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KHN First Edition: April 26, 2017


First Edition

Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: 5 Things To Know About The Health Issue That Could Shut Down The Government
Julie Rovner reports: "Congress must pass a bill this week to keep most of the government running beyond Friday, when a government spending bill runs out. It won’t be easy. The debate over a new spending bill focuses on an esoteric issue affecting the Affordable Care Act. The question is whether Congress will pass — and President Donald Trump will sign — a bill that also funds subsidies for lower-income people who purchase health insurance under the law." (Rovner, 4/26)

Kaiser Health News: Health Care Worries Pull Crowd To Conservative Ohio Rep’s Town Hall
Rachel Bluth reports: "Speaking over constituents’ often-hostile shouts and angry murmurs, one of Congress’ most conservative Republicans told a tense town hall meeting here Monday that less government regulation — not more — is the solution to their rising health care premiums. “What we want to do is make sure we have the best health care system in the world and bring back affordable insurance plain and simple. That’s what I’m trying to do. That’s what we continue to focus on,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, the co-founder of the House’s conservative Freedom Caucus. Its firm opposition to the GOP’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act forced party leaders last month to yank their bill from a vote on the House floor." (Bluth, 4/25)

Kaiser Health News: Pre-Obamacare, Preexisting Conditions Long Vexed States And Insurers
WHYY's Elana Gordon reports: "For most of his life, Carl Goulden had near-perfect health. He and his wife, Wanda, say that changed 10 years ago. Carl remembered feeling “a lot of pain in the back, tired, fatigue, yellow eyes — a lot of jaundice.” “Gray-like skin,” Wanda added. His liver wasn’t working, she explained. “It wasn’t filtering.” Carl was diagnosed with hepatitis B. He is now 65 and on Medicare, but back then he had a flower shop in Littlestown, Pa., so he had been buying health insurance for his family on the market for small businesses and the self-employed." (Gordon, 4/26)

Kaiser Health News: Severe Shortage Of Home Health Workers Robs Thousands Of Proper Care
Judith Graham reports: "Acute shortages of home health aides and nursing assistants are cropping up across the country, threatening care for people with serious disabilities and vulnerable older adults.In Minnesota and Wisconsin, nursing homes have denied admission to thousands of patients over the past year because they lack essential staff, according to local long-term care associations." (Graham, 4/26)

Politico: Republicans Finalize New Obamacare Repeal Proposal
The White House, top House conservatives and a key moderate Republican have finalized a new Obamacare repeal and replace plan they hope will break a month-long logjam on a key priority for President Donald Trump. But it is far from clear that the fragile agreement will provide Speaker Paul Ryan the 216 votes needed for the House to pass the stalled legislation. Optimism is growing among Republican officials on the Hill and in the White House. Leadership will likely need at least 15 to 20 new House Freedom Caucus votes to have any shot at passing the bill. (Bade, Haberkorn and Dawsey, 4/25)

The Washington Post: House Freedom Caucus Leaders Back New Health-Care Plan
White House officials and several Republican lawmakers claimed Tuesday they were nearing a deal on health-care legislation with the House Freedom Caucus, with at least three leading figures in the hard-line group ready to support an overhaul after the dramatic collapse of talks last month. Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Raúl R. Labrador (R-Idaho) — all leaders of the Freedom Caucus and central figures in the latest discussions — signaled Tuesday they are ready to support a new plan, according to two White House officials who were not authorized to speak publicly. A lawmaker close to the Freedom Caucus later confirmed that those members were close to or ready to support the tweaked bill. (Costa and Winfield Cunningham, 4/25)

Politico: Moderates Chafe At Republican Health Care Compromise
Rep. Tom MacArthur has singlehandedly kept the embers of the failed repeal-and-replace effort burning, huddling with the hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus to try to forge a deal. The negotiations have allowed the White House and GOP congressional leaders to insist that despite their embarrassing failure to pass health care legislation last month, they're still making progress. But the MacArthur-as-Republican health care savior narrative has bothered some GOP moderates, who say the New Jersey lawmaker is flying solo in negotiations with the Freedom Caucus. (Cheney, Bade and Jennings, 4/26)

The Washington Post: Leading GOP Moderate Opposes Plan To Move House Health Bill
Leading House conservatives are saying good things about a plan to revive the GOP health care bill. But an influential GOP House moderate is opposing the proposal, leaving party leaders to assess whether the idea could help one of President Donald Trump’s premier but most problematic priorities spring back to life. Republican lawmakers were meeting Wednesday to consider how to rescue the GOP drive to repeal much of President Barack Obama’s health care law. (Fram and Taylor, 4/26)

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare 101 — What's The Big Debate Over Health Insurance Cost-Sharing Subsidies?
As President Trump and congressional leaders scramble to put together a spending bill to keep the government from shutting down at the end of this week, negotiations could turn on the fate of an arcane, but critical part of the Affordable Care Act: cost-sharing reduction payments, or CSRs. If you’ve never heard of this piece of the Obamacare puzzle, here’s a rundown of what they are and why they’re getting pulled into Trump’s first budget fight. (Levey, 4/26)

The Washington Post: Public Pans Republicans’ Latest Approach To Replacing Affordable Care Act
In strategy and substance, the American public disagrees with the course that President Trump and congressional Republicans are pursuing to replace the Affordable Care Act with conservative policies, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Large majorities oppose the ideas at the heart of the most recent GOP negotiations to forge a plan that could pass in the House. These would allow states to choose whether to keep the ACA’s insurance protection for people with preexisting medical problems and its guarantee of specific health benefits. (Goldstein and Clement, 4/25)

The Washington Post: Trump Has Yet To Signal His Approach To Obamacare Birth-Control Mandate
President Trump had promised religious groups that he would reverse the Obama administration’s requirement that employers provide birth control to their employees under the Affordable Care Act. But his Justice Department indicated Monday that it’s not yet giving up a fight with religious schools and nonprofits that are suing over the contraception mandate. The department has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit for an additional 60 days to negotiate with East Texas Baptist University and several other religious groups objecting to a requirement to which they are morally opposed. (Winfield Cunningham, 4/25)

The Associated Press: Insurer Centene Commits To Shaky ACA Exchanges For 2018
One health insurer is eager to dive back into the Affordable Care Act’s troubled insurance exchanges next year, even as competitors waver and President Donald Trump tweets doom about the law’s future. Centene Corp. said Tuesday that its exchange enrollment has swelled 74 percent since last year, up to nearly 1.2 million people. (Murphy, 4/25)

The Washington Post: FDA Cracks Down On Companies Pushing Fraudulent Cancer Claims
The Food and Drug Administration ordered 14 companies to stop making bogus claims about cancer cures — including asparagus extract, exotic teas and topical creams for pets — or face possible product seizures and criminal prosecution. The letters covered more than five-dozen unapproved products that the companies touted as preventing, treating or curing cancer, a violation of federal law, the agency said. The items included pills, ointments, oils, drops, teas and diagnostic devices. (McGinley, 4/25)

The New York Times: The C.E.O. Of H.I.V.
Last May, at the height of the Democratic presidential campaign, two weeks before the California primary, Bernie Sanders flew to San Bernardino, Calif., for a meeting with leading AIDS groups. The gathering was arranged by Staley, the esteemed activist and founder of the Treatment Action Group, which in the 1990s helped speed the development of antiretroviral drugs. The meeting was called to secure the Sanders campaign’s support for a spike in federal spending to combat AIDS, but as the session began, those in attendance were puzzled to find the conversation oddly strained. Sanders’s demeanor, Staley recalled, “was very wary — he was very chilly when we shook hands.” Sanders seemed to be churning internally about something until, dispensing with ceremony, he blurted out: “Let me be blunt. Do any of you get money from the drug companies?” The question was met with an awkward silence. (Glazek, 4/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Corporate Feud Exposes Big Profits On Drug Sales
The rising pressure on drug pricing has shifted to the companies that were supposed to guard against rampant increases.A dispute between two of the most important companies in the health-care industry, Express Scripts Holding Co., the largest pharmacy benefit manager, and health insurance giant Anthem Inc., has shown in stark terms how profitable some relationships have become. That will give more ammunition to critics of the system. (Grant, 4/25)

USA Today: 'Biobag' System Mimics Womb, Could Provide Hope For Premature Babies
Pediatric researchers in Philadelphia have developed a system mimicking the environment in a mother’s womb that could provide new hope for survival and illness prevention in premature babies. The research team at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia call the system the “biobag.” It consists of a container made of inert plastic and electrolyte fluid that serves as substitute amniotic fluid. It also contains a device  that allows the baby’s heart to pump blood via the umbilical cord and acts in place of the placenta, continually exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. (Eversley, 4/25)

NPR: Artificial Womb Shows Promise In Animal Study
So far the device has only been tested on fetal lambs. A study published Tuesday involving eight animals found the device appears effective at enabling very premature fetuses to develop normally for about a month. "We've been extremely successful in replacing the conditions in the womb in our lamb model," says Alan Flake, a fetal surgeon at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who led the study published in the journal Nature Communications. (Stein, 4/25)

NPR: Study Finds Connection Between Alcohol And Heart Arrhythmias
Researchers in Germany have found that getting drunk is associated with abnormal heart rhythms. Their study was conducted in a place teeming with potential research subjects. "Basically we were sitting over a beer or two, ironically, and talking about how to design a study about relevance of alcohol consumption on heart rate," remembers Dr. Moritz Sinner, an assistant professor of medicine at University Hospital Munich. "This was summer [2015], and Oktoberfest happens in the fall." (Hersher, 4/26)

The Washington Post: Your Child Is Sick And The Doctor’s Office Is Closed. What Do You Do?
It was the middle of the night on a Saturday when Rob and Jessica Lott’s daughter, Shuli, awoke with deep, ragged coughs and trouble breathing. The Lotts were visiting Philadelphia for the weekend from D.C., and neither parent wanted to wait until Monday to see their pediatrician. But would this rise to the level of an emergency-room visit? And would an ER experience upset their sick toddler even more? (Gale, 4/25)

NPR: Bellvue's Prison Ward Is Home To 'Heartbreak And Hope,' Psychiatrist Finds
When mentally ill inmates in New York City's Rikers Island jail become too sick, violent, delusional or suicidal for the jail to handle, they're sent to Bellevue Hospital Prison Ward for treatment. The inmates in Bellevue are awaiting trial for a variety of offenses, ranging from sleeping on the subway to murder. But for Dr. Elizabeth Ford, a psychiatrist who treats them, the charges against her patients are secondary. (Gross, 4/25)

The Associated Press: Mental Health Experts Urge Senate To Ban Conversion Therapy
New York's mental health leaders are uniting to condemn psychological treatments designed to alter the sexual orientation of a minor. The New York State Psychiatric Association, the New York State Psychological Association and National Association of Social Workers' New York chapters on Tuesday urged lawmakers to outlaw conversion therapy, in which a counselor or psychologist attempts to change a minor's sexuality. (4/25)

The New York Times: Learning To Talk Like A Woman (Or Man)
In her 30s, Sophie Marat, now 42, used to record herself reading poetry aloud, then play it back to hear if she sounded like a woman. Ms. Marat, who is transgender, had spent years trying to remake her voice in private by speaking in a higher pitch but ultimately felt that her efforts were hopeless. “I was feeling like changing my voice to match my gender identity was almost impossible,” she said. “It was terrible.” (Saint Louis, 4/25)

The Associated Press: Texas Advocates Push Longshot Pot Bills With Veterans, Moms
Medical marijuana advocates in Texas are promoting support from more conservative sources to push longshot legislation that would ease pot laws in a state that's lagging behind much of the rest of the country on medical marijuana. Conservative Christian mothers of autistic children and veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder rallied outside the state Capitol on Tuesday, entreating the Republican-majority Legislature to advance two bills legalizing medicinal cannabis, one by San Antonio Democratic Sen. Jose Menendez and one by Rep. Eddie Lucio III, a Brownsville Democrat. (4/25)

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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