KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: September 11, 2017

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

Kaiser Health News: Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ Welcome Back, Congress. Now Get To Work.
The Senate this week launched hearings on both the fate of the individual insurance market and the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is set to expire at the end of September. Still in the mix on Capitol Hill is one possible last-ditch effort to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. But with Congress quickly wrapping up much of its “must-do” legislation, it’s not clear how or when these issues will be tackled, says a panel of experienced health care journalists in this week’s episode of “What the Health?” (9/8)

The Hill: Dem, GOP Demands Could Sink Bipartisan ObamaCare Fix 
Democrats fear that GOP demands for concessions on a bill meant to stabilize insurance markets could lead to the end of key protections for consumers under ObamaCare. Republicans say that in exchange for funding for insurers that would help prevent an ObamaCare premium spike, Democrats should agree to expanding waivers that could allow states to opt out of certain requirements under ObamaCare. (Sullivan, 9/8)

The Hill: Trump Regrets Putting ObamaCare Repeal On Top Of Agenda, Blames Ryan: Report
President Trump reportedly regrets putting repealing and replacing ObamaCare at the top of his legislative agenda and blames Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for assuring him that a health-care overhaul was sure to pass in the GOP-controlled Congress. Trump has privately fumed that Republican congressional leaders, including Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), misled him on health care, among other issues, The Associated Press reported Friday. (Greenwood, 9/8)

Bloomberg: Trump's ‘Republicans, Sorry’ Tweet Casts Doubt On GOP's Obamacare Repeal Plan 
Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy are still pushing their plan to repeal Obamacare. It appears the president has moved on to tax cuts. “Republicans, sorry, but I’ve been hearing about Repeal & Replace for 7 years, didn’t happen!,” President Donald Trump said in the first of a series of tweets on Friday. Graham and Cassidy, Republican senators from South Carolina and Louisiana, respectively, said on Thursday they’re planning to introduce a new version of their proposal to replace Obamacare. They’re aiming for a vote this month, and have said that the president backs their plan. Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander, meanwhile, is pushing for a more limited bipartisan plan to stabilize the health law’s markets. (Tracer, 9/8)

The Hill: Groups Fear Trump Funding Cuts Will Lower ObamaCare Enrollment 
Groups that for years have helped people sign up for ObamaCare say the White House's cuts to their funding will almost certainly lower enrollment in the insurance exchanges this year. Some of the groups, known as navigators, say they’re worried they’ll have to permanently cut back on staff, as well as education and outreach about the health-care law ahead of an open enrollment period beginning Nov. 1. (Roubein, 9/8)

The Hill: Freedom Caucus Chair Calls New ObamaCare Repeal Bill 'Promising' 
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Friday that a new ObamaCare replacement bill in the Senate is the "most promising" option for repealing the law. Meadows spoke favorably of the bill from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), which would replace ObamaCare with block grants to states instead of the law's current spending on subsidies and Medicaid expansion. (Sullivan, 9/8)

Politico: Bannon: Hill Republicans Said Obamacare Would Be Replaced By Easter
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said Republicans in Congress assured President Donald Trump that repealing and replacing Obamacare would be a quick process. In an interview on Sunday's edition of "60 Minutes" on CBS, Bannon said congressional Republicans pledged to Trump they would be able to eliminate the Affordable Care Act by Easter — a timetable the Trump administration agreed to so it could move on to other matters. (Cohen, 9/10)

The Hill: Sanders To Unveil 'Medicare For All' Bill On Wednesday
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will unveil his “Medicare for all” bill on Wednesday, his office announced Friday. The announcement comes as single-payer health care is gaining as a force within the Democratic Party, and Sanders’s formal announcement will move the issue further into the spotlight. (Sullivan, 9/8)

Stat: Irma Forces At Least 35 Hospitals To Evacuate Patients. Here's A Rundown
At least 35 hospitals in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have either closed entirely or ordered partial evacuations in advance of Hurricane Irma. The decisions come as officials have ordered nearly 7 million people to leave their homes, causing a mass exodus north before the storm begins to lash the Florida coast. (Blau, 9/9)

The New York Times: Life After The Storm: Children Who Survived Katrina Offer Lessons
The children upended by Hurricane Katrina have no psychological playbook for the youngsters displaced by Harvey, or those in the path of Irma, the hurricane spinning toward Florida. In the aftermath of Harvey, more than 160 public school districts and 30 charter schools have closed in the sprawling Houston metropolitan area. Families have scrambled to higher ground, some to other cities like Dallas or San Antonio, others into shelters. Thousands of children will have to adjust on the fly, bussed for hours to new schools from makeshift housing. Texas officials are scrambling to coordinate mental health support; the state’s psychology board is issuing temporary licenses for out-of-state therapists. (Carey, 9/8)

NPR: Smoke From Western Wildfires Can Make It Hard To Breathe
It's an unusually bad wild fire season in the West, and for weeks people across the region have been breathing air thick with smoke. "There's smoke from Canada, smoke from Idaho, smoke from California and Montana. There's smoke everywhere," says Greg Svelund, a spokesman for Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality. (Greenhalgh, 9/11)

The New York Times: A Month Has Passed Since Trump Declared An Opioid Emergency. What Next?
When President Trump announced in early August, following a presidential commission’s recommendations, that the opioid crisis was a “national emergency,” he called it “a serious problem the likes of which we have never had.” A month has now passed, and that urgent talk has yet to translate into urgent action. While the president’s aides say they are pursuing an expedited process, it remains to be seen how and by what mechanism Mr. Trump plans to direct government resources. (Haberman, 9/10)

Bloomberg: Ohio's Opioid Suit Should Be Thrown Out, Purdue Pharma Argues 
The state of Ohio’s lawsuit against opioid maker Purdue Pharma should be thrown out because it runs afoul of federal drug regulations and doesn’t show the company’s Oxycontin painkiller marketing caused specific harm, according to a court filing. Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue filed its response late Friday in state court in Ohio to Attorney General Mike DeWine’s May suit, accusing the pharmaceutical firm and four other opioid makers of using misleading marketing to dupe doctors into over-prescribing opioids. (Feeley and Hopkins, 9/9)

NPR: Teaching Dental Students That Opioids Aren't The Best Way To Treat Pain
The opioid epidemic has been fueled by soaring numbers of prescriptions written for pain medication. And often, those prescriptions are written by dentists. "We're in the pain business," says Paul Moore, a dentist and pharmacologist at University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. "People come to see us when they're in pain. Or after we've treated them, they leave in pain." (Siegel and Cheung, 9/8)

The Washington Post: President Trump’s Claim That A Wall Will ‘Stop Much Of The Drugs From Pouring Into This Country’
One of President Trump’s signature campaign promises was building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration. He also insisted that somehow Mexico would reimburse the United States for the cost, but in the meantime he has pushed for start-up funding despite skepticism in Congress. Increasingly, the president has argued that the wall will not only block illegal immigrants but also will stem the flow of drugs coming into the United States from Mexico. Trump repeats this idea often. During rallies. At news conferences. On Twitter. (Lewis, 9/11)

The Wall Street Journal: Hospital Watchdog Gives Seal Of Approval, Even After Problems Emerge
Patient-safety problems were so serious at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Mass., that the federal Medicare agency threatened to cut it off. Most patients never knew. Two babies died within six weeks in late 2013 and early 2014. That was just a couple of months after a pregnant woman died when the hospital didn’t ensure she was treated for high blood pressure from a condition called pre-eclampsia, according to a federal inspection report. (Armour, 9/8)

Bloomberg: Don't Yelp Your Doctor. Study Finds Ratings Are All Wrong. 
If you’re looking for the best doctor, online ratings are unlikely to be much help. That’s the determination of researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who compared reviews of 78 of the medical center’s specialists on five popular ratings sites with a set of internal quality measures and found there was essentially no correlation. The results suggest that in a world awash in online feedback for seemingly every consumer choice, reliable, easy-to-interpret information on how good doctors are at their jobs remains scarce. (Tracer, 9/8)

The Washington Post: New Clinical Trial Might Change The Standard Treatment For Melanoma
In a head-to-head comparison of two immunotherapy drugs used to prevent relapse in certain patients with advanced melanoma, one treatment was the clear winner — and it's not the one that most people get. The international study, released Sunday, involved 900 patients whose tumors were removed by surgery but who remained at high risk of recurrence of melanoma, an often aggressive form of skin cancer. (McGinley, 9/10)

The Washington Post: Neonatal Facilities Increasingly Use Donated Breast Milk To Save Premature Babies
The weekly shipment arrived at noon Thursday — 300 ounces of breast milk donated by women across the country and pasteurized at a milk bank in Austin. It was packed with dry ice and shipped via FedEx to feed the most medically fragile premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s National Health System. “Liquid gold,” said Victoria Catalano, a NICU dietitian at the children’s hospital in Washington, holding up a plastic bottle containing three ounces of frozen milk. Then she corrected herself. “Well, that’s liquid gold,” she said, pointing to two large deep freezers stocked with milk the infants’ mothers had produced. “This is the next best thing,” she said. (Chandler, 9/10)

The Washington Post: She Rejected Chemotherapy And Chose To Die Of Cancer — So She Could Give Birth To Her Child
The headaches began sometime in March. They didn’t think much of them, other than that they were possible migraines — until she started vomiting.An initial scan showed a mass in Carrie DeKlyen’s brain. More tests showed that it was a form of cancer, possibly lymphoma, but treatable. But a pathology exam revealed a more grim diagnosis. The 37-year-old mother of five from Wyoming, Mich., had glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. If lucky, she could live for five more years. (Phillips, 9/10)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Tick Saliva May Be A Secret Ingredient To Help HIV Patients
The blacklegged tick — the one that carries Lyme disease — may have some value: its spit. The insect’s saliva — which helps it feed on hosts by blocking blood coagulation — is now part of experiments examining ways to reduce heart disease in people living with HIV. Their risk of heart attack and stroke is nearly double that of the general population, according to a study last year. That risk was found even in people whose virus was undetectable in their blood because of antiretroviral drugs. (Daly, 9/9)

The Washington Post: E Cyclists’ Recovery From Brain Injuries Can Be Slow, But Death Rate Has Dropped
On the day that would change his life forever, Ryan Brown went on his regular morning run. He rode his bicycle the quick mile to work at the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office in Alexandria, Va., where he was an examiner for plant molecular biology patents. Late in the afternoon, he headed home to take his two sons to dinner while his wife finished teaching a piano lesson. He never made it. (Arcement, 9/9)

The Associated Press: Abortion Clinic Dispute To Be Argued In Ohio Supreme Court
A dispute over whether to shut down Toledo's last abortion clinic is headed to the Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday, in a case both sides view as pivotal. At issue in oral arguments will be the state health department's 2014 order shutting down Capital Care of Toledo for lack of a patient-transfer agreement, which would formally authorize the transfer of patients from the clinic to a local hospital. (9/10)

The Associated Press: Groups Aim To Renew Doctor-Assisted Suicide Debate In NY
Groups fighting to give terminally ill people the right to physician-assisted suicide in New York state are gearing up for another fight in the Legislature. The state’s highest court on Thursday ruled against terminally ill patients who argued they should be allowed to seek a doctor’s help in ending their lives rather than suffer needlessly.The decision could send the debate back to the Legislature, where bills to permit and regulate physician-assisted suicide have so far failed. (9/9)

The Associated Press: Alaska Gold Rush Town Struggles With Hard-Drinking Legacy
The old Gold Rush town of Nome on Alaska's western coast is trying again to address hard drinking that's deeply entrenched there — this time with a proposed law prohibiting intoxication in public places like the city's main street, where people can be seen stumbling along or passed out near tourist shops. The measure would for the first time outlaw intoxication in public rights of way, such as Nome's Front Street and its sea wall. It targets those with a blood-alcohol content of at least 0.08 percent — the same threshold for driving while intoxicated. (9/10)

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