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KHN First Edition: October 5, 2017


First Edition

Thursday, October 05, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Moms Of Children With Rare Genetic Illness Push For Wider Newborn Screening
Kerri De Nies received the news this spring from her son’s pediatrician: Her chubby-cheeked toddler had a rare brain disorder.She’d never heard of the disease — adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD — and she soon felt devastated and overwhelmed. “I probably read everything you could possibly read online — every single website,” De Nies said as she cradled her son, Gregory Mac Phee. “It’s definitely hard to think about what could potentially happen. You think about the worst-case scenario.” (Gorman, 10/5)

Kaiser Health News: Despite Boost In Social Security, Rising Medicare Part B Costs Leave Seniors In Bind
Millions of seniors will soon be notified that Medicare premiums for physicians’ services are rising and likely to consume most of the cost-of-living adjustment they’ll receive next year from Social Security. Higher 2018 premiums for Medicare Part B will hit older adults who’ve been shielded from significant cost increases for several years, including large numbers of low-income individuals who struggle to make ends meet. (Graham, 10/5)

USA Today: Is Your Area Prepared In The Event Of Mass Casualties, Disaster?
While the entire state of Nevada has only one Level 1 trauma center, determining whether it or other cities can cope with a disaster like Sunday's Las Vegas shooting rampage there depends on more than mere numbers. Health care systems' ability to treat mass injuries and casualties depend upon the number and type of hospitals, their capacity and preparedness and system wide plans to coordinate the response, emergency care experts say. (O'Donnell, 10/4)

NPR: Why Counting Gunshot Victims In Las Vegas Is Challenging
Dr. Christopher Fisher was working at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center just off the Las Vegas strip on Sunday evening when the patients starting arriving. "It did look a bit like a war zone, can't say that it didn't," he remembers. "Frantic families, blood in the hallways." People came in so grievously injured and so many at a time that Fisher, who is the medical head of trauma services for the hospital, and his colleagues used markers, writing directly on patients, to do triage. (Hersher, 10/4)

The Washington Post: Why Blood Donations Spiked After Las Vegas Mass Shooting
It happens after every disaster, whether natural or human-made. Before the floods recede or the crime tape is removed, hundreds will line up to donate their blood. Less than 24 hours after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, a line of people twisted from a blood center around several city blocks. According to one woman's tweet, it took seven hours or more to get to the front of the line. Time and time again it's the same story. When two bombs shredded scores of runners and fans at the 2103 Boston Marathon, media outlets reported that some participants who had crossed the finish line kept running — right to Massachusetts General, around the corner, to donate blood. (Nutt, 10/4)

Stat: Nevada's Mental Health System Was In Dire Straits. Then Came Las Vegas
Nevada’s mental health system was already overstretched before the carnage on Sunday night at a country music festival here. Now, thousands of victims, survivors, and their loved ones — as well as first responders and local workers who witnessed the horror — are expected to need mental health services in the coming weeks and months. ...Nevada ranked last in the U.S. by measures of access to mental health care in a report released last year by the nonprofit group Mental Health America. Mental health professionals in the state said they’re routinely forced to turn patients away or add them to the end of long waiting lists. (Robbins, 10/4)

The New York Times: Hurricane Damage In Puerto Rico Leads To Fears Of Drug Shortages Nationwide
Federal officials and major drugmakers are scrambling to prevent national shortages of critical drugs for treating cancer, diabetes and heart disease, as well as medical devices and supplies, that are manufactured at 80 plants in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. Pharmaceuticals and medical devices are the island’s leading exports, and Puerto Rico has become one of the world’s biggest centers for pharmaceutical manufacturing. Its factories make 13 of the world’s top-selling brand-name drugs, from Humira, the rheumatoid arthritis treatment, to Xarelto, a blood thinner used to prevent stroke, according to a report released last year. (Thomas and Kaplan, 10/4)

The Wall Street Journal: In Puerto Rico, Health Concerns Grow Amid Lack Of Clean Water, Medical Care
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, many Puerto Ricans are grappling with growing health concerns due to a lack of reliable access to medical care, supplies and clean water. Maggie Reuteman, a volunteer registered nurse with the Red Cross in Puerto Rico, said some patients on oxygen are rationing their supply, fearing they won’t get more in time. That could lead to respiratory infections like pneumonia, if patients can’t breathe properly and fluid builds up in the lungs, she said. (Hernandez, 10/4)

The New York Times: Bill To Rescue Children’s Health Program Hits Snag In House
Legislation to rescue the Children’s Health Insurance Program sailed through a Senate committee on Wednesday, but touched off a partisan conflict in the House, diminishing hopes that the popular program would be quickly refinanced. Funding for the program expired on Sunday, and state officials said they would soon start notifying families that children could lose coverage if Congress did not provide additional money. It was impossible to say when Congress might pass a bill and send it to President Trump. (Pear, 10/4)

The Associated Press: Parties Fight Over Funding Children's Health Insurance
The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the measure on a party-line 28-23 vote. The program covers 8.9 million low-income children, and a renewal of funds for it seems virtually inevitable. But four days after the program's federal funding expired, the bill's problems were underscored as Democrats opposed GOP plans for financing the extension and a related community health center bill. The GOP cuts include trimming a public health fund established under former President Barack Obama's health care law and making it harder for people buying individual health coverage to avoid paying premiums. (10/4)

The Wall Street Journal: States Worry Federal Funding For Children’s Health Program Won’t Come In Time
As Congress struggles to reauthorize the broadly popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, states are increasingly concerned lawmakers won’t act quickly enough to help them avoid budget shortfalls and possibly a shutdown of some state programs by year’s end. House and Senate committees both approved packages Wednesday to renew spending on CHIP, days after Congress allowed the funding to expire over the weekend. CHIP, which serves nearly nine million low-income children whose parents make too much to qualify for Medicaid, cost the federal government $16 billion in 2016. (Hackman, 10/4)

The Associated Press: House GOP Eyes Budget Passage That Is Key To Tax Debate
Republicans are focused on cutting taxes instead of deficits as they look to power a $4.1 billion budget plan through the House on Thursday. The 2018 House GOP budget promises deep cuts to social programs and Cabinet agency budgets but its chief purpose is to set the stage for action later this year on a comprehensive Republican overhaul of the U.S. tax code. The tax overhaul is the party’s top political priority as well as a longtime policy dream of key leaders like Speaker Paul Ryan. The plan calls for more than $5 trillion in spending cuts over the coming decade, including a plan to turn Medicare into a voucher-like program for future retirees, slash Medicaid by about $1 trillion over the coming decade, and repeal the “Obamacare” health law. (Taylor, 10/5)

The Hill: House Democrats Plead For Right Of Residents To Sue Nursing Homes
In the wake of nursing home deaths cause by Hurricane Irma, House Democrats are asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to let nursing home residents take facilities to court over allegations such as abuse. Over the summer, CMS announced it intended to change the rule under President Obama that banned nursing homes accepting Medicare or Medicaid funds from requiring a third party to settle disputes. (Roubein ,10/4)

Politico: Angry GOP Donors Close Their Wallets
Republicans are confronting a growing revolt from their top donors, who are cutting off the party in protest over its inability to get anything done. Tensions reached a boiling point at a recent dinner at the home of Los Angeles billionaire Robert Day. In full view of around two dozen guests, Thomas Wachtell, a retired oil and gas investor and party contributor, delivered an urgent message to the night’s headliner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: Just do something. (Isenstadt and Debenedetti, 10/5)

Reuters: Obamacare Sign-Up Challenge: Proving The Law Is Not Dead
More than two thousand miles away from the healthcare debate in Washington, President Donald Trump's threats to let Obamacare collapse are sowing confusion about its fate and dampening 2018 enrollment expectations. The uncertainty here in Arizona, echoed in interviews across the country, shows that even though they have not been able to repeal former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, the Republican effort to undermine it is gaining traction. (Gershberg and Tobin, 10/4)

Los Angeles Times: Two Measures To Boost Obamacare In California Signed Into Law By Gov. Jerry Brown
Gov. Jerry Brown signed two measures Wednesday to help Californians who buy health insurance under Covered California, the state's Obamacare marketplace. The measures ensure a longer enrollment period and continued treatment for some patients even if their insurer leaves Covered California. The first measure, AB 156 by Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg), was spurred by a Trump administration policy that established a 45-day window for shoppers on Obamacare marketplaces to buy new insurance policies for the coming year. (Mason, 10/4)

Politico: How We Found Tom Price’s Private Jets
The first tip came from a casual conversation with a source back in May: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was using private jets for routine travel, possibly in violation of federal travel rules that allowed such flights only when commercial options weren’t available. But it was a tip and little else – no times, no names of charter services and not even a schedule from a notoriously secretive cabinet secretary. (Diamond and Pradhan, 10/4)

Politico: Abortion Fight May Draw Trump’s Filibuster Wrath
Senate Republicans want to follow the House and vote to ban abortions after 20 weeks. But doing so would likely reopen an internecine fight over the filibuster with the lower chamber — and the president. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday will reintroduce his bill to ban abortions nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which failed on the Senate floor two years ago, 54-42. It’s sure to fail again if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brings it up. (Everett, 10/5)

The Washington Post: GOP Rep. Tim Murphy Won't Seek Reelection After Reports He Asked Woman To Get Abortion
Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, an opponent of abortion, will not be seeking reelection at the end of his current term, ending speculation about his future a day after a news report claimed the married Republican had asked a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair to get an abortion. “After discussions with my family and staff, I have come to the decision that I will not seek reelection to Congress at the end of my current term,” Murphy, 65, said in a statement. (Hui and DeBonis, 10/4)

Politico: Embattled GOP Rep. Tim Murphy To Retire
Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of his term, after allegations that the married Republican lawmaker, who opposes abortion rights, asked his mistress to terminate a pregnancy. Murphy admitted several weeks ago to an affair with forensic psychologist Shannon Edwards — news that came to light during the woman’s divorce proceedings with her husband. (Bade, Schneider and Bresnahan, 10/4)

Stat: Cigna Says It Won't Cover OxyContin Prescriptions Through Employer Plans
The health insurer Cigna on Wednesday announced it will no longer cover OxyContin prescriptions for customers on its employer-based health plans, the second major announcement in two weeks from an industry group billed as an effort to slow the opioid epidemic. Cigna also announced its intent to reduce opioid use among its consumers by 25 percent by 2019. Insurance consumers who have started OxyContin use for cancer or hospice care are exempt from the policy change. (Facher, 10/4)

NPR: Experimental Court In Buffalo Takes New Path With Opioid Addicts
There's about 10 feet between Judge Craig Hannah's courtroom bench and the wooden podium where a defendant stands to be arraigned here in Buffalo City Court. But for 26-year-old Caitlyn Stein, it has been a long, arduous 10 feet. "This is your first day back! Good to see you!" Judge Hannah says as he greets her. (Westervelt, 10/5)

Stat: What Are The Implications Of A Generic Teva MS Drug? Here's What The Wags Say
In a surprise move, U.S. regulators approved a generic version of Teva Pharmaceutical’s (TEVA) Copaxone multiple sclerosis drug earlier than investors expected. And the decision portends big changes not only for Teva — Copaxone is a key contributor to its sales and profits — but also for generic companies more broadly, as far as some Wall Street wags are concerned. The approval creates a heightened challenge for Teva, which is already in disarray. (Silverman, 10/4)

Stat: A Drug With The Power To Mute Defective Genes Raises Hopes — Cautiously
The experimental drug has startling powers: It can turn down a mutant gene in a patient’s body, stopping the production of proteins that cause a terribly painful rare disease. A crucial, late-stage clinical trial showed that the drug works — and that it’s safe. And now the biotech company behind it, Alnylam, is poised to bring this first-of-its-kind therapy to market. (Keshavan, 10/5)

The New York Times: Saunas May Be Good For Blood Pressure
A Finnish study suggests that regular sauna visits can reduce the risk for high blood pressure. The study, in the American Journal of Hypertension, included 1,621 middle-aged men with normal blood pressure who were followed for an average of 25 years. During that time, 251 developed hypertension. (Bakalar, 10/3)

The Washington Post: Doctors Thought A Woman Had Cancer — But It Was Just A Reaction To An Old Tattoo
Her symptoms pointed to cancer. She had sought medical attention for small lumps under her arms, but doctors in Australia discovered it was worse than that — enlarged lymph nodes were also in her chest and in the roots of her lungs. They suspected it was lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the lymphatic system, which removes toxins and other waste from the body. (Bever, 10/4)

NPR: Gov. Brown To Sign Or Veto Controversial Drug Price Law 
Insurers, hospitals and health advocates are waiting for Gov. Jerry Brown to deal the drug lobby a rare defeat, by signing legislation that would force pharmaceutical companies to justify big price hikes on drugs in California. "If it gets signed by this governor, it's going to send shock waves throughout the country," said state Sen. Ed Hernandez, a Democrat from West Covina, the bill's author and an optometrist. "A lot of other states have the same concerns we have, and you're going to see other states try to emulate what we did." (Dembosky, 10/4)

The Associated Press: Michigan Lawmakers Vote To Preemptively Ban Soda, Food Taxes
Michigan lawmakers voted Wednesday to prohibit local taxes on food, drinks and gum in a pre-emptive strike against any municipality that might consider levying a tax on soda and other sugary and artificially sweetened items. No local government in Michigan is now considering such a tax. But majority Republicans said it is possible, pointing to Philadelphia and the Chicago area as places with soda taxes. Similar taxes have been approved in San Francisco and Oakland, California. (Eggert, 10/4)

Los Angeles Times: San Diego Hepatitis Outbreak Continues To Grow: 481 Cases
Add 20 more cases and 22 more hospitalizations to San Diego County’s ever-growing hepatitis A outbreak.Tuesday afternoon the county Health and Human Services Agency raised the number of the outbreak’s confirmed cases to 481 from 461 and hospitalizations to 337 from 315. The death count associated with the outbreak, which started in November 2016, remained at 17 for a second straight week. (Sisson, 10/4)

The Associated Press: Ex-Official: Legionnaires’, Flint Water Were Thorny Issues
Michigan’s former head of disease control said Wednesday that an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area was a sensitive topic at the same time that Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration was being challenged over water quality in the poor city. Corinne Miller returned to the witness stand at a key court hearing involving her former boss, Nick Lyon, the head of the Department of Health and Human Services. He’s charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of an 85-year-old man who was treated for Legionnaires’ six months before he succumbed to congestive heart failure in 2015. (10/4)

The Washington Post: A Mother Refused To Follow A Court Order To Vaccinate Her Son. Now She’s Going To Jail. 
A Michigan woman will spend seven days in jail after she defied a judge’s order to have her 9-year-old son vaccinated. Rebecca Bredow was sentenced for contempt of court Wednesday, nearly a year after an Oakland County judge ordered her to have her son vaccinated. Bredow had been given until Wednesday to get her son the medically allowed amount of vaccination, which would be up to eight vaccines. But the Detroit area mother, citing her religious beliefs, had refused to do so. (Phillips, 10/4)

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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