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KHN First Edition: November 16, 2015


First Edition

Monday, November 16, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: A Sick Newborn, A Loving Family And A Litany Of Wrenching Choices
KHN reporter Jenny Gold writes: "Decisions about how much care to offer very sick family members are always challenging, but they can be particularly wrenching for parents like the Shamiyehs, who face harrowing choices at what’s supposed to be a wonderful time — the beginning of a life. As doctors and families consider how far to push medical care, a chasm can open between the parents’ hopes and what providers consider realistic." (11/16)

Kaiser Health News: Obamacare Recruiters Seek Uninsured At Food Fairs And Churches
KHN reporter Phil Galewitz writes: "[Henry] Bowles’ situation epitomizes the challenge for advocates, brokers and federally-funded navigators in Florida and also nationally in this third Obamacare open enrollment season. Their shared goal: Increase the number of Americans buying health plans. It won’t be easy. About 1.3 million Floridians signed up for individual coverage during the 2015 open enrollment on the online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. That was tops in the country – even higher than in California and Texas, which have more people. Like most states, Florida’s uninsured rate has fallen sharply – to 15 percent from 22 percent in 2013, according to Gallup." (11/16)

The New York Times: Many Say High Deductibles Make Their Health Law Insurance All But Useless
Obama administration officials, urging people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, have trumpeted the low premiums available on the law’s new marketplaces. But for many consumers, the sticker shock is coming not on the front end, when they purchase the plans, but on the back end when they get sick: sky-high deductibles that are leaving some newly insured feeling nearly as vulnerable as they were before they had coverage. (Pear, 11/14)

The Associated Press: Medicare Spending $9B On Hepatitis C Drugs
Medicare spending on breakthrough medications for hepatitis C will nearly double this year, passing $9 billion, according to new government figures. That’s raising insurance costs for all beneficiaries, whether or not they have the liver-wasting viral disease. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 11/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers, Candidates Target High Drug Prices
Lawmakers and the Obama administration are ratcheting up efforts to target pharmaceutical companies over high-priced drugs, a sign that legislators are trying to bridge partisan differences to tackle a key driver of rising health care costs. Some specialty drugs can now run $100,000 or more a year, and the issue has been amplified by several high-profile cases in which makers boosted prices dramatically and rapidly. (Armour, 11/15)

The Washington Post: Clinton Faces Sharp Attacks On Wall Street Ties, Iraq Vote At Second Democratic Debate
Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton faced sharp attacks – about her closeness to Wall Street, and her vote for the Iraq War – from two more aggressive rivals, in the second Democratic presidential debate Saturday night. ... During the debate. Clinton attacked two key policy Sanders policy proposals – one to make public colleges tuition-free, and another to give all Americans government-run health insurance – as impractical or unfair, in a part of the second Democratic debate seemingly aimed at moderate voters. (Farenthold, 11/14)

The Associated Press: Carson Sometimes Deviates From GOP Health Care Thought
Ben Carson lambastes “Obamacare” as much as the next Republican presidential candidate, but the neurosurgeon-turned-politician has a history of health care ideas that puts him outside mainstream conservative thought on the issue. Private insurance companies, he has said, should be little more than “non-profit service organizations,” with government capping their profit margins. Meanwhile, the federal government could offer catastrophic care coverage akin to the National Flood Insurance Program, paid for with taxes on insurers’ profits. (Barrow, 11/16)

The Associated Press: Presidential Politics Complicates Life In The Senate
In the presidential campaign, Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are rising in the polls. Back in the Senate, their ambitions can sometimes cause a nuisance for fellow lawmakers, including vulnerable Republicans up for re-election next year. The latest example: Rubio and Cruz are pushing for the Senate to go farther than the House when it takes up legislation to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law. They want to make good on promises to repeal "Obamacare" in its entirety, rather than a more targeted repeal approved recently by the House. (11/14)

The Washington Post: How Nonprofit Hospitals Overcharge The (Under And) Uninsured
A lot of people who don’t have health insurance worry about getting hit with huge bills if they go to the hospital. Most consumers probably don’t realize that many hospitals are supposed to let you know if you qualify for free or reduced-price care--and charge you fairly, even if you don’t have insurance. But a recent study found that less than half of nonprofit hospitals surveyed were telling patients they could be eligible for charity care. (Sun, 11/13)

USA Today: Social Security, Medicare Changes Are Coming With New Budget Law
President Obama signed into law a bipartisan budget bill last week that, among other things, changes — for better and worse — Social Security and Medicare laws. ... Some 30% of Medicare beneficiaries were expecting a 52% increase in their Medicare Part B medical insurance premiums and deductible in 2016. Under the new law, those beneficiaries — an estimated 17 million Americans — will pay about $119 per month, instead of $159.30, for Part B. (Some 70% of Medicare beneficiaries will continue to pay the same premium in 2016 as they did in 2015, $104.90.) (Powell, 11/13)

NPR: Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Texas Abortion Law Case
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to a Texas law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and requires abortion clinics to have the facilities of an outpatient surgical center. (Totenberg, 11/13)

The Associated Press: Justices Agree To Hear First Abortion Case Since 2007
The Supreme Court is giving an election-year hearing to a dispute over state regulation of abortion clinics in the court's first abortion case in eight years. The justices said Friday they will hear arguments, probably in March, over a Texas law that would leave about 10 abortion clinics open across the state. A decision should come by late June, four months before the presidential election. (Sherman, 11/15)

The Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court to Review Texas Abortion Law
The abortion case joins a series of divisive social issues on the court’s docket likely to inject the justices into the debate surrounding the 2016 presidential election. Last week, the Supreme Court accepted an appeal on contraceptive-coverage regulations under the Affordable Care Act, and in December the court will hear argument on affirmative action in university admissions. The issues in recent years have divided the court 5-4 between conservatives and liberals, with maverick conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy typically casting the deciding vote. (Bravin, 11/13)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Completes Long-Awaited Food-Safety Rules
The regulations issued Friday moved the government closer to implementing a law passed by Congress in 2010, which marked the biggest overhaul of federal food-safety oversight in 70 years. The regulations follow a wave of deadly outbreaks in the past decade that have been traced to produce—such as tainted spinach, cantaloupe and caramel apples—and are aimed at creating a food-safety system that will be less reactive and better at preventing contamination. (Newman, 11/13)

The Associated Press: Goal Of New Produce Safety Rules: Prevent Illness Outbreaks
The majority of farmers and food manufacturers already follow good safety practices, but the rules are intended to give greater focus on prevention in a system that has been largely reactive after large outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 48 million people — or 1 in 6 people in the United States — are sickened each year from foodborne diseases, and an estimated 3,000 people die. (Jalonick, 11/14)

The New York Times: A Tax-Cutting Move That Pfizer Can Hardly Resist
Give Pfizer, the giant drug maker, points for boldness and persistence: The company has bravely put “tax inversions” back in the headlines. Pfizer, which already holds roughly $140 billion overseas and is quite skillful at minimizing its taxes, is considering a deal that could move its legal tax headquarters from New York to Dublin, where it could save bundles more. (Sommer, 11/14)

The Wall Street Journal: AstraZeneca’s Lung-Cancer Drug Tagrisso Gets FDA’s Approval
AstraZeneca PLC on Friday said it won approval in the U.S. for a potential lung-cancer treatment, after an unusually quick development process that took just 2½ years. The drug, called Tagrisso, which the company had labeled as AZD9291 during development, is the first drug for a subset of lung-cancer patients whose tumors have spread and developed a treatment-resistant mutation, called T790M. (Roland, 11/13)

The Associated Press: Takeover Fever Spreads In Healthcare Industry
Almost 1 in 4 dollars in takeovers this year involved a company in healthcare, and the size of those deals is immense. The total value of healthcare mergers and acquisitions in the United States has more than tripled compared with five years ago, according to the data firm Dealogic. Even in the face of rising interest rates, which would make deal-making more expensive, business insiders see few reasons why momentum in the healthcare sector will ease any time soon. (Murphy, 11/15)

The Wall Street Journal: Mylan Loses Hostile Bid For Perrigo
Mylan NV suffered defeat Friday in a landmark hostile takeover bid, dealing a blow to the generic-drug maker and casting doubt on a pharmaceutical sector that has driven a surge in global deal making. Perrigo Co. shareholders rejected Mylan’s $26 billion takeover offer, the companies said Friday. (Hoffman and Mattioli, 11/13)

The Wall Street Journal: What Treasury Could Do To Block An Allergan-Pfizer Deal
Amid speculation that the U.S. Treasury would cast a skeptical eye on any deal that Pfizer Inc. and Allergan PLC might reach that would move Pfizer’s headquarters outside the U.S., Citigroup Inc. analyst Liav Abraham is weighing in on what exactly the Treasury could do to block a deal. ... Ms. Abraham said it wouldn’t be a surprise if Treasury sought to block such a deal “given the high political sensitivity surrounding the redomicile of Pfizer to a lower tax jurisdiction.” (Farrell, 11/13)

USA Today/The Courier-Journal: Ky. Governor Defends Health Programs To Be Cut By Successor
Seeking to defend the signature achievement of his administration, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday promoted the advances in public health under programs that Gov.-elect Matt Bevin has proposed curtailing. Beshear, in his first public appearance since the Nov. 3 gubernatorial election, cited what he said were Kentucky's enormous gains in public health under the Affordable Care Act, which included an expansion of Medicaid and creation of the state health insurance exchange, kynect. (Yetter, 11/13)

Los Angeles Times: FDA Orders Recall Of 2,800 Scope-Washing Machines, Citing Infection Risk
Amid an ongoing investigation into superbug outbreaks nationwide, U.S. regulators have ordered a Pennsylvania company to recall its scope-cleaning machines used at UCLA and more than 1,000 other hospitals and clinics. The Food and Drug Administration said Friday that it ordered the recall because Custom Ultrasonics had continued to violate federal law and those lapses could result in an increased risk of infection for patients. (Terhune, 11/13)

NPR: Preventable Colon Cancer Deaths Cost The Economy $6.4 Billion
Almost 20 percent of the people in low-income communities who die of colon cancer could have been saved with early screening. And those premature deaths take a toll on communities that can least bear it. Lower-income communities in the United States face $6.4 billion in lost wages and productivity because of premature deaths due to colon cancer, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Shute, 11/13)

The Associated Press: Rare TB Case Shows Diagnosing, Treating Children Is Tough
When a 2-year-old returned sick from a visit to India, U.S. doctors suspected tuberculosis even though standard tests said no. It would take three months to confirm she had an extreme form of the disease — a saga that highlights the desperate need for better ways to fight TB in youngsters in countries that can’t afford such creative care. Drug-resistant tuberculosis is a global health threat, and it’s particularly challenging for young children who are harder even to diagnose, much less treat. (Neergaard, 11/16)

NPR: More Women Than Men Are Obese In America, And Gap Is Widening
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has crunched new numbers on America's obesity epidemic. What do they tell us? As a nation, we seem to be stuck. The overall prevalence of obesity in the three-year period ending 2014 was just over 36 percent. This mean that about 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. is obese. (Aubrey, 11/13)

The New York Times: Feeling Woozy? It May Be Cyber Sickness
A peculiar side effect of the 21st century is something called digital motion sickness or cybersickness. Increasingly common, according to medical and media experts, it causes a person to feel woozy, as if on a boat in a churning sea, from viewing moving digital content. (Murphy, 11/14)

The New York Times: As Lives Lengthen, Costs Mount
But in New York today, they face a challenge of prosperity. The boom in housing prices has left many of them vulnerable, often clinging to apartments that are no longer suitable for their aging bodies. ... One result has been to drive relatively healthy people into nursing homes, where Medicaid picks up the tab for eligible seniors, said Daniel Reingold,

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