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KHN First Edition: November 12, 2015

KHN

First Edition

Thursday, November 12, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Musicians Struggle To Buy Insurance In A City That Thrives On Music
KUT News' Veronica Zaragovia, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "The Titan Music Group recently conducted a large survey and several focus groups of musicians in Austin; it produced the Austin Music Census for the city. The census found that 20 percent of Austin musicians live below the federal poverty level. More than 50 percent qualify for federal housing subsidies, and nearly 19 percent lack health insurance. A lot of Austin musicians rely on the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians for help." (Zaragovia, 11/12)

Kaiser Health News: Doctors, Lawyers And Even The Bank Can Help Identify Elder Abuse
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: "Elder abuse, which can take the form of sexual or emotional abuse, physical violence and even financial manipulation, affects at least 10 percent of older Americans, according to a review article in the Nov. 12 New England Journal of Medicine. That figure, researchers note, is likely an underestimate, since it’s based on self-reported cases, and potential victims often suffer from dementia or are otherwise isolated from people who might notice something is wrong. But the estimate drives home how pervasive the problem is, and how familiar its victims might be." (Luthra, 11/11)

Politico: Obamacare Repeal Faces New Obstacles
Moderate Senate Republicans are voicing new opposition to a conservative-backed plan to defund Planned Parenthood — a move that could imperil the GOP’s long-cherished goal of sending an Obamacare repeal to the president’s desk. Several GOP moderates were hoping the Senate parliamentarian would help them avoid a tough election-year vote on the Planned Parenthood provisions by forcing Republican leaders to remove the defunding language from a broader House-passed bill that also dismantles Obamacare. (Haberkorn and Kim, 11/12)

Politico: One State’s Unlikely Obamacare Replacement Plan: Single-Payer
One of the most detailed plans to replace Obamacare this year comes not from a Republican critic, but from a group in swing-state Colorado that is proposing to scrap it for a single-payer model long sought by liberals. Supporters, who won approval this week for a 2016 ballot measure after securing nearly 110,000 signatures deemed valid, will sell the overhaul as an Obamacare replacement plan designed in Colorado, instead of in Washington. (Pradhan, 11/12)

USA Today: Companies Continue Chipping Away At Health Insurance Benefits
Companies’ health care costs in 2015 rose at the lowest rate in at least 20 years, a report out Thursday shows, but workers' share of costs continue to skyrocket. The average health care rate increase for mid-sized and large companies was 3.2% this year, the lowest since the consulting firm Aon started tracking it in 1996. Despite this, the average amount workers have to contribute toward their health care is up more than 134% over the past decade and that trend will accelerate. (O'Donnell, 11/11)

The Associated Press: Alpha Seeks Elimination Of Non-Union Retiree Benefits
Coal operator Alpha Natural Resources is seeking to eliminate health and other non-pension benefits for more than 4,500 non-union retirees and their eligible spouses and dependents. The benefits are a financial burden that cost the company about $2.7 million in 2014 and represent a liability of about $125 million on its balance sheet, Bristol, Virginia-based Alpha said in a recent filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Virginia. (Ramsey, 11/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Populism On The Rise In GOP Race For President
The latest presidential debate vividly captured how the 2008 financial crisis has reshaped the Republican Party by unleashing a potent populist strain that could further scramble an already unpredictable primary contest. ... Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, criticized President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul for prolonging a “cozy little game between regulators and health-insurance companies.” She called on the government to require every health-care provider to publish “its costs, its prices, its outcomes, because as patients we don’t know what we’re buying.” (Timiraos, 11/11)

The Associated Press: AP Exclusive: Carson Profits From Ties With Convicted Felon
Republican presidential contender Ben Carson has maintained a business relationship with a close friend convicted of defrauding insurance companies and testified on his behalf, even as the candidate has called for such crimes to be punished harshly. Pittsburgh dentist Alfonso A. Costa pleaded guilty to a felony count of health care fraud after an FBI probe into his oral surgery practice found he had charged for procedures he never performed, according to court records. (11/12)

The Associated Press: Express Scripts Sues Horizon As Fight Over Prescriptions Grows
Drugmaker Horizon Pharma is questioning its relationship with an Express Scripts business after the pharmacy benefits giant sued Horizon for about $140 million and dumped a pharmacy that dispenses its drugs. Shares of Horizon Pharma plunged Wednesday after it said it would reevaluate its relationship with the Express Scripts Accredo specialty pharmacy, which accounts for a bigger slice of Horizon's revenue than any other pharmacy. (11/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Horizon Pharma Responds To Express Scripts As Stock Tumbles
Horizon Pharma PLC on Wednesday fired back a response at Express Scripts Holding Co.’s business practices after the largest U.S. pharmacy-benefit manager said it was cutting off a pharmacy that sold medications made by the biopharmaceutical company. “Our philosophy of ensuring that patients get the medicine their doctors prescribe is threatening Express Scripts’ profiteering and exposing what we believe is a lack of care for patients and respect for physicians,” said Chief Executive Timothy P. Walbert. (Steele, 11/11)

The Washington Post: Gene Therapies Offer Dramatic Promise But Shocking Costs
As it evolves from experimental to applied medicine, gene therapy might soon find itself steeped in a new controversy: soaring drug prices. No therapy is approved yet in the United States, so discussions about price — as well as crucial questions about how much patients will pay directly — are hypothetical. But industry leaders are already talking about ways to get ahead of potentially massive one-time price tags that could make insurers and patients balk. (Johnson and Dennis, 11/11)

NPR: Surge In Use Of 'Synthetic Marijuana' Still One Step Ahead Of The Law
A street drug made of various chemicals sprayed on tea leaves, grass clippings and other plant material continues to send thousands of people suffering from psychotic episodes and seizures to emergency rooms around the country. In 2015, calls to poison control regarding the drug already have almost doubled, compared to last year's total, and health professionals and lawmakers are struggling to keep up with the problem. (Wang, 11/11)

NPR: Budget Switch For Maryland Hospitals Is Starting To Pay Off
Results are in from the first year of a bold change to the way hospitals get paid in Maryland, and so far the experiment seems to be working. We recently reported on the unique system the state is trying to rein in health care costs. Maryland phased out fee-for-service payments to hospitals in favor of a fixed pot of money each year. (Hsu, 11/11)

The Washington Post: Veterans Drop Hundreds Of Empty Pill Bottles In Front Of The White House
The veterans and protesters — affiliated with various veteran and marijuana advocacy organizations — argued that Veterans Affairs hospitals are over-medicating veterans, prescribing them a large number of psychoactive medications to treat PTSD. They marched from McPherson Square to the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters, then to the White House, some smoking joints along the way, which is illegal in D.C. (Stein, 11/11)

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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