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KHN First Edition: September 22, 2015


First Edition

Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Tech Options Helping Patients Wrest Control From Doctors
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "In his new book, “The Patient Will See You Now,” Dr. Eric Topol envisions patients as partners in their own health care rather than petitioners to the medical establishment. Armed with smartphones equipped with apps to monitor vital signs and perform diagnostic tests, patients’ reliance on physicians will diminish, he predicts, and doctors will generally assume a consulting rather than controlling role with their patients, who will monitor and manage their own health for the most part." (Andrews, 9/22)

Kaiser Health News: Attention Shoppers: New Calif. Website Details Costs, Quality Of Medical Procedures
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Barbara Feder Ostrov writes: "Having a baby in California? Your average out-of-pocket costs for an uncomplicated birth could cost a lot less in San Mateo County ($920) than in Alameda County ($1,300), Santa Clara County ($1,500) or Orange County ($1,800). Thinking about a knee replacement? You’ll find a surprisingly wide variation in quality ratings among Bay Area hospitals for the procedure." (Feder Ostrov, 9/21) These are among the insights from a new consumer website unveiled Monday by the California Department of Insurance to help Californians better shop for health care based on both quality and price.

Kaiser Health News: From Pills To Pins: Oregon Is Changing How It Deals With Back Pain
Oregon Public Broadcasting's Kristian Foden-Vencil, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Oregon wants more patients to take this approach. Denise Taray, coordinator of the Oregon Pain Management Commission, says Medicaid’s traditional way of dealing with back pain involved advising bed rest and prescribing painkillers. 'The only thing that might have been covered in the past was narcotics,' Taray says. 'But treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractor, massage therapy, physical therapy and rehab would never have been covered.'” (Foden-Vencil, 9/22)

Politico: How The GOP Could Use Obamacare To Gut Obamacare
Forget "repeal and replace." An obscure Obamacare provision that takes effect in 2017 could empower a Republican president to unravel Obamacare — without a single vote from Congress. The provision allows the executive branch to waive big chunks of the law for a state that chooses a different approach to expanding health coverage. It was designed to allow progressive states to go further than Obamacare. Vermont, for instance, wanted to create a single-payer plan. (Pradhan, 9/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Providers, Insurers Supersize
Five years after the Affordable Care Act helped set off a health-care merger frenzy, the pace of consolidation is accelerating, transforming the medical marketplace into a land of giants. The trend is under a new spotlight now, as Congress zeroes in on the competitive and cost impact of proposed deals that would collapse the health-insurance industry’s top five players into just three massive companies, each with more than $100 billion in annual revenue. On Tuesday, a Senate subcommittee is set to hear testimony from the chief executives of Aetna Inc., which plans to acquire Humana Inc., and Anthem Inc., which is seeking to buy Cigna Corp., as well as the head of the American Hospital Association. (Wilde Mathews, 9/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Expected To Move To Prevent Government Shutdown
The Senate is expected to take the first steps this week toward avoiding a government shutdown on Oct. 1, GOP lawmakers and aides said Monday. Congressional Republicans incensed over videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fees for procuring fetal tissue for medical researchers have been weighing whether to try to strip federal funding for the women’s health organization in a spending bill that must be passed before the government’s current funding expires on Sept. 30. (son and Hughes, 9/21)

Los Angeles Times: Budget Standoff Puts Nancy Pelosi Back In The Driver's Seat
Over the next week, as congressional leaders try to avoid another government shutdown, Pelosi will exert her rising clout as she tries to use a battle over the federal budget to win concessions from the GOP majority. ... Boehner and his Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), badly want to avoid another politically damaging shutdown like the 16-day episode two years ago. Government officials say that fight cost taxpayers an extra $24 billion to shut down government programs and then reopen them. Polls show that voters blamed the GOP for the stalemate, hurting the party’s standing with the public. But conservative Republicans say they will not vote for any spending bill unless Congress blocks federal grant money for Planned Parenthood. They say they are outraged over videos of the organization’s officials discussing the use of tissue from aborted fetuses for scientific research. Some of those conservatives also see an opportunity to further weaken Boehner and build the case for removing him. (Mascaro, 9/22)

The Washington Post: Congress Could Hear From Planned Parenthood On Eve Of Shutdown Deadline
Congress could finally hear directly from Planned Parenthood's leader next week after months of controversy — on the day before it confronts a potential government shutdown spurred by conservatives demanding an end to the group's federal funding. The timing of the possible Sept. 29 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has Democrats crying foul, accusing Republicans in a Monday letter of "using this issue to force a government shutdown unless [House Speaker John A. Boehner] bows to their demands." (DeBonis, 9/21)

The Associated Press: Senate Dems Likely To Block GOP Bill Curbing Late Abortions
Democrats seem certain to block Republican legislation banning most late-term abortions in a Senate showdown with plenty of political significance but little suspense. Though the GOP controls the Senate, Democrats appeared certain to prevent them from getting the 60 votes needed Tuesday to move ahead on the bill. It would be the second time since this summer’s release of videos involving Planned Parenthood that Senate Democrats have scuttled a Republican effort to curb the organization and abortions. (Fram, 9/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Republican Health-Policy Focus Shifts To Abortion Limits
With little to show for their efforts to repeal the 2010 health law, Republicans have refocused on trying to defund Planned Parenthood Federation of America and tighten federal abortion restrictions. The shift has occurred both on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail. In the most recent GOP presidential debate, abortion was a prominent talking point while candidates mentioned the Affordable Care Act only a handful of times. In Congress, Republicans are weighing shutting down the government on Oct. 1 in a bid to defund Planned Parenthood. And both chambers are voting on antiabortion bills this month amid a crush of other issues. (Armour and son, 9/21)

Los Angeles Times: Hillary Clinton Previews Plan To Expand Obamacare And Lower Health Costs
Democrats facing tough elections have been running away from Obamacare in their campaigns almost since the law was passed, but Hillary Rodham Clinton is taking a different approach. She is embracing it. On the campaign trail, Clinton is leaning into the Affordable Care Act, touting the health insurance mandate as a signature achievement of Democrats as the law — about which the public remains deeply divided — has become firmly embedded in the nation's healthcare system and is delivering sweeping new benefits to millions of voters. (Halper and Levey, 9/21)

The Associated Press: Clinton Says She Won't Let GOP 'Tear Up' Health Care Law
Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday hailed President Barack Obama's health care law for reducing the rate of uninsured Americans and vowed to defend it against Republican opposition if she wins the White House. The Democratic presidential candidate kicked off a series of health care events with an embrace of the law, arguing that Republican resistance to the overhaul has hurt working families seeking coverage. She credited the health care law with decreasing the rate of uninsured Americans to the lowest level in 50 years. (9/21)

The New York Times: Hillary Clinton, In Louisiana, Gets A Health Care Challenge From Bobby Jindal
Gov. Bobby Jindal, looking for traction in the Republican presidential nomination contest, is welcoming Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday to his home state of Louisiana, where she plans to hold an event stressing the positive effects of President Obama’s health care law. Mr. Jindal issued a statement in advance of the visit, challenging Mrs. Clinton to a debate on the Affordable Care Act. (Haberman, 9/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Clinton To Propose New Rules For Drug Makers
Hillary Clinton is proposing new rules that would pressure prescription-drug companies to spend a set portion of their revenue on research and development, one of several ideas aimed at controlling the rising cost of pharmaceuticals. Her plan, to be laid out in Iowa on Tuesday, also would attempt to dissuade drug companies from spending large sums on consumer advertising by barring that from counting as a tax-deductible business expense. (Meckler and Loftus, 9/22)

Politico: Hillary Clinton Taking On Drug Industry
Hillary Clinton will launch a broadside against the pharmaceutical industry on Tuesday, rolling out an aggressive plan to drive down prescription drug costs, a populist health care issue largely unconnected with Obamacare that Democrats want to position front and center in 2016. At a campaign event in Iowa, Clinton will unveil a set of proposals that her campaign says will save well over $100 billion over 10 years — taking those savings mostly from the drug industry but targeting insurers as well. (Norman, 9/22)

The Washington Post: Clinton Proposing $250 Monthly Cap On Prescription Drug Costs For Patients
Clnton herself telegraphed the plan with a Twitter message Monday vowing to go after “price-gouging” by drug companies. She cited the nearly 5,000-percent increase in the per-pill cost of a drug to treat parasitic infections. That price hike was profit-driven, Clinton said Monday at a political rally in Little Rock, Ark. The Democratic front-runner said she would crack down on such price increases because “nobody in America should have to choose between buying the medicine they need and paying rent.” (Gearan and Goldstein, 9/22)

USA Today: Hillary Clinton Unveils Plan To Lower Prescription Drug Costs
The proposal, which she’ll outline in a speech in Iowa later today, would also allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug costs and cap out-of-pocket expenses, according to details of the plan sent out by the campaign. The plan seeks to address a key shortcoming of Obamacare, President Obama’s signature health law, as the Democratic front-runner aims to show how she would put her imprint on it. (Pryzybyla, 9/22)

The Associated Press: Clinton Adds Details To Plans On Prescription Drug Costs
Hillary Rodham Clinton is laying out a new plan to rein in the rising cost of prescription drugs, seeking to build upon President Barack Obama's health care law. The Democratic presidential candidate's proposal aims to cap monthly and annual out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs to help patients with chronic or serious health conditions. It would also deny tax breaks for televised direct-to-consumer advertising and require drug companies that receive taxpayers' support to invest in research and development. (9/22)

The Associated PRess: Biotech Stocks Fall On Clinton Vow To Fight 'Price Gouging'
Stocks of makers of biologic and "specialty" drugs plunged Monday after Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said she'll soon release a plan to address "price gouging" in the industry. It was one of the worst days of the year for the stock market performance of the biotech industry. Clinton's announcement on Twitter followed news that drugmaker Turing Pharmaceuticals in August hiked the price of Daraprim, a 53-year-old drug for toxoplasmosis, a potentially deadly parasitic infection, to $750 per pill from $13.50. (Johnson, 9/22)

Politico: Bernie Sanders Questions Drug Price Spike
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is calling on a drug company to justify a dramatic spike in the price of a 62-year-old drug that was reported Sunday. One day before rival Hillary Clinton is set to propose a plan to rein in high costs for specialty drugs, Sanders in a letter to Turing Pharmaceuticals demanded an explanation for why the price of a drug used to treat dangerous parasitical infections leapt from $13.50 per tablet to $750 after the company acquired the drug from a competitor. (Norman, 9/21)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Carly Fiorina’s Claim That 307,000 Veterans ‘died Waiting For Health Care’
Readers asked us to fact-check this figure that Fiorina cited twice during the second GOP debate, hosted by CNN, at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif. The number of veterans who were believed to have died while waiting for care in one Arizona facility was estimated in to be in the “dozens.” Yet this figure that Fiorina used was significantly higher. Is it accurate? (Lee, 9/21)

Politico: How Scott Walker Became An Asterisk
His stunning fall, from top tier hopeful to a so-called “asterisk candidate” who couldn’t break 1 percent in the latest CNN poll, also illustrated the limits of fundraising in a 2016 that was supposed to be dominated by unregulated campaign spending. Both Walker and former Gov. Rick Perry, who dropped out earlier this month, represent a two-man money-couldn’t-buy-them-love club on the sidelines. Super PACs affiliated with Perry and Walker raised millions in the weeks leading up to their collapses — Walker’s alone banked more than $20 million. (Thursh, 9/21)

USA Today: Health Care Prices Vary Wildly: What Can You Do?
It’s a frustrating reality of the medical marketplace: Prices are all over the map. If you need an angioplasty to treat heart disease in Birmingham, Ala., it will cost about $15,500. But the identical procedure in Sacramento will cost four times as much. And even within the same Boston-area market, the price of removing a common type of skin cancer can vary by hundreds of dollars depending on which hospital you go to. (Ungar and O'Donnell, 9/21)

USA Today: Insurance, Healthy Behavior Are Key To Reducing Cost Of Chronic Disease
Chronic disease is a modern plague: Nearly half of adults have either diabetes or pre-diabetes, one in three suffers from high blood pressure and more than two-thirds are overweight or obese. These conditions not only maim and kill; they cost the nation hundreds of billions of dollars. Panelists at a forum sponsored here last week by USA TODAY and Cigna agreed that both access to health insurance coverage and healthy behaviors are key to bringing those costs down. The experts stressed that cost-control measures are especially needed in an era of health reform as the nation faces an aging population. (Ungar and O'Donnell, 9/22)

The Washington Post: CEO Who Raised Price Of Old Pill More Than $700 Calls Journalist A ‘moron’ For Asking Why
Ever since an HIV/AIDS patient advocacy group began raising questions last week about why Turing Pharmaceuticals jacked up the price for a medication from $13.50 per pill to $750 overnight, anger against the company has been boiling over. The medicine, Daraprim, which has been on the market for 62 years, is the standard of care for a food-borne illness called toxoplasmosis caused by a parasite that can severely affect those with compromised immune systems. Turing purchased the rights to the drug last month and almost immediately raised prices. (Cha, 9/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Nonprofit Reacquires Rights To Tuberculosis Drug After Hefty Price Hike
An Indiana not-for-profit has bought back the rights to a tuberculosis drug it sold to a small drug company just three weeks ago, amid outcry after a hefty price increase by the company. Rodelis Therapeutics had raised the price of the drug, Cycloserine, to $10,800 for a supply of 30 pills, up from about $480 that the Purdue Research Foundation had charged, the foundation said. (Rockoff, 9/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Down Syndrome Blood Test Sparks Abortion Debate
A blood test that can predict if a fetus will have Down syndrome is growing in popularity. But since it can lead some couples to end pregnancies, it is sparking a debate. Disability rights’ advocates, researchers and clinicians note that people are now living longer, healthier and more productive lives with Down syndrome, a genetic condition that causes intellectual disability, developmental delays and certain medical problems. (Marcus, 9/21)

Los Angeles Times: Consumers Can Check Medical Prices, Quality Scores On New State Website
Lifting some of the secrecy surrounding California healthcare, state officials unveiled a website where consumers can look up average prices for common medical procedures — as well as quality scores for providers. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, consumer advocates and researchers hailed the online tool launched Monday as the first step in prying more detailed prices from insurers, hospitals and doctors so patients facing high deductibles can find the best deal. (Terhune, 9/21)

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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