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KHN First Edition: August 25, 2015

KHN

First Edition

Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: A Racial Gap In Attitudes Toward Hospice Care
Kaiser Health News staff writer Sarah Varney reports; "Twice already Narseary and Vernal Harris have watched a son die. The first time — Paul, at age 26 — was agonizing and frenzied, his body tethered to a machine meant to keep him alive as his incurable sickle cell disease progressed. When the same illness ravaged Solomon, at age 33, the Harrises reluctantly turned to hospice in the hope that his last days might somehow be less harrowing than his brother’s." (Varney, 8/25)

Kaiser Health News: States Looking For More Effective Ways To Encourage Vaccinations
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "When kids start school this fall, it’s a sure bet that some won’t have had their recommended vaccines because their parents have claimed exemptions from school requirements for medical, religious or philosophical reasons. Following the much publicized outbreak of measles that started in Disneyland in California in December, these exemptions have drawn increased scrutiny." (Andrews, 8/25)

The Associated Press: Tardy Tax Filers Risk Loss Of Health Care Subsidies
Sign-up season for President Barack Obama's health care law doesn't start for another couple of months, but the next few days are crucial for hundreds of thousands of customers at risk of losing financial aid when they renew coverage for 2016. Call them tardy tax filers: an estimated 1.8 million households that got subsidies for their premiums last year but failed to file a 2014 tax return as required by the law, or left out key IRS paperwork. (8/24)

The New York Times: With Mergers, Concerns Grow About Private Medicare
As some of the nation’s largest health insurers plan to merge, a new report raises fresh concern over the lack of competition in the private Medicare market. The analysis, released on Tuesday, concludes “there is little competition anywhere in the nation.” The report from the Commonwealth Fund, a research group, looked at the market share of insurance companies offering private Medicare Advantage plans in 2012. The authors found that 97 percent of markets in United States counties were “highly concentrated,” in which a small number of insurers dominated. The lack of competition was worse in rural markets. (Abelson, 8/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Gauge Shows Trader Unease On Merger Outcomes
For patient, steel-nerved investors, though, there could still be big profits to be made. A wager placed Friday that Aetna Inc. will complete its $34 billion takeover of rival health insurer Humana Inc., for example, is set to return some 22% should the deal close on schedule in late 2016. The spread, which largely reflects nervousness that regulators will reject the deal and possibly an accompanying tie-up between Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp., rose from 21.2% a week earlier. That is a relatively modest move showing that not all spreads widened dramatically last week.(Raice and Hoffman, 8/24)

Politico: House GOP Leaders Desperate To Avoid Shutdown
An explosive confrontation brewing between the House Republican leadership and conservatives over Planned Parenthood is threatening to shut down the government for the second time in three years. And House GOP leaders have yet to settle on a strategy to avert it. Desperate to avoid another closure, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his team would prefer to build bipartisan opposition to funding the group through a series of high-profile Congressional investigations. But, at this point, that seems unlikely to cut it with a bloc of House conservatives who have said they simply won’t vote for a large-scale spending plan that funds Planned Parenthood. (Sherman and Palmer, 8/25)

The Associated Press: VA Says Claims Backlog Cut Below 100,000 Cases
The Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday it now has fewer than 100,000 disability claims older than four months, a "historic milestone" that is one-sixth the size of a long-term backlog that reached a record 611,000 claims in 2013. Allison Hickey, the VA's undersecretary for benefits, said the current backlog of 98,535 claims older than 125 days is the lowest since the agency started measuring the claims backlog in 2007. (8/24)

The New York Times: Prosecutors Rebuke Menendez Over Request To Dismiss His Corruption Case
Justice Department prosecutors scolded Senator Robert Menendez and his lawyers on Monday, rebuking the indicted lawmaker for what they described as a disingenuous attempt to have corruption charges against him thrown out in federal court. In a series of filings answering Mr. Menendez’s request that his case be dismissed, Justice Department lawyers defended their handling of a lengthy investigation into the senator, which resulted in a 14-count indictment in April. (Burns, 8/24)

Politico: DOJ: Robert Menendez Response To Bribery Charges 'Naked Rhetoric'
Menendez, who was first elected to Congress in 1992 and became a senator in 2006, was indicted in April for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in improper gifts and campaign contributions as bribes in exchange for using his office to aid Melgen. Both men have sought to have the charges against them dropped. According to the indictment, Menendez received nearly $1 million worth of gifts and campaign contributions from Melgen in exchange for using his Senate office to aid Melgen in a multimillion-dollar billing dispute with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; to attempt to enforce a $500 million port security contract Melgen had with the Dominican Republic; and to obtain visa applications for several of Melgen’s girlfriends. Melgen would reportedly send his private jet to pick up Menendez and a guest in New Jersey for flights to Florida or Melgen’s resort home in the Dominican Republic, all at no cost. Menendez subsequently was compelled to repay tens of thousands of dollars for unreported flights. (Bresnahan, 8/24)

The Washington Post: Prosecutors Claim ‘Unmistakable’ Evidence Of Menendez Wrongdoing
The investigators found “repeated and substantial use of defendant Menendez’s power and influence to further the personal whims and financial interests of defendant Melgen,” the filing says. “No ordinary constituent from New Jersey received the same treatment, and the quid pro quo outlined in the indictment is clear and unmistakable.” ... The 14-count indictment accused Menendez of using the influence of his office to advance Melgen’s financial interests in exchange for luxury gifts, lavish vacations and more than $750,000 in campaign donations.secutors charged that Menendez, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, twice intervened on the doctor’s behalf — first with federal regulators investigating Melgen’s Medicare billings and then when Melgen sought to secure a ­port-security contract in the Dominican Republic, according to the indictment. (Leonnig, 8/24)

The Wall Street Journal: New Ways For Patients To Get A Second Opinion
Some of the services are sponsored by established medical centers, including Massachusetts General Hospital and Cleveland Clinic. Others are independent businesses that work with specialists on a consulting basis. Employers increasingly are contracting with such services, and insurance companies at times require patients to get a second opinion, such as for surgery. (Reddy, 8/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Alternative Way To Treat Early-Stage Breast Cancer With Radiation
Breast-cancer specialists are sharply divided over a new radiation technique that costs less and is more convenient than conventional therapy. The technique, known as intraoperative radiation therapy, or IORT, involves administering a single dose of radiation at the same time a patient is having lumpectomy surgery to remove a tumor. A large, randomized controlled trial concluded that IORT has fewer side effects and appears to prevent the return of cancer nearly as well as traditional treatment, in which patients undergo radiation sessions five days a week for up to seven weeks. (Beck, 8/24)

The Washington Post: Here’s What Two College Doctors Say Freshman Need To Know
Dear Incoming College Freshmen, As you begin the next step in life, you are probably both excited and nervous, thinking about your classes, dorm setup, meal plans and making new friends. But there are some health-related issues you should be thinking about, too. As family medicine physicians who have treated hundreds of college students, we have 10 tips we’d like to share — essentially the things we wish every freshman would know before arriving on campus. (Seliby and Mishori, 8/24)

NPR: Katrina Shut Down Charity Hospital But Led To More Primary Care
Five years ago, New Orleans attorney Ermence Parent was struggling to find out what was wrong with her leg. She was 58 years old, and her right leg hurt so much that she needed a cane. That was not only painful, but frustrating for a woman who routinely exercised and enjoyed it. Parent sought advice from several doctors and a chiropractor, but got no diagnosis. (Neighmond, 8/24)

The Associated Press: Man Sues Hotel Named As Source Of Legionnaires’ Outbreak
A man who came down with Legionnaires’ disease and spent several days in a hospital has filed a civil lawsuit against the hotel identified by authorities as the source of the deadly outbreak. Leslie Noble’s lawsuit against the Opera House Hotel says its “negligence, carelessness and recklessness” caused him physical pain and mental anguish. The lawsuit by Noble, a 54-year-old security guard, was filed last week and seeks unspecified damages. (8/24)

Los Angeles Times: New Breed Of Paramedics Treats Patients Before Emergencies Occur
Paramedic Jacob Modglin parks on a palm-lined street in Oxnard and jumps out of his ambulance. He is prepared for any kind of emergency. But his patient is standing in the driveway of a one-story house, holding a thermos, and smiling. It's time for his 8 p.m. appointment. Modglin is part of a new cadre of "community paramedics" working in a dozen pilot programs across California. Their jobs are to treat patients before they get sick enough to need emergency care. (Karlamangla, 8/25)

The Associated Press: Right-To-Die Group Fined $30K In Minnesota Woman’s Suicide
A national right-to-die group convicted of assisting in the 2007 suicide of a Minnesota woman was ordered Monday to pay a $30,000 fine — the maximum sentence allowed under state law. Final Exit Network Inc. was convicted in May of assisting in the suicide of Doreen Dunn, a 57-year-old Apple Valley woman who took her life after a decade of suffering from chronic pain. In addition to the fine, the group was also ordered to pay nearly $3,000 to Dunn’s family to cover funeral expenses. (Forliti, 8/24)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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