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KHN First Edition: October 5, 2015


First Edition

Monday, October 05, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Workplace Wellness Programs: Early Alarm For Workers’ Health Or A Recipe For Over-Testing?
Kaiser Health News staff writer JulieAppleby reports: "As health insurance open season heats up for businesses across the country, many employees will discover that participating in their company’s wellness program includes rolling up their sleeves for blood tests. Half of large employers offering health benefits have wellness programs that ask workers to submit to medical tests, often dubbed “biometrics,” that can involve a trip to a doctor’s office, lab or workplace health fair. While aimed at uncovering potential health risks early to head off serious and costly problems, the programs that involve those biometrics are also controversial. Will the screening exams actually improve health, or merely add to a culture of over-testing that is helping drive up the cost of health care?" (Applby, 10/5)

Kaiser Health News: Telemedicine Expands Despite Uncertain Financial Prospects
KCUR's Alex Smith, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports:"Watching the video nurses in action, it’s a little hard to shake the Jetsons vibe, but this kind of health care is already alive and growing. On October 6, Mercy Hospital will open a new telemedicine mothership that will treat thousands of patients in 5 states. The new facility will provide even more patients in remote parts of the Midwest and South with health monitoring that is comparable to what you could get in a big hospital, said Tom Hale, the executive medical director of Mercy Virtual." (Smith, 10/5)

The New York Times: Supreme Court Prepares To Take On Politically Charged Cases
The last Supreme Court term ended with liberal victories, conservative disarray and bruised relations among the justices. The new one, which opens on Monday, marks the start of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s second decade on the court and will reveal whether the last term’s leftward drift and acrimony were anomalies or something more lasting. The court will decide major cases on politically charged issues, including the fate of public unions and affirmative action in higher education. It will most probably hear its first major abortion case since 2007 and revisit the clash between religious liberty and contraception coverage. (Liptak, 10/4)

The Associated Press: Familiar, Divisive Social Issues On Supreme Court Agenda
The Supreme Court is starting a new term that promises a steady stream of divisive social issues, and also brighter prospects for conservatives who suffered more losses than usual in recent months. ... Future cases will deal with abortion, religious objections to birth control, race in college admissions and the power of public-sector unions. Cases on immigration and state restrictions on voting also could make it to the court in the next nine months. (10/5)

Los Angeles Times: Why Liberals Fear New Supreme Court Term Could Hurt Abortion Rights And Unions
After legalizing same-sex marriage and upholding provisions of President Obama’s legacy healthcare program for a second time, the Supreme Court justices return to work Monday in a new term that will put liberals on the defense. If the five conservative justices prevail in the year ahead, they could deal a severe blow to labor unions, rein in abortion rights under Roe vs. Wade, restrict college affirmative-action programs and shift political power away from Democratic-controlled election districts by redefining who gets counted as an eligible voter. (Savage, 10/5)

USA Today: On High Court's Docket: Race, Labor, Politics -- And Abortion?
The Supreme Court embarks on a new term Monday that would make Yogi Berra proud: It truly is déjà vu all over again. The justices will rule on affirmative action for the third time in four years. They will rule on public employee union fees for the third time in five years. They will deliver verdicts on class-action lawsuits and death penalty appeals, as they do virtually every year. (Wolf, 10/4)

Politico: 5 Cases To Watch As Supreme Court Term Begins
Litigation over state efforts to limit abortion by regulating clinics and doctors is making its way to the high court. And the justices are already facing a batch of petitions involving the rights of religious institutions to opt out of providing contraception under Obamacare. Both issues seem likely to land on this term's docket, although the justices haven’t formally taken up either. (Gerstein, 10/4)

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Faces Politically Charged Election-Year Docket
The contraceptives-coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act is also making a return. The court already told the government last year, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, that the mandate impinged on the religious freedoms of some employers directed to carry it out. And, because the court long ago decided that states may impose some restrictions on abortion, the question in a coming case will be, how far may they go before it becomes an “undue burden” on a woman’s right? The court has provided little guidance on what that term means. (Barnes, 10/4)

The Washington Post: United States, 11 Nations On Verge Of Historic Pacific Rim Trade Accord
The United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations were on the verge of a final agreement Sunday night on the largest free-trade accord in a generation, an ambitious effort led by the Obama administration to knit together economies across a vast region. ... Negotiators said that they were near a consensus on terms for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after a feverish week of talks here among trade ministers who sought to close the gaps on several lingering disputes. Plans to publicly announce a deal in the afternoon were delayed several times as the parties wrangled over the technical details related to market access for dairy products and new-generation biologic medicines. (Nakamura, 10/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Rift Over Drug Protections Complicates Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Talks
A fight over how long to protect certain high-end drugs from lower-cost imitators has emerged as the leading obstacle to negotiations aimed at completing a 12-nation trade agreement spanning the Pacific. While officials from the U.S. and other counties cite some progress on two other thorny issues, the drug debate continues to divide Australia and other countries from America in the high-level talks that began Wednesday in Atlanta. (Mauldin, 10/2)

The New York Times: Valeant’s Drug Price Strategy Enriches It, But Infuriates Patients And Lawmakers
J. Michael Pearson has become a billionaire from his tough tactics as the head of the fast-growing Valeant Pharmaceuticals International. And consumers like Bruce Mannes, a 68-year-old retired carpenter from Grandville, Mich., are facing the consequences. Mr. Mannes has been taking the same drug, Cuprimine, for 55 years to treat Wilson disease, an inherited disorder that can cause severe liver and nerve damage. This summer, Valeant more than quadrupled its price overnight. Medicare will now have to cover about $35,000 for the 120 capsules he takes each month, and he will have to pay about $1,800 a month out of pocket, compared with about $366 he paid in May. (Pollack and Tavernise, 10/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Why Teladoc Needs Medical Attention
Technology holds great promise in many fields, especially health care. But it isn’t a cure-all. Investors in Teladoc learned that the hard way Friday. Shares in the largest and oldest telemedicine company fell by more than one-fifth after a report noted that health insurer Highmark won’t be renewing its contract with Teladoc for fully insured members. (Grant, 10/4)

USA Today: Groups Call On Congress To Reform Mental Health System
A day after a mass shooting in Oregon, 23 mental health groups are calling on Congress to pass legislation aimed at repairing the USA's broken mental health system. The groups delivered a letter to congressional leaders Thursday, just hours before the attack at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. left 10 people dead. The shooting was the latest in a series of mass killings perpetrated by unstable young men, many of whom were mentally ill. (Szabo, 10/2)

The Associated Press: Again? Health Care Debate Expands For 2016
America’s health care debate has been called an unhealthy political obsession. But if the 2016 presidential hopefuls have any say, it’s about to get bigger. The candidates in both parties are offering options across the political spectrum, from a system wholly run by the federal government to dialing back Washington’s commanding role. Behind the rhetoric, each approach has its pitfalls. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/2)

The Associated Press: Fiorina Makes Distortion Of Planned Parenthood A Centerpiece
Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina has spent the last two weeks repeating an erroneous description of videos secretly recorded by anti-abortion activists. That seems bound to continue as she makes her opposition to Planned Parenthood a centerpiece of her 2016 campaign. Campaigning in South Carolina on Friday, Fiorina said she "absolutely" stands by her criticism of Planned Parenthood. She accused the women's health organization — it's also the nation's largest abortion provider — of pushing "propaganda" against her while being "aided and abetted by the media." (Barrow, 10/3)

The Washington Post: Rep. Jason Chaffetz Launches Bid For House Speaker, Shaking Up GOP Leadership Race
The Republican chairman of a high-profile House committee on Sunday shook up the race to succeed outgoing Speaker John A. Boehner, launching a challenge to the heavy favorite, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The bid by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, comes amid unrest from conservatives driven by doubts that McCarthy (Calif.) will be any more inclined than Boehner to embrace the right flank of the House Republican Conference. ... [Chaffetz] is well versed in the hand-to-hand political combat of cable news and talk radio and has become the party’s face on a variety of issues, including Secret Service failures and government funding for Planned Parenthood. (DeBonis and Viebeck, 10/4)

The Associated Press: Judge: Arkansas Must Fund Some Planned Parenthood Benefits
Arkansas will block most Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday, after a judge ordered the state to continue paying for services only to the three women who are suing over the governor's decision to end payments to the organization. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction requiring the state to pay for the services for three unnamed women, referred to in the suit as Jane Does, challenging the contract's termination. Baker last month reinstated the contract for all Planned Parenthood for two weeks, and that order expired late Friday afternoon. (DeMillo, 10/2)

The Associated Press: Utah To Send Planned Parenthood Federal Funds Through 2015
Utah says it will continue sending federal money to the state's Planned Parenthood organization through the end of the year. State Department of Health spokesman Tom Hudachko said Friday that contracts Utah sought to cancel or allow to expire will remain in place through 2015 as a legal challenge over the funding continues. (10/2)

Los Angeles Times: Lab Tests Could Offer Clues In Planned Parenthood Arson
A large stone and samples of an accelerant used to set fire to a Planned Parenthood facility in Thousand Oaks have been sent to a laboratory for testing, authorities said. No arrests have been made in the arson, but detectives expect the test results will offer information on the type of accelerant used and possibly clues about the arsonist, said Capt. John Reilly of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. (Rocha, 10/2)

Los Angeles Times: Bill Awaiting Brown Would Subsidize Farmworker Union's Health Plan For 5 Years
Last year, the budget writers in Gov. Jerry Brown's administration held their noses when Democrats pushed through the Legislature a $3.2-million subsidy for a union healthcare plan. It was something the state would "hopefully get out of the business of doing next year," Keely Bosler, the chief finance deputy, said at the time. But the governor approved an additional $2.5-million subsidy in June, and now Democratic lawmakers want a longer financial commitment. They passed legislation last month that would provide similar funding for the union — the storied United Farm Workers once led by Cesar Chavez — for five more years. (Megerian, 10/3)

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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