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KHN First Edition: January 30, 2017

KHN

First Edition

Monday, January 30, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Getting Patients Hooked On An Opioid Overdose Antidote, Then Raising The Price
Shefali Luthra reports: "First came Martin Shkreli, the brash young pharmaceutical entrepreneur who raised the price for an AIDS treatment by 5,000 percent. Then, Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, who oversaw the price hike for its signature Epi-Pen to more than $600 for a twin-pack, though its active ingredient costs pennies by comparison. Now a small Virginia company called Kaleo is joining their ranks. It makes an injector device that is suddenly in demand because of the nation’s epidemic use of opioids, a class of drugs that includes heavy painkillers and heroin. (Luthra, 1/30)

Kaiser Health News: Trying To Solve The Alzheimer’s Puzzle
Melissa Bailey reports: "Despite a 99 percent failure rate and another major setback last month, Alzheimer’s researchers are plowing ahead with hundreds of experiments — and a boost in federal money — to try to a crack a deadly disease that has flummoxed them for decades. A law passed by Congress in December and signed by President Obama sets aside $3 billion over 10 years to fund research of brain diseases and precision medicine, a shot in the arm for Alzheimer’s research. The law, called the 21st Century Cures Act, also includes prize money to encourage Alzheimer’s experiments. (Bailey, 1/30)

The New York Times: In Private, Republican Lawmakers Agonize Over Health Law Repeal
Congressional Republicans, meeting behind closed doors this week in Philadelphia, expressed grave concerns about dismantling the Affordable Care Act on the urgent timetable demanded by President Trump, fretting that, among other things, they could wreck insurance markets and be saddled with a politically disastrous “Trumpcare.” An audio recording of a session at their annual retreat, obtained by The New York Times, shows Republicans in disarray, far from agreement on health policy, and still searching for something to replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law. (Pear and Kaplan, 1/27)

The Washington Post: Behind Closed Doors, Republican Lawmakers Fret About How To Repeal Obamacare
The recording reveals a GOP that appears to be filled with doubts about how to make good on a long-standing promise to get rid of Obamacare without explicit guidance from President Trump or his administration. The thorny issues with which lawmakers grapple on the tape — including who may end up either losing coverage or paying more under a revamped system — highlight the financial and political challenges that flow from upending the current law. (DeBonis, 1/27)

The Associated Press: Republican Lawmakers Worry If ‘Trumpcare’ Doesn’t Deliver
Republican lawmakers are fearful about the potential political fallout if their eventual replacement of President Barack Obama’s health law doesn’t deliver, and they didn’t hold back at their recent policy conference. “We’d better be sure that we’re prepared to live with the market we’ve created,” Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., was quoted as saying in Saturday’s Washington Post, one of the media organizations that obtained an audio recording of a private session at last week’s GOP strategy retreat in Philadelphia. (1/28)

The New York Times: Sign Up For Health Care Coverage? ‘Absolutely,’ Experts Say
The final deadline for enrolling in health insurance for 2017 under the Affordable Care Act is on Tuesday. But with so much turmoil and uncertainty surrounding the law’s future, should consumers bother to shop for coverage Yes, say policy experts and consumer advocates. Health plans — and subsidies to help low-income consumers pay for premiums — are in place for this year. Healthcare.gov and the state-based insurance marketplaces are open for business, for consumers who do not have job-based coverage and are seeking individual policies. (Carrns, 1/27)

The Washington Post: Trump Administration Backtracks Part Way On ACA Enrollment Outreach
The Trump administration on Friday partly retracted a directive it had issued less than 24 hours earlier to halt all advertising and other outreach activities aimed at encouraging consumers to buy health plans for 2017 during the final days of enrollment under the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces. According to two sources familiar with the reversal, administration officials were startled by a backlash that built swiftly on social media among proponents of the health-care law, which President Trump is seeking to dismantle. The officials conferred overnight, the sources said, and by Friday morning had modified the directive. (Goldstein, 1/27)

Politico: Reversing Course, Trump Administration Will Continue Obamacare Outreach
Officials also said they were unable to pull back some HealthCare.gov radio and TV advertising that had been purchased by the Obama administration. HHS was able to cancel about $4 million to $5 million in ads, a spokesman said. "Once an assessment was made, we pulled back the most expensive and least efficient part of this massive ad campaign which was set to run over the weekend," said an HHS spokesman. "Those costs savings will be returned to the U.S. Treasury.” (Pradhan and Demko, 1/27)

Los Angeles Times: Trump's Actions On Obamacare Threaten To Undermine Insurance Markets
The Trump administration’s decision to pull television ads urging Americans to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act is stoking fears that the White House is trying to sabotage the nation’s insurance markets in an effort to hobble the program, jeopardizing coverage for millions. The move, which comes just days ahead of a critical enrollment deadline for Obamacare health plans, follows Trump’s executive order last weekend in which he suggested his administration wouldn’t implement rules crucial to sustaining viable markets. (Levey, 1/27)

The Associated Press: AP-NORC Poll: Broad Worries About Potential Health Care Loss
Though "Obamacare" still divides Americans, a majority worry that many will lose coverage if the 2010 law is repealed in the nation's long-running political standoff over health care. A new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 56 percent of U.S. adults are "extremely" or "very" concerned that many will lose health insurance if the health overhaul is repealed. That includes more than 8 in 10 Democrats, nearly half of independents, and more than 1 in 5 Republicans. Another 45 percent of Republicans say they're "somewhat" concerned. (1/27)

The Washington Post: Obamacare Was A Boon For Many Restaurant Workers. Now What, They Wonder?
At the start of the new year, Tom Holland changed his health insurance. He signed up for a plan through the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. He had little choice: His previous insurance didn’t cover many of the services he needed, including a biopsy scheduled for Jan. 9. The former owner of the Juice Joint Cafe in downtown Washington had already canceled the biopsy once after learning “it would cost a grand to get that done,” he says. He knew he shouldn’t let the procedure slide any longer. The lump in his neck had not gotten any smaller since he first discovered it last spring. (Carman, 1/27)

NPR: Repeal Of Obamacare Could Threaten Provisions That Protect Seniors
Republican lawmakers meeting in Philadelphia this week say they want their replacement of Obamacare to be done by spring. There is no consensus on a plan yet, but several Republicans in Congress have already circulated proposals that could reduce or eliminate features of the federal health law that have benefited older Americans. (Jaffe, 1/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Some Rare Good News For Small Businesses Paying Employee Health Costs
Small businesses can once again use pretax funds to reimburse workers for health-care costs, especially premiums for individual and family coverage. In a little noticed move, Congress late last year reauthorized Health Reimbursement Arrangements for businesses with fewer than 50 employees. As a result, these firms won’t risk large penalties on payments they provide to workers who purchase their own health insurance. Many of these firms don’t offer group-health plans, and this law enables them still to offer a health-care benefit. (Saunders, 1/27)

The Associated Press: Senate Panel To Vote On Trump's Pick For Health Secretary
Republicans have scheduled a Tuesday vote by the Senate Finance Committee on President Donald Trump's nominee for health secretary. Trump's pick is GOP Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, and the Republican-run committee is expected to back Price along party lines. In his new post, Price will help lead the GOP drive to scrap President Barack Obama's health care law and enact still-uncertain Republican plans to replace it. (1/29)

The New York Times: Trump’s Pick For Health Secretary Under Scrutiny For Investments
Representative Tom Price of Georgia, President Trump’s choice for secretary of Health and Human Services, has been assailed by Democrats in recent weeks over his investment in health care companies at the same time that he pushed legislation that could have benefited those businesses. ... As Mr. Price awaits a confirmation vote, which could come next week, here is what we know about his investments, and whether his activities could have broken any laws or ethics rules. (Thomas, 1/27)

The New York Times: Trump’s First Week: Misfires, Crossed Wires, And A Satisfied Smile
If other new occupants of the White House wanted to be judged by their first 100 days in office, President Trump seems intent to be judged by his first 100 hours. No president in modern times, if ever, has started with such a flurry of initiatives on so many fronts in such short order. The action-oriented approach reflected a businessman’s idea of how government should work: Issue orders and get it done. But while the rapid-fire succession of directives on health care, trade, abortion, the environment, immigration, national security, housing and other areas cheered Americans who want Mr. Trump to shake up Washington, it also revealed a sometimes unruly process that may or may not achieve the goals he has outlined. (Savage, Baker and Haberman, 1/27)

The New York Times: Anti-Abortion Marchers Draw Inspiration From An Unlikely Source
Droves of men, women and children opposing abortion swarmed the National Mall on Friday in a demonstration that served not only as a rallying cry for their movement, but as a peaceful act of support for the new president they have embraced as their improbable champion. The crowd gathered just a few blocks from where hundreds of thousands of women marched last weekend to protest President Trump — a striking and symbolic juxtaposition for a country cleaved by its most recent election. (s and Alcindor, 1/27)

The Associated Press: Pence Helps Bring New Energy To Anti-Abortion Rally In DC
The anti-abortion movement has political momentum on its side, and Vice President Mike Pence lent his newly minted star power to Friday's rally, promising the triumphant crowd that more victories await. "We've come to a historic moment in the cause for life," said Pence. "Life is winning in America." Pence and White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway pledged that President Donald Trump would keep his promises to end taxpayer-funded abortion and to choose a Supreme Court justice in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia, a conservative Catholic who opposed abortion. (1/29)

The Washington Post: Black Activists Look To Trump, GOP As Allies In The Fight Against Abortion
Donald Trump’s harsh comments about women, Hispanics and Muslims was not the reason that Catherine Davis declined to support him for president. It was her uncertainty about exactly where the Republican businessman stood on the issue that Davis, a 64-year-old African American, says is the most important one facing the black community: abortion. “If we don’t have life, then all the other issues pale,” Davis said. “Education doesn’t matter, criminal justice reform doesn’t matter, if you cannot make it out of the womb.” (Williams, 1/28)

Reuters: U.S. Judge Blocks Texas Regulations For Fetal Tissue Remains
A federal judge in Texas on Friday halted state regulations that would require abortion providers to dispose of aborted fetal tissue through burial or cremation, saying the rules imposed "undue burdens on a woman's right to seek a previability abortion." U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks issued an injunction that will stay in effect until the court can render "a meaningful decision on the merits" of the case, online court documents showed. (Herskovitz, 1/27)

Reuters: Health Insurer Anthem Could Rise 30 Percent On Earnings Potential: Barron's
Anthem Inc shares could rise by 30 percent as the U.S. health insurer is undervalued and has the most room for improvement in profit margins and earnings among its peers, Barron's reported. The company also has the lowest price-to-earnings ratio among its peers including UnitedHealth Group Inc and Aetna, Barron's said, adding that the stock trades at just 13 times the projected 2017 earnings, a discount to its four big rivals. (Kumar, 1/29)

The New York Times: Troops Who Cleaned Up Radioactive Islands Can’t Get Medical Care
When Tim Snider arrived on Enewetak Atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to clean up the fallout from dozens of nuclear tests on the ring of coral islands, Army officers immediately ordered him to put on a respirator and a bright yellow suit designed to guard against plutonium poisoning. A military film crew snapped photos and shot movies of Mr. Snider, a 20-year-old Air Force radiation technician, in the crisp new safety gear. Then he was ordered to give all the gear back. He spent the rest of his four-month stint on the islands wearing only cutoff shorts and a floppy sun hat. (Philipps, 1/28)

The Washington Post: Mold-Contaminated Mouth Rinse Found At NIH, Spokeswoman Says
Particles found in a sucrose solution prepared in the National Institutes of Health's pharmacy were determined to be “environmental mold,” a spokeswoman said Friday. The four-year-old sugar and water solution, used to evaluate patients' response to sweet tastes, were quarantined after a nurse discovered the particles in the mouth rinse Dec. 12, as it was readied for use in a study. The solution was not given to anyone and no one was harmed, according to NIH. (Bernstein, 1/27)

The New York Times: After Mastectomies, An Unexpected Blow: Numb New Breasts
After learning she had a high genetic risk for breast cancer, Dane’e McCree, like a growing number of women, decided to have her breasts removed. Her doctor assured her that reconstructive surgery would spare her nipples and leave her with natural-looking breasts. It did. But while Ms. McCree’s rebuilt chest may resemble natural breasts, it is now completely numb. Her nipples lack any feeling. She cannot sense the slightest touch of her breasts, perceive warmth or cold, feel an itch if she has a rash or pain if she bangs into a door.And no one warned her. (Rabin, 1/29)

The New York Times: Depression And Anxiety Tied To Cancer Deaths
Psychological distress may increase your chances of dying from cancer. Researchers interviewed 163,363 adults in England and Scotland using well-validated questionnaires on general and mental health. They followed the population in 16 studies conducted between 1994 and 2008. (Bakalar, 1/27)

The Washington Post: When Drinkers Suffer Liver Disease, Should Getting A Transplant Be So Hard?
It began as a gentle way to unwind, a reward after a long day at work.Jackie Brafford, a registered nurse, would arrive home, kick off her shoes and pour herself a glass of chardonnay as she prepared dinner for herself and Steven, her husband of 40 years. After the pair ate at their home in Mineral, Va., Jackie would settle on the couch with a book, glancing at the evening news while idly scratching Crystal, the family’s chow, between the eyes. Often that first glass of wine would turn into a second, and then another. (Fleming, 1/29)

The Washington Post: For Years Doctors Wrongly Diagnosed These Strange Episodes As Panic Attacks
Rachel Schneider was 13 years old when it happened the first time. She and a few other children had been singing prayers at her Hebrew school when suddenly Schneider felt that something inside her head had gone wrong and that she wasn’t there. Her father brought the terrified girl to an emergency room, where doctors dismissed the episode as a panic attack. They said that Schneider was fine. (Arcement, 1/29)

The Washington Post: Awash In Overdoses, Seattle Creates Safe Sites For Addicts To Inject Illegal Drugs
Officials in Seattle on Friday approved the nation’s first “safe-injection” sites for users of heroin and other illegal drugs, calling the move a drastic but necessary response to an epidemic of addiction that is claiming tens of thousands of lives each year. The sites — which offer addicts clean needles, medical supervision and quick access to drugs that reverse the effects of an overdose — have long been popular in Europe. Now, with the U.S. death toll rising, the idea is gaining traction in a number of American cities, including Boston, New York City and Ithaca, N.Y. (Z
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