KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Employers, Regulators Struggle To Navigate The Do’s And Don’ts Of Wellness Programs

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission argues against the programs, saying they violate anti-discrimination laws, but the agency is facing a series of setbacks at court as proponents champion the health care savings the programs engender. Elsewhere, The Washington Post looks at government neglect and the Flint water crisis.

The New York Times: Employee Wellness Programs Use Carrots And, Increasingly, Sticks
It may be an offer employees simply can no longer refuse. Workers increasingly are being told by their companies to undergo health screenings and enroll in wellness programs, as a way to curb insurance costs. Many employees now face stiff financial penalties — often in the form of higher premiums — if they do not have their cholesterol checked or join programs to lose weight or better manage diabetes. (Abelson, 1/24)

The Washington Post: Flint’s Water Crisis Reveals Government Failures At Every Level
The scale of government neglect in the water crisis in Flint, Mich., could place the city alongside some of the most infamous environmental disasters in U.S. history, from New York’s Love Canal to the Hinkley, Calif., saga of Erin Brockovich fame. Local, state and federal officials — including the top Environmental Protection Agency administrator in the Midwest and Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder — are accused of ignoring, denying or covering up problems that left thousands of children exposed to toxic lead in their drinking water for about 18 months. (Bernstein and Dennis, 1/24)

In other public health news, WHO warns Zika is likely to spread to all but two countries in the Americas, a decade-old cancer case heads to trial and the U.S. is lagging in reducing stillbirths —

Reuters: WHO Sees Zika Outbreak Spreading Through Americas
The mosquito-borne Zika virus, which is suspected of causing brain damage to babies in Brazil, is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile, the World Health Organization said on Monday. Zika has not yet been reported in the continental United States, although a woman who fell ill with Zika in Brazil later gave birth to a brain-damaged baby in Hawaii. (Miles, 1/23)

The Associated Press: Case Seeking Cancer Screenings For Smokers Heads To Trial
A decade after a group of smokers from Massachusetts sued Philip Morris USA to try to force the cigarette maker to pay for lung cancer screenings, the case will finally be heard by a jury. Smokers in the class-action lawsuit allege Philip Morris manufactured a defective cigarette knowing it could have made a safer product with fewer carcinogens. They are not seeking money, but instead want to compel Philip Morris to pay for highly detailed, three-dimensional chest scans that can detect signs of early-stage lung cancer that may be too small to show up on traditional X-rays. (1/25)

NPR: U.S. Lags Behind Other Countries In Reducing Stillbirths
Stillbirth remains largely hidden from society, and the tragic loss of a fetus late in pregnancy remains far too common. ... In the U.S., the stillbirth rate is 3 per 1,000 births, putting it 22nd among 186 countries. What's more, that rate has barely budged in 15 years, declining just 0.4 percent. That's slower progress than was seen in all but a handful of countries. In sheer numbers, that means there were 11,260 stillbirths last year in the U.S., if you use the World Health Organization's definition: fetal death after 28 weeks of pregnancy. (Hobson, 1/22)

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