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KHN First Edition: August 5, 2015

KHN

First Edition

Wednesday, August 05, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Lack Of Cooperation Among Health Facilities Mars Antibiotic Resistance Fight, CDC Says
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "Unless hospitals and other health care facilities begin cooperatively fighting the country’s most aggressive bacterial-resistant germs, infection rates could increase as much as 10 percent over the next five years, hitting about 340,000 people annually, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report released today. Individual institutional efforts, the study said, will not be sufficient to combat these germs. Part of the problem, it notes, is that they are spreading as infected patients move between hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities. For the most part, however, efforts to catch and prevent these infections are being done autonomously." (Rau, 8/4)

Kaiser Health News: Hospitals Seeking An Edge Turn To Unlikely Adviser: A Car Maker
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "The equipment closet for the operating rooms at Los Angeles County Harbor-UCLA Hospital was a mess. Nurses had to maneuver through a maze of wheelchairs, beds, boxes and lights to find the necessary surgical supplies. 'It looked kind of like a dog pile of equipment,' said Dawna Willsey, a clinical director at the hospital. 'It was every man for themselves trying to find anything.' As public hospitals like Harbor-UCLA try to cut costs and make patients happier, administrators have turned to an unlikely ally: Toyota. They are adapting the car maker’s production system to healthcare, changing longstanding practices such as how to store equipment, schedule surgeries and discharge patients. The philosophy, known as lean, depends on a continuous team effort to pare inefficiency and improve quality." (Gorman, 8/5)

Kaiser Health News: Pain Patients Say They Can’t Get Medicine After Crackdown On Illegal Rx Drug Trade
Working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, Rachel Gotbaum reports: "The accident happened 10 years ago when Chris Young was 35. He owned a salvage yard in Maui, Hawaii, and his employee had hoisted a junker on a machine called an excavator when the hydraulics gave out. The car fell on him from above his head, smashing his spine. “He was crushed accordion-style,” says his wife Lesley. The accident left Young with a condition known as “partial paraplegia.” He can’t walk and he needs a wheelchair, but he does have some sensation in his legs. Unfortunately for Young, that sensation is often excruciating pain." (Gotbaum, 8/5)

The Associated Press: Tax Filing Problems Could Jeopardize Health Law Aid For 1.8M
About 1.8 million households that got financial help for health insurance under President Barack Obama's law now have issues with their tax returns that could jeopardize their subsidies next year. Administration officials say those taxpayers will have to act quickly. "There's still time, but people need to take action soon," said Lori Lodes, communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs HealthCare.gov. (8/4)

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield Of California Owes $82.8 Million In Obamacare Rebates
Health insurance giant Blue Shield of California owes $82.8 million in rebates to consumers and small employers under requirements of the federal health law. The majority of that money, $61.7 million, will be divvied up among 454,000 individual policyholders who had Blue Shield coverage in 2014. The average rebate is $136. The remaining rebates of $21.1 million are owed to about 19,000 small employers. Customers will receive their money by the end of next month, according to the San Francisco insurer.(Terhune, 8/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Aetna Lifts Guidance As Profit Tops Expectations
The consolidation momentum is being fed by a desire to diversify and cut costs following changes brought by the Affordable Care Act. The deal to buy Humana would boost Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna’s Medicare business and give it scale to thrive as the industry consolidates. In the latest quarter, Aetna said strength in its Medicare and Medicaid businesses offset the impact of net charges incurred under the federal health law’s provisions meant to adjust for insurers’ risk if they enroll a large share of sicker, higher-cost consumers. (Dulaney, 8/4)

The Associated Press: Aetna Turns In Better-Than-Expected 2Q, Hikes Forecast Again
Aetna's second-quarter earnings jumped 33 percent and the health insurer raised its 2015 forecast again after receiving a boost from a government business it plans to feed with a roughly $35 billion acquisition. Aetna said Thursday that it gained members in both its Medicare and Medicaid businesses, and higher underwriting margins or improved profitability helped balance a jump in operating costs during the quarter. The nation's third-largest health insurer easily topped Wall Street expectations. (8/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Aetna Will Clear Commercial Paper Balances At End Of The Year
Health insurer Aetna Inc. will clear its commercial paper balances at the end of the year to make room to finance its $34 billion acquisition of Humana Inc. The company had no commercial paper outstanding at the end of June, but could borrow more during the second half of the year, said David Buda, treasurer at the company, in an interview with CFO Journal. Instead of rolling the short-term debt over, the company will clear the books at the end of the 2015, freeing up room to borrow more in 2016 to fund the Humana deal, he added. (Monga, 8/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Community Health Spinoff To Focus On Smaller Markets
Community Health Systems Inc. said it would spin off 38 hospitals from California to the Deep South to form a new publicly traded company that focuses on smaller, often rural markets. The plan stands in contrast to the broader pattern among U.S. health-care companies and providers, which have been rushing to consolidate to build market share, find savings and steady themselves for a fast-changing market under the Affordable Care Act. (Weaver and Jaramillo, 8/4)

The Associated Press: CVS Earnings Rise Despite No Tobacco Fix
Pricey specialty drugs helped CVS Health cope with tobacco withdrawal and top analyst expectations in the second quarter. But the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain also narrowed its full-year earnings outlook and issued a third-quarter forecast that fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. (Murphy, 8/4)

Los Angeles Times: Shire Offers To Buy Baxter Drug Spinoff For $30 Billion
The Irish drugmaker Shire Is offering to buy Baxalta for about $30 billion in stock as it attempts to solidify its strengthening position in rare disease treatments. Earlier this year, Shire said it would pay $5.2 billion to acquire NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc., which specializes in drugs for rare conditions. Baxalta, a Deerfield, Illinois, company spun off by Baxter International Inc. in July, focuses on bleeding disorders. (8/4)

The Washington Post: Tax-Exempt Hospitals Spend Just As Much On Charity Care As For-Profits, Study Finds
Nonprofit hospitals get billions of dollars in tax breaks every year, but a new study shows that they may not be giving back very much to communities in return, as intended by law. The study, out of the University of California San Francisco, found that some tax-exempt hospitals are spending as much on free or subsidized care as their for-profit counterparts. The authors say that's because the criteria to have tax-exempt status is vague, specifically under the Affordable Care Act. (Gebelhoff, 8/4)

The Washington Post: Jeb Bush Draws Fire For Suggesting ‘Women’s Health Issues’ Are Overfunded
In recent weeks, conservative media have taken him to task for the time he spent on the board of a charity run by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg that gave money to Planned Parenthood, which provides contraceptives and STD treatment among other services. Republicans have been calling for the organization’s defunding after an anti-abortion group secretly recorded a series of videos with the organization’s medical officer speaking in a manner that critics called calllous about how best to extract fetal tissue during abortions before transferring it to research facilities. (Bailey, 8/4)

The Washington Post: Jeb Bush’s Quick Turnabout On Women’s Health Funding, And What It Tells Us
And by Tuesday afternoon, word went out via Twitter. Jeb Bush had told a group gathered at the Southern Baptist Convention that he was less than certain that "half a billion" dollars was needed to cover "women's health issues." ... That little aside was quickly highlighted on social media as precisely an example of the GOP "attacking women's health issues." And less than two hours later, the Bush campaign released it's own statement clarifying Bush's comments. (Ross, 8/4)

The Associated Press: Dems Hit Bush After Comments On Funding For Women’s Health
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush vowed Tuesday to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood if elected to the White House, but drew immediate fire from Democrats for adding, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton replied on Twitter, “@JebBush: You are absolutely, unequivocally wrong.” (Bustos and Schelzig, 8/4)

The Associated Press: Hillary Clinton Slams Bush On Immigration, Women’s Health
Clinton also criticized Bush for questioning the amount the federal government spends on women’s health during a forum earlier Tuesday. His campaign later said he was actually arguing the federal government should use the money it gives to Planned Parenthood elsewhere. Clinton, running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said that was just as bad — and noted that the entire GOP field agrees with Bush. “When you attack Planned Parenthood, you attack women’s health, and when you attack women’s health, you attack America’s health,” Clinton said to cheers from hundreds of Democrats crowded into a small Denver nightclub. (Riccardi, 8/4)

Politico: Trump: Shut Down The Government To Defund Planned Parenthood
Presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are teaming up to promote a confrontational tactic intended to strip Planned Parenthood of government funding, a move that plays to the GOP’s conservative base but also risks a shutdown. On Monday evening, GOP front-runner Trump officially blessed a strategy that would include a rider that defunds Planned Parenthood in a government funding bill. But Democrats have said they would oppose any bill that includes such a defunding rider, which would imperil funding legislation that Congress must pass by Sept. 30. (Everett, 8/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Republicans Step Up Calls To Defund Planned Parenthood After New Video
Republicans repeated calls Tuesday to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds and highlighted their investigations as an antiabortion group released a fifth undercover video depicting a Planned Parenthood official discussing obtaining fetal tissue for research. Antiabortion groups say the video shows Melissa Farrell, research director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Houston appearing to agree to adjust abortion procedures to obtain intact fetuses or specific fetal tissue. (Armour, 8/4)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Harry Reid’s Incorrect Claim That 30 Percent Of Women Rely On Planned Parenthood For Health Care
Center for Medical Progress, a group that opposes abortion rights, in recent weeks released a series of covert videos filming Planned Parenthood officials describing the non-profit’s fetal tissue donation process. Amid Center for Medical Progress’s allegations that Planned Parenthood illegally and unethically is selling fetal tissues for profit, there is a renewed push among conservatives in Congress to pull federal funding for Planned Parenthood. In defense of Planned Parenthood, Reid said eliminating funding would jeopardize health care for 30 percent of women. Is he correct? (Lee, 8/5)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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