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KHN First Edition: December 5, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Monday, December 05, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Grab Bag Of Goodies In 21st Century Cures Act
Sydney Lupkin and Steven Findlay report: "A sprawling health bill expected to pass the Senate and become law before the end of the year is a grab bag for industries that spent plenty of money lobbying to make sure it happened that way.Here are some of the winners and losers in the 21st Century Cures Act." (Lupkin and Findlay, 12/2)

California Healthline: In House Majority Leader’s Calif. District, Many Depend On Health Law He Wants To Scrap
Pauline Bartolone and Emily Bazar report: "U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act first and replace it sometime later. That doesn’t sit well with Victoria Barton, who lives in McCarthy’s rural California district. “It’s like they dangled the carrot and now they’re taking it away,” said Barton, 38, of Bakersfield, an unpaid photographer and stay-at-home mother of two." (Bartolone and Bazar, 12/5)

California Healthline: Free Clinics Aim To Fill VA’s Shortfalls In Mental Health
Anna Gorman reports: "Elenilson Franco, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, first sought mental health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs nearly four years ago. He is still waiting. The VA lost his original paperwork and hasn’t yet approved a new application, he said. “It’s frustrating,” lamented Franco, 46, who served in Iraq as a U.S. Marine. “I am a veteran. The VA is supposed to be there for me.” (Gorman, 12/5)

The New York Times: G.O.P. Plans Immediate Repeal Of Health Law, Then A Delay
Republicans in Congress plan to move almost immediately next month to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as President-elect Donald J. Trump promised. But they also are likely to delay the effective date so that they have several years to phase out President Obama’s signature achievement. This emerging “repeal and delay” strategy, which Speaker Paul D. Ryan discussed this week with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, underscores a growing recognition that replacing the health care law will be technically complicated and could be politically explosive. (Pear, Steinhauer and Kaplan, 12/3)

The Associated Press: Obama: Health Care Act Is Law, US Can't Go Backward
President Barack Obama is urging the public to help save his health care law, which is in serious danger of being repealed under President-elect Donald Trump. In a Facebook Live appearance, Obama says the Affordable Care Act has improved millions of lives over the six years it's been the "law of the land." He says the country can't go "backward." (12/2)

The Washington Post: Obama Urges The Public To Tell Republicans Not To ‘Abandon’ The ACA
Obama spoke amid the fourth year’s enrollment period for consumers to buy health plans through ACA marketplaces, created for people who cannot get affordable coverage through a job. “If you haven’t gotten covered, now is the time to do it,” the president said, noting that Dec. 15 is the deadline for people to have insurance at the start of 2017. ... “Don’t let Republicans in Congress” take away the ACA’s most popular features, Obama said. “Tell them, ‘We want to build on the progress we’ve made, not abandon it.’ ” (Goldstein, 12/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama’s Pitch: Get Insured And Protect Health Law
“I know that lately there’s been yet another debate in Washington about health care reform, and it might make it sound like your insurance is somehow at risk, but here’s the bottom line: the most important thing for you to do is to get you and your family covered right away for 2017,” the president said. “Enrollment is open right now but only until Jan. 31. If you sign up by Dec. 15, you’ll be covered starting Jan. 1.” (Radnofsky, 12/2)

The New York Times: Tom Price Is Eager To Lead H.H.S., And Reduce Its Clout
During his 12 years in Congress, Representative Tom Price has made clear what role he thinks the government should play in health care. It can be summed up in one word: less. Throughout his career, Mr. Price — who has been picked by President-elect Donald J. Trump to be secretary of health and human services — has argued that the government should get out of the way of doctors and give patients more control over their health care. (Pear, 12/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Crossing State Lines Is No Easy Jaunt For Insurers And Local Regulators
As Republicans gear up to overhaul the federal health law, they face pushback from a couple unexpected corners over one of their goals: Giving health insurers greater ability to sell policies to consumers across state lines. Republicans for some time have billed interstate sales of insurance as a way to heighten competition and lower costs. It is one of the few specific health initiatives displayed on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition website. (Armour and Wilde Mathews, 12/5)

USA Today: Obamacare Was Profitable For Some Insurers Despite Public Comments
One of the most vocal insurers about the problems with the Affordable Care Act marketplace made nearly $400 million in one state already this year, documents show. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina lost about $400 million on ACA individual plans sold on Healthcare.gov in 2014 and 2015. After raising rates by about 32% for 2016, the company made nearly the same amount for the first three quarters of 2016 for all individual plans sold on and off the exchange, data filed with the state department of insurance show. (O'Donnell, 12/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Small Insurers’ Big Collapse Reflects Deep Industry Woes
A pair of small Pennsylvania insurers focused on long-term care could soon become one of the nation’s costliest insurance failures ever, highlighting the widespread problems that have plagued the industry niche for more than a decade. Two insurance units of Penn Treaty American Corp., which have combined assets of about $600 million and projected long-term-care claims liabilities topping $4 billion, are on track to be liquidated early next year, according to filings in a state court in Harrisburg. (Scism, 12/4)

The New York Times: U.S. Health Spending In 2015 Averaged Nearly $10,000 Per Person
Total spending on health care in the United States increased last year at the fastest rate since the 2008 recession, reaching $3.2 trillion, or an average of nearly $10,000 a person, the Department of Health and Human Services reported on Friday. The growth coincided with continuing increases in the number of Americans with insurance coverage, through private health plans or Medicaid. (Pear, 12/2)

The Associated Press: US Health Care Tab Hits $3.2T; Fastest Growth In 8 Years
The nation's health care tab grew at the fastest rate in eight years in 2015, driven by the coverage expansion in President Barack Obama's law and by costly prescription drugs, the government said Friday. The growth of 5.8 percent in 2015 boosted total health care spending to $3.2 trillion. That's an average of $9,990 per person, although the vast share of that money is spent caring for the sickest patients. (12/2)

Los Angeles Times: Health Spending Went Up Last Year Because More People Were Getting Care, Report Says
While such surges in health spending have traditionally worried economists and policymakers, the 2015 increase is somewhat different, the new report from independent actuaries at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests. In the past, mounting prices for hospital stays, doctor’s visits and other medical goods and services were largely responsible for skyrocketing health spending.But the new report indicates that the latest increase – which tracks with a similar uptick in 2014 – was fueled by increased use of healthcare, likely caused by the health law, often called Obamacare. (Levey, 12/2)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Health Spending Rose Faster Than Expected In 2015
The current data suggest the pace of spending did begin to pick up again after the economy rebounded, with prescription drug price growth and an aging baby boom generation contributing to the acceleration. Growth in prescription drug spending was faster than that of any other service in 2015, CMS said. Spending on physician and clinical services grew at a rate of 6.3%, the first time in a decade the figure had topped 6%. (Radnofsky, 12/2)

USA Today: Aetna, Humana Face Federal Antitrust Lawyers In Court
Lawyers for insurance giants Aetna and Humana will begin battling government antitrust lawyers Monday in a Washington, D.C., court, seeking to get legal clearance to complete their planned $37 billion merger. Worried that the deal would raise prices and lower benefits for customers, the Department of Justice, eight states and the District of Columbia sued to block the deal. (Yu, 12/4)

Reuters: Supreme Court Takes Christian-Affiliated Hospital Pension Case
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear appeals by Christian-affiliated hospital systems of lower court rulings that gave the green light to employee lawsuits accusing them of wrongly claiming a religious exemption from federal pension law. New Jersey-based St. 's Healthcare System, Illinois-based Advocate Health System and California-based Dignity Health each appealed separate federal appeals courts rulings that refused to throw out the employee lawsuits. The justices agreed to hear all three cases. (Pierson, 12/2)

The New York Times: Zenefits Chief Quitting And Is Said To Consider Trump Transition Team
Zenefits, a once highflying human resources software start-up that defined Silicon Valley’s recent technology boom, has been trying to recover its footing after being rocked by scandal over its business practices earlier this year. Now David O. Sacks, the chief executive of Zenefits and the tech veteran who was charged with rejuvenating the embattled company, plans to leave his position. Mr. Sacks said that he would become Zenefits’s chairman and that the company was starting a search for a new chief executive. (Isaac and Benner, 12/2)

The Washington Post: Trump’s Pick For Defense Secretary Went To The Mat For The Troubled Blood-Testing Company Theranos
Retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, reportedly President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of defense, had a long military career, leading the U.S. Central Command before he retired in 2013. But a series of emails obtained by The Post last year revealed that, in a lesser-known incident late in his military tenure, Mattis took the unusual step of personally pushing for a start-up company — the controversial blood-testing Theranos — to land a deal for a military field test. (Johnson, 12/1)

The Wall Street Journal: Recent Retirement, Theranos Ties Pose Possible Obstacles For Mattis Confirmation
Gen. Mattis may face questions over his ties to Theranos Inc., the embattled blood-testing startup. He joined the board in July 2013, a couple of months after retiring. As of Friday, Theranos’s website listed him as a director. Theranos referred questions on Gen. Mattis’s directorship to him; a representative for Gen. Mattis didn’t respond to requests for comment. His ties to the company go back to his days overseeing the military’s operations in the Middle East and Central Asia. In 2012, Gen. Mattis, then leading the military’s Central Command, pressed for the U.S. Army to procure Theranos lab equipment and deploy it in the battlefield, senior military officials involved in Army medical research said. (12/2)

The Washington Post: Finding A Way Through PTSD That Doesn’t Rely On Drugs
Last fall, Shaun Durfey and five other veterans sat in a circle and drew their family trees. Durfey, a 29-year-old former Marine, had served three tours in the Middle East. Upon his return to the States, he’d been given a host of medications for insomnia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and he had spent hours at a Veterans Affairs hospital talking about the wartime deaths of friends. Buthis doctors had never probed his family history, which included painful memories of childhood neglect. Now, Durfey was being asked to speak openly about these experiences. (Miller, 12/4)

The Washington Post: Tackling The Opioid Epidemic By Combining Counseling And Medication
To Heaven Godley, a recovering heroin addict, the methadone treatment center he visits every day feels like home. “It’s my refuge,” said the 39-year-old Baltimore native. Godley’s treatment plan at Reach Health Services, one of 20 opioid treatment centers in Baltimore that provide methadone and other addiction medications, is intensive. He talks to his behavioral health counselor several times a week, sees a psychologist to help manage his anger and gets regular medical checkups at an on-site clinic. (Vestal, 12/3)

NPR: Helping Ex-Offenders Manage Health Care Can Pay Off
People with a history of incarceration are typically much sicker than the general population, especially returning inmates. Studies done primarily in Ohio and Texas have found that more than 8 in 10 returning prisoners have a chronic medical condition, from addiction to asthma. Egins says a lot of it has gone untreated, for a range of reasons — because the health care system is tough to navigate, because they're homeless and don't have insurance, or because they don't trust doctors. (Bichell, 12/5)

The New York Times: Immune System, Unleashed By Cancer Therapies, Can Attack Organs
As Chuck Peal lay in a Waterbury, Conn., emergency room one Sunday in early September, doctors furiously tried to make sense of his symptoms. Mr. Peal, 61, appeared to be dying, and they were not sure why. ... A doctor suspected a heart attack, but uncertainty left him urgently researching the situation on his phone. This was not a heart attack. Mr. Peal’s body was attacking itself, a severe reaction by his immune system that was a side effect of a seemingly miraculous cancer treatment aimed at saving his life. (Richtel, 12/3)

NPR: Brief Doctor Chats Make Parents More Likely To OK HPV Vaccine
A full decade after the Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine to fight the sexually transmitted, cancer-causing human papillomavirus, almost half of all adolescents have still not received their first dose. This low vaccination rate is dramatic when compared to other routine childhood immunizations like polio and measles, mumps and rubella, where compliance is above 90 percent. (Neighmond, 12/5)

The New York Times: Older Adults Are Still Skipping Vaccinations
People once vigilant about vaccinating their children aren’t nearly as careful about protecting themselves as they age, even though diseases like influenza, pneumonia and shingles (a.k.a. herpes zoster) are particularly dangerous for older people. “Trying to prevent these common and often debilitating conditions is incredibly important for older adults,” said Dr.Carolyn Bridges, associate director for adult immunization at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet in the C.D.C.’s 2014 and 2015 reports on vaccination coverage, she said, “we really didn’t see much change.” (Span, 12/2)

The Washington Post: Michael Bloomberg May Be Big Tobacco’s Biggest Enemy
Despite decades of scientific confirmation and reconfirmation that smoking is a menace to your health, the decline of the myth of the Marlboro man, and a World Health Organization treaty on tobacco control signed by 180 countries, we still have a long way to go in the war against tobacco. While the prevalence of smokers has fallen dramatically in the United States thanks in large part to education campaigns, the big five tobacco companies have found a new market in developing countries. The number of people smoking the leaves globally has remained sky high — 1.1 billion — with an estimated 6 million dying each year from the health effects. Can Michael Bloomberg make a difference? (Cha, 12/5)

The Associated Press: Lawsuit ‘Likely’ Amid New Texas Rules Over Fetal Remains
New Texas rules requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains are likely to face a court challenge before taking effect, an abortion-rights attorney said Friday, months after the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down sweeping abortion restrictions in the state. The new regulations, which the state plans to implement starting Dec. 19, are the latest battleground in Texas over abortion and would prohibit facilities from continuing to dispose of fetal remains as biological medical waste. Lawsuits this year blocked similar measures in Louisiana and Indiana, where the law was signed in March by governor and now Vice President-elect Mike Pence. (Weber, 12/2)

The Associated Press: Rural Hospitals In Upstate NY Asked To Repay Federal Money
Rural hospitals across upstate New York are facing the prospect of having to pay back millions of dollars in federal funds that already have been distributed. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently decided to change a calculation used to determine certain funding for sole community and Medicare-dependent hospitals. He says it is retroactively seeking to recoup federal funds based on a new formula. (12/3)

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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