- Kaiser Health News Original Stories 4
- Pfizer Settles Kickback Case Related To Copay Assistance For $24M
- California Hospitals Urge Moms To Favor Breast Milk Over Formula
- Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Campaign Promises Kept, Plus 'Nerd Reports'
- Follow-Up Exam: Are You A Rock Star On Aging?
- Political Cartoon: 'Taste Of Your Own Medicine?'
- Women’s Health 1
- Abortion Group To Pump Millions Into Winning Back House: We Were 'Built For This Moment'
- Opioid Crisis 1
- In Era Where Overdoses Are Treated As Homicides, It's Not Just Dealers Who Prosecutors Are Going After
- Veterans' Health Care 1
- Vets Seek To Change Hiring Practices That Allow Discrimination For Less-Than-Honorable Discharges
- Health IT 1
- Despite Fertility Apps' Rising Popularity, Critics Say They're Just A Fancy Twist On Decades-Old Rhythm Method
- Public Health 3
- Another Jury Rules Against Johnson & Johnson In Latest Lawsuit Tied To Safety Of Company's Talc-Based Powder
- New Weapons In Fight Against Ebola Raise Hope But Face Real-Time Limitations
- Differences Between Aftermath Of Parkland And Santa Fe Shootings Highlight A Country Divided
- Health Care Personnel 1
- USC's Board Of Trustees Feeling The Heat After Supporting University's President Amid Gynecologist Controversy
- State Watch 1
- State Highlights: McCaskill Requests Federal Probe Of 'Potentially Fraudulent' Billing At Missouri Hospital; Texas Law Tests DNR Wishes
- Health Policy Research 1
- Research Roundup: Medicaid Work Requirements; 340B Program; And Title X Funding
From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:
Kaiser Health News Original Stories
Pfizer Settles Kickback Case Related To Copay Assistance For $24M
The drugmaker agreed to a settlement with the Justice Department over allegations that it funneled copay assistance money through a foundation to Medicare patients. (Sydney Lupkin, )
California Hospitals Urge Moms To Favor Breast Milk Over Formula
Exclusively breastfeeding babies for at least six months is widely viewed as a significant health benefit. White moms are more likely to do so than blacks, Asians or Latinas. (Anna Gorman, )
Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Campaign Promises Kept, Plus 'Nerd Reports'
In this episode of KHN’s “What the Health?” Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times, Sarah Kliff of Vox and Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo discuss a proposed administration regulation that seeks to separate Planned Parenthood from federal family planning funds, the final congressional passage of legislation aimed at helping those with terminal illnesses obtain experimental medications, and new government reports on the uninsured and federal health spending. Also, Rovner interviews KHN’s Liz Szabo about the May “Bill of the Month.” ( )
Follow-Up Exam: Are You A Rock Star On Aging?
As Americans get older, it helps to tickle the ol' noggin with trivia. Take this pop quiz to see what you have learned as a regular reader of KHN’s coverage of aging issues. ( )
Political Cartoon: 'Taste Of Your Own Medicine?'
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Taste Of Your Own Medicine?'" by Steve Kelley and Jeff Parker, from 'Dustin'.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
NEW STRATEGIES TO FIGHT EBOLA OUTBREAK
Vaccine offers hope
But fear and confusion may
Still stand in the way.
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if we can include your name. Haikus follow the format of 5-7-5 syllables. We give extra brownie points if you link back to a KHN original story.
Opinions expressed in haikus and cartoons are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions of KHN or KFF.
KHN's Morning Briefing will not be published May 28. Look for it again in your inbox on May 29.
Summaries Of The News:
Reigniting Health Law Repeal Just Before Midterms? It Might Not Be That Far-Fetched.
Some Republican lawmakers, worried about Democrats using the health law as a winning issue, want to take another stab at repeal to show voters they haven't given up on it. Others don't want to touch the volatile topic with a ten-foot pole. Meanwhile, states are sounding the alarm over association health plans allowed by the Trump administration, saying they're magnets for scam artists.
The Wall Street Journal:
New Push To Topple Affordable Care Act Looms
A group of Republicans and advocacy groups will soon release a proposal intended to spark another push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, resurrecting a potentially volatile issue in the months before the November midterm elections. The proposal to topple the Obama-era health law and replace it with a plan that would give states more control over health policy is the result of eight months of behind-the-scenes work by a coalition of conservative groups. It reflects the frustration that many GOP lawmakers feel over last year’s failed effort to overturn the ACA, and the challenge Republicans now face in framing a campaign message around health care. (Armour and Hughes, 5/25)
Why States Worry That 'Association Health Plans' Will Be Magnets For Scam Artist
The U.S. Department of Labor is putting the final touches on new rules for the insurance collaborations known as "association health plans." The plans won’t have to include mental health care, emergency services or other benefits required under the Affordable Care Act, making them a cheap alternative to the policies on the health care exchanges. But many states — blue and red — are sounding alarm bells, arguing that by weakening state authority over the plans, the changes would enable unscrupulous operators to sell cheap policies with skimpy or nonexistent benefits. (Ollove, 5/25)
And in other health law and insurance news —
House Lawmakers Look To Delay Health Insurance Tax Until 2021
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers on Thursday moved to delay the health insurance tax for another year, triggering the next round of work to curb the Affordable Care Act's taxes on the industry. While the lawmakers aren't proposing an all-out repeal of the tax, the measure would be the third delay of the assessment. Reps. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) co-sponsored the bill along with Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Ami Bera (D-Calif.). (Luthi, 5/24)
Health Insurance Hustle: High Prices Can Boost Profits
Michael Frank ran his finger down his medical bill, studying the charges and pausing in disbelief. The numbers didn't make sense.His recovery from a partial hip replacement had been difficult. He'd iced and elevated his leg for weeks. He'd pushed his 49-year-old body, limping and wincing, through more than a dozen physical therapy sessions. The last thing he needed was a botched bill. (Allen, 5/25)
Abortion Group To Pump Millions Into Winning Back House: We Were 'Built For This Moment'
NARAL's "Majority Maker" program, the largest spending plan in the group's history, will specifically target GOP House members who have voted for anti-abortion bills that have flown under the radar, usually because they failed to pass the Senate.
Abortion Rights Group Launches $5M Campaign To Help Dems Take Back The House
A pro-abortion rights group on Thursday announced a $5 million investment in 19 states to flip the House to Democratic control in November. “NARAL was built for this moment. Never before have our rights and freedoms been under greater attack, and never before have we had greater opportunity to fight back and win,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue. (Hellmann, 5/24)
Planned Parenthood Considers Litigation On Trump's Proposed Changes To Family Planning Program
Planned Parenthood and a national group representing family planning clinics say they will consider suing the Trump administration if it moves forward with a proposal that would reshape a federal grant program. "We will absolutely consider all of our options and that does include litigation," said Dr. Gillian Dean, senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. (Hellmann, 5/24)
Kaiser Health News:
Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Campaign Promises Kept, Plus ‘Nerd Reports’
President Donald Trump managed to fulfill — at least in part — two separate campaign promises this week. To the delight of anti-abortion groups, the administration issued proposed rules that would make it difficult if not impossible for Planned Parenthood to continue to participate in Title X, the federal family-planning program. And Congress cleared for Trump’s signature a “right-to-try” bill aimed at making it easier for patients with terminal illnesses to obtain experimental medications. (5/24)
In Era Where Overdoses Are Treated As Homicides, It's Not Just Dealers Who Prosecutors Are Going After
Friends and family are now being held criminally responsible for the deaths. Critics of the tactic say a focus on prosecution misses the point. “It’s kind of like blaming the leaves on the tree, you know?” said Michael Malcolm, whose younger son was charged in the overdose death of his older brother with whom he shared drugs purchased on the internet. “What about the roots?”
The New York Times:
They Shared Drugs. Someone Died. Does That Make Them Killers?
In West Virginia, a woman woke after a day of drug use to find her girlfriend’s lips blue and her body limp. In Florida, a man and his girlfriend bought what they thought was heroin. It turned out to be something more potent, fentanyl. She overdosed and died. In Minnesota, a woman who shared a fentanyl patch with her fiancé woke after an overdose to find he had not survived. None of these survivors intended to cause a death. In fact, each could easily have been the one who ended up dead. But all were charged with murder. (Goldensohn, 5/25)
In other news on the crisis —
Deadly Delivery: Opioids By Mail
The nation's opioid epidemic has been attributed to many factors, including the over-prescription of painkillers and the availability of cheap synthetic opioids like fentanyl. In Congress, lawmakers are trying to make it harder to buy fentanyl, in part by forcing the U.S. Postal Service to make it more difficult to send narcotics through the mail. But the measure has been languishing. It's not clear how many shipments of fentanyl and other narcotics arrive with the mail carrier. But what is clear, says former Department of Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem is: It's all too easy to get drugs delivered right to your mailbox. (Naylor, 5/24)
Black Drug Users Grapple With Surging Opioid Overdose Death Rates
Researchers are diving into the data in Massachusetts and across the country for a better understanding of what's happening with black drug users. Data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals a surge in opioid overdose deaths among blacks in many urban areas. (Bebinger, 5/24)
Vets Seek To Change Hiring Practices That Allow Discrimination For Less-Than-Honorable Discharges
"You may as well be a felon when you're looking for a job," said Iraq War veteran Kristofer Goldsmith, who was discharged for attempting suicide.
The Associated Press:
Discharged And Jobless: Veterans Seek Change In Hiring Rules
Military veterans who were discharged for relatively minor offenses say they often can't get jobs, and they hope a recent warning to employers by the state of Connecticut will change that. The state's human rights commission told employers last month they could be breaking the law if they discriminate against veterans with some types of less-than-honorable discharges. Blanket policies against hiring such veterans could be discriminatory, the commission said, because the military has issued them disproportionately to black, Latino, gay and disabled veterans. (McDermott, 5/25)
Despite Fertility Apps' Rising Popularity, Critics Say They're Just A Fancy Twist On Decades-Old Rhythm Method
More and more young women are relying on the technology, but is it effective as contraception? Some experts are skeptical. In other health technology news: the future of artificial intelligence, and a swallow-able sensor to check your digestive health.
The Wall Street Journal:
Fertility Apps Are Multiplying. But Are They Reliable?
More women are counting on their smartphones to help them avoid getting pregnant—a trend that has some experts worried. As people increasingly turn to technology to monitor everything from their sleep to heart palpitations, apps that help women track their fertility are taking off, particularly among millennials, even as questions swirl about their reliability as a sole form of birth control. (Chaudhuri, 5/24)
Artificial Intelligence Is Evolving Fast. Can The FDA Keep Up?
The use of artificial intelligence in medicine is accelerating rapidly, and large companies — from Google, to Amazon, to Microsoft — are dedicating huge sums to developing novel products that offer big rewards, and equally large risks. The Food and Drug Administration has already approved three products this year that use AI to help diagnose health problems, including one Thursday that detects wrist fractures. And some companies, like IBM, have put their products on the market without agency signoff. (Ross, 5/25)
The Associated Press:
Gut Check: Swallowed Capsule Could Spot Trouble, Send Alert
Scientists have developed a swallowed capsule packed with tiny electronics and millions of genetically engineered living cells that might someday be used to spot health problems from inside the gut. The capsule was tested in pigs and correctly detected signs of bleeding, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported Thursday in the journal Science. (Johnson, 5/24)
Swallow This: A Sensor Could Monitor Gut Health Via Engineered Bacteria — And Beam Results To A Smartphone
Researchers have devised a new way to get a sneak peek into what’s going on deep in your digestive system, creating a swallowable sensor that, with the help of engineered bacteria and a tiny electrical circuit, can detect the presence of molecules that might be signs of disease and then beam the results to a smartphone app. The device, which scientists validated in pigs, remains a prototype and needs to be refined before it could be used in people. But the researchers, who reported their work Thursday in the journal Science, combined innovations in synthetic biology and microelectronics to create a modular platform that could be adapted to identify a wide range of molecules. (Joseph, 5/24)
Another Jury Rules Against Johnson & Johnson In Latest Lawsuit Tied To Safety Of Company's Talc-Based Powder
The jury also asked if it was within the court's power to order a cancer warning label added to the product, but the judge said no.
The Associated Press:
Jury Recommends $25M In Johnson & Johnson Lawsuit
A California jury delivered a $25.7 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit brought by a woman who claimed she developed cancer by using the company’s talc-based baby powder. Jurors in Los Angeles recommended $4 million in punitive damages Thursday after finding the company acted with malice, oppression or fraud. A day earlier, the panel called for $21.7 million in compensatory damages for plaintiff Joanne Anderson, who suffers from mesothelioma, a lung cancer linked to asbestos exposure. (Weber, 5/24)
J&J Jury Asks Judge To Slap Cancer Warning Label On Baby Powder
Jurors weighing how to punish Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit asked a judge if they could force the company to warn consumers that its Johnson’s Baby Powder could be contaminated with asbestos, according to the law firm that won the case against the health-care giant. After the judge said no, the jury awarded $4 million in punitive damages Thursday to Joanne Anderson, a 68-year-old woman who claimed her deadly cancer was caused by asbestos in J&J’s baby powder. A day earlier the jury had awarded $21.7 million to Anderson, finding J&J 67 percent responsible for her mesothelioma. (Fisk, 5/25)
New Weapons In Fight Against Ebola Raise Hope But Face Real-Time Limitations
Among other complications, some officials are worried a person who has received the new vaccination will get sick anyway and undercut efforts to spread acceptance of the preventive strategy.
The New York Times:
New Ebola Tactics Raise Hope But May Sow Confusion
Although there is optimism that the Ebola outbreak in central Africa can still be quickly contained, the fight is already becoming more complex, health experts said this week. Novel tactics — a new vaccine already in use, and new antibody or drug treatments that may be deployed — raise hopes that the outbreak will be quickly extinguished. Nonetheless, they may sow confusion because the treatments are unfamiliar to a wary and terrified population. (McNeil, 5/24)
In other public health news —
The New York Times:
Is It A Migraine? Many Patients Don’t Realize What Causes Their Suffering
The first of a new class of drugs to prevent migraines was approved last week. The medication, called Aimovig, reduces the frequency of migraines among those severely afflicted, but the drug rarely prevents these episodes altogether. One expert called it “progress but not a panacea.” Migraine is the most disabling neurological disease in the world among people under age 50, beating epilepsy, strokes and chronic back pain. Yet many who have migraines don’t realize it or ever mention their symptoms to a doctor. (Kolata, 5/24)
Sleep In This Weekend -- You May Live Longer
Your pets may be pestering you to get up and feed them, and your spouse may want you to get started on that honey-do list, but tell them you're sleeping in this weekend. Science says it may help you live longer, especially if you don't get enough rest during the week. Scientists have long known about the connection between how much you sleep and how long you live. Lack of sleep can have dire consequences for your health. It can give you heart problems or hurt your waistline, and it can leave you anxious and depressed. But channeling your inner cat and sleeping too much can be just as bad for your health, studies have found. (Christensen, 5/25)
The Associated Press:
St. Jude: $100M For Children With Cancer Global Outreach
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has helped with the treatment of thousands of cancer-stricken children around the world. Striving to reach so many more, the Memphis, Tennessee-based hospital announced a $100 million plan Thursday to expand its global outreach. President and CEO James R. Downing told doctors and media that the St. Jude Global program's goal is ambitious — to influence the care of as much as 30 percent of children with cancer worldwide in the next decade. He said he hopes the investment will improve access and quality of medical care for many children who might otherwise die. (5/24)
Childhood Leukemia Causes And Treatment: Possible Cause Identified
A leading cancer researcher has suggested the likely cause of childhood leukemia, adding that most cases of the condition may be preventable. ...According to his review, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which is the most common type of childhood cancer, is likely caused by a combination of genetic mutations developed while babies are still in the womb, plus an infection with an unknown bacterium or virus. (Lemon, 5/24)
Differences Between Aftermath Of Parkland And Santa Fe Shootings Highlight A Country Divided
Survivors in gun-friendly Texas are keeping their demands moderate in the wake of the mass shooting. Meanwhile, the students are seeking advice and support from those who went through a similar trauma in Florida.
The New York Times:
‘How Not To Get Too Sad’: Santa Fe Students Turn To Parkland For Advice
Four days after the nation’s latest school shooting killed eight of her classmates and two teachers, Bree Butler, a senior at Santa Fe High School, climbed into the car and drove three and a half hours to Austin, hoping that lawmakers in the gun-friendly State Capitol might listen to her. Ms. Butler’s drive was a far cry from the caravan of charter buses that set off from Parkland, Fla., about a week after the slaughter there of 17 people by a teenage gunman in February. The Parkland students had reporters on board, meetings on the schedule and the attention of the nation. Ms. Butler drove alone, aware that her support for more gun regulations, such as new requirements for locking up weapons, are not widely supported in her conservative hometown. (Bidgood, 5/24)
'It Is Happening Everywhere' Texas Mass Shooting Victims Tell Governor
Victims and survivors of mass shootings in Texas choked back tears, recounted the bloodshed that unfolded before their eyes and pleaded with Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday to improve safety so that another massacre does not take place. Abbott, a Republican, promised that action was coming as he finished his third session on school safety in talks that came less than a week after a 17-year-old student armed with a pistol and shotgun fatally shot 10 people at a Houston-area high school on May 18. (Herskovitz, 5/24)
USC's Board Of Trustees Feeling The Heat After Supporting University's President Amid Gynecologist Controversy
There's been a growing cry for President C.L. Max Nikias to step down after it was revealed USC had known for years about misconduct allegations against the campus' longtime gynecologist. But, "trustees believe Max Nikias, given the right circumstances, is the right person to lead this institution," one member said.
Los Angeles Times:
Pressure Grows On Board Of Trustees Amid USC Gynecologist Scandal
USC's large and powerful Board of Trustees is coming under growing pressure to provide a stronger hand as the university faces a crisis over misconduct allegations against the campus' longtime gynecologist that has prompted calls for President C.L. Max Nikias to step down. Allegations that Dr. George Tyndall mistreated students during his nearly 30 years at USC have roiled the campus, with about 300 people coming forward to make reports to the university and the Los Angeles Police Department launching a criminal investigation. USC is already beginning to face what is expected to be costly litigation by women who say they were victimized by the physician. (Parvini, Elmahrek and Pringle, 5/24)
Did Witnesses Fail USC Women In Care Of 'Predator' Gynecologist?
As lawsuits mount against the University of Southern California and a former gynecologist who worked at the school, so do the outrage and demand for answers. Mixed into the conversation is this: If nurses or medical assistants serving as chaperones witnessed Dr. George Tyndall inappropriately touching and treating students, as some have claimed, what's the point of chaperones? (Ravitz, 5/25)
State Highlights: McCaskill Requests Federal Probe Of 'Potentially Fraudulent' Billing At Missouri Hospital; Texas Law Tests DNR Wishes
Media outlets report on news from Missouri, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Maryland, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Louisiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Georgia and Wisconsin.
McCaskill Calls For Federal Investigation Of Billing Practices At Missouri Hospital
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is calling for a federal investigation of billing practices at Putnam County Memorial Hospital, which was the subject of a highly critical state audit last year. McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, is asking the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate whether the company that took over the 15-bed hospital in Unionville defrauded taxpayers by using the hospital as a pass-through vehicle for out-of-state laboratory services. The company, Hospital Partners, is one of many businesses controlled by Florida resident Jorge Perez, who says it's his mission to save endangered rural hospitals. (Margolies, 5/24)
New Texas Law Challenges Doctors On End Of Life Wishes
The bill, TX SB11 (17R), passed during a politically charged special legislative session last summer, introduces confusion into DNR, or do not resuscitate, systems that hospitals have long had in place, providers and legal experts say. They argue the new law could hamper physicians’ ability to carry out a patient’s existing DNR order whenever a family member contests it. (Rayasam, 5/24)
Anthem Won't Pay For Many Patients To Get CTs Or MRIs At Colorado Hospitals Anymore
If you need to get a CT or an MRI scan, Anthem — the health insurer that covers nearly one out of every five Coloradans with private insurance — most likely won’t pay for you to get it in a hospital anymore. That’s the result of a new policy Anthem implemented in the state last fall that it says cracks down on the higher prices hospitals charge for procedures that are known in the industry under the broad category of “imaging.” Under the policy, Anthem directs most patients to free-standing imaging facilities, where it says the out-of-pocket cost to patients can be $1,000 less than at a hospital. (Ingold, 5/24)
The Baltimore Sun:
Health Officials Confirm Measles Case In Maryland
Montgomery County health officials have confirmed a case of measles and are alerting those who have not been vaccinated about possible exposure. Health officials from Montgomery County, the Maryland Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Health are investigating the case. Officials say an individual contracted measles outside of the country, developed symptoms here and is currently under medical care. Measles is a highly contagious virus that is spread through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. (Rentz, 5/24)
The Associated Press:
Official: Review Finds 4,900 Untested Rape Kits In Missouri
There are close to 4,900 untested rape kits in Missouri, and that number likely is low because some agencies couldn't say exactly how many kits they have, according to a review by the state attorney general's office. Attorney General Josh Hawley, who launched an audit of the state's rape kit backlog in November 2017, announced the findings Thursday in what he said was the first such review. (5/24)
The Washington Post:
D.C. Government Data Breach Exposed Nurses’ Social Security Numbers
The D.C. Department of Health has warned hundreds of nurses that their personal information was inadvertently exposed in the online licensing portal and is offering them one year of credit-monitoring services. A nurse navigating the nursing board’s online portal somehow ended up on a nonpublic portion of a database that included the Social Security numbers, names and addresses of nurses, said Department of Health spokesman Tom Lalley. Seven nurses had their information exposed. City officials couldn’t identify them, so they sent warning letters last week to all 600 people who were then registered in the system. (Nirappil, 5/24)
More Pressure On Athenahealth To Sell To Hedge Fund
Investors are ratcheting up the pressure on Watertown-based athenahealth to consider a sale, arguing that the publicly traded health care information technology company might operate more efficiently under private ownership. Elliott Management Corp., the New York hedge fund that has offered to buy athenahealth for nearly $7 billion, wrote to the company’s board of directors Thursday that other shareholders share its frustration with how the company has performed. (Rosen, 5/24)
Kansas City Star:
Missouri Lawmakers Gave Just $1 To Sobriety Checkpoints
Sadly, despite their proven success rate in helping prevent crashes and reduce drunk driving fatalities by 20 percent, the legislature voted to reduce state funding for sobriety checkpoints to just $1. We urge the lawmakers next session to restore funding for these services, which allow law enforcement to choose the best method for protecting Missourians. (Meghan Carter, 5/24)
The Star Tribune:
Duluth's Essentia Health Announces State's Biggest Medical Construction Project
An $800 million project announced Thursday would replace Duluth’s biggest hospital while also making renovations to related facilities across its downtown campus over the next four years. Duluth-based Essentia Health said it will build a new St. Mary’s Medical Center plus a clinic building and an outpatient surgery center as part of a plan called “Vision Northland,” which hospital officials say is the largest private development in Duluth’s history. (Snowbeck, 5/24)
New President Calls For More Patient-Centered MD Anderson
Dr. Peter Pisters, MD Anderson Cancer Center’s new president, has unveiled a vision that would make the elite Houston hospital more accessible to patients and more humane about end-of-life care. In his first major address since taking over the top job in December, Pisters said Tuesday he wants to create a more patient-centered MD Anderson, one that features same- or next-day appointments and better anticipates the desires of those who want to die in hospice or at home rather than in the hospital. (Ackerman, 5/24)
Steward Health Care Exerted Undue Pressure To Restrict Referrals Outside Chain, Suit Says
A whistle-blower lawsuit filed against Steward Health Care exposes a part of medicine largely hidden from patients: the behind-the-scenes pressure health care companies put on doctors to keep patient referrals in-house. Dr. Stephen Zappala, a longtime Massachusetts urologist, said company representatives exerted immense personal and financial pressure on him and other physicians to refer patients only to Steward hospitals and specialists, putting profits first. (Kowalczyk, 5/24)
Kansas City Star:
Human Trafficking Suit: Judge Orders KCK Cult To Pay $8 Million
A woman who spent 10 years toiling without pay for a Kansas City, Kan., religious group has won an $8 million judgment against the group and its leader. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree issued a 57-page ruling Wednesday, finding that Kendra Ross was the victim of human trafficking at the hands of Royall Jenkins and his group, which calls itself The Value Creators. (Rizzo, 5/24)
San Antonio Press-Express:
Major Donation Means Less Wait Times For Critically Ill Children
When a child almost drowns, suffers a serious asthma attack or experiences any sort of catastrophic health emergency, whether they survive can often depend on a handful of seconds. The margin just got better for critically ill or injured babies and children here and across South Texas, thanks to local philanthropist Harvey E. Najim, who donated $1.4 million toward the purchase of two ambulances for the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. (Stoeltje, 5/24)
The Washington Post:
Hot-Car Death: Nashville Police Say 1-Year-Old Katera Barker Died In Vehicle
The tragedy unraveled on a gravel driveway at a home in Tennessee, where a family’s dark blue pickup truck sat, eerily, with a rear door still ajar and an empty car seat lying beside it on the ground. Authorities said it was there, in East Nashville, that a father said he forgot his 1-year-old daughter in a hot car Wednesday and, sometime later that evening, the mother discovered the child. The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said on Twitter that the child was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. (Bever, 5/24)
New Orleans Times-Picayune:
University Medical Center Ramps Up Efforts To Protect Funding From Potential Cuts
Doctors at University Medical Center and hospital officials gathered Thursday morning (May 24) to talk about the need to retain state funding to keep the hospital running past July 1. "It's critically important that we understand UMC is not just a resource to New Orleans or Orleans Parish. It's a resource that spreads across the entire state into Mississippi out to Lake Charles," said Dr. Peter DeBlieux, the Chief Medical Officer at UMC, and one of several doctors present Thursday at the launch of a campaign called #UMCisVITAL, which aims to ramp up community involvement in helping stave off cuts to funding UMC. (Clark, 4/24)
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Court Orders Cleveland To Post Signs Warning Of Lead Hazards In Homes
The city must placard with warning signs homes it currently knows have lead hazards that have not been fixed, an appeals court ruled late Wednesday. The Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals, however, said it could not issue general orders to force the city to follow state provisions that outline steps to respond to lead hazards. (Dissell, 5/24)
Health News Florida:
School Districts Developing Plans To Expand Mental Health Care For Students
In response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida lawmakers are providing $69 million to enhance mental health care at public schools. The money will be divided among districts based on the number of students they have. (Ochoa, 5/24)
Georgia Health News:
Physician Assistants Growing In Numbers And Importance
A physician assistant is a health care professional who has the training to perform many of the duties that doctors routinely handle. ...New national statistics on the PA workforce, published this week by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, show there are more than 3,500 practicing in Georgia. (Miller, 5/24)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Advocate Aurora Plans $250 Million Hospital Near Foxconn Plant
Advocate Aurora Health announced plans Thursday to build a $250 million hospital and medical office building in Mount Pleasant, positioning the health system to benefit from the projected growth from Foxconn Technology Group’s planned plant. The health system — created by the merger of Advocate Health Care Network and Aurora Health Care in April — has said that it initially would focus on expanding in growing areas of northeastern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin. (Boulton, 5/24)
Research Roundup: Medicaid Work Requirements; 340B Program; And Title X Funding
Each week, KHN compiles a selection of recently released health policy studies and briefs.
JAMA Internal Medicine:
Diversity Of Participants In The 340B Drug Pricing Program For US Hospitals
As of 2015, 41.8% of all nonprofit and public general acute-care hospitals participated in the 340B program. Although participating hospitals provided more uncompensated care and low-profit services to patients despite worse finances than nonparticipants, later participants—most hospitals—spent less of their budget on uncompensated care and were more financially stable compared with earlier participants. Our results should be interpreted as descriptive owing to unmeasured confounding, and some of our outcome measures may be reported with error.6Recent reimbursement reforms will likely have different effects across 340B participants. Targeting cuts might mitigate potential adverse effects on participants that provide a large amount of charitable medical care and operate at a substantial loss. (Nikpay, 5/21)
Changes To Title X Funding Could Affect Access To Health Care For Millions Of Women
Nearly one-third of these roughly 18.6 million women who had visited a clinic did so in the past three years (5.6 million women) and 13.8 percent have used a safety net family planning clinic in the past year (2.6 million women), but for most clinic users in our survey, it had been more than three years since their last visit. Low-income women were significantly more likely to have visited a clinic in the past year than high-income women (7.9 percent of women with family income at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level versus 2.5 percent of women with family income at or above 400 percent of the federal poverty level; data not shown). Insured and uninsured women had similar rates of safety net family planning clinic visits in the past year (4.1 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively; data not shown). (Johnston and Shartzer, 5/23)
Medicaid Work Requirements In Arkansas
An estimated 269,000 nonelderly, nondisabled adults were enrolled in Arkansas’s Medicaid program in 2016. In 2018, when adults ages 19 to 29 are exempt from the work requirements, we estimate that 230,000 enrollees (86 percent of the enrollee group) would likely be exempt from the work requirements; 17,000 (6 percent) could be subject to work requirements and are working; and 22,000 (8 percent) could be subject to work requirements and are not working. (Gangopadhyaya, Kenney, Burton and Marks, 5/24)
The Implications Of Medicaid Expansion In The Remaining States: 2018 Update
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states can expand Medicaid eligibility for nonelderly people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). As of March 2018, 31 states and the District of Columbia had expanded and 19 states had not. If the remaining 19 states were to fully implement a Medicaid expansion in 2019 and all else stayed the same, we estimate that between 4.3 and 4.7 million fewer people would be uninsured, Federal spending on health care would increase by between $32.1 billion and $37.8 billion, while state spending on Medicaid would increase by between $2.3 billion and $3.0 billion. This additional state spending would fully or largely be offset by savings in other areas. (Buettgens, 5/17)
Association Of State Laws Permitting Denial Of Services To Same-Sex Couples With Mental Distress In Sexual Minority Adults: A Difference-In-Difference-In-Differences Analysis
Of 109,089 participants, 4656 (4.8%; all percentages incorporate survey weights) identified as sexual minorities, 8,6141 (72.1%) were non-Hispanic white, and ages were uniformly distributed between 18 and 64 years. In 2014, 2038 of 16,637 heterosexual adults (12.6%) and 156 of 815 sexual minority adults (21.9%) in the 3 same-sex denial states reported mental distress. The proportion of sexual minority adults reporting mental distress increased by 10.1 percentage points.... Laws permitting denial of services to same-sex couples, which exist in 12 states and are under consideration by the US Supreme Court, are associated with a 46% increase in sexual minority adults experiencing mental distress. (Raifman, Moscoe and Austin et al, 5/23)
Viewpoints: Many Oppose Right-To-Try Drug Law For All The Right Reasons; Where's The Cure For Runaway Drug Prices? Not In Trump's Plan.
Editorial pages focus on these and other health care topics.
'Right-To-Try' Drug Law Offers No Miracle Cure
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill this week that will give terminally ill patients access to unapproved experimental drugs. President Donald Trump will likely sign it into law soon. This national “right-to-try” legislation seems like a sensible idea at first blush. Dying patients could get treatments that otherwise wouldn’t be available to them until it’s too late. But it’s far more likely that the measure will foster false hope in desperate families, while potentially saddling them with costs for drugs that aren’t likely to do much good. This explains why patient groups, past FDA commissioners, and a variety of other organizations oppose it. (Max Nisen, 5/24)
FDA Commissioner Gottlieb And Implementing 'Right To Try'
In his first year as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb has managed to surprise early critics with bold public health moves, such as a plan to limit nicotine in cigarettes, while also keeping many industry supporters and the president on his side. But Gottlieb may soon face his toughest balancing act: implementing the Right to Try Act. President Trump is expected to sign the bill, which passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday. (Michael D. Becker, 5/24)
We Need A Cure For Runaway Drug Prices — But Not The One Trump Is Prescribing
Drug prices are part of our highest-in-the-world medical prices generally, and there are two proven ways to control that: a single-payer system, with government paying all the bills and setting a hard-and-fast health care budget, or (as I’d favor) the German and Japanese system of gathering all the payers and providers in a region together to hammer out reasonable, standardized prices. ...Unfortunately, this administration isn’t interested either in real reform or promise-keeping. (Rich Barlow, 5/25)
The Health Care Industry Is Being Transformed, One Deal At A Time
More than 200 health care deals representing $72.6 billion were announced in the first quarter of 2018, kicking off what will be an active year for deal making in the U.S. Consolidation plans, pent up private equity demand, new entrants, and other market forces will continue to motivate industry players to reflect, reevaluate their business models, and make strategic bets on deals and partnerships. New business models are emerging. Their common goal is to drive down costs, create value, and compete more effectively. These deals position major players to transition to a system based on value of care versus the volume of services — a system that better aligns with what consumers have come to expect from their health care experience. (Thad Kresho, 5/25)
During Times Of Crisis Our Health-Care Delivery Is Still Lagging
When a disaster strikes — whether a hurricane, Ebola, or a mass shooting — health-care providers and the health systems are expected to jump into action to treat the ill and injured. Unfortunately, much remains to be done to improve our nation’s ability to save lives in the aftermath of large-scale emergencies. After providing more than $5 billion in federal healthcare preparedness grants to states since 2001 our health-care systems and communities are still not sufficiently prepared to respond to mass casualties. A key problem is our current approach. National policy separates health-care delivery during crisis and everyday health-care delivery. (David Marcozzi, 5/24)
Should The President Undergo Independent Medical Evaluations?
The American Psychiatric Association’s controversial “Goldwater rule” says it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization. Whether Trump is unfit should not be decided by cavalier critics. A mandated independent and objective medical evaluation could be the best answer. (David Steinberg, 5/24)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Medicine Leads The Professions In Suicide. What Can We Do About It?
A study reported earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association revealed that among U.S. professionals, physicians have the highest suicide rate. According to the researchers, the suicide rate in medicine is more than twice that of the general population, resulting in at least one physician suicide per day in the U.S. (Richard Gunderman and Peter Gunderman, 5/24)
The Washington Post:
Legalizing Marijuana Is Fine. But Don’t Ignore The Science On Its Dangers.
Three decades ago, I would have been over the moon to see marijuana legalized. It would have saved me a lot of effort spent trying to avoid detection, constantly looking for places to hide a joint. I smoked throughout my teens and early 20s. During this period, upon landing in a new city, my first order of business was to score a quarter-ounce. The thought of a concert or a vacation without weed was simply too bleak. ...These days it’s hard to find anybody critical of marijuana. ...Now, as a scientist, I’m unimpressed with many of the widely used arguments for the legalization of marijuana. (Judith Grisel, 5/25)
If We Want Better Health Care At A Lower Cost, Primary Care Must Become A Policy Priority
Early last year, dozens of leading health organizations, including the National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC), called on the Trump administration to push forward on value-based reforms in the Medicare payment system. We believe that “putting our foot on the gas” to accelerate the shift to a system where incentives are aligned for better delivery and provider payment is essential to a more affordable health system for all of us. (John Rother, 5/24)
The New York Times:
Have You Ever Seen Someone Get Killed?
Researchers with the Boston Reentry Study were one year into their interviews, following 122 men and women as they returned from prison to their neighborhoods and families, when they asked the kind of question that’s hard to broach until you know someone well. They prompted the study’s participants to think back to childhood. “Did you ever see someone get killed during that time?” Childhood violence, including deadly violence, kept coming up in the previous conversations. The references suggested a level of childhood trauma among people leaving prison that standard survey questions don’t capture. (Emily Badger, 5/25)
The Detroit News:
Michigan Families Deserve Access To Affordable Prescription Medication
What patients pay for medications is soaring. Michigan families don’t need to watch the news, read newspapers, or follow financial trends to know this; they just have to show up to the pharmacy counter. Many individuals living with serious health challenges, like epilepsy, require specialty medicines for which lower-cost generics either do not exist or are not as effective for the individual. Epilepsy medications are not “one size fits all,” and saving money on prescription medication is not as easy as just switching to a generic — if one exists at all. (Brianna Romines, 5/24)
Los Angeles Times:
California Should Fight The Good Fight Against Bad Health Insurance Policies
This one should be a no-brainer: California lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban so-called junk health insurance policies — short-term plans that do not comply with the consumer protections set out in Obamacare. These cheap plans typically offer no protection against the risk of bankrupting medical bills; instead, they cover just a limited number of doctor visits and days in the hospital, with glaring gaps in coverage, huge out-of-pocket costs and comparatively low caps on total benefits. Yet this is precisely the sort of policy that the Trump administration and some congressional Republicans have been promoting as a way to lower health insurance premiums. That's all the more reason for the Legislature to approve the bill imposing a ban, SB 910 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Azusa). (5/25)
Des Moines Register:
Iowans Receive More Fuzzy Medicaid Math
A thistle to the Iowa Department of Human Services and Gov. Kim Reynolds for treating Iowa taxpayers like a bunch of fools. The administration has again failed to produce credible estimates and methodology on calculating supposed savings from the privatization of Medicaid. Yet it continues to insist handing over the $4.8 billion health insurance program to for-profit companies has magically and inexplicably saved millions. (5/24)
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Ohio Bill Would Improve Physician Assistants' Ability To Deliver Health Care
As an executive director overseeing the largest population of PAs in Ohio, I process the necessary paperwork required for my PAs to be able to practice. ...This filing requirement has become a huge burden and a workforce hurdle which, at times, keeps PAs from being able to see their patients. (Josanne Pagel, 5/24)
The Detroit News:
Lead Screenings Offer Hope For Flint Children
A major milestone has been achieved in the struggle to vindicate the rights of Flint students. In response to a class-action lawsuit filed by Flint children and their families, a federal court in Detroit approved a settlement agreement making universal screening, and in-depth evaluations when necessary, available to every Flint child exposed to lead in the water supply.(David Sciarra and Kary Moss, 5/25)
Why EPA’s Drop In Pollution Cases Is So Scary
Law enforcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fell significantly in 2017. It’ll be worse in 2018. EPA is failing to conduct wide-ranging investigations to protect human health. ...PFAS chemicals now contaminate the drinking water systems serving 16 million Americans in 33 states. EPA has dragged its feet on regulating PFAS chemicals, despite convincing evidence that they are hazardous at very low doses. EPA failed to set a PFAS legal limit in 2017. Instead, it proposed an ineffectual non-enforceable lifetime health advisory level. (Michael Mikulka, 5/24)