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KHN First Edition: December 21, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Hospitals And Surgery Centers Play Tug-Of-War Over America’s Ailing Knees
Christina Jewett reports: "Five years ago, Dr. Ira Kirschenbaum, an orthopedic surgeon in the Bronx who replaces more than 200 knees each year, would have considered it crazy to send a patient home the same day as a knee replacement operation. And yet there he was this year, as the patient, home after a few hours. A physician friend pierced his skin at 8 a.m. at a Seattle-area surgery center. By lunch, Kirschenbaum was resting at his friend’s home, with no pain and a new knee." (Jewett, 12/21)

Kaiser Health News: Aging And Addicted: The Opioid Epidemic Affects Older Adults, Too
Jenny Gold reports: "As the nation grapples with a devastating opioid epidemic, concerns have primarily focused on young people buying drugs on the street. But America’s elderly also have a problem. Over the past several decades, physicians have increasingly prescribed seniors pain medications to address chronic pain from arthritis, cancer, neurological diseases and other illnesses that become more common in later life." (Gold, 12/21)

Kaiser Health News: In Battle Against Ovarian Cancer, A New Focus On Fallopian Tubes
Jocelyn Wiener reports: "Two thin tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus have assumed an outsize role in the battle against ovarian cancer.Research increasingly points to the likelihood that some of the most aggressive ovarian cancers originate in the fallopian tubes. Most doctors now believe there is little to lose by removing the tubes of women who are done bearing children — and potentially much to gain in terms of cancer prevention." (Wiener, 12/21)

Politico: Researchers Race To Copy Obamacare Data For Fear It Will Vanish
Spooked by Trump's rhetoric and pledge to repeal Obamacare, several dozen independent researchers are racing to download key health care data and documents before Jan. 20. They say they began the effort on their own, and then got a boost from Jeanne Lambrew, the White House's top health reform official, who also sounded alarms the new administration might expunge reams of information from public websites and end access to data, researchers told POLITICO. (Diamond, 12/21)

Politico: Obamacare Recipients Go To Court To Protect Funding
Donald Trump won't be sworn in as president for another month, but one of the first salvos in a forthcoming legal war against his administration was launched Tuesday as people who get subsidies under Obamacare asked to intervene in a lawsuit that threatens to shut down funding key to the health insurance program. (Gerstein, 12/20)

The Wall Street Journal: New York City Mayor Aims To Insure Thousands More Under Affordable Care Act
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to enroll 50,000 people in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act by the end of next year, a move officials said would save the city’s cash-strapped hospital system $40 million a year. President-elect Donald Trump and Republican leaders have vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Mr. de Blasio, a supporter of universal health care, said he believes growing enrollment will make that more difficult. (Gay, 12/20)

The New York Times: Senate Aims To Stop Firms From ‘Buying Up Drugs And Jacking Up Prices’
On the heels of headline-grabbing price spikes on prescription drugs, a bipartisan Senate report on Wednesday will call on Congress to take action to prevent huge, unjustified cost increases on decades-old prescription medicines that have no competition. The Senate Special Committee on Aging, reporting the results of a yearlong investigation, said that some drug companies behaved like hedge funds because of the influence of “activist investors.” These companies, the committee said, have developed a “business model that harms patients, taxpayers and the U.S. health care system.” (Pear, 12/21)

Reuters: Democrats Seek Trump's Cooperation On Drug Price Reform
A group of Democratic senators took their plans to tackle rising drug costs to President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday, asking him to work with them and Republicans on the issue.In a letter dated Tuesday, the 19 senators named five areas for cooperation: allowing the Medicare program to negotiate prescription prices, increasing transparency, stopping abusive pricing, passing reform on incentives for innovation and supporting generic competition for branded drugs. (Humer, 12/20)

The New York Times: Medicaid Funding To End For Planned Parenthood In Texas, State Says
In a critical step in a longstanding fight, Texas formally said on Tuesday that it was ending Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood, a move the group said could affect 11,000 patients. The office of inspector general for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission issued a final notice terminating Planned Parenthood’s enrollment in the state-funded health care system for the poor. If it is not stopped, the termination will be effective in 30 days. (Mele, 12/20)

The New York Times: 2 Former Flint Emergency Managers Charged Over Tainted Water
A criminal investigation into this city’s water crisis reached into the top ranks of supervision over Flint on Tuesday as Michigan officials announced felony charges against two former state-appointed emergency managers, accusing them of fixating on saving money rather than on the safety of residents. (Davey and Smith, 12/20)

The Washington Post: Four More Officials Charged With Felonies In Flint Water Crisis
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed another round of criminal charges Tuesday in  the ongoing water crisis in Flint, the latest action in a nearly year-long investigation to hold accountable those responsible for a disaster that exposed thousands of children to dangerously high lead levels. Schuette announced felony charges against four people, including two former state-appointed emergency managers who oversaw a disastrous switch of the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River. Darnell Earley, whom Gov. Rick Snyder (R) put in charge of the city’s finances from late 2013 through early 2015, and Gerald Ambrose, who held the emergency manager position through April 2015, could face decades in prison. (Dennis, 12/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Michigan Attorney General Brings More Criminal Charges Over Water Crisis
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said the latest charges indicate that investigators weren’t afraid to pursue officials at any level of government who bore responsibility for the water crisis. “The tragedy that we know as the Flint water crisis did not occur by accident,” Mr. Schuette said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “No. Flint was a casualty of arrogance, disdain and a failure of management, an absence of accountability, shirking of responsibility.” (Maher, 12/20)

USA Today: VA Reverses Course, Releases Health Care Quality Data
The Department of Veterans Affairs has quietly released quality-of-care ratings for its medical centers across the country, despite years of refusing to share them with the public. The move follows a USA TODAY investigation that revealed ratings for 146 VA medical centers for the first time earlier this month. VA Secretary Bob McDonald complained at the time that their publication across the USA TODAY Network caused “unwarranted distress” to veterans and could dissuade them from getting care. (Slack, 12/20)

The Associated Press: Trump Hosts Candidates For Key Veterans Affairs Post
President-elect Donald Trump met Tuesday met with candidates for his unfilled Cabinet positions, including prospective hires to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, a beleaguered agency that the Republican businessman has vowed to overhaul. Vice President-elect Mike Pence met with members of his incoming national security team a day after acts of violence rocked the world. (12/20)

The Washington Post: Opioid Drugs Make Pain Tolerable, Most Long-Term Users Say
At the center of the nation’s opioid crisis is a simple fact: Large numbers of Americans experience serious pain, and the vast majority of those who have used strong painkillers for a long period say they work. That’s one key takeaway from a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation national poll of long-term opioid users, people who have taken the drugs for at least two months during the past two years. (Guskin, 12/20)

The New York Times: Trading Hospital Rooms For Hotel Suites
When out-of-town patients used to travel to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, some would find that their best option for staying close to the hospital for early-morning surgery involved a trip over the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey. Enter the Edge Hotel, a 54-room property that opened in the fall of 2015 in Upper Manhattan, an area with few other lodgings. (Hughes, 12/20)

Los Angeles Times: Pomona Hospital Workers Say They Were Pressured To Stay Silent About Dirty Conditions
Six workers at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center say management tried to keep them from speaking out about possible patient infections and unsafe working conditions by asking them to sign confidentiality agreements. The hospital had requested interviews with the workers after they spoke to The Times about their fears that patients were being sickened by dirty conditions that management had ignored. (sen, 12/20)

The Associated Press: Alabama Inmate Kills Self After Mental Health Testimony
An Alabama inmate found dead in his cell apparently killed himself just weeks after testifying in a trial accusing the state of denying proper mental health care to prisoners, officials said Tuesday. The Department of Corrections said Jamie Wallace, 24, was found dead in an apparent suicide five days earlier. He was found hanged in his cell at the Bullock County prison, about 45 miles southeast of Montgomery. (12/20)

NPR: Mumps On Rise, But Vaccine Makes Cases Milder
There's a bump in the number of cases of the mumps this year in the United States. This highly infectious disease is much less hazardous than it was decades ago, but health officials are still reacting strongly to several big outbreaks. (Harris, 12/20)

The Washington Post: Solution Quarantined At NIH After Particles Are Found In It
Bottles of sucrose solution prepared in the National Institutes of Health’s pharmacy were quarantined last week after a nurse discovered particles in the mouth rinse as it was readied for use in a study, according to an official at the government research center. The four-year-old sugar and water solution, used to evaluate patients’ responses to sweet tastes, was not given to anyone and no one was harmed, according to NIH spokeswoman Renate Myles. Nine of the 450 bottles quarantined were found to contain “particulates” when they were inspected after a nurse found the first one Dec. 12, Myles said. (Bernstein, 12/20)

The New York Times: Study Tied To Food Industry Tries To Discredit Sugar Guidelines
A prominent medical journal on Monday published a scathing attack on global health advice to eat less sugar. Warnings to cut sugar, the study argued, are based on weak evidence and cannot be trusted. But the review, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, quickly elicited sharp criticism from public health experts because the authors have ties to the food and sugar industries. (O'Connor, 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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