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KHN First Edition: February 8, 2017


First Edition

Wednesday, February 08, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: HHS Pick Price Made ‘Brazen’ Stock Trades While His Committee Was Under Scrutiny
Marisa Taylor and Christina Jewett report: "Health and Human Services secretary nominee Tom Price showed little restraint in his personal stock trading during the three years that federal investigators were bearing down on a key House committee on which the Republican congressman served, a review of his financial disclosures shows. Price made dozens of health industry stock trades during a three-year investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission that focused on the Ways and Means Committee, according to financial disclosure records he filed with the House of Representatives. The investigation was considered the first test of a law passed to ban members of Congress and their staffs from trading stock based on insider information." (Taylor and Jewett, 2/7)

Kaiser Health News: Pharmacies Thrive Selling Opioids For Depressed Small Town Pain
Phil Galewitz reports: "This economically depressed city in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains is an image of frozen-in-time decline: empty storefronts with faded facades, sagging power lines and aged streets with few stoplights.But there is one type of business that seems to thrive: pharmacies." (Galewitz, 2/8)

Kaiser Health News: With A High Deductible, Even A Doctor Can Short Change His Health
Dan Gorenstein reports: "All the doctor’s tricks were failing him. He’d tried neck massage, pressure to the eyes, ice on the face. But an hour in, Ashish Jha still couldn’t slow his racing heart.His wife asked what he’d recommend if a patient called with the same problem. “I said, ‘Oh, that’s easy.’ Go to the emergency department.”As a physician, Jha knew this tachycardia could possibly lead to a heart attack. Yet he felt caught by a decision he’d made in enrolling his family in a so-called high-deductible insurance plan." (Gorenstein, 2/8)

The New York Times: Issues Facing Republicans In Replacing Affordable Care Act
Ever since Democrats began pushing the Affordable Care Act through Congress more than seven years ago, Republicans have been trying to come up with an alternative. Candid conversations leaked from a conclave of Republican lawmakers in Philadelphia last month, and public comments since, show they are nowhere near agreement. (Pear, 2/7)

Politico: GOP Boxed In Replacing Unpopular Obamacare Coverage Mandate
The most hated piece of Obamacare is the mandate requiring most Americans to get health insurance.The Republican alternatives on the table may not prove any more popular. As the GOP weighs elements of a repeal-replace plan, one of lawmakers' biggest headaches is finding another way to persuade insurers to cover people with pre-existing health care problems. And all of the options under discussion would either raise the uninsured population or run afoul of GOP principles. (Demko, 2/8)

Politico: Obamacare Repeal-Replace Effort Begins To Jell
Republicans on Capitol Hill and within the Trump administration are scrambling to get Obamacare repeal efforts back on track by stuffing as much of a replacement policy as possible into a repeal bill. Four replacement measures are under consideration, with a goal of beginning work on the legislation in the relevant House committees by the end of February, according to congressional sources familiar with the tentative plans. (Haberkorn, 2/7)

Politico: Debating Obamacare's Future, Cruz And Sanders Detour To The Past
A prime-time debate between Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) about the future of Obamacare ended up mostly being about the past as the two lawmakers fell back on their respective 2016 presidential campaign arguments about health care as a human right versus freedom-crushing government intervention. (Diamond, 2/7)

The Associated Press: GOP Leaders Advise House Members On Dealing With Protests
House Republicans are discussing how to deal with protesters showing up at their town halls and other events in their home districts after angry confrontations this past weekend. GOP leaders told members at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday to be welcoming and polite while arranging for moderators and security. That's the word from Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina. (2/7)

NPR: Trump Wants Medicare To Negotiate Drug Prices Directly With Drugmakers
Drug companies could be forgiven if they're confused about whether President Donald Trump thinks the government should get involved in negotiating the price of prescription drugs for Medicare patients. ... So on Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer cleared up the confusion, for now at least. When asked during his daily news briefing whether the president is in favor of having Medicare negotiate lower prices for prescription medicine, Spicer said, "He's for it, yes. Absolutely." (Kodjak, 2/7)

The Wall Street Journal: White House Backs ‘Right To Try’ Law For Terminally Ill Patients
The White House is giving a big boost to proponents of a federal Right to Try law that they contend would give terminally ill patients easier access to medicines that haven’t won approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Some supporters of the bill met Tuesday with Vice President Mike Pence, and last week they won a supportive statement from President Donald Trump, who has been contending that too many FDA rules in general pose unnecessary hurdles to drug approval. (Burton, 2/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Biotech Executives Sign Letter Against Immigration Order
More than 150 biotechnology executives and venture capitalists have voiced opposition to President Donald Trump’s immigration order, which they say threatens the U.S.’s thriving medical research industry. “If this misguided policy is not reversed, America is at risk of losing its leadership position in one of its most important sectors, one that will shape the world in the twenty-first century,” the executives wrote in a letter to the editor of Nature Biotechnology, a scientific journal, and published online on Tuesday. (Walker, 2/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Watchdog Says FDA Missed Cancer Risk In Surgical Device
Surgical devices that can spread deadly uterine cancers were on the market for 22 years before a U.S. Food and Drug Administration system designed to catch such problems alerted the agency, a new watchdog report set for release soon confirmed. The report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office also said the FDA was aware of the potential cancer-spreading risk with laparoscopic power morcellators from the moment the agency first approved one in 1991, and that a series of medical-journal articles dating back to 1980 highlighted this risk. But the FDA believed there was a low risk of unsuspected cancers that could spread, according to the GAO. (Levitz and Kamp, 2/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Centene Revenue And Profit Continue To Grow
Medicaid-focused health insurer Centene Corp. reported that its top and bottom lines continued to increase in its fourth quarter as the company continues to integrate its Health Net acquisition. Last year, the company completed its $6.3 billion merger with fellow-insurer Health Net, as health insurers increasingly look for tie-ups that can help them cut costs and grow scale. (Hufford, 2/7)

The Associated Press: Tennessee Anti-Abortion Groups At Crossroads On Restrictions
A Tennessee anti-abortion group is urging state lawmakers invigorated by Donald Trump's presidential victory to hold off on passing new abortion restrictions until the courts decide the fate of several major abortion laws.The wait-and-see approach seems odd for a Bible belt state after Trump's election emboldened U.S. social conservatives eager to roll back Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling legalizing abortion nationwide. But the group Tennessee Right to Life is asking lawmakers to avoid passing more limitations until the courts weigh in on laws the state has already passed. (2/7)

The Associated Press: House Votes To Defund Planned Parenthood
The [Virginia] House of Delegates voted Tuesday to defund Planned Parenthood despite protests by women’s rights advocates on the Capitol grounds and in the House chamber. On a 60-33 party-line vote, the House approved HB 2264, which would cut off federal Title X funding for Planned Parenthood and any other groups that perform abortions in Virginia. Without the funding, the organization says it would have to shut its five clinics in the state. (Martin, 2/7)

The Associated Press: Clinic Falsely Told Dozens They Had Alzheimer’s, Suits Say
Shawn Blazsek knew a string of concussions from high school football and boxing was catching up with him. He would go days without sleeping and was forgetting how to tie his shoes. Still, at age 33, he was stunned after being told he had Alzheimer’s disease. He started planning out who would take care of his four kids if something happened to his wife, and thought about how hard it would be for them when he could no longer recognize his family. So he stuffed fistfuls of sleeping pills into a bottle and wrote himself a note, vowing to swallow all of them when he wasn’t able to remember the names of his children. That day never came. (Seewer, 2/8)

The Associated Press: Company Accused Of Scamming 9/11, NFL Concussion Victims
A company that promised sick 9/11 responders and NFL players with concussion injuries that it could “cut through red tape” to get their payouts faster lured them into advances that meant hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegally high interest and fees, authorities said Tuesday. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, New York’s attorney general and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau allege that New Jersey-based RD Legal Funding and its founder Roni Dersovitz snared 9/11 responders who are struggling with cancer and respiratory illness as well as former NFL players with brain injuries into taking costly advances on their settlements. (Sweet, 2/7)

The Associated Press: Dozens Plead Guilty, But Doctor Goes To Trial In $200M Fraud
Details of a long-running health care kickback scheme that allegedly featured prostitutes, cash-stuffed envelopes and private jet junkets began to unfold in federal court Tuesday as a 79-year-old physician went on trial. Dr. Bernard Greenspan isn’t alleged to have engaged in any of the seamier activities surrounding now-defunct Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services, but prosecutors painted him as eager to accept about $200,000 in bribes from the company over several years in exchange for sending his patients’ blood samples there. (Porter, 2/7)

The Washington Post: Many High-Risk Patients With Breast Cancer Aren’t Getting Genetic Testing. Here’s Why.
Doctors often fail to recommend genetic testing for breast-cancer patients, even those who are at high risk for mutations linked to ovarian and other cancers, according to a study published Tuesday. Researchers said the findings, which appear online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are troubling because genetic tests can help guide women's choice of treatments for existing disease, as well as point to ways to reduce the risk of future cancer. (McGinley, 2/7)

NPR: Women With Breast Cancer Miss Out On Genetic Testing
When asked why they didn't get tested, the majority of the 773 high-risk patients said it was because their doctor didn't recommend it to them. Just 13.7 percent of them said the test was too expensive, and 10.7 percent said they didn't want it. The researchers say this suggests a disconnect between oncologist and patient, whether it be assessing BRCA risk isn't on the physician's radar, or that they just don't find it important. The study surveyed 2,529 women overall. (Boddy, 2/7)

NPR: A1C Test Could Misdiagnose Diabetes In African-Americans
A widely used blood test to measure blood-sugar trends can give imprecise results, depending on a person's race and other factors. This test means diabetes can sometimes be misdiagnosed or managed poorly. Doctors have been cautioned before that results from the A1C test don't have pinpoint accuracy. A study published Tuesday underscores that shortcoming as it applies to people who carry the sickle cell trait. (Harris, 2/7)

The Washington Post: A Quarter Of Adults In The U.S. Have Hearing Loss Because Of Noise
Forty million American adults have lost some hearing because of noise, and half of them suffered the damage outside the workplace, from everyday exposure to leaf blowers, sirens, rock concerts and other loud sounds, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. A quarter of people ages 20 to 69 were suffering some hearing deficits, the CDC reported in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, even though the vast majority of the people in the study claimed to have good or excellent hearing. (Bernstein, 2/7)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2017 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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