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KHN First Edition: August 15, 2016


First Edition

Monday, August 15, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: As States OK Medical Marijuana Laws, Doctors Struggle With Knowledge Gap
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "Medical marijuana has been legal in Maine for almost 20 years. But Farmington physician Jean Antonucci says she continues to feel unprepared when counseling sick patients about whether the drug could benefit them. Will it help my glaucoma? Or my chronic pain? My chemotherapy’s making me nauseous, and nothing’s helped. Is cannabis the solution? Patients hope Antonucci, 62, can answer those questions. But she said she is still “completely in the dark.” (Luthra, 8/15)

Kaiser Health News: Race, Ethnicity Affect Kids’ Access To Mental Health Care, Study Finds
KHN's Shefali Luthra reports: "One in five Americans is estimated to have a mental health condition at any given time. But getting treatment remains difficult — and it’s worse for children, especially those who identify as black or Hispanic. That’s the major finding in research published Friday in the International Journal of Health Services. The study examines how often young adults and children were able to get needed mental health services, based on whether they were black, Hispanic or white. Using a nationally representative sample of federally collected survey data compiled between 2006 and 2012, researchers sought to determine how often people reported poor mental health and either saw a specialist or had a general practitioner bill for mental health services." (Luthra, 8/12)

The New York Times: Health Insurers Use Process Intended To Curb Rate Increases To Justify Them
After the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2010, it created a review mechanism intended to prevent exorbitant increases in health insurance rates by shaming companies that sought them. But this summer, insurers are turning that process on its head, using it to highlight the reasons they are losing money under the health care law and their case for raising premiums in 2017. (Pear, 8/14)

The New York Times: Cost, Not Choice, Is Top Concern Of Health Insurance Customers
It is all about the price. Millions of people buying insurance in the marketplaces created by the federal health care law have one feature in mind. It is not finding a favorite doctor, or even a trusted company. It is how much — or, more precisely, how little — they can pay in premiums each month. And for many of them, especially those who are healthy, all the prices are too high. (Abelson, 8/12)

NPR: Will Your Prescription Meds Be Covered Next Year? Better Check!
The battle continues to rage between drug companies that are trying to make as much money as possible and insurers trying to drive down drug prices. And consumers are squarely in the middle. That's because, increasingly, prescription insurers are threatening to kick drugs off their lists of approved medications if the manufacturers won't give them big discounts. (Kodjak, 8/15)

The New York Times: U.S. Declares Zika An Emergency In Puerto Rico
The Obama administration declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico on Friday because of the Zika virus, sending a message to the island that the virus, which has infected more than 10,000 residents, should be taken seriously. The warning came more than six months after the World Health Organization declared the virus, and the birth defects it can cause, a global health emergency, and it was not clear if the declaration would have much effect. (Tavernise, 8/12)

The Associated Press: US Declares Health Emergency In Puerto Rico Due To Zika
"This administration is committed to meeting the Zika outbreak in Puerto Rico with the necessary urgency," Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a department statement. Burwell traveled to the U.S. territory in late April to evaluate its response to the outbreak. ... The announcement came hours after Puerto Rico reported 1,914 new cases in the past week, for a total of 10,690 since the first one was reported in December. (8/12)

Los Angeles Times: Zika Infections Pass 10,000 In Puerto Rico; White House Diverts Federal Funds To Find A Vaccine
The number of infections caused by the Zika virus in Puerto Rico has surpassed 10,000, an official said Friday, a day after the White House said it would redirect funds from other efforts to help pay for research to find a vaccine. The moves come as Florida continues to spray insecticide in parts of Miami to kill mosquitoes that can transmit the virus. The spraying was launched last week after health officials identified cases of locally transmitted Zika. Previous infections reported in the U.S. occurred only among people who traveled abroad. (Fernandez, 8/12)

The Wall Street Journal: Efforts To Prevent Zika Infections Intensify
Now that Zika is being transmitted by mosquitoes in Miami, health and insect-control workers across the country are intensifying preparations for possible local outbreaks of their own. Health departments are ramping up early-warning mechanisms, expanding mosquito-control programs and launching public-awareness campaigns. (McWhirter and Calfas, 8/12)

The New York Times: As New York Fights Zika Virus, Officials Turn Their Focus To Sex
One by one, the women paraded into the research center in Midtown Manhattan. There were about 40 of them, pregnant or of reproductive age, brought together by New York City health officials for focus-group sessions in English and Spanish.They were there to discuss the Zika virus. But not the mosquitoes known to carry it.They were there to talk about sex. (Santora and Schmidt, 8/12)

The Washington Post: Baltimore Police Cuffed, Stunned And Shot People In Mental Health Crisis, Even If They Posed No Threat
Police response to individuals with mental illness, an issue that has taken center stage in Justice Department investigations in recent years, is again in the spotlight given a lengthy new report showing how often Baltimore officers forcibly detain people in crisis. Justice Department investigators found that over a six-year period, mental illness played a role in at least 1 of every 5 cases in which a Baltimore officer used force — through handcuffs, stun guns and guns, for example — even if the person presented no immediate threat. At least one encounter ended in death. (Kelly, 8/12)

Reuters: Judge Rejects Ohio Law To Cut Planned Parenthood Funds Over Abortion
A judge on Friday prevented Ohio from cutting federal taxpayer funding from 28 Planned Parenthood clinics, setting back the governor's hopes of stopping the women's health services group from providing abortions. U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett said the law was unconstitutional and would cause "irreparable injury" to Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Southwest Ohio and their patients. (Skinner, 8/12)

The Associated Press: New Jersey Proposal Expands Infertility Coverage To Lesbians
A federal lawsuit brought by a New Jersey lesbian couple who want to have a baby may mean insurance coverage for women who currently don't meet the state's definition of infertile. Erin Krupa was denied insurance coverage for infertility treatments essentially because she failed to show she couldn't get pregnant by having sex with a man. New Jersey law for insurance purposes defines infertility as the result of failure to conceive after a certain period of unprotected sex. Krupa's insurer eventually agreed to the coverage, based on her doctor's diagnosis, and she has incurred nearly $25,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses. (8/13)

The Associated Press: Iowa Medical, Psychology Boards Mull Conversion Therapy Rule
Iowa boards overseeing doctors and psychologists considered Friday whether to adopt a policy that would ban state-licensed professionals from counseling gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender children to change their sexual orientation in a practice known as conversion therapy. The Iowa Board of Psychology on Friday voted to deny a petition that would have prohibited Iowa licensed mental health providers from trying to reverse a patient's sexual orientation, said board spokeswoman Sharon Dozier. She declined to discuss the reasons, saying the board will release its full decision later. (8/12)

Los Angeles Times: Amid Meningitis Outbreak, Officials Urge Vaccination — But Not For Everyone
Health officials in Los Angeles and Orange counties are racing to vaccinate gay men for meningitis, as a growing outbreak in the region appears to be hitting them particularly hard. Orange County health workers launched evening pop-up clinics at gay bars, night clubs and LGBT centers. At the first one, at the Velvet Lounge in Santa Ana on Saturday, 31 people got a free shot at the bar — against meningitis. (Karlamangla, 8/12)

NPR: Why Doctors Want A Computerized Assistant For Cancer Care
A computer may soon be able to offer highly personalized treatment suggestions for cancer patients based on the specifics of their cases and the full sweep of the most relevant scientific research. IBM and the New York Genome Center, a consortium of medical research institutions in New York City, are collaborating on a project to speed up cancer diagnoses and treatment. (Kim, 8/12)

NPR: How The Placebo Effect Could Boost An Olympic Performance
Olympic medals are won by margins of tenths or even hundredths of a second. So, it's no surprise that athletes want any edge they can get — even methods not backed by a lot of scientific evidence. The alternative practice du jour in Rio, so far, has been cupping. In years past it was special, stretchy tape, said to support sore muscles and improve range of motion. And dietary supplements are an ever-popular option. Like every other treatment or intervention, though, these purported performance-enhancers are subject to the placebo effect — benefits due to the recipient's belief in a treatment. (Hobson, 8/14)

NPR: Psychiatrists Reminded To Refrain From Armchair Analysis Of Public Figures
Earlier this week the American Psychiatric Association cautioned psychiatrists against taking part in a feverish new national hobby. Catching Pokémon wasn't mentioned. Psychoanalyzing Donald Trump was. On the organization's website APA president Maria A. Oquendo wrote: "The unique atmosphere of this year's election cycle may lead some to want to psychoanalyze the candidates, but to do so would not only be unethical, it would be irresponsible." (Stetka, 8/13)

The New York Times: Don’t Throw Out Your Organ Donor Card After 65
Take my kidneys. Please. Take my lungs, too, and my liver. Heart, skin, corneas, anything useful. Once I’ve died, I’ll have no further need for my body parts, but they could prove vital for some of the tens of thousands of people anxiously awaiting organ transplants. The fact that I’m over 65 doesn’t disqualify me (or you). In fact, it makes us particularly desirable as donors, living or dead, for older recipients, who represent a growing proportion of transplant patients. (Span, 8/12)

The Washington Post: Hearing Loss Can Creep Up On You Steathily, With Disturbing Repercussions
Former president Jimmy Carter, 91, told the New Yorker recently that 90 percent of the arguments he has with Rosalynn, his wife of 70 years, are about hearing. “When I tell her, ‘Please speak more loudly,’ she absolutely refuses to speak more loudly, or to look at me when she talks,” he told the magazine. In response, the former first lady, 88, declared that having to repeat things “drives me up the wall.” Yet after both went to the doctor, much to her surprise, “I found out it was me!” she said. “I was the one who was deaf.” Hearing loss is like that. It comes on gradually, often without an individual’s realizing it, and it prompts a range of social and health consequences. (Cimons, 8/14)

Reuters: Ear-Tube Surgery May Not Solve All Hearing Problems
Children with hearing loss who get ear-tube surgery to address chronic ear infections may need tests to see whether their hearing improves, a study suggests. When kids get an infection, fluid can build up in the middle ear, making it difficult for them to hear and potentially impairing speech and language development, said lead study author Kenneth R. Whittemore Jr., a researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital. (8/13)

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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