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KHN First Edition: September 29, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Thursday, September 29, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

California Healthline: Saying Goodbye, The Right Way
Anna Gorman writes: "Ediccia wanted to be remembered as someone who didn’t give up. Chuck said some of his favorite times were playing baseball with his brothers. Joe said he was the luckiest man in the world. Abel summed it up this way: “You have a one-way ticket. Don’t waste it!” They were all nearing death. Some were old, some young. In interviews with Los Angeles artist Andrew George, they shared their biggest regrets, favorite memories and greatest loves." (Gorman, 9/29)

Kaiser Health News: A Practical To-Do List For Family Caregivers
KHN columnist Judith Graham writes: "Ask Kathy Kenyon about what it’s like to be a family caregiver, and she’ll give you an earful. On several occasions, doctors have treated this accomplished lawyer like she was an interloper — not the person to whom her elderly parents had entrusted health care and legal decision-making. Kenyon wasn’t told how to identify signs that her mother, who had low sodium levels, was slipping into a medical crisis. Nor was she given any advice about how to prevent those crises from occurring." (Graham, 9/29)

Kaiser Health News: Poll Finds Majority Of Americans Want Restraints On Drug Prices
KHN staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "An overwhelming majority of Americans favor government action to restrain prescription drug prices, according to a poll released Thursday. Eighty-two percent of those polled said they want Medicare to negotiate prices with the companies, which Congress does not allow. Seventy-eight percent favored limiting the amount companies can charge for high-cost drugs, such as those that fight cancer or hepatitis, according to the poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. And more than two-thirds want to let Americans buy drugs imported from Canada. Support is strong no matter the political party." (Rau, 9/29)

California Healthline: Specialty Drug Costs Soar 30% For California Pension Fund
California Healthline staff writer Chad Terhune reports: "Specialty drug costs jumped 30 percent last year to $587 million for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, one of the nation’s largest health care purchasers. Though they amount to less than 1 percent of all prescriptions, specialty drugs accounted for more than a quarter of the state agency’s $2.1 billion in total pharmacy costs. Those overall drug costs have climbed 40 percent since 2010." (Terhune, 9/28)

Kaiser Health News: Large Danish Study Links Contraceptive Use To Risk Of Depression
KHN's Carmen Heredia Rodriguez reports: "Aside from pesky side effects like nausea and headaches, hormonal contraceptives are generally considered quite safe and effective. But researchers Wednesday identified a heightened risk of an unintended consequence: depression. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found women using hormonal contraception faced a higher rate of developing depression and using antidepressants than women who did not use the drugs. Oral contraceptives that combine two key hormones, a type widely used by Americans, increased women’s rate of taking antidepressants by 23 percent. Among teens using these contraceptives, the rate nearly doubled." (Heredia Rodriguez, 9/28)

The Washington Post: Congress Acts To Avert Government Shutdown After Striking Deal On Flint Aid
Congress staved off an Oct. 1 government shutdown Wednesday, passing a stopgap spending measure after House Republicans agreed to address the drinking-water crisis in Flint, Mich., removing a major obstacle in negotiations. The bill extends current government funding levels until early December, giving appropriators time to negotiate 2017 spending measures. It also provides year-long funding for veterans programs, $1.1 billion to address the Zika virus and $500 million in emergency flood relief for Louisiana and other states. (DeBonis, 9/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Congress Passes Spending Bill To Keep Government Running Through Dec. 9 
Congress avoided a partial government shutdown at week’s end after both chambers passed a short-term spending bill that would keep the government running through early December. A weekslong partisan impasse over the bill broke when lawmakers agreed to provide federal assistance for residents of Flint, Mich., in separate legislation this year. That deal quickly paved the way for the Senate to pass a short-term spending bill, also known as a continuing resolution, that would keep the government funded through Dec. 9. (son and Hughes, 9/28)

Politico: Congress Clears Bill To Prevent Shutdown
The biggest hurdle to a quick getaway was Democrats’ demand that money be added to the CR to help the 100,000 people in Flint who faced lead-contaminated drinking water. But Republicans wouldn’t budge, and said Flint should be dealt with in a water infrastructure bill moving through Congress. Ryan and Pelosi worked out an agreement Tuesday evening to allow a floor vote on an amendment to authorize $170 million for Flint in the water bill. (Bade, Kim and Weyl, 9/29)

NPR: Congress Stops Bickering And Approves $1.1 Billion To Fight Zika
It brings to an end a partisan fight that has had the unusual effect of delaying funding to deal with what all sides agree is a public health emergency. The delay came out because of disagreement over side issues like funding for Planned Parenthood and whether the money should be considered "emergency" spending. Wednesday's deal drops language barring the money from going to Planned Parenthood clinics. The Senate passed the measure Wednesday; it is pending in the House. (Kodjak, 9/28)

The Washington Post: Federal Employee Health Premiums To Rise 6.2 Percent On Average
The enrollee share of premiums in the health-care program for federal employees and retirees will rise 6.2 percent on average in 2017, an increase about in line with the general trend for employer-sponsored health insurance, the government announced Wednesday. The announcement of premium rates in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program comes in advance of an annual open season, which this year will run Nov. 14-Dec. 12, during which enrollees may change plans or change types of enrollment for the following year. Also, employees who are not currently enrolled may join the program, although retirees generally may not newly join. (Yoder, 9/28)

The New York Times: U.S. To Bar Arbitration Clauses In Nursing Home Contracts
The federal agency that controls more than $1 trillion in Medicare and Medicaid funding has moved to prevent nursing homes from forcing claims of elder abuse, sexual harassment and even wrongful death into the private system of justice known as arbitration. An agency within the Health and Human Services Department on Wednesday issued a rule that bars any nursing home that receives federal funding from requiring that its residents resolve any disputes in arbitration, instead of court. (Silver-Greenberg and Corkery, 9/28)

The Washington Post: Cyberattacks On Personal Health Records Growing ‘Exponentially’
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPAA. Since it took effect, doctors’ offices, hospitals and other health-care providers have been very careful about releasing information. Sometimes frustratingly so. I’ve had providers refuse to send my information to me by email, because that form of communication is considered less secure than the now-ancient practice of faxing. (Joe Davidson, 9/28)

The Associated Press: Senators Ask Justice Department To Investigate EpiPen Maker
Senators are asking the Justice Department to investigate whether pharmaceutical company Mylan acted illegally when it classified its life-saving EpiPen as a generic drug and qualified for lower rebate payments to states. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday and suggested the company may have gamed the system to divert millions of dollars from taxpayers. (9/28)

The Associated Press: Did Landmark Laws From Congress Enable High Drug Prices?
Lawmakers are venting outrage over high prescription drug costs, but if Congress is looking for culprits, it might want to look in the mirror. Republican- and Democratic-controlled Congresses, and presidents of both parties, may have set the stage for the startling prices that have consumers on edge. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/29)

The Washington Post: Ask A MacArthur Genius: Just How Cheap Can Cancer Diagnosis Get?
What’s the best way to bring cutting-edge healthcare to the world’s poorest places? It can be tempting to export money and equipment to solve the problem. But when bioengineer Rebecca Richards-Kortum visits hospitals in places such as Malawi and El Salvador, she sees the unintended consequence of that charitable impulse. “Ironically, if you walk down the hall or into the basement of a hospital, there’s always a big room that is just for broken, donated equipment,” she says. (Blakemore, 9/28)

The Washington Post: Cancer Immunotherapy Is Moving Fast. Here’s What You Need To Know.
The idea of using the body's immune system to fight cancer has been around for a century, but only in the past half a dozen years have dramatic breakthroughs begun rocking the medical world. "That's when the tsunami came," says Drew Pardoll, director of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunology at Johns Hopkins University, and those advances are spawning hundreds of clinical trials nationwide, plus generating intense interest from patients, physicians and investors. (McGinley, 9/28)

The Wall Street Journal: The New IRS Email Scam Coming To Your Inbox
Americans, beware: the Internal Revenue Service isn’t emailing you. Just recently, a new scam has started involving fake tax bills tied to the Affordable Care Act. In one sure sign the notices are fake, many are arriving by email—and the IRS doesn’t initiate taxpayer contact by email. Even so, some of the fakes are paper notices sent by regular mail and taxpayers should watch out. (Saunders, 9/29)

The Associated Press: After Subpoena, VA Turns Over Documents On Costly Hospital
The Veterans Affairs Department turned over documents to Congress on Wednesday in response to a subpoena demanding information about how the cost of a Denver-area VA hospital soared more than $1 billion over budget. VA spokeswoman Linda West said the department gave the House Veterans Affairs Committee some of the documents that lawmakers wanted and that more were on the way. (Elliott, 9/28)

Reuters: Special Report: Flawed CDC Report Left Indiana Children Vulnerable To Lead Poisoning
In this industrial northwest Indiana city, hundreds of families who live in a gated public housing community with prim lawns and a new elementary school next door are searching for new homes. Their own places have been marked for demolition.The school, temporarily closed, has been taken over by the Environmental Protection Agency and health officials who offer free blood tests to check residents for lead poisoning. (9/28)

The Washington Post: Mystery Zika Case In Utah Was Likely Spread Through Sweat Or Tears
New details are emerging about the mysterious Zika case in Utah where a son caring for his sick father became infected with the virus. The father's death in June was the first related to Zika in the continental United States. His son's infection was unusual because, unlike all other known adult cases, he had not traveled to a Zika-infected region or had sex with a partner who had done so. Instead, he had remained at his father's side in the hospital. (Sun, 9/28)

NPR: Flawed Research Tool Leads To Faulty Medical Findings
Researchers trying to understand diseases and find new ways to treat them are running into a serious problem in their labs: One of the most commonly used tools often produces spurious results. More than 100 influential scientists met in California this week and agreed on a strategy to address the troubling issue. (Harris, 9/29)

The Associated Press: Hospital Chain Settles Medicare Suit For $32.7 Million
A national hospital chain headquartered in central Pennsylvania has agreed to pay $32.7 million to resolve allegations that it billed Medicare for medically unnecessary services. The Department of Justice alleged that between 2006 and 2013, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania-based Vibra Healthcare admitted patients to five long-term health care hospitals and an inpatient rehabilitation facility although their symptoms didn’t qualify them for admission. (9/28)

The Associated Press: US Soda-Tax Battle Bubbles Up In San Francisco Bay Area
The national fight over sugary soda is bubbling up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where voters in November will consider a tax on the drinks that many health experts say contribute to diabetes, obesity and tooth decay. Backers of the campaign say a penny-per-ounce tax is needed in San Francisco, Oakland and tiny Albany to curb consumption of sweetened cola, sports drinks and canned teas that people gulp without thinking, adding empty calories. (9/28)

USA Today/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Integrated Health Network Scales Back
Integrated Health Network of Wisconsin gave itself the ambitious goal of clinically integrating eight health systems throughout the state to prepare for the expected changes in the way hospitals and doctors are paid. The network would require the health systems to work toward lessening the variation in how care was provided. It would track their performance on an array of quality and cost measures. And it would build the complex computer systems to collect and analyze information from medical claims and electronic health records. Its plans may have proven too ambitious. (Boulton, 9/28)

The New York Times: What’s In Your Herbal Pills? Firm Promises DNA Testing For Proof
NBTY, one of the nation’s largest makers of popular supplements like ginkgo biloba and ginseng, has agreed to conduct advanced genetic testing to help ensure that its herbal products actually contain the ingredients promised on the label. The agreement, which affects several popular brands including Solgar, Nature’s Bounty and Sundown Naturals, was announced Wednesday by the New York State attorney general’s office. (O'Connor, 9/28)


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