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KHN First Edition: October 6, 2016


First Edition

Thursday, October 06, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

California Healthline: New Law Will Expand Mental Health Services For Low-Income Californians
Anna Gorman, for California Healthline, reports: "The staff of Clinica Sierra Vista, which has health centers throughout the Central Valley, screened its mostly low-income patients last year for mental health needs and determined that nearly 30 percent suffered from depression, anxiety or alcoholism.Christopher Reilly, Sierra Vista’s chief of behavioral health services, said he was concerned about the high percentage of patients afflicted, but even more so about the clinic’s ability to treat them." (Gorman, 10/6)

The Associated Press: Rising Cost Of Medicaid Expansion Is Unnerving Some States
The cost of expanding Medicaid under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is rising faster than expected in many states, causing budget anxieties and political misgivings. Far more people than projected are signing up under the new, more relaxed eligibility requirements, and their health care costs are running higher than anticipated, in part because the new enrollees are apparently sicker than expected. Rising drug prices may also be a factor. (10/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Accuse Mylan Of Overcharging Government For EpiPen
The federal government says that Mylan NV has overcharged the federal-state Medicaid program by millions of dollars over five years for its emergency auto-injector product called the EpiPen. In a letter Wednesday, Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said Mylan wrongly classified the emergency epinephrine product as a generic, when it should have been classified as a brand-name product. In doing so, Mr. Slavitt wrote, Mylan paid a smaller rebate of 13%, or about $163 million, when it should have been paying a rebate of 23.1% or more. (Burton, 10/5)

Reuters: Customers Sue UnitedHealth Over Prescription Drug Co-Pay Costs
UnitedHealth Group Inc has been sued by three customers who accused the largest U.S. health insurer of charging co-payments for prescription drugs that were higher than their actual cost and pocketing the difference. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Minnesota by three UnitedHealth customers, seeks to represent a nationwide class that it says could include "tens of thousands" of people insured by UnitedHealth. (Pierson, 10/5)

The Washington Post: Theranos Will Close Labs And Walgreens Testing Sites, Laying Off Hundreds Of Employees
Elizabeth Holmes, the embattled founder and chief executive of Theranos, said late Wednesday that the company will close its clinical labs and Walgreens testing centers. The open letter, posted on the company’s website, was essentially an epitaph for the consumer business that was the focus of the once-celebrated Silicon Valley company that Holmes boasted would change the world with its simple and inexpensive pinprick blood test. In magazine interviews, TV appearances and keynote speeches she gave around the world, Holmes said the innovation would empower consumers by giving them the ability to bypass the gatekeepers — their doctors — to get important information about the health of their own bodies. (Cha, 10/5)

USA Today: Embattled Theranos Founder Announces Company Pivot
Embattled Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes announced Wednesday that the once high-flying biotech start-up would close its Wellness Centers and lay off 340 employees. Holmes wrote in a company blog post that Theranos would instead focus on a proprietary blood testing machine that would, in theory, requires mere drops of blood to perform tests that traditionally require vials of blood. (della Cava, 10/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Retreats From Blood Tests
The shutdowns and layoffs could help the closely held company accelerate its shift to developing products that could be sold to outside laboratories. Ms. Holmes announced in August a new blood-testing device called miniLab, which is about the size of a printer but hasn’t been approved by regulators. (Carreyrou and Weaver, 10/6)

The New York Times: How Much Is It Worth To Hold Your Newborn? $40, Apparently
After holding his newborn son for the first time at a Utah hospital last month, a man found a strange charge on his bill: $39.35.The man, Ryan Grassley, thought the charge, which appeared to be for holding his baby to his wife’s chest, was a bit of a joke. (The charge was listed as “skin to skin after C-sec.”) So he didn’t take it too seriously when he posted a picture of the bill on Reddit. ... The Reddit post touched a nerve with people because it seemed to underscore a national frustration with unexpected hospital fees and arcane medical billing. (Bromwich, 10/5)

The New York Times: For Transgender Youths In New York, It Would Be A Health Care Milestone
The New York State Health Department has signaled that it intends to allow transgender youths to receive Medicaid coverage for hormones that forestall puberty, wiping away prohibitions that have been criticized by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups. The move, announced on Wednesday in a proposed rule in the State Register, would allow minors who are being treated for gender dysphoria to receive Medicaid payment for pubertal suppressants and cross-sex hormone therapy, which mimic the biological chemistry of the opposite gender. (McKinley, 10/5)

The New York Times: As Drug Deaths Soar, A Silver Lining For Transplant Patients
The surge in deaths from drug overdoses has become an unexpected lifeline for people waiting for organ transplants, turning tragedy for some into salvation for others. As more people die from overdoses than ever before, their organs — donated in advance by them or after the fact by their families — are saving lives of people who might otherwise die waiting for a transplant. (Seelye, 10/6)

The Wall Street Journal: The Pill Makers Next Door: How America’s Opioid Crisis Is Spreading
The married couple living in the third-floor, ocean-view apartment were friendly and ambitious. She explored the city, posting selfies on Facebook. He started a small music label at home. “They were nice people,” said Ann McGlenon, their former landlady. “She’s very sweet. He’s a go-getter.” Authorities say Candelaria Vazquez and Kia Zolfaghari had darker aspirations. (Kamp and Campo-Flores, 10/5)

The Washington Post: A 7-Year-Old Told Her Bus Driver She Couldn’t Wake Her Parents. Police Found Them Dead At Home.
For more than a day, the 7-year-old girl had been trying to wake her parents. Dutifully, she got dressed in their apartment outside Pittsburgh on Monday morning and went to school, keeping her worries to herself. But on the bus ride home, McKeesport, Pa., police say, she told the driver she’d been unable to rouse the adults in her house. Inside the home, authorities found the bodies of Christopher Dilly, 26, and Jessica Lally, 25, dead of suspected drug overdoses, according to police. (Wootson, 10/5)

The New York Times: What’s The Longest Humans Can Live? 115 Years, New Study Says
On Aug. 4, 1997, Jeanne Calment passed away in a nursing home in France. The Reaper comes for us all, of course, but he was in no hurry for Mrs. Calment. She died at age 122, setting a record for human longevity. Jan Vijg doubts we will see the likes of her again. True, people have been living to greater ages over the past few decades. But now, he says, we have reached the upper limit of human longevity. (Zimmer, 10/5)

Los Angeles Times: When, And Why, Must We Die?
Life-extension zealots have championed many strategies aimed at prolonging our days here on Earth, and not all sound like much fun (I’m thinking specifically about caloric restriction). Super-centenarians — those rare humans who live beyond the age of 110 — by contrast seem to embrace much more appealing life-extension strategies: They routinely endorse regular naps, consumption of large quantities of chocolate, and a daily nip of strong drink, for instance. (10/5)

The Associated Press: Study: Good Heart Attack Care Could Add A Year To Your Life
Going to the right hospital for heart attack care could add a year to your life, a new study suggests. Using Medicare records, researchers found that roughly 17 years after a heart attack, average life expectancy was 9 to 14 months longer for patients who had been treated at hospitals that do best on widely used quality measures than for those treated at low-rated ones. (10/5)

The Associated Press: Official Says Phoenix VA Health Care System Has Improved
Despite a new report raising serious questions about the quality of care within the Phoenix VA Health Care System, a top official in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs said Wednesday that significant progress has been made. ... The report, which was released Tuesday, found Phoenix VA staff inappropriately canceled medical consults that possibly contributed to the death of one veteran who did not get a recommended stress test. Consults include appointments, lab tests, teleconferencing and other planned patient contacts. (10/5)

The Washington Post: After War Wounds And A Long Wait, A Quadruple Amputee Gets New Arms — And A New Life
Retired Marine Corps Sgt. John Peck is crying as he lies on the operating table, the stumps of his arms anesthetized, the room filled with lights and figures in blue scrubs. He’s been praying since his plane left Virginia the night before, asking for strength. And a nurse keeps trying to comfort him. But the weight of what’s happening has hit him, and for the moment he is overcome. It’s been six years since he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and became a quadruple amputee. Almost two years since he got on the waiting list for a double arm transplant. Less than 24 hours since the urgent summons from the hospital here. (Ruane, 10/5)

Los Angeles Times: This Is What Can Happen If An E-Cigarette Blows Up While You’re Using It
It was an injury unlike any Dr. Elisha Brownson had seen — a young man whose teeth were blown out when his electronic cigarette exploded in his mouth. His injuries were so severe he was admitted to the trauma intensive care unit.“I had never heard of an injury mechanism like this before,” said Brownson, a surgeon who specializes in treating people with burns. The patient “left a gruesome impression on me.” (Kaplan, 10/5)

The Washington Post: Activists Warn That PCBs — Toxic Industrial Chemicals — Contaminate Thousands Of U.S. Schools
Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are industrial chemicals so toxic that Congress banned them 40 years ago. Research has shown that they can cause a range of health concerns, including cancer and neurological problems such as decreased IQ. And yet, because they were commonly used in building materials for decades, they continue to contaminate classrooms in between 13,000 and 26,000 schools nationwide, according to Harvard researchers. No one knows exactly how many schools are affected — nor how many children are being exposed to these toxic chemicals — because many schools don’t test for PCBs. Under federal law, they don’t have to. (Brown, 10/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Alnylam Shares Plunge As A Drug Candidate Is Discontinued
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. said it discontinued development of its rare-disease treatment revusiran following unfavorable clinical trial data, an announcement that led to the loss of about $2.6 billion in market value in after-hours trading. The company, which focuses on treatments for rare diseases, was developing the drug as a potential treatment for hereditary ATTR amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy. (Beckerman, 10/5)

NPR: Biotrial Unveils Test Site In Newark, N.J., For Clinical Trials
One man died and four were injured in January after a clinical trial went awry in Rennes, France. Now, Biotrial, the company that ran that study, said it has opened a new research facility in Newark, N.J. Biotrial conducts clinical trials on behalf of drugmakers and biotechnology companies. (Bichell, 10/5)

The Washington Post: Ask A MacArthur ‘Genius': Can Breaking Carbon-Hydrogen Bonds Change The Course Of Modern Medicine?
Jin-Quan Yu never expected to receive a MacArthur “genius” grant. But then again, nobody expected a scientist whose career took nearly two decades to launch to change the way people think about the building blocks of life. In his lab at the Scripps Institute in San Diego, the 2016 MacArthur fellow focuses on tiny molecular bonds that hold the world together. Carbon-hydrogen (C-H) bonds are so strong that they’re nearly inseparable. That stability is predictable, but there’s a trade-off to the reliable partnership: The bonds aren’t reactive, so they don’t respond to traditional catalysts. (Blakemore, 10/5)

The Washington Post: ‘An Act Of Kindness’: Medical Aid-In-Dying Legislation Advances In The District
A D.C. Council panel on Wednesday advanced a bill allowing physicians to prescribe fatal medication to help terminally ill residents legally end their lives, setting the stage for a fight over the emotionally charged issue in the nation’s capital. The legislation squeaked out of the Committee on Health and Human Services on a 3-to-2 vote after an intense lobbying effort from patients pleading for an option to avoid prolonged suffering and from religious leaders and medical professionals who object to the prospect of hastening death. (Nirappil, 10/5)

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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