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KHN First Edition: April 7, 2017


First Edition

Friday, April 07, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Another Circle Of Hell: Surviving Opioids In The Fentanyl Era
WBUR's Martha Bebinger reports: "There’s a clear culprit in the rising drug overdose death count in Massachusetts — the synthetic opioid fentanyl. More powerful and more deadly than heroin, fentanyl has sparked a new set of survival rules among people who abuse opioids. About 75 percent of the state’s men and women who died after an unintentional overdose last year had fentanyl in their system, up from 57 percent in 2015. It’s a pattern cities and towns are seeing across the state and country, particularly in New England and some Rust Belt states. (Bebinger, 4/7)

The New York Times: Trying To Revive Health Bill, G.O.P. Adds $15 Billion For Sickest Americans
Under intense pressure from President Trump, House Republicans took a small step Thursday to revive legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, adding a $15 billion fund to help insurers pay claims for their sickest customers. Speaker Paul D. Ryan orchestrated a broad show of Republican support for the proposal, conceived as an amendment to the repeal bill that collapsed on the House floor two weeks ago. (Pear, 4/6)

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Leaders Add A Carrot To Health Bill
The new provision would create a fund of $15 billion over the next decade to reimburse insurers for patients with costly pre-existing conditions. House leaders had planned to add it to legislation to replace the ACA, which they pulled just hours before a planned vote last month due to a lack of support. ... The amendment’s co-sponsor, Rep. David Schweikert (R., Ariz.), believes it can pull in “every member who was concerned that we weren’t seeing enough premium efficiency.” It was unclear whether the provision persuaded any Republicans who opposed the overhaul plan to change their minds. (Hackman and Andrews, 4/6)

Politico: Frustration Mounts, Careers Jeopardized Over Obamacare Failure
Tempers are flaring at the White House over House Republicans’ failure to repeal Obamacare. But that hasn’t changed the reality on the ground: As Congress skips town for a two-week recess, Speaker Paul Ryan and his team are no closer to approving legislation. In fact, some Ryan allies worry that the White House involvement has only set GOP leaders back further. (Bade and Haberkorn, 4/7)

The Washington Post: Another State Is At Risk Of Having Only One Obamacare Health Insurer
Two insurers announced this week that they would pull out of Iowa's Affordable Care Act exchanges next year, raising worries that the decisions could be the leading edge of a trend. Insurers face approaching deadlines and major uncertainties about the short-term viability of the exchanges, and beyond, because of politicians' inability thus far to move a specific repeal and replace plan forward. (Johnson, 4/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Aetna To Exit Iowa’s Affordable Care Act Insurance Marketplace In 2018
Aetna said its move in Iowa came “as a result of financial risk and an uncertain outlook for the marketplace” and it was “still evaluating Aetna’s 2018 individual product presence in our remaining states.” Aetna currently offers exchange plans in four states -- Iowa, Delaware, Nebraska and Virginia -- a sharp reduction from its presence last year. It has more than 30,000 enrollees in Iowa. (Wilde Mathews,, 4/6)

Los Angeles Times: Speed Up Drug Approvals At FDA? It's Already Faster Than Europe's Drug Agency
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, President’s Trump’s nominee to head the Food & Drug Administration, has said the FDA displays an “unreasonable hunger for statistical certainty” and a “profound lack of confidence in the ability of doctors to make careful judgments. ”In a bid to speed reviews and “change the FDA review culture itself,” Gottlieb proposed in a 2012 article that the FDA should follow the lead of its European Union counterpart, and let “a body of politically appointed (and therefore politically accountable) officials … ultimately [decide] on whether a new drug should be approved.” (Healy, 4/6)

The New York Times: F.D.A. Will Allow 23andMe To Sell Genetic Tests For Disease Risk To Consumers
For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration said it would allow a company to sell genetic tests for disease risk directly to consumers, providing people with information about the likelihood that they could develop various conditions, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The move on Thursday is a turnaround for the agency, which had imposed a moratorium in 2013 on disease tests sold by the company, 23andMe, which is based in Mountain View, Calif. (Kolata, 4/6)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Approves 23andMe’s Genetic Test For Personal Disease Risks
The product is offered by the closely held Silicon Valley genetics-testing company 23andMe Inc., which was initially stymied by the FDA in 2013 when it sought to offer such saliva-analysis tests to the general public. But the company began making more headway by 2015, when it offered consumers a test to tell them if they carried a genetic variant for one of 36 diseases that could be inherited by their children. Those hereditary tests evaluated people for their likelihood of passing on conditions like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia and a disease known as Bloom syndrome. (Burton, 4/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Mapping The Secret Lives Of Human Cells
What does a human cell look like? That is somewhat of a mystery because most current cellular models are static and based on limited data, according to scientists from the Allen Institute for Cell Science in Seattle. Until recently researchers lacked the tools to assess cells and their tiny internal structures, known as organelles, in real time on a large scale, they say. (Hernandez, 4/6)

NPR: Giant Virus Origins Become A Little Clearer
Viruses are supposed to be tiny and simple — so tiny and simple that it's debatable whether they're even alive. They're minimalist packets of genetic information, relying entirely on the cells the infect in order to survive and reproduce. But in 2003, researchers identified a new kind of virus that that turned scientific understanding of viruses upside down, and tested the boundary of what can be considered life. (Bichell, 4/6)

The Associated Press: Maryland First To Mitigate Any Planned Parenthood Cuts
Maryland has become the first state to enact legislation to mitigate any federal cuts to Planned Parenthood. The measure was enacted Thursday after Gov. Larry Hogan decided not to veto the bill. Like 14 other bills, it went into effect after a midnight deadline without the Republican governor's signature. The Democrat-led General Assembly passed the bill with enough votes to override a veto. (4/6)

The Washington Post: Shonda Rhimes, Creator Of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ And ‘Scandal’, Joins Planned Parenthood Board
Shonda Rhimes, one of Hollywood’s most popular and powerful women, has joined the national board of Planned Parenthood. Rhimes, creator and producer of prime-time television shows “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal”, assumes a formal role in the organization at a time when antiabortion activists and some Republican lawmakers have set their sights on defunding Planned Parenthood. (Williams, 4/6)

Los Angeles Times: California Joins 15 States In Filing Court Brief Supporting Planned Parenthood's Lawsuit Against Ohio Healthcare Law
California has joined 15 other state attorneys general in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio challenging a law in that state that excludes healthcare providers that offer abortion services from participating in other publicly funded health programs, officials said Thursday. The lawsuit challenges the exclusion of such providers from breast and cervical cancer prevention programs, according to California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra. (Patrick McGreevy, 4/6)

The Associated Press: Tennessee Attorney General Questions Abortion-Ban Bill
Tennessee's attorney general has questioned the constitutionality of current legislative proposals that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks. The opinion from Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III, the top law enforcement official in a conservative Republican state, is the second this year to raise concerns over whether an abortion ban bill is constitutional. Last month, Slatery wrote that a push to outlaw most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, as early as six weeks, may not be able to withstand a court challenge. (4/6)

The New York Times: Prince’s Death: One Year Later, Unsolved Mysteries
It is one of the great mysteries in recent American pop culture: the death of Prince almost one year ago and the circumstances that led him to be found crumpled on the floor of an elevator at his sprawling residence Paisley Park outside of Minneapolis. How did he come into possession of the powerful opioid fentanyl, which killed him in what the coroner ruled was an accidental overdose? How did he so expertly conceal what appears to have been his addiction to pain medicines? And who, if anyone, bears some responsibility for his demise at 57? (Eldred, Kovaleski and Sisario, 4/7)

The Associated Press: New Mexico To Require Officers To Carry Overdose Antidote
New Mexico on Thursday became the first U.S. state to require all local and state law enforcement agencies to provide officers with antidote kits as the state works to curb deaths from opioid and heroin overdoses. Surrounded by advocates and parents who had lost children to overdoses, Gov. Susana Martinez signed legislation that was approved unanimously by lawmakers during their recent session. (4/6)

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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