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KHN First Edition: December 20, 2016


First Edition

Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: When Looking For A Nursing Home, Your Hospital May Offer Little Help
Jordan Rau reports: "At age 88, Elizabeth Fee looked pregnant, her belly swollen after days of intestinal ailments and nausea. A nurse heard a scream from Fee’s room in a nursing home, and found her retching “like a faucet” before she passed out. The facility where she died in 2012 was affiliated with a respected San Francisco hospital, California Pacific Medical Center, and shared its name. Fee had just undergone hip surgery at the hospital, and her family, pleased with her care, said they chose the nursing home with the hospital’s encouragement." (Rau, 12/20)

Kaiser Health News: New Special Enrollment Rules Will Shift Paperwork Burden To Consumers
Michelle Andrews reports: "People who want to sign up for a policy on after the annual open enrollment period ends Jan. 31 may have to produce a paper trail proving that they qualify for a “special enrollment period” before their coverage can begin, according to details of a pilot program described last week by federal officials. But the verification measures, long sought by insurance companies, may deter the very consumers the marketplace needs to attract: healthy people who may not bother signing up if doing so is a hassle." (Andrews, 12/20)

Kaiser Health News: Faced With Unaffordable Drug Prices, Tens Of Millions Buy Medicine Outside U.S.
Rachel Bluth reports: "As drug prices have spiraled upward in the past decade, tens of millions of generally law-abiding Americans have committed an illegal act in response: They have bought prescriptions outside the U.S. and imported them. One was Debra Miller, of Collinston, La., who traveled to Mexico four times a year for 10 years to get diabetes and blood pressure medicine. She quit in 2011 after the border patrol caught her returning to the U.S. with a three-month supply that had cost her $40. The former truck driver drew a stern warning not to do it again, but got to keep her pills." (Bluth, 12/20)

Kaiser Health News: Women Doctors May Be Better For Patients’ Health
Shefali Luthra reports: "When a patient goes to the best hospital, he or she usually hopes for a doctor who is knowledgeable and experienced. Something else to wish for? A woman physician. That’s because female doctors may on average be better than their male counterparts at treating patients in the hospital and keeping them healthy long-term, according to findings published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine." (Luthra, 12/19)

California Healthline: California Hospitals Improve Infection Rates But Threat Remains
Ana B. Ibarra reports: "California’s hospitals are getting better at preventing patient infections, but the threat is still significant and nearly 20,000 infections were reported in 2015, according to new state data released Friday by the California Department of Public Health. From 2014 to 2015, 56 California hospitals demonstrated “significant improvement” in preventing certain infections, including ones in the blood and those resulting from surgery, according to the department’s report." (Ibarra, 12/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Counties Would See Big Impact From Obamacare Repeal
When he campaigned for president, Donald Trump made repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act a signature issue. Polling suggests that such a move would have the biggest impacts on communities that gave Mr. Trump some of his highest levels of support, potentially complicating the politics of a repeal effort. More than 20 million Americans now depend on the ACA, also known as Obamacare, for health insurance. Data from Gallup indicate that a lot of those people live in counties that favored Mr. Trump. (Chinni, 12/19)

Los Angeles Times: If You Have Employer-Provided Health Insurance, An Obamacare Repeal Would Affect You Too
One of the first things Tracy Trovato did — once she overcame the shock of learning her 42-year-old, marathon-training husband had leukemia — was look through their health insurance documents.She dug up one paper that said the plan would pay no more than $1 million for medical services in a lifetime. The Chicago woman and her husband, Carlo, called their insurance company in a panic. (Schencker, 12/19)

The Associated Press: Does A Doctor's Gender Affect Your Chance Of Survival?
What if your doctor's gender could influence your chance of surviving a visit to the hospital? A big study of older patients hospitalized for common illnesses raises that provocative possibility — and also lots of questions. Patients who got most of their care from women doctors were more likely to leave the hospital alive than those treated by men. (12/19)

USA Today: Don't Want To Die Before Your Time? Get A Female Doctor
The researchers estimated that if male physicians could achieve the same results as their female colleagues, they would save an extra 32,000 lives among Medicare patients alone each year --  a feat that would rival wiping out motor vehicle accident deaths nationwide. Previous studies have found that female physicians are more likely to follow practice guidelines based on scientific evidence. They also spend more time with patients, talk with them in more reassuring and positive ways and ask more questions about their emotional and social well-being. (Painter, 12/19)

The Washington Post: Women Really Are Better Doctors, Study Suggests
Vineet Arora, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, praised the research but was cautious to read too much into the main result, pointing out that it was important to remember the effect might stem from multiple factors. “It could be something the doctor is doing. It could be something about how the patient is reacting to the doctor,” Arora said. “It’s really hard to say. It's probably multi-factorial.” What the study drove home for Arora, who works as a hospitalist, is that women are certainly not worse doctors than men — and they should be compensated equitably. (Johnson, 12/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Female Doctors’ Hospital Patients May Have An Edge
The study, published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine, explored possible reasons for the gap, including the chance that male doctors cared for more severely ill patients, and where doctors worked. Research suggests doctors practice differently across regions of the U.S. and studies show that hospital quality varies. But nothing explained the difference, raising questions about what might be the cause. An answer is important, because it may identify ways that some doctors get better results—ways that can be copied by other doctors to improve care overall, health-care quality researchers said. (Evans, 12/19)

NPR: Female Doctors Beat Male Counterparts In Caring For The Elderly 
So why is there a gender-based difference in physicians' care? The authors admit that they are "unable to identify exactly why female physicians have better outcomes than male physicians." We don't pretend to know for sure, but as married doctors, we have our hunches. We talked it over and here are our thoughts about the research. (Henning Schumann and Henning Schumann, 12/19)

The New York Times: Harnessing The U.S. Taxpayer To Fight Cancer And Make Profits
Enthusiasm for cancer immunotherapy is soaring, and so is Arie Belldegrun’s fortune. Dr. Belldegrun, a physician, co-founded Kite Pharma, a company that could be the first to market next year with a highly anticipated new immunotherapy treatment. But even without a product, Dr. Belldegrun has struck gold. (Richtel and Pollack, 12/19)

The Wall Street Journal: GlaxoSmithKline’s New Drug Challenges AIDS Treatment Orthodoxy
GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s ViiV Healthcare announced positive phase-three trial results for its new HIV drug in a dual-drug regimen, supporting the company’s audacious bet that it can shift the AIDS treatment orthodoxy away from three-drug combinations. U.K.-based Glaxo said its HIV pill dolutegravir plus Johnson & Johnson’s rilpivirine suppressed the virus as well as traditional three- or four-drug combinations in two identical, yearlong trials, each involving around 500 patients. (Roland, 12/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Medical-Device Company Lensar Files For Chapter 11
Medical-technology company Lensar Inc., which makes lasers used in cataract surgery, filed for chapter 11 protection Friday with a deal to hand control of the company to its senior lender while preserving more than $125 million in tax credits. The Orlando, Fla., company’s immediate aim is to maintain a “business-as-usual atmosphere” during its chapter 11 case, Chief Executive Nicholas Curtis said in a declaration filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del. Friday. (Chaney, 12/19)

Charleston Gazette-Mail: Drug Firms Poured 780M Painkillers Into WV Amid Rise Of Overdoses
Follow the pills and you'll find the overdose deaths. The trail of painkillers leads to West Virginia's southern coalfields, to places like Kermit, population 392. There, out-of-state drug companies shipped nearly 9 million highly addictive — and potentially lethal — hydrocodone pills over two years to a single pharmacy in the Mingo County town. Rural and poor, Mingo County has the fourth-highest prescription opioid death rate of any county in the United States. (Eyre, 12/17)

NPR: Pentagon Pulls Blast Gauges Intended To Flag Battlefield Brain Injuries
The Pentagon has quietly sidelined a program that placed blast gauges on thousands of combat troops in Afghanistan. NPR has learned the monitoring was discontinued because the gauges failed to reliably show whether service members had been close enough to an explosion to have sustained a concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury. (Hamilton, 12/20)

The Washington Post: Pregnancy Changes The Brain For As Long As Two Years
For the first time, scientists have found evidence of specific and long-lasting changes in the brains of pregnant women. The changes were measured in brain areas that are responsible for social cognition and the ability to understand the thoughts and intentions of others, suggesting that they may intensify maternal bonding with a newborn. (Nutt, 12/19)

The Associated Press: US Women Increasingly Use Pot During Pregnancy, Study Finds
U.S. women are increasingly using marijuana during pregnancy, sometimes to treat morning sickness, new reports suggest. Though the actual numbers are small, the trend raises concerns because of evidence linking the drug with low birth weights and other problems. In 2014, almost 4 percent of pregnant women said they’d recently used marijuana, up from 2.4 percent in 2002, according to an analysis of annual drug use surveys. (12/19)

Los Angeles Times: CalPERS Widens Its Ban On Tobacco-Related Investments
CalPERS on Monday rejected its staff’s recommendation to again invest in tobacco stocks and instead widened the ban on tobacco investments for the nation’s largest public pension fund. The staff of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System had recommended that the system’s board approve ending restrictions on tobacco investments managed by its own staff. The ban began 16 years ago. (Peltz, 12/19)

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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