KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 19, 2017

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Kaiser Health News: Exclusive: White House Task Force Echoes Pharma Proposals
President Donald Trump repeatedly talks tough about reining in the pharmaceutical industry, but his administration’s efforts to lower drug prices are shrouded in secrecy. Senior administrative officials met Friday to discuss an executive order on the cost of pharmaceuticals, a roundtable informed by Trump’s “Drug Pricing and Innovation Working Group.” Kaiser Health News examined documents that shed light on the workings of this working group. The documents reveal behind-the-scenes discussions influenced by the pharmaceutical industry. (Kopp, 6/16)

Kaiser Health News: Ear To The Door: 5 Things Being Weighed In Secret Health Bill Also Weigh It Down
Anyone following the debate over the “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act knows the 13 Republican senators writing the bill are meeting behind closed doors. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continues to push for a vote before the July 4 Senate recess, Washington’s favorite parlor game has become guessing what is, or will be, in the Senate bill. Spoiler: No one knows what the final Senate bill will look like — not even those writing it. (Rovner, 6/16)

The Associated Press: GOP, Dem Governors Call For Changes In House Health Bill
A group of Republican and Democratic governors are echoing President Donald Trump's criticism of a House GOP health care bill, saying it threatens coverage for the most vulnerable. Instead, they're asking Senate leaders to work together on an overhaul of Democrat Barack Obama's health care law. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, seven governors, including three moderate Republicans, argue that "true and lasting reforms are best approached by finding common ground in a bipartisan fashion." (Beaumont, 6/16)

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Mitch McConnell On The Health-Care Legislative Process, 2010 Vs. 2017
It has become a regular feature of the U.S. political system that the politicians in the minority accuse the politicians in power of cutting deals behind closed doors to advance controversial legislation — only to engage in similar tactics once they regain power. This has become increasingly clear as Republicans in the Senate struggle to craft a health-care deal that will gain at least 50 votes, the bare minimum necessary under the legislative path — known as reconciliation — chosen by the GOP. (Kessler, 6/19)

The Washington Post: New Ad Campaign To Pressure Five GOP Senators To Vote Against Health-Care Overhaul
An organization that opposes the Republican effort to repeal and replace key parts of the Affordable Care Act is pressuring five GOP senators not to vote for the emerging legislation in a new $1.5 million ad campaign that begins Monday, officials with the group told The Washington Post. Community Catalyst Action Fund, which bills itself as a consumer health organization, is targeting Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) with television and radio ads urging them to vote no. (Sullivan, 6/18)

The Associated Press: GOP Senator Warns Against Rushed Vote On Health Care Bill
A Republican senator on Sunday warned against rushing a vote on a GOP bill to repeal and replace the nation's health care law, saying both parties deserve a chance to fully debate the bill and propose changes after it was drafted in secret. "The Senate is not a place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. "So the first step in this may be crafted among a small group of people, but then everyone's going to get to weigh in." (Yen, 6/18)

Politico: Rubio Cautions Against Rushing Health Care In Senate
Sen. Marco Rubio on Sunday cautioned against fashioning health care legislation "behind closed doors" in the Senate and rushing it to the floor for a vote. “The Senate is not a place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote on the floor,” the Florida Republican said on CBS' “Face the Nation.” (Trudo, 6/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Where Health-Care Legislation Stands
Businesses are watching closely as Senate Republicans try to hash out a deal on a GOP version of health-care reform to replace the Affordable Care Act. Whether they can bridge their divisions, however, remains to be seen. Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, who helped shepherd the party’s health-care overhaul bill through the House last month, sat down with Louise Radnofsky, The Wall Street Journal’s White House reporter, to offer his take on where the effort stands. (6/18)

Politico: Democrats Use Trump 'Mean' Comment To Tar GOP
Democrats are seeking to capitalize on President Donald Trump calling the Republican health care bill "mean" ahead of the Senate's vote to repeal Obamacare, seeing it as a pivotal moment in an issue that could drive the 2018 midterm elections. The comments from Trump, made privately to senators last week, were largely overshadowed by a mass shooting at a Congressional baseball practice and new developments in the special counsel's investigation into Trump and his associates. (Dawsey and Kim, 6/18)

Politico: Medicaid Overhaul Faces Tough Test In Trump Country
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s planned overhaul of Medicaid is running into the unforgiving reality of impoverished small towns like [Salyersville], which voted overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump. Making adults work as a condition for getting health benefits is popular with the conservatives running many state capitals and Washington, D.C. But here in Magoffin County, where one of the last coal mines shuttered two years ago, there is little work to be had. (Pradhan, 6/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Nevada’s Governor Vetoes ‘Medicaid For All’ Insurance Plan
Nevada’s Republican governor vetoed a bill late Friday that would have created the nation’s first “Medicaid for all” insurance offering, a plan that drew widespread attention as states brace for changes in the federal Affordable Care Act. The bill would have allowed any state resident to buy into Medicaid, the federal-state program for people with low incomes or disabilities. The idea, which its Democratic sponsor said would have created a guaranteed health coverage option that was affordable, has drawn the interest of other liberal-leaning states as congress works to repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act, including the law’s Medicaid expansion. (Hackman, 6/17)

Los Angeles Times: Nevada Governor Vetoes Medicaid-For-All Bill
In his three-page veto message released Friday night, Sandoval praised the sponsor of the bill for “creativity” in attempting to design a healthcare option for the state’s 2.9 million people, but he ultimately reasoned that there were too many unanswered questions about how the program would work. He wrote that the legislation was “an undeveloped remedy to an undefined problem” — and that it didn’t get proper scrutiny before it was passed in a short time frame.  (Montero, 6/17)

Reuters: California To Give Health Clinics $20 Million To Counter Possible Trump Cuts
California on Monday will announce plans to award $20 million in emergency grants to local health and Planned Parenthood clinics in anticipation of possible U.S. healthcare funding cuts, according to State Treasurer John Chiang's office. California and more than a dozen other Democratic-leaning states are fighting against regulatory changes and policies coming from Republican President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress. (Lambert, 6/16)

Politico: Trump's Drug Price 'Remedy' Expected To Be Industry Friendly
Candidate Donald Trump made rising drug costs a signature issue during his campaign and beefed up his criticisms after the election, saying in January that the drug industry was "getting away with murder." The comments unnerved drug executives, but six months later, the industry is no longer in a state of panic. (Karlin-Smith, 6/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Cigna Can Return To Medicare Advantage, Prescription-Drug Plans
Cigna Corp. can resume enrolling beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage and prescription-drug plans after the federal government lifted marketing sanctions in place since January 2016, the insurer said Friday in a securities filing. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had ordered the Connecticut-based firm to halt enrollment after finding a series of deficiencies following an audit. The government said beneficiaries had been inappropriately denied medical services that should have been covered, which raised issues with Cigna’s coverage-appeals process. (Armental, 6/16)

The Associated Press: Genesis HealthCare To Pay $53.6M To Settle US Probes
Genesis HealthCare has agreed to pay $53.6 million to settle allegations that it submitted false claims to the federal government for unnecessary therapy and substandard nursing care, the Justice Department said Friday. The settlement resolves six federal lawsuits and investigations alleging Genesis HealthCare companies and facilities violated federal statutes by submitting false claims to Medicare and Medicaid for medically unnecessary therapy, hospice service and substandard nursing care. (Balsamo, 6/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Why Some Of The Worst Cyberattacks In Health Care Go Unreported
A cyberattack last year paralyzed MedStar Health computers, forcing the Maryland operator of 10 hospitals and more than 300 outpatient centers to shut down its entire electronic-record system. Doctors logged patient details with pen and paper. Laboratory staff faced delays delivering test results. “It was three weeks before we got most of everything that was important to us on a daily basis back and operational,” Craig DeAtley, director of the MedStar Institute for Public Health Emergency Readiness, said during a panel organized by federal health officials last year to address cyberthreats. (Evans, 6/18)

NPR: Sloppy Citations Of 1980 Letter Led To Opioid Epidemic, Researchers Say
A one-paragraph letter, barely a hundred words long, unwittingly became a major contributor to today's opioid crisis, researchers say. "This has recently been a matter of a lot of angst for me," Dr. Hershel Jick, co-author of that letter, told Morning Edition host David Greene recently. "We have published nearly 400 papers on drug safety, but never before have we had one that got into such a bizarre and unhealthy situation." (Haney and Hsu, 6/16)

Los Angeles Times: California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra Announces Probe Of Drugmakers Over Epidemic Of Opioid Deaths
Citing an epidemic of opioid overdose deaths across the country, state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said Friday that California is joining with more than 26 other states to investigate whether drugmakers have used illegal marketing and sales practices. Becerra said the probe would focus on whether drug manufacturers have played a role in creating or extending the opioid problem. (McGreevy, 6/16)

Los Angeles Times: L.A. Sheriff's Deputies To Carry Nasal Spray To Treat Opioid Overdose Victims
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will supply thousands of field deputies with the nasal anti-opioid spray naloxone to help prevent overdose-related deaths, officials announced Thursday. Next week, the department will begin issuing more than 1,200 single-dose spray dispensers — sold under the brand name Narcan — to field deputies in Santa Clarita, Crescenta Valley,and East Los Angeles, as well as to deputies patrolling community colleges and parks. (Bernhard, 6/15)

The Washington Post: Mom’s Grief Spurs NY Bill Targeting Opioid Dealers In Deaths
Four years after Patty Farrell found her 18-year-old daughter lying cold and blue in bed from an overdose, the former police detective hopes to see heroin dealers charged with homicide when their product kills. “She was the love of my life, my only child,” says Farrell, whose home is like a shrine to her daughter with photos and keepsakes everywhere. “When I lost her, I lost my world.” (Esch and Klepper, 6/18)

The Washington Post: Carrie Fisher’s Death Shines A Light On An Underrated Health Problem
Actress Carrie Fisher was unabashedly vocal about her lifelong battles with mental illness and drug abuse. She once defiantly told ABC News, “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it. But bring it on.” Her candor inspired a generation of women. If a cool and funny Hollywood icon could be so open about getting help for her struggles, then so could they. But a disorder that ultimately contributed to Fisher's death was something she hadn't publicly said much about: sleep apnea. (Wootson, 6/17)

Los Angeles Times: Carrie Fisher Died Of Sleep Apnea And 'Drug Use' Was Also A Factor, L.A. County Coroner Says
The report is vague about the role drugs played in Fisher’s death. But her daughter, Billie Lourd, issued a statement to People magazine Friday night linking her mother’s death to drug use. “My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases,” Lourd told People. (Winton and Dolan, 6/16)

Reuters: Untreated Sleep Apnea May Worsen Markers Of Heart Health And Diabetes
Properly treating a common sleep-related breathing disorder may have benefits for the heart and for blood sugar, a new study suggests. If people with obstructive sleep apnea don’t use machines at night to help keep the airway open, measures of their heart health and blood sugar worsen, researchers found. (Seaman, 6/17)

The Washington Post: He Underwent Surgery To Remove His Right Testicle. When He Woke Up, His Left One Was Missing.
In 2013, Steven Hanes visited his urologist, complaining of persistent pain in his right testicle. An ultrasound revealed that the testicle had atrophied, with scarring and damage from a previous injury, according to court documents. And so the doctor scheduled an orchiectomy — or surgical removal of the testicle — to help alleviate Hanes's pain. The good news? The orchiectomy was successful. The bad news? The doctor removed the wrong testicle during the surgery. (Wang, 6/18)

NPR: Becoming A Grandparent With Alzheimer's Disease
"They're not gonna want me to play 'babies in space'," says Greg O'Brien. "You know, where I pick 'em up in my hands and I swirl them around over my head like a rocket ship. I always say 'Babies! In! Spaaaaace!'" It's October 2016, and he is musing about the latest O'Brien family news. His daughter, Colleen, is due to have a baby in November, and ever since he found out, Greg has been struggling with competing emotions. (Hersher, 6/17)

The Washington Post: Childhood Brain Injury Tied To Adult Anxiety, Depression
Children who sustained traumatic brain injuries may experience such psychological effects as anxiety, phobias and depression more than a decade later, researchers say. “The study suggests that brain injury is in some way related to longer-term anxiety symptoms, while previously it was thought that brain injury only leads to short-term effects,” lead author Michelle Albicini said in an email. (Kennedy, 6/17)

The Washington Post: A Dog Bite Sent Him To The ER. A Cascade Of Missteps Nearly Killed Him.
Becky Krall hurried through the sliding-glass doors of the hospital emergency room around 8 a.m. on Sept. 25, 2015, expecting to see her feverish husband, David, sitting among the patients waiting to see a doctor. Instead Krall, who had left him for about 15 minutes while parking their car, was met by a nurse with an urgent message: Her 50-year-old husband had suddenly become unresponsive. Krall recalls with frightening clarity the words of a critical care specialist. “She put her hand on my knee and said, ‘Your husband is very, very sick. You need to be prepared for him not to make it through the day.’ ” (Boodman, 6/16)

The Washington Post: Why You Need To Know About Mice, Ticks, Warm Temperatures And Lyme Disease
Twice in the same week, Lois Wood woke to find ticks crawling over her bare leg in her New Hampshire home. A few nights later, she spotted a mouse running across her bed. A mother of seven, Wood tries to shrug off her tiny bedfellows. “It’s a common rural problem,” she says, although she admits that she has “never experienced anything like this in my own bed.” The recent appearance of vermin and pests in Wood’s bedroom coincides with the warming temperatures related to climate change. The past three years have been the planet’s hottest on record, and it is in this changing climate that many pests thrive, negatively affecting human health. (Banigan, 6/18)

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Health Officials Say 42 People Have Been Infected With Mumps
A mumps outbreak in Los Angeles County this year has infected 42 people, most of whom live on the Westside, health officials said this week. There have been several mumps outbreaks nationwide in recent years, including some that are ongoing in parts of Texas, Arkansas and Washington state. Last year there were 5,833 cases of mumps nationwide, the highest number in a decade, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Karlamangla, 6/17)

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Reports 2017's First Case Of West Nile Virus
San Gabriel Valley resident was hospitalized with West Nile virus in what health officials say is the first case in Los Angeles County this year. The patient ended up in the hospital in March and has since recovered, officials announced this week. West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, and officials say this winter’s heavy rains could breed more mosquitoes and lead to a higher chance of infection statewide. (Karlamangla, 6/16)

The New York Times: Legionnaires’ Outbreak On Upper East Side Kills One And Sickens Six
One person is dead and six other people have been sickened in an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the city health department announced on Friday. The patients with the bacterial infection, which is typically contracted through contaminated water, fell ill within the past 11 days in the Lenox Hill neighborhood, said the agency, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. (Nir, 6/16)

The Associated Press: Shooting Of Mentally Ill Man Raises Policing Questions
Joshua Barre's mental health was spiraling out of control before he grabbed two butcher knives and went outside. The 29-year-old black man with bipolar disorder had been off his medication and holed up at home, cycling through depression, anxiety and paranoia. His mother pleaded for an intervention from Oklahoma's first line of defense for mental health: law enforcement. And Tulsa County deputies responded: Officers with the agency's mental crisis unit, trained in de-escalation techniques, went to Barre's house three times in the days before their final encounter on June 9. (Juozapavicius, 6/17)

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