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KHN First Edition: September 2, 2015


First Edition

Wednesday, September 02, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Patience, Persistence Serve Alaska’s Health Commissioner Well In Government – And In Fishing
Alaska Public Media's Annie Feidt, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "In less than 24 hours, Valerie Davidson has 50 people coming for dinner to her house in the remote western Alaska town of Bethel. She had planned to catch and cook enough salmon for the main course, but she’s hit a snag. Early in the morning, the state opened the Kuskokwim River to commercial fishing, which means subsistence fishermen can’t fish on it. So Davidson and I are in 'the orange beast,' her 1983 Chevy pickup, stalking the free fish containers around town. That’s where state biologists deposit their test catches after they conduct their daily studies." (Feidt, 9/2)

The Associated Press: Approaching Health Law Tax Is Not Just A Levy On Luxury
The last major piece of President Barack Obama's health care law could raise costs for thrifty consumers as well as large corporations and union members when it takes effect in 2018. The so-called Cadillac tax was meant to discourage extravagant coverage. Critics say it's a tax on essentials, not luxuries. It's getting attention now because employers plan ahead for major costs like health care. (9/1)

The Associated Press: White House: Alaska's Medicaid Expansion 'Right Decision'
The White House on Tuesday praised the decision by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker to expand Medicaid to thousands of residents over the wishes of the Republican-led Legislature, calling it the "right decision." Alaska on Tuesday became the 29th state to expand Medicaid, opening up health care through what it calls the Healthy Alaska Plan to an estimated 20,000 low-income residents. (9/1)

The Washington Post: Fewer Americans Skipping Medical Care For Cost Reasons
During the first three months of the year, just 1 in 20 Americans said they did not get medical care they needed because they could not afford it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings, from the federal National Health Interview Survey, show that 4.4 percent of people interviewed from January through March said they had skipped medical care in the previous year because of its cost -- the lowest percentage in 16 years. The percent skipping care for cost reasons had reached nearly 7 percent in 2009 and 2010 and has been shrinking since then. (Goldstein, 9/1)

Politico: Government Shutdown Wouldn't Affect Planned Parenthood Funding
A government shutdown wouldn’t shut down Planned Parenthood. Instead, Planned Parenthood would continue to receive the majority of its federal funding — including all of its Medicaid payments — even if Congress cannot enact a new spending law on Oct. 1, according to a nonpartisan study by the Congressional Research Service, obtained by POLITICO. In addition to that federal funding, most of Planned Parenthood’s financial backing comes from outside the government, making it easier for the organization to weather a government shutdown. (Everett and Haberkorn, 9/1)

The Washington Post: Mitch McConnell: This Congress Won’t Be Able To Defund Planned Parenthood
Attempts by Congress to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding are destined to fail as long as President Obama is in office, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. "We just don't have the votes to get the outcome that we'd like," McConnell said in an interview taped Monday with WYMT-TV, which serves eastern Kentucky. "I would remind all of your viewers, the way you make a law in this country, the Congress has to pass it, and the president has to sign it. The president's made it very clear he's not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood so that's another issue that awaits a new president hopefully with a different point of view." (DeBonis, 9/1)

The Associated Press: Senate Leader: Not Enough Votes To Defund Planned Parenthood
The Senate’s top Republican is conceding that his party will have to await the next president before it can cut off federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood, prompting heated rebuffs from conservatives. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says Republicans lack the votes to halt the payments. He also says that standing in the GOP’s way is President Barack Obama, who doesn’t leave office until January 2017. (Fram, 9/1)

The Associated Press: Justice Department Sides With Planned Parenthood In Lawsuit
The U.S. Justice Department told a federal judge that Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision to oust Planned Parenthood from Louisiana's Medicaid program appears to violate federal law by denying Medicaid patients the right to choose their health care providers. In a court filing, the agency said the Jindal administration hasn't offered "sufficient reasons" to keep Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast's clinics in New Orleans and Baton Rouge from receiving Medicaid payments. (9/1)

The New York Times: A Fellow Outsider, Ben Carson Rivals Donald Trump In Polls, If Not In Pomp
Mr. Carson, who first drew political notice by criticizing President Obama’s health care law at a National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, favors repeal of the law. He favors a flat tax that can be filed in 15 minutes. The debate over global warming, he has said, is “irrelevant.” On many other issues, he has offered mostly general statements, but he plans to roll out detailed policies, including on immigration, after Labor Day. Mr. Carson has also accused Planned Parenthood of opening most of its clinics in black neighborhoods “to control that population.” The statement was debunked by various news media fact-checkers, including The Washington Post, which gave the claim “four Pinocchios.” (Gabriel, 9/1)

NPR: Are Statins Bad For Me? Personalized Medicine Can't Yet Say
About 25 to 30 percent of people prescribed statins dump them within a year. I flunked Lipitor after a few wretched months. Statins are prescribed to lower cholesterol in people who show risk factors for cardiovascular disease or diabetes, or who already have them. Side effects can include muscle weakness, diabetes onset and, rarely, permanent muscle damage. These risks are higher in women, with age, and with certain heart and blood pressure drugs. (Wolfson, 9/1)

The Washington Post: Eko’s Stethoscope Shows The Potential Of Digital Technology To Reinvent Health Care
About 200 years ago a French physician rolled a sheet of paper into a cylinder and held it up to the chest of a patient. The creation was crude and simple, but it worked. Rene Laenneac could better hear his patient’s heartbeat, and the stethoscope was born. Today, the stethoscope remains a fixture in medicine, draped around the shoulders of doctors. It’s also overdo for a makeover. Now Eko Devices, a Silicon Valley start-up, has received FDA approval for its digital stethoscope, which brings the power of modern technology to an already essential device. (McFarland, 9/2)

Los Angeles Times: Big Hike In Executive Pay At Nonprofit Blue Shield Draws State Scrutiny
Nonprofit insurer Blue Shield of California boosted executive compensation by $24 million in 2012 — a 64% jump over the previous year — according to a confidential state audit reviewed by The Times. The health insurance giant won't say who got the money or why. But Blue Shield's former public policy director, Michael Johnson, who left this year and is now a company critic, said senior officials at the insurer told him that former Chief Executive Bruce Bodaken received about $20 million as part of his 2012 retirement package, on top of his annual pay. (Terhune, 9/1)

The Washington Post: Hepatitis C Screening Push Focuses On Boomers, IV Drug Users
Delaware health officials are focusing a new campaign on hepatitis C screening for baby boomers and intravenous drug users. The News Journal reports ( that the Delaware Division of Public Health will launch the program in mid-October. The program will teach health care providers, particularly primary care doctors and substance abuse clinicians, about how the disease is transmitted and whom to screen. (9/1)

The New York Times: Operators Of 2 Ohio Abortion Clinics Sue Over State Hurdles
The operators of two southwest Ohio abortion clinics asked a federal court on Tuesday to declare recently enacted state laws governing their operations unconstitutional. Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio and Women's Med Group sued in U.S. District Court, targeting several provisions tucked into the state's two most recent operating budgets, signed into law by Republican Gov. John Kasich this year and in 2013. (9/1)

Los Angeles Times: Key Assembly Panel Approves Aid-In-Dying Bill For California
A bill allowing physicians in California to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to hasten the death of the terminally ill passed a key milestone Tuesday when it was approved by its first committee in the state Assembly. A similar bill had previously stalled during the regular session in the Assembly Health Committee, but the proposal was revived when Gov. Jerry Brown called a special session with a different committee membership that was supportive of the bill. (McGreevy, 9/1)

The Wall Street Journal: Dispute Intensifies In Illinois Over Budget, Unions
Supporters of the legislation say it will ensure a fair outcome to talks in which the Rauner administration is trying to make sweeping changes, including a sharp increase in employee contributions to health benefits and no longer allowing union dues to be deducted from worker pay, said Roberta Lynch, executive director of Council 31. “They came in with most extreme demands we’ve ever seen,” she said. The governor says the bill will eventually put the labor contract in the hands of a union-friendly arbitrator and prevent Mr. Rauner from getting the best deal for the state. Such a result would increase salary and benefit costs and only exacerbate the state’s fiscal problems, administration officials said. (s, 9/1)

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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