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KHN First Edition: March 2, 2017


First Edition

Thursday, March 02, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Patient Advocacy Groups Rake In Donations From Pharma
Emily Kopp reports: "High-profile advocacy groups for patients with cancer, Alzheimer’s, HIV and other diseases almost always accept funding from pharmaceutical firms, and many fail to report any contributions, new research shows. At least 83 percent of the nation’s 104 largest patient advocacy groups take contributions from the drug, medical device and biotech industries, raising questions about whether they consistently put patients first, according to a paper published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Kopp, 3/1)

Kaiser Health News: Spike In Syphilis Among Newborns Driven By Broader Epidemic
Anna Gorman reports: "Neonatologist Gurvir Khurana had only read about it in textbooks. Seeing it in real life has been a shock: baby after baby born severely anemic, lungs filled with fluid, bodies covered with rashes. Some only lived minutes; others died within days or weeks. The cause: congenital syphilis." (Gorman, 3/2)

Kaiser Health News: Faring Better Than Many ACA Insurers, Molina Backs Health Law ‘Tuneup’
KQED's April Dembosky reports: "Some large health insurance companies have suffered losses under the Affordable Care Act, leading to a few high-profile exits from the online marketplaces. Humana is just the latest, announcing in January that it will stop offering health insurance on the ACA health exchanges at year’s end. But the administrators of a smaller, California-based insurer — Molina Healthcare — managed to turn a modest profit in the early years of the 2010 health law and break even in 2016. How did they do it?" (Dembosky, 3/2)

The New York Times: Republican Unity On Health Care Is Elusive, Despite Trump’s Support
President Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday night buoyed House Republican leaders who were hopeful that his leadership would unite fractious lawmakers around a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. But fundamental disagreements still divide Republicans on one of the central promises of their 2016 campaigns: repealing the health law. (Kaplan and Pear, 3/1)

The Washington Post: Trump’s Words On Obamacare Stir Up Intraparty Feud
Trump ascended the bulliest of pulpits Tuesday to address a joint session of Congress. It turns out it was his fellow Republicans who needed some bullying — specifically, on their plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The leader of the Republican Party took some tentative steps in his address to the joint congressional session toward a position in the Obamacare fight looming over Capitol Hill. But the president’s words sparked as much debate as they quashed. (DeBonis and Snell, 3/1)

The Associated Press: Trump Speech Leaves GOP Encouraged, But Still Divided
[Even] though Trump offered some specifics on health care and appeared to embrace a key element of a leadership-backed plan emerging in the House, his comments did little to settle an extremely difficult debate over Republicans’ top legislative priority. Indeed, a day after the president called for “unity and strength,” Republicans looked as divided as ever as they try to make good on seven years of promises to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law. Most said Trump’s speech hadn’t changed that or brought them much closer together. (Werner, 3/1)

The Associated Press: Trump Idea To Expand Health Care Competition Faces Hurdles
Allowing insurers to market health care policies across state lines is one of President Donald Trump's main ideas for bringing down costs. While supporters of the idea cast it as a way to make insurance policies more competitive, critics say it's unlikely to result in more affordable plans and could undermine stronger consumer protections in states such as California and Hawaii. Such a "race to the bottom" could leave some older consumers with health problems unable to afford coverage. (3/1)

Los Angeles Times: Republicans Still Waiting For Trump To Take Charge On Obamacare And Taxes
By now, Republicans in Congress thought they would be working closely with the White House on signature items of the GOP agenda — repealing and replacing Obamacare, overhauling the tax code. Many hoped President Trump would play the classic executive’s role: Rolling up his sleeves to chart the direction, settle disputes and spend his political capital to bring wayward lawmakers in line. But instead, Trump has been reluctant to take charge of Republicans’ policy priorities, and GOP lawmakers worry their early momentum is fading amid intraparty squabbles over legislation and Trump’s tendency to flit from topic to topic when what they most need now is focus. (Mascaro, 3/2)

Politico: No Breakthrough On Obamacare Repeal
Senate Republicans aren't backing the latest House plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, saying they are reserving judgment until House leaders provide key details about the proposal they intend to advance as soon as next week. Top House Republican committee chairmen Kevin Brady and Greg Walden on Wednesday crossed the Capitol to rally support among their Senate counterparts for their bill but provided lawmakers with few details, such as a cost estimate, legislative language or policy details, even as they walked senators through the broad outlines of the plan. (Haberkorn, Everett and Cancryn, 3/1)

The Wall Street Journal: House Republicans Confront A More Cautious Trump On Fiscal Policy
There is the Republican president GOP lawmakers dreamily envisioned signing their legislation into law. And then there is President Donald Trump. Mr. Trump, who tore up modern political conventions during his tumultuous campaign, has turned out to be a more cautious figure in the White House—at least on fiscal policy—than are many congressional Republicans. For all the talk of Mr. Trump transforming government, it’s the House Republicans who are willing to push for big, disruptive changes to federal safety-net programs, the tax code and the Affordable Care Act—and to take on the political risk that those changes would bring. Mr. Trump, by contrast, is treading more gingerly. (son, 3/1)

The Associated Press: Republicans In Pence's Indiana Warn Of Health Repeal Fallout
Republican legislative leaders in Indiana are warning that repealing the Affordable Care Act could unravel a program for poor residents that Vice President Mike Pence implemented as governor, a conservative blueprint for expanding Medicaid under the federal law. Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and GOP Senate leader David Long both said this week that tens of thousands of poor people could lose their insurance if Republicans in Washington enact some of the ideas they're discussing for repealing President Barack Obama's signature health care law. (3/1)

The Associated Press: Current, Ex-Kentucky Governors Battle Over Health Law Legacy
As Republicans in Congress prepare to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's health care law, Kentucky's current governor and his predecessor are wrestling over the law's legacy -- and both sides claim the state as a case study of the law's impact. Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear embraced the Affordable Care Act, expanding Kentucky's Medicaid program and setting up a state-run health insurance exchange. But Matt Bevin, Beshear's Republican successor, quickly dismantled the state exchange and has applied for a waiver to overhaul Medicaid with the goal of moving people off the publicly-funded program and onto private insurance plans. (3/1)

The Associated Press: Vice President Pence To Talk Health Care In Ohio
Vice President Mike Pence is expected to discuss efforts to repeal the health care overhaul during a visit to Ohio. The former governor of neighboring Indiana on Thursday is scheduled to visit Frame USA, which sells American-made picture frames from its home base in a northern Cincinnati suburb. (3/2)

Politico: Tax Dodgers Could Be Winners Under ACA Repeal
Tax dodgers could end up winners under Republicans' bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act. One of the Obamacare tax provisions now at risk of being killed by lawmakers is aimed at cracking down on tax shelters. Known among experts as the "economic substance doctrine," it targets sham transactions used by businesses and wealthy individuals to avoid paying taxes. (Faler, 3/1)

The New York Times: More Than 80 Percent Of Patient Groups Accept Drug Industry Funds, Study Shows
The nation’s largest patient advocacy groups are on the front lines of some of the biggest health care debates, from the soaring costs of prescription drugs to whether new medicines are being approved quickly enough. But while their voices carry weight because they represent the interests of sick patients, a new study has found that more than 80 percent of them accept funding from drug and medical-device companies. (Thomas, 3/1)

Reuters: EpiPen Maker Mylan Forecasts Strong 2017; Shares Jump
EpiPen allergy shot maker Mylan NV forecast 2017 profit and revenue largely above analysts' estimates on Wednesday, in sharp contrast to downbeat expectations from its rivals, amid pricing pressure in the U.S. generics market. The generic drugmaker also reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit and revenue, boosted by strong demand for drugs acquired through its purchase of Sweden's Meda last year. (Grover, 3/1)

The Washington Post: Facebook Hopes Artificial Intelligence Can Curb The ‘Terribly Tragic’ Trend Of Suicides
Just like that, Naika Venant was live. The 14-year-old girl was on Facebook, broadcasting from a bathroom at her foster home in southeastern Florida. Then, she was hanging from a scarf tied to a shower’s glass door frame — a deeply painful and personal moment playing out publicly on social media. A friend saw the video stream on Facebook Live and called 911, but officers were sent to the wrong address. By the time they got to the foster home in Miami Gardens, it was too late: Naika had committed suicide. (Bever, 3/1)

NPR: Human 'Embryoids' And Other Embryo Research Raises Concern
[Ali Brivanlou's] lab and one other discovered how to keep human embryos alive in lab dishes longer than ever before — at least 14 days. That's triggered an international debate about a long-standing convention (one that's legally binding in some countries, though not in the U.S.) that prohibits studying human embryos that have developed beyond the two-week stage. (Stein, 3/2)

NPR: Birth Control Failure Is Dropping, CDC Says
If you're failing less, then you're succeeding more, right? That's exactly what appears to be happening with birth control in the United States, according to a new study released by the Guttmacher Institute. Contraceptive failure rates for all of the most common contraceptives (think: the pill, condoms, and IUDs) fell from 2006-2010, according to the most recent data collected for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Survey of Family Growth. (McCammon, 3/1)

NPR: Relief From Itchy Eczema May Come In The Form Of A Shot
People with moderate to severe eczema may benefit from new treatments that significantly reduce the intense itching that comes with the scaly skin disease. A study published Wednesday finds that the antibody nemolizumab, given as a monthly injection, not only reduces itching significantly but also clears up many of the patches of dry, inflamed skin that are part of the disease. It appears in the New England Journal of Medicine. (3/1)

The Washington Post: Maryland Governor Declares State Of Emergency For Opioid Crisis
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday escalated his administration’s response to the opioid-addiction crisis, declaring a state of emergency and committing an additional $50 million over the next five years to beef up enforcement, prevention and treatment services. Hogan (R) signed an executive order calling for the state of emergency, an instrument many jurisdictions use to coordinate anti-opioid and heroin strategies. The action fulfills a campaign promise he made in 2014 but temporarily shelved after taking office in favor of other legislative and executive initiatives. (Turque, 3/1)

Los Angeles Times: State To Step Up Inspections At Hospitals With High Infection Rates
After complaints that the state is doing little to stop deadly hospital outbreaks, the California Department of Public Health said this week that it would prioritize inspections at those facilities with high rates of patient infections. The state disclosed the changes in a Tuesday letter to Consumers Union. The national nonprofit group had filed a petition with the state early this year listing scores of hospitals with abnormally high infection rates that had not been inspected in five years. (sen, 3/1)

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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