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KHN First Edition: July 15, 2015


First Edition

Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: California, Oregon To Allow Hormonal Contraceptives Without A Doctor’s Prescription
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Barbara Feder Ostrov writes: "California and Oregon will be the first states in the nation to allow women to get birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives directly from their pharmacists – without a doctor’s prescription. As California officials were busy finalizing regulations on a state law passed in 2013, Oregon’s governor Kate Brown signed a similar bill into law last week." (Feder Ostrov, 7/15)

The New York Times: Health Law’s Contraceptive Coverage Isn’t Burden On Religion, Court Rules
A federal appeals court Tuesday handed the Obama administration another victory in its effort to guarantee coverage of contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act, rejecting a challenge by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns. The United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, found that the nuns could opt out of a requirement to provide contraceptive coverage under an “accommodation” devised by the administration. The rule does not impose a “substantial burden” on the nuns’ free exercise of religion, the court said. (Pear, 7/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Christian Employers Dealt Setback On Birth-Control Cases
Under alternative arrangements finalized by the Obama administration last week, employers who have such objections must tell their insurance company or the federal government. The insurance company then takes over responsibility for providing the coverage to employees who want it. The Little Sisters of the Poor and other religiously affiliated employers such as Christian universities say those steps are inadequate because they still require the insurance plan the employers set up to provide contraception, which they believe to be wrong. Some plaintiffs are opposed to most forms of birth control; others object specifically to forms such as the so-called morning-after pill, which they consider tantamount to abortion. (Radnofsky, 7/14)

The Associated Press: Court: New Health Law Doesn't Infringe On Religious Freedom
The case involves a group of Colorado nuns and four Christian colleges in Oklahoma. Religious groups are already exempt from covering contraceptives. But the plaintiffs argued that the exemption doesn't go far enough because they must sign away the coverage to another party, making them feel complicit in providing the contraceptives. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. The judges wrote that the law with the exemption does not burden the exercise of religion. (7/14)

The Associated Press: White House Lowers Estimate Of Budget Deficit To $455B
But as the economy has recovered, revenues have gone up. The rates of inflation for expensive health care programs like Medicare have fallen and annual agency budgets have remained tight, contributing to the improved deficit. ... While the new numbers reflect improvement, budget hawks continue to warn that the nation’s long-term fiscal trajectory is unsustainable and will require lawmakers to eventually tackle the rising costs of expensive benefit programs such as Medicare. (Taylor, 7/14)

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog: Wal-Mart Faces Potential Class Action For Prior Denial Of Same-Sex Benefits
Two civil rights groups are trying to build a class action against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. over the retailer’s former policy of denying health-insurance benefits to the same-sex spouses of gay employees. In January 2014 Wal-Mart started offering benefits to domestic partners of U.S. employees regardless of their sexual orientation. But a lawsuit filed in federal court on Tuesday says the company should be held liable for refusing to extend employee benefits to same-sex partners in the past. (Gershman, 7/14)

The Associated Press: Covert Video Targets Planned Parenthood Fetal-Parts Policy
Anti-abortion activists on Tuesday released an undercover video showing a senior Planned Parenthood official discussing the disposition of parts from aborted fetuses. The activists contended the video reveals illegalities, but Planned Parenthood said the activity in question was the legal, not-for-profit donation of fetal tissue to research firms. (7/14)

The Washington Post: Undercover Video Shows Planned Parenthood Official Discussing Fetal Organs Used For Research
The Center for Medical Progress, which recorded and edited the video, says the footage proves that Planned Parenthood is breaking the law by selling fetal organs. But the video does not show Nucatola explicitly talking about selling organs. The Planned Parenthood official says the organization is “very, very sensitive” about being perceived as illegally profiting from organ sales and charges only for the cost, for instance, of shipping the tissue. (Somashekhar and Paquette, 7/14)

Politico: GOP Candidates Call For Action After Undercover Planned Parenthood Video
Republican presidential candidates are furious about an undercover video they say shows a Planned Parenthood executive discussing the sale of fetal organs. The nearly 9-minute video, released by the Center for Medical Progress and posted on the pro-life group’s YouTube page, features Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services Dr. Deborah Nucatola eating a salad with a glass of wine and calmly discussing various body parts. (Collins, 7/14)

The Wall Street Journal: J&J’s Nonprescription Business Could Soon Get A Lift
The Fort Washington, Pa., plant was closed in 2010 after J&J recalled more than 135 million medicine bottles when customers found, for instance, tiny metal particles floating in children’s Tylenol. Since then, J&J has been spending tens of millions of dollars upgrading the plant, which J&J said recently underwent the Food and Drug Administration inspections needed to get an OK to reopen. The recalls tarnished J&J’s image and prompted the company to upgrade its supply chain, rework its portfolio of over-the-counter medicines and agree in 2011 to tough FDA oversight. The company lost billions of dollars in sales after pulling products from retail shelves. (Rockoff and Dulaney, 7/14)

NPR: FDA To Take Another Look At Essure Contraceptive Device After Health Complaints
When Amanda Dykeman was certain she was done with having children, she had two options for permanent birth control: surgical sterilization, which typically involves general anesthesia and a laparoscopy, or Essure, the only nonsurgical permanent birth control option approved by the Food and Drug Administration. She chose Essure. And she says her life has never been the same. (Haelle, 7/14)

The New York Times: 2 Studies Back Guidelines For Wider Use Of Statins
Two studies published Tuesday lend support to controversial new cholesterol guidelines that could vastly increase the number of Americans advised to take cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins. One study suggests that the new guidelines are better at identifying who is truly at risk of a heart attack and should be given statins than the older guidelines are. The other suggests that treating people based on the new guidelines would be cost-effective, even with the tremendously increased use of statins. (Pollack, 7/14)

The Associated Press: Blue Cross And Blue Shield To Offer ID Protection Services
Blue Cross and Blue Shield will be providing identity protection services to all eligible members across the U.S. by the start of the new year. The services — which include credit monitoring, fraud detection and fraud resolution — will be available to eligible members for as long as they have a Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance policy. (7/14)

The Washington Post: People Could Save A Lot Of Money On Health Care—if Only They Knew How To Use Health Savings Accounts
Health Savings Accounts make a lot of sense–at least, on paper. For account holders, they provide a triple tax advantage. Money set aside, earned or withdrawn from the accounts to pay for medical expenses is all held out of Uncle Sam’s reach. Also, any untapped money can be used to supplement retirement savings and pay Medicare costs after age 65. Plus, there is the added benefit that the accounts encourage consumers to sift through their health care options for the most cost-effective options, since any savings go directly to their bottom lines. That, in turn, puts downward pressure on spiraling health care costs. The problem, according to a new study, is that few account holders are doing what it takes to even coming close to maximizing the potential of HSAs. (Fletcher, 7/14)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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