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KHN First Edition: September 14, 2017

KHN

First Edition

Thursday, September 14, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: FDA Moves To Guard Against Abuse Of ‘Orphan Drug’ Program
The Food and Drug Administration is changing the way it approves medicines known as “orphan drugs” after revelations that drugmakers may be abusing a law intended to help patients with rare diseases. In a blog post Tuesday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he wants to ensure financial incentives are granted “in a way that’s consistent with the manner Congress intended” when the Orphan Drug Act was passed in 1983. That legislation gave drugmakers a package of incentives, including tax credits, user fee waivers and seven years of market exclusivity if they developed medicines for rare diseases. (Tribble, 9/13)

Kaiser Health News: Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ Health Plans Busting Out All Over
In a busy health week for Congress, Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee agreed on a proposal to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program for five more years, while Republicans and Democrats at the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee continued to pursue a joint plan to stabilize the individual health insurance market. (9/13)

The New York Times: Medicare For All Or State Control: Health Care Plans Go To Extremes
In one Senate office building, some of the leading lights of the Democratic Party gathered Wednesday to embrace what was once a proposal only of the far left: a huge expansion of Medicare, large enough to open the popular, government-run health program to all Americans. In another Senate office building, a smaller but equally adamant group of Republican senators stood together to take one last stab at dismantling the Affordable Care Act. They proposed instead to send each state a lump sum of federal money, along with sweeping new discretion over how to use it. (Pear, 9/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Backpedals On Bipartisan Approach To Health Law
A week after Republicans and Democrats held the first bipartisan hearing on ways to fix the 2010 health-care law, the Senate was once more divided on Wednesday, with one side continuing efforts to undo the ACA and the other pushing to expand government-sponsored health coverage. Neither plan holds any appeal to the opposite party, and they lack even full support from their respective caucuses. That leaves the question of how Congress can move ahead on health care amid a widespread perception that the ACA is flawed but that Republicans don’t have a politically viable replacement. (Hackman, 9/13)

Los Angeles Times: Bipartisan Effort To Stabilize Health Insurance Markets Is Coming Down To The Wire 
Despite broad support from consumer advocates, state officials and healthcare leaders across the country, a bipartisan effort in Congress to stabilize health insurance markets and control rising premiums is being threatened by resurgent political fighting over the Affordable Care Act. With time running out before millions of Americans could be subject to major rate hikes, it is increasingly unclear if Congress will be able to come together to offer relief. (Levey, 9/13)

The Washington Post: GOP Tries One More Time To Undo ACA With Bill Offering Huge Block Grants To States
With just 17 days left for Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act on a party-line vote, a quartet of GOP senators on Wednesday rolled out a plan to devolve federal health care spending into state-by-state block grants — legislation that South Carolina Sen. Lindsey O. Graham described as conservatives’ last shot at reform. “It should have been our first bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, but it is now our last,” Graham said at a morning news conference. “To those in the Republican Party who feel like we have not fought as hard as we could, you’re right.” (Weigel and Goldstein, 9/13)

Politico: Graham, Cassidy Unveil Last-Ditch Obamacare Repeal Bill
Sens. Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, Dean Heller and Ron Johnson on Wednesday released an Obamacare repeal bill, framing it as the last, best hope to fulfill the GOP's promise to undo the health law. "There's a lot of fight left in the Republican Party" on repeal, Graham said. The bill faces long odds: Even some of its GOP backers say it would be almost impossible to get a massive rewrite of the health care system through the Senate within 17 days, or before the expiration of fast-track procedural powers Republicans hope to use to bypass the threat of a Democratic filibuster. (Haberkorn, 9/13)

The Associated Press: Sanders Would Make Government Health Care Role Even Bigger
In an animated, campaign-style rally, Sen. Bernie Sanders unwrapped his plan to remake the nation's convoluted health care system into federally run health insurance Wednesday — a costly proposal embraced by liberal activists hoping to steer the Democratic Party in upcoming elections. The Vermont independent's plan would hand government a dominant role in insuring Americans, a crucial step, he said, in guaranteeing health care for all. Census Bureau data this week showed the proportion of people lacking policies falling to 8.8 percent last year under "Obamacare," the lowest level ever recorded, but he called it an "international disgrace" that not all Americans have coverage. (9/13)

The Associated Press: Sanders Bill Expands Medicare For All, Lacks Details On Cost
Americans would get health coverage simply by showing a new government-issued card and would no longer owe out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles, according to legislation Sen. Bernie Sanders released Wednesday. But the Vermont independent’s description of the legislation omitted specifics about how much it would cost and final decisions about how he would pay for it. (Fram, 9/13)

Politico: Sanders Lays Down Marker With Ambitious Single-Payer Bid
The plan wouldn't completely wipe out private health insurance, but it would drastically shrink a system that currently covers more than 170 million Americans through their employers or on the individual market. Under Sanders' vision, health insurers would likely be relegated to covering elective procedures not covered by the government. "The average American family will be much better off financially than under the current system because you will no longer be writing checks to private insurance companies," Sanders said. (Cancryn, 9/13)

The Washington Post: Sanders Introduces Universal Health Care, Backed By 15 Democrats
“This is where the country has got to go,” Sanders said in an interview at his Senate office. “Right now, if we want to move away from a dysfunctional, wasteful, bureaucratic system into a rational health-care system that guarantees coverage to everyone in a cost-effective way, the only way to do it is Medicare for All.” Sanders’s bill, the Medicare for All Act of 2017, has no chance of passage in a Republican-run Congress. But after months of behind-the-scenes meetings and a public pressure campaign, the bill is already backed by most of the senators seen as likely 2020 Democratic candidates — if not by most senators facing tough reelection battles in 2018. (Weigel, 9/13)

Los Angeles Times: Turning Aside Risk, Democrats Rally To Bernie Sanders' Single-Payer Health Plan
In the days before Sanders’ announcement, Democrats as ideologically diverse as liberal Sen. Kamala Harris of California and conservative Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia expressed support for his effort. Their statements reflect a significant shift within the Democratic party, driven by multiple developments: a belief that the window has closed on Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare; a surge in support for government-run insurance among younger, more activist Democrats; and looming 2018 and 2020 contests that demand clarity on what Democrats support — not just whom they oppose. (Decker, 9/13)

The Associated Press Fact Check: Single-Payer Sounds Best When It Sounds Free
Americans are not clamoring for single-payer health care, as Sen. Bernie Sanders suggests they are, in proposing a plan that would have the government foot most medical bills. He's right that support for the idea has grown and in some polls tops 50 percent. But polls suggest that the prevailing sentiment is ambivalence. Saving money on health insurance holds lots of appeal. Seeing taxes rise to cover those costs may dull the appetite. (9/14)

The Hill: Five Things To Know About Sanders’s Single-Payer Plan 
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) rolled out his “Medicare for all” health-care bill to much fanfare on Wednesday. While the bill has no chance of passing in the current GOP-led Congress, it is a marker of where the Democratic Party is heading. Here are five things to know about the plan. (Sulivan, 9/13)

The Hill: White House Rips Sanders's 'Horrible' Single-Payer Plan 
The White House on Wednesday slammed the push by Senate Democrats for a single-payer health-care plan at the same time Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced his proposal, calling the plan "horrible." "The president as well as the majority of the country know the single-payer system the Democrats are proposing is a horrible idea," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during the daily briefing. (Kamisar, 9/13)

The Hill: Insurers Rail Against Sanders Health-Care Plan 
The main insurer trade group issued a strongly worded statement against “Medicare for all” ahead of the release of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) single-payer health-care plan. “Whether it’s called single-payer or Medicare For All, government-controlled health care cannot work,” David Merritt, executive vice president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement Wednesday. (Roubein, 9/13)

Politico: How The Trump Administration Is Reshaping Health Care — Without Congress
While Congress tussles over Obamacare, the Trump administration is quietly pressing ahead with plans to gut major Obama-era rules and relax federal oversight of swaths of the health care industry. Top health officials have already signaled their intention to end mandatory programs making hospitals more accountable for their patients’ health, slowed the transition to a system that pays doctors based on quality rather than quantity, and indicated they will reverse a high-profile rule blocking nursing homes from forcing residents to sign away their right to sue. (Cancryn, 9/13)

The Associated Press: Will Senate Bargainers' Deal On Children's Health Pass?
Senate bargainers have reached agreement to extend financing for the children's health insurance program for five years, and approval of the deal would avert an end-of-month cash crunch for the popular initiative. In a concession to Republicans, the agreement late Tuesday would phase out extra federal dollars that have gone to states since the additional money was mandated as part of former President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law. (9/13)

The New York Times: Eight Dead From Sweltering Nursing Home As Florida Struggles After Irma
The first patient was rushed into the emergency room of Memorial Regional Hospital around 3 a.m. on Wednesday, escaping a nursing home that had lost air-conditioning in the muggy days after Hurricane Irma splintered power lines across the state. Another arrived at 4 a.m. After a third rescue call, around 5 a.m., the hospital’s staff was concerned enough to walk down the street to check the building themselves. What they found was an oven. (Reisner, Fink and Yee, 9/13)

The Associated Press: Manager Of Nursing Home Where 8 Died Has Been Charged Before
The manager of a Florida nursing home where eight people died following Hurricane Irma has a history of health-care fraud accusations. Federal court records show the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami filed civil charges in 2004 against Dr. Jack Michel and Larkin Health Systems, among others. That company owns The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which had eight patients pronounced dead Wednesday. (9/13)

The Washington Post: Hurricane Irma: Death Toll Rises As 6 Dead At South Florida Nursing Home
"We believe at this time it may be related to the loss of power in the storm," Tomas Sanchez, the Hollywood police chief, said at a news briefing Wednesday. "It's a sad event." Police later said they are working to determine what caused the tragedy, but early indications pointed at the air conditioning in the facility." The initial investigation has determined that the facility's air conditioning system was not fully functional," Hollywood city officials said in a statement Wednesday evening. "Portable [air-conditioning] units were being used in the facility, but the facility was excessively hot." (Berman, Zezima and Davis, 9/13)

The Associated Press: Oldest Residents' Safety More Vulnerable During Disasters
Like clockwork, stories of suffering by the oldest residents in the line of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters seem to follow. Regulations dictate nursing homes and other facilities must have preparation plans in place, but the realities of how older Americans cope with a storm go beyond any piece of paper. The issue burst to the forefront again Wednesday with news of eight deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Florida, where workers say Hurricane Irma caused the air conditioning to fail, and they struggled to keep residents cool with fans, cold towels and ice. A look at the issues at play in keeping the oldest safe in the line of disaster. (9/14)

NPR: Harvey Spawns Air Pollution Problems In Houston
On the first sunny day in Houston after about 50 inches of rain, residents in the east Houston community of Manchester emerged from their homes and gave thanks that their neighborhood had been spared in the floods. "Mama, yeah, I just feel blessed," said 73-year-old Maria Julia Rodriguez, standing in her driveway in late August and marveling at her luck. "God was looking out for us, I guess." (Hersher and Schaper, 9/14)

NPR: Filtering Wildfire Smoke From Classrooms Takes A Village
More than a million acres of Montana forests and rangeland have burned this year, so far, causing unhealthy air across the state since mid-July. In August the Missoula County health department took the unprecedented step of advising the entire town of Seeley Lake to evacuate due to smoke; air there has been classified as "hazardous" levels for 35 days in August 1. (Saks, 9/13)

The Washington Post: Nursing Home Residents Lose Class-Action Suit To Secure Community-Based Services
A U.S. district court judge on Wednesday dismissed a class-action lawsuit that alleged that the District failed to comply with a federal mandate to move eligible and interested Medicaid recipients out of nursing homes and into the community. U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled that a single injunction could not remedy the problems experienced by the elderly and disabled nursing home residents because barriers to moving them back into the community extended beyond the system’s shortfalls with transition services. (Chandler, 9/13)

Stat: Catholic Hospitals Are Multiplying, Impacting Reproductive Health Care
The rapid growth of Catholic-affiliated hospitals in the U.S. could significantly reduce access to inpatient sterilization procedures, according to a new study that examines the rising influence of religion on reproductive health services. The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, estimates that Catholic hospitals reduce the per-bed annual rates of inpatient abortions by 30 percent, and tubal ligations, or sterilization, by 31 percent. (Ross, 9/14)

Stat: Allergan Patent Deal With Mohawk Tribe Prompts Interest From Other Drug Makers
n the wake of a startling deal in which Allergan (AGN) is selling some patents to a Native American tribe, an attorney for the tribe indicated other drug makers have asked about such arrangements. “I can’t provide specific information, but your assumptions are pretty correct” that representatives for other pharmaceutical companies have made inquiries since the deal was announced last Friday, said Chris Evans of the Shore Chan DePumpo law firm, which brought the deal to the tribe. (Silverman, 9/13)

Stat: Race For A Zika Vaccine Slows, A Setback For Efforts To Head Off Outbreaks
The development of a type of Zika vaccine that authorities had hoped to usher to the market has proven more challenging than some scientists and pharmaceutical companies had expected, people involved in the research have told STAT, posing a setback for efforts to avoid future outbreaks of the disease. Although vaccines typically take years to produce, test, and license, U.S. health officials had voiced confidence that Zika would not be a difficult target, and some predicted that a vaccine could be made and fully tested, ready for Food and Drug Administration assessment, within two to three years. Others predicted a licensed Zika vaccine could be available sometime in 2020. (Branswell, 9/13)


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