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KHN First Edition: October 31, 2017


First Edition

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: 5 Things To Know About ACA At Year 5
Open enrollment for people who buy their own health insurance starts Wednesday and ends Dec. 15 this year. That’s 45 days, six weeks shorter than last year — and only one of the big changes consumers need to consider. The Trump administration has cut back on marketing and funding for navigators to help people through the process. Here are five important factors to keep in mind if you plan to sign up for 2018 coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Rovner and Appleby, 10/31)

Kaiser Health News: Postcard From Canada: In The Land Of Single-Payer, Bernie Sanders Gets Hero’s Welcome
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wasn’t scheduled to come onstage to talk health care until after 11 a.m. But college students started lining up as early as 5 a.m. — the Sunday morning of Halloween weekend, no less — in the hopes of scoring what appeared to be the weekend’s hot ticket. In Washington, D.C., Sanders is often portrayed as a radical, a politician on the fringe. The popularity of his 2017 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination caught party insiders off-guard and much of the political establishment views his signature single-payer health plan as unworkable or impractical. (Luthra, 10/30)

California Healthline: Stoked! Weed May Light The Flame For A Roll In The Hay
California already has medical marijuana. Now there’s evidence that pot might work as “marital marijuana,” revving up sex drives in both men and women. The exact nature of the cannabis-coitus connection remains unresolved, but researchers attempted to cut through the haze with a new study published in the November issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine. (Feibel, 10/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Health Premiums To Rise, Trump Administration Says
Dozens of insurers are leaving the Affordable Care Act’s federal insurance exchange, and consumers who don’t get premium help will see some rates for popular plans jump by more than 30% next year, according to a Trump administration report released Monday. The data, which come just before Wednesday’s launch of open enrollment under the ACA, is likely to add to debate over whether the Obama-era law is failing, or whether it is being sabotaged by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump. (Armour, 10/30)

The Hill: HHS Report: ObamaCare Premiums Rise Significantly
Premiums for ObamaCare plans are rising significantly in many counties across the country according to a new government report, which experts have largely attributed to actions taken by the Trump administration. According to the report from the Department of Health and Human Services, premiums are increasing for the average "benchmark" plans by about 37 percent. But tax credit subsidies are also rising, meaning more people will be able to purchase insurance at lower rates. (Weixel, 10/30)

The Washington Post: Fifth Year’s ACA Enrollment Season Opening With Daunting Obstacles
In Indianapolis, the director of the state’s largest organization helping people find Affordable Care Act insurance had to lay off nine of 13 staff members last month because the federal government had just taken away more than 80 percent of the grant that paid for their work. In Atlanta, festivalgoers at the annual Pride weekend in mid-October were mystified that members of Insure Georgia had a table set up, because they thought President Trump had gotten rid of the health-care law. (Goldstein and Eilperin, 10/30)

NPR: Increased Cost Of Health Policies Will Be Offset By Subsidies For Many
It's time to start shopping for health insurance if you're one of the millions who buys it on an Affordable Care Act exchange. Open enrollment for 2018 starts Wednesday, and new numbers released by the Trump Administration show that the average cost of a benchmark policy will be about 27 percent higher next year. But that's just the headline. The details suggest there's good news for lots of people who are willing to shop around a bit for insurance. (Kodjak, 10/30)

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Insurance Markets Open This Week Amid Confusion And Uncertainty
Health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act begin accepting 2018 applications Wednesday amid mounting concern that the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on the law will dramatically depress enrollment. The marketplaces -- a centerpiece of the law commonly called Obamacare -- continue to provide coverage for some 10 million people. And they remain the only option for many low- and moderate-income Americans who don’t get health benefits through an employer or a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid. (Levey, 10/31)

The Associated Press: 'Obamacare' Curveball: Free Insurance In 1,500-Plus Counties
In an odd twist, low-income people in about half of U.S. counties will now be able to get a taxpayer-subsidized "Obamacare" policy for free, according to a new study that suggests some actions by President Donald Trump against the health law could backfire. Monday's analysis of government data by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation runs counter to the perception of staggering across-the-board increases in costs for consumers under the Affordable Care Act. It could become a springboard for marketing pitches by insurers as they try to sign up more consumers when open enrollment starts Nov. 1. (10/30)

Modern Healthcare: 10 Ways The Trump Administration Proposes To Loosen ACA Market Rules
The CMS Friday issued a proposed rule to carry out President Donald Trump's January executive order to relax Affordable Care Act requirements on consumers, insurers and other healthcare industry groups. The agency said the goal is to give states greater flexibility to take steps to stabilize the individual and small-group insurance markets and increase health plan affordability. The rule would take effect in 2019. Public comments are due by Nov. 27. (Meyer, 10/30)

The Hill: House, Trump Admin Seek To Keep ObamaCare Payments On Hold
The House and the Trump administration are asking to keep a pause on a years-long court battle over the legality of crucial ObamaCare payments to insurers, while Democratic attorneys general are seeking for the case to proceed. In 2014, the House sued the Obama administration, arguing it was funding key payments to insurers illegally, alleging that there wasn’t a direct appropriation from Congress. The House won, and the Obama administration appealed the ruling. (Roubein, 10/30)

The Hill: Hatch Doesn't Rule Out ObamaCare Mandate Repeal In Tax Reform
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is not ruling out a push by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) to repeal ObamaCare's individual mandate in tax-reform legislation. Asked if he is open to repealing the mandate as part of a tax-reform bill, Hatch said Monday: "Sure, I didn't think it should be there to begin with.” (Sullivan, 10/30)

The Hill: Bipartisan Lawmakers Urge Health Center Funding Reauthorization
A bipartisan group of more than 150 lawmakers is calling for Congress to reauthorize critical funding for community health centers, which care for some of the nation’s most vulnerable patients. A noncontroversial part of ObamaCare was the creation of a special trust fund for community health centers, which serve more than 25 million people regardless of their ability to pay for their medical services. The money accounts for 70 percent of federal grant funding for community health centers, and the dollars — reauthorized in 2015 — expired at the end of September. (Roubein, 10/30)

The Associated Press: Maine Medicaid Expansion Vote Seen As Obamacare Referendum
The roiling national debate over the government's proper role in health care is coming to a head in a state more commonly known for moose, lobster and L.L. Bean. On Nov. 7, voters in Maine will decide whether to join 31 other states and expand Medicaid under former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. It is the first time since the law took effect nearly four years ago that the expansion question has been put to voters. (10/31)

Stat: Trump Opioid Commission Will Recommend Nationwide Drug Courts
President Trump’s commission on combating the opioid epidemic plans to encourage the federal government to establish drug courts in every federal judicial district, adjust reimbursement rates for addiction treatment, and streamline federal funding used by state and local governments to implement drug treatment and prevention programs, according to a draft of the panel’s final report. Those steps are among the 53 recommendations laid out in the draft, a copy of which was obtained by STAT. The final report is set to be released on Wednesday. (Facher, 10/30)

Stat: Investor Groups Pressure Drug Makers And Wholesalers Over Opioids
A coalition of 30 state treasurers, pension funds, and faith-based groups are filing shareholder proposals asking 10 drug makers and distributors to investigate how these companies are responding to the increased business risks caused by the opioid crisis. In announcing their plans, the coalition noted that drug makers are coming under increasing “legal and legislative scrutiny” for allegedly failing to disclose the addictive potential of opioid painkillers, and that distributors are being pressured to do a better job of reporting suspicious orders to state and federal authorities. (Silverman, 10/30)

Bloomberg: Opioid Makers Faces Heat From Investors With $1.3 Trillion
Drug companies that profit from opioids need to do more to limit the risks of the addictive products and protect shareholders against losses, according to a group of investors managing more than $1.3 trillion. Investors for Opioid Accountability plans to file shareholder proposals on board oversight of business risks at 10 manufacturers and distributors, the coalition of unions, public pension funds and state treasurers said Monday in an emailed statement. (Melin, 10/30)

The New York Times: Judge Blocks Trump’s Ban On Transgender Troops In Military
A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked a White House policy barring military service by transgender troops, ruling that it was based on “disapproval of transgender people generally.” Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia found the administration’s justification for the ban, which was set to take effect in March 2018, to be suspect and likely unconstitutional. She ruled that the military’s current policy should remain in place. (Philipps, 10/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Judge Blocks Trump’s Transgender Military Ban For Now
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, D.C., ruled preliminarily that Mr. Trump’s ban, announced on Twitter in July and formalized in a presidential memorandum in August, is likely unconstitutional. She issued an injunction that bars its implementation for now while legal proceedings continue. The 76-page decision came in response to a lawsuit brought by current and aspiring members of the armed services. Judge Kollar-Kotelly, a Bill Clinton appointee, said the policy likely violated the Constitution’s guarantee of due process under the law. (Kendall and Lubold, 10/30)

The New York Times: What Experts Know About Men Who Rape
Over the past few weeks, women across the world have recounted tales of harassment and sexual assault by posting anecdotes to social media with the hashtag #MeToo. Even just focusing on the second category, the biographies of the accused are so varied that they seem to support Dr. Smithyman’s observation. But more recent research suggests that there are some commonalities. In the decades since his paper, scientists have been gradually filling out a picture of men who commit sexual assaults. (Murphy, 10/30)

The Associated Press: Doctors Prepare For Deep Dive Into Las Vegas Shooter's Brain
Scientists are preparing to do a microscopic study of the Las Vegas gunman’s brain, but whatever they find, if anything, likely won’t be what led him to kill 58 people in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, experts said. Stephen Paddock’s brain is being sent to Stanford University for a months-long examination after a visual inspection during an autopsy found no abnormalities, Las Vegas authorities said. (10/30)

The Associated Press: FDA Moves To Ax Claim For Heart Benefits From Soy Foods
U.S. regulators want to remove a health claim about the heart benefits of soy from cartons of soy milk, tofu, and other foods, saying the latest scientific evidence no longer shows a clear connection. Monday’s announcement by the Food and Drug Administration marks the first time the agency has moved to revoke a health food claim since it began approving such statements in 1990. The claim that soy protein can reduce heart disease appears on about 200 to 300 products in the U.S., according to industry figures, including popular brands like Silk soy milk. (10/30)

The Washington Post: Eating A High-Protein Diet May Not Be Good For Good.
If there’s one claim that’s almost certain to boost sales of a food these days, it’s to say the item is high in protein. Consumers cannot seem to get enough protein — they often turn to it because they’ve shunned carbohydrates, and also associate it with increased muscle mass. While many nutritionists say eating extra is usually harmless — if it’s part of a balanced diet and doesn’t all come from animal sources — and small increases can indeed help with weight control by increasing satiety, others are not convinced, citing the lack of long-term research on high-protein diets. (Cernansky, 10/30)

Los Angeles Times: The 9 Worst Things You Can Do To Your Teeth
It’s that scary time of year — sugar season. You might know it as Halloween, when Americans are predicted to buy $2.7 billion worth of candy, according to the National Retail Federation. However, dentists and wary parents know the holiday is the unofficial launch of a sweets bacchanal that starts with trick-or-treat candy, and continues with Thanksgiving pie, Christmas cookies, Valentine’s chocolates and Easter jelly beans, and ends with an expensive trip to the dentist. (Herman, 10/30)

The Washington Post: Medication Can Be Used To Treat People With Alcoholism But They Are Underprescribed
Excessive alcohol use is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States. Some 88,000 Americans died of alcohol-related causes every year between 2006 and 2010, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s far higher than the latest numbers of annual deaths from drug overdoses (64,000), breast cancer (42,000) or prostate cancer (28,000). Surveys suggest that more than 15 million American adults suffer from alcohol dependence or abuse within a given year. (Morris, 10/30)

Stateline: Why It’s Hard To Crack Down On Drowsy Driving
Whether it’s working the night shift, caring for a newborn, studying all night for exams, or simply living in a 24/7 society, Americans are sleep-deprived — and that can be deadly on the nation’s roads. To draw attention to the problem, some states have passed resolutions, posted messages on highways, and required information to be included in driver’s education courses and driver’s manuals. But few have stepped up enforcement, trained police officers to detect when a driver hasn’t gotten enough sleep, or enacted criminal penalties if drowsy driving results in a fatality. (Bergal, 10/31)

NPR: How A Person Responds To Certain Words May Predict Whether They Are Suicidal
People who are thinking about killing themselves appear to have distinctive brain activity that can now be measured by a computer. In these people, words like "death" and "trouble" produce a distinctive "neural signature" not found in others, scientists report in the journal Nature Human Behavior. More than 44,000 people commit suicide in the U.S. each year. (Hamilton, 10/30)

Stat: In Yale Basement, A 'Shop Of Horrors' Concealed Medical History
At some point, the brains in the basement were definitely going to become a draw. How could they not? There were hundreds of them, all floating in clear jars with peeling yellowed labels: a grim diagnosis; a person’s name. Plus, this wasn’t just any basement. It lay beneath Yale’s medical school dorm, and behind a locked door that could be breached with a screwdriver. (Tedeschi, 10/31)

NPR: Clinics And Doctor's Offices In Puerto Rico Struggle To Operate
Forty days after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, most of the U.S. territory remains without power. Over the weekend, the island's power company fired a key contractor working to restore electrical service. The cancellation of the $300 million contract with Whitefish Energy, after the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies expressed significant concerns about the deal, is expected to further delay the return of power throughout Puerto Rico. (Baeubien, 10/30)

The Washington Post: Toddler Hospitalized After His Father’s Arrest Postponed Kidney Donation
A toddler who was prevented from receiving a kidney transplant from his father was reportedly rushed to an emergency room Sunday with an abdominal infection. Two-year-old A.J. Burgess was set to receive the transplant earlier this month when his father, who is a match, said he was told he had to wait to donate a kidney following a probation violation and stint in county jail. The incident has prompted questions and concerns in a case that one expert has called befuddling. (Bever, 10/30)

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Sues For Second Time Over Abortion Law
For the second time, Planned Parenthood is suing Missouri over a portion of its new abortion law, this time involving requirements for administering abortion pills. A woman undergoing a medication abortion takes one pill at an abortion clinic and generally takes a second pill at home. In a federal lawsuit filed Monday in Kansas City, Planned Parenthood seeks to block part of the law, known as complication plan regulation, which requires those who provide the medication to contract with an obstetrician-gynecologist with admitting privileges at a hospital. The ob-gyn must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to treat any complications from a medication abortion, KCUR reported . (10/30)

The Washington Post: ‘Simply Unacceptable’: D.C. Council Members Press Hospital Operator On Patient’s Death
D.C. Council members said they were “gravely” worried about patients’ safety at the District’s only public hospital in a tense hearing Monday, as the executives who run the troubled facility pledged to improve. The D.C. Council health committee hearing focused on the performance of Veritas of Washington, a firm led by campaign donors to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), which has managed United Medical Center for a fee of $300,000 per month since 2016. The council must decide in the coming weeks whether to renew the contract. (Jamison, 10/30)

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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