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KHN First Edition: November 17, 2015


First Edition

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: In Caring For Sickest Infants, Doctors Tap Parents For Tough Calls
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: "For Benitz, who first came to Stanford 42 years ago as a medical student, the ability of doctors today to save babies this small feels like something of a miracle. But as far as medical technology has come, he says, some of the sickest and most premature babies who pass through his NICU won’t make it or will go on to suffer severe lifelong disabilities. Just 30 percent of the babies born at 24 weeks gestation, for example, survive without impairments." (Gold, 11/17)

Kaiser Health News: New Health Plans Offer Discounts For Diabetes Care
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Talk about targeted. Consumers scrolling through the health plan options on the insurance marketplaces in a few states this fall may come upon plans whose name — Leap Diabetes Plans — leaves no doubt about who should apply. Offered by Aetna in four regions next year, the gold-level plans are tailored for the needs of people with diabetes. They feature $10 copays for the specialists diabetics need such as endocrinologists, ophthalmologists and podiatrists, and offer free blood sugar test strips, glucose monitors and other diabetic supplies. A care management program with online tools and coaching helps people manage their condition day-to-day. The plans also offer financial incentives, including a $50 gift card for getting an A1c blood test twice a year to measure blood sugar levels and a $25 card for hooking up a glucometer or biometric tracker to the Aetna site." (Andrews, 11/17)

Kaiser Health News: New Brain Institute Plans To Refocus Third World’s Attention On Dementia As ‘Societal Issue’
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "With dementia cases rising rapidly around the world, the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Dublin announced Monday the launch of an institute aimed at helping developing countries learn more about the disease and cope with the burden it places on patients, families and caregivers. The Global Brain Health Institute, which will be housed both in San Francisco and Dublin, will train 600 neuroscientists, policymakers, economists and others over 15 years in an effort to help developing countries better understand dementia, as well as how to delay and prevent it. The institute plans to focus initially on countries in Latin America and the Southern Mediterranean region. Training is expected to begin next fall." (Gorman, 11/16)

NPR: Supreme Court Won't Take Up Case Over Planned Parenthood Documents
Over the dissent of two justices, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an anti-abortion group's attempt to get more information about a $1 million federal contract awarded to Planned Parenthood for family planning and related health services. The Department of Health and Human Services awarded the contract to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in 2011 to provide family planning services for a large portion of New Hampshire. (Totenberg, 11/16)

The New York Times: Supreme Court Won’t Hear Case Over Planned Parenthood Documents
Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, dissented, saying disagreements in the lower courts over the scope of the open records law, the Freedom of Information Act, warranted Supreme Court review. The case, New Hampshire Right to Life v. Department of Health and Human Services, No. 14-1273, followed New Hampshire’s decision in 2011 to stop awarding money to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England after officials expressed concern that taxpayer funds were being used to subsidize abortions. The group then applied for federal money from the Department of Health and Human Services, submitting various documents in support of its request, including ones on medical standards, fees and personnel policies. (Liptak, 11/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court Rejects Antiabortion Group’s Case Against Planned Parenthood
The case traced to 2011, when New Hampshire, which used a combination of state and federal funds to support health clinics, declined to renew grants to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. The state cited concerns the funding could support abortions, although federal law prohibited such use and Planned Parenthood said it didn’t use government money to subsidize the procedure. Because the decision left areas of the state without family-planning clinics, the Department of Health and Human Services stepped in to award federal funds directly to Planned Parenthood. (Bravin, 11/16)

Reuters: U.S. Top Court Rejects Anti-Abortion Group's Planned Parenthood Case
The Supreme Court's action leaves in place a February ruling by the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the government. The government already has revealed some details about the grant, but New Hampshire Right to Life sought more, including a Planned Parenthood internal document that explains how the group operates its clinics. (11/16)

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Stays Out Of Lawsuit On Planned Parenthood Contract
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston said the document was covered by an exception to the Freedom of Information Act that withholds “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person [and that is] privileged or confidential.” Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia said they would have accepted the case. But despite the controversy in Congress surrounding Planned Parenthood’s abortion services, the justices did not mention the procedure in discussing the case. (Barnes, 11/16)

Politico: Senate GOP Reassesses Plan On Obamacare Repeal
Senate Republicans are considering significant changes to their proposal to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood and will temporarily delay consideration of the measure to ensure it can pass the Senate. GOP leaders are even mulling removing the Planned Parenthood provision if it gets them closer to putting Obamacare repeal on the president’s desk. They need just a majority of votes to pass the legislation, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his team are being squeezed between moderates balking at the Planned Parenthood language and a trio of conservatives that say the Obamacare repeal language doesn’t go far enough. (Everett, 11/16)

The Washington Post: Senate GOP Could Drop Attempt To Defund Planned Parenthood
Senate Republicans may abandon a plan to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood in hopes of maintaining the votes needed to force a veto fight with President Obama over repealing his signature health care law. GOP leaders are mulling what to do with a House passed reconciliation bill that would both defund the women’s health group and gut Obamacare by repealing both the employer mandate and a tax on high-end employer-sponsored health plans. The House passed the bill on a 240 to 189 vote in October. (Snell, 11/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Court Says Congress Must Comply With Federal Insider-Trading Investigation
Federal law-enforcement officials can resume a high-profile insider-trading investigation after a New York judge said Congress must cooperate with investigators looking into a possible leak of government health-care policy. In a decision announced Monday, U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe sided with the Securities and Exchange Commission in much of the case and said a House committee and a former top aide must comply with many parts of a subpoena. (Mullins, 11/16)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Donald Trump Repeats Inaccurate Figure That ‘Over 300,000 Veterans Died Waiting For Care’
A reader pointed us to Trump’s proposal on his campaign Web site, which repeated an inaccurate figure The Fact Checker wrote about in September 2015. Carly Fiorina had inaccurately claimed twice during the GOP debate on CNN that 307,000 veterans had died waiting for health care. This figure is significantly higher than previous estimates that “dozens” of veterans had died waiting for health care in an Arizona VA facility.(Lee, 11/17)

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. (Barrow, 11/16)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Bernie Sanders Aims To Put Hillary Clinton On Defensive On Family Leave
Sen. Bernie Sanders is trying to put rival Hillary Clinton on the defense over one of her signature issues: paid family leave. Mr. Sanders backs legislation in Congress that would create a federal fund to reimburse a portion of lost wages when workers take up to 12 weeks off after the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a family member’s serious health condition or for a serious health problem of their own. (Meckler, 11/16)

The Associated Press: Medicare Launches Major Payment Shift For Hip, Knee Surgery
Striving for better quality and more predictable costs, Medicare on Monday launched a major payment change for hip and knee replacements, the most common inpatient surgery for its 55 million beneficiaries. Starting April 1, hospitals in 67 metropolitan areas — from Akron, Ohio, to Wichita, Kansas — will be held responsible for the results of hip and knee replacements. The aim is better coordination that starts with the surgery itself, and continues through recovery and rehabilitation. (11/16)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Says More Regulation Needed On Lab Tests
The Food and Drug Administration, in a report released on the eve of a congressional hearing Tuesday, said that certain laboratory tests “may have caused or have caused” actual harm to patients by producing erroneous results. At issue are so-called lab-developed tests, or LDTs, which are produced and performed within a single hospital or corporate laboratory. Such tests are often done on tissue samples sent in from outside doctors and hospitals. They are distinct from standard diagnostic equipment and products that are sold to doctors’ offices, hospitals or other labs. (Burton, 11/16)

The Associated Press: Johnson & Johnson Multiple Myeloma Drug Wins Accelerated OK
A Johnson & Johnson drug won Food and Drug Administration approval Monday for treating the incurable blood cancer multiple myeloma in patients who’ve failed prior therapies and have few options left. Darzalex is the first biologic drug and first monoclonal antibody — a genetically engineered drug designed to target diseased tissue and spare healthy cells — approved for multiple myeloma. (Johnson, 11/16)

The Wall Street Journal: New Diagnostic Tools Emerge In War Against Superbugs
A new front is emerging in the fight against antibiotic-resistant superbugs—one that doesn’t involve the development of new drugs. Companies are racing to develop diagnostic technologies that can be used by hospitals and clinics to pinpoint the cause of common infections quickly. That should cut down on the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics, a major driver of drug-resistance in bacteria. (Roland, 11/16)

The Washington Post: It’s 3 A.M. And You’re Feeling Depressed. How Technology Is Transforming Mental Health Care.
When he’s having a hard time coping, the 23-year-old Maryland man can get extra support with a few quick taps on his smartphone. That takes him to the Big White Wall, an online service that provides help 24/7 to people who are struggling with problems such as depression, stress and anxiety. It offers educational resources and courses led by mental health professionals. It also offers peer encouragement through virtual conversations. ... The service, which has been running in the United Kingdom for nearly a decade, is now drawing attention from several U.S. health systems looking for ways to increase access, especially in rural areas with few if any psychiatrists, counselors or even social workers. (Sun, 11/15)

Los Angeles Times: Group Bolsters Efforts To Enroll Former Inmates In Medi-Cal
When Hilda Sims earned her release from prison last year after serving 22 years for murder, she got something that could dramatically reduce the odds that she'd ever have to return: health insurance. For years, many who left California lockups on parole or probation would do so without easy access to medical care. For someone like Sims, who survived breast cancer behind bars, that meant health problems might go untreated or result in big medical bills just as they were struggling to return to society. (Karlamangla, 11/16)

The Associated Press: Couple Convicted In $80M Bogus Home Care Scheme In DC
A couple have been convicted of health care fraud in a scheme prosecutors say stole $80 million in Medicaid payments from the District of Columbia government. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington said in a news release Monday that a federal jury in the District convicted 52-year-old Florence Bikundi and her husband, 63-year-old Michael Bikundi Sr., last week. (11/16)

The Associated Press: Puerto Ricans Fear For Their Health As Federal Cuts Loom
The island is bracing for steep funding cuts to federal health care plans that serve nearly 70 percent of the U.S. territory's 3.5 million people. Local officials have been talking with the federal government about the proposed funding loss, but believe they will be implemented nevertheless. The cuts will affect the entire U.S., but Puerto Rico is expected to feel them more acutely because the island already receives lower funding levels than the mainland, it has a poverty level higher than any U.S. state and it is already in the midst of an economic crisis and a nearly decade-long recession. (11/16)

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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