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KHN First Edition: September 23, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Friday, September 23, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: In Arizona, Health Law’s Gains And Losses Play In Presidential Race
Kaiser Health News staff writer Sarah Varney reports: "Just weeks before the presidential election, Josephine has spent nearly every morning worrying as she drives to her breast cancer treatments, waits for her doctor and comes back home. At 61, Josephine, who asked that her last name not be used because she has been under the protection of a restraining order, has much riding on this election. Once uninsured after being laid off from her job, she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and has been able to get subsidized health coverage through the Affordable Care Act. The pro-Hillary Clinton signs on her parched lawn show which candidate she trusts to keep her covered." (Varney, 9/23)

California Healthline: Remember The ‘Public Option’? Insurance Commissioner Wants To Try It In California
California Healthline staff writer Chad Terhune reports: "With major insurers retreating from the federal health law’s marketplaces, California’s insurance commissioner said he supports a public option at the state level that could bolster competition and potentially serve as a test for the controversial idea nationwide. “I think we should strongly consider a public option in California,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a recent interview with California Healthline. “It will require a lot of careful thought and work, but I think it’s something that ought to be on the table because we continue to see this consolidation in an already consolidated health insurance market.” (Terhune, 9/22)

The New York Times: Study Finds 20M Would Lose Health Coverage Under Trump Plan
A new study that examines some major health care proposals from the presidential candidates finds that Donald Trump would cause about 20 million to lose coverage while Hillary Clinton would provide coverage for an additional 9 million people. The 2016 presidential campaign has brought voters to a crossroads on health care yet again. The U.S. uninsured rate stands at a historically low 8.6 percent, mainly because of President Barack Obama's health care law, which expanded government and private coverage. Yet it's uncertain if the nation's newest social program will survive the election. (9/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Moves Closer On Budget Bill Despite Divisions
Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have agreed on $1.1 billion in funding to combat the Zika virus as part of a stopgap spending bill needed to keep the government running beyond next Friday, but they remain divided over whether to include assistance for Flint, Mich., as part of that deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) introduced legislation Thursday that would keep the government funded through Dec. 9, but Democrats said they weren’t ready to sign on to a bill that included flood relief for certain states but doesn’t address the drinking water crisis in Flint. (son, 9/22)

Reuters: Senate Splits Over Bill To Avoid Government Shutdown
A behind-the-scenes congressional battle to avoid a U.S. government shutdown broke into public view on Thursday when Republicans produced a stop-gap funding bill that Democrats immediately rejected. ... Senate Majority Mitch McConnell capped weeks of labored negotiations by proposing a continuing resolution that would fund government agencies from Oct. 1 through Dec. 9 at an annual rate of just over $1 trillion. ... Democrats quickly opposed the resolution as "a Republican-only bill" that would not help Flint, Michigan, cope with lead-contaminated water and would leave in place a prohibition against the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requiring public companies to disclose political spending. (9/22)

The Associated Press: McConnell Unveils Stopgap Spending Bill, Anti-Zika Funds
The Senate's top Republican on Thursday unveiled legislation to prevent a government shutdown next weekend and provide more than $1 billion to battle the Zika virus. It also would provide $500 million to help Louisiana rebuild from last month's devastating floods. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the stopgap measure was "clean" of controversies and he left out internet-related language demanded by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. (9/22)

The Wall Street Journal: House Republicans Warn Against Settling Suits With Insurers Over Health-Care Payments
Congressional Republicans are warning the Obama administration not to settle with insurers that have sued the government over an Affordable Care Act program to compensate them for losses under the law, saying such a move would bypass spending limits set by Congress. Forty-six House Republicans signed a letter sent Thursday to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell saying they oppose any settlements and could sue the administration to block them. (Armour, 9/22)

Reuters: U.S. States Sue Opioid-Maker Indivior, Alleging Anticompetitive Practices
Thirty-five U.S. states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit on Thursday against opioid drug maker Indivior alleging it tried to keep generic versions of a drug off the market. The British company, which was spun off from Reckitt Benckiser in 2014, is the maker of Suboxone, a drug used to treat patients addicted to heroin and other painkillers. (Lynch, 9/23)

The Washington Post: As Overdoses Surge, Two Accused Of Selling Deadly Heroin Laced With Elephant Tranquilizer
A man and a woman from Cincinnati, were indicted Wednesday on charges of dealing heroin laced with carfentinal — the deadly animal tranquilizer officials blame for an unprecedented surge in overdoses in the U.S. — marking what may be the first carfentanil-related criminal case brought in the federal court. A grand jury charged Phillip Watkins, 31, and Jeannetta Crawford, 26, with distributing heroin cut with fentanyl and carfentanil, a heroin analogue that is 10,000 times stronger than the drug itself. (Hawkins, 9/23)

The Washington Post: The Pill Mill Doctor Who Prescribed Thousands Of Opioids And Billed Dead Patients
A former Michigan doctor who ran a pill mill for 16 months, distributing tens of thousands of narcotics and controlled substances to people who didn't need them for medical purposes, has agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that accused him of, among other things, falsifying records to charge dead patients, subjecting patients to unnecessary tests and billing for office visits that never happened. The settlement was announced Wednesday, amid National Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week, and came nearly four years after Hussein Awada, 46, was accused of defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield of about $2.3 million. (Guerra, 9/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Rite Aid Same-Store Sales Pressured By Generics
Rite Aid Corp. said sales figures came in below Wall Street estimates in its second quarter as pharmacy reimbursement-rate pressure and generic drugs cut into results. Same-store sales decreased 2.5% in the quarter from a year ago as a 0.1% increase in retail sales was offset by a 3.6% decrease in pharmacy sales. The company said new generic drugs, which are generally cheaper and less profitable, were responsible for much of the pharmacy decrease. The company also cited a “challenging reimbursement-rate environment.” (Hufford, 9/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Health Diagnostic Laboratory Executives Accused Of Fraud
Executives who ran Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc., a bankrupt Virginia blood-testing lab that health regulators accused of paying kickbacks to doctors, have been sued for allegedly carrying out illegal business practices that plaintiffs say caused the company more than $600 million in damages. Health Diagnostic Laboratory’s top leaders “continuously violated the law” and paid themselves millions through “self-dealing and improper transactions” that prompted the company to file for bankruptcy in June 2015, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Va. (Stech, 9/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Breakthrough Gene Technology Attracts Investors Amid Patent Dispute
Last month, Bayer AG opened the doors on a $335 million joint venture with Crispr Therapeutics to develop therapies using a new gene-editing tool. Later this year, rival Editas Medicine Inc. will move into larger digs as it, too, races ahead with a $200 million-plus effort to leverage the gene-editing tool into new drugs. Companies working on this special technology have raised over $600 million since 2013 in venture capital and the public markets, researchers at Montana State University estimated in 2015. (Dockser Marcus and Palazzolo, 9/22)

NPR/ProPublica: Doctor Confesses: I Lied To Protect Colleague In Malpractice Suit
Almost two decades ago Dr. Lars Aanning sat on the witness stand in a medical malpractice trial and faced a dilemma. The South Dakota surgeon had been called to vouch for the expertise of one of his partners whose patient had suffered a stroke and permanent disability after an operation. The problem was that Aanning had, in his own mind, questioned his colleague's skill. His partner's patients had suffered injuries related to his procedures. But Aanning understood why his partner's attorney had called him as a witness: Doctors don't squeal on doctors. (Allen, 9/23)

NPR: The Obesity Epidemic May Reverse Americans' Gains In Longevity
American lives have been getting steadily longer, and since the 1960s that trend has been driven mostly by a remarkable reduction in heart disease. But those improvements have slowed dramatically. Scientists are now wondering whether we're approaching the end of the trend of longer, healthier lives. That's because the steady decline in heart disease is fading. Most people alive today don't remember the days when many people in their 40s and 50s would simply drop dead of a heart attack. (Harris, 9/23)

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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