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KHN First Edition: December 19, 2017

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First Edition

Tuesday, December 19, 2017                       Visit Kaiser Health News for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Drug Industry Spent Millions To Squelch Talk About High Drug Prices
Facing bipartisan hostility over high drug prices in an election year, the pharma industry’s biggest trade group boosted revenue by nearly a fourth last year and spread the millions collected among hundreds of lobbyists, politicians and patient groups, new filings show. It was the biggest surge for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA, since the group took battle stations to advance its interests in 2009 during the run-up to the Affordable Care Act. (Hancock, 12/19)

Kaiser Health News: Not-So-Happy New Year: Alabama Set To Toss Kids Off Insurance Plan Starting Jan. 1
Citing Congress’ failure to restore federal funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Alabama plans to drop 7,000 kids from coverage on New Year’s Day, the first step to shutting down coverage for everyone, state officials said Monday. Those children, who are up for their yearly renewal in January, will not be allowed to continue in the program, and the state also plans to freeze enrollment at the same time. Then, unless Congress acts, Alabama would close CHIP for all 84,000 children on Feb. 1. (Galewitz, 12/19)

Kaiser Health News: Looking North: Can A Single-Payer Health System Work In The U.S.?
[] Cram treats his move as a sort of life-size experiment. As a U.S.-trained physician and a health system researcher, he is now studying what he says is still a little-understood question: How do the United States and Canada — neighbors with vastly different health systems — compare in terms of actual results? Does one do a better job of keeping people healthy? For all of the political talk, in many ways it is still an open question. (Luthra, 12/18)

Los Angeles Times: Republican Tax Bill Fuels Anxiety Across The Nation's Healthcare System
Doctors, hospitals, patient advocates and others who work in the nation's healthcare system are growing increasingly alarmed at the Republican tax bill, warning that it threatens care for millions of sick Americans. The legislation – which GOP leaders are rushing to pass this week – will eliminate beginning in 2019 the Affordable Care Act penalty on consumers without health coverage, a move many experts warn will weaken insurance markets in parts of the country. (Levey, 12/18)

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Gets A Key ‘Yes’ Vote For Its Tax Bill
Republican leaders planning to put their tax package to a vote in coming days got a boost late Monday when Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who had yet to commit to backing the proposal, said she would be a ”yes.” ... Ms. Collins said she was encouraged that the House and Senate negotiators had retained several provisions she had pushed to get into the Senate bill, including retaining a deduction for medical expenses that the House bill had originally scrapped. The final tax bill allows people to deduct medical expenses above 7.5% of their income for 2017 and 2018, down from 10% under current law. Ms. Collins reiterated her confidence, which has come under question recently, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and President Donald Trump would honor an agreement they made with her on two bills addressing cost-sharing payments to insurers and high-cost claims. (Hughes and Rubin, 12/18)

The Hill: GOP Senator Says Must-Pass Funding Bill To Include ObamaCare Fix
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) says that his bipartisan ObamaCare insurer fix will be added to a government funding bill this week, potentially setting up a showdown with House conservatives who oppose the measure. Alexander told local reporters on Friday that the bill aimed at stabilizing insurer markets — from him and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) — would be added to a stop-gap government funding bill that must pass before this Friday's funding deadline, according to a pledge from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). (Sullivan, 12/18)

Stateline: Congress Won’t Act; Now Community Health Centers Weigh Closures
Unless Congress provides funding before the end of the year, many of the nation’s 9,800 community health clinics will face service cuts or closure — potentially crippling a vital part of the health system that provides care in poor and underserved communities across every state. And the fallout could mean the loss of more than 160,000 jobs and a hit to state economies of more than $15 billion as staff cutbacks and layoffs ripple through the country. California alone could lose up to 15,841 jobs and nearly $1.7 billion next year. (Ollove, 12/18)

The New York Times: Hospital Giants Vie For Patients In Effort To Fend Off New Rivals
It’s all about the patient. Or at least about keeping patients and the revenue generated for their medical care. As health care is rocked by deals aimed at shattering traditional boundaries between businesses, some of the nation’s biggest hospital groups are doubling down on mergers that seem much more conventional. Skeptics say some of these hospital deals are more of the same: systems seeking to increase their leverage with insurance companies and charge more for care. (Abelson, 12/18)

The Hill: Dems Fuel Uproar Over ‘Banned’ CDC Words
Democrats in the House and Senate are demanding answers from the Trump administration after a report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was banned from using some words and phrases in official documents. On Friday, The Washington Post reported that senior CDC officials in charge of the budget told the agency’s policy analysts of a list of words they shouldn’t use in documents they are preparing for next year’s budget. The banned terms included “fetus,” “transgender” and “science-based.” (Weixel and Roubein, 12/18)

Politico: HHS Defends Withholding Comments Critical Of Abortion, Transgender Policy
HHS is defending its decision to withhold more than 10,000 public comments on a proposal that could affect access to abortion and care for transgender patients. “There has been a voluminous response to the [request for information], and the center’s team is working through a review of the submissions,” Shannon Royce, who leads the agency’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and is overseeing the proposal, said in a statement on Monday night. (Diamond, 12/18)

Los Angeles Times: Judge Tells Trump Officials To Allow Two 17-Year-Old Immigrants To Obtain Abortions; Government Concedes In One Case
Trump administration officials must allow two pregnant teenage immigrants being held in detention facilities to see doctors about having abortions, a federal judge ruled Monday. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington issued a temporary restraining order that bars administration officials from preventing the two 17-year-olds from leaving the shelters. One of the immigrants is 10 weeks pregnant and the other is in her 22nd week, according to the judge's order. (Savage, 12/18)

Politico: Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court To Block Abortion For Immigrant Teen
The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court on Monday to block an abortion for a teenage girl in immigration custody, even as federal officials gave up their fight to prevent another undocumented immigrant teen from terminating her pregnancy. The moves came just hours after a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to permit abortions as soon as Tuesday evening for both pregnant 17-year-old girls being held in federally funded shelters in different states. (Gerstein and Rayasam, 12/18)

The Associated Press: Governor Vetoes Bill To Add Abortion Restrictions
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday vetoed a bill passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature that would have limited abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy and, according to opponents, outlawed the most common method of second-trimester abortion. Wolf, who supports abortion rights, rejected what Planned Parenthood said would have been the nation's most restrictive abortion law. (12/18)

The Associated Press: US Health Officials To Target High-Risk Alternative Remedies
U.S. health officials plan to crack down on a growing number of unproven alternative remedies, focusing on products containing dangerous ingredients that have occasionally been linked to serious injury and death. The Food and Drug Administration on Monday issued a new proposal for regulating homeopathic medicines that have long been on the fringe of mainstream medicine. The agency plans to target products that pose the biggest safety risks, including those marketed for children or for serious diseases. (12/18)

The Washington Post: FDA Takes More Aggressive Stance Toward Homeopathic Drugs
Homeopathy is based on an 18th-century idea that substances that cause disease symptoms can, in very small doses, cure the same symptoms. Modern medicine, backed up by numerous studies, has disproved the central tenets of homeopathy and shown that the products are worthless at best and harmful at worst. Under U.S. law, homeopathic drugs are required to meet the same approval rules as other drugs. But under a policy adopted in 1988, the agency has used “enforcement discretion” to allow the items to be manufactured and distributed without FDA approval. Agency officials don't plan to begin requiring that homeopathic products get approval — officials say that would be impractical — but they are signaling stepped-up scrutiny for items deemed a possible health threat. (McGinley, 12/18)

NPR: FDA Unveils Policy To Target Risky Homeopathic Treatments
"In recent years, we've seen a large uptick in products labeled as homeopathic that are being marketed for a wide array of diseases and conditions, from the common cold to cancer," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement announcing the new policy. "In many cases, people may be placing their trust and money in therapies that may bring little to no benefit in combating serious ailments, or worse — that may cause significant and even irreparable harm because the products are poorly manufactured, or contain active ingredients that aren't adequately tested or disclosed to patients," Gottlieb says. (Stein, 12/18)

Los Angeles Times: EPA Says Herbicide In Roundup Weed Killer Doesn't Cause Cancer, Contradicting California Regulators
The federal Environmental Protection Agency on Monday said glyphosate, the primary ingredient in the weed killer Roundup and one of the most widely used herbicides in agriculture, likely does not cause cancer. The assessment contradicts the conclusion of a European scientific panel as well as California regulators, who have included the chemical on the Proposition 65 list of probable carcinogens. (Mohan, 12/18)

NPR: Fight The Opioid Epidemic, All Agree. But What Works Best?
It's no secret why drug users come to George Patterson in a mall parking lot just outside Phoenix to get their clean needles, syringes and other supplies on Tuesday afternoons, instead of heading to the pharmacy down the street. "It's really low-barrier the way we are doing it," Patterson says. "All you have to do is find us." (Stone, 12/19)

The Associated Press: McAuliffe’s Budget Again Calls For Medicaid Expansion
Outgoing Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe presented a budget proposal to state lawmakers Monday that includes spending for Medicaid expansion, pads the state’s rainy day fund and gives state workers a 2 percent raise. McAuliffe addressed the House and Senate budget committees to unveil his two-year spending plan that also includes some regional tax increases to pay for Virginia’s share of additional funding for the Washington area’s struggling public transit system. (Rankin, 12/18)

Los Angeles Times: After 157 Years In Chinatown, Los Angeles’ Oldest Hospital Shuts Its Doors
Xiaoyuan Yang was pregnant and her husband Weiming Lei needed a job when they moved more than 20 years ago from Guangzhou, China, to Los Angeles. "We knew nothing, and we didn't understand anything," Lei said. "Someone told us to live in Chinatown. "There, Yang found work at a Chinese restaurant, and their neighbors told them about a hospital just down the street where the staff spoke not only Mandarin and Cantonese, but the Toishan and Zhongshan dialects as well. (Shyong, 12/18)

The Washington Post: Loneliness Can Make You Sick
Loneliness can tank your mood, but can it affect your health, too? All signs point to yes.It turns out that feeling lonely can do more than make you sad: It can predict the way your body will respond to and bounce back from various health challenges. Lonely people are more likely to get sick, and researchers want to know why. (Blakemore, 12/18)

Los Angeles Times: Preventing Dementia: The Promising, The Disappointing And The Inconclusive
What's proven to prevent the development of dementia after the age of 80? Not brain training, not medication, not regular exercise, not a healthier diet and not a busy social calendar, according to a series of reports published Monday. But ask the question a bit differently, and the answer is not quite as discouraging: What should you be doing anyway right now that might delay or prevent the development of dementia late in life? (Healy, 12/18)

NPR: Could A Zap To The Brain Derail Destructive Impulses?
Picture this: While reaching for the cookie jar — or cigarette or bottle of booze or other temptation — a sudden slap denies your outstretched hand. When the urge returns, out comes another slap. Now imagine those "slaps" occurring inside the brain, protecting you in moments of weakness. (Landhuis, 12/18)

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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