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KHN First Edition: November 20, 2017

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First Edition

Monday, November 20, 2017                       Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: FDA Raids Florida Stores That Consumers Use To Buy Drugs From Canada
The Food and Drug Administration last month sent criminal investigation agents with search warrants into nine storefronts across Central Florida that help customers order drugs from pharmacies in Canada and overseas at big discounts. The agents notified the store owners that importing drugs from foreign countries is illegal and that those helping to “administer” such medicines could face fines or jail time. (Galewitz, 11/20)

Kaiser Health News: Canadians Root For An Underdog U.S. Health Policy Idea
Ask people in Canada what they make of American health care, and the answer typically falls between bewilderment and outrage. Canada, after all, prides itself on a health system that guarantees government insurance for everyone. And many Canadians find it baffling that there’s anybody in the United States who can’t afford a visit to the doctor. (Luthra, 11/20)

California Healthline: Health Giant Sutter Destroys Evidence In Crucial Antitrust Case Over High Prices
Sutter Health intentionally destroyed 192 boxes of documents that employers and labor unions were seeking in a lawsuit that accuses the giant Northern California health system of abusing its market power and charging inflated prices, according to a state judge. In a ruling this week, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow said Sutter destroyed documents “knowing that the evidence was relevant to antitrust issues. … There is no good explanation for the specific and unusual destruction here.” (Terhune, 11/17)

Kaiser Health News: Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ Tax Bill Or Health Bill?
Republican efforts to alter the health law, left for dead in September, came roaring back to life this week as the Senate Finance Committee added a repeal of the “individual mandate” fines for not maintaining health insurance to their tax bill. In this episode of “What the Health?” Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Sarah Kliff of, Joanne Kenen of Politico and Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo discuss the other health implications of the tax bill, as well as the current state of the Affordable Care Act. (11/17)

Kaiser Health News: Shingles: Don’t Let It Get You The Way It Got Me
Shingles tried to kill me. Like an insidious invading army, the virus that more commonly causes chickenpox in children attacked the right side of my head, leaving me permanently deaf in my right ear. Shingles almost destroyed my voice box, too, and it caused my right eyelid and lower lip to temporarily droop. (Horovitz, 11/20)

Politico: Obamacare Mandate Repeal May Not Deliver Predicted Blow
Repealing Obamacare's individual mandate might not be the devastating blow to health insurance markets that supporters of the law fear. Because the tax penalty for not having insurance is far less costly than what many Americans would have to pay for coverage, many have chosen to take the fine. Eliminating it, therefore, might not radically change behavior — or fulfill the dire predictions of spiking premiums and vast increases in uninsured people that economists, health providers and politicians once predicted. (Haberkorn and Demko, 11/20)

The New York Times: Will Cutting The Health Mandate Pay For Tax Cuts? Not Necessarily
Alexia Manon Senior is 27 and healthy — the type of person who might be most tempted to forgo health insurance if Republicans enact a tax bill that repeals the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most Americans have coverage or pay a penalty. But Ms. Manon Senior, a graduate student in Miami, said she would hold tight to her coverage, at least as long as she keeps getting nearly $5,000 a year in government subsidies to pay for most of it. (Zernike and Goodnough, 11/19)

The Associated Press: White House Open To Striking Health Provision From Tax Bill
The White House says it's willing to strike a health-care provision from Senate legislation to cut taxes and overhaul the tax code if the provision becomes an impediment to passing one of President Donald Trump's top legislative priorities. The provision would repeal a requirement that everyone in the U.S. have health insurance or pay a fine, but has emerged as a major sticking point for Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, whose vote the White House needs. Collins said Sunday that the issue should be dealt with separately. (11/20)

The Hill: Collins: Pass Bipartisan ObamaCare Bills Before Mandate Repeal
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Sunday that she wants two bipartisan ObamaCare bills to pass before the Senate takes up a tax bill that repeals the health law’s individual mandate. Collins, a key swing vote on the tax bill, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that she did not think the mandate repeal should be in the tax bill, but she indicated she thinks the rise in premiums from repealing the mandate could be mitigated if two other bills passed first. (Sullivan, 11/19)

The Hill: Murkowski: ObamaCare Fix Not A Precondition
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Friday that passing a bipartisan ObamaCare bill is not necessarily a precondition for her to support a tax bill that repeals ObamaCare’s individual mandate. The statement posted on Murkowski’s Facebook page appeared to clarify comments she made to Roll Call on Thursday, which seemed to suggest that the bipartisan ObamaCare bill from Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was a prerequisite for her vote for the tax bill. (Sullivan, 11/17)

The Associated Press: Hard To Believe: Some Consumers Find Free Health Insurance
Consumers are getting the word that taxpayer-subsidized health plans are widely available for next year for no monthly premium or little cost, and marketing companies say they're starting to see an impact on sign-ups. "Free Obamacare Coverage in 2018," says an online pitch from insurance broker eHealth, showing a young woman with a big smile. "See if you qualify." (11/20)

The Associated Press: After Trial, Menendez Pitches Health Insurance Enrollment
A day after a mistrial was declared in his federal bribery trial, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez got back to work Friday and urged people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Menendez appeared alongside Democratic Rep. Albio Sires and Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto in West New York to rally those eligible for health coverage under former President Barack Obama's signature law. Open enrollment ends Dec. 15. (11/17)

The Hill: Arizona Supreme Court Upholds State's Medicaid Expansion
The Arizona Supreme Court on Friday upheld a critical component to keeping the state’s Medicaid expansion and preventing the number of people in the state’s Medicaid program from dipping. The high court unanimously ruled that a hospital assessment used to help pay for Medicaid expansion — where the federal government pays a majority of the tab but states are still on the hook for a smaller percentage — is constitutional. (Roubein, 11/17)

The Associated Press: Higher Premiums For Outpatient Coverage For Many On Medicare
Higher monthly premiums for outpatient coverage await many Medicare beneficiaries next year, the government says. The additional expense will eat away at an increase in their Social Security checks. The news about "Part B" premiums was buried in the fine print of a notice issued late Friday afternoon by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (11/18)

The Associated Press: Medicare 'Part B' Premiums To Rise Next Year For Many
Many Medicare beneficiaries will pay higher monthly premiums next year for outpatient coverage, an expense that will eat away at an increase in their Social Security checks, the government announced late Friday afternoon. The news about "Part B" premiums was buried in the fine print of a notice issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (11/17)

The Washington Post: Former Top Justice Official Went To Bat For Drug Giant Cardinal Health
In late January 2012, drug distributor Cardinal Health got word that the Drug Enforcement Administration was about to take action against the company’s Lakeland, Fla., warehouse, which supplied 36 million opioid painkillers to customers in three Southern states every month. Large numbers of pills had been leaking onto the black market and Cardinal had failed to report warning signs to the DEA, agency records show. Cardinal was concerned that the DEA was about to hit the warehouse with an “immediate suspension order” — a tactic that instantly halts all commerce in controlled substances. (Bernstein and Higham, 11/17)

The Washington Post: Counterfeit Opioid Pills Are Tricking Users — Sometimes With Lethal Results
More than two dozen patients were rushed into an emergency room in Macon, Ga., over two days with the same array of life-threatening symptoms, including organ failure and sepsis, flummoxing doctors. But after their breathing tubes were removed, the patients revealed a common thread: All had taken what they believed were Percocet pills they had bought on the street. Although they looked like the prescription painkillers at first glance, the pills they took were nothing like what they expected. (Zezima, 11/19)

The Associated Press: ‘It Never Really Leaves You.’ Opioids Haunt Users’ Recovery
It’s hard to say whether businessman Kyle Graves hit rock bottom when he shot himself in the ankle so emergency room doctors would feed his opioid habit or when he broke into a safe to steal his father’s cancer pain medicine. For straight-talking ex-trucker Jeff McCoy, it was when he grabbed a gun and threatened to blow his brains out if his mother didn’t hand over his fentanyl patches. (Tanner, 11/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Why Opioid Addicts Find M.A.T. Hard To Come By
Drug overdoses killed 64,000 Americans last year — most of them involving painkillers or other opioids. Addiction experts are in wide agreement on the most effective way to help addicts: medication-assisted treatment. They say that wider adoption of this method would save lives. But most inpatient rehab facilities in the U.S. don’t offer this option, and there’s a shortage of doctors in rural areas that are able to prescribe these highly-controlled medications. (Bellini, 11/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Two Months After Maria, Puerto Rico’s Health System Struggles To Meet Needs
In western Puerto Rico, Oscar Corzo, a New York physician, was treating a woman for her chronic illnesses this month when he noticed a group of her neighbors had gathered to ask for help. “Almost kind of organically, there was a waiting room,” said Dr. Corzo, who stayed on the woman’s porch for two hours treating her neighbors. “It really struck me because it told me what need there was.” (Evans, 11/19)

The Hill: Congress Faces Growing Health Care Crisis In Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s Medicaid funding crisis is deepening, adding yet another issue for Congress to deal with in what is sure to be a hectic December. Hurricane Maria caused serious damage to Puerto Rico’s health-care system, and none of the federal disaster relief money to date has been earmarked for the Medicaid program. (Weixel, 11/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Two Critical Reports Indicate Problems Persist At VA
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ internal watchdog criticized the agency in new reports this week for problems it has struggled for years to address, including providing timely treatment for vulnerable veterans. One report from the VA’s Office of Inspector General detailed how a patient suffering from mental-health issues took his own life while waiting for treatment and after canceled appointments. (Kesling, 11/17)

The New York Times: Jesse Jackson Announces He Has Parkinson’s Disease
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, the longtime civil rights leader and former Democratic presidential candidate, said Friday he has Parkinson’s disease. In a letter posted on Twitter on Friday afternoon, Mr. Jackson, 76, shared the news and his struggle to accept it. “Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful, and I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it,” he wrote. “For me, a Parkinson’s diagnosis is not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression.” (Chokshi, 11/17)

The New York Times: What Is Parkinsonism?
Parkinsonism refers to a group of movement abnormalities — such as stiffness, slowness, shuffling of the feet and often tremor — that are classic features of Parkinson’s disease but that can also be caused by medications and other disorders with overlapping symptoms, said Dr. Michael S. Okun, a neurologist and the national medical director of the Parkinson’s Foundation. He said that he makes no assumptions about the cause of parkinsonism “until I see the patient and pinpoint the diagnosis.” (Rabin, 11/17)

The Associated Press: Advocacy Groups: Killings Of Transgender People Increase
At least 25 transgender people in the United States have been homicide victims so far this year, the highest annual total on record, according to advocacy groups that have been monitoring the grim phenomenon and seeking ways to reduce the toll. The Human Rights Campaign, in a report released Friday, calculated that 102 transgender people have been killed in the U.S. over the past five years — including 25 this year. Its report, jointly sponsored by the Trans People of Color Coalition, was issued ahead of Monday's annual Transgender Day of Remembrance observations, commemorating the hundreds of transgender people killed worldwide each year. (11/17)

The Associated Press: Theo’s Journey: A Transgender Child At War With His Body
Theo Ramos learned how to cut himself when he was in fifth grade, when his body seemed to revolt. Exploring online was easy, with hashtags like #scars, #hurt and #brokeninside. Nothing made sense back then, but Theo absorbed what he saw on websites like a religion. All he could focus on was how the exterior he was born with — that of a girl — didn’t look or feel right. That was six years ago, when he had another name and a different gender. (Lush, 11/20)

Stat: 1 In 5 Shows PTSD Symptoms After Cancer Diagnosis, Study Finds
Roughly 1 in 5 cancer patients developed post-traumatic stress disorder within six months of their diagnosis — and a small percentage still experienced trauma-related symptoms six years later, according to new research. Cancer patients and psychologists have long known a cancer diagnosis can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, even when patients manage to drive their disease into remission. (Tedeschi, 11/20)

The New York Times: Bird Flu Is Spreading In Asia, Experts (Quietly) Warn
While trying to avoid alarmism, global health agencies are steadily ratcheting up concern about bird flu in Asia. Bird viruses that can infect humans — particularly those of the H7N9 strain — continue to spread to new cities there. Since October 2016, China has seen a “fifth wave” of H7N9 infections. Nearly 1,600 people have tested positive, almost 40 percent of whom have died. (McNeil, 11/17)

NPR: Odds Are They're Taking Your Blood Pressure All Wrong
When was the last time you were asked to sit without saying a word for five minutes before your blood pressure was measured? If your answer was "I never remember doing that," you're in good company. Yet that is one of the many rules that medical professionals are supposed to follow when measuring your blood pressure. (Harris, 11/20)

The Washington Post: A Standing Desk Isn’t Going To Help You Lose A Lot Of Weight
From the Apple Watch to standing desks, a number of products attempt to get users to stand more and sit less. But how many more calories do you burn, and can this help you lose weight? A new study set out to answer these questions by analyzing data from nearly 50 previous studies on the topic. The studies included more than 1,100 people in total. All of these earlier studies measured the difference between calories burned while sitting vs. standing. (Rettner, 11/19)

The Washington Post: Napping On The Job May Turn Out To Be A Very Good Idea For A Sleep-Deprived Nation
President Trump prides himself on getting by with just four or five hours of sleep at night, which leaves him plenty of time early in the morning to scan cable TV news and tweet before going to work. During last year’s rough-and-tumble campaign, he scoffed at ­“low-energy” rivals Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat Hillary Clinton for carving out nap time. “No naps for Trump! I don’t nap,” the 71-year-old Trump bellowed during one campaign stop. “We don’t have time.” (Pianin, 11/19)

NPR: Young Men, Frequent Drivers Most Likely To Get Distracted While Driving
If you're reading this on your phone while driving, stop it. Especially if you're a young neurotic extroverted guy who drives a lot. Two seconds of attention to the insistent beeping and blinking of our mobile phones or simply changing the radio station accounts for at least 12 percent of car accidents worldwide and 14 percent of them in the U.S., according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. (Fulton, 11/17)

The Washington Post: A Dying Vet Needed CPR. Hidden Video Shows His Nurse Laughing Instead.
By the late winter of 2014, James Dempsey had served in a world war, raised children, buried a wife and seen the best of his health behind him. As he prepared for a stay at a nursing home on the outskirts of Atlanta, the 89-year-old began to feel nervous. So his family hid a camera in his room at Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation, Dempsey’s son later told WSB-TV. His father knew about it, he said, but the nurses didn’t. (Selk, 11/18)

The Wall Street Journal: New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio Knew Of Lead-Compliance Failure
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has known the city’s housing authority wasn’t complying with lead-inspection regulations since last year, his office said Sunday. In a report issued last week, the city’s Department of Investigation said the New York City Housing Authority submitted false claims to the federal government showing it had conducted lead-paint inspections when the required work hadn’t been done for years. (Vilensky and Gay, 11/19)

The New York Times: 2 Housing Authority Officials Resign After False Lead Paint Reports
Amid escalating outcry over false reports filed by the city related to lead paint inspections in public housing, the de Blasio administration on Friday announced that two senior officials at the city’s Housing Authority had resigned and another had been demoted. The administration also said in an emailed statement, sent late in the afternoon, that the Housing Authority would create a department to oversee regulatory compliance and the accuracy of reports. (Goodman, 11/17)

Los Angeles Times: Tijuana Cosmetic Surgery Clinic Under Scrutiny In Downey Woman’s Death
Irma Saenz told family members she was going to Tijuana for the day. But she didn't tell them what for: The 51-year-old Downey resident had scheduled a liposuction procedure at a cosmetic surgery clinic. Four days later, Saenz was in a coma when an ambulance brought her across the border, her relatives said. She died on Nov. 11, nearly two weeks later, at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, after her family made the decision to take her off life support. (Dibble, 11/18)

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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