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KHN First Edition: December 2, 2016


First Edition

Friday, December 02, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Medicaid Is Balm And Benefit For Victims Of Gun Violence
Sarah Varney reports: "Kenneth Berry can feel the bullets in his body move. One jiggles down his leg toward his ankle; another presses on his sciatic nerve; a third has migrated to his hip. The three bullets have been inside Berry, 41, for more than two decades, pumped into him when he was a teenager near St. Louis. Now, after years without health coverage, besieged by untreated nerve pain and hunched over a cane, he finally has the golden ticket to get the medical procedures that will bring relief: a Medicaid card." (Varney, 12/2)

Kaiser Health News: HSA Balances Climb But Benefits Reward Wealthier Consumers Most
Michelle Andrews reports: "President-elect Donald Trump has proposed expanding health savings accounts as an alternative to the health law. More than 20 million people now have high-deductible health plans that can link to the tax-advantaged accounts, and the average account balance grew by more than a third last year to more than $1,800, according to a new analysis. But consumer advocates warn that health savings accounts would do little to help lower income people who would lose their health insurance if the health law is repealed." (Andrews, 12/2)

Kaiser Health News: Delivered ‘Like A Pizza’: Why Killer Drug Fentanyl Is So Hard To Stop
WBUR's Martha Bebinger reports: "The Obama administration agreed that the increasing supply of fentanyl on the street is a major challenge and said agencies are doing a lot. But reducing the supply is complicated. ... “Synthetic drugs are a real winner because they are easy to make, and they’re cheap to produce,” said Kara McDonald, director of policy, planning and coordination at the international narcotics and law enforcement bureau of the U.S. Department of State.“They’re not dependent on a season or the weather like a plant-based drug,” McDonald said. “And with the distribution system — through mail order — they can be delivered directly to the door in some cases. Like a pizza.” (Bebinger, 12/2)

California Healthline: California Has High Aspirations For Lowering HIV Infections
Elaine Korry reports: "Zero. That’s the number of new HIV infections California officials are aiming for under a comprehensive initiative released this fall. The “Getting to Zero” plan, intended to guide the state’s AIDS policy from 2017 to 2021, is designed to boost surveillance, increase access to care and eliminate disparities in treatment." (Korry, 12/2)

Politico: GOP's Medicare Plans Run Into Wall In The Senate
The GOP’s dream of privatizing parts of Medicare is running up against resistance among Senate Republicans. Interviews with more than a dozen GOP lawmakers reveal they’re not planning to pursue big changes to the popular health care program for seniors — at least not in the first year of the Trump administration. That hesitation starts with the chairman who would lead any overhaul in the Senate. (Haberkorn and Cancryn, 12/2)

The Associated Press: Senate GOP Shies From Fight Over Medicare
Congressional Democrats are warning that Speaker Paul Ryan and President-elect Donald Trump are gunning for Medicare — and they are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of an epic political battle over the government's flagship health program that covers 57 million Americans. It turns out that Republicans, especially in the Senate, are not spoiling for a fight. (12/2)

Reuters: Senator Warns Against Simultaneous Overhaul Of Medicare And Obamacare
A senior U.S. Senate Republican warned his party on Thursday against simultaneously overhauling Medicare and the Obamacare health insurance program, saying this would be "biting off more than you can chew." The cautionary comments from Senator Lamar Alexander came after House Speaker Paul Ryan, long an advocate of privatize Medicare, said Republican lawmakers would be discussing reforms of the health insurance program for the elderly with President-elect Donald Trump's administration. (Cornwell, 12/1)

The Associated Press: Key House Chairman: GOP Will Change Medicare, To 'Save' It
The chairman of a key House committee is pledging that congressional Republicans will change Medicare in order to save it. GOP Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, head of the Ways and Means Committee, insisted Thursday that Republicans won't be deterred by the politics, even though Donald Trump won election as president on promises to protect the popular health care program for older Americans, and Democrats are already warning of a "war on seniors." (12/2)

Politico: Does Trump Need A Health Care Czar?
Rep. Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to run HHS, is facing an early test: How to repeal and replace Obamacare when congressional Republicans and Trump aren't necessarily on the same page. "It's going to be very difficult," former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle told POLITICO's "Pulse Check" podcast. For instance, Trump's pledge to keep Obamacare's consumer protections raises complicated questions around how to pay for those provisions — "and that's just for starters." (Diamond, 12/1)

The Washington Post: Trump To GOP: Here’s How To Defend My Cabinet Picks
President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has provided detailed instructions to congressional Republicans on how to defend his Cabinet picks, including directions to portray his attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), as a strong defender of civil rights and to play up South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s Indian heritage as evidence of Trump’s purported commitment to a diverse administration. ... [The memo says]"Congressman Price, a renowned physician, has earned a reputation for being a tireless problem solver and the go-to expert on quality health care policy, making him the perfect choice to serve in President-elect Trump’s cabinet as Secretary of Health and Human Services." (Snell and Viebeck, 12/1)

Politico: Veterans Groups Fear Trump Will 'Burn Down' VA
Donald Trump won the White House pledging to use his business acumen to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs, the poster child for government mismanagement — even if he has to "pick up the phone and fix it myself." But Trump’s leading candidates to run the troubled Cabinet department strike fear in many veteran's advocates, current and former agency officials and members of Congress, who worry that the new administration will aim to gut the VA and privatize many of its services. (Bender, 12/2)

Reuters: Johnson & Johnson Must Pay 6 Implant Patients $1 Billion
A federal jury in Dallas on Thursday ordered Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopaedics unit to pay more than $1 billion to six plaintiffs who said they were injured by Pinnacle hip implants, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said. The jurors found that the metal-on-metal Pinnacle hip implants were defectively designed, and that the companies did not warn consumers of the risks.

The Wall Street Journal: Zenefits Must Charge For Software In Washington State
Washington’s insurance regulator said Thursday that Zenefits can no longer offer its human resources software for free in the state, another setback for the embattled health-benefits brokerage that has sought to move past regulatory violations. The order from Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler strikes at the heart of Zenefits’s business model, which offers free human-resources software to small businesses so that it can collect commissions when the companies use Zenefits to sign up for health benefits. (Winkler, 12/1)

The New York Times: Texas Again Places Obstacles In Front Of Those Seeking Abortions
Despite losing a milestone abortion case at the United States Supreme Court this past summer, Texas threw down another stumbling block this week. It will require facilities that provide abortions to pay for the cremation or burial of fetal remains, rather than dispose of them as biological medical waste. It is the latest attempt by abortion opponents to make it more burdensome for women to get abortions — by creating new rules and laws that make it more difficult for providers to stay in business. (Alvarez, 12/1)

The Associated Press: Trump Win Buoys Push For New Abortion Limits In Arkansas
Buoyed by Republicans' expanded majorities in the Legislature and Donald Trump's presidential victory, abortion opponents in Arkansas are pushing for bans on a commonly used second trimester procedure, terminating a pregnancy based on the fetus' sex and other restrictions next year. A Republican lawmaker plans to file legislation next week to prohibit dilation and evacuation, or "D&E," a second trimester procedure that abortion supporters say is the safest and most common. (12/1)

The Associated Press: Ohio Pulls License Of 1 Of State's Last Few Abortion Clinics
Ohio has revoked the operating license of one of the state's few remaining abortion clinics on the grounds that it failed to obtain a required transfer agreement with a nearby hospital for emergencies. Women's Med Center of Dayton has 15 days to appeal the order, which was signed Wednesday by Rick Hodges, the director of the Department of Health. The clinic said it will do so. (12/1)

The Associated Press: Maryland’s Democrats Vow Planned Parenthood Fight
Although President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood as long as it provides abortions, several of Maryland’s Democratic lawmakers said that despite their party’s minority status in Congress, they will fight every effort to do so. “This will be an ongoing battle,” Chris Van Hollen, a Democratic congressman who was elected to the Senate last month, said in an interview with Capital News Service. “It’s unfortunate that in the 21st century we’re still having to wage this battle, but we will fight tooth and nail to prevent Donald Trump and the Republicans from turning back the clock on women’s rights.” (Haq and Tonic, 12/1)

NPR: HomeopathicLabels Will Have To Say There's No Proof They Work
Homeopathy has been around since the 1700s, but despite having devoted followers, there is no scientific evidence that it works. Soon, packages for homeopathic products might say just that. On Nov. 15, the Federal Trade Commission released an enforcement policy statement about labeling for over-the-counter homeopathic products. Homeopathic treatments have increasingly been marketed in drug store and supermarket aisles, alongside Food and Drug Administration-approved over-the-counter medications like Tylenol and Mucinex. (Ross, 12/2)

NPR: Magnetic Pulse Jump-Starts Short-Term Recall In Memory Study
Forget where you just left your car keys? A magnetic pulse might help you remember. Some dormant memories can be revived by delivering a pulse of magnetic energy to the right brain cells, researchers report Thursday in the journal Science. The finding is part of a study that suggests the brain's "working memory" system is far less volatile than scientists once thought. (Hamilton, 12/1)

NPR: Photographer Reveals Life Inside An Alzheimer's Ward
Inside the walls of a geriatric hospital in France, time stands still. Light falls across two stockinged feet on a bed. The fading floral pattern on a swath of wallpaper is interrupted by an unused corkboard. And between these scenes of stillness, residents approach a pair of locked doors with modest curiosity, expectation and even anger. Swedish photographer Maja Daniels says those doors, which were locked to prevent the residents from wandering, were crucial early in the project. (Rizzo, 12/1)

The Associated Press: Public Housing Smoking Ban Sparks Mixed Reviews In NYC
Elba Acosta was distressed to learn that her morning habit of coffee and a smoke inside her New York City Housing Authority apartment will be banned under new federal rules prohibiting smoking in public housing. “I have my black coffee and a cigarette at home,” Acosta, 67, said Thursday outside the Chelsea-Elliot Houses. “I mean, that’s my freedom. You do whatever you want to do because it’s your body. The government has no business in your personal choice.” (Matthews, 12/1)

Los Angeles Times: California Health Officials Report First Death Of Flu Season
California health officials on Thursday confirmed the state’s first death of this year’s influenza season and reminded everyone to get a flu shot before more people get sick. “As this unfortunate case illustrates, the flu can be deadly and causes thousands of fatalities each year in the United States,” said Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health. “Fortunately, people can get vaccinated to help keep them from getting sick and spreading the flu to others.” (Karlamangla, 12/1)

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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