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KHN First Edition: October 28, 2016


First Edition

Friday, October 28, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

California Healthline: Reduce Your Obamacare Sticker Shock
Emily Bazar writes: "The past few weeks have been scary ones for consumers with Obamacare health plans. As if open enrollment weren’t stressful enough, they’ve also been bombarded with headlines about 2017 rate hikes of 25 percent, 50 percent or even more. But there’s some hope for Californians. Our rate increases, while high by our standards, are generally lower than in other states. And if you’re willing to be flexible, most of you can limit your premium increases to no more than 5 percent." (Bazar, 10/28)

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Bars New ‘Seamless Conversion’ Efforts For Some Seniors
Susan Jaffe reports: "The federal government is temporarily blocking more health insurance companies from automatically moving customers who become eligible for Medicare into Medicare Advantage plans while officials review the controversial practice. They also will issue rules soon for plans that already have permission to make these switches, known as “seamless conversion,” according to a memo from Michael Crochunis, acting director of the Medicare Enrollment and Appeals Group at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services." (Jaffe, 10/28)

California Healthline: Divided Mental Health Care System Can Strand Medi-Cal Patients In The Middle
Anna Gorman reports: "When the voices in his head become too overwhelming, Kevin Scott heads to the emergency room. Scott, 54, said he wants regular therapy and medication for his depression and schizophrenia but has had trouble getting either. He said his primary care doctor urged him to seek help through the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, but the department just sent him back to his doctor. (Gorman, 10/28)

The Associated Press: Lack Of Choice In Health Insurance Markets A Growing Problem
Americans in the health insurance markets created by President Barack Obama's law will have less choice next year than any time since the program started, a new county-level analysis for The Associated Press has found. The analysis by AP and consulting firm Avalere Health found that about one-third of U.S. counties will have only one health marketplace insurer next year. That's more than 1,000 counties in 26 states — roughly double the number of counties in 2014, the first year of coverage through the program. (10/28)

Reuters: Obama Rallies Obamacare Troops At 'Critical Time' For Program
President Barack Obama on Thursday urged more than 25,000 volunteers and advocates who dialed in to a White House conference call to pull out the stops to boost the number of people signing up for Obamacare health insurance plans. Obama warned it will be challenging to overcome the skepticism about the plans given an onslaught of headlines about surging premium prices, but he said the stakes are high. (Rampton, 10/27)

The Associated Press: Obama Says Health Consumers Need To Shop Around
President Barack Obama is telling workers and volunteers signing up customers for health insurance coverage that the enrollment season comes at a critical time in the Affordable Care Act's history. In a conference call, Obama is challenging workers to ensure the insurance program is in a position of strength when the next president comes into office. (10/27)

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Trump’s Claim That He Predicted That Obamacare ‘Can’t Work’
After the fact, Trump often likes to claim he had great foresight. But then it turns out there is slim evidence to back up his assertions. ... So this made us wonder when Trump started to claim that he warned against the structure of the Affordable Care Act when it was passed in 2010. As he put it, he claimed that “the concept is no good” and that “it’s going to be a disaster” and that he knew the premiums were going to soar. Is that remotely true? (Kessler, 10/28)

The Associated Press: Maryland Among Fairly Robust States In Health Reform Choices
Maryland consumers next year will have more choices than consumers in many other states in health insurance markets created by President Barack Obama’s 2014 health care overhaul, an analysis for The Associated Press shows. The county-by-county analysis by Avalere Health, a consulting and data-crunching company that has tracked the Affordable Care Act commonly known as Obamacare since its start, finds Maryland among nine states that will have three or more participating insurers in its counties. (Witte, 10/28)

Reuters: EpiPen Price Hikes Add Millions To Pentagon Costs
Mylan NV's price hikes on EpiPens have added millions to U.S. Department of Defense spending since 2008 as the agency covered more prescriptions for the lifesaving allergy shot at near retail prices, government data provided to Reuters shows. Pentagon spending rose to $57 million over the past year from $9 million in 2008 - an increase driven both by volume and by price hikes that had a bigger bite on prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies, according to the previously unreported data. (10/28)

Reuters: Mylan EpiPen: One Piece Of A Complicated U.S. Pricing System
The complex U.S. system for drug pricing creates wide variation in what people pay for the same prescription medications, such as Mylan NV's EpiPen. A Reuters review of government data found that Mylan's price hikes on the lifesaving allergy shot have increased spending for the U.S. Defense Department, based on its arrangements for covering drug costs. Here's how drug pricing works for different constituencies. (10/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Aetna Revenue And Profit Rise
Aetna Inc. said revenue and profit rose in its latest quarter, but the insurer is still struggling with pressure in the Affordable Care Act business, which it will largely exit next year. Revenue grew in Aetna’s government business managing Medicare and Medicaid plans, which was partially offset by membership declines in commercial products. Profit rose on higher fees and other revenue in Aetna’s core health-insurance business and lower general and administrative costs. (Wilde Mathews and Hufford, 10/27)

The Associated Press: Aetna Tops Street 3Q Expectations, Narrows 2016 Forecast
Aetna's third-quarter earnings rose nearly 8 percent to top Wall Street forecasts, as growing government business and cost cutting countered higher costs from the health insurer's Affordable Care Act coverage. But the nation's third-largest insurer narrowed its 2016 forecast just below analyst expectations heading into the year's final months, and its stock fell in morning trading. (10/27)

The Washington Post: In A First, U.S. Trial To Test Cuban Lung-Cancer Vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first clinical trial to test a Cuban drug in the United States — a lung-cancer vaccine developed in Havana. The decision on the early-stage trial was announced Wednesday by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and officials at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, based in Buffalo. The trial could start as soon as next month and will enroll 60 to 90 patients. It is likely to take three years to complete. (McGinley, 10/27)

The Washington Post: She Didn’t Think A Flu Shot Was Necessary — Until Her Daughter Died
Piper Lowery had a fever that soared to 105 degrees. It hurt for her to walk, and she was breathing heavily, her mother said. She was also bleeding from her nose and vomiting blood. On Jan. 16, just four days after she got sick, Piper collapsed in the parking lot of a children's hospital in Tacoma, Wash. By then, the H1N1 flu had already attacked her kidneys.Piper died shortly before 12:30 p.m. that day. She was 12 years old. (Guerra, 10/27)

NPR: Placebos Can Work Even If You Know They're Placebos
Placebos can't cure diseases, but research suggests that they seem to bring some people relief from subjective symptoms, such as pain, nausea, anxiety and fatigue. But there's a reason your doctor isn't giving you a sugar pill and telling you it's a new wonder drug. The thinking has been that you need to actually believe that you're taking a real drug in order to see any benefits. And a doctor intentionally deceiving a patient is an ethical no-no. (Hobson, 10/27)

The New York Times: Can A Spoonful From Pepsi Help The Medicine Go Down?
PepsiCo is using its expertise to help make medication more palatable for children. The giant food and beverage company, whose original soda was concocted by a pharmacist using sugar, lemon oil and nutmeg, is returning to its roots by deploying its vast research and development operation to improve the taste of tuberculosis drugs. (Strom, 10/27)

The New York Times: Sugar Pill Beats Two Drugs In Migraine Trial For Children
Neither of the two drugs used most frequently to prevent migraines in children is more effective than a sugar pill, according to a study published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers stopped the large trial early, saying the evidence was clear even though the drugs — the antidepressant amitriptyline and the epilepsy drug topiramate — had been shown to prevent migraines in adults. (Saint Louis, 10/27)

The Washington Post: Facing Financial Reality When Early Dementia Is Diagnosed
Chuck McClatchey had a sound retirement plan. Already retired with pensions from two jobs — one as a U.S. Air Force master sergeant (E-7) and the other as an electrical operations superintendent for 20 years with the Arizona Department of Transportation — he landed another job with the state of Texas working on traffic signals and traffic intel systems. He moved to Fort Worth at age 61 with his partner Bobbie Duncan, and they spent $25,000 in savings on a fixer-upper house. His plan was to work until he was 70. (Hamilton, 10/27)

The Associated Press: Jury Awards More Than $70M To Woman In Baby Powder Lawsuit
A St. Louis jury on Thursday awarded a California woman more than $70 million in her lawsuit alleging that years of using Johnson & Johnson's baby powder caused her cancer, the latest case raising concerns about the health ramifications of extended talcum powder use. The jury ruling ended the trial that began Sept. 26 in the case brought by Deborah Giannecchini of Modesto, California. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. The suit accused Johnson & Johnson of "negligent conduct" in making and marketing its baby powder. (10/27)

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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