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KHN First Edition: August 16, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Elderly Patients In The Hospital Need To Keep Moving
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "Despite a growing body of research that shows staying in bed can be harmful to seniors, many hospitals still don’t put a high priority on making them walk. At UAB Hospital-Highlands’ 26-bed geriatric unit, known as the Acute Care for Elders unit, or ACE, patients are encouraged to start moving as soon as they arrive. The unit is one of a few hundred around the U.S. that is attempting to provide better and more tailored care to geriatric patients. The hospital opened the unit in 2008 with the recognition that the elderly population was growing and that many older patients didn’t fare well in the hospital." (Gorman, 8/16)

Kaiser Health News: Hidden Plan Exclusions May Leave Gaps In Women’s Care, Study Finds
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Buried in the fine print of many marketplace health plan documents is language that allows them to refuse to cover a range of services, many of which disproportionately affect women, a recent study found. It’s unclear the extent to which these coverage “exclusions” have prevented patients from getting needed treatments. An insurance industry representative said patients are generally able to get the care they need if it’s appropriate for them. Yet, some women with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, advocates say, may have gaps in care because of the exclusions." (Andrews, 8/16)

California Healthline: When It’s Time To Split Up The Family
California Healthline staff writer Emily Bazar reports: "Under the new rules, Covered California enrollees who receive tax credits — currently about 90 percent of them — will be able to select different plans for different members of the family in the online health insurance application. Tax credits will be distributed proportionally among the different plans.Previously, the online application only allowed those who were not eligible for tax credits to choose multiple plans within a family." (Bazar, 8/15)

The New York Times: Aetna To Pull Back From Public Health Care Exchanges
In a blow to President Obama’s health care law, Aetna, one of the nation’s major insurers, said Monday that it would sharply reduce its participation in the law’s public marketplaces next year. Aetna said it would no longer offer individual insurance products on the exchanges in about two-thirds of the 778 counties where it now provides such coverage. The company will maintain a presence on exchanges in Delaware, Iowa, Nebraska and Virginia, it said. (Pear, 8/16)

Reuters: Aetna Pulls Back On Obamacare Health Insurance Plans In 2017
Aetna Inc, the No. 3 U.S. health insurer, on Monday said that due to persistent financial losses on Obamacare plans, it will sell individual insurance on the government-run online marketplaces in only four states next year, down from the current 15 states. Aetna's decision follows similar moves from UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Humana Inc., which have cited similar concerns about financial losses on these exchanges created under President Barack Obama's national healthcare reform law. (Humer, 8/15)

Politico: Aetna Pulling Out Of Most Obamacare Markets
Aetna cited unsustainable losses as the primary reason for trimming its Obamacare participation. The number of counties where it sells exchange plans will drop from 778 to 242. “Providing affordable, high-quality health care options to consumers is not possible without a balanced risk pool,” Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said in a statement. “Fifty-five percent of our individual on-exchange membership is new in 2016, and in the second quarter we saw individuals in need of high-cost care represent an even larger share of our on-exchange population.” (Demko, 8/15)

The Wall Street Journal: Aetna To Drop Some Affordable Care Act Markets
Aetna’s move will sharpen concerns about competitive options in the exchanges—and it puts at least one county, Pinal in Arizona, at risk of having no insurers offering exchange plans in 2017, a circumstance that would present a major challenge to the basic mechanics of the ACA. ... Stephen Briggs, a spokesman for Arizona’s state insurance regulator, said the state currently has no insurers that have filed to offer exchange plans in Pinal, a county in the Phoenix area.“It’s a concern for us,” he said, but the regulator doesn’t “have any legal leverage to compel anyone to offer a plan.” (Wilde Mathews, 8/15)

Los Angeles Times: A Doctor Bikes Across The Country To Ask Americans About Obamacare. This Is How He Ended Up Feeling Hopeful
On sabbatical from the University of Arizona, [Dr. Paul Gordon] set off in the spring on a cross-country bicycling trip and “listening tour” from Washington, D.C., to Seattle, talking along the way to Americans about the controversial health law that President Obama signed six years ago. Much of what Gordon uncovered was as unsettling as the current presidential campaign. Americans raged at the government, at the healthcare system, at fellow citizens who’d gained coverage through Obamacare. The outpouring of resentment and apparent lack of empathy disturbed Gordon at first. “Not a lot of generosity of spirit,” he noted glumly over the phone early in his trip. (Levey, 8/16)

The Washington Post: Zika And The Race To Quell Outbreaks: My Talk With Anthony Fauci, NIH’s Top Vaccine Expert
Anthony Fauci has spent his career hunting ways to treat and prevent infectious diseases, from tuberculosis to severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. He did pioneering work on deciphering how HIV/AIDS attacks the human immune system, and during more than three decades as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has continued the quest to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic across the world. In recent years, Fauci and other researchers at NIH, working alongside the pharmaceutical industry, also have found themselves scrambling to develop vaccines and treatments for emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika. (Dennis, 8/15)

The Associated Press: Texas Resident’s Zika Case Linked To Miami Travel
Health officials say a Texas resident who recently traveled to an area of Miami where local Zika transmission occurred has tested positive for the virus. The Texas Department of State Health Services said Monday that it’s the first Texas case to be linked to travel within the continental U.S. Health officials linked the case to Miami travel after investigating factors such as travel dates and when symptoms appeared. (8/15)

The New York Times: Democrats Seek Repeal Of Ban On Federal Funding Of Abortion
The law that bans federal funding for Medicaid coverage of most abortions is now in the spotlight some 40 years after it was passed by Congress, emerging as an election issue in the national debate over the procedure. First approved in 1976, and renewed annually ever since as part of the congressional appropriations process, the Hyde Amendment makes exceptions in cases of rape or incest, or when a pregnancy endangers a women's life. For most of its existence, the amendment had broad bipartisan support in Congress, but that's now changed. (8/16)

The New York Times: Their Hair Fell Out. Should The F.D.A. Have The Power To Act?
When the Los Angeles hairstylist Chaz Dean pitched his almond mint and lavender-scented hair care products — endorsed by celebrities like Brooke Shields and Alyssa Milano — he sold millions. But his formula got an unexpected result: itching, rashes, even hair loss in large clumps, in both adults and children. More than 21,000 complaints have been lodged against his Wen Hair Care, and Mr. Dean, the blue-eyed, golden-haired stylist to the stars, has found himself at the center of a fierce debate over the government’s power to ensure the safety of a cosmetics industry with about $50 billion in annual sales. (Lipton and Abrams, 8/15)

NPR: Studies Disagree On Effectiveness Of FluMist Nasal Vaccine
It came as a surprise this June when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended against using the nasal flu vaccine for the 2016-2017 flu season, citing a lack of evidence that it works. Now, findings from a Canadian study appear at first blush to contradict the research that led the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to recommend against that live attenuated vaccine. But things aren't so simple. (Haelle, 8/15)

Los Angeles Times: Acetaminophen Use In Pregnancy Linked To Kids' Behavioral Problems
Acetaminophen, long the mainstay of a pregnant woman’s pain-relief arsenal, has been linked to behavioral problems in children born to mothers who used it during pregnancy. Research published Monday by the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that a woman’s use of acetaminophen at 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy was associated with greater odds that when the resulting child was 7 years old, his or her mother would report a range of problematic behaviors. (Healy, 8/15)

NPR: Tylenol During Pregnancy: Is There An Effect On Kids' Behavior?
There's no question the study addresses an important topic. About half of all pregnant women take acetaminophen during pregnancy because it's considered safer than other painkillers. And hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in childhood are common and potentially disruptive. The study reports that these behavioral problems were about 20 to 45 percent more common among the children of women who took acetaminophen during pregnancy. So it sounds like a pretty important finding, right? Well, it's not quite so simple. (Harris, 8/15)

The Wall Street Journal: When Children Are Diagnosed With A Sensory Disorder
Ms. Marsh took Brody, now 6, to an occupational therapist who determined he had a sensory-processing disorder, or SPD, a condition in which the body and brain have difficulty processing and responding to sensory stimuli in the environment. Some people with SPD are hypersensitive to loud noises or different textured foods, for instance; others may be agitated by the touch of a clothing tag. Still other children with SPD may show hardly any response to external stimuli. SPD is believed to affect 5% to 16% of children in the U.S., various studies have found. Not all doctors accept the existence of SPD, which isn’t listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (Reddy, 8/15)

The Washington Post: Aging Solo: Okay, I Don’t Have A Child To Help Me, But I Do Have A Plan
“The trouble is: You think you have time.” That Buddhist-sounding quote from a fortune cookie rattled around the back of my head for decades, seemingly for no reason. Now that I find myself living with my 94-year-old mother in a Florida city where preacher Billy Graham got his start and being a never-wed 60-something has made me a tourist attraction of sorts, I finally understand why I thought the repercussions of growing old without a child or two would not apply to me: I was just plain delusional. (Zubrod, 8/15)

Los Angeles Times: 'I’d Rather Be Free Than Entombed In My Body': One ALS Patient's Choice To Employ End-Of-Life Law
Last August, my sister Betsy asked if I knew anything about using bitcoin, a form of virtual currency.It took me a while to realize why she was asking: She wanted to buy a lethal amount of drugs and she didn’t want the purchase to be traceable.Betsy was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in July 2013. It’s a cruel disease that slowly robs a person of the ability to move, speak, eat and, eventually, breathe. There is no treatment, let alone a cure, and there probably won’t be for several years. (Davis, 8/15)

The Associated Press: Colorado Voters To Consider Suicide Drugs For Terminally Ill
Colorado voters this fall will decide whether terminally ill people should be allowed to receive prescriptions for drugs to end their own lives. The "Medical Aid in Dying" measure was certified Monday as having enough petition signatures to make ballots this fall. Five other states have some law allowing the terminally ill to end their lives. (8/16)

The Washington Post: Select Companies Will Be First In Md. To Legally Grow, Process Marijuana For Medicine
Thirty businesses have won approval to grow and process medical marijuana in Maryland, regulators announced Monday, putting life into the industry more than three years after lawmakers legalized the drug for medical use. Several of the winning applicants have political ties — with major donors or high-ranking officials on their teams — including a company that hired the Maryland lawmaker who was the driving force behind the tightly regulated program. (Gregg and Nirappil, 8/15)

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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