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KHN First Edition: November 4, 2016


First Edition

Friday, November 04, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Plays Down Impact Of Health-Care Premium Increases
President Barack Obama said “a handful of people” would take a hit from hefty health-insurance premium increases due to kick in next year, and that all of those people had previously been uninsured, in remarks that downplayed problems with his signature health law as it takes on greater prominence in the final days before the election. Data from the Department of Health and Human Services puts that handful as high as 8.4 million – between almost seven million people who buy coverage directly from insurers, and another 1.5 million who use or a state equivalent but don’t meet income criteria for a tax credit. Others say the handful may be even higher. (Radnofsky, 11/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Public Option For U.S. Health Insurance Gains Visibility In Debate Over Affordable Care Act
Advocates and opponents are gearing up for a life or death battle over a problematic Affordable Care Act in 2017, and the idea of a government option in health insurance is gaining some traction among Democratic legislators. ... A public option would involve a government-run health plan that would compete with private options offered on the health law’s exchanges. It would be different from a so-called single-payer system under which a government-run national health insurance program would cover everyone. (Armour, 11/3)

USA Today/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Johnson, Feingold Spar Over Health Care Again
The Affordable Care Act was a major point of contention when U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson ran against then-Sen. Russ Feingold six years ago, and it's front and center again with their rematch coming up Tuesday. Johnson, a Republican who was elected to the Senate partly because of his opposition to the health insurance reform law, remains one of its most steadfast critics. Feingold, a Democrat who voted for the law, continues to support it. (Boulton, 11/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Cigna’s Profit Falls On Government Business
Cigna Corp. said profit fell in its latest quarter as its government business dragged on results. The government segment’s issues included medical costs in Cigna’s small Medicaid business, particularly in Texas and Illinois. Cigna also faced expenses related to a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services audit of its Medicare plans. (Hufford, 11/3)

The Washington Post: Why Health Care Eats More Of Your Paycheck Every Year
Millions of Americans are finding out this month that the price of their health insurance is going up next year — as it did this year, last year, and most of the years before that. And it’s not just that the price is going up, it’s that it goes up faster than wages and inflation, eating away at our ability to pay for other things we want (beer, televisions, vacations) or need (rent, heat, food). Does it have to be this way? Why does health care grow so much faster than almost any other spending category so consistently? And will it ever stop? (Murphy, 11/3)

The New York Times: News Of Charges In Price-Fixing Inquiry Sends Pharmaceuticals Tumbling
The generic drug industry was jolted on Thursday as shares of many major companies tumbled after a news report said that a federal inquiry into drug price-fixing was wider than previously believed and could lead to charges by the end of the year. Shares in Teva Pharmaceuticals, the world’s largest generic drug maker, fell more than 9 percent, and the stock of competitors like Mylan, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Impax Laboratories had similar declines. (Thomas, 11/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Generic-Drug Firms Face Possible Collusion Charges
Federal prosecutors, after a lengthy probe, are nearing possible criminal charges for price-collusion in the generic-drug industry, according to a person familiar with the matter. The U.S. Justice Department could begin to bring cases before year’s end, though the timing of any potential enforcement actions remains uncertain, according to the person familiar with the matter. (Loftus, Kendall and Matthews, 11/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Drug Industry Mounts Defense Of Pricing
The pharmaceutical industry is spending millions of dollars to fight groups advocating lower drug costs, as criticism of high prices mounts. Drug companies have long lobbied to protect their interests, but the industry-funded push is “more extensive this time,” said K.J. Hertz, a legislative representative for senior-citizen advocacy group AARP, which supports reining in drug prices. (Loftus, 11/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Drug-Price Ballot Proposal Stirs Industry Opposition
The pharmaceutical industry has contributed $109 million to defeat a ballot proposal to restrict drug prices in California, according to the state government—the latest flashpoint in a national debate over rising prescription costs. California voters will be asked Nov. 8 to vote on Proposition 61, which would prohibit state agencies from buying any prescription drug at prices higher than those paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with certain exceptions. The VA negotiates discounts with drug manufacturers. (Loftus, 11/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Big Hit On Drug Stocks Caps $26 Billion Decline For John Paulson
John Paulson’s subprime trade led to historic fortune. His drug-company investments? Big losses and plunging assets. Mr. Paulson’s hedge-fund firm, Paulson & Co., is suffering painful losses this year, extending a period of uneven performance that has left the firm managing about $12 billion, down from $38 billion in 2011. Behind the recent difficulties: A big, faulty bet on pharmaceutical companies, as well as excessive caution about the broader market, according to people close to the matter. (Zuckerman, 11/4)

NPR: California Hospitals Make Patients Sign Away Their Right To Sue
San Francisco Bay Area companies say Sutter Health is strong-arming them into a contract that would help the hospital system secure its power over prices and potentially raise the cost of medical care for their employees in the future. Dozens of companies have received a letter, via their insurance administrators, asking them to waive their rights to sue Sutter. If they don't, a fact sheet included in the letter says, the companies' employees who get care through Sutter's network of hospitals, doctors and medical services will no longer have access to discounted in-network prices. (Dembosky, 11/4)

NPR: Rural Kids With Disabilities Hurt Most By Texas Cuts To Medicaid, Providers Say
Last year, the Texas legislature approved a $350 million cut in Medicaid reimbursement rates to early childhood intervention therapists and providers. The cuts, made to help balance a billion dollars in property tax relief, affect the most vulnerable Texas children — those born extremely prematurely or with Down syndrome or other genetic conditions that put them at risk for developmental delay. (Goodwyn, 11/3)

The Washington Post: Zika Causes A Unique Syndrome Of Devastating Birth Defects
The birth defects caused by Zika have been described in heartbreaking detail as the virus has spread to more than 45 countries, infecting hundreds of thousands of people, including tens of thousands of pregnant women. Now researchers have concluded that a Zika infection during pregnancy is linked to a distinct pattern of birth defects that they are officially calling congenital Zika syndrome. (Sun, 11/3)

The New York Times: Young Adolescents As Likely To Die From Suicide As From Traffic Accidents
It is now just as likely for middle school students to die from suicide as from traffic accidents. That grim fact was published on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They found that in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, the suicide rate for children ages 10 to 14 had caught up to their death rate for traffic accidents. (Tavernise, 11/3)

The Washington Post: Synthetic Opioid Nicknamed ‘Pink’ Blamed For Deaths Of Two 13-Year-Old Utah Boys
Ryan Ainsworth and Grant Seaver, both 13, were students at Treasure Mountain Junior High School in Park City, Utah. They were best friends who shared the hobbies of adventurous Utah teenagers — spending afternoon on skis, dirt bikes or skateboards. Relatives spoke of their bright and beautiful smiles. “Grant was a happy boy,” as Lisa Sippel described her nephew to Utah’s Fox 13, “who lived every minute of his short life to the fullest.” In September, the young teens died within 48 hours of each other. (Guarino, 11/4)

The Washington Post: More Cases Reported Of A Mysterious Polio-Like Illness That Killed A 6-Year-Old
On Wednesday, Oct. 12, 6-year-old Jonathan Daniel Ramirez Porter woke up with a fever. His mother, Marijo De Guzman, decided to keep him home from kindergarten in Ferndale, Wash., a small town less than an hour south of the Canadian border. Instead of getting better, Daniel complained of a severe headache the next day. By Saturday, Oct. 15, he was stumbling and drooling, unable to keep food in his mouth or to speak clearly. (Hurley, 11/3)

The Washington Post: Could Polio Drugs Treat Children With A Mysterious Paralyzing Disease?
Researchers developing drugs against polio and other polio-like viruses say those drugs could potentially be effective against a mysterious, polio-like condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 89 cases of the paralyzing disease in the United States through September. A 6-year-old boy suspected of having AFM died in Seattle on Sunday, the first death believed to be caused by the disease. (Hurley, 11/3)

The New York Times: Putting Sugary Soda Out Of Reach
Can public health officials force Americans to break their soda habit? The answer may come soon from the University of California, San Francisco, a health sciences center that has more than 24,000 employees on its sprawling campus. Last year, U.C.S.F. removed sugar-sweetened beverages from every store, food truck and vending machine on its campus. Even popular fast-food chains on the campus, like Subway and Panda Express, have stopped selling Sprite, Coca-Cola and their sugary brethren at the university’s request. (O'Connor, 11/3)

Los Angeles Times: Mexico's Soda Tax Will Save 18,900 Lives And More Than $983 Million Over 10 Years, Study Says
A new estimate of the health impact of soda taxes in Mexico sheds some light on what’s at stake in ballot measures coming to a vote in three Bay-area cities and Boulder, Colo. next week. In cases of heart disease and diabetes averted, the model suggests that, in Mexico, those levies are on track to save close to a billion dollars and powerfully improve lives. After a tandem run-up in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity, Mexico has become one of the fattest countries on Earth. In 2014, it adopted a 10% excise tax on the sale of sugary drinks. (Healy, 11/3)

Reuters: Factbox: Soda, Sugar Taxes Across The United States
Voters in four U.S. cities will decide on Tuesday whether they would like to tax sugary drinks, the latest in a series of such measures as officials and nutritionists seeks ways to address obesity, diabetes and other health epidemics. The following are some cities and states around the United States that have taxes or are considering imposing them for soft drinks, sugary beverages and sellers of sodas. (Prentice, 11/4)

The Washington Post: The Ebola Virus Mutated To Better Infect Humans During The 2014 Outbreak
The Ebola virus mutated to more effectively infiltrate human cells during the West African outbreak that killed more than 11,300 people between 2013 and 2016. That's the finding of two teams of virologists in studies published Thursday in the journal Cell. The scientists identified a mutation that changed the part of the virus that fits into receptors on the exterior of the host cell. (Kaplan, 11/3)

Los Angeles Times: Feeling Anxious About The Election? Here's How To Cope With Election Stress Disorder
Are you suffering from election stress disorder?It seems like everyone I know has it. Last week my kindergartner woke up at 5 a.m. with nightmares about “two people running for president.” One friend wrote on Facebook that she is barely sleeping at all and now fills the pre-dawn hours canning fruit. I’ve heard reports of chest pains and short-term Xanax prescriptions within my circle as Nov. 8 draws near. (Netburn, 11/4)

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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