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KHN First Edition: December 7, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, December 07, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Free Clinics Aim To Fill VA’s Shortfalls In Mental Health
Anna Gorman reports: "Over the past three years, the sprawling VA system has come under fire from Congress and the media because veterans were waiting too long to see a doctor. Mental health appointments have been particularly difficult, and that can be dangerous for veterans. Studies show up to 20 percent of soldiers returning from battle in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Now, a new chain of free mental health clinics for vets has opened in five cities across the United States to fill the gap." (Gorman, 12/7)

Kaiser Health News: California Tests Electronic Database For End-Of-Life Wishes
Anna Gorman reports: "Mary De Freze, who has heart problems, chronic lung disease and a history of falling, knows she may not have too many years left. And she’s clear about what she wants — and doesn’t want — at the end of her life.“I don’t want to be in a lot of pain and I don’t want to be kept alive by machines,” said De Freze, 81. After a recent fall landed De Freze in Stonebrook Healthcare Center with cracked ribs and a bruised spleen, the staff there helped her put those wishes on paper." (Gorman, 12/7)

Kaiser Health News: 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, 12/7)

The Associated Press: Study: 'Obamacare' Repeal-Only Would Make 30M Uninsured
Repealing President Barack Obama's health care law without a clear replacement risks making nearly 30 million people uninsured, according to a study released Wednesday. Republicans say that won't happen because they are working on replacement legislation for a President Donald Trump to sign. Nonetheless, the complex two-stage strategy the GOP Congress is contemplating has raised concerns. (12/7)

The Washington Post: How Repealing Obamacare Would Punish The Working Class
The number of people without health insurance could more than double under Republican plans to repeal President Obama's Affordable Care Act, reaching nearly 59 million — or more than one in four Americans, according to a new analysis published Wednesday. The figures illustrate the challenges for newly empowered Republicans who, having won the presidential election after pledging to ease the financial burdens on the American working class, must work out the details of how they will deliver on their promises. (Ehrenfreund, 12/7)

The New York Times: Health Insurers List Demands If Affordable Care Act Is Killed
The nation’s health insurers, resigned to the idea that Republicans will repeal the Affordable Care Act, on Tuesday publicly outlined for the first time what the industry wants to stay in the state marketplaces, which have provided millions of Americans with insurance under the law. The insurers, some which have already started leaving the marketplaces because they are losing money, say they need a clear commitment from the Trump administration and congressional leaders that the government will continue offsetting some costs for low-income people. (Abelson, 12/6)

The Washington Post: Hospitals Warn Trump, Congress Of Massive Losses With Affordable Care Act Repeal
The nation’s hospital industry warned President-elect Trump and congressional leaders on Tuesday that repealing the Affordable Care Act could cost hospitals $165 billion by the middle of the next decade and trigger “an unprecedented public health crisis.” The two main trade groups for U.S. hospitals dispatched a letter to the incoming president and Capitol Hill’s top four leaders, saying that the government should help hospitals avoid massive financial losses if the law is rescinded in a way that causes a surge of uninsured patients. (Goldstein, 12/6)

The New York Times: Senate Republican Leaders Vow To Begin Repeal Of Health Law Next Month
Senate Republican leaders, after meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, said on Tuesday that they would move immediately next month to start repealing the Affordable Care Act, despite qualms among some of their members. ... Republicans have not fleshed out a plan to replace the 2010 health care law, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. But on Tuesday they laid out their principles for a replacement plan and said they would try to minimize disruption for the 20 million people who have gained coverage under the law. (Pear, 12/6)

Reuters: Repealing Obamacare To Be First On Senate Agenda In 2017
Repealing Obamacare will be the first order of business in the U.S. Senate in January, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said on Tuesday. Republicans will replace President Barack Obama's signature health insurance program that provides coverage to millions of Americans "step by step," said Senator John Thune, another member of the Republican leadership. (Cornwell, 12/6)

Politico: McConnell: Obamacare Repeal Measure Coming Within Weeks
An Obamacare repeal resolution will be the first item the Senate votes on next year, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, underscoring the GOP's commitment to repealing the law even as its replacement plan remains unclear. McConnell told reporters that repealing Obamacare would be "the first item up in the new year," and the Kentucky Republican that he would like to "get Democratic cooperation" during the difficult process of replacing "a very, very controversial law." (Schor, 12/6)

Politico: GOP Still Splintered Over Obamacare After Pence Meeting
After meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Tuesday to hash out plans to repeal Obamacare, top Senate Republicans are no closer to resolving an issue that’s splintering the GOP heading into the start of Donald Trump’s presidency: how long to give themselves to replace the law. Pence communicated that the incoming administration is prepared to work closely with Congress on the issue, senators said, but did not dictate how long the transition period should last. That decision will affect millions of Americans’ health care and send insurance companies scrambling to adjust. (Everett and Haberkorn, 12/7)

Reuters: U.S. Insurer Lobby Group Seeks Delay In 2018 Obamacare Deadline
The largest lobbying group for health insurers has asked U.S. lawmakers weighing the fate of Obamacare to push back the due date for 2018 individual insurance submissions to regulators in hopes of obtaining greater clarity on the program's future later on. Republican leaders including President-elect Donald Trump and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have said they are keen to repeal President Barack Obama's signature health insurance program, the Affordable Care Act, which provides coverage to millions of Americans. (12/6)

The Wall Street Journal: For Cash-Strapped Workers, ‘Insurance On Insurance’
As health insurance deductibles rise, employers are offering workers special policies to help cover out-of-pocket costs. For many workers, paying for health care has become such a difficult budgeting exercise that the insurance industry is marketing additional products to help. So-called gap insurance, also known as supplemental or voluntary insurance, provides extra coverage for things like hospital stays, unexpected accidents or treatment for acute illnesses such as cancer or heart disease. The policies help cover the cost of high deductibles or copays for treatment—the gap that employees face before their health insurance kicks in. (Silverman, 12/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Women Face 20% Higher Health-Care Costs In Retirement, Survey Finds
When it comes to saving for health-care costs in retirement, women need to set aside more—almost 20% more, on average—to cover their medical bills in the final years of their lives. That is the conclusion of a report released Wednesday by HealthView Services, a Danvers, Mass., company that provides retirement health-care cost data and tools to financial advisers. The reason for the gap is simple: longevity. On average, women live about two years longer than men. As a result, a 65-year-old woman has a life expectancy of 89, versus 87 for a man of the same age. (Tergesen, 12/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Big Pharma, Short On Blockbusters, Outsources The Science
French drug giant Sanofi SA is betting that a biotech partnership named after a Star Trek premise will help it crack one of the biggest mysteries in pharmaceutical research: molecules that drive diseases, including some cancers, that have been considered “undruggable” because of their shape. Four-and-a-half years in, Sanofi now believes its partnership, Warp Drive Bio, is close to getting its first new drug candidate. But the path has been painful. The venture has gone through three CEOs, two organizational structures, dizzying shifts in priorities—and so far, no marketable products. (Rockoff, 12/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Pfizer Fined $107 Million For Overcharging Britain’s National Health Service For Epilepsy Drug
Pfizer Inc. has been fined £84.2 million ($106.7 million) by the U.K.’s competition regulator for charging the country’s National Health Service excessively high prices for an anti-epilepsy drug. The Competition and Markets Authority said Wednesday that Pfizer and drug distribution company Flynn Pharma broke competition law by charging unfair prices in the U.K. for phenytoin sodium capsules, an anti-epilepsy drug used by around 48,000 patients in the country. (Roland, 12/7)

The Associated Press: UK Fines Companies For Hiking Epilepsy Drug Price 2,600 Pct
British regulators have fined U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and distributor Flynn Pharma almost 90 million pounds ($114.6 million) for increasing the cost of an epilepsy drug by as much as 2,600 percent.The Competition and Markets Authority says Pfizer and Flynn Pharma broke competition law by charging "excessive and unfair prices" for the drug used by some 48,000 people in Britain. Pfizer was fined 84.2 million pounds ($106 million) and Flynn Pharma 5.2 million pounds. (12/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Novo Nordisk Pledges To Limit Price Increases In U.S. For Its Drugs
Novo Nordisk A/S has pledged to limit price increases in the U.S. for its drugs, acknowledging that many diabetes patients struggle to afford its products. Jakob Riis, Novo’s U.S. chief, said the company would limit future increases in list prices of its drugs to no more than single-digit percentages annually. He made the pledge in an article posted on the company’s website last week. (Roland, 12/6)

The Wall Street Journal: New York Expands Transgender Health Care
Medicaid in New York will begin covering gender-transition care for youths under a state regulation that goes into effect Wednesday, health department officials said. The court-ordered expansion of coverage is the latest in a series of changes instituted by the Department of Health in the past two years related to transgender health care. Until last March, a 1998 state regulation banned Medicaid coverage of all transition-related care. (Ramey, 12/6)

The Wall Street Journal: ‘I’ve Always Felt Like I’ve Been A Girl’
By the time John Ballard reached his teens, he had threatened to kill himself with broken glass, had temper tantrums in school and was in and out of a hospital crisis unit. The summer after seventh grade, he taped a note to the steering wheel of his mother’s van: “Mom, I love you and everything you’ve done for me. I don’t want you to hate me after this, but I’ve always felt like I’ve been a girl.” (Ramey, 12/6)

The Washington Post: Texas Tells Women Abortion Might Cause Cancer. Science Says Otherwise.
Texas health officials are under fire for releasing a booklet suggesting that having an abortion could increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, despite research showing no such link. State law requires that the pamphlet, called “Women’s Right to Know,” be given to women at least 24 hours before a scheduled abortion. It includes detailed information about a developing fetus and cites potential risks of the procedure, as well as complications associated with giving birth. (Somashekhar, 12/6)

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Democrats’ Misleading Claim That Concerned Veterans For America Wants To ‘Privatize’ VA
The two Democrats, who serve on the Senate and House committees on veterans affairs, are resurrecting the stale Democratic talking point that Concerned Veterans for America wants to “privatize” the Department of Veterans Affairs. Concerned Veterans for America, or CVA, is a veterans advocacy group in the Koch brothers’ political network and has been one of the most vocal critics of VA since the 2014 wait-time scandal. (Lee, 12/7)

The Washington Post: A Shocking Video Captured A Man’s Overdose. He Calls It ‘The Best Thing That Happened To Me.’
The viral video that showed Ronald Hiers bent over a bench, overdosing on a batch of heroin that nearly killed him, has turned him into many things: a parable on the horrors of drug abuse, a recovering addict, a punchline. But as Hiers stared at the TV and watched the low point of his addiction, he said most people missed the most important thing the scene shows. “I am a son. A husband. A brother. A grandfather. A father. I'm a human being,” he told Memphis CBS-affiliate WREG. “That's what so many people missed about it. Those were two human beings.” (Wootson, 12/6)

The Associated Press: Researchers Fret As Info Lags On Pot Effects On Older Adults
Surveys show a small but growing number of older adults are using marijuana — a trend that worries researchers who say not enough information exists about how pot affects older users. Abundant research has been done on how the drug impacts developing brains, but little is known about the potential consequences on older users — even as recreation pot has been legalized in a number of states. (12/6)

The New York Times: New York City Has 5 Babies Born With Zika-Related Brain Issue
At least four babies have been born in New York City with Zika-related brain developmental symptoms since July, the city’s health department said on Wednesday, bringing the total number of such births to five. The numbers were announced in an alert the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene sent to doctors, urging them to remain vigilant and to continue to warn pregnant women and sexually active women of reproductive age not using a reliable form of birth control against traveling to places where the virus is spreading. (Marc Santora, 12/7)

NPR: Extreme Grooming Linked To Sexually Transmitted Infections
Frequent removal of pubic hair is associated with an increased risk for herpes, syphilis and human papillomavirus, doctors at the University of California, San Francisco, reported Monday in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections. People who have "mowed the lawn" at least once in their lifetimes were nearly twice as likely to say they had had at least one STD. And "extreme groomers" – those who remove all their pubic hair more than 11 times each year — were more than four times as likely to have had an infection. (Doucleff, 12/6)

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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