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KHN First Edition: April 27, 2017


First Edition

Thursday, April 27, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Widespread Hype Gives False Hope To Many Cancer Patients
Liz Szabo reports: "After Michael Uvanni’s older brother, James, was diagnosed with a deadly form of skin cancer, it seemed as if everyone told the family what they wanted to hear: Have hope. You can beat this, and we are here to help. The brothers met with doctors at a half-dozen of the country’s best hospitals, all with impressive credentials that inspired confidence." (Szabo, 4/27)

The New York Times: Hard-Line Republican Caucus Backs Revised Bill To Repeal Obamacare
The House Freedom Caucus, a group of hard-line conservatives who were instrumental in blocking President Trump’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act last month, gave its approval Wednesday to a new, more conservative version, breathing new life into Republican efforts to replace President Barack Obama’s health law. (Steinhauer and Pear, 4/26)

The Associated Press: Conservatives Back Revised Health Bill, GOP Moderates Balk
The changes would let states escape a requirement under President Barack Obama's health care law that insurers charge healthy and seriously ill customers the same rates. They could also be exempted from Obama's mandate that insurers cover a list of services like maternity care, and from its bar against charging older customers more than triple their rates for younger ones. (4/26)

The Wall Street Journal: House GOP Health Insurance Plan Gains New Life
With Democrats firmly opposed to the legislation, pressure to support the bill is now on Republican centrists. Ensuring protections for people with pre-existing conditions remained a key concern for some. Rep. Mike Coffman (R., Colo.), who had previously backed the bill, said he was now undecided.“What I’ve got to do is to make sure people are protected in terms of pre-existing conditions and I’m not there yet,” he said. The bill retains deep cuts to Medicaid and other elements of the original proposal that concerned centrist GOP members who worried too many people would lose coverage. Many of the centrist Republicans who had been opposed to the bill last month said their position had not shifted, among them GOP Reps. Jeff Denham of California, Dan Donovan of New York and Leonard Lance of New Jersey. (Armour, son and Hackman, 4/27)

Politico: Freedom Caucus Endorses Obamacare Repeal Compromise
Senior House Republican sources said they still didn’t have the votes for passage Wednesday evening. But GOP leaders felt bullish enough about their progress that they began considering a vote as early as this week. Nothing is scheduled. However, Republicans on Wednesday — through an obscure House rule for another piece of legislation — gave themselves same-day authority to fast-track any bill at the last minute, through Saturday. (Cheney and Bade, 4/26)

Politico: MacArthur ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About His Obamacare Replacement Amendment
Shortly after his amendment received an endorsement from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur said Wednesday he was “cautiously optimistic” the changes he’s negotiated to revive the House GOP Obamacare replacement plan could soon become a reality. “I don’t think the issue was ever needing to move moderates from no to yes,” MacArthur, who represents the 3rd Congressional District, told POLITICO New Jersey in a phone interview. “We gained some votes from the Freedom Caucus and that’s helpful, extremely helpful. I think we now need to make sure we hold the people that were yes before. And if we do, I’m cautiously optimistic we can get this done.” (Jennings, 4/26)

Politico: GOP Senators Not So Keen On House's Obamacare Repeal
The House may finally be on its way to scrapping Obamacare, but don’t expect the Senate to go along: Any plan sent over will undergo major surgery — and survival is far from assured. The hurdles in the upper chamber were on vivid display Wednesday as House Republicans celebrated their breakthrough on the stalled repeal effort. The compromise cut with House Freedom Caucus members won over the right flank, but the changes will almost surely make it harder to pick up votes in the more moderate-minded Senate. (Kim and Everett, 4/27)

Politico: Ryan Moves To Ax Lawmaker Exemption In Obamacare Repeal Bill
House GOP leaders are moving quickly behind the scenes to iron out a wrinkle in their latest Obamacare repeal legislation: a controversial provision that preserves Obamacare coverage protections for members of Congress and their staffs while allowing states to opt out of them. Late Wednesday night, the House Rules Committee posted the text of a one-page bill that strikes the exemption for lawmakers that caused such a ruckus for Republicans on Wednesday morning. Discovery of the loophole, first reported by Vox, had triggered charges of hypocrisy from Democrats the entire day. (Bade and Bresnahan, 4/27)

The New York Times: What Changed In The Health Repeal Plan To Win Over The Freedom Caucus
A month after pulling their health care overhaul bill from the floor, House Republicans are growing increasingly confident that they may have found a way to pass it. An amendment drafted by Tom MacArthur, a New Jersey congressman, would keep much of the American Health Care Act in place. But it would set up a waiver program that would allow states to apply to eliminate three major insurance regulations established by Obamacare. (Sanger-Katz, 4/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Administration To Continue Key Funding For Health Law
President Donald Trump’s administration said Wednesday he would maintain critical funding for health plans, a pledge that reduced the chances of a government shutdown but left uncertainty in the already fragile insurance markets. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) Wednesday afternoon that the administration would keep making “cost-sharing reduction” payments to insurers despite the lack of a formal appropriation for them in the April spending bill, a Pelosi aide said. (Radnofsky, son and Wilde Mathews, 4/26)

The Associated Press: Dispute Over Health Payments Defused, Spending Bill On Track
The dispute with Democrats, especially House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, threatened to hold up the $1 trillion-plus spending bill. A temporary funding bill expires Friday at midnight, and GOP leaders late Wednesday unveiled another short-term spending bill to prevent a government shutdown this weekend — Trump's 100th day in office. The weeks-long sniping over the health care issue had snagged the talks, which have progressed steadily for weeks and gained momentum earlier this week after Trump dropped demands for immediate money for building his long-promised border wall. (4/26)

Los Angeles Times: White House Will Continue Obamacare Payments, Defusing A Potential Obstacle In Talks To Avert Shutdown
The funding, totaling about $7 billion this year, soon became a bargaining chip in the current talks over a must-pass spending bill to prevent a government shutdown before a midnight Friday deadline. Democrats seized on Trump's threat to end the payments as a way to negotiate with Republicans who wanted extra funding for military programs or the border wall with Mexico. (Mascaro and Levey, 4/26)

Politico: White House To Continue Obamacare Payments, Removing Shutdown Threat
[It] would allow Republicans to avoid blame for causing chaos and confusion in the insurance markets. “If we pull the subsidies … I think there would be nobody with a health insurance plan next year.” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.). But some Republicans slammed the White House decision, saying it undermines the party’s position in an ongoing lawsuit that the payments are unconstitutional. (Everett, Caygle and Dawsey, 4/26)

Reuters: U.S. Congress May Seek One-Week Funding Extension To Avert Shutdown
The U.S. Congress inched toward a deal to fund the government through September but was preparing to possibly extend a midnight Friday deadline in order to wrap up negotiations and avoid an imminent government shutdown. The one-week extension would give leading Republicans and Democrats "a little breathing room" to finish negotiations and present their plan for spending around $1 trillion through the rest of the fiscal year to rank-and-file lawmakers, according to a House of Representatives source familiar with the talks. (4/26)

The Associated Press: Insurer Anthem Hands Feds Deadline On Crucial ACA Subsidies
Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish said his company may ask for more rate increases, stop selling certain products or leave some markets if it doesn’t have some assurance on the subsidies. Indianapolis-based Anthem Inc. sells coverage on exchanges in 14 states, including key markets like California, New York and Ohio. If the subsidies go away, customers could see rate hikes of 20 percent or more, Swedish told analysts during a conference call to discuss his company’s first-quarter results. Tack on another 3 to 5 percent if a health insurance tax returns from its moratorium this year. (Murphy, 4/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Anthem Says Loss Of Federal Health Payments Could Cause 20% Premium Hike
Anthem’s position on the ACA marketplaces is being closely watched because of its reach—it is a major presence in 14 state exchanges, with nearly 1.6 million people enrolled in its ACA plans, 1.1 million of those bought through the marketplaces. Currently, 302 counties in states including Georgia, Missouri and Ohio have only Anthem plans available on their marketplaces, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Wilde Mathews and Hufford, 4/26)

Los Angeles Times: California Single-Payer Healthcare Bill Passes First Committee Test
The Senate Health Committee approved the measure on a 5-2 vote after a nearly three-hour hearing, but Democrats and Republicans alike signaled unease with the major question still unanswered in the legislation: how the program would be paid for. The bill, SB 562, would establish a publicly run healthcare plan that would cover everyone living in California, including those without legal immigration status. The proposal would drastically reduce the role of insurance companies: The state would pay for all medical expenses, including inpatient, outpatient, emergency services, dental, vision, mental health and nursing home care. (Mason, 4/26)

The Associated Press: VA Limiting New Hiring As It Aims To Widen Private Care
Despite the lifting of a federal hiring freeze, the Department of Veterans Affairs is leaving thousands of positions unfilled, citing the need for a leaner VA as it develops a longer-term plan to allow more veterans to seek medical care in the private sector. The order by VA Secretary David Shulkin is described in an internal April 14 memorandum obtained by The Associated Press. (4/26)

USA Today: E-Cigarette Industry Gains Allies In Regulation Fight
The electronic cigarette industry and its free-market allies are seeing fresh opportunities to ease federal rules on e-cigarettes as Congress races to pass a government spending bill this week and President Trump fills key public-health posts in his administration. (Schouten and O'Donnell, 4/26)

The Associated Press: Judge Strikes Down Louisiana Abortion Law: Unconstitutional
A federal judge has struck down a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have permission to admit patients to a nearby hospital, citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision against a similar Texas law. U.S. District Judge John deGravelles ruled Wednesday in Baton Rouge. He had barred the state from enforcing the law in a preliminary opinion saying it was unconstitutional, but a federal appeals court overruled him. However, the state agreed to wait on enforcement. (4/26)

The Washington Post: Website Aims To Help Women Self-Induce Abortions Using Drugs
An international advocacy group concerned about restrictive laws in the United States plans to help women self-induce abortions at home, offering online advice and counseling about how to use medications that can terminate their pregnancies. Women Help Women, a three-year-old organization headquartered in the Netherlands, this week launched an online service to provide one-on-one counseling services for women seeking to end their early pregnancies using the abortion pill, which is legally available only by prescription in the United States but can be purchased on the Internet or from other countries. (Somashekhar, 4/27)

The Washington Post: New Law Orders Va. Insurers To Cover 12-Month Supply Of Birth-Control Pills
Virginia women will be able to have their insurance provider cover a full year of birth-control pills at once under a bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Terry McAuliffe at an Arlington County clinic. McAuliffe (D), surrounded by about a dozen elected officials and more than 50 women’s rights advocates, said he was happy to sign what he called the first positive women’s reproductive health measure to emerge from the legislature in his term. (Sullivan, 4/26)

The New York Times: Inexpensive Drug Prevents Deaths In New Mothers, Study Finds
An inexpensive generic drug that saves the lives of wounded soldiers and civilian car crash victims has now been shown to rescue women suffering hemorrhages in childbirth. Postpartum hemorrhage, in which women bleed uncontrollably after childbirth, kills an estimated 100,000 women a year in poor and middle-income countries. The complication also forces doctors to perform emergency hysterectomies, especially when hospitals have too little blood on hand to provide transfusions. (McNeil, 4/26)

The Washington Post: Dangerous Bleeding After Childbirth Could Be Treated With A $1 Injection
The results of a remarkable clinical trial released Wednesday in the journal Lancet suggest that a single injection of an old drug — and one that costs less than $1 a dose — may be able to save tens of thousands of lives each year. ... In the study, known as the WOMAN (or World Maternal Antifibrinolytic) Trial, patients were randomized to receive either a placebo or tranexamic acid (TXA), which helps the blood to clot. The treatment, given intravenously, was used alongside other actions that emergency doctors would normally take to try to stop such bleeding. The trial was double-blind, meaning neither the doctors and researchers nor the patients knew what they got. (Cha, 4/26)

The Washington Post: Elephant Tranquilizer Is The Latest Lethal Addition To The Heroin Epidemic
A substance used to tranquilize elephants that is 100 times more potent than the drug that killed Prince is hitting the Washington suburbs, adding the region to a growing list of communities nationwide reporting fatal overdoses linked to the exotic and toxic sedative. Three cases out of Anne Arundel and Frederick counties this month mark the first carfentanil-related fatalities in Maryland, alarming local health and law enforcement officials already in a state of emergency combating the opioid crisis. (Bui and Hermann, 4/26)

NPR: 'Minibrain' Study Yields Insights Into Roots Of Autism And Epilepsy
Tiny, 3-D clusters of human brain cells grown in a petri dish are providing hints about the origins of disorders like autism and epilepsy. An experiment using these cell clusters — which are only about the size of the head of a pin — found that a genetic mutation associated with both autism and epilepsy kept developing cells from migrating normally from one cluster of brain cells to another, researchers report in the journal Nature. (Hamilton, 4/26)

NPR: Poison Garden Curates Medicine's Medieval Roots
From the front door of the glass-walled gift shop at the Alnwick Garden in the far northeast of England, the scene looks innocent enough. A sapphire green English lawn slopes gently downward, toward traditional, ornamental gardens of rose and bamboo. Across the small valley, water cascades down a terraced fountain. But a hundred or so plantings kept behind bars in this castle's garden are more menacing — and have much to tell visitors about poison and the evolutionary roots of medicine. (Silberner, 4/27)

The Washington Post: Detroit-Area Doctors Indicted In ‘Brutal’ Genital Mutilation Case
In what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the United States, a grand jury issued a federal indictment Wednesday against two Detroit-area doctors and a medical officer manager for scheming to perform female genital mutilation. The doctors — Jumana Nagarwala and Fakhruddin Attar — along with Attar’s wife, Farida Attar, were charged with performing female genital mutilation on minor girls at Fakhruddin Attar’s medical office in Livonia, Mich. Until Wednesday, only Nagarwala, 44, was charged with performing the procedure; the others were merely charged as conspirators in the case. (Schmidt, 4/27)

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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