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KHN First Edition: September 21, 2015


First Edition

Monday, September 21, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Surge In Statin Use Among Very Elderly Without Heart Trouble Raises Doubts
Kaiser Health News staff writer Lisa Gillespie reports: "Many doctors are choosing a better-safe-than-sorry approach to heading off heart trouble in very elderly patients. Inexpensive statin drugs are given to millions of people to reduce cholesterol, even many who do not show signs of heart disease. But a recent study has found that seniors with no history of heart trouble are now four times more likely to get those drugs than they were in 1999. Here’s the catch: For patients of that age, there is little research showing statins’ preventive heart benefits outweigh possible risks, which can include muscle pain and the onset of diabetes. " (Gillespie, 9/21)

The New York Times: Bipartisan Effort Fights Health Law Rule That Could Raise Premiums
Members of Congress from both parties, as well as some employers, insurers and state insurance commissioners, are calling for changes in the Affordable Care Act to prevent premium increases that are expected to affect workers at many small and midsize companies next year. Lawmakers see the potential for a rare bipartisan agreement on the issue, after five years in which Republicans have repeatedly tried to repeal the law and Democrats have blocked their efforts. (Pear, 9/20)

Politico: GOP Ties Anti-Abortion Push To Papal Visit
Democrats have a lengthy wish list for Pope Francis when he addresses Congress this week. But Republicans are seizing on the Catholic leader’s historic visit to make good on one of their top social priorities: Tough new abortion restrictions. As they rally behind a long-awaited measure that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, GOP lawmakers are tying their messaging to the teachings of the Catholic Church, which opposes the practice. And the presence of Pope Francis on Capitol Hill this week shines an even brighter spotlight on the legislation, which has long been a top priority of advocacy groups that oppose abortion. (Kim and Haberkorn, 9/21)

The Associated Press: GOP Leaders Face Tough Test In Congress To Keep Gov’t Open
Congress’ Republican leaders face stark tests as they fight to keep the government open past month’s end, amid fears a shutdown could imperil their party’s White House ambitions. ... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., must contend with the ambitions of several GOP presidential candidates. One of them, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has made it his business to oppose the Kentuckian at every turn, even taking to the Senate floor to accuse him of lying. ... Together they are demanding that must-pass spending legislation cut off all federal money for Planned Parenthood. The efforts follows the disclosure of secretly recorded videos in which Planned Parenthood officials are shown discussing how they acquire fetal parts for medical research. (Werner and Taylor, 9/21)

Politico: Conservatives Balk At GOP Pitch To Avert Shutdown
Republican leaders who are eyeing a rarely-deployed, fast-track budget procedure as a way to defund Planned Parenthood and stave off a government shutdown appear to be in for a rude awakening. The idea is aimed at placating conservatives by giving them a way to pass legislation to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding and decouple the issue from the entire federal budget. But conservatives are balking at the proposal to use the majority-vote reconciliation process, calling it a "ruse" that, in the end, would leave Planned Parenthood's federal funding intact and amount to little more than a feel-good exercise. (Bade, 9/18)

The Associated Press: How Planned Parenthood Became A Reason For A Shutdown Threat
The federal government could be headed for a shutdown at the end of the month, over funding for Planned Parenthood. ... Republicans in Congress have long disliked Planned Parenthood because the group performs abortions, among many other health services for women. Their revulsion for Planned Parenthood was reignited this summer by secretly recorded videos showing organization officials offhandedly discussing how they sometimes provide tissue from aborted fetuses for medical researchers. (9/19)

The Washington Post: House Votes To Defund Planned Parenthood, But Will That Help Avert A Shutdown?
The House passed two abortion-related bills Friday, including one that would strip federal health-care funding from Planned Parenthood for one year, but it remains unclear whether the votes would appease conservatives who have threatened a government shutdown over the organization. ... But neither bill is likely to become law as Senate Democrats have filibustered similar measures, and President Obama has indicated he would veto both bills. That’s why the move is unlikely to stave off growing fears of a government shutdown on Oct. 1. (DeBonis, 9/18)

The New York Times: House Republicans Vote to Stop Funding Planned Parenthood
House Republicans vented their rage against Planned Parenthood on Friday, voting to block all federal financing for the organization, which they accused of profiting from the sale of aborted fetuses for medical research. It was unclear, however, if the vote would mollify conservative lawmakers who have threatened to force a government shutdown over the abortion issue. (Herszenhorn, 9/18)

Politico: House Votes To Defund Planned Parenthood For One Year
The bill to defund Planned Parenthood was approved 241-187 with the support of two Democrats. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) voted present because he said the bill's language wasn't strong enough. The bill adding criminal penalties for not treating a baby born alive in the course of an attempted abortion passed 248-177 with the support of five Democrats. One Democrat voted present. Neither bill is expected to pass the Senate if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were to bring them up for a vote. President Barack Obama said he would veto them. (Haberkorn, 9/18)

The Associated Press: House Bills On Abortion Aim To Avert Possible Gov’t Shutdown
Seeking to avert a government shutdown, Republican leaders are hoping to contain conservatives’ demands for a politically risky showdown with President Barack Obama by striking a quick blow against abortion and Planned Parenthood. In a nearly party-line 241-187 vote on Friday, the House passed a bill blocking Planned Parenthood’s federal funds. The vote followed a no-holds-barred debate that included a graphic, poster-size photo of a scarred, aborted fetus and underscored how abortion has resurfaced as a white-hot political issue. (Fram and Taylor, 9/19)

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare’s Proposed Changes On Prosthetics Stirs A Fight
Tom Watson has relied on a prosthetic limb since the 1970s, when a 10,000-pound bulldozer rolled over part of his right leg. After his amputation, he became so involved in prosthetics that he opened his own business fabricating and fitting such devices. Now Mr. Watson, whose advanced artificial limb has allowed him to remain active and coach college football for students with disabilities, has both a business and personal stake in proposed federal rules that would tighten Medicare requirements for prosthetics. (Armour, 9/20)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Carly Fiorina Jumps To No. 2 In CNN Poll, Keeps Focus On Abortion Issue
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, suddenly center-stage in the GOP contest, continued to hammer away at issues central to the party’s base, including opposition to the use of federal funds for Planned Parenthood. Mrs. Fiorina, who vaulted into second place in a CNN-ORC poll after her Wednesday night debate performance, called abortion a “type of butchery,” and said she continues “to dare anyone” to watch a controversial video that she contends depicts a fetus being kept alive for the harvest of its body parts. (Burton and Sussman, 9/20)

The Associated Press: Republicans Jockey For Conservative Credibility
Setting aside personality clashes for a night, the Republican Party’s 2016 contest shifted to substance Friday as a slate of White House hopefuls vowed to steer the nation sharply to the right as they courted conservatives in battleground South Carolina. ... [Wisconsin Gov. Scott] Walker also called for congressional Republicans to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood even if it causes a government shutdown. He suggested that Senate Republicans use the so-called “nuclear option” to bypass filibuster rules that often require 60 votes to proceed on contentious issues. “We don’t have to play by those rules,” Walker said. (Peoples and Barrow, 9/18)

The Washington Post: Fiorina Dismisses Planned Parenthood Criticism, Knocks Clinton, Obama And Congressional Republicans
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina forcefully dismissed charges that the controversial Planned Parenthood video she described during Wednesday’s GOP primary debate does not exist, earning several standing ovations at a presidential forum here in Greenville (S.C.) as she tore into President Obama and Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton for supporting the organization. (DelReal, 9/18)

The Associated Press: Novel Plan To Curb Drug Costs Seeks Candidates’ Attention
Consumer-friendly ratings of the benefits of new drugs. Limits on what patients pay. Requiring drug companies to disclose how much they actually spend on research. With the public concerned about the high cost of new medications, these are some of the proposals offered Friday by a policy center often aligned with the Obama administration.The multistep plan from the Center for American Progress aims to get the attention of the 2016 Democratic presidential candidates. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are both on record advocating action against overpriced medications. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/18)

The Washington Post: Hillary Clinton To Go On Offense Over GOP Plans To Repeal Obamacare
Hillary Rodham Clinton will begin filling in details this week of her proposal to tweak the Affordable Care Act, and she will attempt to use Republican presidential candidates’ opposition to the health-care-expansion law against them. Clinton plans a series of events in Louisiana, Arkansas and Iowa to needle Republicans over their opposition to a law that has greatly reduced the number of uninsured Americans, her campaign said. (Gearan, 9/19)

The Associated Perss: Clinton To Offer New Prescription Drug Proposal This Week
Hillary Rodham Clinton says she’ll soon roll out a proposal for controlling the cost of prescription drugs, a key fix to President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. “We have a lot of positives. But there are issues that need to be addressed,” the Democratic presidential front-runner said Sunday on CBS’ ”Face the Nation. “I’m going to address them this week, starting with how we’re going to try to control the cost of skyrocketing prescription drugs. It’s something I hear about everywhere I go.” (9/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Universal Health To Buy Addiction-Treatment Network
Hospital company Universal Health Services Inc. said Friday that it has agreed to buy privately-held Foundations Recovery Network LLC for about $350 million, adding a network of addiction-treatment centers to its portfolio. The transaction has been approved by the Federal Trade Commission and United Health expects to complete the deal in the coming weeks. (Beilfuss, 9/18)

The Associated Press: Universal Health Services Buying Foundations For $350M
Universal Health Services, one of the largest hospital operators in the U.S., said Friday it will buy addiction treatment facility company Foundations Recovery Network for $350 million. Foundations provides treatment for adults who have both addiction and mental health disorders. It has two facilities in California, one in Northern Georgia and one in Memphis, Tennessee, along with eight outpatient centers. (9/18)

The New York Times: Drug Goes From $13.50 A Tablet To $750, Overnight
Specialists in infectious disease are protesting a gigantic overnight increase in the price of a 62-year-old drug that is the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection. The drug, called Daraprim, was acquired in August by Turing Pharmaceuticals, a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager. Turing immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Pollack, 9/20)

Los Angeles Times: 'Amazing' Diabetes Drug Drives Down Fatal Heart Attacks And Strokes, Study Finds
Just as doctors were losing hope that they would find a drug capable of reducing heart risks for patients with diabetes, a new study identified one that may drive down the chances that such patients will die of a heart attack, stroke or heart failure. Compared with clinical trial subjects who took a placebo, those who added Jardiance to their regimen of diabetes medications were 38% less likely to die as a result of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problem during the approximately three years that subjects were tracked. (Healy, 9/18)

The New York Times: F.D.A. Nominee Califf’s Ties To Drug Makers Worry Some
[I]n May 2014, Dr. Robert M. Califf gave a presentation ... [and] spoke about ways to quicken the pace of biomedical innovation by transforming research. Toward the end he showed a slide that noted one barrier: regulation. ... after President Obama nominated Dr. Califf on Tuesday to become the next commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, his thoughts on the subject are suddenly taking on importance. ... no one who knows him thinks he wants to weaken the regulatory agency he has been chosen to lead. But he has deeper ties to the pharmaceutical industry than any F.D.A. commissioner in recent memory, and some public health advocates question whether his background could tilt him in the direction of an industry he would be in charge of supervising. (Tavernise, 9/19)

NPR: FDA Revisits Safety Of The Essure Contraceptive Device
Essure is a device comprised of two tiny coils made of nickel-titanium alloy. Scott's doctor inserted one into each of her fallopian tubes to permanently block them. Since Essure doesn't require surgery, he said it would be a lot easier, quicker and safer. ... Because of complaints, the FDA has asked a panel of outside experts to take another look at Essure during a public hearing on Thursday. (Stein, 9/21)

The Washington Post: The Bacteria-Fighting Super Element That’s Making A C
Ancient Egyptians used copper to sterilize chest wounds and drinking water. Greeks, Romans and Aztecs relied on copper compounds to treat burns, headaches and ear infections. Thousands of years later, the ancient therapeutic is being embraced by some hospitals because of its ability to kill bacteria and other microbes on contact, which can help reduce deadly infections. At least 15 hospitals across the country have installed, or are considering installing, copper components on “high-touch” surfaces easily contaminated with microbes — faucet handles on sinks, cabinet pulls, toilet levers, call buttons and IV poles. (Sun, 9/20)

Los Angeles Times: New Prescription Drugs Can Help Patients, But Their High Prices Elicit Ire
They sounded like three deadly strikes. The patient had a dangerously high level of LDL cholesterol, a high risk for heart disease and an intolerance for the most common cholesterol-fighting medication. Dr. William Averill, a Torrance cardiologist, thought he had a solution: Praluent, a cholesterol-lowering drug from pharmaceutical companies Regeneron and Sanofi that had just been approved by the FDA as a treatment for people who didn't benefit from the standard cholesterol treatment. (Pfeifer, 9/20)

The New York Times: In Unit Stalked By Suicide, Veterans Try To Save One Another
Mr. Bojorquez, 27, served in one of the hardest hit military units in Afghanistan, the Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment. In 2008, the 2/7 deployed to a wild swath of Helmand Province. ... During eight months of combat, the unit killed hundreds of enemy fighters and suffered more casualties than any other Marine battalion that year. When its members returned, most left the military and melted back into the civilian landscape. ... Almost seven years after the deployment, suicide is spreading through the old unit like a virus. ... Feeling abandoned, members of the battalion have turned to a survival strategy they learned at war: depending on one another. Doing what the government has not, they have used free software and social media to create a quick-response system that allows them to track, monitor and intervene with some of their most troubled comrades. (Philipps, 9/19)

The Washington Post: After The VA Scandal, Veterans Were Told Their Wait For Care Would Get Shorter. But It’s Actually Getting Worse.
Veterans who are seeking care for everything from post-traumatic stress disorder to cancer may face even longer wait times in the coming years for help from the overburdened Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a highly critical 4,000 page VA-commissioned study of veterans health care. The report finds that VA facilities cost twice the norm for public facilities, a claim that will likely re-launch a debate about moving towards privatizing some VA services. (Wax-Thibodeaux, 9/18)

The Associated Press: Bungling By UN Agency Hurt Ebola Response
Something didn't smell right. As a worker at Kenema Government Hospital mixed a batch of chlorine on a broiling August day, he noticed it didn't have its typically strong, bleach-like odor. Concerned, he turned to a consultant with the World Health Organization, who tested the disinfectant and found barely any active ingredient. "I was deeply shocked," the consultant, Jerome Souquet, wrote in an email to his boss in Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital. Souquet said the consequences of using the ineffective chlorine "could be catastrophic, and cause immediate infection of all the staff." (Cheng, Satter and Larson, 9/21)

USA Today: HHS To Change Rules For Opioid Treatment Drug
The federal government will change the rules for prescribing the addiction drug buprenorphine in an effort to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for people addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said Thursday. Burwell also announced $1.8 million in grants to 13 states for rural communities to pay for naloxone, a drug that reverses an opioid overdose, and training on how to administer it. (Leger, 9/19)

The Washington Post: Feds Join Whistleblower Suit On Mississippi Hospital Bills
The federal government is joining a whistleblower lawsuit alleging owners of a Mississippi hospital unjustly bilked $12 million from Medicare. The suit, filed in 2007 by a former administrator at Stone County Hospital and unsealed Friday, alleges that Ted and Julie Cain of Ocean Springs pulled down big salaries partially reimbursed by the federal health care program for older people. (Amy, 9/18)

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