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KHN First Edition: October 20, 2017

KHN

First Edition

Friday, October 20, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ Whiplash
The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee this week agreed on a bill they say could help stabilize the struggling health insurance exchanges. But despite compromises made by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), it’s still unclear whether Congress can pass the measure, particularly in time for the Affordable Care Act’s 2018 open enrollment season, which begins Nov. 1. (10/19)

California Healthline: Calif. Locks In Plans For Open Enrollment As Congressional Bipartisanship Fades
A sudden burst of bipartisanship this week on health care just as quickly appeared to lose steam in Washington. Two key senators, Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray, announced a bill Tuesday aimed at stabilizing the health insurance marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act. It would guarantee payment of “cost-sharing reduction” subsidies that help lower-income consumers with their deductibles and copays for 2018 and 2019. President Donald Trump had halted those payments last week. (Other federal subsidies that help people pay for their premiums weren’t affected and remain intact.) (10/19)

The Hill: 24 Senators Co-Sponsor Bipartisan ObamaCare Deal
The bipartisan deal to stabilize ObamaCare’s markets has 24 co-sponsors, Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced Thursday. Twelve Republicans and 12 Democrats signed on to the bill, which would continue ObamaCare's insurer subsidies for two years and give states more flexibility to waive ObamaCare rules. (Hellmann, 10/19)

Los Angeles Times: Senators Push Forward With Bipartisan Obamacare Fix — And Trump's Encouragement
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health committee, and the top Democrat on the panel, and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington jointly announced 22 bipartisan co-sponsors to their effort, more than typical for a bill. Alexander noted that Trump, too, continued to encourage him to push forward. The president called the senator twice Wednesday, even after speaking critically of the plan."I want to thank him for his encouragement," Alexander said. (Mascaro, 10/19)

The Hill: Key Senate Republican Warns GOP To Change Course On ObamaCare 
Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Thursday told GOP colleagues bluntly that their efforts to repeal ObamaCare have failed and urged them to change course. Alexander said Republicans need to come up with a new path on health care after holding dozens of votes over the years to repeal ObamaCare and always ending in failure. (Bolton, 10/19)

The Hill: Graham, Cassidy Trying To Move New ObamaCare Deal To The Right
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) say they are working to make changes to a bipartisan health-care deal to make it more likely to win favor in the House. Graham and Cassidy, authors of a failed bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare earlier this year, are supporting a bipartisan measure aimed at stabilizing ObamaCare, but they are also looking for changes to move the proposal to the right. (Sullivan, 10/19)

The New York Times: Will Mitch McConnell Help His Friend Get A Health Care Deal?
Mitch McConnell and Lamar Alexander go way back. The two Southern Republicans met in Washington in 1969 when Mr. Alexander was a promising young aide at the Nixon White House and Mr. McConnell an up-and-coming legislative assistant to Senator Marlow W. Cook of Kentucky. The story goes that Senator Howard H. Baker Jr. suggested to Mr. Alexander, his fellow Tennessean, that he should look up Mr. McConnell, that he was a “smart young man and I think you’d like him.” A nearly 50-year friendship and political alliance was born. (Hulse, 10/19)

Politico: GOP To Trump: Stop Flip-Flopping On Obamacare Deal 
Key Senate Republicans are urgently trying to get President Donald Trump to reconsider his apparent opposition to a bipartisan deal shoring up health insurance markets, several senators said Thursday morning. Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who negotiated the deal with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, both spoke to the president about it on Wednesday evening. (Everett and Haberkorn, 10/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump’s Support For Bipartisan Health Bill Hinges On Rollbacks Long Sought By Conservatives
“We are certain that it can be improved,” Mr. Alexander said on the Senate floor Thursday. But the White House made clear Thursday that Mr. Trump was seeking more than minor tweaks to the legislation, which would shore up the ACA’s individual insurance markets by extending for two years federal payments known as “cost-sharing reductions” that help insurers offset subsidies they provide to some low-income consumers, while giving states greater say in how the law is implemented. In order for Mr. Trump to support such legislation, it must provide relief from the ACA’s requirement that most people have health coverage or pay a penalty, the spokesman said Thursday. (Armour and son, 10/19)

Reuters: White House Says Rollback Of Obamacare Must Be Part Of Short-Term Fix
A senior White House aide said on Thursday that U.S. President Donald Trump would demand steps toward repealing Obamacare in any healthcare legislation, comments that cast doubt on the prospects for a short-term bill to shore up insurance markets. Marc Short, the White House's top liaison to Congress, said on CNN that Obamacare's mandates and taxes would have to be rolled back and consumers be allowed to more heavily invest in health-savings accounts for Trump to sign off on any congressional deal. (Cowan and Abutaleb, 10/19)

The Washington Post: Health Insurers’ Most Pressing Concern Right Now? Consumer Confusion.
Health insurers heading into the 2018 Affordable Care Act enrollment season say they’re staying laser focused on maximizing sign-ups, even as Republicans remain in disarray and even denial over the seven-year-old health-care law. A big funding infusion that could help lower Obamacare premiums is in flux just 12 days before enrollment starts. President Trump sent mixed signals this week about whether he’d support legislation funding subsidies for lower-income Americans to get coverage. (Winfield Cunningham, 10/19)

Reuters: Some Middle-Class Americans Worry Trump Health Subsidies Cut Will Hurt
Tom Westerman voted for Donald Trump in last year's election but says he might not do so again after the president cut off billions of dollars in Obamacare subsidies to health insurance companies. "It really upset me," said Westerman, 63, a self-described "middle-class guy" with an annual household income of about $60,000 in the western Pennsylvania city of Arnold. (Reid and Abutaleb, 10/19)

The Wall Street Journal: 5 Ways This ACA Open Enrollment Period Will Be Different
In less than two weeks, the first Trump-era open enrollment season for health insurance will commence. Whether consumers look to renew insurance plans or join the individual market for the first time, here are some ways the experience may be different this year compared to years prior, according to a presentation to reporters Wednesday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. (Jamerson, 10/19)

Los Angeles Times: With Obamacare, Fewer Americans Were Uninsured When They Were Told They Had Cancer
As President Trump and his allies in Congress keep pushing to get rid of Obamacare, new research shows that the contentious law has succeeded in expanding health insurance coverage for Americans with cancer. But not everywhere. This upside of Obamacare — known formally as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA — was seen primarily in states that participated in the Medicaid expansion that the law made possible. (Kaplan, 10/19)

The Associated Press: Report: Medicaid Enrollments, Costs Begin To Stabilize
States are seeing more stability in their Medicaid programs after experiencing a surge in enrollment and costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, suggesting that one of the major pillars of former President Barack Obama's health overhaul may be nearing its peak. At the same time, they are experiencing a high level of uncertainty as Republicans in Congress continue to advocate for a major overhaul of a program that provides health insurance to tens of millions of lower-income and disabled Americans. (10/19)

Politico: Trump Blindsides Advisers With Promised Opioid Plan
President Donald Trump overrode his own advisers when he promised to deliver an emergency declaration next week to combat the nation’s worsening opioid crisis. “That is a very, very big statement,” he said Monday. “It's a very important step. ... We're going to be doing it in the next week.” (Ehley and Dawsey and Karlin-Smith, 10/20)

Stat: While Federal Standards To Battle The Opioid Epidemic Take Shape, States Codify Their Own
There is little that resembles a current and all-encompassing drug policy in the United States. A national drug control plan issued by the Obama administration last year was written immediately prior to a White House transition, and many hoping for a newer framework are waiting for next month’s reveal of a new presidential commission’s final report on the opioid epidemic.  A new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, however, shows that many of the elements that could soon be codified as federal guidance are already creeping toward national standards in a patchwork fashion, apparent in the regulations imposed by a number of states for implementing Medicaid. (Facher, 10/19)

The Hill: Dems Introduce Bill To Overrule Trump On Birth Control Mandate 
Nineteen Senate Democrats have signed on to a bill that would reverse the Trump administration's new exemption for ObamaCare's birth control mandate. The administration recently announced it will allow most employers to stop providing birth control coverage in their insurance plans if they have moral or religious objections. (Hellmann, 10/19)

The Associated Press: Court To Review Ruling Allowing Abortion For Immigrant Teen
An appeals court on Thursday temporarily stayed a judge's ruling that would have allowed a pregnant 17-year-old being held in a Texas facility for unaccompanied immigrant children to obtain an abortion. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a short ruling that still allowed the teenager to be taken to a counseling meeting with the doctor who would perform the abortion. Texas state law requires women to receive counseling 24 hours before an abortion. (10/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Appeals Court To Review Case Of Undocumented Teenager Seeking Abortion
In a rare move Thursday, a federal appeals court hastily scheduled an oral argument for Friday morning after U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, D.C., sharply criticized the administration’s position and ordered it to release the teen to travel to the nearest abortion clinic this week. The government appealed the decision immediately. The appeals court put the court order on hold temporarily so it could consider the case, which raises questions about whether undocumented immigrants in custody have the same constitutional right to an abortion that is accorded to U.S. citizens. (Kendall and Meckler, 10/19)

The Washington Post: Appeals Court To Review Judge's Order Allowing Abortion For Undocumented Immigrant
Federal officials say the 17-year-old, who entered this country in September, could solve the problem herself by voluntarily leaving or finding a sponsor in the United States to take custody of her. “The Administration stands ready to expedite her return to her home country,” the White House said in a statement. But the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the teenager, says she is entitled to have an abortion, which she would pay for, under the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in <i>Roe v. Wade</i>. (Sacchetti and Marimow, 10/19)

The Washington Post: U.S. Abortion Rate Fell 25 Percent From 2008 To 2014; One In Four Women Have An Abortion
The U.S. abortion rate has fallen dramatically, by 25 percent, in recent years. The procedure continues to be common: One in  four women will have an abortion by 45, according to a report published in the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday. Researchers used data from three surveys, two conducted by the federal government and the third by the Guttmacher Institute, to estimate abortion rates. They found that in 2008, there were 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. By 2014, the number had dropped to 14.6 per 1,000. (Cha, 10/19)

Stat: Cancer Drug Prices Have Been Rising Much, Much Faster Than Inflation
The prices for injectable cancer drugs — including older medicines that face competition — rose over a recent eight-year period at rates that far exceeded inflation, according to a new study. Specifically, the mean price increase for 24 branded cancer medicines that were approved in the U.S. between 1996 and 2012 was a whopping 25 percent. After adjusting for inflation, the increase was 18 percent. Moreover, gradual price increases over the years can result in substantial cumulative increases. In this instance, the mean cumulative price increase for all two dozen drugs was 36.5 percent. (Silverman, 10/19)

Stat: Allergan Faces A Cheaper, Compounded Version Of Its Restasis Eye Drops
Hoping to capitalize on consumer outrage, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals (IMMY) plans to sell a cheaper, compounded version of the Restasis dry-eye treatment that is sold by Allergan (AGN) and has been at the center of a widening controversy in recent weeks. The company plans to sell its version for a fraction of the roughly $500 monthly cost for Restasis, which generated nearly $1.5 billion in sales last year, although may now face generic competition next year after a federal court judge last week invalidated several patents for the medicine. (Silverman, 10/19)

The Associated Press: Study Finds Pollution Is Deadlier Than War, Disaster, Hunger
Environmental pollution — from filthy air to contaminated water — is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. One out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 — about 9 million — could be attributed to disease from toxic exposure, according to a major study released Thursday in the Lancet medical journal. The financial cost from pollution-related death, sickness and welfare is equally massive, the report says, costing some $4.6 trillion in annual losses — or about 6.2 percent of the global economy. (Daigle, 10/20)

The New York Times: Women Are More Likely To Address High Blood Pressure
Hypertension is dangerous. High blood pressure damages the inner lining of the arteries, limits the ability of the heart to pump blood and strains the organ in a way that can lead to heart failure. The condition increases the risk for stroke and vascular dementia, and hypertension is one of the most common causes of kidney failure. It impairs vision by damaging the blood vessels in the eyes. (Bakalar, 10/19)

Los Angeles Times: Scientists Engineer Proteins That Caused Obese Animals To Lose Weight And Lower Cholesterol
As the U.S. obesity rate has galloped toward 40%, doctors, drug designers and dispirited dieters have all wondered the same thing: What if a pill could deliver the benefits of weight-loss surgery, but without the knife? New research brings that hope a notch closer. Scientists from the biotechnology company Amgen Inc. report they have identified and improved upon a naturally occurring protein that brought about significant changes in obese mice and monkeys, including weight loss and rapid improvements on measures of metabolic and heart health. (Healy, 10/19)

The New York Times: New Study Casts Doubt On Diagnosis Of Adult-Onset A.D.H.D.
In just the past few years, researchers have identified what they believe is an adult version of attention deficit disorder: a restless inability to concentrate that develops spontaneously after high school, years after the syndrome typically shows itself, and without any early signs. The proposed diagnosis — called adult-onset A.D.H.D. and potentially applicable to millions of people in their late teens or older — is distinct from the usual adult variety, in which symptoms linger from childhood. (Carey, 10/20)

The Washington Post: State Laws Have Reduced Concussion Risks In High School Kids, Study Finds
A lot has changed in the past 10 years when it comes to sports concussions. As evidence has grown of the devastating effects of traumatic brain injuries, athletes and parents have become increasingly alarmed and demanded preventive steps. Some of the most tangible results of that concern are new laws passed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that try in some form to address head injuries among young athletes. (Wan, 10/19)

The Washington Post: A Woman's Dog Died, And Doctors Say Her Heart Literally Broke
Joanie Simpson woke early one morning with a terrible backache. Her chest started hurting when she turned over. Within 20 minutes, she was at a local emergency room. Soon she was being airlifted to a hospital in Houston, where physicians were preparing to receive a patient exhibiting the classic signs of a heart attack. But tests at Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute -Texas Medical Center revealed something very different. Doctors instead diagnosed Simpson with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a condition with symptoms that mimic heart attacks. It usually occurs following an emotional event such as the loss of a spouse or child. That link has given the illness its more colloquial name: broken-heart syndrome. (Brulliard, 10/19)

The Associated Press: Closing Arguments Set In Deadly Meningitis Outbreak Trial
Attorneys are preparing to make their closing arguments in the case of a Massachusetts pharmacist charged with second-degree murder in a deadly meningitis outbreak. Closing arguments in Glenn Chin’s trial are expected Friday in Boston’s federal courthouse. Chin faces second-degree murder, mail fraud and other charges under federal racketeering law. (Richer, 10/20)

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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