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KHN First Edition: February 21, 2017

KHN

First Edition

Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Health Law’s 10 Essential Benefits: A Look At What’s At Risk In GOP Overhaul
Michelle Andrews reports: "As Republicans look at ways to replace or repair the health law, many suggest shrinking the list of services insurers are required to offer in individual and small group plans would reduce costs and increase flexibility. That option came to the forefront last week when Seema Verma, who is slated to run the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the Trump administration, noted at her confirmation hearing that coverage for maternity services should be optional in those health plans. Maternity coverage is a popular target and one often mentioned by health law critics, but other items also could be watered down or eliminated." (Andrews, 2/21)

Kaiser Health News: Docs In Northwest Tweak Aid-In-Dying Drugs To Prevent Prolonged Deaths
JoNel Aleccia reports: "Two years after an abrupt price hike for a lethal drug used by terminally ill patients to end their lives, doctors in the Northwest are once again rethinking aid-in-dying medications — this time because they’re taking too long to work. The concerned physicians say they’ve come up with yet another alternative to Seconal, the powerful sedative that was the drug of choice under Death with Dignity laws until prices charged by a Canadian company doubled to more than $3,000 per dose." (Aleccia, 2/21)

The Associated Press: McConnell Intends To Replace 'Obamacare' Without Democrats
Republicans will repeal and replace the health care law and overhaul the tax code without Democratic help or votes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday. "It's clear that in the early months it's going to be a Republicans-only exercise," the Kentucky senator said at a news conference before lawmakers left for a weeklong President's Day recess. "We don't expect any Democratic cooperation on the replacement of Obamacare, we don't expect any Democratic cooperation on tax reform." (2/17)

The Associated Press: GOP Health Plan: Lower Costs, Better Care, Or Road To Ruin?
Top House Republicans say their outline for replacing President Barack Obama's health care law is a pathway to greater flexibility and lower costs for consumers. Democrats see a road to ruin for millions who'd face lost coverage and higher medical expenses, particularly the poor. The plan "ensures more choices, lower costs and greater control over your health care," according to talking points GOP leaders handed lawmakers heading home to face constituents during this week's recess. (2/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Insurers Voice Concern Over House GOP’s Outline For Health Law Repeal
The new House Republican plan, whose backers include House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), is far from a complete bill, and the limited summary highlighted many GOP divisions over the health overhaul’s future. President Donald Trump has promised to deliver an initial ACA replacement plan next month. Still, insures saw the House document as a key signal and parsed it closely. Many were concerned that they found no answers to some of their most important questions—and some of what they did find was alarming. For instance, insurers said, the outline promised to immediately end enforcement of the ACA’s coverage mandate but appeared to offer no replacement mechanism that would prod healthy consumers to purchase plans. (Wilde Mathews, 2/17)

The New York Times: Congress Goes Home, And Constituents Fired Up Over Health Care Are Waiting
As Republican lawmakers prepare to leave Washington for a weeklong congressional recess, liberal groups and Democratic Party organizers are hoping to make their homecoming as noisy and uncomfortable as possible. But national organizers concede they are playing catch-up to a “dam-bursting level” of grass-roots activism that has bubbled up from street protests and the small groups that have swelled into crowds outside local congressional offices.  (Zernike and Burns, 2/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmaker Answers To Hometown Critics At Town Halls
Rep. Tom Reed (R., N.Y.) easily won re-election last year after being one of the first congressional Republicans to endorse President Donald Trump. On Saturday, he drew huge, often angry crowds in this small-town area as he tried to sell a Republican agenda that the president’s victory made possible. At a veterans hall and senior citizens center along New York’s Southern Tier region, Mr. Reed made his pitch for repealing the Affordable Care Act and explained why he had cast a committee vote against allowing members of the panel to review Mr. Trump’s tax returns. (Hughes, 2/18)

Politico: How Mike Pence Used Obamacare To Halt Indiana'S HIV Outbreak
When then-Gov. Mike Pence faced the worst public health crisis to hit Indiana in decades, he turned to Obamacare — a program he vilified and voted against. In 2015, as a rash of HIV infections spread through rural southern Indiana, state health officials parachuted into Scott County and enrolled scores of people into Obamacare's expanded Medicaid program so they could get medical care and substance abuse treatment. Many were addicted to opioids and had contracted HIV by sharing dirty needles. (Ehley, 2/20)

The Wall Street Journal: The Affordable Care Act: The View From A Hospital CEO
Health care in the U.S. appears to be heading toward dramatic changes for the second time in less than a decade. As president and chief executive of New York-Presbyterian, Steven Corwin will have to maneuver a system with 10 hospitals and $7 billion in annual revenue through what may be years of regulatory uncertainty and upheaval for U.S. hospitals. (Evans, 2/20)

The Washington Post: Obamacare Launched A New Wave Of Start-Ups. Now They’re Bracing For What’s Next.
Four years ago, Noah Lang saw an opportunity in Obamacare. With an eye toward the millions of people set to purchase health insurance on their own for the first time, the 29-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur founded a start-up, Stride Health, that helps them compare and choose between plans — and do it all from a smartphone. Steadily and without fanfare, the Affordable Care Act has created a boom in Silicon Valley. (Dwoskin, 2/20)

The Associated Press: Drugs Vanish At Some VA Hospitals
Federal authorities are stepping up investigations at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers due to a sharp increase in opioid theft, missing prescriptions or unauthorized drug use by VA employees since 2009, according to government data obtained by The Associated Press. Doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff at federal hospitals — the vast majority within the VA system — siphoned away controlled substances for their own use or street sales, or drugs intended for patients simply disappeared. (2/20)

The Associated Press: Cases Involving Alleged Drug Theft At VA Health Facilities
Government data obtained by The Associated Press show that incidents of drug loss or theft at federal hospitals have jumped nearly tenfold since 2009 to 2,457 last year, spurred by widespread opioid abuse in the U.S. Federal authorities report that doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff — mostly in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system — had siphoned away controlled substances, while in other cases, drugs intended for patients simply disappeared. (2/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Alzheimer’s: Pharma’s Great White Whale Is Still Worth Hunting
Alzheimer’s disease is both the largest unmet medical need in the U.S. and the most frustrating challenge for the drug industry. Don’t expect pharma companies to get discouraged anytime soon. Last week marked the latest failed trial of an experimental Alzheimer’s disease treatment when Merck & Co. announced results for verubecestat. Eli Lilly’s solanezumab flunked a clinical trial last November, the third failed late-stage trial for the drug. (Grant, 2/20)

The Washington Post: Trump Energizes The Anti-Vaccine Movement In Texas
The group of 40 people gathered at a popular burger and fish taco restaurant in San Antonio listened eagerly to the latest news about the anti-vaccine fight taking place in the Texas legislature. Some mothers in the group had stopped immunizing their young children because of doubts about vaccine safety. Heads nodded as the woman giving the statehouse update warned that vaccine advocates wanted to “chip away” at parents’ right to choose. But she also had encouraging news. “We have 30 champions in that statehouse,” boasted Jackie Schlegel, executive director of Texans for Vaccine Choice. “Last session, we had two.” Now they also have one in the White House. (Sun, 2/20)

USA Today: Study: Teen Suicide Attempts Fell As Same-Sex Marriage Was Legalized
Fewer U.S. teens attempted suicide in states where same-sex marriage was legal in the years leading up to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling upholding gay marriage, according to a new study. Analyzing data from 1999 to 2015, researchers found a 7% reduction in suicide attempts among high school students in the 32 states that legalized same-sex marriage. (Solis, 2/20)

NPR: Drugs Should Be A Last Resort To Treat Acute Lower Back Pain
Most of us suffer back pain at some point in our lives. In fact, it's one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. Many of us also probably reach for medication. Now, new guidelines from the American College of Physicians say try exercise, yoga, or massage first. That's a pretty big change for both doctors and patients, but a welcome one, some doctors say. (Neighmond, 2/20)

USA Today: Hospitals Target Nutrition, Other Social Needs To Boost Health
Tom Shicowich "really, really, really liked Coca-Cola" before he began a new nutrition program targeting his Type 2 diabetes and weight. Being on a "very tight budget," he couldn't afford the fruit and vegetables he cut up for a living at his part-time grocery store job. Dinner was often a pizza or fast food meal he picked up on the way home. Six months after getting free healthy groceries every week through the Geisinger hospital near his rural Pennsylvania home, Shicowich has cut his blood sugar level from nearly 11 to close to a normal level of 7. (O'Donnell, 2/17)

The Washington Post: When It Comes To Heart Attacks, Women Are Different From Men
On that November Sunday in 2015, Stephanie Thomas Nichols was 40 miles into her drive home to Townsend, Del., from her vacation cabin in Western Maryland when she felt an odd sensation in her upper body. “No pain, just pressure, heaviness,’’ recalls Nichols, who owns a software company. She couldn’t catch her breath. Within minutes, her left arm went numb. (Cimons, 2/19)

The Washington Post: Cardiac Rehabilitation Helps Heart Patients, But Many Women Do Without It
Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program of helping heart attack patients and those who have had heart procedures or surgeries adopt behaviors to avoid a recurrence. These programs typically include exercise training, education and stress counseling. They usually are conducted in a clinic or hospital rehab center with input from doctors, nurses, exercise experts, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians and mental health professionals. (Cimons, 2/19)

The Washington Post: Mental Illness And Heart Disease Are Often Found In The Same Patients
Cardiovascular disease and mental illness are among the top contributors to death and disability in the United States. At first glance, these health conditions seem to lie at opposite ends of the medical spectrum: Treating the heart is often associated with lab draws, imaging and invasive procedures, whereas treating the mind conjures up notions of talk therapy and subjective checklists. Yet researchers are discovering some surprising ties between cardiac health and mental health. These connections have profound implications for patient care, and doctors are paying attention. (Morris, 2/18)

The Washington Post: Flabby Heart Keeps Pumping With Squeeze From Robotic Sleeve
Scientists are developing a robotic sleeve that can encase a flabby diseased heart and gently squeeze to keep it pumping. So far it’s been tested only in animals, improving blood flow in pigs. But this “soft robotic” device mimics the natural movements of a beating heart, a strategy for next-generation treatments of deadly heart failure. (Neergaard, 2/18)

USA Today: Business, Community Groups Boost Health Partnerships
The political divisions that characterize so much of Washington fell away this week, as representatives of business, public health organizations and government said they can work together to improve the health of Americans. Participants at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Health Means Business summit agreed on several ways to boost health to prevent disease and save money, which showed reason for optimism, said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (O'Donnell, 2/17)

USA Today: Doctor Convicted Of Botched Surgery Gets Life Sentence
Life in prison. Those were the words that Christopher Duntsch never wanted to hear. And the words that his patients and their families desperately wanted to hear. The one-time neurosurgeon was sentenced by the 12-member jury to spend the remainder of his life behind bars Monday afternoon. (Eiserer, 2/21)

The Associated Press: Doctor-Lawmaker Tries To Restrict Smoking In Tobacco Country
When Dr. Ralph Alvarado was elected to the Kentucky state Senate in 2014, he found his new colleagues had something in common with most of his patients: They knew smoking was bad, they just couldn't quit. For more than two years, Alvarado has led the effort to restrict smoking in a state with the highest smoking rate in the country. (2/19)

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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