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KHN First Edition: November 3, 2017


First Edition

Friday, November 03, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: House Tax Bill Would Scrap Deduction For Medical Expenses
The tax bill unveiled by Republicans in the House on Thursday would not, as had been rumored, eliminate the tax penalty for failure to have health insurance. But it would eliminate a decades-old deduction for people with very high medical costs. The controversial bill is an effort by Republicans to revamp the nation’s tax code and provide dramatic tax cuts for business and individuals. However, its future is not yet clear because Republicans, who control both the House and Senate, appear divided on key measures. (Rovner, 11/2)

Kaiser Health News: House Republicans Aim To Yank Tax Credits For Orphan Drugs
As part of a sweeping tax reform bill, House Republicans on Thursday proposed eliminating billions of dollars in corporate tax credits that have played a key role in the booming “orphan drug” industry. For more than three decades, pharmaceutical and biomedical companies have claimed a 50 percent tax credit for the cost of clinical trials on orphan drugs, or those that treat rare diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 people. (Tribble, 11/2)

Kaiser Health News: Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ How Confused Are We?
Open enrollment started with more of a whimper than a bang Nov. 1, as the Trump administration continued to talk down the health law it is required to operate. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, lawmakers continue to struggle to reach agreement on legislation to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expired Oct. 1. And President Donald Trump’s commission on the opioid epidemic released its final report and recommendations. (11/2)

California Healthline: Big Premium Hike? Blame It On The Kids
Dede Kennedy-Simington, an insurance agent in Pasadena, Calif., was “totally dismayed” when she learned recently that the premium on her family’s Blue Shield PPO would rise $391 a month next year — driven largely by huge increases for her two teenage children. The cost of insuring her 16-year-old daughter will spike 60 percent in 2018, and it will jump 38 percent for her 13-year-old son. (Perkes, 11/3)

The Associated Press: Free ‘Obamacare’ For Older, Poorer In Nearly All Counties
Older people with low incomes nearly everywhere would have access to free “Obamacare” health coverage next year, according to a study Thursday that found the Trump administration’s efforts to undercut the Affordable Care Act have broad unintended consequences. The analysis by the consulting firm Avalere Health found that in nearly 98 percent of counties served by, a 50-year-old making about $18,000 a year would be able to get a basic “bronze” plan for no monthly premium in 2018. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 11/2)

The New York Times: House To Vote On Child Health Care, But Funding Will Remain In Limbo
The House on Friday is expected to pass legislation to refinance the Children’s Health Insurance Program and send federal funds to community health centers. But a partisan morass over how to pay for the legislation all but ensures that state governments and millions of children will get little relief from the uncertainty that has faced the programs since funding officially expired a month ago. (Pear, 11/2)

CQ: House Begins Debate On Children's Health Bill
The House kicked off debate on a bill to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and community health centers on Thursday after the Rules Committee advanced the bill late Wednesday. A vote on passage of the legislation is expected Friday. Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats have not thrown their support behind the bill (HR 3922), due to disagreements over the offsets, which would change Medicare, Medicaid and provisions of the 2010 health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152). Similarly, the Rules Committee vote on Wednesday fell on party lines with all present Democrats voting against proceeding with the bill. (Raman, 11/2)

The Associated Press: GOP Tax Plan May Offer Little Aid For Many In Middle Class
House Republicans have stressed that the tax plan they unveiled Thursday is tailored to benefit America's middle class. Just how much it would remains uncertain based on the details that have been provided so far. What is clear is that many of the benefits for the middle class could dwindle over time, even while companies and wealthy individuals could enjoy lasting tax advantages. (11/2)

Stat: GOP Tax Plan Would End Student Loan Deduction Used By Young Doctors
Newly minted doctors and other health care workers may lose a critical tax deduction under the tax code overhaul House Republican leaders unveiled Thursday. The proposal repeals the student loan interest deduction — a policy that helped more than 12 million Americans who racked up education loans save up to $2,500 on their tax bills in 2015. The popular policy doesn’t require taxpayers to itemize their deductions to claim it — instead, it’s available to anyone paying interest on either private or public student loans who makes less than $80,000 in a year. (Mershon, 11/2)

The New York Times: Who Wins And Who Loses From The Republican Tax Plan
Under the Republican plan, the deduction for medical expenses would be eliminated. This currently applies to taxpayers, spouses or other dependents with health expenses that exceed a tenth of the taxpayer’s income. AARP, which advocates for retirees, said that they strongly opposed the repeal of the deduction and said that doing so would impose a “health tax” on the oldest and sickest Americans. (Rappeport, 11/2)

The Hill: Tax Bill Will Not Seek Repeal Of Individual Health Insurance Mandate 
The tax reform bill to be released Thursday will not include a repeal of ObamaCare's individual mandate, sources say, despite President Trump proposing the idea on Wednesday. Repealing the mandate would introduce a whole new area of controversy into the bill, and many Republicans think tax reform is hard enough without adding in health care. (Sullivan, 11/2)

The Hill: Trump Still Pushing For ObamaCare Mandate Repeal In Tax Bill 
President Trump told House Republicans in a meeting Thursday that he still wants to repeal ObamaCare's individual mandate in tax reform, perhaps in the Senate, according to two lawmakers in attendance.  "He just said he liked the idea and he had asked the senators about it and they said they were considering it," said Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), who was in attendance at the meeting of House leaders and Ways and Means Committee members with Trump at the White House. (Sullivan, 11/2)

The Washington Post: Senators Call For Crackdown On Pharmaceutical Industry ‘Revolving Door’ 
Seven Democratic U.S. senators on Thursday introduced legislation designed to slow the “revolving door” between federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the pharmaceutical companies they regulate. “The pharmaceutical industry has a deep-rooted and strong influence in Washington, and a revolving door between drug companies and government cannot undermine the safety of our communities,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who sponsored the bill. (Higham and Bernstein, 11/2)

Stat: A Bill Would Slow The Revolving Door Between Pharma And Federal Agencies 
To wit, the bill would increase the prohibition on former senior regulators lobbying the federal government from one to two years, and expand the definition of “lobbying contact” to include any lobbying activities and strategy. The Pharmaceutical Regulation Conflict of Interest Act would also require former senior regulators to recuse themselves from any official actions that directly or substantially benefit former employers or clients for whom they worked in the previous two years before joining the federal government. (Silverman, 11/2)

Stat: Trump Administration Strikes Policy That Some Say Helped Lower Drug Prices 
The Trump administration on Thursday boldly reversed an Obama-era policy that supporters said had helped lower prices for some costly drugs. The policy centers on so-called biosimilar drugs, which are highly similar versions of biologic drugs manufactured in living cells or microorganisms. The Obama administration designed certain Medicare payments to encourage more price competition among those biosimilar drugs. Trump’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will reverse that policy beginning Jan. 1, 2018. (Mershon, 11/2)

The Hill: Patrick Kennedy: At Least $100 Billion Needed To Fight Opioids
Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a member of the president’s opioid commission, is calling for a robust infusion of federal funds to combat the opioid epidemic, to the tune of $100 billion over 10 years. In an interview with The Hill, Kennedy stressed he views that dollar figure “just as a starting point, at a minimum, minimum, minimum.” (Roubein, 11/2)

Politico: The Opioid Crisis: Crucial Next Steps
America’s opioid epidemic has not abated. More than 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year — seven per hour, according to the White House. Most of those deaths were from prescription painkillers, heroin, fentanyl and related drugs. Though the illicit street drugs have added complicated and lethal dimensions to the public health crisis, the problem has its roots in legal painkillers — and pain itself. And while some parts of the country are hit harder than others, no place is immune. (11/1)

The New York Times: ‘Unbelievable’: Heart Stents Fail To Ease Chest Pain
A procedure used to relieve chest pain in hundreds of thousands of heart patients each year is useless for many of them, researchers reported on Wednesday. Their study focused on the insertion of stents, tiny wire cages, to open blocked arteries. The devices are lifesaving when used to open arteries in patients in the throes of a heart attack. (Kolata, 11/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Study Raises Questions About Stents In Some Heart Patients
The 200-patient study conducted by U.K. researchers found that patients with stable chest pain, or angina, who received stent devices experienced no significant improvement in exercise time on a treadmill, compared with similar patients who received no stents during sham procedures. All patients had received intensive treatment with heart drugs for six weeks before the real or fake procedures. (Loftus, 11/2)

The Associated Press: New Mexico Looks For Opioid Solutions Amid Tributes To Dead
A Day of the Dead altar with family photos of orphaned children in the arms of the departed stood as silent testimony to New Mexico's struggle to reduce the toll of opioid addiction, while state lawmakers and health care experts searched Thursday for new tools to combat deaths from the drug crisis gripping the nation. The unique display at a summit attended by some 300 people in the most Hispanic state comes amid Dia de Los Muertos, a Mexican holiday remembering loved ones who have died. (11/2)

The Associated Press: Texas Again Defends New Anti-Abortion Measures In Court
Texas defended new anti-abortion measures again Thursday in court following a string of defeats over efforts to change the disposal of fetal remains, deny Medicaid dollars to Planned Parenthood and outlaw a commonly used abortion method. The latest trial centers only on a new law Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed in June that bans a second-trimester abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. Federal courts in at least four other states have blocked similar measures. (11/2)

The Washington Post: The District's Troubled Public Hospital Did Not Disclose Key Details To Regulators After A 47-Year-Old Patient Died There In August
Officials at the District’s only public hospital failed to report to regulators key details about the death of a patient in the facility’s nursing home in August, an incident report submitted to the D.C. Department of Health shows. The report, obtained by The Washington Post through a public records request, left out information about the case of 47-year-old Warren Webb that would likely have triggered an investigation of the long-term care unit at beleaguered United Medical Center in Southeast Washington. (Jamison, 11/2)

The New York Times: Arrested Nurse Settles With Salt Lake City And University For $500,000
A Utah nurse who was forcefully detained by a police officer in July settled with the University of Utah and Salt Lake City on Tuesday for a total of $500,000. The rough arrest of the nurse, who had refused the officer’s request to draw a sedated patient’s blood as part of a police investigation, was captured on body camera video and viewed widely online. (Stevens, 11/2)

NPR: Imported Skin Creams Can Pose Unexpected Health Risks
A dermatologist in Washington, D.C., was surprised to discover that one of her patients was using a powerful steroid cream bought without a prescription to treat a rash. It turns out that the patient and the patient's family, who are from Africa, bought the cream, called Funbact-A, at a local store focused on African goods. It contained betamethasone, a high-strength steroid sold only by prescription in the U.S. Though high-dose steroids are often used to treat skin conditions, they can cause problems including skin atrophy, acne, severe rashes, infections and systemic reactions. (Jochem, 11/2)

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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