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KHN First Edition: April 10, 2017


First Edition

Monday, April 10, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Coming Full Circle, Doulas Cradle The Dying
Bruce Horovitz reports: "As Ellen Gutenstein lay in her bed at home, dying from lung cancer that had metastasized in her brain, a heart-wrenching Mother’s Day card arrived from her granddaughter. Neither Ellen’s daughter — nor her husband — felt they could read it to her without breaking down. Fortunately, a volunteer from the local hospice’s doula program was on hand to help the then-77-year-old resident of Ridgewood, N.J., comfortably die at home. She picked up the letter and read it with compassion." (Horovitz, 4/10)

California Healthline: Tracking Air Quality Block By Block
Ngoc Nguyen reports: "A local environmental advocacy group last week launched a first-of-its kind monitoring project, installing air quality sensors in the densely packed neighborhoods near this city’s port to give the people who live and work there on-the-ground readings of pollutants that can seriously injure their health." (Nguyen, 4/10)

The New York Times: No ‘Death Spiral’: Insurers May Soon Profit From Obamacare Plans, Analysis Finds
In contrast to the dire pronouncements from President Trump and other Republicans, the demise of the individual insurance market seems greatly exaggerated, according to a new financial analysis released Friday. The analysis, by Standard & Poor’s, looked at the performance of many Blue Cross plans in nearly three dozen states since President Barack Obama’s health care law took effect three years ago. (Abelson, 4/7)

The Associated Press: Move Over 'Obamacare,' Trump Plan Is Now The Focus
Something new is happening in a health care debate dominated for seven years by the twists and turns of Barack Obama's signature law. The focus has shifted to ideas from President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers in Congress, and most people don't like what they see. With Republicans in command, their health care proposals as currently formulated have generated far more concern than enthusiasm. (4/10)

Politico: TV Ads Slam Republicans Over Would-Be Obamacare Repeal
Moderate House Republicans who flirted with supporting the GOP's now-stalled Obamacare replacement will face attack ads in their districts this week for doing so. Save My Care, a coalition of left-leaning health care advocacy groups fighting to preserve Obamacare, is launching a seven-figure TV ad buy in seven competitive House districts across the country. (Cheney, 4/10)

The New York Times: The Trump Resistance Found Early Success. Can It Also Find Momentum?
Political reporters were calling, crediting them with helping to bring down Republican legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Rachel Maddow made them the stars of a segment on her show, chronicling how they had grown into a “legitimate political movement” that pushed their congressman, the chairman of the influential Appropriations Committee, to come out against the bill hours before his party’s leadership decided to pull it without a vote. (Zernike, 4/9)

Politico: How Washington’s Favorite Cancer Fighter Helps Himself
Patrick Soon-Shiong, the California health care billionaire, believes the United States is fighting a flawed war on cancer, “stuck in dogma.” His bracing critique caught the attention of Joe Biden and, more recently, Donald Trump, who met privately with Soon-Shiong twice during the transition, as he reportedly angled for a role in the administration. (Tahir, 4/9)

The Washington Post: The Trump Administration Is Ill-Prepared For A Global Pandemic
The Trump administration has failed to fill crucial public health positions across the government, leaving the nation ill-prepared to face one of its greatest potential threats: a pandemic outbreak of a deadly infectious disease, according to experts in health and national security. No one knows where or when the next outbreak will occur, but health security experts say it is inevitable. Every president since Ronald Reagan has faced threats from infectious diseases, and the number of outbreaks is on the rise. (Sun, 4/8)

Los Angeles Times: Trump Pushes Historic Cuts In Global Health Aid, Stoking Fears Of New Disease Outbreaks And Diminished U.S. Clout
Half a century after the United States led a global expansion of international efforts to combat infectious disease and promote family planning, the Trump administration has embarked on a historic retrenchment that many fear threatens the health of millions and jeopardizes America’s standing in the world. Since taking office, President Trump has proposed dramatic cuts to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has historically spearheaded U.S. efforts to improve women’s and children’s health. (Levey, 4/10)

The Wall Street Journal: China Emerges As Powerhouse For Biotech Drugs
A new cancer drug licensed by Eli Lilly was discovered by a six-year-old startup on the outskirts of Shanghai, and derived from the ovary cells of Chinese hamsters. Lilly now is planning to test it on Americans.Rival Merck & Co. aims to test a separate cancer drug in the U.S. this year, created by another startup near the border with Hong Kong. Those aren’t outliers. China, long the world’s supplier of cheap pharmaceutical ingredients and copycat pills, is emerging as a major producer of important new medicines: biotech drugs. (Rana, 4/10)

The Wall Street Journal: WellCare Tests Artificial Intelligence To Help Improve Patient Health
WellCare Health Plans Inc., an insurer focused on Medicaid and Medicare patients, is building two AI systems – one for clinicians, one for patients – designed to analyze symptoms, demographics, medical histories, and other data sources to suggest treatment plans and interventions. The goal for both projects is to give field workers like visiting nurses, as well as patients themselves, mobile access to medical advice aimed at improving health. (Nash, 4/7)

The Associated Press: Drug Epidemic: 1 Small-Town Mayor Takes On Pill Distributors
In this once prosperous West Virginia coal town of 1,900 people, residents say it's not just the decades-long demise of mining that hurt the community — it's the scourge of drug use that came with it. Here, almost everyone knows someone who became addicted. And the Appalachian town is fighting back by suing some of the biggest U.S. drug distributors, hoping to make them pay for the damage done by addiction. Lawyers say growing pushback by communities, many in West Virginia, could ultimately rival the scope of litigation against tobacco companies over smoking. (4/7)

The Associated Press: Doctor Charged With Selling Pain Pills Pleads Not Guilty
A New Jersey doctor has pleaded not guilty to charges that he sold prescriptions for highly addictive opioid painkillers to people who had no medical need for them, including one man who died from an overdose. An attorney representing Dr. Byung Kang, of Little Falls, entered the plea during a court hearing Friday. (4/7)

The Washington Post: Hawaii LGBT Couples Seek Equal Access To Fertility Treatments
Sean Smith and his husband paid more than $20,000 for a fertility procedure when they decided to have a child using a surrogate mother. They did not know at the time that if they were a heterosexual couple, they might have saved that money. Now, Smith and other members of Hawaii’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are lobbying for equal access to the financial help that married heterosexual couples receive under state law. (Bussewitz, 4/9)

The Washington Post: Diabetes Is Even Deadlier Than We Thought, Study Suggests
Nearly four times as many Americans may die of diabetes as indicated on death certificates, a rate that would bump the disease up from the seventh-leading cause of death to No. 3, according to estimates in a recent study. Researchers and advocates say that more-precise figures are important as they strengthen the argument that more should be done to prevent and treat diabetes, which affects the way sugar is metabolized in the body. (Karidis, 4/7)

The New York Times: Short Answers To Hard Questions About HPV
This week, the federal government reported that nearly half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 are infected with genital human papillomavirus — some strains of which can cause deadly cancer. The report, by the National Center for Health Statistics, notes that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It also said that some high-risk strains infected 25 percent of men and 20 percent of women, and cause about 31,000 cases of cancer each year. (Belluck, 4/7)

NPR: A Baby Born With 3 Parents' DNA Looks Healthy So Far
Last fall, the New York-based reproductive endocrinologist John Zhang made headlines when he reported the birth of the world's first "three-parent" baby — a healthy boy carrying the blended DNA of the birth mother, her husband and an unrelated female donor. (Neimark, 4/8)

NPR: Medical Research Using Animals Often Fails To Produce Drugs That Work In People
Most potential new drugs fail when they're tested in people. These failures are not only a major disappointment – they sharply drive up the cost of developing new drugs. A major reason for these failures is that most new drugs are first tested out in mice, rats or other animals. Often those animal studies show great promise. But mice aren't simply furry little people, so these studies often lead science astray. (Harris, 4/10)

The Washington Post: Deep Brain Stimulation May Reduce Severe Tourette’s Syndrome
An experimental technique reduces the tics, or involuntary movements and vocal outbursts, associated with severe Tourette's syndrome in young adults, a study published Friday found. The surgical technique, called thalamic deep brain stimulation (DBS), sends electrical impulses to a specific area of the brain that reduces the tics, according to the study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery. The finding adds to the growing body of evidence about the safety and effectiveness of deep brain stimulation, which might eventually lead the Food and Drug Administration to approve the treatment for Tourette's syndrome, according to the researchers. (Naqvi, 4/7)

The Washington Post: The Awful Sores In Her Mouth Were A Symptom Of Something Very Serious
Elizabeth Starrels sat in the examining chair of a Washington ear, nose and throat specialist in October 2012, weeping in frustration and pain. For the previous four months, Starrels, then 52, had been battling painful mouth sores that were getting worse. Eating had become a near impossibility, and Starrels, who was largely subsisting on smoothies, had lost 20 pounds. (Boodman, 4/8)

The Associated Press: Agreement Means Kentucky Abortion Clinic Won't Close For Now
Lawyers for Kentucky's governor have halted efforts to shut down the state's last abortion clinic pending the outcome of a lawsuit aimed at preventing the closure. The latest development came as lawyers for Gov. Matt Bevin and the Louisville clinic submitted an agreement to U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers, who had not yet signed it. In it, Bevin's administration agreed to renew the license for EMW Women's Surgical Center until the lawsuit is resolved. (4/7)

The Associated Press: Kansas To Give Parents More Say In Children's Critical Care
Kansas is taking steps to give parents more control over medical decisions about life-extending care for their disabled or critically ill children with a new law that supporters hope becomes a model for other states. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Friday that will prevent hospitals and physicians from instituting do-not-resuscitate orders or similar directives for children if one parent objects. The new law takes effect July 1. (4/7)

The Associated Press: Maryland Doctors Pays $450K To Resolve Medicaid Fraud Case
Authorities say a Maryland doctor has paid $450,000 to the state to resolve allegations that she submitted false billing records to the Medicaid program. Officials say this week’s settlement with Dr. Sabiha Mohiuddin, who owns and operates a primary care practice serving Medicaid patients, stems from a civil complaint filed in the Circuit Court for Frederick County. (4/8)

The Associated Press: Connecticut Optometrists Seek To Limit Online Eye Exams
Some optometrists are pushing back against new technology that allows consumers to get prescriptions for contact lenses and glasses with the click of a keyboard and a smartphone. While proponents of these limited online eye exams argue they provide both financial savings and convenience, medical professionals contend patients could be put at risk. Without a full, face-to-face exam from a doctor, they argue potential medical problems could be overlooked. (4/8)

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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