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KHN First Edition: November 13, 2015


First Edition

Friday, November 13, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Study Finds Marketplace Silver Plans Offer Poor Access To HIV Drugs
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "In most states, consumers with HIV or AIDS who buy silver-level plans on the insurance marketplaces find limited coverage of common drug regimens they may need and high out-of-pocket costs, according to a new analysis. In 31 states and the District of Columbia, silver-level plans cover fewer than seven of the 10 most common drug treatment options or charge consumers more than $200 a month in cost sharing, according to an analysis of 2015 silver plans by consultant group Avalere Health. Only 16 percent of those marketplace plans cover all 10 of the top HIV/AIDS drug regimens and charge less than $100 a month." (Andrews, 11/13)

Kaiser Health News: Depressed? Look For Help From A Human, Not A Computer
Kaiser Health News' Lynn Shallcross reports: "Almost 8 percent of Americans 12 and older dealt with depression at some point between 2009 and 2012. With that many of us feeling blue, wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply hop on the computer in our pajamas, without any of the stigma of asking for help, and find real relief? Online programs to fight depression are already commercially available, and while they sound efficient and cost-saving, a study out of the U.K. reports that they’re not effective, primarily because depressed patients aren’t likely to engage with them or stick with them." (Shallcross, 11/12)

USA Today: Feds Say Health Site's First Week Was A 'Solid Start'
More than a half million people selected health plans during the first week of open enrollment on the federal insurance site, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Thursday. is used by consumers in 38 states that didn't establish their own insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. (O'Donnell, 11/12)

The Associated Press: More Than 540k Sign Up For Health Overhaul Plans
The Obama administration says more than 543,000 people signed up for coverage last week under the president's health care law, as the 2016 enrollment season got underway. Premiums are going up for many plans, and consumers are being urged to shop around. The health care law offers subsidized private insurance for those who don't have coverage through their jobs. (11/12)

The Associated Press: Alabama Governor Says He Is 'Looking' At Medicaid Expansion
The conservative Republican governor of Alabama, a Deep South state where "Obamacare" is often reviled, said Thursday that his administration is mulling an expansion of the state's Medicaid program under the federal health care law. Gov. Robert Bentley, a dermatologist turned governor, emphasized that he was in the exploratory stages— and said funding the state's share of costs could be a major stumbling block — but his comments were the strongest to date about the possible acceptance of expansion dollars in the deeply red, high-poverty state. (11/12)

The New York Times: Senate Rules Entangle Bid To Repeal Health Care Law
Efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have become snarled in the complex rules of the Senate, raising questions about whether the Republican-controlled Congress can fulfill its pledge to send a repeal measure to President Obama. Repealing the law, passed five and a half years ago, is a goal cherished by Republican politicians, including those running for president, and by elements of the party’s base. Mr. Obama has repeatedly vowed to use his veto power if necessary to preserve the health care law, the biggest change in domestic social policy in a generation. (Pear, 11/12)

USA Today: Supreme Court May Wade Back Into Abortion Debate
Nearly a quarter-century after its last major ruling on abortion created a fragile balance between women's rights and government restrictions, the Supreme Court appears ready for a rematch. And like the last time, the debate would unfold in the midst of a presidential election. (Wolf, 11/13)

The Associated Press: Justices' Decision Imminent On Whether To Hear Abortion Case
Conflicting rulings about whether women should have to cross state lines to obtain an abortion could prompt the Supreme Court to take up its first case on the hot-button social issue since 2007. The justices could say as soon as Friday whether they will hear cases from Texas and Mississippi that examine how states regulate abortion clinics. If they accept the cases, a decision on abortion, along with others on religious freedom and contraception under the Obama health care overhaul, affirmative action and perhaps even immigration, are likely to land in late June, roughly four months before the 2016 presidential election. (11/12)

USA Today: Pregnancy Centers Spread In Texas As Abortion Clinics Close
Women visiting the Hope Pregnancy Center here could receive a free sonogram, counseling on the virtues of parenting and adoption, a tutorial on the risks of terminating a pregnancy and pamphlets on “Car Seat Safety” and “How to Receive Christ.” What they won’t get is a referral to an abortion doctor. (Jervis, 11/12)

Reuters: Texas Tries To Stitch A Safety Net Without Planned Parenthood
Four years after cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood, the state of Texas says it has been able to rebuild its safety net, in what could be a model for Republicans in Congress who hope to defund the nation's largest family planning provider at the national level. Independent health experts dispute the claim, saying Texas still has a long way to go before it can provide the level of service it did when Planned Parenthood was an integral part of its family planning efforts. (11/12)

The Associated Press: Consumer Coalition Forms To Fight U.S. Health Insurance Mergers
Two U.S. consumer groups announced the formation of a coalition with New York labor unions on Thursday to press antitrust regulators to oppose big insurance mergers that would cut the number of nationwide for-profit health insurers from five to three. The Coalition to Preserve Patient Choice, made up of the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action and others, was formed because of concern about Anthem Inc's purchase of Cigna Corp for $47 billion and Aetna Inc's decision to buy Humana Inc for $37 billion, the group said in a statement. (11/12)

The Wall Street Journal: Highly Valued Startup Zenefits Runs Into Turbulence
Human-resources startup Zenefits Inc. is falling short of its aggressive revenue targets and has started to curb expenses, making it the latest highly valued venture-backed company struggling to meet investor expectations. Since late summer, Zenefits has frozen hiring in certain departments as sales teams have repeatedly missed targets, according to people familiar with the matter. It has cut the pay of some employees and dozens of people, including at least eight executives, have left or been fired, the people said. (Winkler, 11/12)

The Associated Press: Rite Aid Adds Prescription Analysis To Genetic Test Lineup
Rite Aid is giving patients a chance to peek over their doctor's shoulder with genetic tests that help determine the effectiveness of some prescriptions. The drugstore chain said Thursday that it is selling Harmonyx testing kits at nearly all of its stores. The kits cost between $49 and $89 without a prescription, and customers can use them to learn more about the effectiveness of medicines for cardiac conditions, cholesterol and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. (11/12)

The Associated Press: Cruz Says He, Not Trump, Is Race's True Conservative
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is making a more forceful case that he — not Donald Trump — is the candidate true conservative voters will coalesce behind in the 2016 presidential race. ... Cruz is drawing attention to his stance against "amnesty" for people living in the country illegally and his efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal President Barack Obama's health care law. He's not mentioning most rivals by name, but his comments on immigration and Planned Parenthood are clearly aimed at Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, whose campaign is also gaining steam. Rubio missed the Senate's Planned Parenthood vote earlier this year and backed an immigration overhaul bill several years ago. (11/12)

The New York Times: U.S. Smoking Rate Declines, But Poor Remain At Higher Risk
Smoking, the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, continued to decline last year, federal health authorities reported Thursday, with the share of American adults who smoke dropping to 16.8 percent, down from 17.8 percent in 2013. Smoking has been one of the brightest public health successes of recent history. Nearly half of all Americans smoked in the 1960s, but a broad push against the habit, starting with the surgeon general’s warning in 1964, helped bring rates down. The rate has dropped by about a fifth since 2005, when it was 21 percent. (Tavernise, 11/12)

Los Angeles Times: Adult Cigarette Smoking Reaches New Low -- But Stays Stubbornly High Among Some Groups
In 1965, 42.4% of American adults smoked, and though the habit's prevalence has declined steadily, reducing the ranks of the addicted has become an increasingly uphill battle. The CDC report underscores that the smoking habit has been hardest to extinguish among several categories of American adults -- most notably, the poor. Only 12.9% of adults who have private health insurance continue to smoke cigarettes, but 29.1% of those on Medicaid, the federally funded insurance program for low-income Americans, were current smokers in 2014, the report said. Current smokers make up 27.9% of the uninsured. (Healy, 11/12)

The Washington Post: HUD Proposes Smoking Ban In Public Housing, Citing Dangers Of Secondhand Smoke
In its proposed rule, announced Thursday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development would require more than 3,100 public housing agencies to go smoke-free within several years. The agencies must design policies prohibiting lit tobacco products in all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices and in all outdoor areas near housing and administrative office buildings, HUD officials said. (Markon and Rein, 11/12)

USA Today: Found Too Late: Cancer Preys On Rural Americans
USA TODAY analyzed state-by-state data on screenings, incidence and death for these three cancers. The newspaper worked with the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries to compare states’ incidence-to-mortality ratio to see where deaths exceed what’s expected based on how often cancer strikes. States faring worst include Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama, largely because cancers were found late, causing untold suffering and pushing up health costs for everyone.(Ungar, 11/12)

NPR: To Prevent Addiction In Adults, Help Teens Learn How To Cope
Addiction is a pediatric disease," says Dr. John Knight, founder and director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Boston Children's Hospital. "When adults entering addiction treatment are asked when they first began drinking or using drugs, the answer is almost always the same: They started when they were young — teenagers," said Knight. Smoking, drinking and some forms of drug use among teens have declined in the U.S. in recent years, but an estimated 2.2 million adolescents — 8.8 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 years old — are currently using an illicit drug, according to a 2014 Behavioral Health Barometer prepared for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (Korry, 11/12)

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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