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KHN First Edition: January 9, 2017


First Edition

Monday, January 09, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: In Puerto Rico, The Joy Of Pregnancy Is Tempered By Fear Of Zika
Carmen Heredia Rodriguez reports: "Before the virus overwhelmed Puerto Rico, Zika already lurked in Keishla Mojica’s home. First her partner, John Rodríguez, 23, became infected. His face swelled and a red, itchy rash covered his body. Doctors at the time diagnosed it as an allergy. Two months later, Mojica, 23, had the same symptoms. Medics administered shots of Benadryl to soothe the rash and inflammation. She didn’t give it much more thought." (Heredia Rodriguez, 1/9)

Kaiser Health News: Obama’s Challenge To GOP: Show Me Your Plan Before Repealing Mine
Julie Rovner reports: "Trying to protect his signature Affordable Care Act from being hastily dismantled by the new GOP Congress, President Barack Obama took to the media to pressure Republicans to unveil a replacement proposal before they repeal major parts of the law. In an interview webcast by and an op-ed in the New England Journal of Medicine, the president called Republicans’ fast-track plans to rescind much of the law but wait until later to craft a replacement “reckless.” (Rovner, 1/6)

Kaiser Health News: 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, 1/9)

The Associated Press: GOP Lawmakers Vow Quick Action To Enact New Health Care Law
Top Republicans said Sunday they’ll move quickly to enact a new health care law, but they won’t say how long that might take or what might replace President Barack Obama’s version. Questions surrounding the future GOP plan have unnerved key parts of the health care industry, including hospitals and insurers that have warned Congress against uncertainty. (1/8)

Reuters: Senate To Act This Week On Obamacare Repeal, McConnell Says
The U.S. Senate will take its first steps toward repealing President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform act by the end of the week, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Sunday. Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," McConnell said: "There ought not to be a great gap" between repealing the act and replacing it and that Republicans would be "replacing it rapidly after repealing it." (Clarke, 1/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Mitch McConnell Vows New GOP Health Plan Soon
Congress will quickly devise a new health-insurance system after moving to repeal the Obama administration’s signature health-care law in coming days, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday, despite growing questions within the Republican Party over the GOP’s strategy. (Talley, 1/8)

The Associated Press: Paul: Trump Backs Health Repeal, Replacement At Same Time
A Republican senator who challenged Donald Trump for the White House nomination says the president-elect "fully supports" repealing President Barack Obama's health law only when there's a viable alternative to replace it. Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled Congress are moving toward a vote on repeal legislation in coming weeks, but they anticipate a transition period of months or years to a replacement. Some Republican lawmakers are expressing reservations about scrapping the law, which now covers 20 million people, without a near-term replacement. (1/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Republican Skepticism Grows Over Strategy On Health-Law Repeal
Republicans in both the House and Senate are expressing growing skepticism of their party’s approach to repealing the Affordable Care Act, signaling potential peril ahead for a strategy that relies on nearly complete GOP unity. In the House, some conservatives are balking at a budget document meant to serve as the vehicle to repeal the 2010 health law. Meanwhile, in the Senate, a growing number of Republicans are questioning the wisdom of repealing the law without knowing how they will replace it. (son and Armour, 1/6)

The Associated Press: State GOP Wary As Republicans Push Repeal Of Health Law
Congressional Republicans' drive to repeal the 2010 health care law has financial and political repercussions for GOP leaders in the states and gives Democrats potential openings as they struggle to reclaim power lost during President Barack Obama's tenure. Some Republican governors, in particular, are wary about what their Washington colleagues might do with Obama's signature law, exposing a fissure in a party that has consolidated control in the nation's capital and dozens of statehouses around the country in accompaniment with President-elect Donald Trump's victory in November. (1/9)

Politico: Conway, Priebus Won't Promise Immediate Repeal-And-Replace
Kellyanne Conway and Reince Priebus, top advisers to Donald Trump, said Sunday that the president-elect is still considering his options when it comes to the speed of replacing Obamacare. Republican leaders in Congress have been discussing a repeal of Obamacare that would take effect two years or more after the vote to repeal to give them time to craft a replacement plan so that millions of Americans would not suddenly lose coverage. But some conservatives, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, have said Congress should pass a replacement plan immediately. Other senators have suggested delaying repeal until a replacement plan is ready. (Robillard, 1/8)

Politico: Obamacare Repeal's Doomsday Scenario
Hospital and health plan leaders talk in almost apocalyptic terms about what might lie ahead if Republicans abolish Obamacare without a blueprint for its replacement. Their doomsday scenario: Millions of people could lose their health care coverage, hospitals could hemorrhage cash and shocks to the $3 trillion-a-year health system could send ripples through the entire economy. (Demko and Cancryn, 1/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Law Taxes Complicate GOP’s Repeal Strategy
Republicans eager to scrap the 2010 health-care law are wrestling with whether to immediately cut off the tax revenue it brings in. Among the thorniest issues GOP lawmakers face as they hash out how to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act is that getting rid of the health law’s taxes now would eliminate a source of revenue they would need to fund the two- or three-year transition period until any replacement plan is in place. Repealing the taxes would throw into question how to fund the subsidies that help many people get health coverage by offsetting their premium costs, health analysts say. (son and Rubin, 1/7)

USA Today: Obamacare Repeal Jeopardizes Mental Health, Addiction Coverage
Sherri Reynolds' son Qual has been drug free for 16 months, thanks in large part to treatment he got through Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Reynolds knows firsthand what can happen when people can't get coverage: Her 20-year-old stepson, Jarvis, suffered from mental illness and killed himself in 2010 after he couldn't get medical treatment. He bounced in and out of foster care and the juvenile justice system. (O'Donnell and DeMio, 1/8)

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Republicans Once Again Rely On A Misleading Obamacare Factoid
With the election of Donald Trump, Republican lawmakers finally have the opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. As a result, we’re hearing some talking points that were debunked long ago. We’re not sure why these old chestnuts keep coming back. There are plenty of legitimate complaints one could make about the law, particularly the functioning of the Obamacare exchanges and premium-rate increases in certain states. (Kessler, 1/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Urges GOP Plan To Delay Its Repeal Of Health Law
Mr. Obama, in a live interview on the news website Vox, said Republicans repeatedly promised they could do better but have failed to put out a stronger plan. He said it would be hard for the GOP to craft a better, cheaper proposal that leaves everyone satisfied, but that he would publicly support it if they do. “You don’t want a situation where they make a promise they can’t keep,” Mr. Obama said. “I’ve worked on this a long time. If we have a better way to do this, we would have done it. It would have been in my interest to do it, because I knew I would be judged by how it worked.” (Armour, 1/6)

The Associated Press: Obama Health Care Legacy: Coverage, Conflict, And Questions
Although his signature law is in jeopardy, President Barack Obama's work reshaping health care in America is certain to endure in the broad public support for many of its underlying principles. Notwithstanding growing pains in connection securing some of the promises of the Affordable Care Act, the belief that people with medical problems should be able to get health insurance is no longer challenged. The idea that government should help those who can't afford their premiums has gained acceptance. And the question is how much, and for what kind of coverage. (1/9)

The Washington Post: Why Trump Still Hasn’t Named A Leader For The Department Of Veterans Affairs
With confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s Cabinet set to start this week, the president-elect still has not chosen a leader for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an agency he vowed on the campaign trail to significantly shake up.It is not for lack of trying. Trump has met with or considered about a dozen candidates to run the second-largest federal department. But none seems to have made the cut. (Rein, 1/9)

USA Today: Fla. Shooting Raises Question About Vets' Mental-Health Care
The deadly shooting spree by a military veteran who dealt with mental health problems has reignited debate about services for vets with post-traumatic stress disorder. Esteban Santiago, 26, who is suspected of killing five people at Fort Lauderdaule-Hollywood International Airport on Friday, told FBI agents in November that the Islamic State terrorist group had gained control of his mind and commanded him to commit acts of violence on its behalf, the FBI said Friday. (Swartz and Shesgreen, 1/7)

The New York Times: Dialysis Chains Receive Subpoenas Related To Premium Assistance
The nation’s two largest dialysis chains, Fresenius and DaVita, said on Friday that they had received subpoenas from the Justice Department for information about their relationship to a charity that provides assistance paying the insurance premiums of needy patients. A spokeswoman for the charity, the American Kidney Fund, also said it had been subpoenaed. (Abelson and Thomas, 1/6)

The Associated Press: Officials: Foreign Government May Have Breached Health Data
A foreign government may have been behind a cyber breach of health insurance company Anthem Inc. that compromised the records of more than 78 million consumers, investigators said Friday. They declined to identify the hackers or the foreign government. Social Security numbers, birthdates and employment details of customers were accessed in the breach, officials said. Cybersecurity experts say the data could help a foreign government build a profile of people they're targeting for espionage. (1/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Overdose Fatalities From Opioids Hit New Peaks
The U.S. opioid crisis shows no sign of receding as a new year begins, with the latest data from several hard-hit cities and states showing overdose fatalities reaching new peaks as authorities scramble to stem the tide. The synthetic opioid fentanyl, which has up to 50 times the potency of heroin, remains the chief culprit driving the increase in fatalities, according to medical examiners and health and law-enforcement authorities in abuse hot spots, such as Ohio, Maryland and New England. (Kamp, 1/6)

NPR: Other People's Electronic Medical Records May Improve Your Health Care
Chances are your doctor has stopped taking notes with pen and paper and moved to computer records. That is supposed to help coordinate your care. Increasingly, researchers are also exploring these computerized records for medical studies – and gleaning facts that help individual patients get better care. (Harris, 1/9)

The Washington Post: Why Doctors Are Leery About Seeking Mental Health Care For Themselves
A survey of 2,000 U.S. physicians released in September found that roughly half believed they had met criteria for a mental health disorder in the past but had not sought treatment. The doctors listed a number of reasons they had shunned care, including worries that they’d be stigmatized and an inability to find the time. But they also voiced a troubling reason for avoiding treatment: medical licensing applications. (Morris, 1/7)

NPR: Diclegis, A Morning Sickness Pill, Back In Spotlight
A Canadian doctor who is opposed to a widely used drug for morning sickness has fired another volley. Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, Dr. Navindra Persaud in the department of family and community medicine at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, notes that an unpublished study that supported use of the drug, conducted in the 1970s, is seriously flawed. (Harris, 1/6)

NPR: Can Fasting Change The Microbiome And Tame MS Symptoms?
When I told my coworker that I was participating in a study that involved fasting, she laughed until she nearly cried. My boyfriend, ever supportive, asked hesitantly, "Are you sure you want to try this?" Note the use of "try" instead of "do." When I told my father over the phone, the line went silent for a moment. Then he let out a long, "Welllllll," wished me luck, and chuckled. Turns out, luck might not be enough. (Jefferson, 1/8)

The Washington Post: There May Someday Be A Way To Avoid The Yearly Flu Shot 
The most vexing thing about the annual flu vaccination is that it’s annual.You have to get it every year, and many people don’t do so. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that only 2 out of 5 Americans have received the shot so far this flu season. Wouldn’t it be easier if a flu shot were a once-in-a-lifetime event, or even once or twice in a decade? Public health officials see that as a potential game-changer. (Cimons, 1/7)

The Washington Post: This Louisiana Town Has A Serious Problem With Lead In Its Water. It Won’t Be The Only One This Year.
In the tiny town of St. Joseph, La., a local preacher has temporarily suspended baptisms, figuring that if officials don’t want people drinking the tainted water, he ought not to be plunging them into it, either. “I just don’t feel comfortable immersing people in that water,” Pastor Donald Scott told the Advocate, a Baton Rouge newspaper, recently. “I’m pretty sure God understands.” (Dennis, 1/6)

The Associated Press: California Is First To Pay For Prisoner’s Sex-Reassignment Surgery
A 57-year-old convicted killer serving a life sentence in California is the first inmate in the United States to receive state-financed sex-reassignment surgery, the prisoner’s lawyers said. California prison officials agreed in August 2015 to pay for the surgery for the inmate, Shiloh Heavenly Quine, who was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery for ransom and has no possibility of parole. (1/7)


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