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Summaries Of The News:

Capitol Hill Watch

Senators Decry Mylan's EpiPen Price-Lowering Tactics As 'Complex Shell Game'

In a show of force, 20 Democrats send a letter to the allergy drug maker, demanding answers. They say that the generic price that will be offered by Mylan “is still three times higher than the cost of the branded EpiPen in 2007.”

The Associated Press: 20 Democratic Senators Blast Steep Price Hike For EpiPens
In a sign of growing concern in Congress, 20 Democratic senators are demanding answers about steep price hikes for the life-saving EpiPen injector device. The senators said in a letter Tuesday that price hikes of more than 500 percent have jeopardized access to emergency allergy shots for many Americans. The letter was addressed to Heather Bresch, CEO of the pharmaceutical company that makes the devices, Mylan N.V. Bresch is the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Manchin did not sign the letter. (Daly, 8/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Senators See ‘Shell Game’ In EpiPen Maker Mylan’s Bid To Ease Access To Allergy Drug
A group of 20 senators called the recent price-lowering overtures from the company that makes the EpiPen emergency auto-injector a “well-defined industry tactic to keep costs high through a complex shell game.” The sheer number of senators – 19 Democrats plus independent Sen. Bernie Sanders – represents a ratcheting-up of the stakes over the dramatic price increases of the emergency epinephrine product from Mylan NV. Mylan has sought recently to quell criticism by announcing discount programs and, on Monday, other plans soon to offer a generic version at half price. (Burton, 8/30)

Morning Consult: Senate Democrats Blast Mylan’s Affordability Moves
The senators, 19 Democrats and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, wrote that the company’s decision to offer a generic version of EpiPens and offer a discount coupon for patients paying the full list price out-of-pocket still results in high costs for patients through insurance premiums. (McIntire, 8/30)

The Star Tribune: Franken Joins Mounting Criticism Of EpiPen Manufacturer 
U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota has added his voice to the congressional outcry against price increases Mylan pharmaceutical company made to its epinephrine auto-injector that treats potentially deadly allergic reactions. Last week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota called for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate possible antitrust violations by Mylan, which raised the price of a two-pack of its EpiPen product from $100 in 2008 to $500 to $600 in 2016. (Spencer, 8/30)

Los Angeles Times: State Senator Introduces Resolution To Condemn EpiPen Price Hikes
State Sen. Ed Hernandez's attempt to push through a drug pricing transparency bill sputtered this year, but the West Covina Democrat still wants his colleagues to weigh in on the latest controversy in the cost of prescription drugs: the surging price of EpiPens. Hernandez is introducing a resolution that excoriates the anti-allergy device's manufacturer, Mylan, joining a chorus of federal lawmakers who have accused the company of price-gouging. (Mason, 8/30)

St. Louis Public Radio: Epi Pen Price Spike Leaves St. Louisans With Few Options 
So far, [Maureen] Walkenbach’s meticulous monitoring of her son’s food intake has kept her from having to use an EpiPen. But the injectors expire every year, and have to be re-purchased. The Walkenbachs have health insurance, but recently switched to a high-deductible plan. Even with a patient assistance coupon from Mylan, Walkenbach was on the hook for more than $500 for one EpiPen set — a cost she said she’s willing to pay, because going without it would be unthinkable. Instead of three pairs of EpiPens, Walkenbach said the price is forcing her to make do with two — switching one from her kitchen cabinet to her purse whenever she leaves the house. When she forgets it, as she did on a recent trip to the grocery store, she rushes home in a panic.  (Bouscaren, 8/30)

For more drug pricing news, check out our weekly feature, Prescription Drug Watch, which includes coverage and perspectives of the issue.

Administration News

The Zika Coffers Are Bare, CDC Director Warns

If the virus starts spreading more broadly within the country, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the agency's hands will be tied as its financial resources will run out next month.

The New York Times: U.S. Funding For Fighting Zika Virus Is Nearly Spent, C.D.C. Says
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Tuesday that federal funds to fight the Zika virus were nearly exhausted, and that if Congress did not replenish them soon, there would be no money to fight a new outbreak. As of Friday, the C.D.C. had spent $194 million of the $222 million it was allocated to fight the virus, said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the agency. Congress left for its summer recess without approving additional funding. Now that the virus is actively circulating in Florida, Dr. Frieden is pressing his case for funding with new urgency. (Tavernise, 8/30)

The Washington Post: Centers For Disease Control Will Run Out Of Money To Fight Zika In U.S. Next Month
The federal agency leading the public health response to the Zika threat in the United States will run out of funding to combat the mosquito-borne virus by late September, its director said Monday. "The cupboard is bare," said Tom Frieden, who heads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Basically, we're out of money, and we need Congress to act to allow us to respond effectively." Of the $222 million that the CDC allocated for domestic Zika response this year, about $200 million has been committed, Frieden said during a media roundtable in Washington. "The rest will be gone by the end of September." (Sun, 8/30)

NBC News: CDC Almost Out Of Zika Money, Director Says
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is almost out of money to fight the Zika virus, the agency's director said Tuesday — just hours before Florida announced three fresh homegrown cases of the infection. Zika has now infected 46 people locally in Florida, presumably spread by mosquitoes. One case is part of an outbreak in Miami Beach and health officials say they're trying to trace the origins of two others. (Fox, 8/30)

The Hill: CDC Director On Zika: 'Basically, We're Out Of Money' 
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday made his strongest case yet for Congress to include funding to combat the Zika virus in its stopgap spending bill next month. “Basically, we’re out of money,” Dr. Tom Frieden told reporters at a briefing in downtown Washington. “Congress needs to do something.” (Ferris, 8/30)

Meanwhile, Theranos' efforts to implement a blood test for Zika are blocked, Florida lawmakers push for the use of genetically modified mosquitoes and scientists discover another way the virus damages babies —

The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Halts New Zika Test After FDA Inspection
Theranos Inc. withdrew its request for emergency clearance of a Zika-virus blood test after federal regulators found that the company didn’t include proper patient safeguards in a study of the new test, said people familiar with the matter. The move is another setback for the Palo Alto, Calif., company as it tries to recover from crippling regulatory sanctions that followed revelations by The Wall Street Journal of shortcomings in Theranos’s technology and operations. Theranos has said it is appealing. (Carreyrou and Weaver, 8/30)

Health News Florida: Lawmakers Call For Use Of Modified Mosquitoes In Zika Fight
Incoming leaders of the Florida House said Monday they will urge the federal government to allow the use of genetically engineered mosquitoes to help fight the Zika virus. Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, said he plans to ask the federal government to allow emergency use of the technology in areas of Florida where transmission of the mosquito-borne disease might occur. Incoming House Minority Leader, Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, backed the idea, and other House members have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to sign on. (8/30)

Health News Florida: Maker Of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Pledges Transparency
The for-profit company Oxitec has been in the news lately. Federal regulators recently gave the OK for Oxitec to start testing its genetically engineered mosquitoes. Come election time in November, the residents of Monroe County will vote on whether or not they want the engineered mosquitoes in their area. Oxitec wants to test the mosquitoes in the Key Haven community just outside Key West. Residents have voiced an outcry against the synthetic mosquitoes. (Rabines, 8/30)

NBC News: Zika Damages Babies' Hearing, Study Finds
The Zika virus not only causes severe brain damage, but also hearing loss in some babies, Brazilian researchers reported Tuesday. The risk to hearing has been suspected. The latest report, released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, finds 6 percent to 7 percent of babies with clear Zika brain damage also had some amount of hearing loss.The findings suggest all babies born to women infected with Zika during pregnancy are at risk, Mariana Leal of Hospital Agamenon Magalhães in Brazil and colleagues said. (Fox, 8/30)

Health News Florida: Health Officials Find Another Local Zika Case In Miami-Dade
State health officials on Monday reported another locally transmitted case of the Zika virus in Miami-Dade County. The new case brings the state total of locally transmitted Zika cases to 43, with the Florida Department of Health reporting the latest incident was associated with a 1.5-square-mile zone in Miami Beach. That area, along with a 1-square-mile area in the Wynwood community in Miami, have been focuses of state efforts to combat the spread of the mosquito-borne virus. The majority of cases, 545 as of Monday, are travel-related, meaning individuals contracted the virus outside of Florida but then traveled to the state. (8/30)

And media outlets look at how Zika is spreading across the world —

CNN: Zika Around The World: Where Do We Stand?
Zika continues its march around the world. Moving from Africa to French Polynesia to Central and South America, the disease is now active in the United States and Asia, and is likely to continue to spread. (LaMotte, 8/30)

PBS NewsHour: 82 Cases Of Zika Emerge From Singapore's Local Outbreak In Less Than A Week
A local Zika outbreak is blooming in Singapore, as 82 cases of the disease without links to travel have emerged on the island city-state in less than a week. The country’s first locally transmitted Zika case was announced on Saturday when a 47-year-old Malaysian woman living in the neighborhood of Aljunied Crescent tested positive for the virus. Since then, disease detectives used surveillance techniques to identify additional cases. (Mason, 8/30)

Administration Pours Millions More Into Opioid Battle, Warns It's Still Not Enough

Among other things, the grants will help states expand prescription drug monitoring programs and increase access to medication-assisted treatment.

The Associated Press: Feds To Distribute $53 Million To States To Fight Opioids
The Obama administration says it will distribute $53 million to 44 states in an effort to curb opioid abuse. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell says the funding will focus on reducing over-prescribing of pain killers, increasing access to treatment and making sure the antidote naloxone is widely available. The administration is also calling on Congress to provide $1.1 billion in new money, saying legislation recently signed into law didn't do enough to expand treatment. That bill authorized $181 million in new spending. (8/31)

Morning Consult: Administration Awards Millions In Opioid Grants While Reiterating Calls For New Funds
Two Obama administration officials again asked Congress to approve the $1.1 billion that President Obama has requested to respond to the opioid epidemic, while announcing more than $50 million in grant money for states and American Indian tribes. ... The various grants being awarded focus on HHS’s three priorities for addressing the surge of opioid use in the U.S.: providing training and education to prescribers; increasing the use and access to Naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose; and expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment. (McIntire, 8/30)

The Hill: White House Announces New Money To Fight Opioid Epidemic 
The Obama administration on Wednesday announced $53 million in grants to states to help fight the epidemic of opioid abuse. The funds are part of an ongoing administration effort to fight a rising tide of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers and heroin. There were 28,000 deaths in 2014, more than any year on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Sullivan, 8/31)

In other news about the crisis —

Stateline: Nurses Step In To Boost Treatment For Opioid Addiction
As the opioid epidemic advances, public health officials nationwide are calling on doctors to help stanch overdose deaths and salvage shattered lives by prescribing medications that have proven highly effective at keeping people away from drugs. So far, though, not enough doctors are signing up, and less than half of the 2.2 million people who need treatment for opioid addiction are receiving it, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). (Vestal, 8/31)

St. Louis Public Radio: State Board Says Missouri Pharmacies Can Offer Opioid Overdose Antidote Without A Prescription Now 
According to a spokesperson with the state department that oversees the Missouri Board of Pharmacy, Missouri pharmacies do not have to wait for final rules from the board before distributing the opioid overdose antidote naloxone without a prescription. “The new provisions are ‘self-executing’ and do not require a Board rule for implementation.  This means pharmacists with a valid protocol are authorized to dispense naloxone, as of [Aug. 28, 2016],” said Yaryna Klimchak with the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration. (Phillips, 8/30)

Stat: DEA Announces It Will Ban Chemicals Contained In Kratom
The Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday announced its intention to temporarily ban the chemicals contained in kratom, a popular herbal supplement that has been widely used as a way to self-treat chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a number of other conditions. Kratom, a plant from Southeast Asia that activates some of the same receptors as opioids, can be easily purchased online and in smoke shops. Although consumers have embraced the supplement as a painkiller and in some cases as a replacement for opioids, physicians worry about users who turn to kratom to try to wean themselves off opioids without seeking professional help. They also worry that it may be adulterated, given how little the substance is regulated. (Eric, 8/30)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

As Competition Dwindles On Marketplaces, Federal Officials Face Pressure To Fix Health Law

As insurers cut back on the number of exchanges in which they participate, pressure mounts for the federal government to help stabilize the system so that insurers have reduced risks and offer more plans to help cut costs for consumers.

USA Today: As Obamacare Choices Dwindle, Feds Face Consumer, Political Backlash
Up to 2.1 million people will likely have to change plans for 2017 due to insurers leaving states' Affordable Care Act marketplaces, up from more than 1.2 million who had to find new insurers last year. That doesn't include the millions who bought new plans because they found a better deal. The new estimates, from data expert Charles Gaba of, come as another analysis shows five states are expected to have just one company selling insurance on the 2017 Obamacare exchanges. Consumers in most counties in nine other states won't find any competition for their exchange business either, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (O'Donnell, Alltucker, Ungar and Leys, 8/30)

US News & World Report: Why Obamacare Failed To Meet Enrollment Expectations
Six years after its passage, insurers are fleeing from President Barack Obama's health care law, costs for plans are rising, and fewer than half the projected enrollees have signed up for coverage through the program's signature exchanges. But the White House continues to aggressively defend the promise of Obamacare – even when its explanations fall short. (Leonard, 8/30)

The Washington Post: Obamacare Exchanges Are Shedding Insurer Options In Lots Of Close 2016 States
One of the assets Hillary Clinton has at her disposal as the 2016 campaign hits the home stretch is that she's supported by a fairly popular incumbent president. Granted, most politicians are popular compared to Clinton and Donald Trump, but President Obama's popularity — at or above 50 percent in 17 of the last 20 weeks of Gallup surveys — means that she can position herself as his heir in a way that appeals to enough people to make up a majority of voters. But there's a risk to that strategy. Obama's signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare), is having the roughest year of its existence. (Bump, 8/30)

Modern Healthcare: Senior Democrat Says Republicans Privately Open To ACA Fixes After Election
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said in an interview that she has had a number of private conversations with senior Republicans who have told her they realize the ACA is here to stay and that they can't yank coverage away from the millions of Americans who have benefited. They have told her that “after the election we need to seriously talk about how to improve it.” In those discussions with Republicans, whom she declined to name, they did not offer specific proposals. (Meyer, 8/30)

And in state exchange news —

The Boston Globe: US Health Law To Cost Massachusetts $162M Over 10 Years, Report Says
Massachusetts will be responsible for at least $162 million in new costs over the next decade to fund the federal expansion of health insurance coverage, according to a new report. The paper from the Pioneer Institute, a free-market-oriented Boston think tank, said that additional spending will squeeze the state budget and divert money from other priorities such as education and transportation. (McCluskey, 8/31)

The Tennessean: Legislators Spar Over Obamacare Rate Hike
The Tennessee insurance commissioner is under fire from legislators from both parties who are using the recent Obamacare rate approvals as a game of political football highlighting the deeply divided partisan rhetoric in the state about the Affordable Care Act. On Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Yarbro and Rep. John Ray Clemmons, both Democrats of Nashville, called for legislative hearings to investigate whether the premium increases requested by insurers and approved by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance were a political maneuver to destabilize the Obamacare exchange in Tennessee. (Ebert and Fletcher, 8/30)

Sun Sentinel: Report: S. Florida Counties Among Only 6 Statewide To Be Served By 4 Obamacare Insurers In 2017 
As the number of insurers willing to sell health plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace shrinks further in 2017, consumers in the tri-county region will still have choices — unlike in most Florida counties. Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties are among just six counties in Florida that will have a choice of four insurance companies on the Obamacare exchange in 2017, according to projections in a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Hurtibise, 8/30)

Campaign 2016

These Rumors About Candidates' Health Are Nothing New

The allegations concerning the presidential candidates' health are flying on both sides of the aisle, but those tactics have been around for a while. Stat looks at the other candidates who have faced such insinuations.

Stat: A History Of Health Rumors In Presidential Campaigns
There’s a long history of allegations and rumors about the health of presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton is the latest: Donald Trump’s campaign and other conservatives have insinuated — and in some cases outright claimed — that the Democratic nominee is concealing various health problems. Here are some of the earlier episodes involving other candidates, dating back almost 50 years. (Scott, 8/30)

In other 2016 election news —

The Hill: GOP Rep Has ‘Hope’ For Clinton’s Mental Health Plan 
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) says he “absolutely” sees the potential for bipartisan cooperation on Hillary Clinton’s mental health agenda. Murphy, who spearheaded legislation approved by the House, said Congress must act swiftly on reforming mental healthcare before its next recess and November’s elections. “We have to get it done by the end of September, because my fear is if we don’t, the whole thing dies and we have to start all over again." Clinton’s campaign on Monday outlined a wide-ranging strategy for dealing with America’s mental health challenges. (Hensch, 8/30)

Cincinnati Enquirer: With Wink To Super PACs, Strickland Pivots To Women's Issues
On Aug. 18, an oddly worded statement appeared on Ted Strickland’s campaign website hinting at a shift in strategy for the Ohio Democrat and nudging outside groups to follow suit. Strickland, a Democrat trying to oust Sen. Rob Portman, has mostly hammered the Republican incumbent on economic issues—focusing heavily on Portman’s support for free-trade deals. But the recent website post highlighted abortion and equal pay for women as key issues, especially in two of Ohio’s biggest cities. (Shesgreen, 8/30)

Women’s Health

Women 3 Times More Likely To Face Complications Since Ohio Passed Abortion Law

The legislation regulates that doctors must administer abortion medication based on outdated FDA protocols.

Los Angeles Times: After Ohio Passed Abortion Law, Risk Of Complications Nearly Tripled
Women seeking medical abortions in Ohio experienced a higher rate of complications after the state implemented a law that put new restrictions on doctors who performed the procedure, according to a study published Tuesday. The law, which took effect in 2011, requires abortion providers to adhere to specific guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when giving patients a combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. The drugs have been shown to terminate early pregnancies safely and effectively. (Netburn, 8/30)

Kaiser Health News: Did It Hurt Or Help? Researchers Analyze Ohio’s 2011 Abortion Law
Did a law regulating drug-induced abortions keep women safe or block them from access to this procedure? A study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine suggests an Ohio law limiting how women can obtain medical abortions may have led to a higher rate of complications. But the law’s defenders said these conclusions should be viewed with skepticism, and that researchers detected more need for follow-up care because the law resulted in more careful patient monitoring, unearthing problems they say were already there. (Luthra, 8/30)

NBC News: Ohio's Abortion Restriction Actually Made Women Less Safe, Study Shows
It sounded like a simple, innocuous safety regulation: Doctors administering medication to end a pregnancy would have adhere to a protocol set by the federal Food and Drug Administration. But according to a new study, the effect of the law in one state, Ohio, was to actually increase the number of complications women getting abortions experienced. Ohio passed the medication abortion law in 2004 — it was among a half dozen similar ones nationwide and came from the playbook of anti-abortion activists. (Carmon and Reuters, 8/31)

Public Health And Education

Baltimore's 'Moonshot': Cutting City's Health Disparities In Half

Tentative targets include cutting youth homicides by 10 percent and disparities in obesity, smoking and heart-disease deaths by 15 percent — all by 2020.

The Baltimore Sun: Baltimore City Health Department Unveils Plan To Address Health Disparities 
Citing race as the difference maker for many of the city's health problems, the Baltimore City Health Department has developed a plan to assess and address those disparities. In a report released Tuesday, the department outlined plans to cut health disparities in half in the next decade by focusing on four areas: behavioral health such as drug overdoses; violence; chronic disease; and "life course," which includes the often-cited 20-year gap in life expectancy between Baltimore's richest, white neighborhoods and poorest, black ones. (Cohn, 8/30)

Kaiser Health News: Baltimore Draws 10-Year Blueprint To Cut Racial Health Disparities
Baltimore officials presented a 10-year plan Tuesday that sharply highlights the poor health status of African-Americans and aims to bring black rates of lead poisoning, heart disease, obesity, smoking and overdoses more in line with those of whites. “We wanted to specifically call out disparities” in racial health, said Dr. Leana Wen, who became the city’s health commissioner early last year. “And we have a moonshot. Our moonshot is we want to cut health disparities by half in the next 10 years.” Black Baltimore leaders praised Wen for putting disparities squarely in the conversation even as they acknowledged the difficulty of achieving the plan’s goals. (Hancock, 8/31)

In other news about health care disparities —

Trauma Nurses Train Philadelphia Residents In Emergency First-Aid For Gun Shot Victims

In other news related to gun violence, University of California Davis will open a center dedicated to informing public policy on preventing deaths and injuries from firearms.

NPR: In Philadelphia, Learning How To Keep Shooting Victims Alive
When a young African-American man dies in the city of Philadelphia, more than half the time there's one main reason why, says Scott Charles. "It's because somebody pointed a gun at him and pulled that trigger. It's not because of cancer; it's not because of car accidents; it's not because of house fires. It's because somebody pointed a trigger," he says. Charles is trauma outreach coordinator at Temple University Hospital. The medical center now offers bystander first-aid training, called Fighting Chance, to give friends and family something to do in the minutes before help arrives. (English, 8/30)

California Healthline: UC Davis To Launch Gun Violence Research Center
University of California officials Monday announced  that UC Davis will establish the West Coast’s first research center dedicated to preventing gun violence. UC President Janet Napolitano said the center will be led by Dr. Garen Wintemute, an internationally known epidemiologist and emergency room physician who gathers and analyzes gun violence data with an eye toward prevention. The new California Firearm Violence Research Center will be funded by $5 million in taxpayer funds allocated over five years, and will build on Wintemute’s existing efforts. (Craft, 8/30)

In Race Against STDs' Antibiotic Resistance, WHO Updates Treatment Guidelines

Gonorrhea, in particular, is a looming threat, with experts saying it's only a matter of time before it becomes untreatable.

Stat: WHO Releases New Guidelines For Treatment Of STDs
For the first time in 13 years, the World Health Organization on Tuesday is outlining new recommendations on how to treat three common sexually transmitted diseases, one of which — gonorrhea — has been rapidly developing resistance to nearly every weapon in the medical arsenal.vThe voluminous guidelines are used by member countries to develop their own guidance to doctors for the treatment of gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia. (Branswell, 8/30)

The Associated Press: New Treatment Advice For Three Common STDs
The U.N health agency says three common sexually-transmitted infections are increasingly resistant to antibiotics It’s calling on doctors and patients to make sure the right drugs and doses are used, to try to prevent the problem from getting worse. The World Health Organization on Tuesday updated its treatment guidelines for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, which together infect more than 200 million people every year. (8/30)

Ebola Virus Can Remain In Semen For Over A Year In Men Who Survived Infection

The longterm persistence of the virus is a key concern in understanding how the disease is transmitted. "Before this outbreak, scientists believed that Ebola virus could be found in semen for three months after recovery," said Dr. Moses Soka of the Liberian Ministry of Health, who helped conduct the study. "With this study, we now know that virus may persist for a year or longer."

The Washington Post: Ebola Stayed In The Semen Of One Man For 565 Days
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned late Tuesday that Ebola lingers in semen much longer than previously believed, underscoring how much we still don't understand about the virus. Researchers initially thought that once people survived Ebola they were immune and could no longer get sick and transmit the virus to others, as is the case with many other infectious diseases we're familiar with, such as chickenpox and even the bubonic plague. Then cases emerged like that of Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey, who was thought to have recovered but then had several relapses. American physician Ian Crozier's left eye turned from blue to green because of the virus that remained in his body. (Cha, 8/30)

NBC News: Ebola Lingers For More Than A Year In Semen
The Ebola virus can linger for a year or even longer in the semen of some men, researchers reported Tuesday. That means that Ebola survivors could be an important source for re-igniting outbreaks of the deadly virus, which killed more than 11,000 people in in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in a two-year epidemic that ended earlier this year. (Fox, 8/30)

N.Y. Officials Face Scrutiny During First Hearing Over Hoosick Falls Water Crisis

Residents of the small upstate New York village have been voicing frustrations for months over the water contamination plaguing the area. Meanwhile, state officials question the EPA's response.

The Wall Street Journal: Hoosick Falls Hearing Grills Health Officials
Health officials in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration faced sharp questioning Tuesday at the first legislative hearing examining the water contamination crisis in the upstate village of Hoosick Falls. The hearing, held by the state Senate at a school in Hoosick Falls, is the first of three planned to examine an issue that has dogged Mr. Cuomo’s administration during the past year and led to some of the toughest criticism the Democratic governor has faced since he took office in 2011. (Vilensky, 8/30)

The New York Times: After Months Of Anger In Hoosick Falls, Hearings On Tainted Water Begin
It did not take long for Michael Hickey to find a connection between his father’s cancer and a toxic chemical in this riverside village. “All I typed in was Teflon and cancer, because that’s what was in the factory that was in Hoosick Falls where my father worked,” said Mr. Hickey, an insurance underwriter and lifelong resident here. “It took about five minutes,” he said. It took far longer for government officials to take notice, let alone action, which came partially in response to Mr. Hickey’s efforts to bring attention to the village’s polluted water. (McKinley, 8/30)

The Associated Press: Health Commissioner: State Acted Properly On Tainted Water
The state followed federal guidelines in addressing industrial chemical contamination of a village's drinking water, but the Environmental Protection Agency gave "confusing, changing and inconsistent guidance," New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said Tuesday. At a state Senate hearing on the state's handling of PFOA contamination of the municipal water supply in Hoosick Falls, Zucker said EPA guidelines on maximum levels of the Teflon-related chemical in drinking water are intended to trigger action to reduce it, not to warn against drinking the water. (8/30)

The Hill: New York Officials: EPA ‘Counterproductive’ In Water Crisis 
New York state officials claim the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been “counterproductive” in its response to a drinking water contamination crisis in an upstate town. In a Tuesday letter, a pair of officials appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) accused the EPA of causing confusion in its guidances regarding perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been found in elevated levels in the Hoosick Falls drinking water and has been linked to cancer and other serious illnesses. (Cama, 8/30)

And in Indiana —

The New York Times: Their Soil Toxic, 1,100 Indiana Residents Scramble To Find New Homes
Stephanie King, a single mother of five, has adopted a grim routine over the past month: mopping with bleach twice a day and sweeping even more often to remove any dirt her family might have tracked inside. She has a haunted look, and for good reason. Ms. King and other residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex here learned recently that much of the soil outside their homes contained staggering levels of lead, one of the worst threats to children’s health. (Goodnough, 8/30)

State Watch

Pennsylvania, Maryland Pick Private Companies To Run Select Programs For Medicaid

The Pennsylvania contractors will manage long-term care for 420,000 low-income seniors and disabled enrollees, while in Maryland the companies are implementing a diabetes prevention program. Also in the news, a UnitedHealthcare official acknowledges that the company has lost money in its work helping run Iowa's Medicaid managed care program.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Pa. Picks Three Firms To Manage Medicaid Benefits For Elderly And Disabled
Pennsylvania officials on Tuesday named three companies to manage long-term care for 420,000 low-income Pennsylvanians in a massive overhaul of how nursing home stays, home care, and other supports for the elderly and the physically disabled older than 21 are paid for. The winners of statewide Medicaid contracts  were AmeriHealth Caritas, a subsidiary of Independence Blue Cross; a unit of Centene Corp; and UPMC for You, which is owned by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Fourteen insurers, including Health Partner's Plans, of Philadelphia, put in bids. (Brubaker, 8/30)

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Medicaid Patients To Participate In Diabetes Prevention Programs 
The state health department has chosen four companies to help implement diabetes prevention programs for Medicaid patients as part of a two-year pilot set up by the federal government. Amerigroup, Jai Medical Systems, MedStar Family Choice and Priority Partners have been chosen by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to oversee the programs. The companies are four of eight managed care organizations that administer Medicaid coverage for low-income people in the state. (McDaniels, 8/31)

The Associated Press: UnitedHealthcare Official Confirms Medicaid Losses In Iowa
A representative for one of the insurance companies overseeing Iowa's newly privatized Medicaid program said Monday the company has lost money during the system's implementation, but declined to say exactly how much. Kim Foltz, CEO for UnitedHealthcare's Iowa operations, cited information in a new quarterly report in telling a legislative oversight committee at the Iowa Capitol that the company has lost money. The confirmation means all three insurance companies that run Iowa's health care program for more than 500,000 poor and disabled residents have lost money in the initial months of implementation. (8/30)

Hospitals Increasingly Eye Patient-Centered Care

Also in the news, a North Dakota hospital reaches a settlement with victims in a Hepatitis C outbreak, CHI Franciscan Health wants to close its Bremerton, Wash., medical center and Dartmouth-Hitchcock in New Hampshire takes a $22 million earnings loss.

Modern Healthcare: Influential Healthcare Leaders Set Principles For Patient-Centered Care 
When the Valley Hospital in New Jersey started to think seriously about putting its customers at the center of all that it did, patient volunteers were brought in on discussions about workflow, how patient forms should be designed and nearly everything else that came to mind. Pamela Bell, director of patient family-centered care at the hospital, recalled when a patient was helping review rehabilitation exercise instructions sent home with surgical patients. The instructions referred to the patient's upper left extremity. (Muchmore, 8/30)

The Associated Press: Hospital, Hepatitis C Outbreak Victims Reach Settlement
Trinity Health and its hospital in Minot have agreed in principal on a legal settlement with 21 victims of the largest hepatitis C outbreak in recent U.S. history, though Trinity’s legal fight with a nursing home where most people were sickened will continue. Trinity attorneys filed a request asking state Judge Todd Cresap to dismiss the lawsuit, saying Trinity recently reached a confidential settlement resolving the plaintiffs’ claims. They asked Cresap to allow a connected legal dispute between the hospital and the former ManorCare nursing home to be resolved in federal court, where it originated. Cresap has not yet ruled. (Nicholson, 8/30)

Seattle Times: Franciscan Health Moves To Close Harrison Hospital In Bremerton 
CHI Franciscan Health is seeking approval to close its Harrison Medical Center site in Bremerton and shift more than 250 beds to an expanded site in Silverdale, officials announced Tuesday. A letter of intent filed with the Washington State Department of Health indicates that the large health system expects to spend $484 million on the project, which is aimed at cutting costs while also expanding services to patients. (Aleccia, 8/30)

New Hampshire Times Union: $22M Dartmouth-Hitchcock Loss Prompts Hospital Heartburn 
Dartmouth-Hitchcock lost $22 million in its most recent quarter, prompting Elliot Hospital officials to assess how the resulting bond rating downgrade might affect a possible affiliation and a potential new or renovated Elliot Hospital. “Elliot is taking all of the steps necessary to understand the impact this may have on a future affiliation,” Elliot spokesman Susanna Fier said Tuesday. Fitch Ratings downgraded $132.5 million in Dartmouth-Hitchcock bonds from “A+” to “A” and put the bonds on a negative ratings watch. (Cousineau, 8/30)

State Highlights: Another Strike Looms For Minn. Nurses; Deal Reached On Calif. Bill Backed By Planned Parenthood

Outlets report on health news from Minnesota, California, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas, Georgia and Ohio.

The Associated Press: Negotiations Resume Friday As Minnesota Nurses Strike Looms
Negotiators will return to the bargaining table Friday in hopes of averting a nurses' strike at five Twin Cities hospitals. The Minnesota Nurses Association represents 4,800 nurses at the affected hospitals. Union officials and Allina Health representatives said Tuesday that federal mediators have called both sides back together. The union is scheduled to strike at 7 a.m. Monday, Labor Day, in a dispute over health insurance, workplace safety and staffing. (8/30)

The Star Tribune: Last-Chance Talks Set Friday For Allina, Nurses 
A federal mediator is calling negotiators for Allina Health and roughly 4,800 hospital nurses back for a last-chance round of talks on Friday. Absent a deal, the nurses are scheduled to go on strike at 7 a.m. Monday — Labor Day — at United Hospital in St. Paul, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, Unity Hospital in Fridley, and Abbott Northwestern Hospital and the Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis. The nurses staged a one-week strike in late June, but the latest walkout is considered open-ended. (Olson, 8/30)

Los Angeles Times: Compromise Struck On Planned Parenthood-Backed Bill On Secret Recordings
A deal has been struck on a controversial bill sponsored by Planned Parenthood to create new penalties for distributing illegal recordings in the wake of high-profile secret videos circulated by anti-abortion activists. The bill, by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Echo Park), had sought to create a new crime for distributing video or audio recordings involving a healthcare professional that were taken without a person's consent. In California, it is already illegal to make such recordings without all parties' authorization. (Mason, 8/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Arkansas Lawyers Go To Court To Stop Fee And Damages Caps In Medical Injury Suits
A November ballot proposal in Arkansas would impose new limits on attorneys’ fees and pain-and-suffering damages in medical-malpractice claims. Lawyers in the state are fighting the initiative by relying on an essential tool of the trade: they’re suing. The battle over the so-called Lawsuit Reform Amendment of 2016, also known as Issue 4, pits the state’s bar association against health-care interests, including nursing homes, that helped finance the effort to get the proposal on the ballot. (Gershman, 8/30)

Des Moines Register: Ernst: Veterans' Suicide Threats Should Never Be Discounted
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said Tuesday that suicide threats by veterans should always be treated seriously, and her staff is investigating the circumstances of Marine veteran in eastern Iowa who was reportedly denied inpatient treatment just hours before taking his life in early July. "If a veteran comes in and expresses to a physician that I am going to kill myself, they are stating I need to be placed in a hospital, that should never be discounted," Ernst told reporters after touring the Department of Veterans Affairs Central Iowa Health Care System in Des Moines. (Petroski, 8/30)

The Star Tribune: University Of Minnesota Sues Gilead Sciences Over Patents For Hepatitis Drugs 
The University of Minnesota has filed a lawsuit that alleges patent infringement by a drug company related to the sale of blockbuster medications that can cure patients of hepatitis C. In a lawsuit filed Monday, the U alleges that California-based Gilead Sciences has infringed, and continues to infringe, on the university’s intellectual property rights by selling three medicines that contain the drug sofosbuvir. (Snowbeck, 8/30)

Dallas Morning News: Why Tenet Healthcare’s Stock Price Has Fallen 60% In A Little Over A Year 
Tenet Healthcare Corp. has offered $514 million to settle a federal fraud case, but that’s not the end of the bad numbers. The Dallas-based hospital operator has lost $3.6 billion in market cap since last summer.  At $24 a share on Tuesday, the stock price has fallen 60 percent since July 2015. That's among the worst declines in the hospital segment and over a third of the drop came this month, after Tenet reported the latest settlement figure and a fifth consecutive quarter of net losses. (Schnurman, 8/30)

Oakland Tribune: Supervisors OK Plan To Reduce Warehousing Of Mentally Ill In Jail
A year after a bipolar inmate was beaten to death in Santa Clara County while awaiting a bed in a mental health facility, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a diversion plan aimed at reducing the number of mentally ill people warehoused in jail. The plan was crafted by a subcommittee charged with studying alternatives to incarceration after inmate Michael Tyree was beaten to death in late August 2015. Three jail guards have been charged with murder in his death. (Kaplan, 8/30)

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Highest-Paid Jobs In Georgia: Lots Require A Medical Degree
As W.C. Fields sorta said, a rich man is nothing but a poor man with money. And a medical degree. At least when it comes to compensation for jobs in Georgia, a bit of medical training – actually, quite a bit – is the most likely way to wend your way to the top of the list. Or, perhaps, you could run the hospital. Of the ten best-compensated jobs in the state, nine are medical professions and medical specialties and the other is chief executive. (Kanell, 8/30)

San Francisco Chronicle: Public Health Problems In Oakland Linked To Housing Crisis 
The high cost of housing has created a public health crisis in Oakland, Dr. Muntu Davis, head of the Alameda County Public Health Department, said during a news conference at Oakland City Hall on Tuesday. Hypertension and asthma rates are increasing as residents grapple with increased rents and lack of stability. The associated stress can cause depression, anxiety and even schizophrenia, according to a new study by the Health Department and the Oakland research firm PolicyLink Center for Infrastructure Equity. (Swan, 8/30)

Columbus Dispatch: Crypto Cases Climb To More Than 400 In Franklin, Delaware Counties
The number of people infected with a contagious diarrheal disease continues to grow in central Ohio and public-health officials say poor home hygiene could be to blame. This year's cases of diagnosed cryptosporidiosis spiked to 423 Monday, up from 250 last week, marking a nearly 70 percent increase in just a few days, according to Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for Columbus Public Health. (Neese, 8/31)

Prescription Drug Watch

Americans' Opinion Of Pharma Industry Dips To All-Time Low, Tracking Poll Finds

News outlets report on stories related to pharmaceutical drug pricing.

Stat: The Public's View Of Pharma Just Keeps Getting Worse
The pharmaceutical industry theme song may be Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation.” Of 25 different business sectors, only the federal government is held in lower esteem by most Americans, according to a recent Gallup Poll. What’s more, the pharmaceutical industry last year registered its worst showing in the 16 years that Gallup has been tracking how different sectors are perceived. To be specific, just 28 percent of Americans have a positive view of drug makers, while 19 percent reported feeling neutral and 51 percent have a negative view. (Silverman, 8/30)

Modern Healthcare: Naloxone Price Hike Hinders Baltimore's Drug Overdose Prevention Efforts
While the cost of EpiPens has taken the spotlight the past few weeks, another potentially life-saving drug is seeing similar spikes that are making it difficult for public health officials to expand its use to curb the nation's opioid crisis. Baltimore currently pays around $40 for a single dose of naloxone, compared to $20 a dose it was paying just six months ago. An analysis conducted by Truven Health Analytics found the price for the injectable version of naloxone rose from $0.92 a dose to more than $15 a dose over the last decade. (Johnson, 8/30)

USA Today: Drug Prices Are High. So Are The CEOs' Pay.
People might be shocked at how high drug prices have gotten. But equally lucrative are the compensation packages hauled in by drug company CEOs. CEOs of the 14 biotech and pharmaceutical companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 that served all of 2015 pulled down median compensation packages valued at $18.5 million in 2015, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. That was 71% greater than the median $10.8 million hauled in by S&P 500 executives in all industries in 2015, according to an analysis by Equilar. (Krantz, 8/26)

Stat: California Court Hangs Out A Welcome Sign: Drug Makers Can Be Sued Here
In a closely watched decision, the California Supreme Court ruled 4-3 Monday that hundreds of out-of-state residents had the right to sue Bristol-Myers Squibb in the state court system over side effects caused by one of its drugs. At issue was the question of jurisdiction, which can be used to determine where a lawsuit may be filed. This particular ruling clarified the extent to which the drug maker needed to have a presence in California in order to be sued by people from Texas, Ohio, and 33 other states, who claim they were harmed by the Plavix blood thinner. (Silverman, 8/30)

The Associated Press: Novartis Wins US OK For Biosimilar Version Of Amgen’s Enbrel 
U.S. regulators on Tuesday approved the first lower-cost version of Enbrel, a blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug from Amgen that is among the top-selling drugs in the world. The Food and Drug Administration cleared the near-copy of the drug, dubbed Erelzi, developed by Swiss drug giant Novartis, which would not disclose the planned list price for the drug. A month’s supply of Enbrel costs roughly $4,000 or more in the U.S., according to figures from GoodRx, a drug pricing website. Enbrel was the fourth best-selling prescription drug in the world for 2015, according to health data firm IMS Health. (Johnson and Perrone, 8/30)

ProPublica: Illinois Sues Controversial Drug Maker Over Deceptive Marketing Practices 
Illinois’ attorney general has filed suit against Insys Therapeutics, accusing the controversial pharmaceutical company of using deceptive marketing practices — including paying an indicted doctor thousands of dollars for “sham” speaking events — to sell its signature pain medication. It’s not unusual for drug makers to pay doctors who have histories of misconduct for consulting or speaking about their products. A recent ProPublica analysis found that more than 2,300 doctors with records of discipline in five states had received payments from drug and medical device companies since 2013. (Huseman, 8/29)

Stat: How EpiPen Drug Pricing Went Viral — And What May Be Next
What’s the recipe for a drug pricing controversy? The biopharmaceutical industry is under attack for its bafflingly complex pricing, and the target du jour is Mylan: The public and politicians are seething over the fact that the drug maker’s epinephrine injector, the EpiPen, has more than quintupled in cost since 2007. It now retails for more than $600 for a two-pack. But what’s so special about the EpiPen? And why has the anger suddenly gone viral? (Keshavan, 8/26)

Bloomberg: Mylan CEO In 2006 Decried Practice It’s Now Using On EpiPen
What a difference a decade makes at Mylan NV. In 2006, the drugmaker’s chief executive officer Heather Bresch said that “authorized generics” -- like the one her company is now introducing for EpiPen after an outcry over the drug’s price -- were a grave threat to the generic drug industry and hurt consumers. (Decker and Edney, 8/29)

Stat: Most Experts Who Develop Cancer Treatment Guidelines Have Ties To Industry
As cancer treatments become both more innovative and costlier, a new study finds that most of the physicians and researchers who help develop treatment guidelines have financial ties to drug and device makers. And the findings are only the latest to raise questions about the extent to which such relationships may ultimately influence decisions for treating patients. The study found that 108, or 86 percent, of 125 experts who serve on National Comprehensive Cancer Center panels held at least one financial conflict of interest in 2014. About 84 percent of those 125 experts received payments for meals, speaking, consulting and travel, among other things, that averaged $10,000, according to the study that was published Thursday in JAMA Oncology. (Silverman, 8/25)

Perspectives: When It Comes To Drug Pricing, Insurance System Flies In The Face Of Reason

Recent commentaries about drug-cost issues.

Los Angeles Times: Same Drug, Different Insurance Tiers, Crazy-High Co-Pays
As sky-high EpiPen costs show, price gouging of patients by greedy drug companies is one part of our dysfunctional healthcare system. Another is what may appear to be the arbitrary way that insurers decide what co-pay to charge. Santa Ana residents William and Phyllis Stevens encountered this recently when they were both prescribed the same cream for pre-cancerous skin growths. One had a co-pay of $20, the other a co-insurance cost of $300. And the much-higher charge was levied for a version of the medicine that was weaker than the cheaper version — yet had jumped nearly 1,500% in price since 2009. Welcome to Crazy Town. (David Lazarus, 8/30)

Modern Healthcare: The Unaffordable Cost Of M&A-Driven Drug Prices
Last week, Pfizer announced the $14 billion acquisition of Medivation, whose innovative prostate cancer treatment Xtandi (generic name enzalutamide) generated $2.2 billion in sales last year. The drug retails for $129,000 a year. Not much has changed since my 2004 book on the sources of pharmaceutical and biotechnology innovation. Its conclusion—now over a decade old—was that most of the drug and other medical breakthroughs of the last quarter of the 20th century traced their scientific and medical roots to government-funded research. (Merrill Goozner, 8/27)

Stat: Cut EpiPen Price: An Open Letter To Mylan CEO Heather Bresch
Dear Heather, Last week was a train wreck, wasn’t it? The rage over continual price hikes for EpiPen finally exploded. Petitions accusing you of price gouging whizzed around the Internet. A cadre of Washington lawmakers repeatedly vilified you. And Wall Street is edgy that your company, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, is the new poster child for corporate greed. Well, congratulations. You are the new Martin Shkreli. (Ed Silverman, 8/29)

Stat: To Prevent Another EpiPen Controversy, The Government Should Step In
Mylan Pharmaceuticals is at the center of a firestorm of criticism over dramatic price hikes for its lifesaving EpiPen. The problem, says Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, is a broken health system that has let deductibles and copays skyrocket on many insurance policies. She is half right. If deductibles had stayed low, parents and other EpiPen users probably wouldn’t have noticed that Mylan had increased the price of a two-injector set from around $100 seven years ago to more than $600 this spring. But their insurance companies were still getting gouged. (Dana Goldman, 8/26)

The Sacramento Bee: Rising Drug Prices The Fault Of Insurers, Not Drug Companies
Republican voters hate Obamacare, but they hate high prescription drug prices even more. Health care scholar Avik Roy recently pointed to the polls as a reason the GOP must develop a “clear plan to tackle the high and rising price of branded prescription drugs.” He proposed a number of measures aimed at reining in supposedly greedy pharmaceutical firms. But Roy, like many others who have weighed in on the cost of medicines, overlooks two key points. First, the very real financial pain many Americans feel at the pharmacy counter is the fault of insurers – not drug companies. Second, the obsessive focus on cost obscures the vastly higher value of new drugs. (Peter J. Pitts, 8/29)

Los Angeles Times: Drug Companies Spend Millions To Keep Charging High Prices
Of roughly $250 million raised for and against 17 ballot measures coming before California voters in November, more than a quarter of that amount — about $70 million — has been contributed by deep-pocketed drug companies to defeat the state’s Drug Price Relief Act. Contributions aimed at killing the initiative are on track to be the most raised involving a single ballot measure since 2001, the earliest year for which online data are available, according to MapLight, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money in politics. (David Lazarus, 8/26)

The Huffington Post: Drug Pricing Proposals Favor Rhetoric Over Reality
Prescription drugs costs are a perennial political piñata, and this cycle is no different. Both presidential candidates are hurling rhetoric about “skyrocketing” and “runaway” drug prices and offering half-baked solutions to address them. The truth is that the best chance in controlling drug prices rests in leveraging a powerful mechanism that already exists - market competition. Here’s why the candidates’ proposals to negotiate Medicare drug prices, and in the case of Hillary Clinton, demand Medicaid-style rebates in Medicare, are more rhetoric than real solutions. To begin, these proposals are hardly what the public wants. (Douglas Holtz-Eakin, 8/25)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Systemic Problems With Drug Pricing Must Be Addressed
Mylan’s pricing of the EpiPen and last year’s high-profile reporting on Turing’s pricing of Daraprim are just the most egregious examples of a systemic problem in drug pricing — when a company is the sole producer of a lifesaving product for which there are no alternatives. Free-market economics leads to exorbitant prices, a result we should find completely unacceptable. In the proverbial case of the better mousetrap, the price is limited by customers who buy old mousetraps rather than pay the premium price for the better one. With lifesaving products that don’t have an alternative, the free market, as we have seen, produces outrageous prices and profits. Our patent system produces a similar result for new game-changing drugs. (8/28)

The Keene Sentinel: Congress Should Look Hard At How Drug Prices Are Set
Last year, Turing Pharmaceuticals drew national ire after it bought the anti-parasite drug Daraprim and then increased its price by fiftyfold. That the drug is often used in combination with other medicines to treat those infected with HIV seemed to have no significance to the firm’s then-CEO Martin Shkreli, beyond the opportunity to take advantage of people with little choice but to pay the exorbitant price. If Turing’s greedy stance on Daraprim was appalling, it was, at least, a step removed from the image of a rescuer negotiating price with a drowning man, if only because there are other HIV “cocktail” combinations available and the disease kills more slowly than, say, anaphylactic shock. (8/30)

Editorials And Opinions

Viewpoints: An Insurance Industry Campaign; Doctor Shopping Will Be More Difficult In Mass.

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

The Hill: Insurance Industry Campaigns To Keep Unlawful ObamaCare Cash 
In its effort to keep billions in unlawful ObamaCare corporate subsidies flowing, the industry is trying to persuade Congress that it receives no federal funds through the federal "reinsurance" program. Good luck with that. The ObamaCare statute established the temporary, three-year (from 2014 to 2016) reinsurance program for two purposes: 1) to provide $5 billion to the Treasury; and 2) to provide $20 billion to issuers of individual ObamaCare policies. (Doug Badger, 8/30)

The Boston Globe: ‘Doctor Shopping’ Is Going To Get More Difficult
It may have taken a frightening surge in opioid abuse to speed action, but Massachusetts now has a user-friendly online system for keeping track of drug prescriptions. The state monitoring program went live last week, after a $6.2 million overhaul of an unwieldy system that many doctors avoided like a virus. ... Doctors, nurse practitioners, and other prescribers have to consult the database before writing such a prescription for any new patient, as well as when they give existing patients their first prescription for a controlled substance. Starting Oct. 15, they’ll be required by law to log on before scribbling their signature on any narcotics prescription. (8/31)

Bloomberg: Don't Be Scared Of A Health-Insurance Public Option 
Like many others on both the left and right, I see the public option as a back-door route to full nationalization of most of the U.S. health-care system. The reason is that Medicare is capable of providing the same quality of care to most customers at a lower price than any private insurer. Part of this is because the government can just subsidize Medicare if it wants -- no private company can compete on price with a government service that doesn't need to make a profit. But even without any subsidies, Medicare can probably undercut private services through a variety of natural advantages. It can use its leverage as a very big purchaser to negotiate lower prices with providers. (Noah Smith, 8/30)

The New York Times: How Abortion Pill Laws Hurt Women
Sixteen years ago next month, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first “abortion pill,” and today medication abortion accounts for about a quarter of all nonhospital abortions in the United States. Not only is it safe and effective, but for women who live in the 89 percent of American counties that lack even a single abortion provider, it is often the only feasible option. Not surprisingly, state legislatures bent on eliminating abortion access have targeted medication abortion, passing several new laws with the stated intention of safeguarding women’s health and safety. But in a research paper I co-wrote on Tuesday in the online journal PLOS Medicine, my colleagues and I found that such laws are not just covers for restricting abortion access — they can actually harm women’s health. (Ushma D. Upadhyay, 8/30)

Los Angeles Times: New Bill To Protect Planned Parenthood Is Bad For Whistleblowers
After anti-abortion activists released hidden-camera videos last year that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials selling body parts from aborted fetuses, the organization’s opponents went into high gear, pushing state and federal officials to cut off public funds to the group and seek criminal charges. ... Planned Parenthood and its allies have pushed back .... But now, Planned Parenthood wants to go further. It’s supporting a bill in the California Legislature, AB 1671 by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), that would make it a crime to distribute a recording or even a transcript of a private conversation with a healthcare provider. (8/31)

Detroit Free Press: What Future For Detroit Medical Center, After Hygiene Revelations?
Would you schedule a surgery at the Detroit Medical Center, following a series of blistering reports published last week in the Detroit News that chronicle a decade's worth of complaints from DMC doctors and staff that surgical instruments weren't properly sterilized? ... That leaves the DMC and its customers at a troubling crossroads: When the hospital system became for-profit in 2010, much was made of its plan to woo prospective customers from suburban hospitals. That's surely derailed for the foreseeable future. Against this backdrop of events, the patients most likely to continue patronizing DMC hospitals are those with the fewest options, another disgrace in a story filled with horrifying twists. (8/30)

Bloomberg: Seriously, Don't Come To Work If You're Sick
There's nothing more selfish you can do than come to work sick. You may get a gold star for showing your sniffling face at the office and soldiering through the workday to prove your value — but everyone around you just gets sick. You're an inconsiderate work hazard. When people bring their infectious illness to work, it spreads — and when sick people don't have a financial incentive to show up to work, fewer people get sick, according to a new working paper by the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research. (Rebecca Greenfield, 8/30)

The Wichita Eagle: Data, Planning Key To Public Health
A recent commentary by Sedgwick County commissioners Richard Ranzau and Karl Peterjohn regarding the restoration of just one of about eight positions cut from the county’s health department reflected a fundamental lack of understanding and appreciation of the role of public health within the county. ... The Community Health Assessment (CHA) and Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) have been core pieces of the scope of work for the county’s health department and other health departments across Kansas and the United States for years. It is widely accepted as basic public health “blocking and tackling” – except in Sedgwick County. (Carolyn Gahghan, Peggy Johnson and Becky Tuttle, 8/31)