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KHN First Edition: November 21, 2016


First Edition

Monday, November 21, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Victims Seek Payments As ‘Dr. Death’ Declares Innocence
Melissa Bailey reports: "Victims of “Dr. Death” had until this week to submit receipts for unnecessary chemotherapy, medical bills for liver damage and funeral expenses for their loved ones. By an initial count on Tuesday, 517 former patients and their families had filed claims against Farid Fata, the Detroit-area cancer doctor convicted of raking in over $17 million by poisoning patients with chemotherapy and other drugs they did not need." (Bailey, 11/18)

Politico: Obamacare Repeal Plan Stokes Fears Of Market Collapse
Republicans warned for years that Obamacare would blow up the nation's individual insurance market. Instead, their own rush to repeal the health care law may be what triggers that death spiral. GOP lawmakers say they plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act as soon as President-elect Donald Trump takes office, including a transition period of a year or two before it takes effect. That way, they satisfy their base while giving notice to 20 million Obamacare customers that they must find other coverage options. (Cancryn and Demko, 11/21)

Politico: Why Trump Is The Wild Card On Obamacare
The House Speaker wants Obamacare dead. The House Budget Chairman — a leading candidate for HHS secretary — wants Medicare reform. But all the focus on Republicans' health strategies is ignoring the biggest elephant in the room: Donald Trump, a president-elect who's spent more than a year bucking congressional Republicans — and may not share their priorities, two leading conservative thinkers tell POLITICO's "Pulse Check" podcast. (Diamond, 11/18)

USA Today: High Health Insurance Costs Prompt Tough Choices
The post-election confusion over the fate of Obamacare has only complicated the already difficult choices faced by middle class consumers who are worried they can't afford their health insurance options this fall. Premiums and deductibles soared in many parts of the country after the departure of several large insurers from the Affordable Care Act exchanges for 2017. That's led many to fret about how to either afford insurance or how to get by without it. (O'Donnell, 11/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump’s Victory Looks Set To Renew Battle Over Abortion Rights
Liberal and conservative groups are girding for battle over abortion rights under President-elect Donald Trump, after nearly a decade in which the Obama administration backstopped the rollback of those rights on the federal level. Mr. Trump has adopted the antiabortion rights movement’s top priorities, vowing to nominate socially conservative Supreme Court justices, withhold federal funding from Planned Parenthood, and sign legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. (Reinhard, 11/20)

The New York Times: The Future Of Health Care Mergers Under Trump
The proposed health insurance mega-merger between Anthem and Cigna heads to court on Monday, as the companies face off against a Justice Department seeking to block their $48 billion deal. It will be followed in just a few weeks by the trial for another proposed insurance mega-merger, between Aetna and Humana. (Abelson, 11/20)

The New York Times: Anthem-Cigna Proposed Deal Goes To U.S. Federal Court
The first of two proposed health insurance mega-mergers goes to trial in Federal District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday. The $48 billion combination of Anthem and Cigna, two of the nation’s largest insurers, is being challenged by the Justice Department as being bad for consumers. (11/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Insurer Anthem To Defend Cigna Deal In Court
The trial starts Monday in the Justice Department’s challenge to health insurer Anthem Inc.’s $48 billion acquisition of reluctant partner Cigna Corp., a case that could produce unusual courtroom drama and be a last hurrah for President Barack Obama’s antitrust enforcers. The Justice Department has been aggressive in challenging mergers recently, but none of its efforts is bigger than its lawsuits challenging the Anthem-Cigna deal, the largest ever in the industry, and a $34 billion deal that would combine insurers Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. A trial on the latter transaction begins Dec. 5. (Kendall and Wilde Mathews, 11/20)

The New York Times: Many Insured Children Lack Essential Health Care, Study Finds
A new study to be released on Monday by the Children’s Health Fund, a nonprofit based in New York City that expands access to health care for disadvantaged children, found that one in four children in the United States did not have access to essential health care, though a record number of young people now have health insurance. The report found that 20.3 million people in the nation under the age of 18 lack “access to care that meets modern pediatric standards.” (Santora, 11/20)

The New York Times: Zika Is No Longer A Global Emergency, W.H.O. Says
The World Health Organization declared an end to its global health emergency over the spread of the Zika virus on Friday, prompting dismay from some public health experts confronting the epidemic. An agency advisory committee said it ended the emergency — formally known as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern — because Zika is now shown to be a dangerous mosquito-borne disease, like malaria or yellow fever, and should be viewed as an ongoing threat met as other diseases are, sometimes with W.H.O. help. (McNeil, 11/18)

Los Angeles Times: WHO Lifts Zika Emergency, But Prepares For A Long-Term Fight
In a grim milestone, the World Health Organization declared Friday that Zika no longer presents a “public health emergency” and said the virus should now be treated like other established infectious diseases. That means the United Nations health agency will establish a long-term program to fight the virus responsible for thousands of cases of microcephaly and other neurological ailments. (Kaplan, 11/18)

The Washington Post: WHO No Longer Considers Zika A Global Health Emergency
Salama, a senior WHO official, said Zika represents a set of long-term issues, including neurological complications in children as well as adults, family planning and maternal reproductive health, that will require a comprehensive research agenda and sustained financing over many years. Yet many public health officials and experts are worried that this technical distinction may be lost and end up sending the wrong message about Zika — even as new cases seem to be emerging in Asia. (Sun, 11/18)

The New York Times: The Race For A Zika Vaccine
The Zika virus thrives in tropical climates. But it is also growing in this cold-weather city — up a flight of stairs, past a flier for lunchtime yoga and behind a locked door. That is where scientists working in a lab for Takeda, the Japanese drug company, inspect and test vials of the virus. They are engaged in an all-out race to halt Zika, a disease that has set off worldwide alarm because of its links to severe birth defects. Day and night, these researchers are trying to crack the code to the virus. (Thomas, 11/19)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Sets His Sights On Drug Dealers In Opioid Overdoses
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney known for cracking down on insider trading and public corruption in New York, is tackling a new challenge: the growing opioid epidemic.In a recent initiative, Mr. Bharara has asked local police departments to begin systematically reporting drug overdoses to his office of federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, which includes Manhattan, the Bronx and Westchester County. The goal is to treat every overdose like a potential crime scene, including stringent evidence collection, and bring federal charges against any dealer whose drugs can be linked to an overdose death. (Hong, 11/20)

NPR: Deaths Involving Fentanyl Keep Climbing
In mid-August, an affable, 40-year-old man from Everett, Mass., overdosed at his mom's home after almost 25 years of heroin use. Joe Salemi had overdosed before, but this time couldn't be revived. Salemi's brother, Anthony, says he was pretty sure when his brother died that there must have been something besides heroin in the syringe. The medical examiner later confirmed it. (Bebinger, 11/18)

NPR: Genetically Modified Mosquitoes: How Florida Keys Is Trying To Combat Zika
In the Florida Keys on Election Day, along with the presidential race, one of the most controversial items on the ballot dealt with Zika. In a nonbinding vote countywide, residents in the Florida Keys approved a measure allowing a British company to begin a trial release of genetically modified mosquitoes. Armed with that approval, local officials voted Saturday to try out what they hope will be a new tool in the fight against Zika. (Allen, 11/20)

The New York Times: Medical Marijuana Is Legal In California. Except When It’s Not.
In what may be a sign of things to come after the drug’s broader legalization, medical cannabis companies like CannaCraft — which have operated in a quasi-legal, unregulated market, or gray market, for the past two decades in California — continue to be whipsawed by the glaring contradiction between a federal ban on marijuana and still-evolving state laws that should, in theory, shelter the companies from prosecution. Cannabis enterprises deal almost exclusively in cash because banks, fearing federal consequences, will not take their business. (Fuller, 11/21)

The New York Times: Along The Autism Spectrum, A Path Through Campus Life
Crosby J. Gardner has never had a girlfriend. Now 20 and living for the first time in a dorm here at Western Kentucky University, he has designed a fast-track experiment to find her. He ticks off the math. Two meals a day at the student dining hall, three courses per meal. Girls make up 57 percent of the 20,068 students. And so, he sums up, gray-blue eyes triumphant, if he sits at a table with at least four new girls for every course, he should be able to meet all 11,439 by graduation. (Hoffman, 11/19)

NPR: TV And Videogames Rewire Young Brains, For Better And Worse
There's new evidence that excessive screen time early in life can change the circuits in a growing brain. Scientists disagree, though, about whether those changes are helpful, or just cause problems. Both views emerged during the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego this week. (Hamilton, 11/19)

NPR: Older Lung Cancer Patients Can Benefit From Surgery
Every year when Morton Pollner had his checkup, he worried that doctors would find something on his lung. For years, they didn't. Then his luck ran out. "My reaction was, 'Well, you smoked for 30 years. You got away with it for another 30 years and this is it.' I thought it was a death sentence," he says. (Neighmond, 11/21)

Reuters: Sugary Drinks May Raise Diabetes Risk
Drinking colas and other sugary drinks is tied to an increased risk of pre-diabetes, but diet soda is not, a recent study suggests. Previous studies on the link between diet sodas and diabetes have been mixed; some research pointing to a potential connection has suggested this relationship may be explained at least in part by soda drinkers being overweight or obese. (11/18)

NPR: Hospital Companions Help Combat Loneliness For Older Patients
Loneliness can be a problem for older people, especially when they're in the hospital. Their children may have moved away. Spouses and friends may themselves be too frail to visit. So a California hospital is providing volunteer companions in the geriatric unit. One of the volunteers at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica is 24-year-old Julia Torrano. She hopes to go to medical school. Meanwhile, her twice-weekly volunteer shifts give her a lot of practice working with patients. (Jaffe, 11/21)

The Associated Press: Too Quiet On The Set; Filming Accidents Often Go Untold
Every year, workers on both sides of the camera are maimed, burned, break bones and even die striving to deliver entertainment that packs multiplexes and commands top TV ratings. Injuries come not just from obvious risks such as stunts and explosives, but from falls off ladders, toppled equipment and machines without safety guards. Yet in an industry where virtually everything is tallied and every success is touted, set accidents remain largely hidden and the consequences usually amount to mere thousands of dollars in fines paid out of multimillion-dollar budgets. (McCartney, 11/21)

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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