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KHN First Edition: November 29, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Beyond Birth Control, Women Could Pay More For Insurance Again Under TrumpCare
Michelle Andrews reports: "As the prospect began to sink in of losing access to free contraceptives if the health law is repealed or replaced, women have reportedly been racing to get IUDs or stockpile birth control  pills before President Barack Obama leaves office. But birth control is just the tip of the iceberg, advocates say. There are a number of other women’s health benefits that are also at risk." (Andrews, 11/29)

California Healthline: Deadly Infections Linked To Heart Surgery Device Highlight Holes In FDA Monitoring
Chad Terhune and Christina Jewett report: "At first, Vincent Karst, 55, was recovering well from his open-heart surgery in March 2015. He resumed the activities he enjoyed, such as visiting car shows and eating out. But some months later, his condition mysteriously deteriorated. By fall he was so short of breath, nauseated and overwhelmed by fatigue that he needed to be rehospitalized in York, Pa. There, doctors diagnosed a new problem: a serious mycobacterial infection that was acquired during his surgery, according to his subsequent lawsuit." (Terhune and Jewett, 11/29)

California Healthline: Environmentalists Offer To Help Protect Health Care Under Trump
Pauline Bartolone reports: "Environmental groups are laser-focused in their crusade for cleaner air and water, on curbing climate change, and preventing toxins from contaminating communities. But as they prepare for the Trump administration and Republican control of Congress, many of them say they’re rethinking their strategies and building new alliances.For Sierra Club California, that could mean working with health care advocates to prevent the rollback of the Affordable Care Act." (Bartolone, 11/29)

The New York Times: Tom Price, Obamacare Critic, Is Said To Be Trump’s Choice For Health Secretary
If President-elect Donald J. Trump wanted a cabinet secretary who could help him dismantle and replace President Obama’s health care law, he could not have found anyone more prepared than Representative Tom Price, who has been studying how to accomplish that goal for more than six years. Mr. Price, an orthopedic surgeon who represents many of the northern suburbs of Atlanta, speaks with the self-assurance of a doctor about to perform another joint-replacement procedure. He knows the task and will proceed with brisk efficiency. (Pear, 11/28)

The Associated Press: Trump To Nominate Georgia Rep. Tom Price As Health Secretary
President-elect Donald Trump has selected Georgia Rep. Tom Price, a leading critic of President Barack Obama's sweeping health care law, to head the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a person familiar with the decision. If confirmed by the Senate, Price would play a central role in Republican efforts to repeal and replace the current health care law. Trump has pledged to move quickly on overhauling the landmark measure, but has been vague about what he hopes to see in a replacement bill. (11/29)

Reuters: Trump Looks To Obamacare Critic, Indiana Expert To Overhaul Health Care
Trump is set to name Republican Representative Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon from Georgia, as his Health and Human Services secretary, and consultant Seema Verma to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a powerful agency that oversees government health programs and insurance standards. He is expected to cast Price and Verma as a "dream team" to help him once he takes office on Jan. 20 with his campaign pledge to repeal President Barack Obama's signature health law, the Affordable Care Act that is better known as Obamacare. (Rampton, 11/29)

USA Today: Rep. Tom Price Is Trump's Pick For Health And Human Services Dept.
A six-term member of Congress and an orthopedic surgeon, Price is a frequent critic of the health care law that Obama signed in 2010. “Premiums have gone up, not down," he has said. "Many Americans lost the health coverage they were told time and time again by the president that they could keep. Choices are fewer.” Price, 62, received his doctorate from the University of Michigan and started his career as an orthopedic surgeon in Roswell, Ga. Two decades later, he ran for office as a Republican. He was elected to the State Senate in 1996. (Jackson and Solis, 11/29)

Los Angeles Times: Trump Chooses Conservative Georgia Congressman, A Harsh Critic Of Obamacare, To Be Health Secretary
As a leading member of the tea party caucus in the House, Price has led calls for dramatically cutting federal programs, particularly for low- and moderate-income Americans, and for repealing and replacing Obamacare, which he has called “monstrous legislation.” “Repealing this misbegotten monstrosity is the first step toward real healthcare reforms that empower patients and actually reduce costs,” he said a few months after Obama signed the health law in 2010. (Levey, 11/28)

Politico: Price Picked To Lead HHS
An early Trump supporter, Price endorsed the president-elect in May. Price also campaigned with Trump at an Obamacare repeal rally a week before the election. "The things that we all believe about health care — we want a system that is affordable for everybody, that is accessible for everybody, that is of the highest quality and provides choices for patients — all of those things have been destroyed by Obamacare," Price said at the rally. That is "why we need Donald Trump and Mike Pence to work with us and make sure we put in place a real health solution.” (Haberkorn, 11/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump Chooses Tom Price As Health Secretary
[Price] has championed his own legislation, the Empowering Patients First Act, since 2009, taking a position on a number of hot-button issues for conservative health policy thinkers. In its latest iteration, the proposal includes refundable, age-adjusted tax credits for people to buy insurance if they don’t have access to coverage through an employer or government program. People in a government program, such as Medicare, Medicaid or Tricare, would also be allowed to opt out of it and get tax credits toward the cost of private coverage instead. (Radnofsky and Nicholas, 11/28)

The Washington Post: Trump To Name Rep. Tom Price As Next HHS Secretary
One of the 18 members of the House GOP Doctors Caucus, Price also supports major changes to both Medicaid and Medicare, health insurance pillars of the Great Society programs of the 1960s. Under his vision, both programs would cease to be entitlements that require them to provide coverage to every person who qualifies. Instead, like many House Republicans, he wants to convert Medicaid into block grants to states – which would give them more latitude from federal requirements about eligibility rules and the medical services that must be covered for low-income Americans. This plan would also require “able-bodied” applicants to meet work requirements in order to receive health care benefits — an idea that the Obama administration has consistently rebuffed. (Goldstein and Rucker, 11/29)

NPR: Rep. Tom Price Tapped By Trump To Head Health And Human Services
Politically, Price is conservative. He opposes abortion rights, receiving a 2016 rating of 0 by Planned Parenthood and 100 percent by National Right to Life. He has voted against legislation aimed at prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation; for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman; and against the bill that would've ended the don't-ask-don't-tell policy regarding disclosure of sexual orientation in the military. (Neel, 11/28)

The New York Times: $6.3 Billion Measure Aims To Cure Ailing Health Care Policies
In one of the most sweeping and rare bipartisan acts of this Congress, lawmakers will move this week on a $6.3 billion bill to increase funding for research into cancer and other diseases, address problems in the nation’s mental health systems and enact potentially far-reaching regulatory changes for drugs and medical devices. The bill, known as the 21st Century Cures Act, is the product of years of debates over health care policy issues, including how to track the federal drug regulatory structure with the fast-paced world of biotechnology, streamline the unwieldy mental health care system, and stem the widespread and intractable problem of opioid drug abuse. (Steinhauer and Tavernise, 11/28)

The Associated Press: Sen. Warren Blasts Drug Approval Bill As 'Extortion'
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has delivered a ferocious attack on congressional Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over a medical research bill, putting fellow Democrats on the spot by pushing them to oppose a measure she said "is corrupt, and it is very, very dangerous." As Congress began the final stretch of its post-election session, Warren said the 996-page measure — a top priority for GOP leaders and backed by the biomedical industry — was riddled with provisions that she called "a bunch of special giveaways" to big pharmaceutical companies. (11/29)

Politico: GOP Eyes Best Chance In Years To Defund Planned Parenthood
Congressional Republicans are aiming to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood early next year, according to GOP sources on and off the Hill, as social conservatives press for a milestone win under Donald Trump's presidency after years of thwarted attempts to defund the health care group. (Haberkorn and Everett, 11/28)

The New York Times: Obama’s Sacred Duty: Visiting The Wounded At Walter Reed
On Tuesday, for his 23rd and probably last time as president, Mr. Obama will helicopter to the military hospital to spend another afternoon with the wounded from Afghanistan and Iraq. ... Mr. Obama will arrive at the hospital in suburban Maryland on Marine One with a minimum of ceremony, having memorized the names of the wounded he will visit from a list he received the night before. (Harris, 11/29)

The Associated Press: Obama Signs Bill To Improve Crisis Hotline
President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill that seeks to ensure all telephone calls and other communications delivered through a Department of Veterans Affairs' crisis line get answered in a timely manner by a qualified person. The legislation signed Monday comes after federal investigators substantiated allegations that some calls went into a voicemail system and that some veterans didn't get immediate assistance. (11/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Testimony Shows Anthem And Cigna At Odds Over Proposed Merger
Newly unsealed court testimony shows health insurers Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp. have significant disagreements about their proposed merger, offering fresh details about a rift that is highly unusual for two companies seeking to press ahead with such a deal. A trial on the planned merger began last week after the Justice Department decided to challenge it on antitrust grounds. (Kendall and Wilde Mathews, 11/28)

Reuters: Zenefits Hit With $7 Million Fine By California Insurance Regulator
Software company Zenefits has been fined $7 million by California's insurance regulator, marking the biggest penalty yet for the startup that has faced multiple investigations for flouting insurance laws. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a statement posted on the state insurance department's website that Zenefits was charged with allowing unlicensed employees to sell insurance and circumventing education requirements for insurance agents. (Somerville, 11/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Big Names Take Hit On Theranos
Theranos Inc. received much of its funding from high-profile private investors who weren’t part of the ecosystem that typically backs startups and could see their stakes wiped out by the blood-testing company’s regulatory and technological troubles, people familiar with the matter said. (Weaver, Carreyrou and Siconolfi, 11/28)

The New York Times: Local Transmission Of Zika Virus Is Reported In Texas
A probable case of local transmission of the Zika virus has been reported in Texas, state health officials announced on Monday, making it the second state, after Florida, in which the infection is thought to have been carried from person to person by mosquitoes. The patient is a woman who is not pregnant and lives in Brownsville, on the Gulf Coast near the Mexican border. The state’s first case of chikungunya, a virus spread by the type of mosquito that carries Zika, was confirmed this year in Brownsville. (McNeil and Fernandez, 11/28)

Los Angeles Times: Texas Becomes Second State To Confirm Locally Transmitted Zika Infection
Lab tests confirmed last week that a woman who lives in Brownsville, Texas, was infected with the virus, state health officials said in a statement. The woman had not recently traveled to Mexico or any other region with an ongoing Zika outbreak. ... The virus was detected in her urine but a blood test was negative, “indicating that the virus can no longer be spread from her by a mosquito,” the statement said. (Simmons, 11/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Can’t Get To Sleep? Lay Off The Drugs
It’s easy to get into the habit of popping a pill to have a good night’s sleep. Insomnia, which affects a third of adults, becomes more common as we age. But as evidence has mounted about the risks of drugging the brain to induce or maintain slumber, more doctors are steering patients away from sleep aids, including over-the-counter medications, and are offering innovative behavioral-change solutions. (Landro, 11/28)

NPR: Flu Shots Don't Increase Autism Risk In Pregnancy
Getting the flu while pregnant doesn't appear to increase the child's risk of being diagnosed with autism later on, a study finds, and neither does getting a flu shot while pregnant. The study, published Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics, tries to tease apart subtle questions of risk and risk avoidance. (Shute, 11/28)

The New York Times: Summer Project Turns Into Leukemia Testing Breakthrough
A rare but treatable form of cancer can now be diagnosed cheaply and easily with dried blood spots instead of whole blood, scientists in Seattle announced last week. The new test for chronic myeloid leukemia can be run with a few dime-size spots on a paper card that can be mailed to a center for diagnosis. (McNeil, 11/28)

NPR: Big Data Projects Surpass Biomedical Scientists' Ability To Analyze Them
Biomedical research is going big-time: Megaprojects that collect vast stores of data are proliferating rapidly. But scientists' ability to make sense of all that information isn't keeping up. This conundrum took center stage at a meeting of patient advocates, called Partnering For Cures, in New York City on Nov. 15. (Harris, 11/28)

Los Angeles Times: For High School Football Players, Just A Season Of Play Brings Brain Changes
Without sustaining a single concussion, a North Carolina high school football team showed worrisome brain changes after a single season of play, a new study has shown. A detailed effort to capture the on-field experiences of 24 high school football players showed that, at the end of a single season of play, teammates whose heads sustained the most frequent contact with other moving bodies had the most pronounced changes in several measures of brain health. (Healy, 11/28)

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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