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KHN First Edition: February 24, 2017

KHN

First Edition

Friday, February 24, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Threat Of Obamacare Repeal Leaves Community Health Centers In Limbo
Treating people for free or for very little money has been the role of community health centers across the U.S. for decades. In 2015, 1 in 12 Americans sought care at one of these clinics; nearly 6 in 10 were women, and hundreds of thousands were veterans. The community clinics — now roughly 1,300-strong — have also expanded in recent years to serve people who gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act. (2/24)

California Healthline: To Pay Or Not To Pay – That Is The Question
Emily Bazar reports: "K.A. Curtis gave up her career in the nonprofit world in 2008 to care for her ailing parents in Fresno, which also meant giving up her income. She wasn’t able to afford health insurance as a result, and for each tax year since 2014, Curtis has applied for — and received — an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s coverage requirement and the related tax penalty, she says. This year, given President Donald Trump’s promise to repeal the ACA, along with his executive order urging federal officials to weaken parts of the law, Curtis began to wonder whether she’d even have to apply for an exemption for her 2016 taxes." (Bazar, 2/24)

Politico: The Left Rallies To Save Obamacare With Passion But Little Cash
Obamacare is blowing up congressional town hall meetings from California to Virginia. But high-rollers aren't stepping up to write checks to defend the law and possibly turn voter outrage over losing coverage into a sustainable movement. Though many Republicans charge the town hall sessions are stoked by moneyed interests and professional protesters, health care groups and foundations that have been crucial to the ACA cause have remained on the sidelines. Without cash, the smaller progressive organizations left could be hard-pressed to fight a long battle as conservatives spend heavily to pressure lawmakers to finish off the law and, possibly, revamp Medicaid. (Pradhan, 2/24)

The Washington Post: VP Pence: ‘America’s Obamacare Nightmare Is About To End’
Vice President Pence forcefully defended on Thursday night the Trump administration's plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, saying the law known as Obamacare is a “nightmare” and that the administration is committed to “an orderly transition” to a new health-care system. Addressing a gathering of conservative activists in the Washington area, Pence sought to minimize the voices of the hundreds of people who have demonstrated against changes to the law at congressional town hall meetings across the country. (Rucker, 2/23)

Politico: Pence: GOP Full Tilt On Obamacare Repeal
Pence said the administration would soon advance plans that preserve some of the current healthcare law’s most popular features — such as protections for patients with preexisting conditions — but that added more free market solutions, like the ability to purchase plans across state lines. And the vice president dismissed recent protests at Republican town halls as manufactured outcry, arguing that the GOP had the right principles behind their policies. (Jackson, 2/23)

The Washington Post: Republicans Distance Themselves From Trump’s Agenda At Rowdy Town Halls
When a voter here asked whether Sen. Charles E. Grassley supports a probe of President Trump’s tax returns, the Republican gave a qualified “yes.” In Virginia, asked about Russian interference in the presidential election, Rep. David Brat said an investigator should “follow the rule of law wherever it leads.” And in Arkansas, Sen. Tom Cotton told 1,400 people sardined into a high school auditorium that the Affordable Care Act “has helped Arkansans.” This week’s congressional town halls have repeatedly found Republicans hedging their support for the new president’s agenda — and in many cases contradicting their past statements. (Weigel, 2/23)

The Washington Post: Republican Lawmaker Who Won’t Hold A Town Hall Invokes Gabby Giffords Shooting. She Responds: ‘Have Some Courage.’
As Republican lawmakers across the country have faced raucous, chaotic town halls in recent days, a number have refused to have these events. ... Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), in a statement released this week, blamed his decision not to hold these events in person on “the threat of violence at town hall meetings.” He also pointed to a specific violent event to bolster his case, invoking the 2011 shooting that severely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and killed six others. ... “To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage,” Giffords said in a statement. “Face your constituents. Hold town halls.” (Berman, 2/23)

The Associated Press: Former House Speaker Predicts 'Obamacare' Won't Be Repealed
Former House Speaker John Boehner predicted on Thursday that a full repeal and replacement of "Obamacare" is "not going to happen." The Ohio Republican, who was forced out by conservatives in 2015, said he started laughing when he heard President Donald Trump and Republicans promise swift action on undoing and replacing the health law. "Republicans never ever agree on health care," Boehner said. (2/23)

Politico: Boehner: Republicans Won't Repeal And Replace Obamacare
“They’ll fix Obamacare, and I shouldn’t have called it repeal and replace because that’s not what’s going to happen. They’re basically going to fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it,” Boehner said. The former speaker’s frank comments capture the conundrum that many Republicans find themselves in as they try to deliver on pledges to axe Obamacare but struggle to coalesce around an alternative. (Tahir, 2/23)

The Washington Post: Cancer Patients, Survivors Fear GOP Efforts To Dismantle The Affordable Care Act
Ashley Walton was 25 when a mole on her back turned out to be melanoma. She had it removed, but three years later she discovered a lump in her abdomen. She was then unemployed and uninsured, and so she put off going to a doctor. She tried to buy health insurance. Every company rejected her. By the time Walton finally sought medical help, the melanoma had spread to her brain, lungs and elsewhere. And she eventually became eligible for California’s Medicaid program, which had been expanded under the Affordable Care Act. Two major surgeries, radiation and immunotherapy did not cure the cancer — but did beat it back. (McGinley, 2/23)

Politico: Obamacare’s Limbo Befuddles Taxpayers
Republicans’ stalled campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act is sowing confusion among those now trying to do their taxes. Many taxpayers believe Republicans have already repealed the law, tax preparers say, and they’re surprised and upset to learn they are still subject to Obamacare’s penalty for failing to have health insurance — a charge that climbed this year to more than $2,000 per family. (Faler, 2/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Republican-Led States Push To Reshape Their Medicaid Programs
A growing number of Republican state leaders, not content to wait as Congress struggles to repeal the Affordable Care Act and overhaul Medicaid, are mobilizing in an effort to reshape how health care is delivered in their states. Encouraged by a Trump administration that appears receptive to such moves, more than a half-dozen states are seeking federal permission to impose coverage restrictions on many Medicaid beneficiaries, including drug testing and lifetime enrollment caps, some of which would be unprecedented. (Armour, Levitz and Hackman, 2/23)

NPR: NPR Fact Checks Indiana's Claims About Its Medicaid Program
Indiana expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in 2015, with a few extra conditions that were designed to appeal to the conservative leadership in the state. The Federal government approved the experiment, called the Healthy Indiana Plan, or HIP 2.0, and it is now is up for another three-year renewal. But a close reading of the state's renewal application shows misleading and inaccurate information is being used to justify extending HIP 2.0. (Harper, 2/24)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. House Committee Presses Drug Czar On Fentanyl
U.S. House lawmakers are pressing the nation’s drug czar for more data on the dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl, including how it is trafficked and how many people it has killed, in the latest effort to thwart a spiraling drug crisis. The four-page letter from the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, signed by bipartisan committee leaders and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, calls the fentanyl crisis a top oversight priority. Addressed to Kemp Chester, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and sent Thursday, the letter includes 15 questions such as how much fentanyl comes into the U.S. through the mail and how many counterfeit fentanyl pills authorities have seized. (Kamp and Campo-Flores, 2/23)

The Washington Post: Many People Keep Taking Prescription Opioids During Addiction Treatment
The grip of opioid addiction is so strong that many people who undergo treatment relapse repeatedly. Now a study by Johns Hopkins University researchers offers new clues about why treatment is so difficult. The researchers discovered that 43 percent of people receiving buprenorphine, a widely used anti-addiction medication, filled at least one prescription for opioids — which they presumably consumed or diverted to others. (Bernstein, 2/23)

The Associated Press: Governor Signs Bills Aimed At Stemming Opioid Epidemic
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed a set of bills that aim to stem Virginia’s growing opioid epidemic. McAuliffe’s office said in a statement Thursday that among the measures he signed into law is one allowing community organizations to possess and dispense naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug. Another measure mandates that all opioid prescriptions be transmitted to pharmacies electronically by 2020. (2/23)

The New York Times: One In Every 137 Teenagers Would Identify As Transgender, Report Says
Nearly 150,000 American teenagers from 13 to 17 years old — or one out of every 137 — would identify as transgender if survey takers asked, according to an analysis of state and federal data that offers an answer to a question that has long eluded researchers. The figure stands to inform the fierce debate over the rights of transgender youth, reignited on Wednesday by President Trump’s decision to rescind an Obama administration policy that protected the rights of students to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. (Chokshi, 2/23)

The Washington Post: Rise In Mumps Outbreaks Prompts U.S. Officials To Weigh Third Vaccine Dose
Federal health officials are evaluating the benefit of an additional dose of the mumps vaccine because of the increasing number of mumps outbreaks since 2006. More than 5,000 cases of the contagious viral illness were reported last year in the United States, the most in a decade. Among the outbreaks in recent years, 19 occurred last year on college campuses. Arkansas has been battling an outbreak that began in one community last summer and has since infected 2,815 people, the largest recorded in that state. (Sun, 2/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Why Hospitals Should Treat Adults Like Children
A stay in the hospital isn’t always good for your health. Bright lights, loud noises, sleep deprivation, frequent blood draws and other painful procedures are among the stressors that can take a toll on patients—and might even make them more vulnerable to other health threats once they are discharged, researchers theorize. But a recent article published in Annals of Internal Medicine suggests a possible remedy for the anxiety associated with hospitalization: Make adult hospitals more like children’s hospitals. (Ward, 2/23)

The Washington Post: Air Pollution Affects Preterm Birthrates Globally, Study Finds
A pregnant woman's exposure to air pollution has adverse effects on her fetus, according to a new international study, with prolonged exposure associated with nearly 1 in 5 premature births globally. The study, published recently in the journal Environment International, is the first global estimate of preterm births associated with pollution caused by fine particulate matter. This matter, known as PM2.5, is identified by the size of the microscopic particles and droplets it contains (2.5 micrometers in diameter or less), and it can reach deep into the respiratory tract. It is emitted by man-made sources such as diesel engines, industrial plants and the cooking fuels used mostly in parts of Asia, as well as by natural sources such as chemical reactions occurring in the atmosphere. (Naqvi, 2/23)

Los Angeles Times: Political Spending Of AIDS Nonprofit Comes Under Fire
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation oversees a global philanthropic empire that extends from its Hollywood headquarters to 15 states and 38 countries. The 30-year-old nonprofit organization treats hundreds of thousands of patients. It hands out tens of millions of condoms annually. And it puts up provocative billboards urging people to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. But in recent months, it has become known for the kind of activism usually associated with homeowner groups, spurring criticism that it has strayed too far from its mission. (Reyes and Zahniser, 2/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Alabama Doctors Convicted In Health-Care Fraud Case
Two Alabama doctors were convicted Thursday of health-care fraud, taking kickbacks from Insys Therapeutics Inc. and prescribing opioid painkillers for no medical purpose, among other crimes. John Couch and Xiulu Ruan were each convicted on more than 10 criminal counts brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Mobile, Ala. (Walker, 2/23)

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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