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KHN First Edition: January 30, 2018

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First Edition

Tuesday, January 30, 2018                       Visit Kaiser Health News for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: No Car, No Care? Medicaid Transportation At Risk In Some States
Unable to walk or talk, barely able to see or hear, 5-year-old Maddie Holt waits in her wheelchair for a ride to the hospital. The 27-pound girl is dressed in polka-dot pants and a flowered shirt for the trip, plus a red headband with a sparkly bow, two wispy blond ponytails poking out on top. Her parents can’t drive her. They both have disabling vision problems; and, besides, they can’t afford a car. When Maddie was born in 2012 with the rare and usually fatal genetic condition called Zellweger syndrome, Meagan and Brandon Holt, then in their early 20s, were plunged into a world of overwhelming need — and profound poverty. (Aleccia, 1/30)

Kaiser Health News: Idaho ‘Pushing Envelope’ With Health Insurance Plan. Can It Do That?
For the past year, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress have led a charge to roll back the Affordable Care Act, signaling an openness to state changes. Now, Idaho has jumped in, saying it will allow insurers to ignore some ACA rules on plans not sold on the marketplace, aiming to make these state-based plans less costly. Several of the changes are viewed by the law’s supporters as hits to its core consumer protections. (Appleby, 1/30)

California Healthline: As Marijuana Laws Relax, Doctors Say Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Partake
Two-year-old Maverick Hawkins sits on a red, plastic car in his grandmother’s living room in the picturesque town of Nevada City, Calif., in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. His playpal Delilah Smith, a fellow 2-year-old, snacks on hummus and cashews and delights over the sounds of her Princess Peppa Pig stuffie. It’s playtime for the kids of the provocatively named Facebook group “Pot smoking moms who cuss sometimes.” (Varney, 1/30)

Politico: 5 Things To Watch At Trump's First State Of The Union
State of Union speeches give presidents the chance to make their best case for the year ahead – and that pressure is particularly acute for President Donald Trump as he tries to help his party keep control of both chambers of Congress in the midterms. ... Recent polling from POLITICO/Morning Consult showed that 59 percent of voters surveyed want Trump to talk about improving the health care system, followed by 58 percent who want discussion of creating jobs and improving the economy. ... “I hope he makes some mention of it because it is important to conservative voters,” said Lanhee Chen, the policy director of the Romney-Ryan 2012 presidential campaign. (Cook, 1/30)

The Hill: Poll: Majority Want Trump To Focus On Health Care In State Of The Union
Most voters think President Trump's first State of the Union address should focus on improving the health-care system, according to a new Morning Consult–Politico poll. According to the poll, 82 percent of voters say it's important for Trump to address improving the health-care system in the speech, followed closely by the 81 percent who said it's important for him to talk about the economy and creating jobs. (Hellmann, 1/29)

The Hill: Pro-ObamaCare Group Launches New Ads Ahead Of State Of The Union, GOP Retreat 
Ahead of President Trump’s State of the Union, a pro-ObamaCare group is launching a months-long, six-figure television ad buy that slams last year’s Republican efforts to repeal ObamaCare, saying the bills would have lead to higher premiums and millions more without health insurance. The ads from Save My Care seek to “strengthen the Congressional firewall against repealing the Affordable Care Act, slashing Medicaid and sabotaging the health care system," Leslie Dach, Save My Care campaign chairman, said in a press release. (Roubein, 1/29)

The New York Times: Senate Rejects Measure To Ban Abortion After 20 Weeks Of Pregnancy
The Senate rejected a bill on Monday to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a largely symbolic vote aimed at forcing vulnerable Democrats to take a stand that could hurt their prospects for re-election in states won by President Trump. By a vote of 51 to 46, the measure fell well short of the 60-vote threshold required for the Senate to break a Democratic filibuster. The outcome was not a surprise, and the vote fell mostly along party lines. (Stolberg, 1/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Fails To Pass Bill Banning Abortions After 20 Weeks
The legislation has become a core plank of the antiabortion movement’s federal strategy, and its leaders pressure lawmakers to repeatedly cast votes on the issue to raise public awareness. The House passed an identical bill in October on a party-line vote and has passed similar legislation three times since 2013. President Trump secured the support of many social conservatives when he promised during his campaign to adopt the antiabortion movement’s top priorities, including the ban on abortions after 20 weeks. His administration has taken other significant steps to restrict access to the procedure, including allowing states to exclude abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid and Title X family-planning programs. (Hackman and Andrews, 1/29)

Politico: Senate Defeats Trump-Backed 20-Week Abortion Ban
Anti-abortion advocates have made a priority of passing the 20-week ban, which is based on the premise that a fetus can feel pain at that point. The bill passed the House, 237-189, in October. The bill's author, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), said the United States is one of only seven countries, including North Korea and China, that allow abortion after 20 weeks. "We're never going to give up until we get America in a better place," he said on the Senate floor. (Haberkorn, 1/29)

The Associated Press: California Senate Approves Medication Abortion On Campuses
California would be the first state to require public universities to offer medication abortion under legislation approved in the state Senate Monday, a bill that if signed into law would mark a vast expansion of a service that's rare on college campuses. None of the 34 University of California or California State University campuses currently offer abortion services at their health centers, instead referring students to outside providers. A group of private donors, some of them anonymous, plan to pay for up to $20 million in startup costs, including ultrasound equipment and training for both medical and billing staff. (1/29)

Reuters: Judge Halts Texas Law Requiring Burial Or Cremation Of Fetal Tissue
A federal judge on Monday placed a temporary halt on a Texas law requiring abortion providers to dispose of aborted fetal tissue through burial or cremation, saying the state has not shown how the measure has a public health purpose. U.S. District Judge David Ezra in Texas also said the law approved last year by the Republican-controlled legislature may violate constitutional due-process provisions. (Herskovitz, 1/29)

Bloomberg: Trump Blasts Drugmakers’ ‘Very Unfair’ Prices
President Donald Trump pledged to bring prescription drug prices “way down” and blasted pharmaceutical manufacturers for “very unfair” price discrimination overcharging Americans. Trump said it’s “very unfair to our country” that manufacturers charge Americans more for the same prescription drugs that they sell at a lower cost in other countries as he swore in former Eli Lilly & Co. President Alex Azar as his Health and Human Services Secretary on Monday. (Jacobs and Epstein, 1/29)

Stat: Trump: New Health Secretary Will 'Get Those Prescription Prices Way Down'
Trump also pointed to the disparity in the cost of prescription drugs in America compared to other countries, saying that “the exact same pill in an identical box from the same factory costs us much more than, many times more than it does in other countries. And nobody knows that process better than Alex. And we’re going to get it done because it’s very unfair for our country.” The remarks echoed back to statements Trump made almost exactly a year ago, when he met with pharmaceutical industry executives and said that “we have to get prices down for a lot of reasons.” Just a few weeks before, he said that the industry is “getting away with murder.” (Swetlitz, 1/29)

The Hill: Azar Sworn In As HHS Chief 
“As our new secretary, Alex will continue to implement the administrative and regulatory changes needed to ensure that our citizens get the affordable high quality care that they deserve,” Trump said at the White House. Azar will also be charged with curbing the opioid crisis, Trump said. “I think we’re going to be very tough on the drug companies in that regard and very tough on doctors in that regard,” he said. (Roubein, 1/29)

Stat: FDA Has To Explain Why Amgen Was Denied A Key Marketing Incentive
Did the Food and Drug Administration treat Amgen (AMGN) differently than Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) when reviewing applications for their drugs? A federal judge ruled late last week that the agency, in fact, may have acted inconsistently when it denied pediatric exclusivity for a blockbuster Amgen drug and ordered the FDA to explain its reasoning. The ruling could mean that Amgen may eventually win six months of pediatric exclusivity, which would allow the company to forestall generic competition to a best-selling drug. (Silverman, 1/30)

The Hill: Dems Demand Answers From Trump Admin About Family Planning Program
Top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are demanding the Trump administration explain why it's running months behind in a process to fund organizations that supply reproductive health services to low-income women. There are about 60 days before Title X family planning grants expire for some recipients, and in the past, they've typically been given 60 to 90 days to apply for more funding. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also needs time to review and approve applications. (Hellmann, 1/29)

The Hill: Departures Test Clout Of Insurance Lobbyist
America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) has been the voice of the health insurance industry for years, but questions have been swirling about whether the association carries the same political clout it once did. Three of the country’s five largest insurance companies have left the group, and the industry has lost some key policy battles with the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress. (Weixel, 1/30)

The Washington Post: Speaker Of Va. House Signals Willingness To Consider Medicaid Expansion, But With Strings Attached
Virginia House Speaker M. Kirkland Cox on Monday signaled that Republicans would be willing to go forward with some kind of Medicaid expansion if Democrats support a work ­requirement for recipients. Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who assumed the speakership this year after his party nearly lost control of the chamber in the November elections, indicated that he would consider providing “healthcare coverage to more Virginians” under certain conditions. (Vozzella, 1/29)

The Associated Press: Virginia Republicans Soften Tone On Medicaid Expansion
Cox says his caucus still opposes a “straightforward” expansion of the publicly funded healthcare program for the poor and disabled, and that any discussion must include work requirements and other reforms favored by the GOP. The shift in tone by Republicans comes after a wave of Democratic victories in November severely reduced the number of GOP delegates in the state House to a 51-49 majority. Republicans have a one-vote majority in the state Senate, but there are enough pro-Medicaid expansion votes to get through the upper chamber. (Suderman, 1/29)

The Associated Press: Mississippi Senate Plan Steps Back From Medicaid Changes
A key state senator is backing off plans to change Mississippi's state-federal Medicaid program. The Senate Medicaid Committee on Monday advanced a version of Senate Bill 2836 removing earlier proposals to cut payments to health care providers and require all Medicaid spending to be administered by managed care companies. It goes to the Senate for more debate. (Amy, 1/29)

The Washington Post: Sessions Assigns Dozens More Federal Agents To Combat Illicit Opioid Sales Online
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that dozens of federal agents and analysts will form a team to disrupt illicit opioid sales online, an emerging front in the government’s campaign to thwart a deadly epidemic. “Criminals think that they are safe online because they’re anonymous, but they are in for a rude awakening,” Sessions said to law enforcement officials gathered in Pittsburgh’s federal courthouse. “We have already infiltrated their networks, and we are determined to bring them to justice.” (Horwitz, 1/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Bronx Drug Court Aims To Help Opioid-Addicted Defendants
A defendant in Judge George Grasso’s Bronx courtroom didn’t show up for a court date Monday because he was receiving inpatient opioid treatment, his lawyer said. The defendant, the judge noted, did the right thing by switching from outpatient treatment, where his social worker said he had struggled. “I want you to tell him that Judge Grasso is very much appreciative and supportive and respectful of his decision-making process,” the judge told the social worker in court. (Ramey, 1/29)

The Wall Street Journal: How Many Opioid Pills Do You Need After Surgery?
When Mark Greenberg had arthroscopic knee surgery in 2017 he was surprised he got a prescription for 50 pills of the pain reliever Percocet from a fellow doctor. Percocet contains oxycodone, an opioid commonly used to treat pain but has a high risk of addiction. “I never filled the prescription,” says Dr. Greenberg says, a pain management physician in Ashland, Ore. “I certainly didn’t need any pain medications for a relatively painless surgical procedure.” (Reddy, 1/29)

The Associated Press: Georgia Doctor Pleads Guilty To Irish Traveler Drug Scheme
A Georgia doctor has pleaded guilty to illegally providing prescriptions for opioids that were sold throughout a so-called Irish Travelers community in South Carolina. The State reports 76-year-old Fred Gilliard pleaded guilty to illegally distributing oxycodone Monday. Prosecutor Jay Richardson says the general practice doctor who specialized in addiction therapy provided the Irish Travelers with prescriptions for drugs that were sold throughout the Murphy Village community. Richardson says Gilliard also asked female patients for sex. (1/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Chemotherapy, A Trusty Weapon Against Cancer, Falls Out Of Favor
Chemo or no chemo? That is the question. Doctors are at odds over whether some women with breast cancer should have chemotherapy—one treatment among the arsenal long seen as crucial to fighting the disease, along with surgery and radiation. Many oncologists are shunning chemo as risky and ineffective at combating some early-stage breast tumors. Traditionally, the majority of women with invasive breast cancer were treated with some combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. (Lagnado, 1/29)

The New York Times: Scientists Discover A Bone-Deep Risk For Heart Disease
It’s been one of the vexing questions in medicine: Why is it that most people who have heart attacks or strokes have few or no conventional risk factors? These are patients with normal levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, no history of smoking or diabetes, and no family history of cardiovascular disease. Why aren’t they spared? To some researchers, this hidden risk is the dark matter of cardiology: an invisible but omnipresent force that lands tens of thousands of patients in the hospital each year. But now scientists may have gotten a glimpse of part of it. (Kolata, 1/29)

Stat: Hand-Held DNA Sequencer Closes Gaps In Human Genome
It’s about the size of a pack of vending-machine Oreos, costs $1,000, and, although it can’t leap tall buildings, it can do something genomics researchers value much more: The pocket-sized MinION has sequenced a human genome by reading longer strings of DNA than reported for any other device. In doing so, it has filled in 12 gaps in the supposedly completely sequenced (but not really) human genome, scientists said on Monday. The human genome remains incompletely sequenced, nearly 15 years after the project to do so declared victory, because most sequencing methods can’t decipher certain parts of the 3-billion-bases-long blueprint of heredity. To do so requires reading thousands of bases — the A’s, T’s, C’s, and G’s that constitute the genetic code — in a continuous ribbon. (Begley, 1/29)

The Washington Post: How Many Eggs A Woman Should Freeze Depends On Her Age And These Other Factors
Actress Olivia Munn revealed on a podcast in 2016 that she had frozen her eggs. She was 35 at the time. “Every girl should do it,” she said confidently. “For one, you don't have to race the clock anymore. You don't have to worry about it, worry about your job or anything. It's there. ”When some celebrities, fertility clinic representatives and other proponents talk about egg freezing, they often make it sound like a sure thing. You go in, get your eggs put on ice, then go back a few years later. A doctor fertilizes them, puts the embryos inside you, and months later a baby pops out.If only it were that easy. (Cha, 1/29)

Los Angeles Times: Sleep Cycle Troubles May Be Early Sign Of Alzheimer’s Disease
A fitful night's sleep and a habit of daytime catnapping may be an early-warning sign of Alzheimer's dementia, according to new research conducted in humans and mice. Restless nights and sleepy days are a common pattern in patients with full-blown Alzheimer's. Those disrupted circadian rhythms are a symptom that can upend the lives of caregivers and cause confusion and anxiety in patients. (Healy, 1/29)

Los Angeles Times: Mental Illness Or Brain Injury? Driven By Voices To Commit Crime, Titus Young Is In Prison But Still Believes He Could Play In The NFL
The former NFL wide receiver with “FEAR GOD” etched on his biceps and his mother’s name written over his heart opened the worn black composition book with a faded newspaper photograph of retired NBA player Metta World Peace taped to the cover. Titus Young was once classified among the most dangerous inmates at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles and spent most of his days in lockdown. In early 2017, he started to write. (Fenno, 1/29)

The New York Times: Strava Fitness App Can Reveal Military Sites, Analysts Say
A fitness app that posts a map of its users’ activity has unwittingly revealed the locations and habits of military bases and personnel, including those of American forces in Iraq and Syria, security analysts say. The app, Strava, which calls itself “the social network for athletes,” allows millions of users to time and map their workouts and to post them online for friends to see, and it can track their movements at other times. The app is especially popular with young people who are serious about fitness, which describes many service members. (Perez-Pena and Rosenberg, 1/29)

The Washington Post: U.S. Military Reviewing Its Rules After Fitness Trackers Exposed Sensitive Data
The concerns raised by the online map went beyond sensitive military sites, with evidence that Strava could help reveal the movements of international aid workers, intelligence operatives and millions of other people in many countries. In the latest discoveries Monday, Internet sleuths found ways of using the publicly available Strava data to identify individual users of the tracking service by name, along with the jogging routes they use in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. (Sly, Lamothe and Timberg, 1/29)

Stat: Online Forums Give Investors An Early Warning Of Shady Scientific Findings
Scientists around the globe nowadays regularly take to the internet to scrutinize research after it’s been published — including to run their own analyses of the data and spot mistakes or fraud. And as interest in this so-called post-publication peer review has swelled, one lawyer argues, biotech and pharma companies would do well to take note. If companies and their investors aren’t reading these sites, they may be the last to know when industry-funded research is called into question. (Oransky and Marcus, 1/30)

The Associated Press: Child Experts: Just Say 'No' To Facebook's Kids App
Child development experts and advocates are urging Facebook to pull the plug on its new messaging app aimed at kids. A group letter sent Tuesday to CEO Mark Zuckerberg argues that younger children — the app is intended for those under 13 — aren't ready to have social media accounts, navigate the complexities of online relationships or protect their own privacy. (1/30)

The Washington Post: Ethics Officials Say The Board Of D.C.'s Only Public Hospital Violated Open Meeting Law
The board of D.C.’s only public hospital violated the city’s Open Meetings Act in December when it excluded the public from its discussion and vote to permanently close the hospital’s nursery and delivery rooms, a top District ethics official has determined. Traci L. Hughes, director of the D.C. Office of Open Government, said in a ruling issued Friday that the board of United Medical Center in Southeast Washington committed violations of the law, which is designed to ensure transparency of government actions. (Jamison, 1/29)

The Associated Press: Lawsuit Seeks To Stop Big California Homeless Camp Shutdown
A religious organization that serves the poor in Southern California filed a lawsuit Monday to try to stop local governments from forcing homeless people out of a big encampment along a riverbed trail. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by the Orange County Catholic Worker group and seven homeless people claims a broad range of violations of constitutional protections by the governments of Orange County and the cities of Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Orange. (1/29)

Los Angeles Times: Anxiety After Possible Tuberculosis Case At Burbank High School
Anxious parents peppered Los Angeles County health officials with questions about the safety of their children after an individual at Johns Burroughs High School was diagnosed with a possible case of tuberculosis recently. The two dozen parents who attended a special meeting held at the school wanted to know if their children had been exposed to the disease and if there was a risk of it spreading to the general public. Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health worked at assuaging their fears. (Nguyen and Carpio, 1/29)

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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