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KHN First Edition: December 15, 2017

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First Edition

Friday, December 15, 2017                       Visit Kaiser Health News for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Fails To Recover Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars In Lab Overcharges
Five years ago, Companion DX Reference Lab hoped to cash in on cutting-edge genetic tests paid for by Medicare. The Houston lab marketed a test to assess how a person’s genes affect tolerance for drugs such as opiates used to treat chronic pain. It also ran DNA tests to help treat cancer and urine screens to monitor drug abuse. But the lab went bust last year after Medicare ordered it to repay more than $16 million for genetic tests health officials said were not needed. (Schulte, 12/15)

California Healthline: Oh, That Deadline? Doesn’t Apply To California
Don’t be fooled, Californians. Despite what you may be seeing or hearing about a Dec. 15 enrollment deadline, you still have more than six weeks to choose or switch your Affordable Care Act health plans. It’s true that Americans who live in the 39 states that rely on the federal health insurance marketplace, healthcare.gov, face a final deadline Friday to sign up for plans. But Californians who buy their own insurance via the private market or the state health insurance exchange, Covered California, have a three-month open enrollment period that ends Jan. 31, 2018. (Ibarra, 12/15)

Kaiser Health News: Listen: Collins Plays Let’s Make A Deal On ACA Mandate Repeal
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was a deciding vote that kept the Affordable Care Act standing last summer, and she has had a lot of leverage in negotiations on the GOP tax bill this fall. Collins says she will vote for the bill even though it repeals the ACA’s mandate that most people buy insurance or pay a penalty. In exchange for that vote, she has assurances that payments for low-income consumers called cost-sharing subsidies will be restored and that a bill to stabilize the markets will move forward. (Wight, 12/15)

The Associated Press: At Crunch Time For Health Sign-Ups, Hold Times Are Growing
President Donald Trump's administration says it is trying to accommodate consumers as hold times grow for those seeking to enroll in insurance under the federal health care law. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Thursday that some callers to HealthCare.gov are being asked to leave their contact information. A spokeswoman says operators will call them back and they'll be able to get coverage effective Jan. 1. (12/14)

The Hill: ObamaCare Expected To Suffer Enrollment Decline As Trump Cuts Timeframe 
Fewer people are expected to sign up for ObamaCare coverage ahead of Friday’s deadline to enroll in the exchanges. The Trump administration’s abbreviated enrollment period has left advocates acknowledging the numbers are almost surely going to be lower than the 9.2 million who signed up on HealthCare.gov at the end of the last open enrollment season. (Roubein and Hellmann, 12/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Bipartisan Health Bill Is Losing Support
The seemingly imminent repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance requirement, which could happen next week as part of the final passage of Republicans’ broad tax overhaul, has focused attention on Congress’ potential next moves on health care, including a bipartisan plan to shore up the insurance markets. But that plan, sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.), is losing support as more health analysts say it could raise costs for many consumers. The bill would restore payments to insurers, allowing them to cut premiums, but in doing so it would reduce the tax credits that are pegged in part to the premium costs of certain plans. (Armour, 12/14)

The Hill: Ryan: We Need To 'Revisit' ObamaCare 
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that lawmakers need to "revisit" ObamaCare, but also pointed to welfare reform as the focus of next year. "ObamaCare is collapsing and failing, so we won’t be able to ignore that problem," Ryan said at a news conference. "So we’re going to have to revisit the problem of a health-care marketplace that is collapsing and that is something that we’re just going to have to get on to." (Sullivan, 12/14)

The Hill: Health Groups Call On States To Override Trump ObamaCare Order 
Health-care groups are urging states to override changes made under an executive order from President Trump, warning the moves threaten to undermine insurance markets. A coalition of leading health-care groups, including America’s Health Insurance Plans and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, wrote a letter Thursday to state insurance commissioners urging them to take action to counteract an order signed by Trump in October. That order aimed to ease ObamaCare rules and opened up cheaper insurance plans that do not have to meet all of the ObamaCare requirements. (Sullivan, 12/14)

Politico: Health Program For 9 Million Kids Falls Victim To Partisan Squabbling
Everyone in Congress claims to be a champion of children’s health.But funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program ran out Sept. 30. And some lawmakers worry it might not be replenished until early next year. It’s a mess that can happen only in Washington: Even a bipartisan program that covers 9 million poor and middle-class children is caught up in partisan squabbling, with Republicans and Democrats split over how to pay for renewed funding and placing blame on the other party. (Haberkorn, 12/15)

Reuters: With No Deal On Children's Health Plan, U.S. States Scramble For Plan B
For Nancy Minoui of Portland, Oregon, and Crystal Lett of Dublin, Ohio, Congress' failure to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program is not some distant tale of political wrangling. For Minoui, it's about how to provide care for her daughter, Marion Burgess, born last Valentine's Day with a hole in her heart. For Lett it's about providing care for her 6-year-old son, Noble, who was born with a complex genetic disorder. (Mincer and Abutaleb, 12/14)

Reuters: As Republican Tax Vote Nears, More Senators Waver
President Donald Trump's drive to win passage of a sweeping Republican tax bill in the U.S. Congress hit potential obstacles on Thursday as two more Republican senators insisted on changes, joining a list of lawmakers whose support is uncertain. (12/14)

The Associated Press: Illness Sidelines McCain, Cochran As Tax Vote Nears
Senate Republicans rushed toward votes next week on their sweeping $1.5 trillion tax package, hopeful ailing Sens. John McCain and Thad Cochran will be back and well enough to cast their votes. The 81-year-old McCain, of Arizona, is at a Washington-area military hospital being treated for the side effects of brain cancer treatment. Cochran, 80, of Mississippi, had a non-melanoma lesion removed from his nose earlier this week. (Lardner and Daly, 12/14)

The Associated Press: California Lawmakers Propose Health Coverage For Immigrants
California, flush with cash from an expanding economy, would eventually spend $1 billion a year to provide health care to immigrants living in the state illegally under a proposal announced Wednesday by Democratic lawmakers. The proposal would eliminate legal residency requirements in California's Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal, as the state has already done for young people up to age 19. (12/14)

Stat: White House Tamps Down Expectations Of More Opioid Funding This Year
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Thursday told reporters she was unsure when Congress would fund new initiatives specific to addressing the opioid crisis. Sanders declined to guarantee that additional spending would be included in either a stopgap spending bill Congress is expected to approve in the coming week or a longer-term budget agreement many expect lawmakers to reach in January. (Facher, 12/14)

The Hill: Senator Presses DOJ On Opioid Campaign Criticized For 'Scare Tactics' 
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is raising concerns about a campaign in his home state aimed at combating the opioid epidemic and questioning the Department of Justice’s role in it. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent Thursday, Markey asked what the department's role was in “designing, funding or supporting” the campaign in Massachusetts.  (Roubein, 12/14)

The New York Times: As Zika Babies Become Toddlers, Some Can’t See, Walk Or Talk
As the first babies born with brain damage from the Zika epidemic become 2-year-olds, the most severely affected are falling further behind in their development and will require a lifetime of care, according to a study published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, the first to comprehensively assess some of the oldest Zika babies in Brazil, focused on 15 of the most disabled children born with abnormally small heads, a condition called microcephaly. (Belluck, 12/14)

Stat: In Wake Of #MeToo, A New Spotlight On Harassment In Biomedical Science
When, in early 2016, Dr. Reshma Jagsi published her survey on sexual harassment in biomedical research labs, it prompted an outpouring of emails from women in the field. The study was the first of its kind in two decades, and its findings were startling: Among a sample of 1,000 biomedical researchers, both men and women, the number of women reporting workplace sexual harassment had declined since 1995, but still amounted to 1 in 3 women. Now, in the wake of high-profile sexual assault allegations sweeping through popular culture, Jagsi — who heads the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan — has found that her research has gotten a second life. The biggest change, she said, is that she is hearing from more men. (Samuel, 12/15)

The New York Times: High Glucose Levels In Pregnancy Tied To Heart Defects In Babies
Women with high glucose readings early in pregnancy are at increased risk of having a baby with heart defects, even if they do not have full-blown diabetes, a new study found. Diabetes during pregnancy is a known risk factor for heart problems in babies. Researchers studied data on 19,107 mothers, members of two large health care systems, of whom 811 gave birth to babies with congenital heart disease. The data included blood glucose measurements done between four weeks before conception and the 14th week of gestation. (Bakalar, 12/15)

The New York Times: Easing The Burden On Caregivers
Eleanor Thomas and her sister have reorganized their schedules and finances to take care of their 93-year-old mother, Elising Roxas, who needs round-the-clock care. “A lot of women, especially single women, need to work,” said Ms. Thomas, 63, who lives in Mililani, Hawaii. “But at the same time they have all these responsibilities, to pay the bills, and to caregive. How can they possibly do all of that the same time?” (Towey, 12/15)

The New York Times: Vigorous Exercise Tied To Macular Degeneration In Men
A new study suggests that vigorous physical activity may increase the risk for vision loss, a finding that has surprised and puzzled researchers. Using questionnaires, Korean researchers evaluated physical activity among 211,960 men and women ages 45 to 79 in 2002 and 2003. Then they tracked diagnoses of age-related macular degeneration, from 2009 to 2013. Macular degeneration, the progressive deterioration of the central area of the retina, is the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly. (Bakalar, 12/14)

The New York Times: Teva Pharmaceuticals To Cut 25% Of Jobs In Huge Reshaping
Teva Pharmaceuticals, the world’s biggest maker of generic drugs, said on Thursday that it would cut about a quarter of its work force, or 14,000 jobs, close manufacturing and research facilities and suspend its dividend as it seeks to simplify its structure and reduce its debt. The Israeli company has faced management turmoil and been squeezed by increased competition as well as lower prices in a challenging market environment for generic drugs in the United States. (Bray, 12/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Teva Pharmaceutical To Cut 14,000 Jobs
Teva, the world’s biggest seller of generic drugs, didn’t detail where it is cutting jobs. At the end of the third quarter, it employed about 53,000, most of them in Europe and the U.S. Teva has been hit hard by declining generics prices in the U.S. and increased competition for its blockbuster multiple-sclerosis drug. It also recently emerged from a period of boardroom and executive-suite turmoil. Directors had clashed on the firm’s strategy after swallowing a big acquisition that saddled it with heavy debt. (Jones and Hufford, 12/14)

The Associated Press: Couples Win Lawsuit Over Donated Eggs With Genetic Defect
Two couples that gave birth to children with a genetic defect later traced to donated eggs won a lawsuit against a New York fertility doctor and his clinic in the state’s highest court Thursday. The two children, both born in 2009, have Fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition that can lead to intellectual and developmental impairments. The parents, identified by initials and last names in legal papers, were told the egg donors were screened for genetic conditions. (Klepper, 12/14)

The Associated Press: Maryland Medical Society Aims To Reduce Diabetes
The American Medical Association is partnering up with MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, as part of a multi-state effort to reduce Type 2 diabetes. The association has started to work on preventing new cases of Type 2 diabetes in California, Michigan and South Carolina and will now be paired with Maryland as well eight additional medical societies — in Maine, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — to develop models to prevent the disease, according to a recent statement. (Slater, 12/14)

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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