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KHN First Edition: January 26, 2018

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First Edition

Friday, January 26, 2018                       Visit Kaiser Health News for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: As Doctors Drop Opposition, Aid-In-Dying Advocates Target Next Battleground States
When the end draws near, Dr. Roger Kligler, a retired physician with incurable, metastatic prostate cancer, wants the option to use a lethal prescription to die peacefully in his sleep. As he fights for the legal right to do that, an influential doctors group in Massachusetts has agreed to stop trying to block the way. Kligler, who lives in Falmouth, Mass., serves as one of the public faces for the national movement supporting medical aid in dying, which allows terminally ill people who are expected to die within six months to request a doctor’s prescription for medication to end their lives. (Bailey, 1/26)

Kaiser Health News: In Battleground Races, Health Care Lags As Hot-Button Issue, Poll Finds
As the midterm elections approach, health care ranks as the top issue, mentioned more frequently among voters nationwide than among those living in areas with competitive races, a new poll finds. In areas with competitive congressional or gubernatorial races, the economy and jobs ranked as the top issue for candidates to discuss, with 34 percent of registered voters listing it as No. 1, according to the poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Rau, 1/26)

Kaiser Health News: Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ CHIP (Finally) Gets Funded
Three and a half months after funding expired for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHIP is finally refinanced, this time for six years. That was one of several health policies attached to the short-term spending bill Congress passed Monday, which reopened the federal government after a weekend shutdown. (1/25)

California Healthline: Family Crisis Or New Joy? Get Paid Time Off For It
Last May, I wrote a column that offered tips for caregivers — without knowing that I would soon become one myself. A few months later, my dad was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. Then came the cancer diagnosis. Now he’s enduring endless appointments, scans and blood draws, not to mention chemotherapy every two weeks, for three days at a time, administered at home through a portable pump. Life changed overnight for him, for my mom, who became his full-time caregiver, and for me. I fly to Southern California every two weeks to help. (Bazar, 1/26)

Stateline: As Trump Attacks The Federal Health Law, Some States Try To Shore It Up
This year, a handful of Democratic-led states are gearing up to curb further rate hikes by enacting laws and adopting insurance regulations designed to shore up the traditional insurance industry and restore parts of the ACA, known as Obamacare. At the same time, at least one Republican-leaning state has moved to further unravel the federal health law by encouraging insurance companies to offer cheap policies with fewer benefits. Others are expected to follow. (Vestal, 1/26)

The Hill: Idaho Seeks To Roll Back ObamaCare Insurance Protections 
Idaho officials will allow insurers in the state to sell health plans that don’t comply with rules set up under ObamaCare — a move that could test how committed the Trump administration is to enforcing the law. Under the new guidelines, insurers will be allowed to offer “state-based plans” to consumers that won’t be required to meet some of the basic rules of ObamaCare plans, such as the essential health benefits that plans must cover. (Weixel, 1/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Idaho To Allow New Insurance Plans Outside Of Federal Health Law
In a bulletin issued Wednesday, the Idaho Department of Insurance said that it would allow insurers in the state to begin offering “state-based plans” to consumers. These products could leave out some of the benefits mandated by the ACA for individual coverage. Insurers would be able to consider enrollees’ medical history in setting their premiums, a practice known as underwriting, which isn’t authorized under the ACA. The new state-based plans could also include dollar limits on total benefit payouts, which the ACA banned. (Wilde Mathews, 1/25)

The Hill: Warren: Time To 'Go On Offense' On Health Care 
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Thursday said it was time to go on “offense” on health care after a year of defending ObamaCare against repeal efforts. In a speech to a conference hosted by Families USA, a leading liberal health-care advocacy group, Warren laid out a range of ways to build on the Affordable Care Act, and attacked health insurance companies for how they treat consumers. (Sullivan, 1/25)

Reuters: Medicaid Work Rules Face Tough Legal Challenges, Experts Say
A lawsuit challenging the U.S. federal government's approval of work requirements for Medicaid recipients in Kentucky could rein in the power of the Trump administration to reshape the health insurance program for the poor, legal experts said. The proposed class action, filed on Wednesday in federal court in Washington by 15 Kentucky Medicaid recipients, says the administration's approval of the requirements has "effectively rewritten" the federal Medicaid statute in violation of the law. (Pierson, 1/25)

The Washington Post: On A Party Line Vote, A Republican-Controlled Senate Panel Killed Bills Thursday That Aimed To Expand Medicaid
If this is the year Virginia finally expands Medicaid, the effort got off to a rough start Thursday when a GOP-controlled Senate committee killed a package of bills on a party-line vote. The chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee warned several times before the vote that “this is only round one” of a long process. And the key battle over Medicaid is likely to come in the still-developing budget process in the House of Delegates. (Schneider, 1/25)

Stat: At Davos, Pharma Gets A Seat At The Table At Private Dinner With Trump
The leaders of drug makers Novartis and Bayer joined President Trump on Thursday evening at a private dinner in Davos, the snowy Swiss resort that’s playing host this week to a gathering of elites from around the globe. Vas Narasimhan, who officially becomes CEO of Novartis (NVS) next week, and Bayer (BAYN) CEO Werner Baumann were among the 15 European business executives invited to the event. The White House’s goal for the evening: to encourage the companies to make investments in the U.S. and to encourage others to join them, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn told reporters earlier this week. (Robbins, 1/25)

Stat: Groups Warn Against NAFTA Moves That Could Keep Drugs Out Of Reach
As NAFTA talks proceed, more than 100 advocacy groups and unions urged negotiators for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico not to take any steps that would undermine access to medicines in North America. In an open letter, the groups cautioned trade and health officials from the three countries not to reach a deal that would favor the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of patients. (Silverman, 1/25)

The Associated Press: US Panel Rejects Marketing Plan For Heated Tobacco Device
The penlike device heats Marlboro-branded sticks of tobacco but stops short of burning them. It is already sold in more than 30 countries and Philip Morris aims to make it the first "reduced risk" tobacco product ever sanctioned by the U.S. The votes Thursday by the panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers on the marketing of the iQOS device are nonbinding. The FDA will make a separate decision on whether to allow the product on the market, and — if so — how it could be marketed to consumers. (1/25)

Los Angeles Times: Tobacco Giant Presses Its Case For A Better-For-You Cigarette
For the user, the IQOS system delivers nicotine like an e-cigarette, but with the taste and buzz of tobacco. A cigarette burns at 600 degrees, but at 350 degrees, the HeatStick tobacco never ignites. The user exhales a largely odorless vapor in which some of the most toxic byproducts of combustion — carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, formaldehyde, mercury and ammonia — are reduced by 69% to 99.9% compared to the average cigarette on the market. (Healy, 1/25)

The Washington Post: FDA Panel Rejects Philip Morris's Claims That New Smokeless Cigarette Reduces Harm
The cigarette has triggered debate and worries among health experts about whether IQOS will help or hurt public health in this country. Health advocates worry that such products could be used to attract new smokers and lure people away from quitting altogether. IQOS represents a significant investment by Philip Morris as smoking in the United States drops to all-time lows. The company spent $3 billion to develop IQOS and other smokeless tobacco products and has begun selling them in other countries. The company’s stock was down 2.8 percent Thursday afternoon after tumbling by as much as 6 percent during the advisory panel’s meeting. (Wan, 1/25)

The Wall Street Journal: IQOS Cigarette Alternative Suffers A Blow At FDA Panel
The advisory panel members said unanimously they didn’t believe Philip Morris had shown consumers would understand the risks of using IQOS from its labeling and advertising. A majority of panelists also said the likelihood was low U.S. smokers would switch completely to IQOS. A Philip Morris spokesman said, “We are confident in our ability to address the valid questions raised by the Committee with the FDA as the review process for our application continues.” (McKay and Chaudhuri, 1/25)

The Associated Press: 17 Universities Oppose Anti-Smoking Group With Tobacco Ties
Seventeen public health schools in the U.S. and Canada pledged Thursday to refuse research money from a new anti-smoking group funded by the tobacco industry. The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World was created in September with nearly $1 billion from the Philip Morris tobacco company, saying it aims to end smoking worldwide and support research to meet that goal. But deans of public health schools at Harvard, Johns Hopkins and other universities said the group is too closely tied to an industry that sells deadly products to millions. (1/25)

The Washington Post: Flu Symptoms 2018: What To Know About The Flu This Year
This year's flu season is already the most widespread on record since health officials began keeping track 13 years ago, and has already caused the deaths of more children than what normally would be expected at this time of the year, federal health officials have said. During the second week of January, more people sought care for flulike illnesses than at any comparable period in nearly a decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent weekly report shows. (Sun, 1/25)

The Washington Post: Flu Deaths: 12-Year-Old Florida Boy Is The Latest Casualty Of An Intense Flu Season
Like many flu-related illnesses, Dylan Winnik's started with a cold — and escalated rapidly. He had it for a couple of days. By Monday, he was feverish. By Tuesday, his temperature had gone back to normal, but he died that day. The 12-year-old Florida boy became the latest casualty of an intense flu season that has so far resulted in thousands of hospitalizations and deaths of 2½ dozen children nationwide. (Phillips, 1/25)

Stat: Brain Organoids As Repair Kits For Stroke Damage Inch Closer To Reality
The dream of using brain organoids to repair actual human brains has taken a baby step closer to reality: Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have coaxed their tiny, three-dimensional organoids to produce functional neurons with long axons and dendrites — the gray and white matter, respectively — plucked them out, and grew them into fat bundles that might be transplanted into a broken brain. The scientists, led by neurosurgeon Isaac Chen, have not taken that final step, according to the draft of their study posted on Thursday to bioRxiv, which publishes papers before they have been peer-reviewed, let alone appeared in a scientific journal. (Begley, 1/25)

The New York Times: Swatting At Mosquitoes May Help You Avoid Bites, Even If You Miss
If you keep swatting at a mosquito, will it leave you alone?Some scientists think so. But it depends. Some blood meals are worth a mosquito risking its life. But if there’s a more attractive or accepting alternative to feed from, a mosquito may move on to that someone or something instead. That’s because if you keep trying and missing, the mosquito may learn to associate your swatting vibrations with your scent, a study published Thursday in Current Biology suggests. And it just may remember: This is not a person who will tolerate me. (Klein, 1/25)

Reuters: More Birth Defects In U.S. Areas With Zika: U.S. Health Officials
The mosquito-born Zika virus may be responsible for an increase in birth defects in U.S. states and territories even in women who had no lab evidence of Zika exposure during pregnancy, U.S. health officials said on Thursday. Areas in which the mosquito-borne virus has been circulating, including Puerto Rico, southern Florida and part of south Texas, saw a 21 percent rise in birth defects strongly linked with Zika in the last half of 2016 compared with the first half of that year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its weekly report on death and disease. (Steenhuysen, 1/25)

Los Angeles Times: Young Rappers Are Getting Honest About Doing Battle With Depression, Drug Addiction And Suicide
Back in December, in front of a sold-out audience at the Forum awaiting Grammy front-runner Jay-Z, opening act and rapper Vic Mensa vaulted onstage. Dressed in punky red leather, he was boisterous and triumphant, the show a crowning achievement in his career.But underneath the bravado were lacerating lyrics about depression and drug addiction."In the cyclone of my own addiction," he rapped on his song "Wings." (Brown, 1/25)

The Washington Post: Mitochondria Heat Up To 122 Degrees Fahrenheit Inside Cells, Study Says
Your body is hot. Depending on the time of day, and where the thermometer is placed, it runs somewhere between 35 to 38 degrees Celsius, or 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Little organs called mitochondria, slotted into your cells like batteries in a TV clicker, produce most of this body heat. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, as biologist Philip Siekevitz called them in 1957. They use oxygen and nutrients to create energy and heat. (Guarino, 1/25)

The New York Times: Big Data Comes To Dieting
At this point in the resolution-heavy month, many of us may be trying to shed pounds, either the ones we added during the holidays or the ones we’ve accumulated stealthily with time. But by the end of the year, most of us won’t have succeeded — and there’s not much established science to tell us why. An ambitious new study published this month in Cell Systems, however, promises to shed some new light, enumerating for the first time the thousands of changes in genes and various biological systems that may occur after even a small amount of weight gain, and which may — or may not — be reversed if the weight is then dropped. (Reynolds, 1/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Few Children Take Free Lead Tests Offered By New York City
More than a month after New York City began offering free lead testing to nearly 3,000 children living in public housing apartments in the wake of a lead-paint scare, only 73 children have been tested under the initiative, city officials said. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration offered the testing after a Department of Investigation probe last year found the city’s housing authority had failed to conduct lead inspections for four years, violating city law and federal rules. The mayor and New York City Housing Authority Chairwoman Shola Olatoye have said the lapses were unacceptable and that the city is working to ensure residents are safe and failures in compliance never happen again. (Gay, 1/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Philadelphia’s Novel Plan For Opioid Crisis: Supervised Drug Use
To address the deadly opioid crisis wracking Philadelphia, city leaders are backing a novel step to open a safe haven where addicts can use their drugs. The idea of permitting the open use of illicit opioids is controversial and largely untested in the U.S., but proponents argue that bringing opioid use out from the shadows would save lives. Opponents, including law-enforcement agencies and some public officials, say it would essentially sanctify an illegal activity and enable addicts. (Kamp, 1/25)

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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