KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: April 24, 2017

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

Kaiser Health News: Drugmakers Dramatically Boosted Lobbying Spending In Trump’s First Quarter
Eight pharmaceutical companies more than doubled their lobbying spending in the first three months of 2017, when the Affordable Care Act was on the chopping block and high drug prices were clearly in the crosshairs of Congress and President Donald Trump. Congressional records show those eight, including Celgene and Mylan, kicked in an extra $4.42 million versus that quarter last year. Industry giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries spent $2.67 million, up 115 percent from a year ago as several companies embroiled in controversies raised their outlays significantly. (Lupkin, 4/21)

Kaiser Health News: Marathon Pharmaceutical Drops Out Of PhRMA Following Drug Price Controversy
The resignation also falls as PhRMA works on a review of its membership criteria. “My view is that we want to represent companies that are really swinging for the fences … [companies] that are taking enormous risks in bringing breakthrough treatments to market,” PhRMA President Stephen Ubl said in a recent interview with Kaiser Health News. “So we’ll be looking at our membership criteria to really focus on those attributes.” (Tribble, 4/21)

Kaiser Health News: A Spoonful Of Kids’ Medicine Makes The Profits Go Up
When prescribing medications, caring for children poses a particular challenge. They’re not just little adults. Their still-developing brains and bodies metabolize drugs differently, and what works for grown-ups can yield radically different — and sometimes dangerous — results in kids. (Luthra, 4/24)

The New York Times: Uphill Battle Looms As Trump Seeks Revamped Healthcare Plan
President Donald Trump, striving to make good on a top campaign promise, is pushing his fellow Republicans who control Congress to pass revamped healthcare legislation but the same intraparty squabbling that torpedoed it last month could do it again. Trump is looking for his first major legislative victory since taking office in January. House of Representatives Republicans are exploring compromises aimed at satisfying the party's most conservative members without antagonizing its moderates, but it remained unclear on Friday whether a viable bill would emerge. (Cornwell, 4/21)

Politico: House GOP Leaders Won’t Rush Health Care Vote
House GOP leaders during a members-only conference call Saturday vowed to avoid a government shutdown and said they're closer to a deal to repeal and replace Obamacare, according to members who participated on the call. But Speaker Paul Ryan also downplayed the possibility of a vote next week, the same sources said. The Wisconsin Republican said the chamber will vote on a conference-wide deal when GOP whips are confident they have the votes for passage — but not until then. (Bade and Haberkorn, 4/22)

The New York Times: Will The Government Be Open In A Week? Here Are The Dividing Lines
Congressional leaders and White House officials have steered the nation to the brink of a government shutdown that virtually all parties agree would be a terrible idea. ... Here are the dynamics at play as members return from a two-week recess. ... Seeking to squeeze Democrats, Mr. Mulvaney has offered a trade of sorts: $1 of subsidy payments under the Affordable Care Act — paid to insurers to lower deductibles and other costs for low-income consumers who buy plans through the law’s marketplaces — in exchange for every $1 to pay for the border wall that the president wants to build. (Flegenheimer and Kaplan, 4/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Issues New Warnings On Demise Of Affordable Care Act
In a series of Sunday morning Twitter messages, President Donald Trump warned the Affordable Care Act would falter without new funding, and pressured Democrats to support spending for his proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico to keep the health program going. Democrats are pushing to include funding for a set of Affordable Care Act subsidies in a must-pass spending bill that will need Democratic support to clear the Senate and likely the House. Mr. Trump’s administration has signaled an openness to including the funding, known as cost-sharing payments—in exchange for funding to build a border wall. (Hackman, 4/23)

The Wall Street Journal: States Seek To Shore Up Health Insurance Markets
Amid uncertainty in Washington about the future of the Affordable Care Act, states are moving to bolster their own insurance markets, hoping to fend off big rate increases and pullbacks by insurers. Idaho, Oklahoma and Minnesota have passed bills that aim to blunt insurers’ costs for covering people who buy individual insurance and have health conditions that require expensive treatments. The measures would allow insurers to unload at least some of the expense of these enrollees’ claims onto state programs, typically using a version of reinsurance. (Wilde Mathews and Hackman, 4/23)

The Washington Post Fact Checker: How Is Medicare Affected By The House GOP Health Plan?
Medicare, the old-age health program, emerged largely unscathed from the proposed legislation — even the $700 billion in Medicare “cuts” that Republicans used to highlight in attack ads. Those spending reductions have been retained, for now.But there are two provisions in the bill affecting the financing of Medicare that have received relatively little attention. (Kessler, 4/21)

The New York Times: Nurse Replaces Surgeon General After Obama Appointee Resigns
Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, an Obama administration holdover, was asked to resign by the Trump administration on Friday. He was replaced by his deputy, Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams, one of the first nurses to serve as surgeon general. Admiral Trent-Adams will for now be in an acting role. As of Friday evening, she had already replaced Dr. Murthy on the surgeon general’s Twitter account, and her portrait had replaced his on the agency’s Facebook page. One of the first comments on that post asked, “Where is Dr. Murthy?” (Ivory and Harris, 2/21)

The Washington Post: Surgeon General Is Removed By Trump Administration, Replaced By Deputy For Now
Murthy, a holdover from the Obama administration, was asked to resign, according to a statement released Friday night by the Department of Health and Human Services. The statement said that “after assisting in a smooth transition into the new Trump administration,” Murthy “has been relieved of his duties.” Trent-Adams, a 24-year veteran of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and a former chief nurse officer of the Public Health Service, will fill the role for now, the statement said. (Bernstein, 4/22)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Dismissed
Dr. Murthy said in a long Facebook posting late Friday night that he believed Adm. Trent-Adams was “capable and compassionate” and described lessons he said he had learned from a job he had been honored to hold. “Healing happens when we are able to truly talk and connect with each other. That means listening and understanding. It means assuming good, not the worst. It means pausing before we judge. Building a more connected America will require us to find new ways to talk to each other,” he wrote. (Radnofsky, 4/22)

The New York Times: Scientists, Feeling Under Siege, March Against Trump Policies
Thousands of scientists and their supporters, feeling increasingly threatened by the policies of President Trump, gathered Saturday in Washington under rainy skies for what they called the March for Science, abandoning a tradition of keeping the sciences out of politics and calling on the public to stand up for scientific enterprise. (St. Fleur, 4/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Against All Odds, The U.S. Tobacco Industry Is Rolling In Money
It’s a great time to be a cigarette company again. Far fewer Americans are smoking, and yet U.S. tobacco revenue is soaring, thanks to years of steady price hikes. Americans spent more at retail stores on cigarettes in 2016 than they did on soda and beer combined, according to independent market-research firm Euromonitor International. Consolidation and cost cutting are boosting profit. Big Tobacco shares are on a roll. (Maloney and Chaudhuri, 4/23)

The Associated Press: Attorneys General To Trump: Don't Cut Drug Treatment Funds
The top government lawyers from 19 states are telling President Donald Trump and the Republican leaders of Congress not to pass health insurance changes that would stop the flow of federal drug treatment money. A letter sent Friday by a group of attorneys general for 19 states plus Washington D.C., is the latest in a series of actions from Democrats who hold those offices to oppose Trump's policies and actions. (Mulvihill, 4/21)

The Associated Press: Opioid And Heroin Overdoses Reach ‘Crisis Level’ In Maryland
When Carin Miller’s son was about 19 years old, he began to abuse heroin by snorting pills, eventually moving on to shooting up. This went on for six years before he got help. Lucas Miller’s history of drug use started in high school with smoking marijuana. When he moved out of his parents’ house, one of his housemates had access to between 750 to 1,500 pills at any given time between five houses located in Frederick, Maryland. “My son was addicted to heroin, he’s in recovery by the grace of God since Thanksgiving 2014, I think that’s where we are at,” Miller said. (Nocera, 4/21)

The Washington Post: For Older People Living Alone, Daily Automated Calls Can Mean Safety
Living alone can be tough for seniors. Some don’t have family nearby to check on them, and they worry that if they fall or suffer a medical emergency and can’t get to the phone to seek help, no one will know. That’s why hundreds of police agencies in small towns, suburbs and rural areas are checking in on seniors who live alone by placing an automated call to them every day. (Bergal, 4/23)

NPR: Is It Time For Hearing Aids To Be Sold Over The Counter?
Four out of five older Americans with hearing loss just ignore it, in part because a hearing aid is an unwelcome sign of aging. But what if hearing aids looked like stylish fashion accessories and could be bought at your local pharmacy like reading glasses? That's the vision of Kristen "KR" Liu, who's the director of accessibility and advocacy for Doppler Labs, a company marketing one of these devices. She thinks a hearing aid could be "something that's hip and cool and people have multiple pairs and it's fashionable." (Neighmond and Greenhalgh, 4/24)

The New York Times: XOXO Campaign: Will It Spell Profit Or Trouble For Condom Maker?
It seemed like a sensible advertising strategy. When a company discovered that women accounted for less than one-third of the purchases of its products, it shifted direction to appeal more directly to them. But when the company is the largest condom seller in America, at a time of heightened divisiveness regarding reproductive rights and women’s health, the situation can get a little more complicated. (Schonburn, 4/23)

The Washington Post: Many People Stop Taking Life-Saving Drugs After Heart Attacks
Within two years of having a heart attack, nearly 1 in 5 people stop taking lifesaving cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins, according to a new study. And nearly 2 in 5 end up taking the drugs in lower doses or less often than they should, researchers report in JAMA Cardiology. “From a societal perspective, we need to make sure the highest-risk individuals are being treated with guideline-directed therapy,” said senior author Robert Rosenson, a professor of cardiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. (Seaman, 4/23)

The Associated Press: Doctor's Arrest Brings Attention To US Female Circumcisions
Zehra Patwa learned only a few years ago that during a family trip to India at age 7, she was circumcised, which is common for girls in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Patwa, 46, doesn't remember undergoing the procedure, which is also called female genital mutilation or cutting and which has been condemned by the United Nations and outlawed in the U.S. But she doesn't want to. (4/23)

The Associated Press: Conservative Group Challenges Abortion Regulation Changes
The conservative Family Foundation of Virginia is filing a legal challenge over the way the state did away with restrictive regulations for abortion centers. The group said Friday it filed an administrative appeal in Henrico County Circuit Court over the health and safety regulations, which were updated in October. (4/21)

Los Angeles Times: California Department Of Public Health Issues Penalties To 3 Los Angeles County Hospitals
The California Department of Public Health has issued penalties to 14 California hospitals, including three in Los Angeles County, for incidents that could have caused serious injury or death to patients, the state health agency announced this week. The penalties — as well as more than $1.1 million in fines — were issued for incidents between 2012 and 2016. The Department of Public Health conducted an investigation in each case. (Branson-Potts, 4/21)

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