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KHN First Edition: January 29, 2018

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First Edition

Monday, January 29, 2018                       Visit Kaiser Health News for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Death In The Family: An Uncle’s Overdose Spurs Medicaid Official To Change Course
Andrey Ostrovsky’s family did not discuss what killed his uncle. He was young, not quite two weeks past his 45th birthday, when he died, and he had lost touch with loved ones in his final months. Ostrovsky speculated he had committed suicide. Almost two years later, Ostrovsky was Medicaid’s chief medical officer, grappling with an opioid crisis that kills about 115 Americans each day, when he learned the truth: His uncle died of a drug overdose. (Huetteman, 1/29)

Kaiser Health News: Treating Domestic Violence As A Medical Problem
Fanny Ortiz, a mother of five who lives just east of downtown Los Angeles, spent nearly a decade married to a man who controlled her and frequently threatened her. Then, she said, his abuse escalated. “He would physically hit me in the face, throw me on the wall,” she recalled. Ortiz, 43, eventually left the marriage, taking her children with her. A few years later, she learned that the East Los Angeles Women’s Center offered domestic violence services at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, near her home. Now she goes to the hospital campus for weekly therapy sessions, which she said have helped stop her suicidal thoughts. (Gorman, 1/29)

The Associated Press: Strong Health Sign-Ups Under Obamacare Encourage Democrats
Republicans on the campaign trail this year will be eager to tout the potential benefits of their tax cut plan.Voters like Jeanine Limone Draut, a freelance technical writer in Denver, have something else in mind: health care. Failed efforts by congressional Republicans last year to repeal former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act exposed not only deep divisions within the party but also revealed core benefits of the law that millions of Americans now take for granted. Draut is tired of the attacks and the uncertainty surrounding the law's future. (1/28)

The Associated Press: NY, Minnesota Sue Feds Over Cuts To State Health Care Plans
The attorneys general for New York and Minnesota are suing the Trump administration for abruptly cutting off federal funding for health care coverage for more than 800,000 low-income residents in the two states. New York’s Eric Schneiderman and Minnesota’s Lori Swanson announced Friday that the lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court accuses the Department of Health and Human Services of withholding more than $1 billion. (1/26)

The Hill: Poll: Most Unaware Congress Repealed ObamaCare Mandate 
Only a third of the public is aware that Congress repealed ObamaCare's individual mandate, according to a new poll released Friday. Of those surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 36 percent said they're aware Congress repealed the requirement that most have insurance or pay a tax penalty, while 46 percent incorrectly said it has not been repealed. (Hellmann, 1/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Koch Groups Move On From Health-Care Fight
The billionaire Koch brothers’ political organization spent more than $200 million in the past decade on what official Tim Phillips calls “without question our biggest policy defeat,” the quest to kill the Affordable Care Act. Now, the network of donors is turning its attention to the more urgent matter of protecting Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress this fall. “You can’t pout; you have to move on,” said Mr. Phillips, the longtime president of Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ primary vehicle for advocating on health care and other state and federal policies. “We won’t hold the majority forever, and we have many more policy goals.” (Bykowicz, 1/28)

The Washington Post: How Trump May End Up Expanding Medicaid, Whether He Means To Or Not
Republican lawmakers in a half-dozen states are launching fresh efforts to expand Medicaid, the nation’s health insurance program for the poor, as party holdouts who had blocked the expansion say they’re now open to it because of Trump administration guidelines allowing states to impose new requirements that program recipients work to get benefits. In Utah, a Republican legislator working with the GOP governor says he hopes to pass a Medicaid expansion plan with work requirements within the year. In Idaho, a conservative lawmaker who steadfastly opposed Medicaid expansion in the past says the new requirements make him more open to the idea. And in Wyoming, a Republican senator who previously opposed expansion — a key part of President Barack Obama’s health-care law — says he’s ready to take another look at fellow Republicans’ expansion efforts in his state. (Stein, 1/28)

The New York Times: Cecile Richards On Her Life After Planned Parenthood
According to Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood for over a decade, protesters who wave anti-abortion signs outside one of the organization’s clinics will sometimes return — a week, a month or a year later — for an annual medical exam. The men in Washington, D.C., who have done battle with Ms. Richards (“and they’re almost always men”) don’t see that side of the organization, she said. “For women, access to reproductive health care isn’t a political issue,” Ms. Richards said. “The women who walk into Planned Parenthood clinics come from every background, every political persuasion. "Yes, she said, even women who support President Trump. (Chozick, 1/26)

Reuters: Planned Parenthood Leader Richards Steps Down
The president of Planned Parenthood, longtime activist Cecile Richards, will step down this year after leading the women's health organization for more than a decade, the group said on Friday. Richards, 60, has worked defending reproductive rights and other services including providing contraception, healthcare screenings and about one-third of the abortions in the United States. (Mincer, 1/26)

Stat: In Utah, An Unlikely Crusader Fights The Generic-Drug Industry
Nothing in Dan Liljenquist’s background suggests a desire to upend the generic drug industry. He is a Republican businessman who believes in free market capitalism. He hails from the conservative state of Utah. And as someone who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, he concedes that medicines produced by the pharmaceutical industry, as currently constituted, saved his life. (Ross, 1/29)

Stat: Lawmakers In Three States Push Bills To Allow Off-Label Promotion
Over the past month, lawmakers in three states — Missouri, Colorado, and Mississippi — have introduced bills that would allow drug makers to promote their medicines for so-called off-label uses, so long as the information given to doctors is truthful. The efforts come less than a year after Arizona adopted such a law, making it the first state in the U.S. to permit off-label promotion. The bills also arrive amid ongoing pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to loosen regulations for off-label promotions, which is one of the most contentious issues to roil both the agency and the pharmaceutical industry. (Silverman, 1/26)

The Hill: FDA Approved Record Number Of Generic Drugs Last Year
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved 1,027 generic drugs last year, a record number, the Trump administration said Friday. The figure came as part of a year-end report from the Department of Health and Human Services, and was touted as part of the administration’s efforts to fight high drug prices. (Sullivan, 1/26)

Stat: In Snowy Davos, Gottlieb Gets Warm Praise From Trump
Trump was speaking to incoming Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan, who kicked off the adoration for [Scott] Gottlieb — and followed several other business leaders who spent at least the part of dinner open to the press praising Trump and his administration.“We’re really pleased with the tax reform, but also very pleased with the great progress being made at FDA. We believe you have a great leadership team there and they’re doing all the right things to accelerate innovation,” Narasimhan said, according to a White House transcript. (Swetlitz and Mershon, 1/26)

Stat: Gilead Accused Of 'Unethical' Policy For An HIV Prevention Drug
Atrio of AIDS advocacy groups is accusing Gilead Sciences (GILD) of drastically limiting a key component of an AIDS prevention treatment in an “unethical” manner that may violate federal guidelines. At issue is a Gilead drug called Truvada, which is combined with one of two other medicines to form nPEP, or non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis, the term used to describe preventive treatment. Observational studies suggest the combination can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV infection when started within 72 hours of exposure and continued for a month. (Silverman, 1/26)

The New York Times: This Flu Season Is The Worst In Nearly A Decade
This year’s flu season is now more intense than any since the 2009 swine flu pandemic and still getting worse, federal health officials said on Friday. Nationally, the number of people falling ill with flu is increasing. More worrying, the hospitalization rate — a predictor of the death rate — has just jumped. It is now on track to equal or surpass that of the 2014-2015 flu season. In that year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, 34 million Americans got the flu, 710,000 were hospitalized and about 56,000 died. (McNeil, 1/26)

The Associated Press: Flu Widespread Across US For Third Straight Week
Sick with the flu? You’ve got a lot of company. The flu blanketed the U.S. again last week for the third straight week. Only Hawaii has been spared. The government doesn’t track every flu case but comes up with estimates. One measure is how many people seek medical care.Last week, 1 in 15 doctor visits were for symptoms of the flu. That’s the highest level since the swine flu pandemic in 2009. (Stobbe, 1/26)

The Hill: CDC: This Flu Season Worst Since 2009 Swine Flu Pandemic 
What's more, flu activity has stayed at the same level nationwide for about three weeks, said Dr. Dan Jernigan, the director of the CDC’s Influenza Division. That sets it apart from many flu seasons, in which activity wanes in certain parts of the U.S. "We often see different parts of the country 'light up' at different times, but for the past 3 weeks, the entire country has been experiencing lots of flu, all at the same time," he said. (Greenwood, 1/27)

The Washington Post: This Flu Season Is On Track To Be The Worst In Nearly A Decade
The toll on children has been especially severe. CDC officials said the pediatric death count is likely to approach, if not exceed, the 148 deaths reported during the especially severe flu season of 2014 and 2015. That season ended with 56,000 flu-related deaths, 710,000 people hospitalized and 16 million who sought care from a clinician or hospital. This year’s intensity has been driven by a particularly nasty strain of the virus known as H3N2. Another strain has also begun showing up, hitting baby boomers especially hard, CDC officials said Friday, although experts have not figured out exactly why. (Sun and Wan, 1/26)

NPR: Severe Flu Season May Be Only Halfway Over
After an early start, the country is about nine weeks into this nasty flu season and could be only about halfway through, Jernigan says. As a result, the percentage of people seeking medical treatment for the flu and the rates at which they are ending up in the hospital and dying are still rising. The flu is hitting the 65-and-over age group hardest, but the next-hardest hit is the 50-to-64 age group. Usually, children are the second-hardest hit. (Grayson and Stein, 1/26)

NPR: Vaccination Reminders Boost Immunization Rates
Marian Smith somehow missed getting a flu shot this year, which is unlike her — in the past, she always got one. The 58-year-old Washington D.C. resident says it was easier to remember to get it when the vaccine was provided at a clinic at work. But now the clinic is a bus ride away, and getting the shot wasn't at the top of her mind. (Neighmond, 1/29)

The Washington Post: When Flu Spread Around The World And Killed 50 Million People
As World War I raged in Europe, an even deadlier killer was on the loose — influenza. During 1918, up to 50 million people died during the worst flu pandemic the world has ever seen. About 675,000 perished in the United States alone — far more than the number of Americans who died in World War I. You can experience those terrifying days through “The Deadly Virus,” an online exhibition from the National Archives and Records Administration. (Blakemore, 1/27)

Reuters: Arizona Governor Signs Opioid Crackdown Legislation
Arizona Republican Governor Doug Ducey on Friday signed into law legislation intended to crack down on opioid abuse, calling it vital to combat an epidemic felt statewide and across the nation. “We’ve all heard the first person stories of individuals who have been impacted,” Ducey said at a signing ceremony. “But there are so many other stories we haven’t heard because the individuals impacted didn’t survive. This bill is for them.” (Schwartz, 1/26)

The Associated Press: Philadelphia's Safe Injection Site Plans Spark Questions
Philadelphia wants to establish safe havens where people can inject drugs, an effort to combat skyrocketing opioid overdoses in the city. They would be places where people could shoot up under the supervision of medical professionals who could administer an overdose antidote if necessary. But there are more questions than answers on how it would work and what it would look like, and if it could even legally get up and running. (1/28)

The New York Times: Citing Deaths Of Lab Monkeys, F.D.A. Ends An Addiction Study
The deaths of four squirrel monkeys used as subjects in a nicotine addiction study have prompted the Food and Drug Administration to shut down the research permanently and to establish a council to oversee all animal studies under the agency’s purview. “It is clear the study was not consistent with the agency’s high animal welfare standards,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency’s commissioner, said in a statement on Friday. “These findings indicate that F.D.A.’s animal program may need to be strengthened in some important areas.” (Kaplan, 1/26)

The Washington Post: Monkeys In A Nicotine Experiment Can Relax. Their Future Is Looking Up.
Squirrel monkeys from an Food and Drug Administration nicotine study are headed to a long-term sanctuary after officials concluded that the experiment, which resulted in four deaths, did not meet the agency's animal-welfare standards and shut it down. Twenty monkeys that were involved in the study, plus six that were not, will be moved to the sanctuary, the FDA said Friday. It did not detail where the monkeys will go or when, although officials said the transition process could be lengthy. (McGinley, 1/26)

Stat: This Scientist Is Taking On One Of Neuroscience's Most Notorious Opponents
In her lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Choi-Fong Cho is growing tiny, balled-up versions of the blood-brain barrier, one of neuroscience’s most notorious opponents. The barrier lines blood vessels in the brain to block foreign invaders, but it also stops most drugs from getting into the central nervous system. It’s foiled countless treatments that looked promising in animals, only to never make it into the brains of patients. (Thielking, 1/29)

The New York Times: How To Keep Children Safe From Abuse At The Pediatrician’s Office
How can parents know if a doctor is touching a child in an inappropriate way? After scores of young women testified about being sexually molested by Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, the former doctor for the American gymnastics team who was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on Wednesday, their parents wondered how they could have missed the signs. Some were even in the exam room at the time but were unaware that anything was wrong. (Rabin, 1/26)

The Washington Post: What Should You Do If A Nuclear Bomb Is Heading Your Way?
On Jan. 13, the state of Hawaii spent 38 minutes in terror after a text alert mistakenly warned of an incoming nuclear missile attack. If you heard about the mistake and wondered what you would or should do if you learned a nuclear bomb was heading your way, you're not alone. It has been more than 30 years since schools in the United States had “duck and cover” drills for schoolchildren, and preparing for a nuclear attack isn't something most people are familiar with. Today, nuclear threats are more likely from rogue states and terrorists, not the Soviet Union. But we should still be worried about nuclear threats we’re facing — and, with a president promising to rain down “fire and fury,” the threats we’re making. So if an attack is imminent, what do you do? (Taylor, 1/26)

Bloomberg: Workplace Wellness Programs Really Don’t Work 
Workplace wellness programs have two main goals: improve employees’ health and lower their employers’ health-care costs. They’re not very good at either, new research finds. For the study, 3,300 employees of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were given a year of access to iThrive, a workplace wellness program similar to what many companies offer workers. A control group of 1,534 didn’t get access to it at all.  (Greenfield, 1/26)

The Washington Post: Headaches That Are Regular And Frequent Mean It's Time To Get Help
Headaches are a common ailment — so common, perhaps, that many of us just accept them as part of life. “When I do routine physicals, I’ll ask about headaches,” says Michael Munger, a primary-care physician in Overland, Kan. He is always surprised that many of his patients report frequent headaches when asked but never bring them up otherwise. “Some people just live with it.” Tension headaches, sinus headaches and migraine headaches are among the most common varieties. (Adams, 1/27)

The Washington Post: Hyperbaric Therapy Using Pure Oxygen Is A Treatment For Brain Injuries
Each year, thousands of Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury. In 2013, about 2.8 million TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths occurred in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of these are what are called mild traumatic brain injuries, or mTBIs — head injuries that don’t cause a coma. People with an mTBI typically get better within a few weeks, but for as many as 20 percent, problems can linger for months or years. (Kohn, 1/27)

NPR: Congenital Heart Defects And Adult Transplants
A few weeks ago, our family gathered for a meeting that we hope will save my sister's life. Our goal was to demonstrate to a hospital social worker that we could take care of her should she get a heart transplant. My sister Sara is now 50. (NPR isn't using her last name to protect her medical privacy.) For her to get on the transplant list, her anatomy needed to be suitable and her antibody levels low despite prior surgeries. She had to show that she could withstand the grueling transplant process; that she could consistently take her anti-rejection medications; didn't abuse drugs or alcohol; and had a stable home life. (Wolfson, 1/28)

The New York Times: On Family Farms, Little Hands Steer Big Machines
Cullen Schachtschneider, 6 years old, lay bleeding beside the barn, tangled up in a 4,600-pound farm machine that had ripped his left leg apart. Like children across America’s two million family-run farms, Cullen had grown up around farm equipment, including the yellow loader now covered in his blood. He rode along as his father hauled calves. He watched his grade-school-age brothers drive the diesel-powered loader, carrying corn and doing chores to help keep their family’s struggling Wisconsin dairy afloat. The work was woven into their childhood. (Healy, 1/29)

The Washington Post: Some Men Have Large Breasts And Get Cosmetic Surgery To Reduce Them
With the music of rapper Jay-Z blaring in the background, Marwan Khalifeh, a Washington-area cosmetic surgeon, vigorously plunged a strawlike metal probe back and forth through the breasts of a patient lying on an operating table, as if he were playing a cello. The goal was to reduce the size of his patient’s breasts, an increasingly common procedure for women who decide to change their lifestyle or address a medical condition. And Khalifeh’s surgical room on the 17th floor of a medical arts building in Friendship Heights is arrayed with state-of-the-art equipment, including a laser machine called the Smartlipo MPX that emulsifies unwanted fat. (Pianin, 1/28)

Reuters: Dennis Peron, Father Of Medical Marijuana In California, Dies At 72
Dennis Peron, the cannabis activist who fired up the movement to legalize medical marijuana in California, died on Saturday in a San Francisco hospital. He was 72. Also a prominent figure in San Francisco's gay community, he was credited as a pioneer in recognizing the health benefits of pot during the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. "A man that changed the world," was how his brother Jeffrey Peron remembered him on Facebook. "It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my brother Dennis Peron." (Goldberg, 1/28)

The Washington Post: D.C.'s Only Public Hospital Is Bankrupt, Chief Financial Officer Says. Board Hires New Operator.
The board of the District’s troubled public hospital voted Friday to hire a national business consulting firm to help rescue the facility from organizational and financial turmoil, setting the stage for new leadership at a hospital plagued by allegations of mismanagement and questions about patient safety. Mazars USA, an accounting and financial consulting firm that is headquartered in New York and has offices in nine states, is the board’s unanimous choice to run United Medical Center in Southeast Washington. If approved by the D.C. council, Mazars would take the reins from Veritas of Washington, whose contract the council terminated in November. (Jamison, 1/26)

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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