Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.
California Healthline: California Releases Latest ‘Report Cards’ On Health Plans, Doctor Groups Ana B. Ibarra reports: "California’s Office of the Patient Advocate Friday released its annual report cards on health plans and medical groups — tools meant to help guide consumers and employers as they shop for coverage during the upcoming open enrollment season. The report cards assign ratings to the 10 largest HMOs and five largest PPOs in the state, based on quality of care and patient experience. It also rates more than 200 physician groups. Quality of care measures include ensuring that heart patients’ blood pressure is well managed and that children get their immunizations." (Ibarra, 10/24)
Kaiser Health News: Is 20-Something Too Late For A Guy To Get The HPV Vaccine? Side Effects Public Media's Jake Harper reports: "Television is making me anxious about sex — more anxious than usual. I keep seeing scary ads featuring young people asking their parents why they didn’t get the vaccine to protect against the human papillomavirus — HPV. If you’re unfamiliar with HPV, it’s a sexually transmitted infection that has been linked to various cancers, including cervical cancer in women. I didn’t get vaccinated. So lately I’ve been wondering: Now that I’m 29, is it too late for me to get the vaccine?" (Harper, 10/24)
Kaiser Health News: Skeptics Question The Value Of Hydration Therapy For The Healthy WHYY's Taunya English reports: "Yana Shapiro is a partner at a Philadelphia law firm with 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 said. After getting a 100-milliliter drip of a liquid the clinic calls immune protection pumped directly into her bloodstream via a needle in her arm, Shapiro said she feels like “a new person.” (English, 10/24)
The Wall Street Journal: Rising Insurance Premiums Boost Talk Of Changes To Affordable Care Act Insurer defections and rising premiums in the individual insurance market are spurring Democrats and Republicans alike to talk about changes to the 2010 Affordable Care Act. For now, the conversations are largely aimed at their party’s base. President Barack Obama led his party’s cry on Thursday with suggestions that would further entrench the law, including the addition of a government-run health plan in parts of the country with limited competition. GOP lawmakers have continued to call for gutting the law, including proposals to waive its penalties for people who forgo coverage in areas with limited insurance options. In each of these proposals, both sides have been largely talking past one another. Come January, they will have to talk to each other instead. (Radnofsky, 10/21)
The Associated Press: Why It Matters: Beneath The Fury, Issues That Matter This is a presidential campaign about trust, temperament, honesty, judgment, character, personality and, some are convinced, a personality disorder or two. It's pocked with Donald Trump's ballistic-missile tweets in the middle of the night. It's enlivened by the spectacle of Hillary Clinton's campaign innards spilling day after day into public view, quite a WikiMess. Got a minute for the issues? Beyond all of the bluster in this campaign, a clash of ideas is also at work, with consequences for nearly all Americans and plenty of people around the world. (10/23)
The Associated Press: Why It Matters: Health Care About 9 in 10 Americans now have health insurance, more than at any time in history. But progress is incomplete, and the future far from certain. Millions remain uninsured. Quality is still uneven. Costs are high and trending up again. Medicare's insolvency is two years closer, now projected in 2028. Every family has a stake. (10/22)
The Associated Press: Why It Matters: Abortion Persistent Republican-led efforts to restrict access to abortion and to curb government funding for Planned Parenthood have been hotly debated in Washington and in states, and will be shaped in some way by the next president. (10/22)
The Associated Press: Why It Matters: Opioid Epidemic More Americans are dying from opioids than at any time in recent history, with overdose deaths hitting a peak of 28,000 in 2014. That amounts to 78 Americans dying from an opioid overdose every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC uses opioid as an umbrella term for synthetic painkillers and for drugs derived naturally from opium (known more specifically as opiates), such a heroin. (10/22)
The Associated Press: Why It Matters: Veterans There are an estimated 21.6 million veterans in the United States. Among them, nearly 9 million are enrolled in health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. About 4.3 million veterans get disability compensation from the VA and nearly 900,000 have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2014 law signed by President Barack Obama aimed to alleviate delays many veterans faced in getting treatment at VA hospitals and clinics and end the widespread practice of fake wait lists that covered up long waits for veterans seeking health care. Two years later, many of the problems remain. (10/22)
The Washington Post: Antiabortion Activists Face Headwinds With Clinton Leading And Trump Stumbling On Women’s Issues Antiabortion activists, already experiencing a difficult year, say their movement faces a pivotal moment as another Democrat who staunchly supports abortion rights appears likely to occupy the White House. First came the death of Antonin Scalia, an ardent ally on the Supreme Court. Then came a stinging defeat before the justices over a sweeping Texas law regulating abortion providers. Now, activists are afraid that Hillary Clinton is headed to victory — and angry that Donald Trump has done his share, they say, to set back a movement that has strived to show sensitivity toward women. (Somashekhar and Zezima, 10/21)
The Washington Post: Investigation: The DEA Slowed Enforcement While The Opioid Epidemic Grew Out Of Control A decade ago, the Drug Enforcement Administration launched an aggressive campaign to curb a rising opioid epidemic that was claiming thousands of American lives each year. The DEA began to target wholesale companies that distributed hundreds of millions of highly addictive pills to the corrupt pharmacies and pill mills that illegally sold the drugs for street use. Leading the campaign was the agency’s Office of Diversion Control, whose investigators around the country began filing civil cases against the distributors, issuing orders to immediately suspend the flow of drugs and generating large fines. But the industry fought back. (Bernstein and Higham, 10/22)
The Washington Post: How Drugs Intended For Patients Ended Up In The Hands Of Illegal Users: ‘No One Was Doing Their Job’ For 10 years, the government waged a behind-the-scenes war against pharmaceutical companies that hardly anyone knows: wholesale distributors of prescription narcotics that ship drugs from manufacturers to consumers. The Drug Enforcement Administration targeted these middlemen for a simple reason. If the agency could force the companies to police their own drug shipments, it could keep millions of pills out of the hands of abusers and dealers. That would be much more effective than fighting “diversion” of legal painkillers at each drugstore and pain clinic. (Bernstein, Fallis and Higham, 10/22)
The Associated Press: Insurer Cigna Eases Rules For Opioid Addiction Medication The health insurer Cigna has agreed to end a policy that required physicians to fill out extra paperwork before they could give patients a drug used to treat opioid addiction. The move announced Friday comes after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman raised questions about whether Cigna’s requirement created unnecessary treatment delays. (10/21)
Reuters: In Insurance Big Data Could Lower Rates For Optimistic Tweeters When people take to Twitter to comment on the great evening they enjoyed with good food and wonderful friends, reducing their monthly insurance bill is probably the last thing on their mind. But such tweets could help insurers to price premiums for individuals, with research suggesting a direct link between positive posts and a reduced risk of heart disease. (Neghaiwi, 10/23)
The New York Times: What 130 Of The Worst Shootings Say About Guns In America After nearly two decades of expanding legal access to firearms, a succession of horrific shootings like Mr. Houser’s have refocused attention on gun control. Since the 2012 massacre of 26 elementary school children and teachers in Newtown, Conn., gun control advocates have scored some significant victories in state legislatures. Nationwide, several polls suggest that public opinion has shifted markedly in favor of stricter gun laws. And for the first time since Al Gore called for tighter firearm restrictions in his losing 2000 campaign, gun control is a top-level issue in the presidential contest, as well as in two close Senate races and four state ballot initiatives. (LaFraniere and Palmer, 10/21)
The Washington Post: National Cancer Institute Researcher Was Months Late In Notifying Authorities About Deaths A National Cancer Institute researcher running a lymphoma trial was late by several months in notifying authorities that two patients had died of fungal infections that might have been caused by the experimental treatment, officials have concluded. The reporting lapses were described Friday by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, acting NCI Director Doug Lowy and other officials at a meeting of a new board that is advising Collins on patient safety and other issues at NIH's flagship hospital, the Clinical Center. (McGinley, 10/21)
The Washington Post: Updated Guidelines On Infant Sleep Highlight Danger Of Parents’ Tiredness The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its advice on how to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths in a policy statement released Monday. The guidelines reaffirm many of the recommendations from the AAP’s previous policy, published in 2011. Parents should place babies to sleep on their backs and on a firm surface without any soft or loose bedding. It’s safest for babies to sleep in the same room as their parents but not in the same bed. (Callahan, 10/24)
The New York Times: The VSED Exit: A Way To Speed Up Dying, Without Asking Permission At 91, Ms. Greenfield told her family she was ready to die. ... Then her son-in-law, a family physician who had written such prescriptions for other patients, explained the somewhat involved process: oral and written requests, a waiting period, two physicians’ assent. “I don’t have time for that,” Ms. Greenfield objected. “I’m just going to stop eating and drinking.” In end-of-life circles, this option is called VSED, for voluntarily stopping eating and drinking. It causes death by dehydration, usually within seven to 14 days.(Span, 10/21)
The Washington Post: ‘If I Could Afford To Leave, I Would.’ In Flint, A Water Crisis With No End In Sight. Even now, the people of Flint, Mich., cannot trust what flows from their taps. More than one year after government officials finally acknowledged that an entire city’s water system was contaminated by lead, many residents still rely on bottled water for drinking, cooking and bathing. Parents still worry about their kids. Promised aid has yet to arrive. In ways large and small, the crisis continues to shape daily life. (Dennis, 10/22)
NPR: Doctors Look At B Vitamin Choline During Pregnancy Every day in the United States, millions of expectant mothers take a prenatal vitamin on the advice of their doctor. The counsel typically comes with physical health in mind: folic acid to help avoid fetal spinal cord problems; iodine to spur healthy brain development; calcium to be bound like molecular Legos into diminutive baby bones. But what about a child's future mental health? (Stetka, 10/22)
The Washington Post: Sugar Doesn’t Hype Kids Up, Vaccines Don’t Cause The Flu, And Other Myths, Busted. As you think about decorating for the holidays, don’t worry about having poinsettias around. “Those beautiful flowers you’ve been so wary of keeping in your home during the holidays (lest they poison pets or children) are not toxic,” Live Science reports in “25 Medical Myths that Just Won’t Go Away,” citing a study that looked at nearly 23,000 cases of poinsettia exposure reported to poison control centers. None were fatal, and the most severe reactions were stomachaches. This is just one of the supposed medical facts that the website knocks down as myth. (Shapiro, 10/21)
NPR: For People With Disabilities, Getting Dental Care Can Be Difficult At the Marshfield Clinic dental center in Chippewa Falls, Wis., hygienist Karen Aslinger is getting her room ready. It's all quite routine — covering the chair's headrest with plastic, opening instruments, wiping down trays. But then she starts getting creative. "My next patient is pretty tiny and frail, so I like to go to oral surgery and get a heated blanket. I wrap her up, and I think it soothes her," Aslinger says. (Kodjak, 10/24)
The New York Times: Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face? It seems harmless enough. You get nose to nose with your dog and talk to it as it laps at your mouth and cheeks with its tongue, or you come home from work and bring your lips to your dog’s in a greeting to say hello. It may feel like the ultimate display of affection, but when it comes to such kisses, experts caution: Beware of dogs. (Mele, 10/21)
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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