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KHN First Edition: October 21, 2016


First Edition

Friday, October 21, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: To Curb Unintended Pregnancy, States Turn To IUDs — In The Delivery Room
Shefali Luthra reports: "Health officials are trying to rebuild [Texas’s] women’s health program, a complicated project launched after Texas in 2011 cut funds for family planning that had been going to Planned Parenthood and other clinics affiliated — even loosely — with abortion providers. As part of the new program, the state is trying to bolster low-income women’s access to birth control to curb unintended pregnancies. Nationally, about half of pregnancies are unintended. And Texas is one of nearly two dozen states changing their Medicaid programs, the federal-state insurance plan for low-income people, to pay hospitals for inserting an IUD or contraceptive implant in the delivery room." (Luthra, 10/21)

Kaiser Health News: Long-Term, Reversible Contraception Gains Traction With Young Women
WFAE's Michael Tomsic reports: "Nurse practitioner Kim Hamm talked in soothing tones to her 14-year-old patient as she inserted a form of long-acting contraception beneath the skin of the girl’s upper arm. ... Hamm works at the Gaston County Teen Wellness Center, in Gastonia, N.C., which provides counseling, education and medical care. The teenager had already talked through her birth control options with another health care provider and chosen the implant — a flexible rod, about the size of a matchstick, that slowly releases low levels of hormones to prevent pregnancy." (Tomsic, 10/21)

Kaiser Health News: Researchers Unlock Mystery Of How Zika Spreads In Human Cells
Rachel Bluth reports: "Researchers have discovered a piece in the puzzle of how the Zika virus spreads in human cells and neutralizes the body’s defenses. A study by scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine answered a fundamental question posed by biologists: What happens when the virus enters a human cell?" (Bluth, 10/20)

California Healthline: Orange County Man Dies After Apparent Failure Of Artificial Heart Compressor
Anna Gorman reports: "The Food and Drug Administration is investigating repeated problems with a portable compressor for artificial hearts that may have played a role in the death earlier this month of a 57-year-old Orange County man. Officials at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where the man’s artificial heart was implanted, said they believe the apparent failure of the compressor may have caused his death. The hospital said it has stopped using the device with new patients, pending guidance from regulators." (Gorman, 10/20)

The Associated Press: Obama: Health Care Law Worked, But Improvements Needed
President Barack Obama on Thursday defended his namesake health care program, long a target of Republicans and recently criticized by some Democrats, saying millions of Americans "now know the financial security of health insurance" because of the Affordable Care Act. "It's worked," he said, even while allowing that the program isn't perfect. "No law is." (10/20)

USA Today: Obama Offers Prescription For Affordable Care Act 'Growing Pains'
President Obama acknowledged "growing pains" with his signature health insurance law on Thursday, offering a number of proposals that he said would expand health insurance and reduce premiums. ... He compared it to a "starter home" that needs improvements over time, and even to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, a smartphone recalled last month after they started catching fire. "When one of these companies comes out with a new smartphone and it had a few bugs, what do they do?  They fix it. They upgrade, unless it catches fire. Then they pull it off the market," he said. "But you don’t go back to using a rotary phone. You don’t say, well, we're repealing smartphones." (Korte, 10/20)

The Washington Post: Obama Says The Affordable Care Act Works But Has Affordability ‘Growing Pains’
The president said rising premiums and diminished competition in ACA insurance exchanges in some states are especially problematic for people who do not qualify for federal subsidies that the law provides. He proposed that his successor in the White House and the next Congress provide larger tax credits to encourage young adults to buy coverage through the marketplaces and raise the income thresholds to make the subsidies available to more middle-class families. (Goldstein, 10/20)

Politico: Obama Defends Obamacare, Acknowledges Problems With The Law
Obama renewed calls for every state to expand Medicaid, which 19 states have refused to do. Roughly 4 million low-income Americans would be eligible for coverage if every state adopted Medicaid expansion. In addition, Obama reiterated support for a government-run insurance plan that could bolster competition in the Obamacare marketplaces. Without offering specifics, Obama also called for additional subsidies to make coverage more affordable. Both ideas have encountered strong resistance from Republicans. (Demko, 10/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Defends Health-Care Law
Republicans pointed to some of the law’s challenges before Mr. Obama even finished the speech, delivered at Miami Dade College. “Obamacare is collapsing. Insurance companies are abandoning the program, leaving stranded families to face higher premiums and fewer choices,” said Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, in a statement sent out about halfway through the remarks. (Radnofsky, 10/20)

The New York Times: Trump Said Women Get Abortions Days Before Birth. Doctors Say They Don’t.
In the presidential debate Wednesday night, Donald J. Trump expounded on pregnancy and abortion, asserting that under current abortion law, “You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.” Doctors say the scenario Mr. Trump described does not occur. “That is not happening in the United States,” said Dr. Aaron B. Caughey, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health and Science University. “It is, of course, such an absurd thing to say,” he said. (Belluck, 10/20)

The New York Times: E.P.A. Waited Too Long To Warn Of Flint Water Danger, Report Says
In a pointed rebuke to the Environmental Protection Agency, an internal watchdog concluded on Thursday that the agency should have acted more swiftly to warn residents of Flint, Mich., that their water was contaminated with lead. The report, issued by Arthur A. Elkins Jr., the inspector general for the E.P.A., blamed the federal government for inaction in Flint, echoing the sentiments of many Republicans who have said for more than a year that the agency failed in its oversight role. (Bosman, 10/20)

The Associated Press: Watchdog: EPA Delayed For 7 Months In Flint Water Crisis
The Environmental Protection Agency had sufficient authority and information to issue an emergency order to protect residents of Flint, Michigan, from lead-contaminated water as early as June 2015 — seven months before it declared an emergency, the EPA's inspector general said Thursday. The Flint crisis should have generated "a greater sense of urgency" at the agency to "intervene when the safety of drinking water is compromised," Inspector General Arthur Elkins said in an interim report. (10/20)

The Washington Post: EPA Should Have Intervened In Flint Water Crisis Months Earlier, Watchdog Says
“These situations should generate a greater sense of urgency,” Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins said in a statement Thursday. “Federal law provides the EPA with the emergency authority to intervene when the safety of drinking water is compromised. Employees must be knowledgeable, trained and ready to act when such a public health threat looms.” Thursday’s findings come amid a broader inquiry into the federal agency’s actions in Flint. Elkins recommended the EPA update its 25-year-old internal guidance on the use of that emergency authority and require drinking-water staff to attend training on when to use it. (Dennis, 10/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Agony, Alarm And Anger For People Hurt By Theranos’s Botched Blood Tests
Sheri Ackert worried she might have a new tumor. Steve Hammons stopped taking his blood-thinning medication. Kimberly Toy emptied the pasta and sweets from her cupboards and said: “I can’t believe this happened.” What they have in common are dubious test results from Theranos Inc. A review of regulatory records and interviews with patients shows the Palo Alto, Calif., company didn’t just burn investors who bought into its promise to revolutionize the world of blood testing. (Weaver, 10/20)

The Washington Post: Despite Being Shamed For Overcharging Patients, Hospitals Raised Their Prices, Again
A year ago, a study about U.S. hospitals marking up prices by 1,000 percent generated headlines and outrage around the country. Twenty of those priciest hospitals are in Florida, and researchers at the University of Miami wanted to find out whether the negative publicity put pressure on the community hospitals to lower their charges. Hospitals are allowed to change their prices at any time, but many are growing more sensitive about their reputations. What the researchers found, however, was that naming and shaming did not work. (Sun, 10/20)

The Associated Press: Lawmakers Demand Answers On Leukemia Drug Price Hikes
Two top lawmakers on Thursday demanded information from a drug company that has raised prices on a leukemia drug, calling increases of tens of thousands of dollars a sign the company puts profits before patients. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote ARIAD Pharmaceuticals and asked about price hikes for Iclusig, which is used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia in some people. (10/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Alkermes Shares Surge On Favorable Data For Depression Drug
Alkermes PLC said its depression drug helped patients not responding to standard treatments, news that added more than $3 billion to the company’s market value in after-hours trading. The company said that in a late-stage trial, its ALKS 5461 treatment significantly improved depression scores in patients who had an inadequate response to standard therapies. The most commonly reported adverse events associated with the treatment were nausea, dizziness and fatigue. (Beckerman, 10/20)

The Associated Press: Walgreens Posts Strong 4Q Earns, But Delays Rite Aid Deal
Walgreens Boots Alliance earnings topped $1 billion during the fourth quarter, easily surpassing analyst expectations, but the drugstore giant also announced a delay in closing its latest megadeal. The company said Thursday that it expects to wrap up its $9.4-billion purchase of rival Rite Aid Corp. early next year, rather than by the end of 2016. Walgreens leaders then cautioned analysts against reading too much into the delay. (Murphy, 10/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Walgreens, Rite Aid Push Out Deadline To Close $9.4 Billion Merger
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Rite Aid Corp. pushed out the deadline to close their $9.4 billion merger to next year amid delays in selling stores the two sides have to divest to get the deal past federal regulators. The companies now expect to close the deal in early 2017, as the previous timetable of completing the transaction by the end of this year is no longer feasible. The companies expect to agree to sell between 500 and 1,000 stores by the end of 2016, though any transactions will also require approval from the Federal Trade Commission. (Ziobro and Hufford, 10/20)

Los Angeles Times: Pediatricians Weigh In On A Fraught Issue Facing Parents Today: How Much Screen Time Is OK?
If you have kids or teenagers at home, chances are you have a complicated relationship with screens. On one hand, you know that capturing monsters in Pokemon Go or taking a portal to the Nether in Minecraft is probably not the healthiest way for your kids to spend the afternoon. On the other hand, they are so happy and quiet when they are bathed in the glow of a smartphone, tablet or TV. And some of those apps and shows have educational value, right? What if your child is tracing letters or learning to count? Can screen time ever be beneficial? (Netburn, 10/20)

NPR: Pediatricians Launch Online Tool To Help Parents Manage Screen Time
Whether your kid is 3 and obsessed with Daniel Tiger videos or 15 and spending half her conscious hours on Snapchat, you are probably somewhat conflicted about how to think about their media habits. How much time? What kind of media? What should our family's rules be? When the American Academy of Pediatrics released its latest recommendations on these burning questions Friday, it also did something pretty cool: it launched an online tool that parents can use to create their own family media plan. (Hobson, 10/21)

NPR: A Whole City May Help Test A Treatment For Shooting Victims
Dr. Zoe Maher has never been busier. In addition to being a trauma surgeon and a new mom, she's spent the last year and half talking to hospital patients and community groups across Philadelphia about a study she's confident will save more adult gunshot and stab wound victims. On a recent Saturday morning, Maher stood before a dozen members of a North Philadelphia neighborhood association to walk them through the specifics of the Philadelphia Immediate Transport in Penetrating Trauma Trial. (Moselle, 10/20)

NPR: Pulmonary Embolism Can Be The Overlooked Cause Of Fainting Spells
Unexplained fainting episodes may be caused by a dangerous blood clot in the lung more frequently than many doctors suspect, according to an Italian study. Episodes of fainting (known as syncope) are quite common in elderly people. About half the time, doctors identify an underlying heart condition. Other cases are caused by shock or some other passing cause. But many cases remain mysterious. (Harris, 10/20)

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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