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KHN First Edition: September 24, 2015


First Edition

Thursday, September 24, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Contraceptive Implant Under Microscope Amid Questions of Safety, Altered Trial Data
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Roni Caryn Rabin writes: "On Thursday, a FDA advisory committee will hold a public hearing in Silver Spring, Md., to address questions about the safety and effectiveness of Essure, which was approved in 2002. Some women’s health care advocates want the device pulled off the market, and a citizen petition filed with the FDA by a Florida law firm says that the approval process and clinical trials were 'replete with fraud.' Users have filed 5,093 complaints with the FDA citing chronic pelvic pain, debilitating periods, pregnancies that occurred with Essure including five that ended in fetal death, hysterectomies to remove devices that moved to other organs or broke apart, and four patient deaths, including one by suicide. (Rabin, 9/24)

The Washington Post's The Fix: Study: Obamacare Has Made Americans More Conservative About Health Care
On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton issued her defense of the Affordable Care Act and proposals to change the landmark health law, signaling the next battle in a war with all the signs of a political stalemate. Americans are basically evenly split in their assessments of the law and sharply divided along partisan lines; Republican presidential candidates want to scrap the law, while Democrats support keeping it (Clinton) or expanding it (Bernie Sanders). None of this is new to anybody, nor expected to change anytime soon. (Clement, 9/23)

Real Clear Politics: 'Cadillac Tax' Is Hated, But It Might Be Working
In a bit of poetic justice, a tax named after an automobile brand got a boost from contract negotiations in the Motor City. That new federal levy, officially called an excise tax on high-cost health coverage, is better known as the "Cadillac tax." Under this provision of the Affordable Care Act, employer-sponsored health coverage worth more than $10,200 per year to an individual or $27,500 per year to a family will be subject to a 40 percent tax on the amount that exceeds the threshold. The tax doesn't take effect until 2018, and as we get closer to that date, pressure in Congress is building to repeal it. (Eisenhower, 9/24)

The Associated Press: Democrats Poised To Filibuster Stopgap Funding Measure
The Senate is preparing to vote on legislation that would keep the government open beyond next Wednesday's deadline at a price Democrats are certain to reject — stripping taxpayer money from Planned Parenthood. The stopgap spending bill is widely expected to fail Thursday. The next steps aren't set in stone, although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has promised there won't be a government shutdown. That suggests he would soon press ahead with a stopgap measure that's free of the Planned Parenthood dispute. (9/24)

The Associated Press: GOP Pragmatists Protest Tea Party Shutdown Tactics
Rank-and-file Republican lawmakers are increasingly protesting the tactics of tea party colleagues who demand that legislation to keep the government open also take away federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The leading proponent of bringing the fight over funding the group to a possible government shutdown remained unbowed. (Taylor, 9/23)

The Washington Post: Shuttering The Government Actually Costs More Than Keeping It Open — More Than $2 Billion Last Time
Budget hawks in Congress may stand their ground on wasteful spending, but shutting down the government is no example of fiscal frugality. ... The reports run through a lengthy list of disruptions in 2013. They include a backlog in veterans’ disability claims, nearly 6,300 children left out of Head Start, patients left out of cancer studies at the National Institutes of Health, halted consumer-safety work, delays in tax refunds. The Food and Drug Administration delayed “nearly 500 food and feed domestic inspections and roughly 355 food safety inspections under state contracts,” the budget office said. (Rein, 9/24)

The Washington Post: Van Hollen On Government Shutdown: Patients Will Be Turned Away From NIH
Patients with critical illnesses will be turned away and research will be disrupted if the government shuts down again on Oct. 1, the director of the National Institutes of Health and the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee warned Tuesday. With just four legislative days remaining until the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said that during the 16-day shutdown in 2013, new patients were not allowed in to the clinical facilities of the Bethesda medical campus. (Bernstein, 9/22),

USA Today: Pope Pushes Catholic Hospitals, Clinics To Do More To Help Poor
Pope Francis, who will address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, is pushing Catholic hospitals and clinics to increase their free health care to the poor as many House and Senate Republicans try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which provided health coverage to millions of low-income Americans. Anthony Tersigni, CEO of St. Louis-based Ascension — the largest non-profit health system in the USA — will be in the gallery during the pope's address. Tersigni, who chairs the International Association of Catholic Hospitals, will meet with Francis in the Vatican in November to discuss the pope's push to get Catholic-owned health care providers to do more to help the poor. (O'Donnell and Ungar, 9/23)

Reuters: Pope Visits U.S. Nuns Involved In Obamacare Contraception Lawsuit
Pope Francis on Wednesday made an unscheduled stop to a convent of nuns to show his support for their lawsuit against U.S. President Barack Obama's healthcare law. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the visit to the convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor for what he called a "brief but symbolic visit." (9/23)

Politico: Boehner Braced For Pope's Message
Still, Francis will likely please the GOP on other fronts. He’s expected to touch on the need to end abortion, defend traditional marriage and protect religious liberty, even if he uses opaque terms. As the threat of a government shutdown looms, Francis also may discuss the need for bipartisanship, though he’ll likely use a term such as “political unity.” (Toosi, 9/24)

Politico: Graham Itching To Confront Cruz, Paul
Graham said in an interview he's prepared to confront Cruz directly as the chamber braces for a rhetorical assault from the Texas senator, with Graham arguing that a shutdown would be futile and politically damaging. It’s an opportunity, Graham says, “to tell my side of the story here.” And, the senator with the syrupy Southern drawl admits, it won’t be because he thinks it’s going to give him a bounce in the polls. “I’m running to be the president of the United States. And a certain amount of honesty comes with that,” Graham said in an interview. “Shutting down the government, I think it hurts our overall cause and I don't mind telling people that. If I’m going to be a good nominee and a good president, I’ve got to tell you what I believe.” (Everett, 9/24)

Los Angeles Times: Carly Fiorina Just Another Politician? Views Shift To Sway More Conservative Crowd
In one of the most dramatic moments of her breakthrough debate performance, Carly Fiorina called for a government shutdown in the fight over Planned Parenthood, painting a gruesome picture involving the harvesting of fetal tissue for medical research. ... But beyond that controversy and the battle over federal funding for Planned Parenthood, Fiorina’s forceful response stood out for another reason: It suggested a shift from the stance she took in her 2010 U.S. Senate race in California. Then, during a debate with Democrat Barbara Boxer, she endorsed spending federal funds on research using human embryos that would have otherwise been discarded. ... Campaigning for president, she fiercely emphasizes her opposition to legal abortion, referring to it as “butchery” and “a kind of barbarity,” and calls for overturning Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. But in another debate during her Senate race, Fiorina said if elected she would not initiate action to overturn Roe vs. Wade, or make opposition to abortion a litmus test for Supreme Court appointments. (Barabak and Mehta, 9/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Hillary Clinton Aims To Limit Consumers’ Health-Insurance Costs
Each idea is geared toward addressing gripes that have grown louder in recent years among people who have insurance. Among the biggest complaints are so-called high-deductible plans, which offer relatively low monthly premiums but require people to pay several thousand dollars before coverage kicks in. Such plans have become increasingly common options for people who buy through the health law or get coverage as part of their job. Insurance networks also have generated considerable consumer heartburn. (Radnofsky, 9/23)

The Washington Post: Clinton Proposes Expansion Of ACA For Doctor ‘sick Visits’ And Tax Credit For Out-Of-Pocket Medical Costs
Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed Wednesday to guarantee Americans three doctor visits annually that would not count against a patient’s insurance plan “deductible,” the threshold amount patients must pay out of pocket before some insurance plans kick in. The Democratic presidential candidate is also proposing a tax credit to help offset other out-of-pocket medical costs for Americans squeezed by rising patient-borne costs for doctor visits, prescription drugs and other medical expenses. (Gearan, 9/23)

The Associated Press: Clinton Aims To Tackle Out-Of-Pocket Health Care Costs
Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed a series of steps on Wednesday to lessen the burden of out-of-pocket medical bills for Americans covered by President Barack Obama's health care law. The Democratic presidential candidate said she would require plans to provide three sick visits a year without counting toward a patient's annual deductible, a provision that would apply to both private health plans and those covered through the so-called Obamacare law. She said many Americans are forced to pay a significant cost out-of-pocket if they get sick because average deductibles have more than doubled during the past decade. (9/23)

The New York Times: Fury Over Drug Price Spikes Rising, But Increases Aren't New
Hillary Clinton was among the patients and politicians who voiced outrage this week after it became public that the price of a 62-year-old drug used to treat a life-threatening infection had been raised by more than 5,000 percent. But exorbitant drug price hikes like that have happened increasingly over the last few years. And they could become even more common because of decreasing competition in the pharmaceutical industry, among other factors. (Johnson, 9/23)

NPR: Turing Pharmaceuticals Retreats From Plan To Raise Price Of Daraprim
Turing Pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli has backed down on his plan for an astronomical price increase on a drug used to treat a deadly parasitic infection. The company did not say what the new price would be, but presumably less than the $750 a pill it had planned to charge. The move illustrates how Shkreli is more Wall Street speculator than pharmaceutical entrepreneur. (Zarroli, 9/23)

The Washignton Post: A Defining Moment In Modern Health Care
Martin Shkreli is health care’s Gordon Gekko, its wolf of Wall Street, the symbol of all that makes people uneasy about an industry that seeks to make money by selling treatments while vowing to care only about the well-being of vulnerable patients. (JOhnson, 9/23)

The Washington Post's The Fix: Martin Shkreli: A New Icon Of Modern Greed
Shkreli is the founder and chief executive of the pharmaceutical company Turing. He and his company have, of course, been the subjects of widespread news coverage this week after the New York Times highlighted Shkreli's decision to boost the cost of the more-than-60-year-old drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 after the company purchased the drug in August. The drug, developed long ago (i.e. the research costs were borne by a previous owner of the drug), is not exactly a frequently used medication but is considered the most effective drug and therefore the standard of care for people suffering with an infection called toxoplasmosis. (Ross, 9/23)

NPR: Obesity Maps Put Racial Differences On Stark Display
Click on the CDC's obesity prevalence maps and you'll see something even more startling — the disparity among different ethnic groups. It's not new that the obesity epidemic is hitting African-Americans the hardest, followed by Hispanics, but the maps highlight this worrying trend. For African-Americans for example, there are 33 states with an obesity rate of at least 35 percent, whereas for white Americans only 1 state reports that rate. Nine states estimate the Hispanic obesity rate at 35 percent or higher. (Greenhalgh, 9/23)

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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