a list of places where pregnant women considering abortions can get free ultrasounds. Lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Statehouse pushed for the list earlier this year during the legislative session, where anti-abortion legislation is common and almost always receives the governor's signature. The state's GOP supermajority refused requests from minority Democratic members to ensure the information given by the ultrasound providers was medically accurate. (8/2)

Los Angeles Times: Senior Citizens Rarely Consult Dr. Google For Medical Advice, Study Says
Senior citizens need more medical care than anyone else in the United States. And the Internet is chock full of health information. Yet seniors are far less likely than other adults to tap into it, new research shows. A report published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. found that only about 18% of participants in the National Health and Aging Trends Study got health information online in 2014. That pales in comparison with the approximately 60% of adults of all ages who have told the Pew Research Center that they consult Dr. Google at least once a year. (Kaplan, 8/2)

NPR: 'Guilty But Mentally Ill' Doesn't Protect Against Harsh Sentences
On the morning of May 14, 2013, while it was still dark, Suzanna Simpson strapped on a headlamp and shot her husband. She then shot and killed her two children, ages 5 and 7. Afterward, Simpson, 35, drove her car off the road near her home in Dacusville, S.C., and into a tree, in what she would later say was a suicide attempt. A neighbor called the police. The same day, Simpson admitted to the shootings. (Her husband was severely injured, but not dead.) Simpson also shared her motives: The world was evil, so by killing her family, Simpson had sent them to a better place. (Jacewicz, 8/2)

The Washington Post: The Added Cost Of Eating Red Meat — Higher Mortality Risk, Scientists Say
Chew on this: New research offers more evidence that vegetarians not only live better, but also longer. A group of scientists led by Mingyang Song at the Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed data from two major studies involving more than 150,000 participants to determine whether people who consumed protein from red and processed meats had a significantly higher mortality rate than those who got their protein from plants. (Fears, 8/2)

The Associated Press: State To Upset Dentists: Medicaid Proposal Won't Hurt A Bit
In his mid-30s, Jonathan Hensley was unemployed and caring for some disabled family members. He needed to take care of himself, too, because his teeth hurt. Historically in Kentucky, someone like Hensley — a single, able-bodied adult with no job — would likely not have had health insurance. But because the state expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act in 2013, Hensley and some 400,000 other Kentuckians got taxpayer-funded medical, dental and vision coverage. ... That routine dental coverage is now at risk, as Gov. Matt Bevin seeks to overhaul the state's Medicaid system. (8/2)

The Associated Press: Hawaii Gets $3.7M To Fight Infectious Diseases
A Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant was among the people in Hawaii infected with Hepatitis A. The state Department of Health says the attendant was on 33 flights from Honolulu to California, Nevada, Australia and Hawaii's neighbor islands in July and served food and drinks to passengers. The risk of airline passengers contracting Hepatitis A from a flight attendant is extremely low because flight attendants are well trained in terms of maintaining hygiene, said Sarah Park, state epidemiologist. (8/2)

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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