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KHN First Edition: December 12, 2016


First Edition

Monday, December 12, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Price Poised To Protect Doctors’ Interests At HHS
Christina Jewett and Marisa Taylor report: "In picking Tom Price to be secretary of Health and Human Services, Donald Trump has chosen an orthopedic surgeon who in his congressional career, has loyally promoted the interests of the medical profession — its freedom and importantly, its financial interests. A conservative representing Georgia’s 6th District, Price sponsored a 2015 bill that would restrict efforts to reduce doctor payments for medical services. He cosponsored another 2011 bill that would have limited reports used by hospitals and regulators to perform background checks used to screen doctors before hiring them." (Jewett and Taylor, 12/12)

Kaiser Health News: Five Quick Ways A New HHS Secretary Could Change The Course Of Health Policy
Julie Rovner reports: "Prospective Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, currently the chairman of the House Budget Committee, brings a distinctive to-do list to the agency.  And, if confirmed by the Senate, he will have tremendous independent power to get things done. While he will report to the president, heads of major agencies like HHS — with a budget of more than $1 trillion for the current fiscal year — can interpret laws in different ways than their predecessors, and rewrite regulations and guidance, which is how many important policies are actually carried out." (Rovner, 12/9)

Los Angeles Times: Trump And The GOP Are Charging Forward With Obamacare Repeal, But Few Are Eager To Follow
As they race to repeal large parts of the Affordable Care Act, President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are leaving behind nearly everyone but their base voters and a handful of conservative activists. Not a single major organization representing patients, physicians, hospitals or others who work in the nation’s healthcare system backs the GOP’s Obamacare strategy. New polls also show far more Americans would like to expand or keep the healthcare law, rather than repeal it. (Levey, 12/12)

The Washington Post: New Push To Replace Obamacare Reignites Old GOP Tensions
Republicans on Capitol Hill are already laying the groundwork for a rapid repeal of President Obama’s signature health-care law beginning on the first day of the new Congress, before President-elect Donald Trump is even sworn in. But the urgent efforts to make good on a Republican campaign promise six years in the making obscure major GOP divisions over what exactly to replace Obamacare with and how to go about it, and how long a transition period to allow before the law’s insurance would go away. (DeBonis and Snell, 12/11)

The Associated Press: After Health-Care Repeal Vote, Some In GOP Fear A Cliff 
Republicans are eagerly planning initial votes next month on dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law, a cherished GOP goal. But many worry that while Congress tries to replace it, the party will face ever-angrier voters, spooked health insurers and the possibility of tumbling off a political cliff. Republicans have said they first want to vote to unwind as much of the health care law as they can, though it wouldn't take effect for perhaps three years. That's to give them and new President Donald Trump time to write legislation constructing a new health care system — a technically and politically daunting task that has frustrated GOP attempts for unity for years. (12/12)

Politico: GOP Will Kill Obamacare … And Then Fund It
Republicans are going to kill Obamacare — but first they might have to save it. The already fragile Obamacare markets — beset by soaring premiums and fleeing insurers — are likely to collapse unless Republicans take deliberate steps to stabilize them while they build consensus on a replacement plan, say health care experts. That could lead to a mess for the roughly 10 million Americans currently getting coverage through the government-run marketplaces — and backlash against the GOP. (Demko, 12/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Republicans Face Dilemma On Timing Of Health-Law Replacement
Republicans united in their desire to overturn the Affordable Care Act are divided over whether to replace it before or after the 2018 elections, a choice that holds political peril either way. Waiting until after the midterms could pose a political risk to the most conservative Republicans who campaigned on the repeal and whose constituents want the law to be gone as quickly as possible. (Armour and son, 12/9)

The Associated Press: GOP's 'Obamacare' Repeal Path Worries Health Care Industry 
One by one, key health care industry groups are telling the incoming Republican administration and Congress that it's not a good idea to repeal the 2010 health care law without clear plans to address the consequences. Hospitals, insurers and actuaries — bean-counters who make long-range economic estimates — have weighed in, and more interest groups are expected to make their views known soon. Representing patients, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network reminded lawmakers that lives are at stake. (12/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Insurers Step Up Lobbying With An Eye To Health-Law Changes
Health insurers are bracing for rapid changes to the Affordable Care Act, preparing contingency plans for their business and readying a full-court lobbying press as Congress looks to overturn swaths of the law as soon as January. Republican leaders in the House and Senate have promised quick action on the health law. They have said that much of the dismantling—and replacement—could take effect after a transition period of as long as a few years. (Wilde Mathews and Radnofsky, 12/11)

Reuters: Under Trump, Congress Likely To Pull Plug On Medical Device Tax
When Donald Trump takes over as president on Jan. 20, one of the first business tax breaks he delivers is likely to go to the U.S. medical device industry and companies like Mark Throdahl's. The chief executive of OrthoPediatrics Corp, based in northern Indiana, said his company has been able to hire more workers since the temporary suspension effective last January of a federal tax on medical devices. The tax was imposed as part of outgoing President Barack Obama's signature 2010 healthcare law. (12/9)

The New York Times: ‘Restaurant Recession’ From Health Care Act? Little Evidence
Of all the policy positions taken by Andrew F. Puzder, the fast-food chief executive whom Donald J. Trump has chosen to be his secretary of labor, one he returns to with regularity is his passionate disdain for the Affordable Care Act and its effect on businesses and workers. In the last few months, Mr. Puzder has spoken out multiple times — in a speech before restaurant executives, on Fox Business, on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal — about what he calls a “government-mandated restaurant recession.” He says the law has led to rising health insurance premiums, “reducing consumer spending, resulting in a reduction in restaurant visits.” (Scheiber and Strom, 12/9)

Reuters: WHO Urges Trump To Expand Obamacare, Ensure Healthcare For All
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday urged U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to expand Obamacare and ensure all Americans have access to healthcare. The real estate magnate takes office next month after promising to repeal outgoing President Barack Obama's signature healthcare policy which helped millions more Americans get medical insurance but has been a target of Republican attacks. (Nebehay, 12/9)

The New York Times: Wary Drug Makers Move To Fend Off Further Attacks Under Donald Trump
If the nation’s pharmaceutical executives thought Donald J. Trump would grant them a reprieve from scrutiny over high drug prices, he made them reconsider that idea in the last few days. “I’m going to bring down drug prices,” he told Time magazine in an interview published on Wednesday. “I don’t like what’s happened with drug prices.” ... But unlike those other companies, many drug makers have already been taking steps in recent weeks to insulate themselves from future attacks. (Thomas, 12/9)

The Washington Post: One-Third Of Long-Term Users Say They’re Hooked On Prescription Opioids
One-third of Americans who have taken prescription opioids for at least two months say they became addicted to, or physically dependent on, the powerful painkillers, according to a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Virtually all long-term users surveyed said that they were introduced to the drugs by a doctor’s prescription, not by friends or through illicit means. But more than 6 in 10 said doctors offered no advice on how or when to stop taking the drugs. And 1 in 5 said doctors provided insufficient information about the risk of side effects, including addiction. (Clement and Bernstein, 12/9)

The New York Times: New Mothers Derailed By Drugs Find Support In New Hampshire Home
The young women, soon to be mothers, gathered around a big kitchen table, chatting excitedly about due dates and baby names and even morning sickness. But these were not typical expectant mothers. They had used opioids, mostly heroin and fentanyl. Many had been incarcerated. Few had families they could turn to for help, and the fathers of their babies were out of the picture. (Seelye, 12/11)

The New York Times: Abortion Foes, Emboldened By Trump, Promise ‘Onslaught’ Of Tough Restrictions
Christina Hagan, the youngest woman in the Ohio Legislature, received a surprise last week. The toughest piece of abortion legislation in the country — a bill she had championed for years — suddenly passed. The measure, which would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks, was long presumed dead. But now that Donald J. Trump is headed to the White House, the political winds have changed, and it passed with overwhelming majorities. (Tavernise and Stolberg, 12/11)

The Washington Post: There’s One Big Thing That Can Help Poor Kids Get Jobs 50 Years Later
It has been more than five decades since President Johnson created Medicaid, but researchers are only now beginning to understand how consequential the program has been for the lives of the American poor.That is because Medicaid's effects on the children who benefited have persisted long into adulthood. Fifty years after Medicaid became available, children who received health insurance through the program are healthier, living longer and working more, according to a working paper published this week by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research. (Ehrenfreund, 12/9)

The Washington Post: Defeating Cancer Was Once A ‘War’; Now It’s A ‘Moonshot’
For more than a century, we have used military terms — such as wars, battles, survivors and victims — to discuss our relationship with cancer. But some critics are bothered by the implicit suggestion that those who die might not have fought heroically enough. When the Obama administration launched its anti-cancer effort earlier this year, “moonshot” rhetoric came to the fore, but that, too, drew dissent. Some say it suggests that curing cancer involves a massive engineering effort rather than a multitude of new insights into the biology of hundreds of different diseases. (McGinley, 12/9)

Los Angeles Times: Cooling Cap Helps Cancer Patients Preserve Their Hair During Chemotherapy, Clinical Trial Shows
It’s been one year since the Food and Drug Administration approved the first cooling cap system to help cancer patients in the U.S. preserve their hair during chemotherapy treatments. A new clinical trial strengthens the case that cooling caps really do reduce the risk of hair loss. Among 95 breast cancer patients who were randomly assigned to test a cooling cap, 48 — or 51% — still had a good amount of hair after four cycles of chemotherapy. Meanwhile, among 47 control patients who did not use a cooling cap, none had hair after four rounds of chemotherapy. (Kaplan, 12/9)

The Washington Post: A Severe Birth Defect Linked To Zika Quadrupled In Colombia This Year
The number of babies born with microcephaly in Colombia during a Zika outbreak this year more than quadrupled from a year ago, dispelling earlier suggestions that the nation with the second-largest number of infections had somehow escaped the dreaded wave of fetal deformities witnessed in Brazil, the epicenter of the outbreak. In a report released Friday that provides the most detailed information about microcephaly prevalence to date in Colombia, health officials in that country and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 476 cases of microcephaly were identified between February and mid-November, compared with 110 cases reported during the same period in 2015. (Sun, 12/9)

NPR: Adding Graphene To Silly Putty Creates A Medical Device
Scientists in Ireland are using a rather unexpected material to make an extremely sensitive pressure detector: Silly Putty. The Irish researchers combined the kids' plaything with a special form of carbon, and came up with a remarkable new material — one they think could someday be useful in making medical devices. (Palca, 12/9)

The Associated Press: New CDC Data Understate Accidental Shooting Deaths Of Kids
Government statistics released this week claiming that 77 minors in the U.S. were killed by unintentional gun discharges last year significantly understate the scope of an enduring public health problem. A review of shootings nationwide by The Associated Press and USA TODAY Network found that at least 141 deaths of minors were attributed to unintentional or accidental shootings in 2015 — 83 percent higher than what the Centers for Disease Control reported. (Foley, 12/9)

NPR: Home Caregivers Can Face A Steep Learning Curve
Dementia has been slowly stealing Ruth Perez's memory and thinking ability for 20 years. Her daughter, Angela Bobo, remembers when it was clear that her mother was never going to be the same. "She would put food together that didn't belong together — hamburger and fish in a pot. Mom never cooked like that," she says. (English, 12/12)

Los Angeles Times: Personality Trait Or Mental Disorder? The Same Genes May Weigh In On Both
You don’t need fancy genome-sequencing or brain-imaging equipment to know that some of the people we know and love are just a little, well, out there. We used to call these people “worriers,” “creative types,” “eccentrics” or “loners.” Like the rest of us, they seem to have come into the world with some recognizably fixed personality settings: They’re friendly or moody or dreamy or disorganized. They’re just more extremely so. (Healy, 12/9)

NPR: Pets Help People Manage Serious Mental Illnesses
Any pet owner will tell you that their animal companions comfort and sustain them when life gets rough. This may be especially true for people with serious mental illness, a study finds. When people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were asked who or what helped them manage the condition, many said it was pets that helped the most. "When I'm feeling really low they are wonderful because they won't leave my side for two days," one study participant with two dogs and two cats, "They just stay with me until I am ready to come out of it." (Ross, 12/9)

The Wall Street Journal: PepsiCo Wants To Sell Healthy Food, Consumers Want Chips
An array of new products at a trade show in Atlanta this fall told the story of two PepsiCos. Anchoring one part of the display was a fiber-filled nut and fruit bar called Init and a sparkling lemonade with real lemon juice called Lemon Lemon. Nearby sat an assemblage of bright bags of Mac N’ Cheetos, new frozen cheese sticks resembling Cheetos, and Top N Go Doritos, a portable meal designed to be eaten with a fork and high in salt and fat. (Esterl, 12/11)

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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