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KHN First Edition: July 7, 2015


First Edition

Tuesday, July 07, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Covering Poor Children Without Legal Status Is First Step, Say California Advocates
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "When Fabiola Ortiz heard California had granted health coverage to poor children lacking legal immigration status, she felt grateful. Since arriving in the U.S. illegally 12 years ago, she has taken her two youngest children to the doctor only for required school physicals and relied on home remedies for everything else. ... The coverage under Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid, is expected to result in more preventive care and better long-term health for an estimated 170,000 children who have long relied on safety-net clinics and emergency rooms. But while many policymakers, advocates and researchers celebrated the budget deal announced by Gov. Jerry Brown last month, they also said the new coverage is limited because it doesn’t guarantee access to doctors and doesn’t include adults." (Gorman, 7/7)

Kaiser Health News: ‘A Terrible Way To End Someone’s Life’
Southern California Public Radio's Stephanie O'Neill, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Dr. Kendra Fleagle Gorlitsky recalls the anguish she used to feel performing CPR on elderly, terminally ill patients. 'I felt like I was beating up people up at the end of their life,' she says. ... Gorlitsky wants something different for herself and for her loved ones. And most other doctors do too: A Stanford University study shows almost 90 percent of doctors would forego resuscitation and aggressive treatment if facing a terminal illness. It was about 10 years ago, after a colleague had died swiftly and peacefully, that Dr. Ken Murray first noticed doctors die differently than the rest of us." (O'Neill, 7/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Fight Over Affordable Care Act Turns To Medical-Device Tax
Congressional Republicans see a repeal of a tax on medical devices as their best opportunity to chip away at the Affordable Care Act after the Supreme Court’s recent decision turning away a challenge to a key component of the law. The House has already voted to repeal the tax, and Senate Republicans are weighing the best timing for a vote to undo the levy, which helps underwrite the health law. President Barack Obama would almost certainly veto a stand-alone repeal, but with a number of Democrats also opposed to the tax, lawmakers think they may be close to having the votes needed to override the president, or insist the tax be rolled back as part of a grand bargain on spending bills later this year. (Stanley-Becker, 7/6)

The Associated Press: Q&A: As Obama Health Law Survives, GOP Split Over Next Move
Last month's Supreme Court decision upholding the statute's federal subsidies, which help millions of Americans afford health care, shattered the GOP's best chance of forcing Obama to accept a weakening of his prized law. Without that leverage, Obama would likely veto any major changes they'd send him. They could, however, try sending him veto-bait legislation designed to show voters how they'd reshape the nation's health care system — if only Republicans could agree on what to do. With the GOP-run Congress back from a July 4 break, here's a look at their problematic path. (Fram, 7/6)

Los Angeles Times: In Ironic Twist, S.F. Is Worried Obamacare Could Hurt Its Most Vulnerable Residents
Nearly 10 years ago, this county by the bay known for its progressive political leaps became one of the first in the nation to offer residents universal access to healthcare. Now the federal Affordable Care Act has been rolled out nationwide with the same goal in mind. But in an ironic twist, officials in this city are worried the new law could adversely affect some of the most vulnerable San Franciscans. The local health program known as Healthy San Francisco, which has served as many as 60,000 patients annually since its creation in 2007, is almost free. Obamacare plans, however, are not. (Karlamangla, 7/6)

Politico: NIH Sees Reversal Of Fortune With Proposed Funding Boosts
After a dozen years of flat funding, the National Institutes of Health has become a top target on Capitol Hill — not for less money but more, potentially billions more by 2020. It’s a remarkable turnaround for the huge medical research agency, one triggered by a confluence of circumstances. Fears that the United States is losing ground to international competitors in science and technology synched with lawmakers’ need to show frustrated voters that they can work in a bipartisan manner, and NIH offered “an easy win” on both, advocates say. (Karlin, 7/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Deal-Related Jitters Hit Humana, Aetna
After weeks of banking on a takeover, Humana Inc.’s shareholders reacted coolly to news of the insurer’s $34.1 billion announced sale to Aetna Inc., amid concerns over the deal’s antitrust prospects, the possibility of an interloper and weakness in Humana’s own business. ... The largest unknown is antitrust approval, investors and analysts said. Aetna and Humana are the third- and fourth-biggest U.S. health insurers by revenue, and together would have about a million more Medicare subscribers than their next-closest competitor. (Hoffman and Wilde Mathews, 7/6)

The Washington Post: More Competition Is Supposed To Help Consumers. That Might Not Be True With Health Insurance.
You may have heard the news over the weekend of a mega-merger between two of the country's biggest health insurance companies, Aetna and Humana. The $37 billion deal is just one of a series that are expected to reshape the health insurance landscape, after the Supreme Court decision last month made it clear that health care reform was here to stay. The question most people care about outside Wall Street -- what effect these mergers will have on what we pay for health care is a source of some disagareement among specialists. One of the most surprising -- and weird -- things about the insurer merger mania is that ultimately, some analysts think it might have benefits for consumers. But others say there is some evidence that a marketplace with fewer insurers will be bad for consumers. (Johnson, 7/6)

The Associated Press: The Battle For Control Of The Human Breast Milk Industry
It could trade for 400 times more than the price of crude oil and 2,000 times more than iron ore. If sold off the shelf, it could cost more than 150 times the price of a gallon of cow’s milk and 15 times more than coffee. Going for as much as $4 per ounce, human breast milk is a hot commodity that is emerging as a surprisingly cutthroat industry, one that states are now seeking to regulate amid a battle for control between nonprofit and for-profit banks that supply hospital neonatal units. (Catalini, 7/7)

Los Angeles Times: A New Beginning For MLK Hospital And The Community
For several decades, King/Drew hospital in South Los Angeles served one of the neediest parts of Los Angeles .... Its opening in 1972 was viewed as a victory of the civil rights era and a source of pride for black Los Angeles. But plagued in later years by poor medical care, staff errors and a series of controversial patient deaths, it came to be viewed by many as a place of peril, nicknamed Killer King. On Tuesday, delivering on a long-delayed promise to replace the facility, officials will open the doors on the new, state-of-the-art Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital. It shares the site of the original medical center, but it has a new management structure and operating philosophy as it enters a dramatically different healthcare landscape than the one exited by its predecessor. (Karlamangla and Jennings, 7/6)

The Associated Press: California Right-To-Die Bill Struggling Ahead Of Key Vote
A bill that would allow California physicians to help terminally ill patients end their lives is struggling to muster enough support ahead of a legislative vote Tuesday. Aid-in-dying advocates had hoped the nationally publicized case of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to legally end her life last fall, would prompt a wave of new state laws allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medications. No state has passed right-to-die legislation this year, however, and efforts have been defeated or stalled in Colorado, Maine, New Jersey and elsewhere. (Nirappil, 7/7)

NPR: 'No One Should Have The Right To Prolong My Death'
When Jennifer Glass goes to Sacramento Tuesday to deliver testimony in favor of the California End-of-Life-Options Act, the trip will require some complex logistics. ... Glass's testimony in support of the right to die is an intensely personal one. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013, and last month she learned it had become resistant to the oral Tarceva she was taking; the cancer is now in both lungs and in her liver, abdomen, pelvis, cervix and brain. ... The bill, the most recent in a long line of such bills that have been introduced in California since 1995, passed the state Senate in early June by a vote of 23 to 14. The Assembly's health committee is scheduled to vote on it Tuesday. (Marantz Henig, 7/7)

NPR/ProPublica: Industry Payments To Nurses Go Unreported In Federal Database
A nurse practitioner in Connecticut pleaded guilty in June to taking $83,000 in kickbacks from a drug company in exchange for prescribing its high-priced drug to treat cancer pain. In some cases, she delivered promotional talks attended only by herself and a company sales representative. But when the federal government released data Tuesday on payments by drug and device companies to doctors and teaching hospitals, the payments to nurse practitioner Heather Alfonso, 42, were nowhere to be found. That's because the federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act doesn't require companies to publicly report payments to nurse practitioners or physician assistants, even though they are allowed to write prescriptions in most states. (Ornstein, 7/6)

The Washington Post: Breast Cancer And Mammograms: Study Suggests ‘Widespread Overdiagnosis’
The importance of regular mammograms to ending breast cancer has been widely endorsed by everyone from a government-backed panel to patient advocacy groups and Angelina Jolie. Is it possible they've all been wrong? A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine published Monday looked at data from 16 million women in 547 U.S. counties in 2000. More than 53,000 were diagnosed with breast cancer that year. As expected, the researchers found that the number of breast cancer diagnoses rose with more aggressive screenings. The surprise: the number of deaths remained the same. (Cha, 7/6)

The Associated Press: 'Stunning' Number Of Large Drug Doses By Doctor, Expert Says
Patients of a Detroit-area doctor received "stunning" doses of a powerful, expensive drug that exposed them to life-threatening infections, an expert testified Monday as a judge heard details about a cancer specialist who fleeced insurance companies and harmed hundreds of people. Dr. Farid Fata is headed to prison for fraud and other crimes. But U.S. District Judge Paul Borman first is hearing from experts and former patients about the extent of his scheme to reap millions of dollars from Medicare and other health programs. (White, 7/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Cancer Doctor Farid Fata Faces Potential Life In Prison
Marietta Crabtree dabbed her teary eyes with tissue while she clutched a printout of the words her husband never had a chance to speak against Dr. Farid Fata. The cancer doctor—who pleaded guilty to Medicare fraud in September after being accused of giving hundreds of patients unnecessary or inappropriate treatments, including chemotherapy—potentially faces life in prison in a federal sentencing hearing that began Monday. (Dolan, 7/6)

Detroit Free Press/USA Today: Witness: Cancer Doctor's Treatment 'Over The Top'
A metro Detroit doctor who raked in millions of dollars committing fraud against insurance companies grossly over treated hundreds of patients, sometimes giving nearly four times the recommended dosage amount of aggressive cancer drugs, a government witness testified Monday in federal court. Dozens of victims and their families packed into a courtroom and overflow rooms to face Dr. Farid Fata, 50, who has admitted to reaping millions through the treatments. (Stafford, 7/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Foodborne Illness Risk Lives On
Packaged caramel-coated apples. Frozen ice cream sandwiches. Fresh peaches and nectarines. Organic chia seed powder. Products such as these, rarely considered a risk for foodborne illness before, all have been recalled from store shelves in the past year or so. The foods were linked to disease outbreaks in multiple states. Public health officials say the outbreaks are largely because of safety gaps in the way food is processed, manufactured and packaged, as microbes, such as listeria and salmonella, contaminate more foods. (Landro, 7/6)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Cloud Hangs Over Vape Shops
Within the next two months, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to complete rules that would require federal approval for nearly all flavored liquid nicotine juices and e-cig devices sold in vape shops like Mr. Mercer’s. The approval process could cost anywhere from $2 million to $10 million to collect data and put forward an application for each item, according to the regulatory consulting company SciLucent LLC. (Mickle, 7/6)

Los Angeles Times: 'Female Viagra' A Political Tightrope For FDA, Advisors Warn
Science and politics are making uneasy bedfellows as officials at the Food and Drug Administration weigh a proposed drug to enhance female sexual desire, a trio of experts on drug safety warned Monday. The FDA is expected to decide next month whether it will allow Sprout Pharmaceuticals to market the drug flibanserin as a treatment for low sexual desire in premenopausal women. The agency has rejected flibanserin twice before. But its latest round of deliberations follow last month's 18-6 vote in favor of approval by an FDA advisory panel .... In an editorial published online Monday in JAMA, three members of the advisory panel warned that the agency's decision is being made in a "politically charged atmosphere." (Healy, 7/6)

The Washington Post: Most Antipsychotic Drugs Prescribed To Teens Without Mental Health Diagnosis, Study Says
A new study indicates that antipsychotic drug use has been on the rise among adolescents, even though most had not been diagnosed with a mental disorder. The study, published this week in JAMA Psychiatry, used data from thousands of prescriptions to analyze trends between 2006 and 2010. The percentage of teens using the medication ticked up during the time period, with the highest rates of usage recorded among teens ages 13-18, according to the data. About 1.19 percent of that age group were using the drugs in 2010, compared with about 1.1 percent in 2006. (Gebelhoff, 7/6)

The Wall Street Journal: The Mystery Of Chronic Lyme Disease
For most people, Lyme disease, when caught early enough, is resolved after two to four weeks of treatment with antibiotics. But for as much as an estimated 10% of patients treated for the disease, symptoms, such as severe muscle and joint pain, fatigue and cognitive difficulties, can last for months or even years. The condition is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, or PTLDS, and experts are divided on what it is, what causes it and how best to treat it. (Reddy, 7/6)

USA Today: The Digital Doctor Is In: Next Wave In Health Care
In today's digitally focused world, there are some cases where a trip to the doctor can be easily replaced with the download of an app or the power of a text message. The health care industry is in the midst of a technological boom, a transition which physician Bob Wachter, author of The Digital Doctor, says is necessary – but no one has gotten it completely right yet. (Thadani, 7/6)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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