KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: January 27, 2016

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

The Associated Press: Task Force Urges Doctors To Screen All Adults For Depression
All adults, including pregnant women and new mothers, should be screened for depression as a routine part of health care, a government advisory group recommended Tuesday. Depression is a common public health problem, and screening simply involves health workers asking about certain symptoms even if patients don't mention them. (1/26)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Advisory Group Recommends Routine Depression Screening
The panel evaluated research from recent years and concluded that depression continues to be an important enough disease that it needs to be incorporated as part of primary care for all adults. It gave depression screening its “B” rating, meaning that there is a high certainty of a moderate benefit to be derived from screening—or a moderate certainty that the benefit is “moderate to substantial.” (Burton, 1/26)

USA Today: Task Force: Doctors Should Screen All Adults For Depression
Primary care doctors should screen all adults for depression, an expert panel recommended Tuesday. The task force for the first time said screening benefits specific groups, including older adults, pregnant women and new mothers. In the past, there wasn't strong enough evidence to weigh in on whether depression screening helps or hurts these groups. (Szabo, 1/26)

Los Angeles Times: Federal Panel Recommends General Physicians Screen All Adults For Depression
The task force, which assesses the harms and benefits of screening programs and makes recommendations accordingly, said that screening pregnant and postpartum women for depression would have a "moderate net benefit." At the same time, the panel acknowledged that, given the small risk that treatment with antidepressants could harm a developing fetus, pregnant women with depression should be offered a "range of treatment options," including cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been found effective in relieving depressive symptoms. (Healy, 1/26)

NPR: Depression Screening Recommended For All Pregnant Women, New Mothers
Pregnant women and new mothers need more attention when it comes to screening for depression, according to recommendations issued Tuesday by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. ... What's new this time is the special shout-out for pregnant women and new moms. They need special recognition, the task force says, because of evidence showing that they can be accurately diagnosed and successfully treated, and because untreated depression harms not only the mother, but her child as well. (Silberner, 1/26)

USA Today: NYC Doctors Group Has Been Screening For Depression For Three Years
A federal task force's recommendation that primary care doctors screen all adult patients for depression was surprising but a “very, very positive development," says Henry Chung, a psychiatrist who is chief medical officer at the Montefiore Health System's care management organization here. ... Montefiore has been linking depression screenings with primary care for the past three years through a federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services innovation grant to fund integration of behavioral health into its primary care services. (O'Donnell, 1/26)

The Washington Post: Anti-Planned Parenthood Filmmakers To Turn Themselves In
One day after Texas authorities filed criminal charges against two antiabortion activists behind a series of undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood, the pair’s lawyer said they plan to leave California for Houston to turn themselves in. Murphy Klasing, the Houston lawyer representing Daleiden and Merritt, would not say when, exactly, the activists plan to visit the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, which has issued warrants for their arrest. Both Daleiden and Merritt want to book travel plans swiftly, Klasing said. Once in Houston, he said, they will post bond and avoid jail time. (Paquette and Somashekhar, 1/26)

Reuters: Anti-Abortion Activists Had Fake ID's For Filming: Texas Court Papers
Two anti-abortion campaigners who secretly filmed a Planned Parenthood official discussing fetal tissue procurement used fake driver's licenses to enter the group's offices in the Houston area, court papers released in Texas on Tuesday said. Documents filed in Harris County court showed California driver's licenses for the pair when they were making the video - Daleiden used an ID in the name of Robert David Sarkis and Merritt posed as Susan Sarah Tennenbaum. The court papers said the pair unlawfully used a fake government record "with the intent to defraud or harm others." They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. (Herskovitz, 1/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Antiabortion Group Behind Planned Parenthood Videos Faces Challenges
The antiabortion group behind undercover videos that roiled Planned Parenthood Federation of America is facing multiple legal challenges over its own practices, complicating its campaign to portray the health organization as a lawbreaker. Issues the Irvine, Calif.-based group faces include a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service by a left-leaning legal watchdog organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and litigation by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation. In addition, the California attorney general’s office has said it was reviewing whether the group broke any laws. (Armour and Frosch, 1/26)

The New York Times: Indictment Deals Blow To G.O.P. Over Planned Parenthood Battle
A grand jury’s indictment on Monday of two abortion opponents who covertly recorded Planned Parenthood officials is the latest, most startling sign that a Republican campaign against the group has run into trouble. In a dozen states including Texas, where the grand jury in Houston examined Planned Parenthood at the request of Republican officials but ended up indicting the opponents, various investigations have concluded without finding any wrongdoing by affiliates of the group. Eight states have declined to investigate since videos began surfacing in June alleging that Planned Parenthood illegally sells tissue from aborted fetuses. (Calmes, 1/26)

The Associated Press: Judge: 1 Part of Louisiana Abortion Law Unconstitutional
A state mandate that doctors who provide abortions must have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. In issuing the ruling, District Judge John deGravelles in Baton Rouge decided to keep in place his previous order blocking Louisiana officials from enforcing the mandate. DeGravelles has not yet ruled on the state's abortion law itself, though he heard arguments about it in June while first considering the injunction in connection with a lawsuit still pending in court. (1/26)

The Associated Press: Health Care Fines Press Millennials As Deadline Nears
Millions of young adults healthy enough to think they don't need insurance face painful choices this year as the sign-up deadline approaches for President Barack Obama's health care law. Fines for being uninsured rise sharply in 2016 — averaging nearly $1,000 per household, according to an independent estimate. It's forcing those in their 20s and 30s to take a hard look and see if they can squeeze in coverage to avoid penalties. (1/26)

Reuters: Sanders Blocks Obama Nominee To Lead FDA, Citing Industry Ties
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said on Tuesday he has placed a hold on President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration, claiming he is too close to the pharmaceutical industry to be an impartial regulator. The move by the U.S. senator from Vermont comes one day after Democratic Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts also placed a hold on the nomination until the agency agrees to reform its process for approving opioid painkillers. (Heavey, 1/26)

Politico: Anti-Abortion Groups Say They Distrust Trump
Donald Trump says he's ardently anti-abortion. But some of the most active anti-abortion groups are skeptical of his conversion and furiously lobbying for anyone but Trump. “He worries me a lot,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, citing the billionaire’s comments that he might consider former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown as a running mate — or his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, as a Supreme Court justice. Both Brown and Barry support abortion rights. “One has to question how deep it goes,” she said. (Haberkorn, 1/26)

Reuters: Trump Drug Cost Comments Raise New Risks For Pharma Stocks
Comments from Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump that Medicare could reap huge savings by negotiating with drug makers raise new risks for the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, whose shares have been pressured by criticism from Democrats. ... Democrats and other critics have hammered away at drug costs in recent months, raising investor concerns that future price cuts could hurt pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Biotech stocks tumbled last September after Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton tweeted her intent to tackle high prices. (Krauskopf, 1/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Companies Ponder A Rating Of Workers’ Health
Companies might add something new to their annual reports: a rating of their workers’ health. A group of employers, including International Business Machines Corp., PepsiCo Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, are weighing how to publicly report—and measure—the health of their workforce. Such ratings would give shareholders, corporate directors, managers and consumers insight into a company’s commitment to improving employee health, and whether such efforts are getting results. Chronic illness, tobacco use and obesity can drive up a company’s medical costs, but a growing body of research suggests they can also affect productivity and performance. (Silverman, 1/26)

Reuters: Big Pharma's Bet On Big Data Creates Opportunities And Risks
Novartis wants every puff of its emphysema drug Onbrez to go into the cloud. The Swiss drugmaker has teamed up with U.S. technology firm Qualcomm to develop an internet-connected inhaler that can send information about how often it is used to remote computer servers known as the cloud. This kind of new medical technology is designed to allow patients to keep track of their drug usage on their smartphones or tablets and for their doctors to instantly access the data over the web to monitor their condition. (1/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Novartis Profit Dives 57% On Eye-Care Woes
Novartis AG outlined plans to revive its ailing eye-care business as the unit contributed to a 57% decline in fourth-quarter net profit reported by the Swiss drug giant on Wednesday. The company said it would narrow Alcon’s focus to surgical equipment and vision-care products, such as contact lenses, by hiving off ophthalmic drugs into the company’s giant pharmaceuticals division. (Letzing and Rolland, 1/27)

NPR: Big Zika Virus Outbreak Unlikely In The U.S., Officials Say
The outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil and other countries has raised concern that the pathogen could start spreading widely in the United States, as well. But federal health officials and other infectious disease specialists say so far that seems unlikely. "Based on what we know right now, we don't think that widespread transmission in the United States is likely," says Dr. Beth Bell, director of National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Stein, 1/26)

USA Today: Feds Push Hospitals To Improve Care After Discharging Minority Patients
Federal officials are urging hospitals to improve care for minority and low-income Medicare patients so they don't wind up back in the hospital soon after they're discharged. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is issuing guidance to hospitals Tuesday on how to improve communication and care for these disadvantaged patients if they want to avoid penalties when these people have to be readmitted within 30 days of discharge. (O'Donnell, 1/26)

The Washington Post: Hogan Proposing Independent Redistricting, Tougher Opioid Laws
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Tuesday proposed ... legislation to help the state crack down on a growing epidemic of opiod addiction by changing the state’s gang laws to be more like federal racketeering statutes and by eventually requiring doctors and ­pharmacists to use the state’s ­prescription-monitoring database to ensure they are not over-prescribing narcotics. (Wiggins and Hicks, 1/26)

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