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KHN First Edition: October 17, 2016


First Edition

Monday, October 17, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

California Healthline: Would California’s Proposed Tobacco Tax Hike Reduce Smoking?
KQED's April Dembosky writes: "Do tobacco taxes reduce smoking?It’s an important question as four states, including California, prepare to vote on whether to raise their tobacco tax in November.Research and anecdotal evidence suggest it can.  For every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, smoking goes down 4 percent, according to a 2014 report on smoking by the U.S. surgeon general." (Dembosky, 10/17)

The Associated Press: Medicare Unveils Far-Reaching Overhaul Of Doctors' Pay
Changing the way it does business, Medicare on Friday unveiled a far-reaching overhaul of how it pays doctors and other clinicians. The goal is to reward quality, penalize poor performance, and avoid paying piecemeal for services. Whether it succeeds or fails, it's one of the biggest changes in Medicare's 50-year history. (10/14)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Officials Finalize Rule For Medicare Payments To Doctors
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released the highly anticipated rule, which introduces new bonuses and penalties tied to performance for 712,000 doctors and other clinicians starting in 2019. The new bonuses and penalties would be paid or imposed depending on how well doctors do on measures of quality, electronic health records and managing costs. Doctors can also enter Medicare contracts that include quality and cost-control incentives and earn bonuses. (Evans, 10/14)

The Washington Post: In North Carolina, ACA Insurer Defections Leave Little Choice For Many Consumers
More than 250,000 people in North Carolina are losing the health plans they bought under the Affordable Care Act because two of the three insurers are dropping out — a stark example of the disruption roiling marketplaces in many parts of the country. The defections mean that almost all of the state, from the Blue Ridge to the Outer Banks, will have just one insurer selling ACA policies when the exchanges open again for business in November. The remaining company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, agonized over whether to leave, too. Instead, it is raising its rates by nearly 25 percent. (Goldstein, 10/14)

The New York Times: Living As A Man, Fighting Breast Cancer: How Trans People Face Care Gaps
A diagnosis of breast cancer at age 27 is shattering for anyone. But for Eli Oberman, it came with extra layers of anxiety. He is a transgender man, who was born female but began taking male hormones when he was 19 to change gender. Like many transgender people, Mr. Oberman switched gender without having surgery to change his body. The cancer was a stark reminder that he was still vulnerable to illnesses from his original anatomy — and that the medical world has blind spots in its understanding of how to take care of trans men and women. (Grady, 10/16)

The Washington Post: Biden’s Final ‘Cancer Moonshot’ Report Outlines Progress And Hurdles
Vice President Biden is expected to tell President Obama on Monday that the administration’s “cancer moonshot” effort infused new urgency in the fight against the disease but that formidable challenges remain, including a lack of coordination among researchers, an “antiquated” funding culture and unacceptably slow dissemination of important information about new treatments. (McGinley, 10/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Sets Price Increases For Some Drugs
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. on Friday said it was raising the prices of its stomach, neurology and urology drugs from 2% to 9%, effective immediately. The company also said it wouldn’t increase the prices of its eye and skin drugs at all this year. Yet Wells Fargo Securities said Valeant raised the price of three eye drugs in September, each by 9.9%. (Rockoff and Steele, 10/14)

The Wall Street Journal: The Biggest Pharma Election Risk Is In California
The possibility of Democrats capturing the presidency and Congress is worrying enough for pharmaceutical and other health-care investors. But that isn’t the full extent of risk that shareholders face this election season. ... Most of her proposals would require an act of Congress to enact, which becomes more likely the better Democrats do at the voting booths.There are risks elsewhere too, though. California voters are set to weigh in on a referendum known as Proposition 61. (Grant, 10/16)

The Washington Post: The Drug Industry’s Answer To Opioid Addiction: More Pills
Cancer patients taking high doses of opioid painkillers are often afflicted by a new discomfort: constipation. Researcher Jonathan Moss thought he could help, but no drug company was interested in his ideas for relieving suffering among the dying. So Moss and his colleagues pieced together small grants and, in 1997, received permission to test their treatment. But not on cancer patients. Federal regulators urged them to use a less frail — and by then, rapidly expanding — group: addicts caught in the throes of a nationwide opioid epidemic. Suddenly, Moss said, investors were knocking at his door. (Cha, 10/16)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Seeks Curb On Chemicals Used To Make Fentanyl, A Powerful Opioid
The U.S. has asked the United Nations to help curb the trade of chemicals used to make illicit batches of fentanyl, a powerful opioid painkiller causing thousands of overdose deaths nationwide. In a letter to the U.N. Secretary-General last week, Secretary of State John Kerry asked that two fentanyl ingredients be added to a list of controlled substances in a U.N. convention that regulates narcotics internationally, according to a copy of the letter provided by the State Department. (Whalen, 10/14)

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Celebrates Centennial As Its Foes Bristle
Planned Parenthood's 100th anniversary celebrations this weekend come with a sense of relief for the group that traces its roots to a time when women could not vote and contraception was illegal. The organization, whose services include birth control, sex education and abortions, has survived largely intact in the face of violence, vilification and fierce efforts in Congress and many states to cut its funding. (10/15)

The New York Times: One Family’s Struggle With Microcephaly, The Birth Defect Now Linked To Zika
The morning after Christine Grounds gave birth to her son Nicholas, she awoke to find a neurologist examining her baby. It was summer 2006, and Nicholas was her first child. There had been no indication that anything was wrong during her pregnancy, but it was soon clear that there was a problem. “Did you know he has microcephaly?” she remembers the doctor asking matter-of-factly. (Santora, 10/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Assisted-Suicide Fight Moves To Colorado
The latest front in the battle over doctor-assisted suicide is unfolding in Colorado, where voters will consider a ballot measure next month that would permit physicians to aid terminally ill patients in dying. Proposition 106 would allow adults who have six months or less to live, and are mentally competent, to take medication prescribed by a doctor to end their lives. (Frosch, 10/16)

Los Angeles Times: U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Law That Requires Religious Clinics To Inform Women Of Abortion Options
A federal appeals court Friday unanimously upheld the constitutionality of a new California law that requires religiously affiliated pregnancy clinics to inform women about abortion options. The law, which took effect in January, says licensed clinics must disseminate information to women about government programs that provide free or low-cost services for family planning, abortions and prenatal care. (Dolan, 10/14)

The Associated Press: Dozen People Charged In $100M Health Care Scheme In Texas
Federal prosecutors in Texas said Friday that a dozen people have been charged in a $100 million health care scheme targeting military veterans and their families. The defendants, including doctors, pharmacists and marketers, were charged in a 35-count overruling indictment returned last week in Dallas, according to U.S. Attorney John Parker. Prosecutors contend the men sought to defraud Tricare, the health insurance program for veterans and their families. (10/14)

Los Angeles Times: California's Under-21 Smoking Ban Could Be A National Test Case
lifornia this year became the second state after Hawaii to raise its minimum smoking age to 21. When the law took effect in June, state public health officials declared it would “literally be a life-saving measure. ”But experts say it’s too soon to know whether the law will live up to such claims, and there are few studies from elsewhere pointing the way. (Karlamangla, 10/17)

NPR: Is A Smartphone Accurate Enough To Monitor Heart Conditions?
Digital gizmos can monitor your heart, whether it's a wrist-worn fitness tracker or a smartphone app to help cardiologists analyze diagnostic tests. The question is whether they're going to do your heart any good. The short answer: it depends. New research finds that wrist-worn fitness trackers become less accurate with more vigorous exercise, which presumably is when you'd most want to know your heart rate. The study, published Wednesday in JAMA Cardiology, tested the Apple Watch, FitBit Charge HR, Basis Peak and Mio Alpha wristbands. (Ross, 10/15)

NPR: Skeptics Question The Value Of Hydration Therapy For The Healthy
Yana Shapiro is a partner at a Philadelphia law firm, has an exhausting travel schedule and two boys, ages 9 and 4. When she feels run-down from juggling everything and feels a cold coming on, she books an appointment for an intravenous infusion of water, vitamins and minerals. "Anything to avoid antibiotics or being out of commission," the 37-year-old says. (English, 10/17)

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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