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KHN First Edition: September 15, 2017


First Edition

Friday, September 15, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

The Hill: Senate Health Panel Aims For Deal On Stabilizing Markets Early Next Week 
The Senate's health panel intends to craft a bipartisan bill to stabilize the insurance markets by early next week, enabling the full Senate to pass it by the end of the month, according to Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Alexander laid out the goal Thursday during the Health Committee’s fourth hearing on stabilizing the markets ahead of a Sept. 27 deadline for insurers to sign contracts to sell plans on, with open enrollment beginning Nov. 1. Last week, Alexander said he’d hoped for a deal by the end of this week. (Roubein, 9/14)

The Washington Post: HHS Slashes Funding To Groups Helping ACA Consumers Enroll By Up To 92 Percent
Health and Human Services officials have informed grass-roots groups that assist with enrollment under the Affordable Care Act that their funding will be reduced by as much as 92 percent, a move that could upend outreach efforts across the country. The groups, which fund organizations known as “navigators,” had been braced for the cuts since the Trump administration announced two weeks ago that it would shrink overall program funding by 41 percent and slash the department’s ACA advertising budget from $100 million to $10 million. At the time of the announcement, HHS officials said the outreach wasted taxpayers’ money. (Eilperin and Goldstein, 9/14)

The Hill: Trump Cuts To ObamaCare Outreach To Hit Red States Most 
The Trump administration’s decision to slash outreach funding for ObamaCare will, perhaps unintentionally, hit red states the hardest. The move last month to cut 90 percent of funds to spur signups for is likely to lead to fewer young and healthy people in the insurance pool — and thus higher costs in states with majority Trump voters, according to experts. (Weixel, 9/15)

The Associated Press: Analysts See Trump Threats To Insurers Boosting Premiums
Average premiums for individually purchased health insurance will grow around 15 percent next year, largely because of marketplace nervousness over whether President Donald Trump will block federal subsidies to insurers, Congress' nonpartisan fiscal analyst projected Thursday. The Congressional Budget Office estimate comes as Trump has repeatedly threatened to halt the payments in his drive to dismember President Barack Obama's health care law. (9/14)

The Hill: CBO: ObamaCare Uncertainty Will Lead To 15 Percent Hike In Premiums 
Premiums for ObamaCare's benchmark silver plans will increase by an average of 15 percent in 2018, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated in a new report released Thursday. CBO blamed the premium hikes on "short-term market uncertainty." Insurers have pleaded for more certainty on key ObamaCare payments called cost-sharing reduction subsidies, which reimburse them for giving discounts to low-income patients.  (Hellmann, 9/14)

Reuters: Obamacare Enrollment To Fall In 2018 And Beyond After Cuts: CBO
Enrollment on the Obamacare health insurance exchanges in 2018 and later years is expected to be less than previously forecast, dampened by the Trump administration's decision to pull back enrollment efforts, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday. The administration has cut back on advertising spending, halved the enrollment period to six weeks, and reduced outreach. (Humer, 9/14)

The Washington Post: How Health-Care Reform Affected America, In 51 Graphs
Last year, 8.6 percent of Americans lacked health insurance. Three years earlier, that figure was 14.5 percent, meaning that the rate dropped by 5.9 percentage points over the period that the Affordable Care Act went into effect, a 40 percent decline from the 2013 figure. In real terms, that’s about 19 million fewer people lacking health insurance, per estimates released Tuesday by the Census Bureau. (Bump, 9/14)

The New York Times: Nursing Home Deaths In Florida Heighten Scrutiny Of Disaster Planning
After an estimated 215 people died in hospitals and nursing homes in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, policy makers realized that the nation’s health care institutions were ill-prepared for disasters. One of the rules they created after years of discussion looked especially prescient in light of the tragic deaths on Wednesday of eight nursing home residents in Florida’s post-hurricane heat. But the rule, regarding power supplies and temperature control, will not be enforced until November, and even then, some patient advocates are concerned that it does not go far enough. (Reisner and Fink, 9/14)

Reuters: Police Obtain Search Warrant In Probe Of Eight Nursing Home Deaths
Police obtained a search warrant on Thursday in their criminal investigation of the deaths of eight elderly patients exposed to sweltering heat inside a Miami-area nursing home left with little or no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma struck. The loss of life in Hollywood, Florida, brought the overall death toll from Irma to 82, with several hard-hit Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, accounting for more than half the fatalities. (9/15)

The Associated Press: Vulnerable Residents A Concern In Hurricane Irma Aftermath
Florida's fits and starts toward post-Irma recovery have shifted to urgent efforts to protect its vulnerable elderly residents after a string of nursing home deaths. Several nursing homes have been evacuated because of a lack of power or air conditioning, while utility workers raced help dozens of others still lacking electricity as of Thursday. Homebound seniors found help from charities, churches and authorities. (9/15)

Los Angeles Times: 'There For You 100%,' Trump Tells Floridians; Elderly Plight In Spotlight After Nursing Home Deaths
President Trump told Florida hurricane victims his administration is “there for you 100%” as officials moved urgently to safeguard the state’s vulnerable elderly and restore power to millions of homes and businesses still without electricity. The president and First Lady Melania Trump arrived aboard Air Force One in Fort Myers on the peninsula’s southwestern Gulf coast, then traveled by helicopter to Naples, 40 miles away. It was Trump’s third disaster-zone visit in less than three weeks. (Lee, McDonnell and King, 9/14)

The Hill: Walden Hints At Nursing Home Oversight In Wake Of Irma Deaths 
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said his committee may begin looking at oversight of nursing facilities following the deaths of eight people in a Florida nursing home. The deaths occurred after the South Florida facility apparently lost its air conditioning amid widespread power outages in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The storm knocked out power for millions of people across the state. (Weixel, 9/14)

The New York Times: Five Tips For Choosing A Reliable Nursing Home
The news that eight Florida nursing home residents died in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma has prompted a criminal investigation and spurred widespread outrage. But it also poses unsettling, difficult questions for people selecting a nursing home for themselves or a loved one. This emotionally fraught choice often must be made at a chaotic moment when a relative is sick, his or her time in the hospital is running short and the options seem confusing. (Thomas, 9/14)

The New York Times: ‘Medicare For All’: Is It Popular? And Is It The Same As Britain’S System?
As leading Democrats embrace Senator Bernie Sanders’s proposal to vastly expand Medicare to cover all Americans, Republicans are fighting back with familiar critiques of such a single-payer system. Mr. Sanders argued for his “Medicare for all” legislation in an Op-Ed published in The New York Times on Wednesday, while his Republican colleagues dismissed the idea in a news conference. Here’s an assessment of their claims. (Qiu, 9/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Single-Payer Health Care Could Be A Tough Sell, Polling Shows
Single-payer health care, or as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) calls it, “Medicare for all,” is becoming a rallying cry for many Democrats in Congress. But are Americans behind the idea of mandatory government-provided insurance? Polling from the summer tells us that it could be a tough sell. Only 33% of the overall public supports a “single payer” approach to health care, according to the Pew Research Center’s June poll. Among Democrats and those who lean Democrat, Pew says 52% support single-payer, up from 33% in March 2014. (Jamerson, 9/14)

The Hill: Senator Asks For CBO Score Of Sanders's Single-Payer Bill
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is asking congressional scorekeepers to analyze the cost of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) “Medicare for all” bill, which could fuel Republican attacks that a single-payer health-care system would bankrupt the country. In a letter to the head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Barrasso — the Senate Republican Policy Committee chairman — wrote he was “deeply concerned that Senator Sanders’ Medicare-for-All legislation is not only a government takeover of health care, but would also put financial burdens on the American people that they cannot sustain.” (Roubein, 9/14)

The Washington Post: Sanders Enlists Canadians To Sell Single Payer
The day after he finally unveiled his legislation to turn Medicare into universal health insurance, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) built on his momentum in an unusual way: a 32-minute interview with a Canadian doctor. “We have a very, very exciting show!” Sanders said, kicking off his occasional podcast and introducing Danielle Martin, a Toronto physician and academic. “She’s kind of a household name in America now.” (Weigel, 9/14)

The Hill: Trump Calls Sanders Single-Payer Plan A ‘Curse On The US’ 
President Trump on Thursday called Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) "Medicare for all" plan a "curse on the U.S.” "Bernie Sanders is pushing hard for a single payer healthcare plan - a curse on the U.S. & its people," Trump tweeted. "I told Republicans to approve healthcare fast or this would happen. But don't worry, I will veto because I love our country & its people." (Hellmann, 9/14)

The Washington Post: Texas Officials: Hurricane Harvey Death Toll At 82, ‘Mass Casualties Have Absolutely Not Happened’
Texas officials said Thursday that they believe at least 82 people died as a result of Hurricane Harvey and the intense flooding it brought to Houston and coastal areas, although it could take weeks to determine the exact death toll. The picture could have been much bleaker, given the amount of flooding and that entire communities were cut off for days. Hospitals had to be evacuated as water rose into buildings that had never before flooded; some residents found themselves trapped in their homes while chest-deep floods took over their streets; and emergency responders along the Texas coast were overwhelmed, leading civilians with watercraft to rescue one another. (Moravec, 9/14)

Politico: FDA Chief: Boosting Competition Is Key To Tackling Drug Prices
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said at POLITICO’s Pro Policy Summit on Thursday that his agency is focused on boosting pharmaceutical competition when it comes to the hot-button topic of drug prices. “We think about it from the standpoint of competition, trying to facilitate competition,” Gottlieb said, noting that the agency is targeting generic drugs as an avenue to address cost and access issues. (Diamond, 9/14)

The New York Times: Google Sets Limits On Addiction Treatment Ads, Citing Safety
As drug addiction soars in the United States, a booming business of rehab centers has sprung up to treat the problem. And when drug addicts and their families search for help, they often turn to Google. But prosecutors and health advocates have warned that many online searches are leading addicts to click on ads for rehab centers that are unfit to help them or, in some cases, endangering their lives. (Corkery, 9/14)

The Associated Press: Company Under Fire For Opioid Marketing Files Patent Suit
An Arizona-based pharmaceutical company targeted in lawsuits and criminal investigations over its marketing of a highly addictive painkiller has filed a related patent-infringement lawsuit against a rival drug maker. Insys Therapeutics filed the complaint against Teva Pharmaceuticals on Wednesday in federal court in Delaware. (Chase, 9/14)

The New York Times: Alcohol Abuse Is Rising Among Older Adults
In the summer, Henry Wrenn-Meleck likes to sit on the stoop of his building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, observing the passing urban parade. One day in late July, “one of my neighbors could see something was wrong,” he recently recalled. “I was sort of rolling around, obviously in a lot of pain. He said, ‘I have to call 911,’ and he did.” (Span, 9/14)

Stat: End-Of-Life Decisions Can Be Difficult. This Doctor Thinks ‘Nudges’ Can Help
For tax payments, “nudges” have helped municipalities increase revenues and decrease collection-related costs. For energy consumption, “nudges” have helped homeowners save money and utilities preserve capacity. But in health care, the technique has been slower to catch on. First described by the pioneering economists Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein (who is also a legal scholar), a “nudge” is a way of framing a set of choices to essentially steer people toward a particular option without shutting out other options. (Tedeschi, 9/14)

Stat: Armed With Data, And Twitter, This Doc Takes On The Medical Establishment
Dr. Vinay Prasad is a professional scold:  He takes to Twitter each day to critique this cancer drug as ineffective, or blast that one as overpriced, or dismiss the clinical trial of another as completely irrelevant. ...Just 34, Prasad has become an influential voice in the medical community through his prolific, high impact publishing, a steady stream of media cameos, and — of course — his vociferous Twitter presence. Among his main arguments: Drug costs have spiraled out of control. Conflicts of interest run amok in health care. We don’t have any idea how well new cancer drugs and diagnostics work, thanks to ill-designed clinical trials. And more than half of all practiced medicine is based on scant evidence — and possibly ineffectual. (Keshavan, 9/15)

The New York Times: New Product Is First To Claim It May Reduce Peanut Allergies
A new powdered peanut product is the first food item allowed to claim it may reduce peanut allergies in infants, though parents of susceptible babies are urged to consult a doctor before trying it. The product, called Hello, Peanut, can be mixed into puréed baby food to expose infants to peanuts starting around five months old. (Rabin, 9/14)

NPR: Public Isn't Adequately Protected Against Misuse Of Biomedical Research
For years, the government has been trying to reduce the risk that legitimate biological research could be misused to threaten the public's health, but those efforts have serious shortcomings. That's the conclusion of a report released Thursday by the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that examined existing practices and policies on so-called dual-use biological research. (Greenfieldboyce, 9/14)

The New York Times: Are You A Hair-Twirler, Nail-Biter Or Knuckle-Cracker?
Are you a toe-tapper, hair-twirler, eye-blinker, head-nodder, nail-biter, knuckle-cracker, skin-picker, lip-licker, shoulder-shrugger or a chin-stroker? Call it a nervous habit or tic, almost everybody has at least one — whether they are aware of it or not. Tics exist on a spectrum ranging from barely noticeable to extremely annoying to potentially injurious. (Murphy, 9/14)

The Washington Post: Selena Gomez’s Kidney Transplant: Young, Minority Women Disproportionately Affected By Lupus
In the world of celebrities, there are diseases such as HIV/AIDS and breast cancer that are very “popular” and well understood, thanks to years of fundraising and awareness campaigns by stars. And there are those diseases that are less so. Lupus, an autoimmune disorder that can damage organs, is in the second category. When Selena Gomez shocked her 126 million Instagram followers on Thursday by revealing that she had disappeared from the public eye this summer because she was getting a kidney transplant because of lupus, her fans had many questions. (Cha, 9/14)

NPR: Just The Perception That Your Friends Have More Friends Than You Can Make You Sad
When you feel like everyone around you is having more fun and spending more time with friends, it can make you feel bad about yourself — even if it's not true. But according to Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who studies how our view of the world affects our view of ourselves, this perception can challenge us to become more social and make more friends. (Fulton, 9/14)

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