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KHN First Edition: December 19, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Monday, December 19, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

California Healthline: Grilled About Deadly Superbug Outbreaks, Execs At Scope Maker Olympus Take Fifth
Chad Terhune reports: "Three senior executives at scope maker Olympus Corp., which is under federal investigation for its role in superbug outbreaks, repeatedly invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned recently about internal company emails. The Tokyo executives declined to answer questions about the correspondence during two days of depositions Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 in a civil case against Olympus, according to lawyers representing a Seattle hospital and a patient’s widow." (Terhune, 12/19)

California Healthline: For Conservatives, It’s A New Day In Health Care
Jenny Gold reports: "With Donald Trump’s recent appointment of Republican Congressman Tom Price to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, President-elect Trump’s promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act seems likely to happen. Republican leaders recently have indicated they may repeal the law now and delay replacement for a few years." (Gold, 12/19)

Kaiser Health News: In Colorado, A Low-Price Drug Cocktail Will Tamp Down Cost Of Death With Dignity
JoNel Aleccia reports: "As Colorado’s aid-in-dying law takes effect this month, proponents say they’ll make sure terminally-ill patients have access to a new, affordable drug concoction that will avoid the $3,000 cost of a common lethal sedative that has skyrocketed in price. Officials with Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group, are reaching out to pharmacies statewide to confirm that they’ll stock components of a lethal four-drug cocktail to substitute for secobarbital, known as Seconal, the pricey sleeping pill most often prescribed to induce death." (Aleccia, 12/19)

California Healthline: California Consumers Face More Immediate Concerns Than Obamacare’s Uncertain Future
While Washington debates the future of the Affordable Care Act, many Californians face more pressing concerns about rising premiums and shrinking networks of doctors and hospitals. Open enrollment for the Covered California exchange is underway, and sign-ups are running ahead of last year’s pace. About 1.2 million Californians had renewed their existing coverage and more than 190,000 people had signed up for new health plans as of last week. The enrollment deadline for coverage that starts Jan. 1 ends Monday at midnight. But people can still sign up for 2017 coverage until Jan. 31. (12/19)

The Washington Post: Obama Announces Record Sign-Ups For A Single Day In ACA Marketplaces
President Obama used his final pre-Christmas news conference to tout anew the popularity of the sprawling health-care law that his successor wants to abolish, announcing that sign-ups in Affordable Care Act market­places just hit an all-time record for a single day. The president said 670,000 Americans chose health plans in states relying on HealthCare.gov on Thursday, the original deadline to have ACA coverage in place by Jan. 1. That is 70,000 more than the enrollment on the same date last year — a record at the time. (Goldstein, 12/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Website Saw Busiest Sign-Up Day Ever Thursday, Obama Says
President Barack Obama said the website selling coverage under his signature health law had seen its busiest day ever on Thursday, with 670,000 people using HealthCare.gov to renew or obtain health plans ahead of a year in which Republicans have pledged to begin dismantling the law. The president announced the numbers early into his final press conference of 2016, listing them as one of the achievements of his eight years in office that he said he was proud to leave to his successor. (Radnofsky, 12/16)

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Sign-Ups Hit New Record Even As GOP Promises Repeal
The record tally, announced by President Obama at his year-end news conference Friday, continues the strong enrollment this fall following Donald Trump’s Nov. 8 election victory. And it underscored again the challenge that Trump and his Republican congressional allies face in repealing Obamacare, as the law is often called. "More are signing up by the day," Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room. (Levey, 12/16)

The Associated Press: After Harsh Light, A Cheaper Version Of EpiPen From Mylan
Mylan is releasing a generic version of its emergency allergy treatment EpiPen at half the price of the branded option, the cost of which drew scorn from parents nationwide and spawned Congressional inquiries. The potential cost savings will depend in part on a patient's insurance coverage and qualifications for discount and assistance programs that the drugmaker also provides. (12/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Mylan Launches Cheaper Generic EpiPen Alternative
Mylan NV, whose price increases on its lifesaving EpiPen drug triggered broad criticism and a federal probe this summer, on Friday said it had launched a half-priced generic version of the medicine. In August, Mylan had said it was planning to sell a generic version of the emergency treatment of allergic reactions at a price of $300 for two injection pens, compared with a list price of about $609 for its branded EpiPen product. The company confirmed the pricing on Friday. (Steele, 12/16)

NPR: Mylan Launching Half-Price, Generic Version Of EpiPen
In its announcement, Mylan continued to blame the EpiPen price increases on insurance companies and the complex drug pricing system in the U.S. CEO Heather Bresch has repeatedly argued that it is harder for consumers to afford expensive medications because of high-deductible health plans and high copayments. "Families will continue to face sticker shock for medications and may be forced to make difficult choices until the pharmaceutical pricing system is reformed to address the increasing shift of costs directly to consumers," Bresch said in the company's statement. (Kodjak, 12/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Hospitals Alter Routines To Control Drug Spending
For many years, University of Utah Health Care kept the blood-pressure medication vasopressin on hospital crash carts for use in emergencies. But, after watching the drug’s price surge, the nonprofit company is removing the drug from all 100 carts. The goal isn’t to use the drug on fewer patients, but rather to reduce the amount of it that sits around unused, said Erin Fox, who oversees medication policy for Salt Lake City-based University of Utah Health. (Evans, 12/18)

The Associated Press: Medicare Outpatients Risk Higher Bills For Some Procedures
You pay less for outpatient treatment than for a hospital admission, right? Not necessarily in the topsy-turvy world of Medicare billing, according to a government report. People entitled to benefits under Medicare who had heart stents inserted as outpatients faced hospital bills that were $645 higher on average than those who had the same kind of procedure as inpatients, the Health and Human Services inspector general has found. (12/19)

Los Angeles Times: OxyContin Goes Global — “We’re Only Just Getting Started”
OxyContin is a dying business in America. With the nation in the grip of an opioid epidemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, the U.S. medical establishment is turning away from painkillers. Top health officials are discouraging primary care doctors from prescribing them for chronic pain, saying there is no proof they work long-term and substantial evidence they put patients at risk. ... So the company’s owners, the Sackler family, are pursuing a new strategy: Put the painkiller that set off the U.S. opioid crisis into medicine cabinets around the world. (Ryan, Girion and Glover, 12/18)

The Associated Press: Drug Overdose Deaths Increased Significantly In Past 5 Years
Drug overdose deaths have increased by 33 percent in the past five years across the country, with some states seeing jumps of nearly 200 percent. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 states saw increases in overdose deaths resulting from the abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, a class of drugs known as opioids. New Hampshire saw a 191 percent increase while North Dakota, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine had death rates jump by over 100 percent. (Casey, 12/17)

The Associated Press: Homeless Across Country Fall Victim To Synthetic Marijuana
The nation’s homeless are proving to be especially susceptible to a new, dirt-cheap version of synthetic marijuana, which leaves users glassy-eyed, aimless, sprawled on streets and sidewalks oblivious to their surroundings or wandering into traffic. Nearly 300 homeless people became ill last month in St. Louis due to the man-made hallucinogen that experts believe is far more dangerous and unpredictable than the real thing. Other outbreaks have occurred in New York City, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. (Salter, 12/17)

The Associated Press: Trump Action On Health Care Could Cost Planned Parenthood
One of President-elect Donald Trump's first, and defining, acts next year could come on Republican legislation to cut off taxpayer money from Planned Parenthood. Trump sent mixed signals during the campaign about the 100-year-old organization, which provides birth control, abortions and various women's health services. He said "millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood," but he also endorsed efforts to defund it. (12/19)

The Associated Press: Hard Times For Puerto Rico Family Of Child With Zika Defect
Michelle Flandez had just given birth to her first son, but doctors in this U.S. territory whisked him away before she could see him. Perplexed, she demanded him back and then slowly unwrapped the blanket that covered him. "My husband and I looked at each other," she recalled. "No one had warned us. No one had given us the opportunity to decide what to do." (12/19)

NPR: When Genetic Tests Disagree About Best Option For Cancer Treatment
Two widely used tests to analyze the genetics of tumors often don't come to the same conclusions, according to head-to-head analyses. Authors of two recent studies comparing these tests say doctors need to be careful not to assume that these tests are providing a complete picture of a tumor's genetic variants, when using them to select treatments for cancer patients. (Harris, 12/16)

The New York Times: Cancer Patient Awaits Day She Can Return To The Kitchen
Stuffed inside cookie tins and between the pages of books in Diane Fields’s kitchen are multitudes of recipes. Ms. Fields has clipped them from newspapers and kept them for years, intent on preparing and sampling them all. But for the past year, a cancer diagnosis has cast those aspirations in doubt. (Otis, 12/18)

Reuters: Some Baby Teething Toys May Contain Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals
Some baby teething toys marketed as nontoxic may contain chemicals that could interfere with hormones involved in normal growth and development, a study suggests. Fifty-nine water-filled, solid or gel-filled teethers were purchased online and tested for 26 compounds that are called endocrine-disrupting chemicals. (12/18)

NPR: Smoking Pot Around The Kids Isn't A Good Idea, Doctors Say
With more states legalizing recreational marijuana, parents are facing the question of whether they should smoke pot around their children. "I have never smoked and would never smoke around my child," says one mother who lives in San Francisco. California is one of eight states that allows recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and older. (Greenhalgh, 12/19)

NPR: More Dolls With Disabilities By Mainstream Toymakers Hitting Store Shelves
When Dominika Tamley chose "Isebelle," her American Girl doll, she picked a toy whose hair and eye color matched her own. But the 10-year-old is quick to point out that's not the only way the doll resembles the real child who plays with her. "She's like a mini-me," Tamley explained with pride. "Because she has a hearing aid and I have a hearing aid." (Ulaby, 12/18)

The Associated Press: House GOP Quietly Closes Flint, Mich. Water Investigation
Congressional Republicans quietly closed a year-long investigation into Flint, Michigan's crisis over lead in its drinking water, faulting both state officials and the Environmental Protection Agency for contamination that has affected nearly 100,000 residents. In letters to fellow Republicans, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Friday that Michigan and federal officials were slow in detecting high levels of lead in the water and did not act fast enough once the problem was discovered. (12/16)

The Associated Press: Texas Begins Implementing $350M In Medicaid Therapy Cuts
Some $350 million in cuts to a Texas Medicaid program providing therapy for disabled children have taken effect. The reductions sparked outcry after being approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature last year. They reduce revenue for some Texas therapy providers. Opponents say they'll force providers to close, and could cost roughly 60,000 children access to speech and occupational therapists. (12/16)

The Washington Post: McAuliffe Submits Cautious Budget That Closes Shortfalls And Boosts Mental-Health Programs
Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Friday proposed a cautious budget that relies on improved revenue and modest spending cuts to close a shortfall while funding some new initiatives. Unlike in previous years, the plan he submitted to the General Assembly’s finance committees is not built around expanding Medicaid — a fight he has picked, and lost, for three straight sessions with the Republican-controlled legislature. (Schneider, 12/16)

The Washington Post: Inova Launches Investment Fund To Find Personalized Medicine Innovators
Inova Health System, the giant nonprofit hospital network serving Northern Virginia, is creating a new start-up incubator and investment program focusing on “personalized” medicine innovations. Executives say they plan to invest at least $100 million over the next three to five years making $2 million to $5 million bets on promising young companies with products that have gained some traction in the marketplace. (Gregg, 12/17)

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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