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KHN First Edition: April 4, 2017


First Edition

Tuesday, April 04, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Trump’s Effort To Lure Consumers To Exchanges Could Bring Skimpier Plans
Michelle Andrews writes: "Will opening the door to cheaper, skimpier marketplace plans with higher deductibles and copays attract consumers and insurers to the exchanges next year? That’s what the Trump administration is betting on. In February, the administration proposed a rule that would take a bit of the shine off of bronze, silver, gold and platinum exchange plans by allowing them to provide less generous coverage while keeping the same metal-level designation." (Andrews, 4/4)

California Healthline: Markups On Care Can Fatten Hospital Budgets — Even If Few Patients Foot The Full Bill
Chad Terhune reports: "Few patients pay a hospital’s full price for a procedure or test. But a new study shows why those charges still matter. Economists at the Federal Reserve Board and the American Enterprise Institute found that list prices, often dismissed as meaningless by the hospital industry, are a critical gauge of which hospitals ultimately receive higher payments." (Terhune, 4/3)

The Associated Press: White House Officials Offer Change To Health Care Bill
White House officials made a new offer to conservative House Republicans late Monday on the GOP's failed health care bill, hoping to resuscitate a measure that crashed spectacularly less than two weeks ago. ... Under the White House offer, states would be allowed to apply for waivers from several coverage requirements that President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law imposed on insurers. These include an Affordable Care Act provision prohibiting insurance companies from declining to write policies for people with serious diseases. Conservatives have argued that such requirements have the effect of inflating insurance costs. (4/4)

Reuters: Trump Aides, Lawmakers Hold Talks To Revive Healthcare Bill 
Top White House officials met moderate and conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday in an effort to revive a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Key members of the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, invited a group of moderate Republicans known as the "Tuesday Group" to the White House. Pence then went to Capitol Hill to meet the Freedom Caucus, a group of House conservatives who last month derailed a healthcare bill backed by President Donald Trump. (Morgan, 4/3)

The Washington Post: With Help From Pence, House Republicans Suddenly Rekindle Health-Care Talks
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told reporters Monday night that the administration officials offered a “solid idea” that could form the basis of an intraparty compromise. That idea, he said, would allow states to apply for federal waivers exempting them from some health insurance mandates established under the Affordable Care Act — including “essential health benefits” requiring coverage of mental-health care, substance abuse treatment, maternity care, prescription drugs and more, as well as a provision that bars insurers from charging the sick more than the healthy. (DeBonis and Wagner, 4/3)

Politico: White House, Conservatives Mull Deal To Revive Obamacare Repeal
The developments could mean that Speaker Paul Ryan’s bill might not be dead after all — or at least indicate that continued discussions are going on behind the scenes. Sources stressed that the details are still being finalized, and it's far from certain that such a change would act as a silver bullet to salvage the much-maligned bill, and whether it would win over enough conservatives while also keeping centrist Republicans on board. (Bade, Haberkorn and Dawsey, 4/3)

The Associated Press: Repeal In Doubt, What Trump Alone Can Do On 'Obamacare'
With prospects in doubt for repealing "Obamacare," some Republicans say the Trump administration can rewrite regulations and take other actions to undo much of the health care law on its own. Some of those moves could disrupt life for millions of people, many in states that the new president carried. And then there's the risk of court challenges. Remember the White House travel ban? (4/3)

The New York Times: Iowa’s Largest Insurer Says It Will Withdraw From Obamacare Exchanges
In the latest move by insurers worried about the viability of the markets created under the federal health care law, Iowa’s major carrier said Monday that it would stop selling individual policies in the state next year. In a statement, the insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which is based in Des Moines, blamed its decision to withdraw in 2018 on what it said was the high cost of covering people under the Affordable Care Act. (Abelson, 4/3)

The Associated Press: VA Defending Work To Fix Troubled Veteran Suicide Hotline
The Department of Veterans Affairs is telling skeptical members of Congress that it has fixed problems with its suicide hotline that were highlighted in a critical recent internal watchdog report. A March 20 audit by the VA inspector general had found that nearly a third of calls to the Veterans Crisis Line as recently as November were bounced to back-up centers run by an outside contractor. The rollover calls happen when phone lines are busy, leading to possible waits of 30 minutes or more. (Yen, 4/4)

The New York Times: Plan To Cut Funding For Biomedical Research Hits Opposition In Congress
A proposal by President Trump to cut federal spending for biomedical research by 18 percent — just months after Congress approved bipartisan legislation to increase such spending — has run into a buzz saw on Capitol Hill, with Republicans and Democrats calling it misguided. “I’m extremely concerned about the potential impact of the 18 percent cut,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma and chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the National Institutes of Health. “This committee and certainly me, personally, will be very hesitant” to go along with the proposal, he added. (Pear, 4/3)

The Washington Post: Biden Attacks Trump’s Proposed Cuts To Medical Research
Former vice president Joe Biden on Monday blasted as “draconian” President Trump's proposed cuts in funding for biomedical research, predicting that they would severely set back the budget of the National Institutes of Health, shutter labs across the United States and end promising scientific careers. Biden, in a speech to the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington, said the proposed spending reductions for fiscal 2018 are sending a message that the United States is willing to cede its leadership in scientific and technical affairs. (McGinley, 4/3)

Reuters: Federal Judge Blocks Indiana Abortion Ultrasound Measure
A U.S. federal judge blocked an Indiana measure requiring women to have an ultrasound at least 18 hours before undergoing an abortion, saying that the mandate was unnecessary and a burden to low-income women. The preliminary injunction, issued by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt on Friday, was the result of a lawsuit brought last year by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky against Indiana's Department of Health and local officials. (Mclaughlin, 4/3)

The New York Times: The Campaign To Lead The World Health Organization
In May, the World Health Organization will select a new director general, a choice that will affect the health of hundreds of millions in the developing world — perhaps even more if a global pandemic were to emerge. For the first time, the selection will be made by a vote of the W.H.O.’s member nations for candidates who have campaigned openly for the post. (McNeil, 4/3)

Reuters: Mylan Hit With New Class Action Lawsuit Over EpiPen Pricing
Mylan NV has been hit with a new proposed class action lawsuit over the price of its EpiPen allergy treatment, which shot up to more than $600 for a two-pack of the device from less than $100 in 2007. The lawsuit was filed on Monday in Tacoma, Washington, federal court by three EpiPen purchasers. It claims Mylan engaged in a scheme with pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs - companies that act as intermediaries between pharmacies, insurers and drug companies - to dominate the market and overcharge consumers. (Pierson, 4/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Mylan Hit With Lawsuit Alleging It Overcharged EpiPen Patients
The latest lawsuit alleged Mylan violated a federal racketeering statute and various states’ consumer-protection laws by raising the EpiPen’s list price to give a share of the proceeds to pharmacy-benefit managers, or PBMs, and ensure the device was available for sale to patients. PBMs manage pharmacy benefits for employers, and insurers and can influence which drugs are covered by placing them on preferred lists. (Rockoff, 4/3)

The Washington Post: 20 Percent Of Patients With Serious Conditions Are First Misdiagnosed, Study Says
More than 20 percent of patients who sought a second opinion at one of the nation’s premier medical institutions had been misdiagnosed by their primary care providers, according to new research published Tuesday. Twelve percent of the people who asked specialists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to review their cases had received correct diagnoses, the study found. The rest got diagnoses that were partly in line with the conclusions of the Mayo doctors who evaluated their conditions. (Bernstein, 4/4)

NPR: Overweight Americans May Have Shorter Lifespans After All
"Our findings confirm that there is no benefit of being overweight on risk of death, and indicate that [being] overweight is actually associated with an increased risk of dying," he says. These findings apply only to those who are overweight, not to obese people. There is little debate that people who are obese are at increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and even premature death. (Neighmond and Neel, 4/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Should You Have A Scan For Skin Cancer?
Beverly McCormick gets a full-body exam for skin cancer every six months. With blond hair, freckles and light skin, she’s not taking any chances. Ms. McCormick, a 64-year-old manager in the financial-services department at the Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, says that over the years her dermatologist has removed a squamous cell carcinoma—a type of skin cancer—as well as numerous precancerous lesions. (Reddy, 4/3)

The Washington Post: Vaccinations Significantly Reduce Risk Of Death From The Flu, CDC Study Finds
Children who were vaccinated in recent years significantly lowered their chances of dying from the flu, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Using data from four flu seasons between 2010 and 2014, researchers found that flu vaccinations reduced the risk of flu-associated death by half among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions and by nearly two-thirds among healthy children. (Schmidt, 4/4)

The Washington Post: Wealth Didn’t Matter. Pollution From A Coal-Fired Plant, Carried Miles By Wind, Still Hurt Their Babies.
Air pollution from power plants has wanderlust. It never stays still. It rides the wind, drifting far from its source, visiting homes miles away with potentially harmful effects. New research released Monday documents the impact that pollution from a coal-fired plant in Pennsylvania had on four wealthy New Jersey counties as far as 30 miles downwind. Women in those counties had a greater risk of having babies of low or very low birthweight — less than 5½ pounds — than did women in similarly affluent areas. (Fears, 4/3)

Los Angeles Times: Health Officials Acknowledge Effects Of Utility Leak On Alabama Residents
A chemical leak at a natural gas facility that had long been owned by San Diego-based Sempra Energy has been found to have contributed to the troubled health of residents in a poor Alabama community. The Alabama Department of Public Health announced in a recent press release that the ongoing review of the 2008 leak in Eight Mile, Ala., has determined that the chemical odorant used to detect natural gas leaks is affecting residents in the predominantly African American community of 8,000. (Penn, 4/3)

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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