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KHN First Edition: September 13, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Parents Often Battle To Get Their Children Mental Health Services At School
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: "On a hot summer day last month, Sydney, 15, and Laney, 8, were enjoying their last two weeks of freedom before school started. The sisters tried to do flips over a high bar at a local playground.“You’ve got to pull your hips into the bar, like you’ve got to kick up like that,” explained their mother, Selena. ... Both girls have been diagnosed with mental illnesses — Sydney with bipolar disorder and Laney with a similar illness called disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. ... School has been a real challenge for them. That’s not unusual for the 1 in 5 children with a mental illness." (Gold, 9/13)

Kaiser Health News: Insurers May Insist On Counseling Before Genetic Tests For Breast Cancer
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Health care providers and insurers agree that it’s in everyone’s best interest to refer women for genetic testing if their family history of breast or ovarian cancer puts them at higher risk. What they don’t agree on is what should happen before testing, specifically whether women need to be advised by a certified genetic counselor or someone with similar training before the test is ordered." (Andrews, 9/13)

Kaiser Health News: Study: Health Spending Related To Opioid Treatment Rose More Than 1,300 Percent
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "The nation’s ongoing opioid problem comes with staggering physical and emotional costs to patients and families. But the dollar cost to the health system has been harder to peg. Now a new report shows a more than 1,300 percent rise in spending by health insurers in a four-year period on patients with a diagnosis of opioid dependence or abuse. From 2011 to 2015, insurers’ payments to hospitals, laboratories, treatment centers and other medical providers for these patients grew from $32 million to $446 million — a 1,375 percent increase." (Appleby, 9/12)

California Healthline: California Nursing Board Works To Whittle Down Licensing Backlog
Eryn Brown, for California Healthline, reports: "The newly appointed head of California’s nursing board says his ratcheted-up effort to clear a persistent licensing backlog has been successful. In early August, staff at the Board of Registered Nursing, which is charged with vetting nurses for licensing in California, had not progressed beyond applications from recent graduates filed in March. One month later, the agency appears to have cleared a substantial portion of the backlog, reporting on its website that it is now processing applications that new nurses filed in early August." (Brown, 9/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Pledges Redoubled Efforts To Make Health Law Successful
President Barack Obama made a personal bid Monday to shore up his signature health law as it heads into its final test of his administration, urging insurers selling plans on to stay the course and pledging redoubled efforts by the government to make the law a success. In a letter released publicly by the White House on Monday, Mr. Obama thanked insurers for participating in the health exchanges the federal government runs on behalf of three dozen states, which the Obama administration calls ‘the Marketplace,’ and acknowledged some of its recent turbulence. (Tau and Radnofsky, 9/12)

The Associated Press: Obama Tells Insurers New Enterprises Have Growing Pains
President Barack Obama says he knows that progress in reducing the uninsured rate hasn't been without challenges. Obama says in a letter to the nation's health insurers that most new enterprises have growing pains and opportunities for improvement, and the health insurance marketplace shaped by his health care law, "while strong, is no exception." (9/12)

Reuters: Obama Asks U.S. Insurers For Help Enrolling The Young And Healthy
President Barack Obama on Monday urged U.S. insurers offering coverage next year under his national healthcare law to step up their efforts to enroll those who remain uninsured, especially younger and healthier Americans. Several big insurers, including UnitedHealth Group Inc, Aetna Inc and Humana Inc, have announced they will pull back from the Obamacare individual insurance market in 2017, citing financial losses due to the costs of covering members who are sicker than expected. (Kelly, 9/12)

The New York Times: Failure To Improve Is Still Being Used, Wrongly, To Deny Medicare Coverage
For months, physical therapists worked with Mrs. Kirby, a retired civil servant who is now 75, trying to help her regain enough mobility to go home. Then her daughter received an email from one of the therapists saying, “Edwina has reached her highest practical level of independence.” Translation: Mrs. Kirby wouldn’t receive Medicare coverage for further physical therapy or for the nursing home. If she wanted to stay and continue therapy, she’d have to pay the tab herself. (Span, 9/12)

Politico: How Hillary’s Stumble Empowered The 'Healthers'
Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s, according to one Trump supporter. Or an undisclosed “cognitive illness.” Or has just endured one too many falls and too much blood thinner. There are no numbers on just how many Americans believe Clinton is hiding a dire medical condition, but the short video of Clinton nearly collapsing and being ushered into a van on Sunday morning triggered far more than the typical concern you might expect about the well-being of a 68-year-old in a highly stressful environment. The Drudge Report's headline for nearly a day: "Will she survive?" (Diamond, 9/12)

Los Angeles Times: Pneumonia: What Does Clinton's Affliction Say About Her Health?
On Sunday, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s bout with pneumonia put this common, and commonly dangerous, infectious disease in the spotlight. When we posed some questions about pneumonia to physicians who specialize in lung health, primary care and women’s health, some surprising facts came to light. (Healy, 9/12)

The Wall Street Journal: Hillary Clinton To Release More Medical Records After Pneumonia Diagnosis
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said she was feeling much better after a pneumonia diagnosis and promised to release additional medical records this week, moving to contain concerns about her well-being and forthrightness after she stumbled exiting a 9/11 ceremony. The pneumonia diagnosis, belatedly disclosed by her campaign Sunday, has taken Mrs. Clinton off the road and off-message just as her campaign was working to focus on her agenda. (Meckler, 9/13)

Los Angeles Times: How Much Do Presidents And Candidates Need To Tell The Public About Their Health?
How much should presidential candidates tell the public about their health?Hillary Clinton, 68, was recently diagnosed with pneumonia, and the public didn’t know about it until two days later, when she abruptly left a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony feeling unwell and needing to be helped into a vehicle. If Donald Trump, 70, were elected, he would be older than any previous president at the start of his first term — and, like Clinton, he hasn’t released detailed records about his health beyond a doctor’s letter. Both candidates promised Monday to release more detailed medical records soon. (Pearce, 9/13)

The Washington Post: The Hidden History Of Presidential Disease, Sickness And Secrecy
In his second term as president, Dwight Eisenhower looked like an old man. He’d had a serious heart attack in 1955, requiring extensive hospitalization. Ike later suffered a stroke. In contrast to his seeming senescence, his successor, John F. Kennedy, seemed vibrant and flamboyant. The reality was that Eisenhower was not really that old — he was just 62 when first elected. And Kennedy wasn't actually that  vigorous, and indeed was secretly afflicted by serious medical problems, including Addison’s disease, that his aides concealed from the public. (Achenbach and Cunningham, 9/12)

The Wall Street Journal: High Cost Of New Hepatitis C Drugs Strains Prison Budgets, Locks Many Out Of Cure
David Maldonado, an inmate at a Pennsylvania state prison, is one of thousands of convicted criminals with hepatitis C, an infectious disease that is one of the country’s biggest killers. Powerful new drugs on the market could help Mr. Maldonado and cut the chances of it spreading outside prison walls. The medicines, however, are so expensive, and the problem so widespread, that to treat all sufferers would blow up most prison budgets. List prices for the newer drugs range from $54,000 to $94,000 a person for a typical 12-week course. (Loftus and Fields, 9/12)

The New York Times: Funding Planned Parenthood, Or Not, May Be Key To Keeping The Government Open
When Democrats balked once more last week at approving legislation to combat the Zika virus because the measure included limits on Planned Parenthood, some Republicans indicated a willingness to re-evaluate their position. But the pressing question for Republicans who want to pass a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running after Sept. 30 is whether enough of their ranks are willing to leave Planned Parenthood out of the legislation. (Huetteman, 9/12)

The Washington Post: American Cheese, Sidewalks And Chairs Have A Connection That May Surprise You
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health turns 100 this year. The school came to life during a time when women frequently died during childbirth and infant mortality was a grave concern. Inadequate nutrition, sanitation and often-fatal diseases were common. Since then, public-health agencies in the United States and abroad have had numerous victories, such as the eradication of smallpox. In 1916, the average life expectancy at birth in the United States was around 52. Today, it’s nearly 79. But public health remains a complex and challenging field — figuring out how to control gun violence and addiction, exploring the science of aging, keeping refugees healthy, closing the gap on health-care disparities in minority populations. (Kvatum, 9/12)

The New York Times: How The Sugar Industry Shifted Blame To Fat
The sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show. The internal sugar industry documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that five decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry. (O'Connor, 9/12)

The Associated Press: Sugar Industry Funded Research To Cast Doubt On Sugar's Health Hazards, Report Says
In 1964, the group now known as the Sugar Assn. internally discussed a campaign to address “negative attitudes toward sugar” after studies began emerging linking sugar with heart disease, according to documents dug up from public archives. The following year the group approved “Project 226,” which entailed paying Harvard researchers today's equivalent of $48,900 for an article reviewing the scientific literature, supplying materials they wanted reviewed, and receiving drafts of the article. The resulting article published in 1967 concluded there was “no doubt” that reducing cholesterol and saturated fat was the only dietary intervention needed to prevent heart disease. (9/12)

The Washington Post: Stem-Cell Clinics Face New Scrutiny From Federal Regulators
The FDA, which has taken a mostly hands-off approach toward the rapidly proliferating stem-cell clinics, is signaling that some of the treatments should be regulated as drugs are, which would require advance approval. That would entail a lengthy process, with extensive safety and effectiveness data, at a potential cost of millions of dollars. The issue has ignited a fierce debate among physicians, patients, scientists and politicians about whether the agency should crack down on therapies that critics deride as snake oil but that some patients swear by. And it is fueling a broader, longer-term debate over how cellular therapies should be regulated. (McGinley, 9/12)

USA Today: VA Quit Sending Performance Data To National Health Care Quality Site
The Department of Veterans Affairs over the summer quietly stopped sharing data on the quality of care at its facilities with a national database for consumers, despite a 2014 law requiring the agency to report more comprehensive statistics to the site so veterans can make informed decisions about where to seek care. For years, the VA provided data on a number of criteria to the Hospital Compare web site run by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the Department of Health and Human Services. The site includes death and readmission rates and other measures of quality for public and private hospitals around the country, as well as national averages. (Slack, 9/12)

The Wall Street Journal: UnitedHealth’s Optum Unit To Oversee Quest Diagnostic’s Billing Processes
UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s Optum health-services arm has struck a deal to oversee billing processes for lab giant Quest Diagnostics Inc., substantially expanding its growing business of handling such transactions for health-care companies. Under the 10-year pact, Optum will take over a number of key revenue-related services for Quest, including billing health insurers and consumers, and collecting and processing payments from both. About 2.400 employees who did such work for Quest will become Optum employees, but they will generally remain physically in their current locations. (Wilde Mathews, 9/13)

The New York Times: Period For Ground Zero Workers To Seek Compensation Is Extended
New York State is extending the period for workers and volunteers to seek medical benefits and lost wages resulting from their involvement in the rescue and recovery operations in Lower Manhattan after the attack on Sept. 11, 2001. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, at a ceremony on Sunday for the 15th anniversary of the attack, signed legislation reopening the window for people to file claims with the state, for two years after the previous deadline elapsed. The law extends the filing deadline to Sept. 11, 2018. (Santora, 9/12)

NPR: DEA'S Move To Ban Kratom Leads To Outcry
Kratom is made from the leaves of a small tree native to Southeast Asia that is a relative of the coffee plant. According to David Kroll, a pharmacologist and medical writer, farmers and indigenous people have used it for hundreds of years as both a stimulant to increase work output and also at the end of the day as a way to relax. The leaves are often brewed like a tea, or crushed and mixed with water. In the U.S., kratom has become popular among people coping with chronic pain and others trying to wean themselves off opioids or alcohol. (Silverman, 9/12)

NPR: A Question For Voters This Fall: Is Pot Bad For The Brain?
Five states are voting this fall on whether marijuana should be legal, like alcohol, for recreational use. That has sparked questions about what we know – and don't know – about marijuana's effect on the brain. Research is scarce. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. That classification puts up barriers to conducting research on it, including a cumbersome DEA approval application and a requirement that scientists procure very specific marijuana plants. (Bebinger, 9/13)

The Associated Press: Affidavit: Fertility Doctor Used Own Sperm For Impregnations
A retired Indianapolis fertility doctor said he used his own sperm around 50 times instead of donated sperm that his patients were expecting, impregnating several women decades ago, but later denied it, according to court documents. Dr. Donald Cline, 77, pleaded not guilty Monday to two felony obstruction of justice charges for misleading authorities who were investigating complaints from two of the now-adult children against him. (Kusmer, 9/12)

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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