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KHN First Edition: November 23, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

NOTE TO READERS: KHN's First Edition will not be published Nov. 24-25. Look for it again in your inbox Nov. 28. Here's today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

California Healthline: Back To The Future: Insurance Pools For High-Risk Patients Could Be Revived
Pauline Bartolone reports: "It wasn’t so long ago that health insurance horror stories fueled discussions around the family dinner table and the national debate over health care reform. “One company said I was too heavy,” said Scott Svonkin, of Los Angeles, of the time he was denied an individual health policy in 2005. Svonkin, 50, said two other insurers seemed OK with his weight but also turned him down, citing his asthma and his wife’s pregnancy, which could put the insurers on the hook for a dependent whose health was uncertain." (Bartolone, 11/23)

Kaiser Health News: Long-Stalled FDA Reform Sits On Senate’s Lame-Duck Calendar
Steven Findlay reports: "Republicans in Congress are pushing to pass long-stalled legislation by January that gives the Food and Drug Administration new powers to more rapidly approve drugs and medical devices.Over five years, the complex legislation would include $550 million in additional funding for the agency, as well as $1.75 billion annually in added spending for the National Institutes of Health." (Findlay, 11/23)

Los Angeles Times: One Of Donald Trump's Meetings Might Offer A Clue For How He Wants To Replace Obamacare
Donald Trump has consistently vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare. But he has yet to explain what he intends to replace it with. His meeting schedule today might offer a clue of what he is pondering. On the agenda is a chat with Seema Verma, an architect of Indiana’s unusual healthcare program for the poor. Indiana is among a handful of red states that took federal aid through the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid eligibility to poor, childless adults. (Levey, 11/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Alaska’s Novel Plan To Cut Health Premium Costs
Health-insurance premiums for individuals in Alaska have been soaring almost 40% a year. The main reason: the cost of covering fewer than 500 residents who are among the sickest in the state, according to one state analysis. That prompted the state government to come up with a novel solution. It agreed in June to kick in $55 million for at least a year to cover the health-care costs for those patients, whose outsize medical bills prompted insurers to boost premiums for all 23,000 customers in an effort to remain profitable. (Raice and Wilde Mathews, 11/22)

The Wall Street Journal: What A GOP Government Potentially Means For Medicare Beneficiaries
Medicare beneficiaries could face big changes as the Republican Party, fresh off its election sweep, looks to revamp the federal health-care system. While Donald Trump had said before his campaign’s launch that “I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” the president-elect’s transition website has signaled support for longstanding Republican-backed plans to “modernize Medicare.” (Tergesen, 11/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Fentanyl Billionaire Comes Under Fire As Death Toll Mounts From Prescription Opioids
Before they were arrested last year, Alabama doctors John Couch and Xiulu Ruan were prized customers of Insys Therapeutics Inc., maker of a powerful and highly addictive type of synthetic opioid known as fentanyl. Drs. Couch and Ruan prescribed a combined $4.9 million of the painkiller, called Subsys, to Medicare patients in 2013 and 2014, among the most of any doctors in the U.S., federal data show. Insys, based in Chandler, Ariz., went to unusual lengths to keep these high-prescribing doctors happy. (Walker, 11/22)

The Washington Post: Normal Head Size At Birth Doesn’t Rule Out Microcephaly, Zika Syndrome After Birth
A study released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides disturbing new data about a small group of Zika-infected babies in Brazil, who were born with normal-size heads but developed microcephaly five months to a year after birth. The report is the first to document infants with laboratory evidence of Zika infection in utero who experienced “poor head growth with microcephaly developing after birth.” Although other researchers have described cases of babies developing microcephaly after birth, they could only presume that those infants had been infected congenitally. (Sun, 11/22)

The New York Times: Creeping Progress In Pledge To Cut Calories In Sugary Soda
It hasn’t been a good year for the troika that dominates soft drink sales, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple. The public’s attention on the health effects of sugary sodas has continued to increase, slowing growth and increasing political pressure. This year, soft drink companies and their lobbying group, the American Beverage Association, spent $38 million to defeat election-season proposals to impose taxes on sugary drinks in four cities: San Francisco, Oakland and Albany in California, and Boulder, Colo. The companies lost all of those fights. Now, seven cities around the country have a soda tax. (Strom, 11/22)

The New York Times: Where Marijuana Is The Doctor’s Orders, Will Insurers Pay?
Early this year, a disabled former automobile body worker named Greg Vialpando explained to lawmakers in New Mexico how medical marijuana helped his chronic back pain. State legislators were considering a bill backed by workers’ compensation insurers that would have exempted them from paying for medical marijuana. But Mr. Vialpando and another patient described how smoking the drug let them escape years of stupor caused by powerful prescription narcotic drugs known as opioids. (Meier, 11/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Lilly Alzheimer’s Drug Can Save Dismal Year For Pharma
After a year of drama for the health-care industry, ranging from the EpiPen pricing scandal to the collapse of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International and Theranos to the unknown future of Obamacare to a series of mergers, it is easy to forget that the business of drug companies is actually to discover new drugs. That will change in the next two weeks, when Eli Lilly unveils late-stage data for its Alzheimer’s disease drug. (Grant, 11/22)

NPR: 100 Years Of Infectious Disease In The United States
Infectious diseases are no longer the major killers in the U.S. that they once were, but they still surprise us. According to a report published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, deaths from infectious disease accounted for 5.4 percent of deaths from 1980 to 2014. (Hobson, 11/22)

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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