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KHN First Edition: August 10, 2015


First Edition

Monday, August 10, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: For Marginalized Patients, BOOM!Health Is ‘A Great Model’
Kaiser Health News staff writer Lisa Gillespie reports: "Harm reduction centers — where drug users and sex workers can get clean needles, syringes, free condoms and HIV prevention information — have existed for decades. They’ve generally operated on the outskirts of the health care system and pieced together shoestring budgets with the help of state and federal programs as well as private donations. But harm reduction centers are increasingly trying to reposition themselves as a commodity for hospitals and insurers because of their unique experience in coordinating care for high-risk and often marginalized patients." (Gillespie, 8/10)

The New York Times: Medicare, Reversing Itself, Will Pay More For An Expensive New Cancer Drug
The Obama administration has decided that Medicare will pay for one of the newest, most expensive cancer medications, which costs about $178,000 for a standard course of treatment. Patients, doctors, hospital executives and insurers have expressed concern about the high cost of prescription drugs, especially new cancer medicines and treatments tailored to the genetic characteristics of individual patients. Medicare officials recognized the cost and value of one such product, the anticancer drug Blincyto, by agreeing to make additional payments for it starting Oct. 1. The drug is made by Amgen for patients with a particularly aggressive form of leukemia. The decision suggests a new willingness by Medicare to help pay for promising therapies that are still being evaluated. It is also significant because Medicare officials reversed themselves on every major scientific issue involved. (Pear, 8/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Select Medical May See Effects Of New Medicare Rules Before Some Rivals
New Medicare-payment rules for long-term hospitals that will begin to take place later this year are expected to disruptive throughout the industry. But some facilities owned by Select Medical Holdings Corp. will face the changes months before hospitals run by some of its rivals. In a call with investors Friday, Select Chief Executive Robert Ortenzio said the federal Medicare agency had blocked the company’s plan to change many of Select’s hospitals fiscal-reporting years to delay the impact of the changes. (Weaver, 8/7)

The New York Times: Court Says 4 Catholic Nonprofits Must Allow Workers Access To Contraception
Four Roman Catholic nonprofits in New York must allow employees access to contraception, a federal appeals court panel ruled on Friday, reversing a decision by a lower court that allowed the organizations to get around a requirement in the Affordable Care Act. Six other circuit courts around the country deciding on similar arguments involving religious groups have come to similar conclusions, the unanimous three-judge panel noted in its decision, which was written by Judge Rosemary S. Pooler for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York. Other cases are still pending. (Clifford, 8/7)

The Associated Press: Catholic Groups Lose Another Contraceptive Court Ruling
Another federal appeals court Friday ruled against Catholic church-affiliated groups that oppose being required to provide contraceptive care to employees through a third party. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a Brooklyn judge's ruling affecting over 25,000 employees at two high schools, six hospitals, three nursing homes and several nonprofits. The appeals court in Manhattan said an Affordable Care Act provision that lets religion-related entities put the burden for providing contraceptive care services on third parties does not erode religious rights. (Neumeister, 8/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Medical Identity Theft And How To Avoid It
The fast-growing crime of medical identity theft is being fueled by the proliferation of electronic medical records and a sharp increase in data breaches at insurers and health care providers. ... Five things to know about medical ID theft and how to prevent it. (Armour, 8/7)

The Wall Street Journal: How Identity Theft Sticks You With Hospital Bills
In a twist on identity theft, crooks are using personal data stolen from millions of Americans to get health care, prescriptions and medical equipment. Victims sometimes only find out when they get a bill or a call from a debt collector. They can wind up with the thief’s health data folded into their own medical charts. A patient’s record may show she has diabetes when she doesn’t, say, or list a blood type that isn’t hers—errors that can lead to dangerous diagnoses or treatments. Adding insult to injury, a victim often can’t fully examine his own records because the thief’s health data, now folded into his, are protected by medical-privacy laws. And hospitals sometimes continue to hound victims for payments they didn’t incur. (Armour, 8/7)

The Washington Post: As Campaign Heats Up, Republican Candidates Are Rushing To The Right
ut it could also cause the eventual nominee problems in a general election with a more moderate electorate. On social issues ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage, much of the Republican field has now taken positions that are at odds with mainstream American opinion. For example, 3 out of 4 Americans say a woman should be able to obtain a legal abortion if she becomes pregnant as a result of rape. (Sullivan, 8/7)

Politico: Jeb Bush Role In Michael Bloomberg Charity Gets Attention Read More
Jeb Bush’s involvement with a philanthropy headed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, which partnered with Planned Parenthood on a $50 million global reproductive health initiative, is coming under scrutiny just as abortion is re-emerging as a top campaign issue. The former Florida governor served as a Bloomberg Family Foundation director from March 2010 until he stepped down in late 2014, earning roughly $37,000. During those years, the foundation worked with Planned Parenthood to expand women’s health programs in Africa and Central America. The association with the women’s health provider is politically fraught at a time when the group has been accused of selling the tissue of aborted fetuses — a charge it denies. (Pradhan, 8/10)

The New York Times: Similarities Aside, Bernie Sanders Isn’t Rerunning Howard Dean’s 2004 Race
Both men are New York natives who live in Burlington, Vt.; they avoid talk of themselves or their biographies, and display irritation with many of the conventions of the way campaigns are conducted and covered. Both call for universal health care, though the appeal has less resonance now than it did before the Affordable Care Act was passed. Both have seemed to strike a chord that suggests impatience with the more establishment Democrats in the contest, whether Hillary Rodham Clinton today or John Kerry and John Edwards, senators from Massachusetts and North Carolina, in 2004. And both have drawn fervent crowds who embrace their philosophy and celebrate their candidate-as-fighter styles. ... Still, what may prove more significant, as Democrats begin to focus on the choice ahead of them and attention shifts from the Republican contest after last week’s debate, are the ways in which the two liberals from Vermont are different. (Nagourney, 10/9)

The Associated Press: Facing Rising Dental Costs, Seniors Head To Mexico
Mark Bolzern traveled 3,700 miles to go to the dentist. The 56-year-old Anchorage, Alaska, native left home this spring, made a pit stop in Las Vegas to pick up a friend, and kept heading south, all the way to Los Algodones, Mexico, a small border town teeming with dental offices. About 60 percent of Americans have dental insurance coverage, the highest it has been in decades. But even so, the nation's older population has been largely left behind. (8/19)

Los Angeles Times: For Underserved Patients, Hygienists Treating Cavities Is Something To Smile About
That is changing with a new California law that authorizes dental hygienists to treat cavities without a dentist on site by placing low-cost, temporary fillings. Shore is one of the first dental hygienists in Southern California who will be certified to apply the fillings, called interim therapeutic restorations, under the law that took effect in January. She joined two dozen other dental hygiene educators and dentists Saturday for a two-day training program conducted by Northern California-based University of the Pacific on the campus of West Coast University in Anaheim. (Barboza, 8/9)

NPR: Will Doctors Soon Be Prescribing Video Games For Mental Health?
Developers of a new video game for your brain say theirs is more than just another get-smarter-quick scheme. Akili, a Northern California startup, insists on taking the game through a full battery of clinical trials so it can get approval from the Food and Drug Administration — a process that will take lots of money and several years. (Dembosky, 8/10)

USA Today: Cities Put Nurse Practitioners Alongside Paramedics
A home-bound heart patient called 911. His leg hurt where a catheter was inserted, but he didn't complain of chest pains. To paramedic Scott Fox, it was the kind of call that might have meant automatically rushing the man to a hospital emergency room. "There was no talking him out of it," Fox recalls. But now he had another option. (Smouse, 8/9)

The New York Times: Psychologists Approve Ban On Role In National Security Interrogations
The American Psychological Association on Friday overwhelmingly approved a new ban on any involvement by psychologists in national security interrogations conducted by the United States government, even noncoercive interrogations now conducted by the Obama administration. ... The vote followed an emotional debate in which several members said the ban was needed to restore the organization’s reputation after a scathing independent investigation ordered by the association’s board. (Risen, 8/7)

NPR: Psychology Group Votes To Ban Members From Taking Part In Interrogations
The American Psychological Association voted Friday in favor of a resolution that would bar its members from participating in national security interrogations. The resolution by the country's largest professional organization of psychologists passed overwhelmingly. The only dissenting vote came from Col. Larry James, a former Army intelligence psychologist at Guantanamo. (Temple-Raston, 8/7)

Los Angeles Times: Superbug Outbreaks: Device Maker Olympus Reports 14% Jump In Scope Sales
Embattled device maker Olympus Corp. posted a 14% increase in sales of medical scopes worldwide despite health officials linking its instruments to superbug outbreaks at U.S. hospitals. The Japanese company, which also makes cameras and microscopes, said Thursday that the strong performance of its gastrointestinal endoscopes led to record-breaking sales and profit for its medical business in the latest quarter ending June 30. The company's increased sales have sparked criticism from some federal lawmakers and patient advocates who say it's wrong for Olympus to benefit financially because design flaws in its duodenoscopes have contributed to the spread of deadly bacterial infections. (Terhune and sen, 8/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Members of Congress Call On GAO To Investigate Surgical Tool
Twelve members of Congress sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office Friday asking the agency to investigate a controversial gynecological device that can spread cancer in women. ... A GAO investigation would heighten scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval and monitoring of the power morcellator, which had been used in tens of thousands of minimally invasive procedures a year. The device is used primarily in hysterectomies, to slice up common benign uterine masses known as fibroids so the bulky tissue could be removed through tiny incisions. (Levitz, 8/7)

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Supervisors To Weigh Proposed Merger Of Health Agencies
Los Angeles County supervisors are poised to decide whether to go forward with a proposed overhaul of three health agencies, the latest in a series of moves to restructure county government since last year's election ushered in a new board majority. In January, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich proposed a merger of the Department of Health Services, which runs county hospitals and clinics; the Department of Public Health, which investigates disease outbreaks, inspects restaurants and runs substance abuse treatment and STD prevention programs; and the Department of Mental Health, which oversees treatment programs for county residents struggling with the most severe forms of mental illness. (Sewell, 8/10)

The New York Times: Court Forbids F.D.A. From Blocking Truthful Promotion of Drug
A federal judge said on Friday that the Food and Drug Administration could not prohibit the truthful promotion of a drug for unapproved uses because doing so would violate the protection of free speech. The decision, by a district judge in Manhattan, could inhibit the ability of the F.D.A. to regulate one aspect of pharmaceutical marketing. Pharmaceutical companies have collectively paid billions of dollars in fines in recent years after being accused of marketing drugs for unapproved uses. (Pollack, 8/7)

The Washington Post: FDA Barred From Restricting Company’s Promotion Of Fish-Oil Drug
A federal judge barred the Food and Drug Administration from blocking a drug company’s efforts to promote an unapproved use for pills derived from fish oil, saying the firm’s claims are protected by the First Amendment. U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer granted Amarin Corp. preliminary relief. ... Amarin’s suit against the FDA will continue, but the company will be allowed to begin marketing the off-label use immediately, under the judge’s decision. (Johnson, 8/7)

The Washington Post: How This Chemist Unwittingly Helped Spawn The Synthetic Drug Industry
John W. Huffman is his name. But he is better known by his initials: JWH. In the world of synthetic drugs, few letters carry greater notoriety. They have materialized on thousands of advertisements selling what are known as synthetic cannabinoids or marijuana. And government authorities have banned nine JWH substances, making him arguably the nation’s most prolific inventor of outlawed synthetic marijuana. Huffman’s compounds, experts say, laid some of the earliest groundwork for what has become a scourge of cheaply made, mass-produced synthetic drugs wreaking havoc in the District and beyond. (McCoy, 8/9)

The Associated Press: Accessing Care Especially Difficult For Latinos On Medi-Cal
Miriam Uribe enrolled in California's low-income health insurance program last November, and she still hasn't found a primary care doctor 10 months later who could see her. ... Uribe isn't alone. Even though Latinos make up nearly half of California's 12.5 million Medi-Cal enrollees, a report by the independent California HealthCare Foundation found that 36 percent of the Spanish-speaking Medi-Cal population has been told that a physician won't take them, compared to 7 percent of the overall Medi-Cal population. Even those who speak both English and Spanish reported similar difficulty accessing doctors. (Lin, 8/8)

The Washington Post: Fairfax County Launching Program To Reduce Mentally Ill Population At Jail
Fairfax County [Virginia] is launching a program to reduce the number of mentally ill inmates at its jail by diverting nonviolent offenders experiencing crises into treatment instead of incarceration. The move follows the high-profile case of Natasha McKenna, a schizophrenic woman who died in February after a team of sheriff’s deputies at the jail repeatedly used a Taser on her and hit her when she resisted their efforts to transfer her to another facility. About 40 percent of the jail’s 1,100 inmates suffer from mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction, or both, the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office has said. (Jouvenal, 8/8)

Los Angeles Times: What Last Weekend's Rave Looked Like To ER Doctors
The pace is rarely slow at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center during weekends. But it was heart-poundingly faster when Live Nation Entertainment's Hard Summer music festival came into town, with ambulances sending overdosing concertgoers from the Los Angeles County fairgrounds. Dr. Bradford Hardesty saw one man so combative that he had to be sedated to keep him safe, as well as the nurses and doctors. His heart rate was up to more than 200 beats per minute — double the normal rate. “It had taken multiple police officers to hold him down. It took almost five or six staff members here,” Hardesty said. (Lin and Winton, 8/7)

The New York Times: Officials In Turf Fight Over Response To Legionnaires’ Outbreak In Bronx
An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the South Bronx appeared to be ebbing on Friday, even as city and state officials jockeyed to show how they were responding to the airborne illness. ... Since the city learned of the outbreak in late July, health officials investigated the area, eventually narrowing in on five water-cooling towers in the South Bronx that were found to have the legionella bacteria. On Thursday, city health officials issued an order requiring buildings with the towers to inspect and clean them within two weeks. That, apparently, was not sufficient for the state. On Friday, state health officials convened a meeting and news conference with investigators from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at the Manhattan office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. (Hu and Remnick, 8/7)

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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