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KHN First Edition: October 25, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: VA Treats Patients’ Impatience With Clinical Pharmacists
Phil Galewitz reports: "Something astonishing has happened in the past year to outpatient treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital here. Vets regularly get next-day and even same-day appointments for primary care now, no longer waiting a month or more to see a doctor as many once did. The reason is they don’t all see doctors. Clinical pharmacists — whose special training permits them to prescribe drugs, order lab tests, make referrals to specialists and do physical examinations — are handling more patients’ chronic care needs." (Galewitz, 10/25)

Kaiser Health News: Feds Find Doctor Listings Often Wrong In Medicare Advantage Directories
Phil Galewitz reports: "Provider directories for private Medicare Advantage plans are riddled with errors, according to the government’s first in-depth review. The results made public Monday, arriving amid the annual enrollment period through Dec. 7, validate gripes long made by seniors and consumer advocates. The level of errors still surprised regulators, said officials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services who disclosed their findings at an industry conference in Washington." (Galewitz, 10/24)

Kaiser Health News: For Seniors, Teeth Need Care — But Insurance Coverage Is Rare
Michelle Andrews writes: "Aging can take a toll on teeth, and for many seniors paying for dental services is a serious concern because they can’t rely on their Medicare coverage. Low-income seniors, in particular, are struggling. More than a third with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (about $23,000 annually) had untreated tooth decay between 2011 and 2014, according to an analysis of federal data by the American Dental Association." (Andrews, 10/25)

NPR: Rates Rise Again For Obamacare Health Plans, But So Do Subsidies
"We think they will ultimately be surprised by the affordability of the premiums, because the tax credits track with the increases in premiums," said Kevin Griffis, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. During a media briefing Monday, Griffis said the 2017 rates are roughly at the level the Congressional Budget Office forecast when the law was proposed. "The initial marketplace rates came in below costs," he said. "Many companies set prices that turned out to be too low." (Kodjak, 10/24)

The Washington Post: Average Premiums For Popular ACA Plans Rising 25 Percent
The figures, announced by federal officials Monday, injected a new round of uncertainty into the future of the insurance exchanges that are a core feature of the 2010 health-care law. Health policy experts said the rising prices and shrinking insurance options add tumult to the coming ACA enrollment season. The data immediately touched off a fresh round of criticism among the ACA’s persistent Republican congressional opponents. (Goldstein, 10/24)

Politico: Key Obamacare Premiums To Jump 25 Percent Next Year
The Department of Health and Human Services report, released just two weeks before Election Day, is sure to provide fresh fodder for Donald Trump and Republicans in down-ballot races to attack the law. Democrats, who have increasingly warned about the escalating costs of Obamacare coverage in some areas, have pushed for Republicans to give up on repeal and work on fixes to the law. (Pradhan, 10/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Catholic Health Initiatives, Dignity Health In Merger Talks
Hospital operator Catholic Health Initiatives, which has struggled after rapid expansion and a foray into health insurance, is in merger talks with Dignity Health to create one of the nation’s largest nonprofit hospital systems by revenue. Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health said in a statement they are in talks regarding “aligning their organizations.” A person familiar with the matter said the talks involve a merger. (Evans, 10/24)

The New York Times: AARP Sues U.S. Over Rules For Wellness Programs
Employers have raced to offer workers a hefty financial incentive to sign up for programs meant to improve their health, submitting personal medical details in the process. But as these programs have spread, so has resistance from employees dubious about sharing that information with employers. On Monday, that tension erupted in a federal lawsuit against the government agency that handles the rules on these so-called wellness programs. (Abelson, 10/24)

The Washington Post: Newt Gingrich Is The New Face Of A Controversial Opioid Addiction Therapy
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be joining former Obama adviser Anthony Kapel “Van” Jones on stage on Monday in Washington to discuss a topic that they've not spoken much about in the past: the nation's opioid addiction crisis. The two men — along with former U.S. representative Patrick Kennedy, who has written a memoir about his struggles with cocaine, painkillers and alcohol — are “founding advisers” of a nonprofit that popped up in the summer called Advocates for Opioid Recovery. Its mission is “advancing a science-based, evidence-based treatment system that can reduce death and suffering from opioid addiction. (Cha, 10/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Merck Drug Gets FDA Approval As A First-Line Lung Cancer Treatment
Merck & Co.’s immunotherapy cancer drug Keytruda received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval as a first-line treatment for certain lung cancer patients. The approval is for patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors have high PD-L1 expression, with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations. The new indication means Keytruda can be an initial treatment instead of chemotherapy for these patients. (Beckerman, 10/24)

NPR: The FIT Test Measures Up For Noninvasive Colon Cancer Screening
Not so very long ago, colonoscopy was the gold standard for colon cancer screening. But times are a-changing. Last month when I went in for a checkup, my primary care doctor handed me a FIT test, a colon cancer test you can do at home without the unpleasantness and risk that turn people off to colonoscopy. The FIT test, or fecal immunochemical blood test, is a newer and more accurate way to test for blood in stool, which can be a symptom of colon cancer. (Shute, 10/24)

The Wall Street Journal: New Reasons Not To Miss A Well-Child Visit
Is your child up-to-date at the pediatrician’s office? Regular well-child visits during the first three years of childhood are critical to identify health, behavioral and developmental problems that could have long-lasting effects into adulthood. But parents don’t always follow the recommended schedule, which includes about a dozen appointments by the time children turn 3. And children who miss out on visits are more likely to be admitted to the hospital with preventable problems, studies show. (Landro, 10/24)

Los Angeles Times: Neuroscientists Show How Tiny Fibs Snowball Into Big Lies
A little dishonesty goes a long way. Scientists who studied the brain activity of people who told small lies to benefit themselves found that these fibs appeared to pave the way to telling whoppers later. The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, demonstrate how self-serving lies can escalate and offer a window into the processes in the brain at work. (Khan, 10/24)

Reuters: Virginia Health Board Lifts Contested Rules On Abortion Clinics
Virginia's Board of Health voted on Monday to remove contested regulations on abortion clinics that included meeting hospital-like building standards, a spokeswoman said. The 11-4 vote lifted restrictions imposed under a 2011 law that the board found were an undue burden on abortion providers, the spokeswoman said. (Simpson, 10/24)

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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