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KHN First Edition: April 19, 2017


First Edition

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Non-Profit Linked To PhRMA Rolls Out Campaign To Block Drug Imports
Emily Kopp and Rachel Bluth report: "A nonprofit organization that has orchestrated a wide-reaching campaign against foreign drug imports has deep ties to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, the powerhouse lobbying group that includes Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Bayer. A PhRMA senior vice president, Scott LaGanga, for 10 years led the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a nonprofit that has recently emerged as a leading voice against Senate bills that would allow drug importation from Canada." (Kopp and Bluth, 4/19)

Kaiser Health News: Sen. Grassley Demands Scrutiny Of Medicare Advantage Plans
Fred Schulte reports: "Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wants federal health officials to tighten scrutiny of private Medicare Advantage health plans amid ongoing concern that insurers overbill the government by billions of dollars every year. Grassley, the influential chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has asked Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials to explain why they failed to collect nearly $125 million in potential overcharges identified at five Medicare Advantage plans audited in a single year." (Schulte, 4/18)

California Healthline: California Hospitals Lose Ground In Quality Of Care, Report Card Shows
Chad Terhune reports: "Nearly half of California hospitals received a grade of C or lower for patient safety on a national report card aimed at prodding medical centers to do more to prevent injuries and deaths. The Leapfrog Group, an employer-backed nonprofit group focused on health care quality, issued its latest scores last week. The report card is part of an effort to make consumers and employers aware of how their hospitals perform on key quality measures, so they can make better-informed health care decisions. The scores are updated twice a year, in spring and fall." (Terhune, 4/18)

California Healthline: As California Weighs Soda Warning Labels, Tax In Berkeley Shown To Dilute Sales
Ana B. Ibarra reports: "A new study of the soda tax in Berkeley, Calif., shows that residents are doing what public health experts had hoped — they’re ditching sugary drinks and opting for healthier beverages. The study, the largest to date of Berkeley’s soda tax, comes as California lawmakers this week again consider legislation to put a warning label on sweetened beverages — a bill that died in committee three times in three years." (Ibarra, 4/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Officials Offer Scant Assurance To Health Insurers On Key ACA Payment
The executives had hoped that Tuesday’s meeting at the Department of Health and Human Services would provide a clearer signal on whether they will continue getting “cost-sharing” payments, which help insurers bring down costs for about six million low-income customers enrolled through ACA insurance exchanges. President Donald Trump has unnerved insurance companies recently by sending mixed signals on the payments, just as the companies are making decisions on whether or not to take part on the ACA exchanges in 2018. (Hackman, Radnofsky and Wilde Mathews, 4/18)

The Associated Press: UnitedHealth 1Q Profit Soars As ACA Business Shrinks
UnitedHealth's first-quarter profit soared 35 percent as the nation's biggest health insurer slashed participation in Affordable Care Act exchanges but grew just about every other part of its business. The insurer also hiked its 2017 earnings forecast on Tuesday, and company shares started climbing shortly after it detailed results. (4/18)

Politico: Trump Issues Bold New Promises On Health Care, Tax, Infrastructure
President Donald Trump on Tuesday promised big wins in the next stretch of his administration, glossing past the reality that the political newcomer will celebrate his first 100 days without a major legislative victory. In a speech that could be seen as a messaging test for that milestone, Trump hailed the opening days of his administration as a wild success and pledged to quickly deliver on health care, tax reform and infrastructure. (McCaskill, 4/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump’s Latest Pick For Mental-Health Post Has Helped Prosecutors Secure Convictions
The Trump administration is struggling to fill a top mental-health post, a job created last year to coordinate the efforts of far-flung federal agencies. The assistant secretary position in the Department of Health and Human Services was first offered to a Florida judge, but the offer was withdrawn due to his lack of a medical background, according to people familiar with the matter. A second candidate had broad support but pulled out. Now a leading contender is Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who has testified for the prosecution in numerous high-profile criminal cases, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the process including Dr. Welner himself. He faces opposition for some controversial positions. (Hackman, 4/18)

The Associated Press: Feds Practice Ebola Evacuations Despite Past Trump Criticism
Donald Trump railed against President Barack Obama’s decision to bring patients with Ebola to the United States for treatment in 2014. Now that Trump is president, his administration is preparing for similar, and possibly larger-scale, evacuations. The State Department and Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday they led an unprecedented inter-agency drill last week to test their preparedness to deal with a new outbreak of Ebola or another deadly, highly infectious disease. (Lee, 4/18)

NPR/ProPublica: Secret Hospital Inspections May Become Public At Least
The public could soon get a look at confidential reports about errors, mishaps and mix-ups in the nation's hospitals that put patients' health and safety at risk, under a groundbreaking proposal from federal health officials. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wants to require that private health care accreditors publicly detail problems they find during inspections of hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as the steps being taken to fix them. Nearly nine in 10 hospitals are directly overseen by those accreditors, not the government. (Ornstein, 4/18)

The Washington Post: A Simple Checklist Prevents Deaths After Surgery, A Large New Study Suggests
Surgery checklists save lives, a study released Monday found. Hospitals in South Carolina that completed a voluntary, statewide program to implement the World Health Organization's Surgical Safety Checklist had a 22 percent reduction in post-surgical deaths. The study, set to publish in the August 2017 issue of Annals of Surgery, is one of the first to show a large-scale impact of the checklist on the general population. (Naqvi, 4/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Cardinal Health Feels Pain Of Falling Drug Prices
Making money when drug prices were rising was easy. Now comes the hard part.The latest signal: Distribution giant Cardinal Health lowered earnings expectations Tuesday morning and told investors that business wouldn’t pick up until the middle of 2018. The company is being hit by falling prices of generic drugs, which are expected to decline by a percentage in the low double digits for the fiscal year ending in June. (Grant, 4/18)

The Associated Press: Theranos Agrees To Pay $4.65 Million In Arizona Refunds
Embattled blood testing company Theranos, Inc. has agreed to pay $4.65 million to cover full refunds for every Arizona customer who used the company's testing services, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Tuesday. The settlement with the Palo Alto, California-based company covers more than 175,000 Arizonans who paid for blood tests between 2013 and the suspension of Theranos services last year, Brnovich said. (4/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Arizona Attorney General Reaches Settlement With Theranos
The pact is the second legal settlement in two days involving claims that Theranos had faulty blood-testing technology or lab practices. On Monday, Theranos resolved regulatory and legal matters with federal health regulators after the company and its founder Elizabeth Holmes agreed to stay out of the medical-lab business for two years. Theranos has said it has shifted its focus to developing lab equipment to sell to other companies rather than doing tests itself. (Weaver, 4/18)

The Associated Press: Iowa Lawmakers OK 20-Week Abortion Ban, 3-Day Wait Period
Iowa legislators sent Gov. Terry Branstad a measure Tuesday that would ban most abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy and impose a 72-hour waiting period on women seeking the procedure, a move highlighting the state's conservative shift since the November election. The Republican-majority state Senate voted 30-20 along party lines for the legislation, after the GOP-led House approved it earlier this month. Branstad, a Republican, is expected to sign it. (4/18)

The Associated Press: Penn State Launches New Research Effort To Help Abused Kids
A new research program at Penn State aims to improve the health of neglected and abused children and test an innovative approach to screen kids for head injuries. Penn State said Tuesday it will establish the Center for Healthy Children at its main campus, supported by nearly $8 million from the National Institutes for Health. The university is putting in more than $3 million. (Scolforo, 4/18)

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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