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KHN First Edition: September 1, 2017


First Edition

Friday, September 01, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ Hurricane Harvey And Health Costs 
Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, and Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times discuss the potential health impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Texas Gulf Coast, and what impact the relief effort in Washington could have on an already jampacked September agenda. Also this week: an interview with Elisabeth Rosenthal about why medical care costs so much. (8/31)

Kaiser Health News: Trump Administration Whacks Millions From Budget Used To Push Obamacare 
President Donald Trump has insisted for months that “Obamacare is already dead. ”His administration matched its harsh words with damaging action on Thursday — slashing millions of dollars from the government’s budget to promote the health law’s annual open enrollment season beginning in two months. (Bluth and Galewitz, 8/31)

Kaiser Health News: St. Kitts Launches Probe Of Herpes Vaccine Tests On U.S. Patients 
The government of St. Kitts and Nevis has launched an investigation into the clinical trial for a herpes vaccine by an American company because it said its officials were not notified about the experiments. The vaccine research has sparked controversy because the lead investigator, a professor with Southern Illinois University, and the U.S. company he co-founded did not rely on traditional U.S. safety oversight while testing the vaccine last year on mostly American participants on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. (Taylor, 8/31)

Kaiser Health News: Rep. Chris Collins’ Australian Stock Bet Looks Bleaker
The little Australian biotech firm that once counted U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as a shareholder — a link that roiled his Senate confirmation hearing last winter — is facing closure, the company has told shareholders. Innate Immunotherapeutics will probably shut down in the coming months, CEO Simon Wilkinson said at the company’s annual meeting Wednesday, The Australian, a news outlet, reported. (Bluth, 8/31)

Kaiser Health News: Some Thyroid Cancer Patients Can Safely Delay Surgery
Most people diagnosed with cancer want to start treatment as soon as possible, for fear that delaying care will allow their tumor to grow out of control. So Terry DeBonis’ approach to treating her thyroid cancer might seem surprising. Although she was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, she still hasn’t begun treatment. (Szabo, 8/31)

California Healthline: For Millions Of Insured Californians, State Health Laws Don’t Apply
True or false? If you’re a Californian with private health insurance, you have the right to an appointment within a certain number of hours or days, depending on the severity of your condition. Your health plan’s provider directory is legally required to be updated and accurate. A new state law protects you against nasty surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers, so long as you seek care at an in-network facility. All true — but not if you’re among nearly 6 million Californians in a category of job-based health coverage known as self-funded insurance. (Bazar, 9/1)

The New York Times: Trump Administration Sharply Cuts Spending On Health Law Enrollment
The Trump administration is slashing spending on advertising and promotion for enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, a move some critics charged was a blatant attempt to sabotage the law. Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services, who insisted on not being identified during a conference call with reporters, said on Thursday that the advertising budget for the open enrollment period that starts in November would be cut to $10 million, compared with $100 million spent by the Obama administration last year, a drop of 90 percent. Additionally, grants to about 100 nonprofit groups, known as navigators, that help people enroll in health plans offered by the insurance marketplaces will be cut to a total of $36 million, from about $63 million. (Goodnough and Pear, 8/31)

The Washington Post: Trump Officials Slash Advertising, Grants To Help Americans Get Affordable Care Act Insurance
The announcement late Thursday afternoon, just nine weeks before the start of the fifth annual enrollment season, is the first indication of how an administration determined to overturn the health-care law will oversee the window for new and returning consumers buying coverage for 2018. In a conference call with reporters, three federal health officials extended the White House’s pattern of denigrating the ACA and its effectiveness. They also reversed a promise that Health and Human Services staff had made two months ago to nearly 100 organizations receiving “navigator” grants that their funding would be renewed. (Goldstein, 8/31)

The Wall Street Journal: Administration Cutting Ads And Grants Aimed At Boosting Affordable Care Act Sign-Ups
The administration is also cutting grants to organizations that help consumers understand their coverage and financial-aid options under the law. HHS will give $36.8 million in grants in 2017 to such groups, known as “navigators,” a drop of about 40% from the $62.5 million awarded in the previous enrollment period. Agency officials said they are basing that funding on the navigators’ ability to reach their enrollment goals. An organization that met 30% of its sign-up goal, for example, would get 30% of the grant it had previously received. (Armour and Wilde Mathews, 8/31)

Politico: Trump Administration Slashes Obamacare Outreach
Scaling back advertising and outreach is likely to depress enrollment in the marketplaces, particularly among healthier customers who, compared to sicker patients, are less likely to seek out insurance. Healthier customers are vital to balancing out the costs of sicker customers in the insurance marketplaces. “The Trump administration is deliberately attempting to sabotage our health care system," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. "When the number of people with health insurance declines and costs skyrocket, the American people will know who's to blame.” (Pradhan, 8/31)

The Hill: Dems Blast Trump For Trying To 'Sabotage' ObamaCare
Top Democrats blasted the Trump administration on Thursday for moving to slash funding for ObamaCare advertising and enrollment outreach. "The Trump administration is deliberately attempting to sabotage our health care system. When the number of people with health insurance declines and costs skyrocket, the American people will know who's to blame," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. (Delk, 8/31)

The Associated Press: Governors Urge Keeping US Health Law's Individual Mandate
A bipartisan governor duo is urging Congress to retain the federal health care law's unpopular individual mandate while seeking to stabilize individual insurance markets as lawmakers work on a long-term replacement. The recommendation is part of a compromise plan that's designed to be palatable to both parties. It was endorsed by six other governors. (8/31)

The Washington Post: Bipartisan Group Of Governors Calls On Congress To Shore Up Elements Of Affordable Care Act
In a blueprint issued Thursday, the eight governors ask House and Senate leaders of both parties to take several steps to reverse the rising rates and dwindling choices facing many of the 10 million Americans who buy health plans on their own through ACA marketplaces. Specifically, the state leaders say Congress should devote money for at least two years toward “cost-sharing subsidies” that the 2010 health-care law promises to pay ACA insurers to offset deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses for lower-income customers. The House sued the Obama administration over the subsidies’ legality, and President Trump has repeatedly suggested that he might halt the payments — sending tremors through insurance companies in the marketplaces. (Goldstein, 8/31)

The Hill: Kasich, Hickenlooper Release Plan To Stabilize ObamaCare Markets 
The compromise plan, which is spearheaded by Govs. John Kasich of Ohio (R) and John Hickenlooper of Colorado (D), is meant to help lawmakers find common ground to help stabilize the insurance markets. The governors acknowledged that the mandate, which requires people to purchase health insurance or pay a fine, is unpopular. “[B]ut for the time being it is perhaps the most important incentive for healthy people to enroll in coverage,” they wrote to House and Senate leaders of both parties. “Until Congress comes up with a better solution — or states request waivers to implement a workable alternative — the individual mandate is necessary to keep markets stable in the short term.” (Weixel, 8/31)

The Associated Press: New Orleans' Katrina Challenges May Hold Lessons For Houston
As the murky flood waters of Hurricane Katrina were slowly pumped out of New Orleans in 2005, the challenges the city faced were only beginning to come into focus. Housing, health and public safety, what and where to rebuild — all were questions faced by local, state and federal authorities who, it soon became obvious, had not been prepared to deal with the aftermath of levee failures that led to catastrophic flooding. (9/1)

The Washington Post: Hurricane Harvey's Wrath: Texas City Loses Drinking Water, Chemicals Ignite At Plant As New Dangers Appear In Storm's Wake
The water was leaving, at last. But, across Southeast Texas on Thursday, new dangers kept appearing in Hurricane Harvey’s wake.In Crosby, northeast of Houston, loud “pops” were heard coming from a crippled chemical plant, where safety systems were flooded and authorities said an explosion could be imminent. In Beaumont, 118,000 people were without drinking water after floods disabled the city’s system. For most of them, there was no easy way out of a town that now felt like more of an island: The city was surrounded by swollen rivers and bayous, cutting off most roads. (Frankel, Hauslohner and Fahrenthold, 8/31)

NPR: After Harvey, Houston Cancer Hospital Begins Recovery
As rains pounded Houston on Sunday, Dr. Karen Lu took to Twitter and conveyed both alarm and reassurance: "Roads around @MDAndersonNews impassable. Our on-site ride out team is caring for patients and we are all safe." Lu is a professor of gynecologic oncology and interim chief medical officer at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, a top cancer hospital and research center. Earlier that morning, the hospital had sent a high-water vehicle — a box truck — to Lu's neighborhood, and she walked eight blocks through flooded streets to meet it. (Hsu, 8/31)

Stat: The Cancer Doctor Who Braved Harvey To Reach His Patient
Timing was everything for this cancer patient. Scientists had already harvested billions of cells in a cutting-edge lab for months. The doctors had performed a handful of rounds of chemotherapy to weaken the tumor. Now came the most crucial part: infusing those cultivated cells back into the patient. If the experimental treatment worked, Dr. Adi Diab felt the patient might have a shot at beating late-stage melanoma. (Blau, 8/31)

The Associated Press: Medicaid Fueling Opioid Epidemic? New Theory Is Challenged
An intriguing new theory is gaining traction among conservative foes of the Obama-era health law: Its Medicaid expansion to low-income adults may be fueling the opioid epidemic. If true, that would represent a shocking outcome for the Affordable Care Act. But there's no evidence to suggest that's happening, say university researchers who study the drug problem and are puzzled by such claims. Some even say Medicaid may be helping mitigate the consequences of the epidemic. (8/31)

Stat: FDA Is Urged To Withdraw 'Ultra' High-Dose Opioids Over Risks
In the latest bid to combat the opioid crisis, several groups representing public health officials, physicians, and safety advocates are urging the Food and Drug Administration to remove “ultra” high-dose opioids from the market, arguing that the risks outweigh the benefits. In making their case, the groups point to research showing that a person who takes high dosages has a risk of developing an opioid use disorder that is 122 times greater than someone who has not been prescribed opioids, while a person taking a relatively low dose is 15 times as likely to develop a disorder. (Silverman, 8/31)

The Wall Street Journal: Arizona Accuses Insys Of Fraudulently Marketing Fentanyl Painkiller
Insys Therapeutics Inc.’s legal woes worsened Thursday when the state of Arizona filed a lawsuit claiming the company improperly marketed a powerful opioid painkiller. Arizona’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich, alleged in the suit that Insys engaged in a fraudulent marketing scheme to boost sales of Subsys, a prescription mouth-spray formulation of fentanyl. (Randazzo, 8/31)

The Associated Press: Appeals Court Asked To Review Planned Parenthood Defunding
Three Planned Parenthood patients are asking an appeals court for a review after a panel of federal judges ruled that Arkansas can block Medicaid funding to the organization. The three Planned Parenthood Great Plains patients asked the full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday to reconsider the three-judge panel's decision. The panel on Aug. 16 vacated a federal judge's preliminary injunction that prevented Arkansas from suspending Medicaid payments for services rendered to patients in the state. (8/31)

The New York Times: Texas Abortion Restriction Is Temporarily Blocked
A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Texas law that would restrict the most common type of second-trimester abortion. In a 17-page ruling on Thursday, Judge Lee Yeakel of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas found that opponents of the law had shown “a substantial likelihood of success on the merits,” and granted a two-week restraining order while the case proceeds. The restriction had been scheduled to take effect on Friday. (Astor, 8/31)

The Wall Street Journal: Help For New Moms And Their Babies Could Be At Risk
Tamara Garel makes her rounds in the Bronx most weekdays dragging a portable scale, paper rulers to measure babies and leaflets of advice for their first-time moms. The 32-year-old mother of two is part of a small cadre of registered nurses working to improve the outcomes for babies born to women in poverty by checking on them every week or two, from the early days of pregnancy until the children are 2 years old. (Brody, 8/31)

The Washington Post: Protecting Unauthorized Immigrant Mothers From Deportation Improves Children’s Mental Health, Study Shows
When U.S.-born kids whose parents are undocumented immigrants know their moms won’t be deported, they are dramatically less worried and stressed.That is the chief conclusion of a study published by the journal Science on Thursday, as the Trump administration deliberates whether to eliminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that is shielding nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation. (Siegel, 8/31)

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