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KHN First Edition: October 9. 2015

KHN

First Edition

Friday, October 09, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Medical Prices Higher In Areas Where Large Doctor Groups Dominate, Study Finds
KHN consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Prices for many common medical procedures are higher in areas where physicians are concentrated into larger practice groups, according to a new study. The October Health Affairs study examined the average county prices paid by preferred provider insurance organizations in 2010. It focused on 15 high-volume, high-cost medical procedures across a variety of specialties, including vasectomy, laparoscopic appendectomy, colonoscopy with lesion removal, nasal septum repair, cataract removal and knee replacement. The prices studied reflected the negotiated prices between the PPOs and the physician groups, including payments made by both the plan and the patient. The average price ranged from $2,301 for a total knee replacement to $576 for a vasectomy."

USA Today: Medicare Part B Premiums To Rise 52% For 7 Million Enrollees
For seven in 10 Medicare beneficiaries 2016 will be much like 2015. They will pay $104.90 per month for their Medicare Part B premium just as they did in 2015. But 2016 might not be anything like 2015 for some 30% of Medicare beneficiaries — roughly 7 million or so Americans. That’s because premiums for individuals could increase a jaw-dropping 52% to $159.30 per month ($318.60 for married couples). And for individuals whose incomes exceed certain thresholds, premiums could rise to anywhere from $223.00 per month up to $509.80 (or $446 to $1,019.60 for married couples), depending on their incomes. (Powell, 10/8)

Los Angeles Times: Many Obamacare Dropouts In California Picked Up Employer Coverage, State Says
Nearly half of the estimated 700,000 Californians who have dropped their Obamacare policies during the past two years have enrolled in an employer-based plan, a new report from the Covered California exchange shows. In a news conference Thursday, Lee, the organization’s executive director, said there were about 1.3 million Californians enrolled in the exchange’s plans as of June 30. That was about two-thirds of the 2 million who have enrolled in the exchange since it opened Oct. 1, 2013. (Sisson, 10/8)

The New York Times: Closing A Hospital, And Fearing For The Future
By this weekend, the last patients will be discharged and Mercy Hospital Independence will close, joining dozens of rural hospitals around the country that have not been able to withstand the financial and demographic challenges buffeting them. The hospital and its outpatient clinics, owned by the Mercy health care system in St. Louis, was where people in this city of 9,000 turned for everything from sore throats to emergency treatment after a car crash. Now, many say they are worried about what losing Mercy will mean not just for their own health, but for their community’s future. (Smith and Goodnough, 10/8)

The New York Times: Republicans To Meet Amid Turmoil After Kevin McCarthy's Exit From Speaker Race
House Republicans will meet Friday morning at the Capitol to begin charting a path forward after Representative Kevin McCarthy of California’s stunning withdrawal from the race for speaker dashed expectations of an orderly succession and threw Congress deeper into turmoil. The struggle to restore order to their leadership comes as they confront major fiscal issues with rapidly approaching deadlines, and Republican leaders are casting about for a candidate for speaker who can both bring along restive conservatives and maintain the backing of the far larger ranks of the rest of their conference. (Herszenhorn, 10/9)

Wall Street Journal: Paul Ryan Resists Calls To Run For House Speaker
Deprived of a clear pick for House speaker, many Republican lawmakers turned Thursday to Paul Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, an architect and lead salesman of the party’s conservative economic policies. While the Ways and Means committee chairman, said in a statement Thursday that he was “grateful for the encouragement,” Mr. Ryan added that he wouldn’t be a candidate. ... He has described the chairmanship of the Ways and Committee, a panel that oversees issues such as tax and government health-care policy, Social Security and trade, as an ideal post for him. (McKinnon and Hughes, 10/8)

Modern Healthcare: Medicare Advantage Star Ratings Reveal Mix Of High, Low Performers
More Medicare Advantage plans nabbed top quality marks for their 2016 plans than last year, a potential sign that private insurers are trying to meet the federal government's standards for high-quality products and coordinated healthcare for seniors. But the CMS' star ratings, released Thursday, also showed that private Medicare plans are still failing on many levels, particularly when it comes to prescription drug benefits. (Herman, 10/8)

ProPublica: Bill Would Add Nurses, Physician Assistants To Pharma Payments Database
A bill proposed Wednesday by two U.S. senators would require drugmakers and medical device manufacturers to publicly disclose their payments to nurse practitioners and physician assistants for promotional talks, consulting, meals and other interactions. The legislation would close a loophole in the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which requires companies to report such payments to doctors, dentists, chiropractors, optometrists and podiatrists. Companies have so far released more than 15 million payment records, covering August 2013 to December 2014. (Ornstein, 10/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Business Groups Withholding TPP Support On Lack Of Details
Major U.S. business groups, citing internal frictions and uncertainty over the details of President Barack Obama’s 12-nation Pacific trade deal, are withholding their support for now, hobbling the administration’s early efforts to win congressional backing. With big pharmaceutical companies and several other major industries disappointed by the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the broader business coalitions that have long backed the talks say they first must consult with their members. (Mauldin, 10/8)

NPR: TPP Negotiators Reached Agreement With Sticky Compromise On Biologics Drugs
A big sticking point in the negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership involved biologics medicines and vaccines created from living organisms. The dispute centered on patent protection: how many years drug companies should have before facing competition from generics. The negotiators ended up with a complicated compromise that gives drug makers five to eight years of protection. But nobody is really happy with the outcome. (Zarroli, 10/8)

The Associated Press: Measure To Repeal California Vaccine Law Won’t Be On Ballot
Proponents of an effort to repeal California’s new stricter law requiring mandatory vaccines for school children failed to submit enough signatures to qualify a ballot initiative asking voters to repeal the law. County election clerks reported receiving fewer than 234,000 of the 366,000 signatures needed to ask California voters to repeal the law, according to figures provided to the secretary of state’s office and posted online Thursday. The new state law struck down the state’s personal belief exemption for immunizations, a move that requires nearly all public schoolchildren to be vaccinated. (Williams, 10/8)

The New York Times: F.D.A. Approval Of OxyContin Use For Children Continues To Draw Scrutiny
Ever since the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the narcotic painkiller OxyContin for certain children in August, it has faced unabated criticism from lawmakers and public officials who are wrestling with devastating rates of prescription opioid abuse in their communities. ... The crux of the issue is whether the agency’s approval will lead to more prescriptions for OxyContin in young patients. (Saint Louis, 10/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Biotechs Are A ‘Strong Buy’ Or ‘Strong Sell,’ Wall Street Strategist Says
Biotechnology stocks can’t catch a break. And one Wall Street strategist says the volatile price action recently has him expecting one of two things: A sharp turnaround or a deeper plunge. “The group isn’t a ‘Buy’ or ‘Sell’ here – it is either ‘Strong Buy’ or ‘Strong Sell,’” wrote Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at brokerage Convergex. Biotechs have long been a volatile sector, well outperforming the large-cap S&P index during good times and significantly underperforming during bad times. (Scholer, 10/8)

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield's Deal With Regulators On $1.2-Billion Acquisition Draws Fire
Beleaguered insurer Blue Shield of California won state approval for its $1.2-billion acquisition of a Medicaid health plan, but the nonprofit company’s deal with regulators drew heavy criticism. The California Department of Managed Health Care said it extracted several key concessions from Blue Shield in an agreement unveiled Thursday. Ending a high-stakes and lengthy battle, the company agreed to permanently relinquish its longtime state tax exemption. (Terhune, 10/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Roche’s MS Drug Reports Promising Results
Roche Holding AG’s Genentech unit said its experimental drug ocrelizumab proved effective in three late-stage studies against multiple sclerosis, potentially heralding an important new treatment option for the debilitating disease. In two of the studies, which included 1,656 patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis, the most common form of the condition, ocrelizumab proved superior to the commonly used drug, Rebif, in reducing the annual rate of relapse of major symptoms and other measures of the status of the disease, Roche said. (Winslow, 10/8)

The Wall Street Journal: PharMEDium A Hit For CD&R As Firms Renew Interest In Sector
Clayton Dubilier & Rice’s planned sale of drug-compounding company PharMEDium Healthcare Holdings Inc. for $2.58 billion stands to land the private equity firm a nice return on its investment. It also reflects revived interest in compounding pharmacies, which mix or dilute pharmaceutical agents to create hospital-grade dosage forms that aren’t commercially available. (Or, 10/8)

Los Angeles Times: California Agency Ranks Kaiser As Best HMO, Anthem And Cigna As Best PPOs
Kaiser Permanente was the highest-rated HMO and Anthem Blue Cross and Cigna the top-rated PPOs in a new state report. The California Office of the Patient Advocate released ratings Wednesday of 10 HMOs, six PPOs and more than 200 medical groups, just as Californians prepare to choose their health plans for next year from their employers or Covered California, the state's Obamacare exchange. (Pfeifer, 10/8)

Los Angeles Times: Death With Dignity Act In Oregon: A Preview Of What California Might Expect
California's new law, which the 77-year-old former Jesuit seminarian struggled with before signing, was modeled after legislation enacted in Oregon nearly 18 years ago. Whether they call it "death with dignity" or the "corruption of the medical profession," "physician-assisted suicide" or "medical killing," those on both sides of the end-of-life debate do agree on one thing: That Oregon's example offers important lessons for California and its 38.8 million residents, who in the near future will be able to ask a doctor to prescribe them a lethal dose of medication so they can hasten their own deaths. (La Ganga, 10/8)

NPR: Calfornia Approves Laws To Cut Use Of Antipsychotics In Foster Care
Efforts to protect children in foster care from being inappropriately medicated with powerful antipsychotic drugs got a big boost forward on Tuesday, when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed three bills into law designed to reform prescribing. Overprescribing of psychiatric meds for foster youth is a persistent problem nationwide, with children given the drugs at double or triple the rate of those not in foster care. (Korry, 10/8)

The New York Times: Getting The Diagnosis Wrong
Diagnostic accuracy is fiendishly difficult to measure precisely, but it is estimated that doctors get it wrong in one out of 10 to one out of 20 cases. Up until now, the focus of the patient safety movement has been on errors of medical treatment — incorrect medications or dosages, postoperative complications, hospital-acquired infections. But diagnostic errors — incorrect or delayed diagnoses — may be more common and potentially more deadly. The Institute of Medicine has taken up the subject, and its new report offers the chilling observation that nearly everyone will experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetimes. (Ofri, 10/8)

The Washington Post: A Different Kind Of Care Package
U.S. health care is in a revolution that is starting to shake up one of the most conservative parts of medicine: its antiquated model for training doctors. Once paid a la carte for the procedures and services they perform, physicians are beginning to be reimbursed for keeping their patients healthy. ... The AMA is worried enough about the problem that it has been giving out millions of dollars to prod new kinds of teaching, in the hope that doctors’ training can adapt as quickly as the system they will soon join. (Johnson, 10/8)

Los Angeles Times: What Elephants Can Teach Scientists About Fighting Cancer In Humans
You've heard that elephants never forget, but did you know they almost never get cancer either? It turns out just 4.8% of known elephant deaths are related to cancer. For humans, cancer-related deaths are much higher — between 11% and 25%, scientists say. The low cancer rate among elephants is particularly intriguing because all things being equal, elephants should get more cancer than we do. (Netburn, 10/8)

The Washington Post: NIH’s Mental Health Chief On Why He’s Leaving For Google: Technology May Hold Key To Better Diagnosis
Thomas Insel, who has been director of the National Institute of Mental Health for 13 years, is leaving at the end of the month to join Google. A major force behind the Obama administration’s BRAIN Initiative, he stirred major controversy by pressing for an overhaul in the way mental illness is diagnosed. At Google, he’ll be exploring how the company’s technological expertise can be applied to mental-health issues. (Sun and Nutt, 10/8)

CNN: Anti-Bullying Laws Appear To Be Working
Roughly 20% of high school students report being bullied at school in the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 15% of high school students said they were bullied online. That number has gone down significantly since the federal government started collecting data on the problem in 2005. A decade ago, 28% of students reported being bullied. Why? One reason is that anti-bullying laws seem to actually work. That's what a new study in JAMA Pediatrics suggests, although not all bullying laws are equally impactful. (Christensen, 10/8)

The Washington Post: Scientists Say ‘Runner’s High’ Is Like A Marijuana High
That happy, invincible feeling you get when you're floating through the air at the peak of a workout?You've probably heard that it's something called endorphins that your body produced during prolonged exercise. ... A new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences challenges that notion and puts forth a different theory: That that "high" it could be due to different substance called endocannabinoids. (Cha, 10/8)

The New York Times: Eating Organic Lowers Pesticide Levels In Children
Researchers have found that when children eat organic fruits and vegetables, the amount of pesticides in their bodies declines significantly. Most organophosphorus pesticides have been phased out for residential use, but they are still widely used in agriculture. High doses in agricultural workers can be deadly. (Bakalar, 10/8)

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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