KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: March 1, 2017

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

Kaiser Health News: Instead Of Trashing A $600 EpiPen, Some Patients Get A Refill
The concern over soaring prescription drug prices continues to dominate headlines, attracting scrutiny from Capitol Hill and President Donald Trump, who said during a January press conference that the industry was “getting away with murder.” But some doctors — frustrated by what they see as unreasonable price tags and political stagnation — are coming up with do-it-yourself solutions. Their efforts to bring down costs for their patients highlight the arbitrary and often needlessly exorbitant prices of drugs in the U.S., they say. (Luthra, 3/1)

Kaiser Health News: Health Insurance: What If You Could Take It With You?
Republican leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas have promoted the idea that consumers should have a “health care backpack,” which would make it possible to take insurance from job to job or when moving, starting a business or retiring. The concept — often referred to as “portability” — is appealing. Why should a health plan be tied to where you work or live? Why can’t it go where you go? (Appleby, 3/1)

California Healthline: California Cancer Rates Dropped During The Recession. That’s Not Necessarily A Good Thing.
As the country plunged into recession between 2008 and 2012, something unexpected happened: An earlier small decline in the number of new cancer cases became a much bigger one. The authors of a study published last month by the Cancer Prevention Institute of California believe they have a plausible explanation for the trend: People who lost their incomes or health insurance during that time were less likely to get routine screenings or visit the doctor. (Wiener, 3/1)

The Associated Press: Trump Gives GOP Leaders Rallying Cry, Roadmap For Change
President Donald Trump gave Republican congressional leaders a rallying cry and even a roadmap as they try to push through a sweeping and divisive agenda on health care, taxes and more. In his first address to a joint session of Congress, Trump said largely what GOP leaders were hoping to hear Tuesday night, staying on-message and talking in optimistic tones, even weighing in at one point to settle a brewing dispute over how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. (Werner, 3/1)

The Washington Post: Trump Opposes Required Health Benefits But Reveals Few Details Of His Plan To End The ACA
In his first address to a joint session of Congress — a high-wattage moment to articulate his central goals — President Trump defied expectations he had repeatedly set that he was about to unveil a concrete plan to abolish the Affordable Care Act and steer federal health policy onto a more conservative path. The five minutes Trump devoted to health care Tuesday night was largely a recitation of longtime Republican ideas that he has adopted, with an emphasis on removing the rules the Affordable Care Act placed on insurers to try to promote comprehensive health benefits. (Goldstein, 2/28)

The Associated Press: Conservatives Rebel On Health Care, Trump Backs Key Elements
Trump embraced a key element of the emerging House GOP health plan, in comments that cheered Republican House leaders and could help bring conservatives back in line. ... "We should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts - but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the government," Trump said as he called on Republicans to make good on long-held promises to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law and replace it with something better. (Werner and Fram, 2/28)

Reuters: Trump Gives Nod To Republican Tax-Credit Proposal On Obamacare
Trump backed the use of tax credits to help people purchase health insurance in a speech to Congress on Tuesday, the first time he signaled support for a key component of House Republican proposals to replace Obamacare. Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, are united in their opposition to former Democratic President Barack Obama's signature 2010 healthcare law, but have so far failed to agree on the details of how to replace it. (Abutaleb, 3/1)

Los Angeles Times: Trump Lays Out Ambitious Plans For Healthcare And Immigration In A Disciplined Speech To Congress
His vow to rewrite health policy epitomized the challenges ahead in turning rhetoric into reality. Trump promised to replace Obamacare “with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better healthcare.” The issue has vexed lawmakers from both parties who have struggled to provide both quality and access without driving up costs. (Bierman, Memoli and Bennett, 2/28)

The Associated Press: Fact Check: Trump Actions Threaten Those He Wants To Help
Addicts and mentally ill people who gained access to treatment programs for the first time as a result of the Obama-era health care law are worried about the consequences if it’s repealed as Trump calls for. Repeal could end coverage for 1.8 million people who have undergone addiction or mental health treatment, and cut $5.5 billion in spending on such services, according to estimates by economist Richard Frank, a former Obama administration official now at Harvard Medical School. (2/28)

The New York Times: Health Care Is Front And Center In Democrats’ Response To Trump Address
In responding to President Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday, Democrats had to navigate between the expectations of their angry base in America’s cities and the need to appeal to a broader array of voters in parts of the country where the president is far more popular. The party handed that task to former Gov. Steven L. Beshear of Kentucky. ... Mr. Beshear noted that the Americans who had gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, a law he championed in his state, were the sort of “friends and neighbors” he surrounded himself with in the diner. (Martin, 3/1)

The Associated Press: Democrats In Speech Rebuttal Say Trump Will 'Rip' Away Care
"You and your Republican allies in Congress seem determined to rip affordable health insurance away from millions of Americans who most need it," Beshear said. Republicans believe lower-income people "just don't deserve health care, that it's somehow their fault" they lacked it, Beshear said. Twenty million Americans have gained coverage under Obama's law. (Fram and Freking, 3/1)

The Wall Street Journal: Democrat Steve Beshear Rallies Party To Protect Obamacare
Mr. Trump in his remarks to Congress anticipated Mr. Beshear’s defense of the health-care law. He cited Mr. Beshear’s successor as evidence the Affordable Care Act failed in Kentucky. “Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky just said Obamacare is failing in his state, the state of Kentucky, it is unsustainable and collapsing,” Mr. Trump said. (Epstein, 2/28)

Politico: Republicans Fight Over What Trump Meant On Obamacare
House Republican leaders were ebullient after President Donald Trump’s first address to Congress Tuesday night, convinced that their proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare had just gotten the presidential seal of approval. Conservatives who abhor the GOP leadership plan saw just the opposite. (Kim and Bade, 3/1)

The New York Times: Desperate For Presidential Leadership, Republicans Find Little
Congressional Republicans, racked by divisions over health care, taxes and spending, are increasingly desperate for leadership from the White House to unite the party and point the way toward consensus. But presidential leadership does not appear to be forthcoming, leaving the party largely paralyzed at a moment it had thought would be full of legislative activity. (Steinhauer and Huetteman, 2/28)

The New York Times: Republicans In Washington Are In Control, But Not In Agreement
Six weeks into unified government, Republican leaders are back to where they were in the Obama years — under fire from conservatives for giving too much ground on major policy issues. In particular, the party push to undo the health care law while avoiding major disruptions in coverage — a priority reinforced on Tuesday by President Trump in his prime-time address — is encountering major resistance from the right. (Hulse, 3/1)

Politico: Republicans Near Make-Or-Break Moment On Obamacare Repeal
Republicans are having a break-the-glass moment on Obamacare. After promising for years to upend the Democratic health care law the first chance they got — and with plans to hold a vote to repeal by early April — the party remains far from consensus. So far, in fact, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called a special all-members caucus meeting Wednesday to try and get his rowdy caucus in line. (Everett and Haberkorn, 2/28)

Politico: Freedom Caucus Chief's Wife Blasts Ryan On Obamacare Repeal
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows’ wife is rallying North Carolina Republicans to sink Speaker Paul Ryan’s Obamacare replacement bill, telling activists in an email that “Ryancare” “will be wrapped around Republican’s necks.” In a Monday afternoon email, a copy of which was obtained by Politico, Debbie Meadows encouraged Republicans to call Ryan’s office and the White House to protest the House plan. (Bade, 2/28)

Politico: Obamacare 'Collapsing'? That's A Stretch
This year was definitely a rough year for Obamacare, with declining choice in plans and sharp price hikes seen around the country. But while the law may be on especially shaky ground in some places — the private markets in Tennessee and Oklahoma come to mind -- that’s not the case everywhere. Other independent analysts have said there are signs that the health of the individual market is improving and the law is not in a so-called “death spiral.” (Pradhan, 2/28)

The Washington Post: Bernie Sanders Takes Another Swing At Big Pharma With Bill To Allow Drug Imports
Opening a new front in the war against big pharma, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and a slew of Democratic colleagues introduced a bill Tuesday to allow commercial importation of drugs from Canada. The appeal is obvious; through cheap imported drugs, the United States would be able to take advantage of the government levers and regulation that other countries have used to bring down pharmaceutical prices. It's a far more politically palatable way to attack the problem of soaring drug prices than opening up an even more contentious fight over whether the U.S. government should meddle directly in pricing — and it has had wide popular and bipartisan support, including from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the presidential campaign. (Johnson, 2/28)

The New York Times: Colon And Rectal Cancers Rising In Young People
Cancers of the colon and rectum have been declining in older adults in recent decades and have always been considered rare in young people. But scientists are reporting a sharp rise in colorectal cancers in adults as young as their 20s and 30s, an ominous trend. The vast majority of colorectal cancers are still found in older people, with nearly 90 percent of all cases diagnosed in people over 50. But a new study from the American Cancer Society that analyzed cancer incidence by birth year found that colorectal cancer rates, which had dropped steadily for people born between 1890 and 1950, have been increasing for every generation born since 1950. Experts aren’t sure why. (Rabin, 2/28)

USA Today/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Colon And Rectal Cancers Surge Among Young Adults
While scientists have not pinpointed an exact cause, prime suspects include obesity, inactivity and poor diets, said researchers from the American Cancer Society, reporting in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. “Colorectal cancer had been thought a success story,” because overall rates have fallen as screening has increased among older adults, said lead researcher Rebecca Siegel. “But it appears that under the surface, the underlying risk for colorectal cancer is rising, and it is rising pretty quickly among young adults.” (Painter, 2/28)

The Washington Post: Colorectal Cancer Rates Rising Sharply Among Gen X And Millennials
The study, which included scientists at the NCI, didn't determine the reason for the shift. But Siegel suggested one explanation might be a complex interaction involving the same factors that have contributed to the obesity epidemic — changes in diet, a sedentary lifestyle, excess weight and low fiber consumption. Experts said the cancers are not related to the human papilloma virus. HPV is associated with squamous cell cancers, which are common in HPV-related anal cancer, but not in colorectal cancers. (McGinley, 2/28)

Los Angeles Times: Colorectal Cancer Rates Are Rising Among Younger Americans Even As They'Re Falling For Others
“It’s still a disease of older folks,” said Dr. George J. Chang, chief of colon and rectal surgery at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. ... But with a growing number of younger patients affected, physicians and patients need to be more open to the possibility that symptoms such as blood in the stool and changed bowel habits could be signs of cancer, he said. (Healy, 2/28)

The Washington Post: Childhood Cancer Survivors Benefit From Reduced Radiation Treatment
The rate of second malignancies in survivors of childhood cancer is declining — an improvement linked to reduced radiation treatment of the first disease, according to a new study. The research, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, focused on new cancers — not recurrences — that occurred within 15 years of the original ones. The rate for such cancers fell from 2.1 percent for survivors diagnosed in the 1970s to 1.3 percent for those diagnosed in the 1990s. (McGinley, 2/28)

The Washington Post: Hopkins Researchers Suggest Baltimore Offer Addicts Safe Places To Do Drugs
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recommend that Baltimore turn to an unorthodox way of dealing with its heroin epidemic by opening two facilities that provide people a safe place to take drugs. In a report published and commissioned by the nonprofit Abell Foundation, the researchers suggest opening one facility on the city’s east side and another on the west. They say such facilities would prevent overdose deaths and other harms that addicts face. (McDaniels, 2/28)

The Washington Post: Attorney General Sessions Wants To Know The Science On Marijuana And Opioids. Here It Is.
Speaking this morning before the National Association of Attorneys General, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed doubt that marijuana could help mitigate the opioid abuse epidemic. “I see a line in The Washington Post today that I remember from the '80s,” Sessions said. "'Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse.' Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that's been made out there to just — almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that's true. Maybe science will prove I'm wrong.” (Ingraham, 2/28)

The Washington Post: Federal Officials Are Auditing D.C. Public Health Lab In Wake Of Botched Zika Tests
Federal regulators are auditing the District’s public health lab in response to botched Zika testing that erroneously provided negative results to at least nine pregnant women, D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences Director Jenifer Smith said Tuesday. At an oversight hearing before a D.C. Council committee, Smith said officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had visited the lab Monday and Tuesday to review its operations and investigate how the mistakes were made. (Jamison, 2/28)

The Washington Post: Flint Residents Must Start Paying For Water They Still Can’t Drink Without A Filter
Residents in Flint, Mich., are about to start paying the full cost of their water again, even though what’s flowing from their taps has yet to be declared safe to drink without an approved filter. On Wednesday, state officials will end a program that has helped pay residents’ bills since a series of ill-fated decisions by state-appointed emergency managers left the city’s water system contaminated with lead. Since that 2014 disaster, the state has spent roughly $41 million in credits to help offset local utility bills. Residents have gotten a 65 percent credit each month on their water use, while commercial accounts received a 20 percent credit. (Dennis, 2/28)

The New York Times: Upstate Village Tables Pollution Deal With Saint-Gobain And Honeywell
It has been decades since the plastics companies first arrived and silently started polluting this small village in northeastern New York, and four years since the death of a local man prompted his son to search for answers. Given that timetable, it is not completely surprising that the story of Hoosick Falls, where the local water was contaminated with high levels of a toxic chemical, has not come to a quick conclusion.  (McKinley, 2/28)

The New York Times: Healthier Cereals Snare A Spot On New York School Menus
The New York City public school system has quietly replaced breakfast cereals made by the Kellogg Company, the titan whose name is virtually synonymous with cereal, with those from a small California upstart called Back to the Roots. The switch, which follows a student taste test that began last spring, adds menu options that are lower in sugar and sodium and higher in whole grains. (Strom, 3/1)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.