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KHN First Edition: October 12, 2015


First Edition

Monday, October 12, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Birth Centers Boost Deliveries While Easing Labor Pains
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "Kristen Shorey gave birth to her second baby this summer in a marble-lined bathtub surrounded by LED candles and rested afterward on a queen-size mahogany bed. She received no pain killers, never saw a doctor and was home with her newborn son, Rowan, seven hours after birth. It was nothing like the hospital experience where she had her first son two years ago, she said. In fact, the June birth wasn’t in a hospital at all but at the Greenville Midwifery Care & Birth Center. She delivered with help from a midwife instead of an obstetrician. Shorey, 25, labored in a water-filled tub rather than a small bed while hooked up to intravenous tubes and a fetal heart monitor — her 27-year-old husband, Taylor, by her side." (Galewitz, 9/12)

The New York Times: Insurance Dropouts Present A Challenge For Health Law
On Nov. 1, a new sign-up period for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act will begin, and insurers, health care providers and enrollment groups are ramping up campaigns to encourage 10.5 million eligible uninsured people to buy policies. But even as those efforts begin, the public insurance exchanges, also known as marketplaces, created by the law are facing another challenge: keeping the customers they already have. About 9.9 million people were enrolled in the federal and state marketplaces at the end of June, a drop of about 15 percent from the 11.7 million who the Obama administration said selected plans during the open enrollment period that ended in February. (Goodnough, 10/11)

The Associated Press: US Boosts Privacy Protection On Health Insurance Website
Responding to criticism from civil liberties advocates, the Obama administration said Friday it has strengthened consumer privacy protections on the government's health insurance website as a new sign-up season nears. CEO Kevin Counihan said in a blog post that the web page will have a new 'privacy manager' that lets consumers opt out of embedded connections to third-party advertising, analytics and social media sites. (Aloso-Zaldivar, 10/9)

The Washington Post: Financial Health Shaky At Many Obamacare Insurance Co-Ops
A new breed of health insurers created under the Affordable Care Act — representing one of the government’s most innovative attempts in decades to foster better coverage — is on shaky financial ground in many of the 23 states where the plans began. ... But in recent months, nearly half of the un-or¬tho¬dox start-ups have been told by federal regulators that their finances, enrollment or business model need to shape up. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees the health-care law, recently sent warning letters to 11 of the “co-ops,” as they’re known. The agency placed them on “enhanced oversight” or required them to produce a plan of “corrective action,” or both, according to federal figures not previously made public. Several have been notified in the past two weeks. (Goldstein, 10/10)

The Associated Press: House Bill Targets Health Law, Planned Parenthood Funds
The House Budget Committee approved Republican legislation Friday that would scuttle President Barack Obama's health care law, block federal payments to Planned Parenthood — and likely lead to a presidential veto. The measure is the latest of many GOP measures that have been aimed at both targets but that Democrats have managed to derail in the Senate. This time, Republicans are using a special process that would prevent Democratic senators from using filibusters, or procedural delays, to kill the measure. That means there's a strong chance the legislation will reach Obama — who would be certain to veto it. Republicans are pushing it anyway as a vehicle to highlight their views to conservatives ahead of next year's presidential and congressional elections. (Fram, 10/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Paul Ryan Seen As Able To Bridge The GOP Gap
Still, several influential conservatives say Mr. Ryan, with admirers among both establishment types and hard-liners in the caucus, is the closest thing to a consensus candidate and would draw more GOP votes in the conference than anyone, including Mr. McCarthy. Mr. Ryan, 45 years old, first came to prominence in the years following the 2006 elections that drove Republicans out of power in the House. Dismayed by the party leadership’s cautious approach to changes in fiscal policy, Mr. Ryan began circulating a set of far-reaching ideas for an overhaul of federal budget, tax and entitlement programs. These proposals made him a favorite target of liberal Democrats, particularly his calls to revamp Medicare, which they argue would slash benefits. (McKinnon, 10/11)

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Presses Paul Ryan As Republicans Search For Next House Speaker
House Republicans left the U.S. Capitol Friday without a plan to elect a new speaker, intensifying pressure on Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) to take on the onerous job. Mr. Ryan, a former vice presidential nominee, has said he doesn’t want the position, but the party is in turmoil after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s sudden decision to drop out of the race to replace departing Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio.). (Hughes and son, 10/9)

The New York Times: A Likely Debate Highlight: Democrats’ Distance From Obama
Mr. Obama’s legacy and how much a Democratic successor should embrace it will hover over the debate, even as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders and the other Democratic candidates put forth their specific policy proposals and promises. ... Last week, she said she could not support Mr. Obama’s signature trade pact, the Trans Pacific Partnership, which she had championed as secretary of state and which Mr. Sanders had come out forcefully against. She has also proposed doing away with the so-called Cadillac tax on certain health care plans, aligning herself with labor unions on dismantling a key part of Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Mr. Sanders has also taken aim at the law, saying it does not go far enough to make health insurance affordable for many Americans. (Chozick, 10/11)

The Wall Street Journal: For Lieberman, A Return To Spotlight In Campaign Season
Mr. Lieberman will co-lead a forum Monday for presidential candidates in Manchester. Five Republicans—including front-runner Donald Trump—and three Democrats will be on hand for a rare joint appearance by candidates of both major parties in New Hampshire. ... Nearly 2,000 New Hampshire voters registered to attend the event, and every candidate who has declared they are running for president was invited to attend, a No Labels spokesman said. The group hopes to get pledges from the candidates to adopt some of the goals of No Labels, including balancing the federal budget by 2030, ensuring the survival of Social Security and Medicare for another 75 years and creating 25 million jobs over the next decade. (De Avila and Haddon, 10/11)

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. For years, the powerful long-acting drug has been prescribed off-label to very sick children in severe pain from cancer or spinal-fusion surgery. ... The agency’s approval means those doctors will finally have “information about how to do it appropriately,” like dosage recommendations, said Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the agency’s acting commissioner, in an interview. (Saint Louis, 10/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Pain-Pill Guidelines For Children Spark A Fierce Debate
[T]he Food and Drug Administration’s decision in August to officially approve use for certain children as young as 11, meaning doctors wouldn’t have to prescribe it off label, has triggered fierce debate. On one side are some elected officials and addiction specialists who say the move could expand access to a drug at the center of an epidemic of painkiller and heroin abuse in the U.S. that was responsible for 24,000 overdose deaths in 2013. On the other are some physicians and families like the Nelsons who say the FDA move provides necessary guidance to doctors treating children with serious conditions. Doctors have had to rely on adult dosing information when prescribing the painkiller to children off label. (Campo-Flores, 10/9)

Los Angeles Times: Sky-High Price Of New Stem Cell Therapies Is A Growing Concern
The public uproar about high drug prices has focused on outlandish cases such as single pills jacked up in price by 5,000%, miracle cures marketed for tens of thousands of dollars per treatment. But how will people feel when they're confronted with treatments that are even more astronomically expensive? That's certain to become a growing concern at California's incubator of some of the most advanced and potentially costly medical therapies under development. Biotech companies have launched late-stage clinical trials that could lead to federal approval of two marketable treatments backed by CIRM, the state's $6-billion stem cell program. (Michael Hiltzik, 10/9)

The Associate Press: Gene Editing: Research Spurs Debate Over Promise Vs. Ethics
The hottest tool in biology has scientists using words like revolutionary as they describe the long-term potential: wiping out certain mosquitoes that carry malaria, treating genetic diseases like sickle-cell, preventing babies from inheriting a life-threatening disorder. It may sound like science fiction, but research into genome editing is booming. So is a debate about its boundaries, what's safe and what's ethical to try in the quest to fight disease. (Neergaard, 10/9)

The New York Times: Big Tobacco’s Staunch Friend In Washington: U.S. Chamber Of Commerce
Since taking over in 1997, [Thomas J.] Donohue has transformed the chamber into a powerful lobbying force, an evolution most starkly epitomized by its aggressive advocacy for tobacco. While the organization represents a variety of industries, its strategy has been a boon for cigarette makers, which have relied heavily on the chamber to push their agenda at home and abroad. (Hakim, 10/9)

Los Angeles Times: Gov. Jerry Brown Targets His Next Priorities As He Decides On Final Slate Of Bills
Sprinkled throughout his signing statements and veto messages were clear indications of his next priorities. Brown emphasized his wish to find firmer financial footing for public healthcare; ease voter-approved restrictions on the cost of water in the face of an unrelenting drought; and begin a wide-ranging examination of the state's criminal justice system. ... The governor needled lawmakers on the impasse over a healthcare tax while vetoing legislation such as proposed expansions of Medi-Cal benefits, saying they would be unwise "until the fiscal outlook … is stabilized." The tax is a key issue for next year, when California faces the loss of $1 billion in funding from Washington unless lawmakers agree to broaden a levy on healthcare plans so it complies with federal law. (Mason and Megerian, 10/12)

The Associated Press: California Governor Signs Crisis Pregnancy Centers Bill
Crisis pregnancy centers that discourage women from getting abortions in California will be required to provide information about abortions and other services under legislation Gov. Jerry Brown has approved. The measure imposes the first such statewide rule, after local communities around the country have tried similar efforts. (Williams, 10/9)

The Associated Press: Conservative Groups Target Health Care Regulations
Last year, tea party and conservative groups helped squash Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s plans to expand Medicaid, derailing the governor’s top legislative priority for the foreseeable future. Now they want Virginia to drop a decades-old requirement that Virginia hospitals get approval before proceeding with major construction projects or equipment purchases. Supporters say the law, known as certificate of public need, hold down health care costs by avoiding unnecessary duplication of services. But conservative groups say the law is to limit competition to the advantage of large hospitals and limits customer choice. (Suderman, 10/9)

The Washington Post: Right-To-Die Advocates Pushing Hard For Legislation In Maryland In 2016
Advocates of assisted suicide are significantly expanding their efforts to build support in Maryland for broader end-of-life options, hopeful that a recent victory in California will provide new momentum for legislation that failed to get out of committee in Annapolis this year. Across the state, organizers are meeting with faith-based communities; inviting small groups to watch the documentary “How to Die in Oregon,” about that state’s assisted-suicide law; and serving coffee and doughnuts at “house parties” that seek support for assisted-suicide proposals and offer information about health-care options when people are severely injured or become terminally ill. (Wiggins, 10/10)

Los Angeles Times: How The UC System Is Making Patents Pay Off
As they consider ways to improve university revenues, campus administrators point to the life-saving hepatitis B vaccine, the nicotine patch that helps smokers quit their habit and the tasty Camarosa strawberry. Those patented innovations, all pioneered at the University of California, have earned the school system, and the faculty who developed them, more than $500 million. (Gordon, 10/10)

The Associated Press: Western State Hospital In Trouble With Federal Officials
Federal regulators said conditions at Washington state’s largest psychiatric hospital were so dangerous for patients that they threatened to cut millions of dollars in funding three times this year. The state agency that oversees Western State Hospital said Thursday it is addressing the problems but that it needs more money and staff to make the facility safe. (Bellisle, 10/11)

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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