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KHN First Edition: April 25, 2017


First Edition

Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: HHS, States Move To Help Insurers Defray Costs Of Sickest Patients
Steven Findlay reports: "As congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act remain in limbo, the Trump administration and some states are taking steps to help insurers cover the cost of their sickest patients, a move that industry analysts say is critical to keeping premiums affordable for plans sold on the law’s online marketplaces in 2018. This fix is a well-known insurance industry practice called reinsurance. Claims above a certain amount would be paid by the government, reducing insurers’ financial exposure and allowing them to set lower premiums." (Findlay, 4/25)

Kaiser Health News: CHIP Offers Families With Seriously Ill Kids More Financial Protection Than ACA Plans
Michelle Andrews reports: "Kids with chronic conditions are especially vulnerable to health insurance changes, relying as they often do on specialists and medications that may not be covered if they switch plans. A new study finds that these transitions can leave kids and their families financially vulnerable as well. The research, which examines the spending impact of shifting chronically-ill kids from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to policies offered on the health law’s marketplaces, found that their families’ out-of-pocket costs would likely rise, in some cases dramatically, following a change to marketplace coverage." (Andrews, 4/25)

Kaiser Health News: Reluctant Patients, Hispanic Men Pose A Costly Challenge To The Health System
Michael Anft reports: "For reasons both economic and cultural, Hispanic men are loath to interact with the health system. Women across all races are more likely to seek care than men. But the gender gap in the Hispanic community is especially troubling to health care providers. Studies show that Latino men are much less likely than Latinas to get treatment. That is true even though Hispanic men are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be obese, have diabetes or have high blood pressure." (Anft, 4/25)

The Associated Press: Gov’t Shutdown, Health Bill Rescue At Stake In Congress 
Bipartisan bargainers are making progress toward a budget deal to prevent a partial federal shutdown this weekend, a major hurdle overcome when President Donald Trump signaled he would put off his demand that the measure include money to build his border wall with Mexico. Republicans are also vetting proposed changes to their beleaguered health care bill that they hope will attract enough votes to finally push it through the House. (Fram and Taylor, 4/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Shutdown Threat Moves GOP Health Debate To Back Burner
Congress’s focus on averting a government shutdown this week is likely to push the House GOP debate over their health-care bill to the back burner for now, Republican lawmakers and aides said. President Donald Trump had pressed House Republicans last week to vote as quickly as possible on a modified version of their health bill, which House leaders pulled from the floor last month when it became clear it didn’t have enough support to pass the chamber. (son, 4/24)

Politico: Trump Pledges Premiums Will 'Start Tumbling Down' Under His Health Care Plan
President Donald Trump on Monday pledged that his yet-to-be-unveiled health care plan will cause premiums to “start tumbling down” and produce “real” health care. “If our healthcare plan is approved, you will see real healthcare and premiums will start tumbling down,” Trump said on Twitter. “ObamaCare is in a death spiral!” (Conway, 4/24)

The Associated Press: Study: Trump's Hardball Tactic On Health Care May Backfire
Going into this week's federal budget battle, the White House toyed with a hardball tactic to force congressional Democrats to negotiate on President Donald Trump's priorities. They just might eliminate billions of dollars in disputed "Obamacare" subsidies. But a study out Tuesday from a nonpartisan group suggests that could backfire. Stopping the Affordable Care Act payments at issue may actually wind up costing the federal government billions more than it would save. (4/25)

USA Today: Ending One Obamacare Subsidy Would Increase Costs Of Another
Ending one of the private insurance subsidies created by Obamacare to help more than 7 million people pay for their coverage would end up costing — not saving   —the federal government money, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation released Tuesday. That’s because stopping subsidies for out-of-pocket costs like deductibles would indirectly increase the cost of a broader subsidy which helps reduce monthly premium costs. (Groppe, 4/25)

Politico: Moderates Mum On Repeal Bill Changes That Would Strip Consumer Protections
While hardline House conservatives are falling in line behind the latest Republican Obamacare repeal bill, there's ominous silence from most moderates whose support is also essential to getting the measure passed in the House. The latest version would allow states to opt out of several key Obamacare protections, allowing insurers to charge older and sicker people more than younger and healthier people, according to a summary obtained by POLITICO. So far, none of the moderates who opposed an earlier repeal bill have publicly committed to supporting the latest version. (Haberkorn, Dawsey and Cancryn, 4/24)

The Washington Post: Nominee To Head FDA Joined Effort To Get A Drug Company More Fentanyl
In December 2006, Scott Gottlieb did something unusual for a deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration: He joined other FDA officials who tried to help a pharmaceutical company secure more fentanyl for a powerful painkiller product. The company, Cephalon, was running short of the opioid it put in a lollipop designed for the intense pain of some cancer patients, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Post. But Cephalon was also under investigation at the time for illegally pushing doctors to prescribe the drug for other uses, from headaches to back pain. (Bernstein, 4/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Opioid Use Soars Among Middle Aged And Elderly
Could your doctor be prescribing too many pain pills? The epidemic of opioid abuse sweeping the U.S. might seem like a distant phenomenon to the average middle-aged patient who is getting a joint replacement, visiting an emergency room or seeking help with persistent pain from a primary-care physician. (Landro, 4/23)

The Washington Post: Supreme Court To Decide Whether Defendants Are Entitled To A Mental-Health Expert On Their Side
The Supreme Court’s liberals and conservatives seemed to disagree Monday on whether an Alabama inmate was entitled to a mental-health expert who would be on his side in fighting the state’s attempt to sentence him to death. The justices were examining James McWilliams’s 1986 death sentence and an even older Supreme Court precedent. But their decision will be immediately relevant. The Arkansas Supreme Court recently stayed the execution of two men on its death row until the justices decide McWilliams v. Dunn. (Barnes, 4/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Express Scripts Says It Will Lose Anthem, Its Biggest Customer, In 2020
Express Scripts Holding Co. said Monday it doesn’t expect Anthem Inc., its biggest customer, to extend a pharmacy-benefits management agreement slated to expire at the end of 2019. The nation’s largest pharmacy-benefits manager said it pledged $1 billion a year in price concessions through 2019 if Anthem would extend the current deal beyond the current expiration date. But Express Scripts officials said recent conversations with Anthem indicate the health insurer wants to move in a different direction. Anthem has issued a request for proposals seeking a new pharmacy-benefits manager once the current agreement expires, Express Scripts said. (Tweh, 4/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Vaunted Ebola Vaccine Faces Questions
The deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa two years ago, the worst in recorded history, led to a vaccine that seemingly would stop the next Ebola epidemic in its tracks. In December, doctors from the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders and other groups reported in the British medical journal The Lancet that a vaccine from Merck & Co. and NewLink Genetics Corp. tested during the outbreak proved to be 100% effective at preventing people from contracting the hemorrhagic fever once the vaccine’s protection kicked in. (Burton and Hackman, 4/24)

NPR: Malaria Wiped Out In U.S. But Still Plagues U.S. Hospitals
Malaria transmission in the United States was eliminated in the early 1950s through the use of insecticides, drainage ditches and the incredible power of window screens. But the mosquito-borne disease has staged a comeback in American hospitals as travelers return from parts of the world where malaria runs rampant. In the early 1970s there only a couple hundred malaria cases reported in the entire U.S. but that number has steadily increased in recent years. (Beaubien, 4/24)

The Washington Post: Long-Term Birth Control Is The Most Reliable. So Why Do So Few Young Women Use It?
For many women this college graduation season, the primary reason to see a doctor soon after graduation may be to get birth control. They may want to stick with whatever they’ve been using, whether that’s the pill or the patch or the vaginal ring. Or they may want to consider a broad menu of options that vary with regard to ease of use, side effects and duration of protection. (Adams, 4/24)

The Associated Press: Trailblazing Colorado Abortion Law Marks 50th Anniversary
Tuesday marks 50 years since a groundbreaking Colorado law significantly loosened tight restrictions on legal abortions. Before the law, Colorado — like many states — allowed abortions only if a woman's life was at stake. In 1967, a Democratic freshman state lawmaker introduced a bill that allowed abortions if the woman's physical or mental health was threatened, if the unborn child might have birth defects or in cases of rape or incest. (4/25)

The New York Times: Common Nursery Products Send Thousands Of Children To Hospitals
Baby carriers, cribs, strollers, high chairs, changing tables, bath seats — these ordinary nursery products result in an average of 66,000 injuries a year requiring trips to the emergency room for young children. Using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, researchers estimate that from 1991 to 2011, there were 1,391,844 injuries among children under 3 that were serious enough to be treated in a hospital. (Bakalar, 4/24)

The New York Times: Video Games Help Model Brain’s Neurons
Zoran Popović knows a thing or two about video games. A computer science professor at the University of Washington, Dr. Popović has worked on software algorithms that make computer-controlled characters move realistically in games like the science-fiction shooter “Destiny.” But while those games are entertainment designed to grab players by their adrenal glands, Dr. Popović’s latest creation asks players to trace lines over fuzzy images with a computer mouse. It has a slow pace with dreamy music that sounds like the ambient soundtrack inside a New Age bookstore.The point? To advance neuroscience. (Wingfield, 4/24)

Los Angeles Times: California Lawmakers Push To Link Public Health Efforts To Climate Programs
California’s fight against climate change would be overhauled under legislation advanced by an Assembly committee on Monday. The legislation, a revised version of a measure introduced earlier this year, would link the state’s efforts against greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming, and other pollutants, which cause public health problems such as asthma. (Megerian, 4/24)

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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