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KHN First Edition: October 18, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Staying Out Of The Closet In Old Age
Anna Gorman reports: "As openly gay and lesbian people age, they will increasingly rely on caregivers and move into assisted living communities and nursing homes. And while many rely on friends and partners, more are likely to be single and without adult children, according to research published by the National Institutes of Health. But long-term care facilities frequently lack trained staff and policies to discourage discrimination, advocates and doctors said. That can lead to painful decisions for seniors about whether to hide their sexual orientation or face possible harassment by fellow elderly residents or caregivers with traditional views on sexuality and marriage." (Gorman, 10/17)

California Healthline: Are Blues’ Plans Benefitting Unfairly From Program To Offset Cost Of Sicker Patients?
Chad Terhune reports: "Some health insurers say they’re paying too much to rival Blue Cross Blue Shield plans under a key pillar of the federal health law designed to compensate insurers that take on sicker and more expensive patients. The critics’ chief complaint is that the Affordable Care Act’s risk-adjustment program unfairly rewards health plans — including Blue Shield of California — that have excess administrative costs and higher premiums. That comes at the expense of more efficient, lower-priced plans in the individual market, they say." (Terhune, 10/18)

Kaiser Health News: Scarcity Of Mental Health Care Means Patients — Especially Kids — Land In ER
Shefali Luthra reports: "On any given day, pediatrician Lindsay Irvin estimates a quarter of her patients need psychiatric help. She sees teens who say they are suicidal, and elementary school children who suffer chest pains stemming from bullying anxiety. Though she does her best, she doesn’t consider herself qualified to treat them at the level they need at her practice in San Antonio. She doesn’t have the training, she said, to figure which medications are best suited to treat their various mental health conditions. And she doesn’t have time. She’s juggling stomach ailments, vaccinations and ear aches." (Luthra, 10/17)

Kaiser Health News: 7 Insurers Alleged To Use Skimpy Drug Coverage To Discourage HIV Patients
Michelle Andrews writes: "The health law prohibits insurers from discriminating against people with serious illnesses, but some marketplace plans sidestep that taboo by making the drugs that people with HIV need unavailable or unaffordable, complaints filed recently with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights allege. The effect may be to discourage people with HIV from buying a particular plan or getting the treatment they need, according to the complaint." (Andrews, 10/18)

California Healthline: In A Diverse State, California’s Latino Doctors Push For More Of Their Own
Ana B. Ibarra reports: "Earlier this year, Dr. Joaquin Arambula, an emergency room physician from Selma, became the first Latino physician to serve in the State Assembly after being elected to represent the state’s 31st District — a central California agricultural region where the population is nearly 70 percent Latino. Arambula said he ran for office partly because of the rapidly growing influx of Spanish-speaking patients in his emergency department. He sought reinforcements, “but there aren’t enough doctors with the cultural competency and understanding of the Latino community” to serve this growing population, Arambula said." (Ibarra, 10/18)

The New York Times: HealthCare.Gov Will Add ‘Simple Choice’ Plans In Effort To Improve Value
When the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace opens in two weeks, many consumers will have a new option for the law’s fourth open-enrollment period: standardized health plans that cover basic services without a deductible. With many health plans on the marketplace coming with deductibles in the thousands of dollars, consumers have complained that they were getting little benefit beyond coverage for catastrophic problems. The new standardized options are meant to address that concern — to ensure that “enrollees receive some upfront value for their premium dollars,” as the Obama administration said. (Pear, 10/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Why High Earners Are Likely To See Higher Medicare Premiums In 2017
Low inflation, generally good for purchasing power, is likely to leave some high earners facing higher Medicare premiums next year. When the Social Security Administration on Tuesday releases its annual cost-of-living adjustment for retirement benefits, Americans whose health-care costs are covered by Medicare will be watching to gain insight into how their premiums will rise in 2017. This is because the so-called COLA figure plays a big role in determining premiums for Medicare Part B, which covers doctor visits and other types of outpatient care. (Tergesen, 10/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Pfizer Plans To Launch Remicade Biosimilar In November
The announcement is likely to set up a fierce battle, in the courts as well as in contract talks with health insurers, between two of the biggest drug companies in the world by sales. Pfizer is launching its version, called Inflectra, before the resolution of an ongoing patent dispute with Remicade’s maker Johnson & Johnson. (Rockoff, 10/17)

The Washington Post: Pepsi Wants To Make Its Sodas Better For You — Eventually
PepsiCo says its going to lessen the sugar in its sugary drinks. PepsiCo chief executive Indra Nooyi said Monday that at least two-thirds of the company’s beverages will contain 100 calories or less per 12-ounce serving by 2025. Nooyi said the beverage giant will focus on selling more low- or zero-calorie products. Advances in technology and artificial sweeteners are creating soft drinks that better duplicate the taste of sugary drinks but with fewer calories. (Heath, 10/17)

The Wall Street Journal: PepsiCo Doubling Down On Health Push
PepsiCo Inc. is doubling down on its health push, announcing new targets Monday to reduce sugar, salt and fat in its beverages and snacks by 2025. The new goals by the maker of Lay’s potato chips, Gatorade sports drinks and Quaker oatmeal coincide with global concerns about rising obesity, including growing calls in many countries to tax or curb sugar consumption. (Esterl, 10/17)

The Washington Post: Right-To-Die Law Faces Skepticism In Nation’s Capital: ‘It’s Really Aimed At Old Black People’
The D.C. Council is poised to approve legislation making the District the nation’s sixth jurisdiction to allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill residents, adding momentum to a practice that had long been controversial but is gaining acceptance among elected leaders, the medical community and the public. A majority of D.C. Council members say they plan to vote for the bill when it comes before them Tuesday. (Nirappil, 10/17)

NPR: IBOT Wheelchair May Ride Again — Better Than Ever
Thirteen years ago, just as the United States began what was to become its longest war, a futuristic wheelchair hit the market. The iBOT allowed paralyzed people, including many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, to stand up by rising to eye level. It also did something no wheelchair ever had: climb stairs. But even though users loved it, the iBOT went out of production in 2009 when Johnson & Johnson discontinued it. (Lawrence, 10/17)

The Washington Post: Depression Sometimes Accompanies Autoimmune Diseases
Some people with auto­immune diseases also suffer from depression, mood disorders and cognitive impairment. This happens when certain autoantibodies cross the blood-brain barrier, the body’s natural blocking mechanism for protecting the brain, and attach themselves to specific receptors on brain chemicals that carry information between brain cells. (Cimons, 10/17)

The Washington Post: Lupus And Pregnancy: New Treatments Steer Clear Of Birth Defects
“Twenty-five years ago, a woman with lupus probably would not have considered having kids, because she simply couldn’t physically take care of them” because of crushing fatigue that often is part of the disease, says Eliza Chakravarty, a rheumatologist at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. “But today, for many of these women, it’s not only feasible to have kids, but desirable.” Earlier diagnosis and medications now enable women with lupus to slow down the progression of their disease and treat many of the symptoms, enabling them to “live more fully in their lives,” she says. (Cimons, 10/17)

The Washington Post: Calcium Supplements Could Increase Risk Of Heart Disease, New Study Finds
Calcium supplements that many women take to boost bone health increase their risk for heart disease, a new study has found. The results show that calcium supplements make people more prone to plaque buildup in arteries, which contributes to the risk of a heart attack. The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, is the latest salvo in a nearly decade-long debate about whether the supplements do more harm than good. (McDaniels, 10/17)

Los Angeles Times: Why Infants Pay More Attention To People Who Speak Their Native Language
As anyone who’s tried to befriend a baby knows, the very young are a tough crowd. In response to your solicitous babble, a baby might lock eyes with you. Just as likely, though, she’ll stare insistently into an empty distance, spit up, or dispatch you with a wail of protest. New research suggests that babies are highly selective — discriminating even — in whom they will pay attention to. And even before their first birthdays, this research shows, babies distinguish between “people like me” and all others. (Healy, 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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