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KHN First Edition: December 23, 2016


First Edition

Friday, December 23, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

NOTE TO READERS: KHN's First Edition will not be published Dec. 26-Jan. 2. Look for it again in your inbox Jan. 3. Here's today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: If Republicans Repeal Health Law, How Will They Pay For Replacement?
Julie Rovner reports: "Leading Republicans have vowed that even if they repeal most of the Affordable Care Act early in 2017, a replacement will not hurt those currently receiving benefits. Republicans will seek to ensure that “no one is worse off,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in an interview with a Wisconsin newspaper earlier this month. “The purpose here is to bring relief to people who are suffering from Obamacare so that they can get something better.” But that may be difficult for one big reason — Republicans have also pledged to repeal the taxes that Democrats used to pay for their health law." (Rovner, 12/23)

California Healthline: New Rules To Limit Medi-Cal ‘Death Fees’
Emily Bazar writes: "Six months after her mother died in 2014, Karen Craig opened her mailbox to find a bill for $9,530.06. It came from Medi-Cal, the state’s version of the Medicaid program for low-income people, which was seeking repayment for her mother’s medical care even though she had used her coverage just once, for a routine wellness exam." (Bazar, 12/23)

Kaiser Health News: Mumps Cases Spike, Raising Questions About Need For Vaccine Boosters
Side Effects Public Media's Rebecca Smith reports: "Caroline Brown, a sophomore at the University of Missouri, got a fever over Thanksgiving break. Soon it became painful to bite down, and her cheek began to swell. A trip to her physician confirmed it — Caroline had the mumps. “Mumps kind of sounds like this archaic thing,” Brown said. “We get vaccinated for it; it just sounds like something that nobody gets.  So I just didn’t think that it was possible that I would get it.” (Smith, 12/23)

California Healthline: Fear Of Deportation, Hate Crimes Reportedly Threaten Mental Health Of Young Californians
Jocelyn Wiener reports: "Around the country, children and adolescents who are undocumented immigrants or who have undocumented family members, are experiencing a surge in stress, depression and anxiety, advocates, educators and mental health providers say. The same is true for young people belonging to other groups targeted by threats or hate crimes, including Muslim and transgender youth." (Wiener, 12/23)

The Associated Press: Pelosi Rallies House Democrats To Oppose Health Law Repeal
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has issued a call to action to her rank and file to fight Republican efforts to scrap the health care law by highlighting the risks of repeal for millions of Americans. In a letter to her Democratic colleagues late Wednesday, Pelosi said that with the new GOP-controlled Congress and Donald Trump's administration, "House Democrats stand ready to fight vigorously for America's hard-working families." She urged lawmakers to hold media events in early January to tell voters about Republican plans to repeal the law, called the Affordable Care Act, at the beginning of the year. (12/22)

The Washington Post: Trump Could Quickly Doom ACA Cost-Sharing Subsidies For Millions Of Americans
Even without Congress repealing the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration could undermine the law by unilaterally ending billions of dollars the government pays insurers to subsidize the health coverage of nearly 6 million Americans. Given that insurers would still be required to provide consumers that financial help, such a move could create upheaval in the ACA’s marketplaces — prompting health plans to raise their prices or drop out, according to health-policy experts in both major political parties. (Goldstein, 12/22)

USA Today: State Alternatives To Obamacare, Expanded Medicaid To Get Tested
At least 80 hospitals have closed nationally since 2010, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. In that time, six hospitals have closed in Georgia and about 10 more are in jeopardy of closure, says Jimmy Lewis, CEO of the rural hospital group Hometown Health. Republican control of the White House and Congress next year opens the door to new approaches to health care financing that could turn states into the "laboratories of democracy" the late liberal Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote they should be in 1932. (O'Donnell, 12/22)

The Associated Press: New Mexico Health Exchange Wrote Letter In Governor's Name
A letter praising President Barack Obama's health care law circulated widely in recent days and was purported to be sent by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. But the Republican governor did not write the letter or know about it. The head of New Mexico's health care exchange office said Thursday her office wrote the letter without Martinez's knowledge or approval. (12/22)

Reuters: Democrats Lean On Drug Pricing As Obamacare Repeal Looms
Democrats are showing little interest in cooperating with the Republicans who control Congress on legislation to dismantle the Obamacare health insurance law but some are signaling a willingness to collaborate on action to curb rising drug prices. (Cornwell and Humer, 12/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump’s Pick For Health Secretary Traded Medical Stocks While In House
President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to run the Health and Human Services Department traded more than $300,000 in shares of health-related companies over the past four years while sponsoring and advocating legislation that potentially could affect those companies’ stocks. Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, bought and sold stock in about 40 health-care, pharmaceutical and biomedical companies since 2012, including a dozen in the current congressional session, according to a Wall Street Journal review of hundreds of pages of stock trades he filed with Congress. (Grimaldi and Hackman, 12/22)

Politico: Steve Case Says Trump's Win Was 'Wake-Up Call' For Health Investors
Silicon Valley startups and Washington policymakers get a lot of credit for driving health care innovation. Steve Case thinks they're getting too much. "Silicon Valley's going to play an important role. I think the D.C. area is going to play an important role," Case told POLITICO's "Pulse Check" podcast. But, he said, "a lot of the innovation in health care is going to be in the middle of the country, because some of the most important institutions in health care are in the middle of the country." (Diamond, 12/22)

Los Angeles Times: Trump Won Votes Promising To Protect Veterans, But Major Veterans Groups Are Rattled By His Plans
Donald Trump’s flair for connecting with veterans won him an overwhelming share of their votes, but the durability of the alliance is already being tested as Trump’s search for a Veterans Affairs secretary veers in a direction that has alarmed some of America’s most influential retired soldiers. Under pressure from conservative activists, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and organizations funded by the Koch Brothers, Trump is contemplating choosing an agency chief who would upend the entire veterans healthcare system. That would come over the protest of the country’s major veterans groups. (Halper, 12/22)

The Washington Post: Drug Industry Hired Dozens Of Officials From The DEA As The Agency Tried To Curb Opioid Abuse
Pharmaceutical companies that manufacture or distribute highly addictive pain pills have hired dozens of officials from the top levels of the Drug Enforcement Administration during the past decade, according to a Washington Post investigation. The hires came after the DEA launched an aggressive campaign to curb a rising opioid epidemic that has resulted in thousands of overdose deaths each year. In 2005, the DEA began to crack down on companies that were distributing inordinate numbers of pills such as oxycodone to pain-management clinics and pharmacies around the country. (Higham, Bernstein, Rich and Crites, 12/22)

The New York Times: In Cancer Trials, A Lopsided Shot At Hope For Minorities
Like a man on a flying trapeze, K.T. Jones has leapt from one medical study to another during his 15-year struggle with cancer, and he has no doubt that the experimental treatments he has received have saved his life. ... Mr. Jones is one of many patients who have benefited from lifesaving advances in immunotherapy. But he’s an outlier: He is African-American. As money pours into immunotherapy research and promising results multiply, patients getting the new treatments in studies have been overwhelmingly white. Minority participation in most clinical trials is low, often out of proportion with the groups’ numbers in the general population and their cancer rates. Many researchers acknowledge the imbalance, and say they are trying to correct it. (Grady, 12/23)

The New York Times: New Ebola Vaccine Gives 100 Percent Protection
In a scientific triumph that will change the way the world fights a terrifying killer, an experimental Ebola vaccine tested on humans in the waning days of the West African epidemic has been shown to provide 100 percent protection against the lethal disease. The vaccine has not yet been approved by any regulatory authority, but it is considered so effective that an emergency stockpile of 300,000 doses has already been created for use should an outbreak flare up again. (McNeil, 12/22)

The Washington Post: Ebola Vaccine Shown To Be ‘Highly Protective’ Against Deadly Virus In Major Trial
“While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenseless,” Marie-Paule Kieny, the study's lead author and WHO assistant director general for health systems, said in announcing the results. When preliminary findings were unveiled in July 2015, WHO Director General Margaret Chan called the vaccine a potential “game-changer.” (Cha, 12/22)

The Washington Post: Medical Detectives Raced To Save A Man From A Rare, ‘Universally Lethal’ Disease
The problems started after Erich Burger returned from an unforgettable safari in Botswana and Zambia last month. ... He headed to a community hospital after about a week of fever and chills, thinking he might have malaria given his recent travel to Africa. ... A sharp-eyed hematology technician discovered when she looked in her microscope that he was suffering from a disease so rare in the United States that it has been seen only 40 times in the past 50 years. The disease is one of the few “universally lethal” infections: It always kills unless it is treated, and it kills quickly. (Sun, 12/22)

The Washington Post: CDC Sends $184 Million In Zika Funding To States As Texas Reports New Case
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is awarding nearly $200 million in Zika funding to states and territories to continue the fight against the mosquito-borne virus as Texas reported a new local case, officials announced Thursday. The money, approved earlier this year by Congress as part of the emergency response to Zika, is aimed at helping local communities at greatest risk. (Sun, 12/22)

The Washington Post: A Hearing Test May Be Able To Identify A Concussion
Call it the Telltale Brain. The first objective measurement for concussion may have been identified, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Nature, Scientific Reports. By measuring the brain’s electrical reactions to speech sounds, researchers at Northwestern University were able to identify children who had suffered a recent concussion with 90 percent accuracy and those who hadn’t with 95 percent accuracy. (Nutt, 12/22)

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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