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KHN First Edition: August 19, 2016


First Edition

Friday, August 19, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Insurance Doesn’t Ensure Children Get Needed Visual Exams: Study
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Kids from less affluent homes, even when they have health insurance, are not as likely as others to get vision screenings that can identify conditions like lazy eye before the damage becomes irreversible, a new study found. Researchers at the University of Michigan examined commercial health insurance claims data between 2001 and 2014 for nearly 900,000 children from birth to age 14. They tracked how often kids at different family income levels visited ophthalmologists and optometrists and the diagnosis rates for strabismus (cross-eyed or wall-eyed) and amblyopia (lazy eye)." (Andrews, 8/19)

California Healthline: Puberty Blockers May Improve The Mental Health Of Transgender Adolescents
Elaine Korry, for California Healthline, reports: "Puberty is no picnic, even in the best of circumstances. Once the sex hormones estrogen or testosterone kick in, there’s no turning back: Here come breasts and periods, Adam’s apples and acne. It’s a tough passage for many kids, but for some — transgender youth whose bodies don’t match their gender identity — puberty can be unbearable. For one Oakland family, their daughter’s path was clear from the time she was 3. Her birth certificate said “male,” but the child would always say she wanted to be a girl, and that soon became, “I AM a girl,” said the mother, who asked that her family’s name not be used to protect her daughter’s privacy. She recalled a day when the girl wept in frustration trying to fashion a skirt out of some t-shirts." (Korry, 8/19)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Opens Probe Into Concerns Over Health-Provider Payments
The Obama administration has launched a probe into whether health-care providers such as dialysis centers are steering patients eligible for Medicare and Medicaid benefits into insurance plans offered on the health law’s exchanges. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday said it sent warning letters to all dialysis centers that participate in the federal Medicare program. The agency also said it is weighing financial penalties on providers who are found to have directed people eligible for Medicare into Affordable Care Act plans instead. “We are concerned about reports that some organizations may be engaging in enrollment activities that put their profit margins ahead of their patients’ needs,” said CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt in a news release. (Armour and Wilde Mathews, 8/18)

Reuters: U.S. Health Agency Weighs Rules On Outside Payments For Obamacare
A U.S. government health agency on Thursday said that it was considering new rules to prevent healthcare providers or related groups from steering patients into Obamacare individual insurance plans instead of Medicare or Medicaid in order to receive higher payments for medical services. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Thursday said it is seeking public comment and considering rules including prohibiting or limiting premium payments or cost-sharing for the individual marketplace plans, monetary penalties and limits on such payments. (Humer, 8/18)

The New York Times: New Cluster Of Zika Cases Is Reported In Miami Beach
A cluster of Zika cases most likely transmitted by local mosquitoes has been identified in Miami Beach, and federal and state officials are considering whether to advise pregnant women to avoid traveling to the city and possibly even all of Miami-Dade County, a health official said Thursday. Such a decision would signal that the potential threat of local Zika transmission had catapulted to a new level. It would no longer be confined to one zone of active local transmission in Miami — the only one identified in the continental United States up to now. (Alvarez and Belluck, 8/18)

The Washington Post: Zika Now Suspected From Mosquitoes In Miami Beach
If confirmed in Miami Beach, CDC officials likely would issue an updated travel advisory that includes the newly affected area. It was unclear Thursday where the boundaries of such a warning might be. In a statement, Gov. Rick Scott insisted the outbreak remained confined to Wynwood. "We still believe local transmissions are only occurring in an area that is less than one square mile," he said."As we continue to aggressively assess and test people for Zika, we will make every resource available to fight this virus," Scott said. (Dennis, 8/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Health Officials Investigating Cluster Of Possible Zika Cases In Miami Beach
Health officials are likely now to expand that zone, where they have warned the public that mosquito-borne transmission of Zika is occurring, but it wasn’t clear how large the new zone will be, these people said. Deliberations are under way over whether to designate small pockets or one large one, these people said. The news is just what many in Florida have feared—that the outbreak would spread, hurting the state’s tourist-dependent economy, said Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida political-science professor. “The business community is very alarmed and of course, so are health officials,” she said. (McKay, Campos-Flores and Levitz, 8/18)

The Washington Post: Zika Can Infect Adult Brain Cells, Not Just Fetal Cells, Study Suggests
The more researchers learn about the Zika virus, the worse it seems. A growing body of research has established that the virus can cause severe birth defects — most notably microcephaly, a condition characterized by an abnormally small head and often incomplete brain development. The virus also has been linked to cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults, a rare autoimmune disorder that can result in paralysis and even death. Now, in a study in mice, researchers have found evidence that suggests adult brain cells critical to learning and memory also might be susceptible to the Zika virus. (Dennis, 8/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Study Suggests Zika May Damage Adult Brains
The authors of the study cautioned that it is difficult to know the extent to which the findings, in mice whose immune systems were weakened, apply to humans, and said they plan further research. But the findings clearly suggest that Zika may not be as benign an infection for adults—or even children—as currently thought, particularly for those with weakened immune systems, they said. Damage to these cells could potentially lead long-term to depression or other cognitive problems, they said. (McKay, 8/18)

The Associated Press: Zika Researchers Seeking Volunteers Willing To Be Infected
Wanted: Volunteers willing to be infected with the Zika virus for science. It may sound bizarre, but researchers are planning just such a study — this winter, when mosquitoes aren't biting — to help speed development of much-needed Zika vaccines. The quest for a vaccine began less than a year ago as Brazil's massive outbreak revealed that Zika, once dismissed as a nuisance virus, can harm a fetus' brain if a woman is infected during pregnancy. (8/19)

Politico: Worried Florida Republicans Push Ryan For Zika Action
When Republicans left town this summer, they abandoned a billion-dollar Zika rescue package that had become mired in partisan infighting. But now some rank-and-file Florida Republicans — who represent scared constituents clamoring for Washington to do something — are pressuring their leaders to get a deal done, no matter what it takes. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) asked Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to convene an emergency session of Congress to pass a Zika bill immediately. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) is worrying that Congress’ lack of action could cripple him in an already tough re-election battle. And a number of Florida Republicans, including Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), want their party to fully fund President Barack Obama's larger $1.9 billion Zika request. (Bade, 8/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Again Able To Loosen Debt Terms
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. has again reached a deal with its loan holders to amend its debt terms, giving it more breathing room as it continues to dig out from a year of business and accounting distress. The amendment announced Thursday makes it easier for the Canadian drugmaker to meet a key debt-covenant requirement. It also gives Valeant more flexibility to sell assets and borrow more, as it aims to pare its $31 billion debt load. (Steele and Rapoport, 8/18)

The Wall Street Journal: T. Rowe Price Sues Valeant, Alleging ‘Fraudulent Scheme’
Mutual-fund giant T. Rowe Price Group Inc. has filed suit against Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., alleging the Canadian drug company engaged in “a fraudulent scheme” that cost T. Rowe Price and other Valeant investors billions of dollars. Valeant used mail-order pharmacy Philidor Rx Services LLC, deceptive pricing and reimbursement practices and “fictitious accounting” to artificially inflate its results and shield its drugs from competition, T. Rowe Price and Alleghany Cos., another Valeant shareholder, alleged in the lawsuit filed earlier this week in federal court in New Jersey that became publicly available Thursday. (Rapoport, 8/18)

The Associated Press: Judge Definitively Blocks Florida Abortion Law
A federal judge on Thursday definitively blocked a Florida abortion law to prevent state funds from going to organizations that provide abortions — after the administration of Gov. Rick Scott made the unusual decision to drop further legal action. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle had placed a temporary hold on the challenged portions of the law hours before the law took effect last June. The sweeping law also was designed to greatly increase inspection requirements for abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood challenged three parts of the law. (8/18)

USA Today/Naples (Fla.) Daily News: Federal Judge Permanently Blocks Florida Abortion Law
Hinkle’s decision was praised by Planned Parenthood leaders from around the state. “This is a victory for thousands of Floridians who rely on Planned Parenthood," said Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. "For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to. We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away.” (Sarkissian, 8/18)

Los Angeles Times: Scientists Unlock A Secret To Latinos’ Longevity, With Hopes Of Slowing Aging For Everyone
A new way to measure how humans age suggests that Latinos withstand life’s wear and tear better than non-Latino Caucasians, and that they may have their Native American ancestors to thank for their longer lives. The new findings offer some insight into a longstanding demographic mystery: that despite having higher rates of inflammation and such chronic diseases as obesity and diabetes, Latinos in the United States have a longer average lifespan than do non-Latino whites. Those findings emerge from an intriguing effort to devise a biological clock — a standard measure of age more revealing than birthdays, walking speed, wrinkled skin or twinkly eyes. (Healy, 8/18)

Los Angeles Times: L.A. City Attorney Pressures Pregnancy Center To Comply With State Law, Provide Info About Abortion Services
A Los Angeles pregnancy center that failed to comply with a state law requiring it to provide clients with information about free or low-cost family planning services, prenatal care, contraception and abortions has agreed to cooperate, City Atty. Mike Feuer announced Thursday. After the Pregnancy Counseling Center in Mission Hills missed an Aug. 14 deadline to correct violations, the city attorney’s office moved to file a lawsuit under a state law that bars unfair business practices and carries a possible $2,500 daily penalty. Feuer also informed the center that his office would seek a temporary restraining order to force it to comply.  (Evans, 8/18)

NPR: For Pete's Sake, Don't Sleep Or Swim In Your Contact Lenses
Contact lenses are so ubiquitous — about 41 million people in the U.S. wear them — that it's easy to forget that they're actual medical devices, with small but real medical risks. An analysis published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined 1,075 reports of corneal infections related to contact lens use from the Food and Drug Administration's Medical Device Report database over a decade. To be sure, these were likely the worst of the worst of these types of infection and can't be considered representative of contact lens infections overall. But of those reports, almost 20 percent described a patient with injuries resulting in decreased vision or a corneal scar, or requiring a corneal transplant. (Hobson, 8/18)

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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