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KHN First Edition: September 8, 2016


First Edition

Thursday, September 08, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Lack Of Medicaid Expansion Hurts Rural Hospitals More Than Urban Facilities
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "It isn’t news that in rural parts of the country, people have a harder time accessing good health care. But new evidence suggests opposition to a key part of the 2010 health overhaul could be adding to the gap. The finding comes from a study published Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs, which analyzes how the states’ decisions on implementing the federal health law’s expansion of Medicaid, a federal-state insurance program for low-income people, may be influencing rural hospitals’ financial stability. Nineteen states opted not to join the expansion." (Luthra, 9/7)

Kaiser Health News: Study Says Concerns About Orphan Drug Spending Are Unjustified
Kaiser Health News staff writer Sarah Jane Tribble reports: "Rising concerns about spending on prescription drugs that treat rare diseases are not justified, according to a new analysis in the journal Health Affairs. “We wanted to focus on the true impact of orphan drugs,” said Victoria Divino, a senior consultant at IMS Health and an author of the study. Researchers at IMS Health and drug maker Celgene analyzed U.S. pharmaceutical spending from 2007 to 2013 on more than 300 drugs that had orphan approval under the 1983 Orphan Drug Act. (Tribble, 9/7)

Kaiser Health News: Study Finds Benefits When Seniors Call Shots To Help Them
Kaiser Health News staff writer Rachel Bluth reports: "A federally funded project that researchers say has potential to promote aging in place began by asking low-income seniors with disabilities how their lives at home could be better, according to a study released Wednesday. At the end of the program, 75 percent of participants were able to perform more daily activities than they could before and symptoms of depression also improved, the researchers said in the journal Health Affairs. Called Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders, or CAPABLE for short, the program was funded by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation." (Bluth, 9/7)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Health Law Faces Critical Year
Significant spikes in premiums, insurer dropouts and persistently low enrollment numbers are combining to make this fall’s sign-up period a crossroads for the Obama administration’s signature health law. Federal officials characterize the turbulence as temporary. At the same time, the administration is making a push in its final months to shore up the law by trying to sign up healthy people who are critical to the law’s sustainability but have so far rejected insurance. That push will take place against a backdrop of elections that will shape the law’s future. (Radnofsky and Armour, 9/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Arizona’s Pinal County Gains Health-Law Exchange Insurer
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona will offer plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange in Arizona’s Pinal County next year, resolving a situation that drew a national spotlight because it represented a major challenge to the mechanics of the health law. When Aetna Inc. announced last month that it would withdraw from the exchange in Arizona, among other states, it left Pinal at risk of becoming the first U.S. county without a single insurer selling exchange plans. Aetna had been expected to sell exchange plans in Pinal County, where approximately 10,000 people had signed up for ACA plans. (Wilde Mathews, 9/8)

Politico: Another Piece Of Obamacare Falls Short
An Obamacare provision designed to inject a protective extra layer of competition into fledgling insurance markets fell into near-oblivion — and its failure has made Obamacare’s mounting challenges even more acute. Under the unwieldy name of the Multi-State Plan Program, the federal government was supposed to contract with two private health plans, at least one a nonprofit. Each is required to offer coverage in all 50 states by next year. But it’s fallen short, reaching fewer states than anticipated, and offering plans that mirror options people already have. (Pradhan and Demko, 9/7)

The Washington Post: Cancer ‘Moonshot’ Panel Names Top 10 Ways To Speed Progress Against The Disease
The Obama administration's "cancer moonshot" took a major step forward Wednesday when a committee of top cancer researchers and patient advocates recommended an ambitious set of scientific goals designed to sharply accelerate progress against the disease. The 10 ideas, which were developed by a blue-ribbon panel, deal with an array of topics, including research, clinical trials, data mining, prevention and patient engagement. The recommendations were sent to a task force headed by Vice President Biden, who is leading the administration's moonshot campaign. (McGinley, 9/7)

The Associated Press: Ohio County Offers Immunity To Those Turning In Deadly Drugs
A county judge Wednesday ordered immunity from prosecution for anyone who turns in heroin or other potentially deadly drugs after a stunning surge in overdoses in the Cincinnati area. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters asked for the blanket immunity, which he and Common Pleas Court Presiding Judge Robert Ruehlman agreed was unheard of locally, but needed to help get the drugs out of homes after what authorities say was a recent blitz of the city by sellers who mixed heroin with the extremely powerful animal tranquilizer, carfentanil. (Sewell, 9/7)

The Associated Press: House Panel Subpoenas VA Over Denver Hospital, Artwork
Demanding explanations for a $1 billion cost overrun, a House panel Wednesday issued a subpoena to the Department of Veterans Affairs for documents on how the cost of a Denver-area VA hospital ballooned to almost $1.7 billion. That figure was nearly triple earlier estimates. The subpoena by the House Veterans Affairs Committee also seeks documents related to millions of dollars spent on artwork and ornamental furnishings at VA offices nationwide, including more than $6.4 million spent on the Palo Alto, California, health care system. (9/7)

USA Today: Child Neglect Claimed In Jerika's Hospice Battle
Child protection authorities were first asked to investigate an Appleton teenager’s decision to die more than a month ago, according to referrals obtained by USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. The disability rights groups that filed the referrals hoping to halt 14-year-old Jerika Bolen’s plans to enter hospice care and cease treatment of her incurable disease say they still have not received word from state or county officials on whether any action is being pursued. (Collar, 9/7)

The Associated Press: Handymen, Home Care Helps Seniors Trying To Age In Place
Where you live plays a big role in staying independent as you age. Now researchers say an innovative program that combined home fix-ups and visits from occupational therapists and nurses improved low-income seniors' ability to care for themselves in their own homes. Still to be answered is whether that better daily functioning also saves taxpayer dollars — by helping enough older adults with chronic health problems avoid costly hospital or nursing home stays. (9/8)

The New York Times: New York Can’t Block Late-Term Abortion In Certain Cases, Schneiderman Says
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Wednesday took a large step toward making New York one of several states to allow late-term abortions in cases where the mother’s health is in jeopardy or the fetus suffers a fatal complication, relying on Supreme Court rulings he said overrode existing law. In a new legal opinion, Mr. Schneiderman said the 1970 state law, which criminalizes abortion past 24 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother’s life is endangered, did not square with the later Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade and other cases. (Yee, 9/7)

The New York Times: Lawmakers Skeptical Of State’s Explanation For Hoosick Falls Water Crisis
For the second time in two weeks, New York State Department of Health officials sought to blame the Environmental Protection Agency for a contaminated water crisis in upstate New York, saying on Wednesday that they were confused and hamstrung by changing federal standards on perfluorooctanoic acid, a toxic chemical known as PFOA.But again and again, lawmakers at a joint legislative hearing seemed deeply skeptical of the state’s explanations about what happened in Hoosick Falls, a riverside hamlet where PFOA has been found in dangerously high levels. (McKinley, 9/7)

The Associated Press: Report Says More Funding Needed To Cut Into Rape Kit Backlog
Pennsylvania government auditors said Wednesday new funding is needed to cut into the state's backlog of untested rape kits, and they suggested penalties against police agencies that do not meet testing and reporting standards imposed by a law enacted last year. The auditor general's office released a report that followed the state Health Department's disclosure in May that there were more than 1,850 rape kits in Pennsylvania that had gone more than a year without being tested. There were more than 3,000 untested kits in all. (9/7)

The Associated Press: 2 Psychologists Plead Guilty In $25 Million Medicare Scam
Psychologists from Louisiana and Mississippi admitted participating in a $25 million Medicare scam by billing for unnecessary or nonexistent tests on nursing home patients across the Southeast, federal authorities said Wednesday. As part of their guilty pleas, Beverly Stubblefield, 62, of Slidell, Louisiana, and John Teal, 46, of Jackson, Mississippi, admitted they're responsible for more than $5.6 million in fraudulent claims submitted to Medicare, according to a Department of Justice news release. (9/7)

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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