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KHN First Edition: September 6, 2017


First Edition

Wednesday, September 06, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: A Doctor Tending To Texans Taps Lessons Learned From Katrina
As Dr. Ruth Berggren digests the calamity affecting her new home state of Texas, she admits to some PTSD. In 2005, she was an infectious-disease doctor at the nearly 3,000-bed Charity Hospital in New Orleans, one of a small number of physicians left managing patients and performing triage in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She spent weeks and month dealing with the aftermath, before moving to Texas, where she heads the University of Texas-San Antonio’s Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics, part of its Health Science Center. (Luthra, 9/6)

Kaiser Health News: State Insurance Commissioners In Hot Seat In National Health Care Drama
With insurance premiums rising and national efforts at health reform in turmoil, a group of 50 state bureaucrats whom many voters probably can’t name have considerable power over consumers’ health plans: state insurance commissioners. As insurers threaten to exit state markets and voters at town halls complain about unaffordable prices, the state commissioners are central characters in the unfolding drama that is America’s health coverage. (Appleby, 9/6)

Kaiser Health News: How Below-The-Radar Mergers Fuel Health Care Monopolies
Hospitals have gone on a doctor-buying spree in recent years, in many areas acquiring so many independent practices they’ve created near-monopolies on physicians. Research published Tuesday throws new light on the trend, showing that large doctor practices, many owned by hospitals, exceed federal guidelines for market concentration in more than a fifth of the areas studied. (Hancock, 9/5)

Kaiser Health News: To Insure More Poor Children, It Helps If Parents Are On Medicaid
Efforts by Republican lawmakers to scale back Medicaid enrollment could undercut an aspect of the program that has widespread bipartisan appeal — covering more children, research published Tuesday in the journal Health Affairs suggests. The study focuses on the impact of Medicaid’s “welcome-mat” effect — a term used to describe the spillover benefits kids get when Medicaid eligibility is extended to their parents. (Luthra, 9/5)

California Healthline: Another Way For Anti-Vaxxers To Skip Shots For Schoolkids: A Doctor’s Note
Dr. Tara Zandvliet was inundated with calls and emails from parents last year, after California passed a law nixing personal beliefs as an exemption from school vaccinations. Suddenly, many parents sought exemptions for medical reasons. Someone even faked two medical exemption forms purportedly written by the San Diego pediatrician, copying a legitimate document she’d provided for a patient and writing in the names of students she’d never treated, she said. She learned of the forgeries only when the school called for verification. (Ibarra and Feder Ostrov, 9/5)

The Associated Press: Senators Seek Bipartisan Deal To Shore Up Insurance Markets
Senators want to forge a modest bipartisan deal for shoring up the nation's individual insurance markets. But lingering raw feelings over the Senate's failed attempt to obliterate the Obama health care law won't make the task any easier. The Senate health committee is holding the first of four scheduled health care hearings Wednesday. Testimony was planned from five states' insurance commissioners. (9/6)

The Washington Post: Senate Panel Begins Bipartisan Hearings To Try To Improve Affordable Care Act
Four hearings being held by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee are part of a push by the panel’s top Republican and Democrat, who are racing to negotiate an agreement before the month ends. At the moment, however, the parties differ on specifics, and it remains uncertain whether any accord — even a narrow one — is possible. This circumscribed effort follows Senate Republicans’ dramatic failure in late July to overturn central parts of the ACA. The new effort may yield a practical bipartisan response acknowledging that the insurance exchanges — conduits to medical coverage for about 10 million Americans — will continue to exist. Or it could provide another piece of evidence that the ACA is so politically toxic that compromise on it eludes even the senators most open to collaboration on health policy. (Goldstein and Eilperin, 9/5)

NPR: After Health Care Reform Efforts Fail, Republicans Look For Small Bipartisan Victories
Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., says he's looking to do something "small, bipartisan and balanced." What's remarkable is that he made that statement in a joint press release last month with the committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.Up until recently, all major Republican efforts to alter Obamacare were launched with no Democratic support, and no attempts to get any. (Kodjak, 9/5)

Politico: Trump Wants One Last Senate Push On Obamacare Repeal
President Donald Trump and some Senate Republicans are refusing to give up on Obamacare repeal, even after this summer’s spectacular failure and with less than a month before a key deadline. The president and White House staff have continued to work with Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolijna and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana over the summer on their proposal to block grant federal health care funding to the states. And though the bill is being rewritten and Congress faces a brutal September agenda, Trump and his allies on health care are making a last-gasp effort. (Everett and Dawsey, 9/5)

The Hill: Dems To Try Adding ObamaCare Outreach Funds To Bipartisan Fix
Senate Democrats will push to restore ObamaCare outreach funding in a bipartisan health care bill this month after the Trump administration announced drastic cuts to the program. Democratic aides say the party will seek funding for ObamaCare sign-up efforts in a bipartisan market stabilization bill that the Senate Health Committee is negotiating, a move that comes after the administration announced a 90 percent cut to outreach efforts. (Sullivan, 9/5)

The Hill: MacArthur: Agreement Reached With House Freedom Caucus Chair On Health Plan 
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) says he has reached an agreement with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, on the terms for a bill aimed at stabilizing ObamaCare markets. MacArthur, who is more centrist than Meadows and previously worked with him on a deal for ObamaCare repeal legislation, says he has reached agreement with Meadows on the outline of a proposal, though some details need to be worked out. (Sullivan, 9/5)

The Associated Press: Health Care, Business Groups Want Congress To Pay Insurers
A coalition of powerful health industry and business groups asked Congress on Tuesday to finance federal subsidies to insurers for at least two years, a stance that defies President Donald Trump's threats to halt the payments. The money — which cost taxpayers $7 billion this year — reimburses insurance companies for trimming out-of-pocket costs for millions of lower-earning customers. Those cost reductions and the subsidies are required by President Barack Obama's health care law, but a federal judge has said Congress didn't legally authorize the money. (9/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Industry Groups Push For Repeal Or Delay Of Two Affordable Care Act Taxes
Industry groups are ramping up a campaign to repeal or delay two Affordable Care Act taxes that have critics in both parties, the latest effort to tackle the health-care system following the collapse of the broad Republican push to repeal the Obama-era law. The taxes, one on medical devices and another on health-insurance plans, were previously delayed in late 2015 as part of a larger spending package. They now are set to take effect beginning in 2018, unless Congress postpones them again or kills them off entirely. (Hackman, 9/5)

The New York Times: Lasker Prizes Go To Planned Parenthood And Developers Of HPV Vaccine
One of the nation’s most prestigious prizes in medicine will go to Planned Parenthood and two scientists who played a crucial role in developing the vaccine to combat HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. A third honor will go to a Swiss molecular biologist, who made a groundbreaking discovery about cell growth. The Lasker Awards, sometimes called the “American Nobels” because 85 of the awardees have gone on to win the international honor, were announced by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation Wednesday. Each prize comes with $250,000. (Murphy, 9/6)

The Washington Post: HPV Researchers, Planned Parenthood Win Prestigious Lasker Medical Awards
In announcing the awards, sometimes referred to as “America’s Nobels,” the foundation lauded the recipients’ efforts to protect and enhance women’s health. Its praise of Planned Parenthood seemed designed to counter attacks on the nonprofit by President Trump and top congressional Republicans, who want to end all federal funding to the organization. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s biggest abortion provider, already is barred from using federal dollars for abortions. The foundation also honored Michael N. Hall, a molecular biologist at the Biozentrum University of Basel, for discoveries involving the role of proteins called TOR in controlling cell growth. It said his discoveries “have broadened our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms that underlie growth, development and aging.” (McGinley, 9/6)

The Washington Post: Was The Big Paper About The Successful Editing Of Human Embryo Genes Wrong?
A month ago, an international team of researchers announced that they had used a gene-editing technique to safely erase a heritable heart condition from a human embryo. This blockbuster news was greeted with both excitement and fear. Now the scientific community is buzzing about a new critique that questions the main conclusions of their paper. Columbia University's Dieter Egli, Harvard University’s George Church and other respected names in the field are raising doubts about whether the experiment — using the groundbreaking laboratory tool known as CRISPR (or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) — was successful at all or at least in the way the researchers originally described it. (Cha, 9/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Two U.S. Government Researchers Honored With 2017 Lasker Award
“Many women have nowhere other than Planned Parenthood to turn for basic medical services. Its highly trained clinicians and counselors provide essential, low-cost care,” the Lasker foundation said. Planned Parenthood said it has led the effort to expand and protect reproductive health and rights in the U.S., and it was honored to receive the Lasker award. (Loftus, 9/6)

The Hill: Pence Swears In New Surgeon General 
Vice President Pence swore in the new surgeon general, Jerome Adams, who was previously appointed by Pence in 2014 to serve as Indiana’s health commissioner. At the ceremony Tuesday afternoon, Adams said his motto as surgeon general will be to create better health through better partnerships in an effort to address wide-ranging health issues, such as the opioid epidemic, mental health and childhood obesity. (Roubein, 9/5)

The New York Times: Crisis Is Over At Texas Plant, But Chemical Safety Flaws Remain
Residents have returned to their homes here in the shadow of the Arkema chemical plant now that the fires at the plant are out and the immediate safety hazard has passed. The fires, a result of flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey that caused chemicals to become unstable, had little health impact beyond the 21 emergency workers who were treated for smoke exposure. The returning homeowners now face more common problems that follow a flood: crumbling plasterboard, ruined furnishings and, above all, mold. Still, the accident at the plant has exposed large flaws in regulation of chemical safety, risk disclosure and emergency planning. (Krauss, Tabuchi and Fountain, 9/5)

NPR: Kentucky Could Become The Only State Without A Clinic That Performs Abortions
Kentucky is down to only one clinic that performs abortions: the EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville. A trial kicking off Wednesday morning in federal court in Louisville will decide whether Kentucky will become the first state without a single such clinic. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin tried to shut down the EMW center earlier this year after his administration told the clinic it was failing to meet state health regulations requiring clinics that provide abortions to have transfer agreements with local hospitals and ambulance services in case of medical emergencies. (McCammon, 9/6)

Stateline: HIV Crime Laws: Historical Relics Or Public Safety Measures?
Robert Suttle clearly remembers telling his boyfriend that he was HIV positive the night they met. But after they split, three quarrel-filled months later, that became a point of contention: His “ex” pressed charges against him. Suttle’s home state, Louisiana, is one of 33 states with laws that can be used to prosecute people living with HIV. And in Louisiana, intentionally exposing someone to HIV/AIDS is a felony punishable by up to 11 years in prison. (Wiltz, 9/6)

Stat: IBM Pitched Watson As A Revolution In Cancer Care. It's Nowhere Close
t was an audacious undertaking, even for one of the most storied American companies: With a single machine, IBM would tackle humanity’s most vexing diseases and revolutionize medicine. Breathlessly promoting its signature brand — Watson — IBM sought to capture the world’s imagination, and it quickly zeroed in on a high-profile target: cancer. (Ross and Swetlitz, 9/5)

Stat: Medical School Debt Is Rising, But Not For All Students
The next generation of doctors knows the pain of America’s widening income gap well. More medical students are graduating debt-free — many likely coming from wealthier families — but those from lower-income backgrounds face higher debts heading into their residences. New research finds that the average debt that medical school graduates carry has climbed from $161,739 in 2010 to $179,000 in 2016. (Figures are adjusted to 2016 dollars.) (Blau and Bronshtein, 9/5)

The New York Times: Utah Hospital Bars Police From Patient-Care Areas After Nurse’s Arrest
Police officers will be barred from patient-care areas at a hospital in Utah that drew widespread notice for an officer’s arrest of a nurse, hospital officials said this week. The new policy, announced at a news conference on Monday, was put into effect soon after a Salt Lake City police officer arrested Alex Wubbels, who on July 26 refused to allow an officer to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient at University of Utah Hospital. Video footage of the encounter surfaced last week, leading to fierce condemnation of the police tactics, including a rally in Salt Lake City on Saturday. (Victor, 9/5)

The New York Times: City Hospital System Is Expanding Children’s Mental Health Programs
Recognizing that negative childhood experiences can affect a person’s health long into adulthood, New York City’s public hospital system is expanding its mental health programs for children and adolescents. The programs, which NYC Health & Hospitals plans to announce on Wednesday, are designed to address the challenges facing many of the hospital system’s young patients, such as poverty, violence and substance abuse — circumstances that doctors said make children more likely to need mental health treatment but less likely to get it. (Wang, 9/5)

Los Angeles Times: After California Got Rid Of Personal Exemptions For Vaccines, Medical Exemptions Went Way Up
The rate of medical exemptions for immunizations for incoming kindergartners rose sharply the year after California eliminated the personal-belief exemption, a new study finds. The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., hint that some parents who don’t want to vaccinate may have found doctors willing to give medical exemptions to students — a potential trend that may undercut the collective protection against contagious diseases that the state law sought to bolster. (Khan, 9/5)

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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