- Kaiser Health News Original Stories 2
- The Man Who Sold America On Vitamin D — And Profited In The Process
- Babies Dependent On Opioids Need Touch, Not Tech
- Political Cartoon: 'Fake The Funk?'
- Opioid Crisis 1
- Opioid Urgent Care Centers? ERs Where Addiction Treatment Is 'On Demand'? Some Examples Of The Health System's Response To A Crisis
- Elections 1
- Democrats Put Sharp Focus On Health Care In Political Ads While GOP Message Targets Other Issues
- Marketplace 1
- Working On A New Puzzle: A Finance Whiz Focuses On Matching Medical Researchers With Investors
- Public Health 4
- Putting More Focus On The 'Invisible Cancer Generation'
- $1.6 Billion Held in Reserve In California Counties While Advocates Say Mental Illness Treatment Lags Behind
- Detaining Children With Parents Can Also Be Traumatizing, Mother Says, Citing Her Son's Fearful Behaviors
- Doc Who Warned Of 'Vitamin D Deficiency Pandemic' Had Financial Ties To Drugmakers, Labs, Tanning Industry
- Health Care Personnel 1
- Black Men More Likely To Have Certain Health Tests If Discussed With A Black Male Doctor: Study
- State Watch 3
- Cleveland Hospitals' Tax Exemptions Called Into Question With Building Boom, High Revenues
- Texas Panel That Guides Decisions On Medicaid Prescriptions Will Require More Details About Pharma Funding
- State Highlights: Toxic Waste Left Behind By Calif. 'Firenado'; Ohio Pushes Black Lung Screenings As Cases Rise
From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:
The doctor most responsible for turning the sunshine supplement into a billion-dollar juggernaut has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the vitamin D industry, according to government records and interviews. (Liz Szabo, 8/20)
One doctor in Kansas works to make sure every hospital in the state can provide the soft start, ideally with their mothers, that babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome need. (Alex Smith, KCUR, 8/20)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Fake The Funk?'" by J.C. Duffy.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
OVERSELLING THE VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY PANDEMIC
Take that vitamin.
Almost everyone needs it.
Just ask Doc Holick.
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.
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Summaries Of The News:
The plans, which have been touted by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress, are exempt from some of the federal health law's rules and may provide a less expensive option for coverage -- but also may lack certain consumer protections.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Individual Or Small Employers Could Have New Health Insurance Options
A burst of so-called association health plans could hit the market as early as next year as a result of new rules issued by the Trump administration that begin to go into effect this month. Association health plans would give small businesses and people who are sole-proprietors or self-employed additional options for health insurance. (Boulton, 8/17)
Nevada Business Groups Launch Association Health Plan
Three chambers of commerce in Nevada will be among the first small business groups in the country to offer an association health plan, taking advantage of a new Trump administration rule to sidestep Affordable Care Act rules and offer cheaper plans. The Henderson, Boulder City and Latin Chambers of Commerce in Clark County, Nevada filed notice Friday that starting Sept. 1, they will launch several fully insured plans, including an HMO, a PPO and a point of service plan through UnitedHealth Group. The three chambers represent nearly 2,000 small businesses, typically with 10 or less employees. (Meyer, 8/17)
Also in the news regarding the opioid epidemic, Atlanta-area government leaders are joining the ranks of groups suing the opioid industry, synthetic pot is emerging as a public health risk and chronic pain patients say their need for painkillers often leaves them feeling like criminals.
Inside An Addiction-Treatment Clinic Where Walk-Ins Are Welcome
The center is one of three “opioid urgent care clinics” financed by the state (the others are in Boston and Worcester) that have opened over the past couple of years in a pilot program. Each person who walks in the door undergoes an immediate assessment and receives help locating and getting to an appropriate placement, if one can be found. (Freyer, 8/20)
The New York Times:
In San Francisco, Opioid Addiction Treatment Offered On The Streets
The addiction treatment program at Highland Hospital’s emergency room is only one way that cities and health care providers are connecting with people in unusual settings. Another is in San Francisco, where city health workers are taking to the streets to find homeless people with opioid use disorder and offering them buprenorphine prescriptions on the spot. (Goodnough, 8/18)
The New York Times:
This E.R. Treats Opioid Addiction On Demand. That’s Very Rare.
Every year, thousands of people addicted to opioids show up at hospital emergency rooms in withdrawal so agonizing it leaves them moaning and writhing on the floor. Usually, they’re given medicines that help with vomiting or diarrhea and sent on their way, maybe with a few numbers to call about treatment. ... Highland [Hospital E.R. in Oakland], a clattering big-city hospital where security wands constantly beep as new patients get scanned for weapons, is among a small group of institutions that have started initiating opioid addiction treatment in the E.R. (Goodnough, 8/18)
Kaiser Health News:
Babies Dependent On Opioids Need Touch, Not Tech
One doctor in Kansas works to make sure every hospital in the state can provide the soft start, ideally with their mothers, that babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome need. (Smith/KCUR, 8/20)
Atlanta-Area Governments Sue Opioid Industry Amid Deadly Epidemic
Grim-faced Fulton County leaders assembled in their downtown Atlanta auditorium last fall to make a big announcement: the county would become the first in Georgia to sue the opioid industry for damages stemming from the nation’s deadly overdose epidemic. (Redmon, 8/17)
The Associated Press:
Chronic Pain Patients Says They're 'Treated Like Criminals'
Doctors are looking at opioid prescriptions through a microscopic lens because since 2013, more people in Virginia have died from drug overdoses than vehicle accidents or guns, according to the Virginia Department of Health. ... As a result, the health care industry has reduced the number of opioid prescriptions, hoping to curtail “drug seekers” who may start with pain pills, which become a gateway drug to more illicit substances. But the cutback also is affecting those with legitimate pain problems. (Dyson, 8/19)
The Associated Press:
Synthetic Pot Seen As A Public Health Danger
A decade after first appearing in the United States, synthetic marijuana is seen as a growing health danger. Some marijuana smokers turned to it because it is relatively cheap and not detected in routine drug testing. Dozens of people in New Haven, Connecticut, went to the hospital this week after overdosing on a batch of synthetic pot. (Stobbe, 8/17)
From January through July, Democratic candidates and outside groups aired nearly 70,000 ads focused on health care, far and away the most common issue highlighted, while the GOP strategy covered Trump, taxes and immigration. News on health care campaigning comes from Iowa, also.
2018 Election Exclusive: Health Care, Trump Dominate Political Ads In Senate Races
Senate Democratic candidates and allied outside groups have devoted more than 40 percent of their TV ads this year to health care – spending a combined $17 million on spots pledging to protect people with pre-existing conditions, fight for lower drug prices and guard against cuts to Medicare. (Shesgreen and Groppe, 8/20)
Des Moines Register:
Republican Chris Peters Makes Second Run Against Rep. Dave Loebsack
Christopher Peters is a Coralville surgeon who says he wants to take the way he treats problems with his patients to problems in Washington: Find the problem, and implement solutions to correct it. "My reason for running is really the same reason I became a physician: I wanted to help people," Peters said Friday at the Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox. Peters said he started looking at who represented him after the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, and found Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack voted in favor of it — along with many other policies with which he disagreed. (Opsahl, 8/17)
The Wall Street Journal profiles Karen Petrou, an influential adviser to bankers and regulators, who has launched a very personal crusade to cure blindness, Meanwhile, news outlets report on a range of other medical innovations, experiments and market developments -- including a recently approved syrup derived from marijuana that will soon be available for people with epilepsy, a birth control app that recently gained Food and Drug Administration approval and is highlighting the health technology market, and other stories about clinical trials and life in the lab.
The Wall Street Journal:
The Woman Who Has A Plan For Wall Street To Help Cure Blindness
Karen Petrou, an influential adviser to bankers and regulators, has made a career of deciphering complicated financial regulations. Now she’s trying to decode another type of puzzle. The conundrum: Matching medical researchers who need money with investors who have it. A bill outlining her strategy, which would include a government guarantee, was introduced in the House of Representatives last month. (Rexrode, 8/18)
Kansas City Star:
Epidiolex, CBD Cannabis Based Medicine For Epilepsy Seizures
The strawberry-flavored syrup is an oral solution, derived from marijuana, though it doesn’t contain any part of the plant that causes a high. (Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, does.)I nstead, Epidiolex comes from cannabidiol, or CBD. It was approved June 25 and is expected to be available this fall to help people with epilepsy, particularly those with Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes. (Stark, 8/17)
The Associated Press:
Birth Control App Highlights Emerging Health Tech Market
The condom, the pill and now, the smartphone? Natural Cycles, a mobile fertility app, this month became the first ever digital contraceptive device to win FDA marketing approval. Women take their temperatures and track their menstrual cycle on the app, which uses an algorithm to determine when they’re fertile and should abstain from unprotected sex or use protection. In effect, it’s a form of the rhythm or calendar method. (Chan, 8/17)
Nine Things To Know About Sangamo And Its First-In-Human Genome Editing Study
The first clinical trial using genome editing to treat real patients is nearing an early but crucially important data reveal. Until now, the only data available involving the removal or repair of disease-causing DNA have come from experiments in test tubes and animals. But late last year, the biotech company Sangamo Therapeutics started a clinical trial using a one-time, genome-editing fix to treat people born with a rare, inherited disease. (Feuerstein, 8/20)
The New York Times:
This Drug Is Safe And Effective. Wait. Compared With What?
We spend many billions of dollars each year on the discovery and development of new drugs, but almost none of it addresses two crucial questions: How do these new therapies compare with already known ones? What are the relative benefits and harms in a particular situation, for a person like you? Such questions can best be answered by comparative effectiveness research. (Carroll, 8/20)
The Perfect Lab Animal Is Strikingly, Surprisingly Beautiful
The worms turned out to be the perfect lab animal. They were simple creatures that lived in the dirt and ate bacteria but were just complicated enough to provide biological insights applicable to human health. C. elegans was the first organism to have its genome sequenced and, aside from humans, have been sent into space more than any other animal. (Chen, 8/20)
Young people with cancer, and their specific needs, are a sometimes-overlooked population, but there are signs that's changing. In other cancer-related news, exposure to secondhand smoke during childhood is linked to lung disease later in life; a reporter with cancer goes from journalist to patient; and ex-spouses are taking on the role of cancer caregivers.
The Washington Post:
If You Are Young And Have Cancer, Help Can Be Hard To Find. That’s Changing.
Adolescents and young adults with cancer, often called AYAs, have been an in-between, often forgotten population. Groups that advocate for them argue that research, treatment and survival rates have not kept pace with those of young children and older adults. “We are the invisible cancer generation,” Zachary says. Furthermore, this group has age-specific concerns, including body image, sexuality, fertility, relationships, education and career. (Cimons, 8/18)
The Washington Post:
Childhood Exposure To Secondhand Smoke Is Linked To Lung Disease Decades Later
Childhood exposure to secondhand smoke is linked to lung disease decades later, according to a study published last week by the American Cancer Society. For 22 years, researchers have been following more than 70,000 adults who have never smoked. At the beginning of the study, the participants were asked whether they lived in a household with a smoker while they were children. Those who did were 31 percent more likely to die of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. This is the first study to find a correlation between the two. (Furby, 8/18)
I’m Coping With Cancer By Reporting On It
I’ve got direct access to the cumbersome and complicated and hopefully lifesaving American health care system. I am in reporter heaven even if I am in cancer-patient hell. Straddling that line is bizarre. To write this story, I filled out a patient consent form that allows me to write about getting treated for my own disease. I went through the Moffitt Cancer Center’s press office to fact-check this article with my own doctor. I always fear misquoting or mischaracterizing someone, but now, the person I fear misquoting will soon cut me open on an operating table. (Glorioso, 8/19)
The Wall Street Journal:
An Ex-Husband Moves Back In—For Cancer Care
Chad Burnheimer and Holly Platt, both in their 40s, had been divorced for eight years when he was diagnosed with brain cancer in April 2017. At that point, Ms. Platt became his caregiver, taking him to the doctor, monitoring his medicine and joining him at support groups for those with brain tumors. He moved into her Pittsburgh home with their three children, ages 11, 14 and 21. ... The profile of the nation’s 40 million unpaid caregivers is evolving. Family members—typically spouses and adult children—still provide the majority of care for the sick and aging, but as families become smaller and more far-flung, others are stepping in, including grandchildren, neighbors, stepchildren, and partners. Now, with high rates of divorce, especially among baby boomers, a relatively new face is emerging in the caregiving landscape: ex-spouses. (Ansberry, 8/19)
“It is shocking to see these large reserves when we have a funding stream to address the crisis that Los Angeles and other jurisdictions are facing,” said Catherine Blakemore, executive director of Disability Rights California. In other news, The Oregonian reports on safety issues at Unity Center for Behavioral Health opened its doors in Northeast Portland.
Los Angeles Times:
With An Epidemic Of Mental Illness On The Streets, Counties Struggle To Spend Huge Cash Reserves
When California voters passed a tax on high-income residents in 2004, backers said it would make good on the state’s “failed promise” to help counties pay for the treatment of the mentally ill. After nearly 15 years, Proposition 63 — the Mental Health Services Act — has steered billions of dollars to the counties across the state. But huge sums remain unspent at a time when mental illness has become an epidemic among the homeless population. (Curwen, 8/19)
Complaints Surfaced About Unity Center Within Months Of Opening; Officials Failed To Act
The safety problems started nearly as soon as Unity Center for Behavioral Health opened its doors in Northeast Portland. Staff at the 24-7 crisis center and Multnomah County case workers almost immediately began reporting a patient sexual assault of another patient, a patient escaping, a staff member making sexual advances to a patient and other concerns. One mental health investigator for the county later reported that it appeared a patient had committed suicide using a bathroom door at the center that had been modified to prevent hanging. (Harbarger, 8/18)
As the administration grapples with how to treat asylum seekers after critics assailed the zero-tolerance policy, one mother who was detained in Texas with her son says a detention center is no place for a child. News on the treatment of immigrants comes out of California, also.
Los Angeles Times:
'Killed Me Little By Little.' Family Detention Left Lasting Scars For One Mother And Son
While critics of family separation say splitting parents and children can traumatize children, Katie Shepherd, national advocacy counsel for the Immigration Justice Campaign, said children also can suffer when kept with their parents. Shepherd represented families like Oliva and Cristhian who were detained in Texas under the Obama administration. She saw children regressing behaviorally, crying a lot, becoming listless, fighting more and lashing out. (Castillo and Bernhard, 8/19)
The Associated Press:
Migrant Spouse Of Pregnant Woman Detained On Way To Hospital
A California woman said Saturday that she had to drive herself to the hospital and give birth without her husband after he was detained by immigration agents. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said the man was detained because he was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant in a homicide case in Mexico. (Myers, 8/19)
Dr. Michael Holick played a crucial role in spurring America's Vitamin D craze while receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from the industry, a KHN investigation finds. Other public health stories in the news: lead poisoning on Army bases, health benefits of vacation, changing blood pressure guidelines and gut health.
Kaiser Health News:
The Man Who Sold America On Vitamin D — And Profited In The Process
The doctor most responsible for turning the sunshine supplement into a billion-dollar juggernaut has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the vitamin D industry, according to government records and interviews. (Szabo, 8/20)
U.S. Senators Demand Answers From Army After Reuters Report On Lead Poisoning
Four U.S. senators on Friday urged the Army to detail the steps it is taking to safeguard children from lead poisoning, citing a Reuters investigation into hazards on military bases. “We write to you today concerned about recent reports of lead poisoning at a number of Army installations,” the senators wrote. “The health and safety of our servicemembers and their families are of the utmost importance.” (Januta and Schneyer, 8/17)
Vacation Days Piling Up? Even A Short Get-Away Can Boost Well-Being
About half of full-time workers recently surveyed by the U.S. Travel Association didn't take all the paid vacation days they earned last year. ... If you're among this group, you could be missing out on some of the benefits of leisure time. It may seem obvious that vacation makes us feel good, but its health benefits are, in fact, measurable. For instance one study finds engaging in more frequent enjoyable leisure activities, including vacation, is linked to improvements in mood, sleep and blood pressure, and can help buffer "the negative psychological impact of stress." (Aubrey, 8/20)
The Washington Post:
New Blood Pressure Guidelines Can Cause Problems For The Elderly.
In recent years, doctors have been urged to treat high blood pressure more aggressively, especially in older people. My mother’s doctors seemed intent on lowering her blood pressure despite what I thought were side effects that were diminishing her quality of life. (Neumann, 8/19)
The Wall Street Journal:
Gut Feeling: To Stay Healthy, Keep Your Body’s Microbes In Line
You probably know the human body hosts a variety of microbes, but you might be surprised by the volume. If the collection of bacteria, fungi and other organisms could be shed all at once, it would weigh 2 to 4 pounds and fill one or two quarts. En masse, scientists call it the microbiome and have come to believe it is as important to good health as a sound brain, heart, kidneys, liver and lungs. (McGinty, 8/17)
The survey would indicate that today's lack of black physicians may be a factor in the health care disparity for black men, who currently have the nation's lowest life expectancy rate. In other news: a study finds that some doctors have a hard time talking to patients about the downsides of cancer screenings. And WBUR looks at the growing number of practicing osteopaths.
The New York Times:
The Secret To Keeping Black Men Healthy? Maybe Black Doctors
Black men have the lowest life expectancy of any ethnic group in the United States. Much of the gap is explained by greater rates of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, which afflict poor and poorly educated black men in particular. But why is that? Lack of insurance? Lack of access to health care? Now, a group of researchers in California has demonstrated that another powerful force may be at work: a lack of black physicians. (Kolata, 8/20)
Should You Get That Scan? Your Doctor Might Not Be Great At Helping You Decide
Your doctor probably nags you to schedule cancer screening tests like mammograms and colonoscopies. These tests, after all, can be life-saving, and most doctors want to make sure you get them done. But when it comes to explaining the ways that certain screenings can cause you harm, your doctor may not be doing such a good job. (Gordon, 8/18)
The Doctors Without MDs: What Makes Osteopathic Medicine Different?
[Doctors of osteopathic medicine] receive conventional medical training, but also learn osteopathic medicine, which focuses on holistic approaches to care that sometimes involve hands-on treatment. The philosophy was developed by a controversial 19th-century doctor who, at the time, was shunned by the medical establishment. Since 1973, though, DOs have been fully recognized as doctors in all 50 states. (Kaplan, 8/17)
And in more health care personnel news —
No Prison Time For Ex-Houston Doctor Who Raped Heavily Sedated Patient
A former Texas doctor who raped a heavily sedated patient won't serve prison time after he was found guilty of the crime Thursday. Shafeeq Sheikh, a former Baylor College of Medicine physician, was sentenced to 10 years' probation Friday, and he must now register as a sex offender. (Miller, 8/18)
Dr. Gilbert Welch, Prominent Researcher, Plagiarized Colleagues' Work
ADartmouth College investigation has concluded that Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, one of the country’s most prominent health care policy scholars, committed research misconduct in connection with a paper published in a top medical journal. Welch plagiarized material from a Dartmouth colleague and another researcher at a different institution, according to a letter from the college’s interim provost obtained by Retraction Watch. The material was included in a 2016 paper published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The work found that breast cancer screening was more likely to overdiagnose tumors (leading to unnecessary treatments) than pick up early cases that are destined to become life-threatening. (McCook, 8/20)
The Washington Post:
Nurses Helped Make Us Understand Domestic Violence As A Serious Health Issue
Even though intimate-partner violence has long been all too common, it hasn’t always been considered a serious health issue. Passionate nurses helped change that. “Confronting Violence: Improving Women’s Lives,” a traveling exhibition produced by the National Library of Medicine, brings their work to life.I t’s a compact exhibit with a massive story to tell. (Blakemore, 8/18)
Nonprofit private hospital systems are required to provide what is known as a community benefit in order to maintain tax-exempt status. But in places like Cleveland, where the medical systems are among the largest employers and help drive the economy, some community advocates would like to see them also provide money to help fund services. News services also report on other hospital news from around the country.
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Big 3 Hospitals Say Community Benefits Equal $1.3 Billion In Tradeoff For Tax Exemption
From MetroHealth's massive $946-million transformation project on West 25th Street to the Cleveland Clinic's $515-million on-site health education campus to University Hospitals' new $24-million women and children's center in Midtown, each of the systems are using their financial success to expand their footprint. .... as nonprofit entities, taxes aren't levied on most of their property. In a place like Cuyahoga County, where rates of infant mortality, opioid addiction and chronic illness are perpetually high, critics question if the healthcare behemoths are doing their part for the community. Hospitals, on the other hand, say the millions they spend each year on community health outreach and caring for the county's poorest more than makes up for forgone property taxes. (Christ, 8/19)
Tennessee Hospitals Face Shortages In Vital Drugs And Supplies
For five days in May, ambulances in Putnam County, Tennessee, lacked a tool that acts as the first line of defense against heart attacks and other emergencies: basic adrenaline. "It comes in a different form, a different concentration. But we were out of that, too," said Sullivan Smith, medical director for the county's EMS team. "That's the first drug you give when somebody's heart stops. That's the drug you give when you have that life-threatening allergic reaction to a bee sting or peanut allergy." (Field, 8/17)
The Wall Street Journal:
Regulators Threaten Funding Of Indian Health Hospital In South Dakota
An intoxicated 12-year-old girl tried to strangle herself with a call-light cord and shoe laces after being left alone last month at a hospital on the Rosebud Sioux reservation. A mentally disturbed 35-year-old man died of cardiac arrest the next day at the same hospital after being restrained by medical staff, who didn’t follow proper procedures. These incidents, cited in a federal report released Friday, were among the reasons that regulators are threatening to withdraw critical funding from the South Dakota facility, operated by the U.S. Indian Health Service. (Frosch, 8/17)
Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader:
Federal Report Reveals Patient Died Needlessly In South Dakota IHS Hospital
The notice comes more than two years after the Rosebud Indian Health Service hospital was cited for similar shortcomings, which forced the agency that runs it to shut down the emergency room for seven months and close other departments. In the months since, IHS closed down the hospital's surgical and obstetrics and gynecology units. And the emergency department has again come under federal scrutiny. Hospital administrators said they had a plan in place to resolve the problems and in a letter to federal officials pointed to perceived inaccuracies in the assessment. (Ferguson, 8/17)
St. Luke’s Heart Transplant Program To Lose Medicare Funding Today
The heart transplant program at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center is set to lose federal funding today, a serious blow to a Houston hospital long regarded as one of the nation’s best for cardiac surgery. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced in June that it would cut off funding for heart transplants this month after concluding that the hospital had not done enough to correct issues that led to a high rate of patient deaths in recent years. (Ornstein and Hixenbaugh, 8/17)
Kansas City Star:
Shawnee Mission Medical Center Asks About Spiritual Health
Questions like: Do you have any spiritual beliefs that would influence your care? Do you have someone who loves you? Do you have something that brings you joy? Do you have a sense of peace today? The questions are part of a rebranding by Shawnee Mission Medical Center’s parent organization, Adventist Health System, as it seeks to refocus on its faith-based roots. (Marso, 8/18)
Why Hospitals Are Getting Into The Real Estate Business
But why is a hospital getting into the housing business? A body of evidence points to a link between living in areas of concentrated poverty and health. It's something doctors at Nationwide Children's were seeing first-hand. "It's remarkably frustrating as a physician to see patients over and over and over again from these very high-risk communities," says Dr. Kelly Kelleher, director of the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "Houses that are falling apart, plumbing problems, mold, rat infestations, violence. You see 25 kids a day, and maybe two-thirds of them are in these desperate straits." (Chisholm, 8/19)
The Star Tribune:
Mayo Patient's 'Escape' Amplifies Growing Problem
A carefully plotted escape from Mayo Clinic last year — by a young woman and her parents who clashed with her doctors — was a bizarre example of a growing concern: patients leaving hospitals against medical advice. Few such incidents are as dramatic as the one reported this week by CNN, in which a southern Minnesota woman named Alyssa Gilderhus was taken from her room under false pretenses by her stepfather, who wheeled her to the parking lot and then hustled her into the family car before nurses could stop him. (Olson, 8/19)
Nurse Sues Hospital, Saying It Obeyed Patient Who Didn't Want A Black Caregiver
A Michigan nurse is suing the hospital she works at for racial discrimination after it allegedly complied with the request of a patient who said she didn't want to be looked after by an African-American woman and used an expletive to describe her. ... When Williams, who is black, reported the incident to a supervisor, expecting her to reject the patient's request, the supervisor instead forbade Williams from going into the room again and replaced her with a white nurse, according to the complaint. (Biswas, 8/16)
Boston Children's Hospital Constructs Penis For Transgender Man — A First In Mass.
With the surgery center, Children's is now the first hospital in Massachusetts to offer phalloplasty, and said it is the only pediatric hospital in the U.S. where patients can get this procedure. ... Children's is prepared for an angry response from those who believe the hospital's role should be to help patients who are uncomfortable with their body learn to live in it. (Bebinger, 8/17)
Dallas Morning News:
Surgeon Admits Role In Million-Dollar Kickback Scheme Involving Dallas Hospital
A Mesquite physician has admitted his role in an alleged $200 million health care fraud involving a defunct Dallas hospital. Dr. Wade Barker, a bariatric surgeon, co-founded Forest Park Medical Center and sat on its board of directors, court records say. He filed papers on Thursday, agreeing to plead guilty to conspiracy to pay and receive health care bribes and kickbacks in connection with the bankrupt hospital. (Krause, 8/18)
The decision follows a national investigation by NPR and The Center for Public Integrity looking at influence by drug makers. In other Medicaid news, Nebraska gets a step closer to a referendum on whether to expand the program.
NPR/The Center for Public Integrity:
Texas Tightens Disclosure Rules Following Medicaid Investigation
A Medicaid committee in Texas is requiring those who comment at its meetings to disclose more details about their ties to pharmaceutical companies after a Center for Public Integrity and NPR investigation into the drug industry's influence on such boards. ... Officials in Arizona, Colorado and New York have already taken action. The Texas committee, which helps decide which medicines are best for patients and should therefore be preferred by Medicaid, will now ask speakers to disclose verbally and in writing if they have "directly or indirectly received payments or gifts" from any pharmaceutical companies and to identify those firms, Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman Kelli Weldon said in an email. (Essley Whyte, 8/17)
Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald:
Medicaid Expansion Petition Clears One Hurdle To Making The Ballot
A proposal to expand Medicaid to more low-income Nebraskans has cleared one hurdle to appearing on the November ballot. Secretary of State John Gale said Friday that a petition to put the proposal before voters has more than met the requirement to collect valid signatures from more than 5 percent of registered voters in 38 counties. ... To put the measure on the ballot, the petition also must have valid signatures from at least 84,269 registered voters. It also must survive a legal challenge filed by a state lawmaker and former lawmaker. (Stoddard, 8/17)
Media outlets report on news from California, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Arizona and Florida.
Hazmat Teams Clean Up After Redding California Fire
Brinkman this week is taking in similar scenes as the state Department of Toxic Substances Control begins the early stages of the cleanup from the devastating fire that wiped out more than 1,000 homes in Redding last month. The work, removing obvious hazardous waste like melted car batteries and jugs of chlorine, marks the first step in rebuilding after massive natural disasters. (Ashton, 8/17)
Black Lung Screenings Encouraged As Cases Rise
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) mobile occupational safety and health unit — a cross between an RV and a moving truck with five different testing stations inside — rolled up to the Walmart in Athens bright and early on Friday. ...Coal miners are especially vulnerable to black lung because they work in an environment where coal dust is always in the air. (Meibers, 8/17)
'GoFundMe Felt Demeaning,' But When It Comes To Their Own Children, Illinoisans Are Turning To It As A Health Care Lifeline
Recent reports show that more than a third of all global GoFundMe campaigns sought to raise money to pay for medical expenses. Overall, there are more than 250,000 medical campaigns per year, cumulatively raising an annual average of more than $650 million. Anyone who creates a GoFundMe campaign can choose the “medical” category for various reasons, and the company says it’s impossible to track exactly how the funds are used. Some might use the money raised to cover lost wages for a patient or for a caregiver during an illness. While GoFundMe does not keep state-by-state data on its campaigns, many underinsured Illinoisans, like Gutierrez and Schnell, have found themselves in unanticipated medical predicaments. (Eadens, 8/20)
The Star Tribune:
Caring For Children, Elders In Rural Areas Hits Working Caregivers Harder
Workers in rural areas who take care of an ailing adult or child have significantly less support at the workplace to buttress the strains of their dual roles than those in urban areas, a new study from the University of Minnesota finds. Rural caregivers are much less likely to have access to workplace benefits such as telecommuting, employee assistance programs or paid leave, according to the findings, which were published this month in the Journal of Rural Health. (Crosby, 8/17)
Measles Warning In Northern Arizona
An out-of-state visitor with measles was contagious while visiting Sedona and Kingman earlier this month, state health officials said Friday. There are no current cases of measles in Arizona. But the Arizona Department of Health Services has issued a warning that some people may have been exposed between Aug. 6 and Aug. 8. (Innes, 8/17)
Health News Florida:
Senate President Galvano Wants To Revisit School Safety
As students across Florida start the new school year, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano wants lawmakers to think about expanding the school-safety efforts approved during the 2018 legislative session after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.In a series of tweets Tuesday, the Bradenton Republican implored senators to look more at school safety. (Turner, 8/17)
Ohio Schools Increase Security, Training After Parkland Shootings
Whether it’s increased security and mental-health support, extra cameras, classroom barricades, giant walls or armed teachers, districts have spent thousands of dollars on upgrades for this school year. After the shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, school administrators started seeking advice from security experts, said Ken Trump, president of Cleveland-based National School Safety and Security Services. (Cottom and Gilchrist, 8/19)
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Ohio's Medical Marijuana Growers Will Have To Start Their First Plants Illegally
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, so how are newly licensed medical marijuana growers in Ohio supposed to get their first crop? Ohio law is silent on the issue, and regulators are taking a hands-off approach to the topic, cleveland.com's Jackie Borchardt reports. (Pelzer, 8/17)
Opinion pages focus on these health care topics and others.
The Washington Post:
Republicans Are Running The ‘Repeal And Replace’ Scam All Over Again
Despite all the attention we in Washington pay to the Russia scandal and the Trump administration’s immigration policies and the president’s latest antics (for perfectly good reasons), polls have repeatedly shown that when you ask voters what they care about most in considering their vote for Congress this fall, the most-commonly-mentioned issue is health care. And Republicans have set a health-care time bomb that is going to explode in their faces just in time for the November elections. (Paul Waldman, 8/17)
Des Moines Register:
The Value Of Health Care Reform Is More Than You May Think
Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted, the media has expounded on the landmark patient protections. Most Iowans probably know that the ACA ended health insurance discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions. Parents are generally aware that adult children can stay on their health plan until age 26. These were great advances, but many of the long-range benefits of the ACA haven’t received much attention. Nonetheless, new structures have taken hold behind the scenes, and they’re working to improve care quality, increase innovation, and even boost the economy. (J. Marc Ward, 8/17)
It's Not Just The Uninsured — It's Also The Cost Of Health Care
We still have an uninsured problem in the U.S., but we have a far broader health care affordability problem that hits sick people especially hard. Why it matters: It's time to think more broadly about who's having trouble paying for the health care they need. The combination of lack of insurance and affordability affects about a quarter of the non-elderly population at any one time, but almost half of people who are sick. Now that the Affordable Care Act has expanded health coverage, the percentage of the non-elderly population that is uninsured is now just under 11%, the lowest level ever recorded. Another 15.5% who have insurance either skipped or delayed care because of the cost or reported that they or someone in their family faced problems paying their bills in 2017. That brings the total percentage of non-elderly people with insurance and affordability problems to 26.2%. More striking: nearly half of all people in fair or poor health — 46.4% — are uninsured or have affordability problems despite having coverage. (Drew Altman, 8/19)
San Jose Mercury News:
Why Gig Economy Workers Deserve Basic Protections
The California Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex v. Lee holds that businesses can no longer misclassify their workers as “independent contractors” in order to avoid meeting basic labor standards. Dynamex is a trucking company, but many tech companies rely heavily on this misclassification strategy as well, and they have unleashed their lobbyists to try to reverse the decision. (Maria Noel Fernandez and Ben Field, 8/17)
Start On A Better Rx Deal For Taxpayers
With what is now known about the way prescription-drug middlemen have profited at the expense of Ohio taxpayers, it’s clear the state’s Medicaid managed-care plans must negotiate better deals with pharmacy benefit managers. The Department of Medicaid is right to put managed-care companies on notice that they are not to continue current contracts beyond Jan. 1. It’s about time. Months of investigation by Dispatch reporters, followed by a state Medicaid-commissioned report, have shown that pharmacy benefit managers, hired to make the Medicaid drug benefit more efficient, have billed taxpayers $223.7 million over and above what they paid pharmacies for the drugs in question. (8/19)
Kidney Disease Is A Killer. More Precise Classification Can Help Tame It
Kidney disease, once commonly thought of as a single entity, has become far more complicated. That’s a good thing, because it opens the door for better and more precise treatments. Back in 2002, the National Kidney Foundation published the five stages of kidney disease. That was an important step forward in classifying and treating chronic kidney disease, which affects 30 million Americans. These stages helped better identify the progression of the disease, as the tissue destruction and scarring captured in the stages cause an ongoing loss of kidney function. Sixteen year later, genomics and proteomics have ushered in precision diagnoses and therapies for cancer and other diseases while leaving much of kidney disease behind. (Franklin W. Maddux, 8/20)
The Washington Post:
Reversing Roe V. Wade Will Be Just The Beginning
Are opponents of Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination engaged in “a scare tactic” when they contend that his confirmation would lead to overturning Roe v. Wade ? Kavanaugh’s supporters claim as much, and some elite commentators agree, suggesting that a reversal of Roe is less likely than an incremental chipping away at a woman’s right to choose. But what if the opposite is true? What if opponents of Kavanaugh’s confirmation are actually understating the threat to reproductive freedom? That prospect merits serious consideration at next month’s Judiciary Committee hearings. (Ronald A. Klain, 8/17)
The Wall Street Journal:
A Shot Of Competition For EpiPen
A couple of years ago Washington fell into anaphylactic shock over the high cost of EpiPens, devices that shoot adrenaline into someone having an allergic reaction. But the Trump Administration this week injected some overdue competition into the market that could lower prices for millions of Americans. On Thursday the Food and Drug Administration approved the first generic competitor to Mylan ’s EpiPen. The competing drug is manufactured by the Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva. One might wonder why a simple spring device filled with a cheap medicine didn’t have competitors, even decades after invention. (8/19)
The New York Times:
Advice I Never Wanted To Give
Everybody wants to talk to me about suicide. It’s my own fault, I suppose. Or maybe it’s my little sister Lydia’s fault. But there’s no point in assigning blame. Mostly I just miss her. Lydia took her own life in the summer of 2012. She had just turned 28. Those first few weeks after her death, I had no idea what to say, or how to say it. So I didn’t say anything. I just kept to myself and drank too much and sobbed. But after a few weeks, this little voice inside kept nagging at me. When are we going to talk about it? How are we going to deal with this? (Adam Cayton-Holland, 8/18)
NYU Medical School Students Are Getting Free Tuition. But Everyone Will Reap Benefits
At yesterday’s white coat ceremony for its class of 2022, New York University School of Medicine announced it will cover tuition for all medical students, regardless of their financial situation. The announcement (which I certainly wouldn’t have minded coming three years earlier) isn’t just great news for NYU medical students. It could also help shape the landscape of health care in the United States in four key ways. (Eli Cahan, 8/17)
San Antonio Press-Express:
Texas Shouldn’t Adopt Medicaid Work Requirements
On Jan. 11, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced an update allowing states to set work requirements for Medicaid recipients who are not pregnant, elderly or disabled. To promote holistic health and “help families rise out of poverty,” CMS will support state efforts to create program incentives. (Joelene Gonzalez, 8/17)
Editorial pages focus on issues surrounding the opioid epidemic.
The Washington Post:
Fentanyl Overdoses Are Killing Americans. The Country Must Not Accept Business As Usual.
Graphic evidence of America’s severe drug crisis played out over the past week. In a gruesome tableau on the New Haven Green in Connecticut, scores of people collapsed and were rushed to emergency rooms suffering violent reactions to synthetic marijuana. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported preliminary estimates that more than 72,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States last year, an increase of 9.5 percent from the year before. A big reason for the increase was illicit and deadly fentanyl, which has increasingly been cut into heroin and cocaine. (8/18)
Two Small Nudges Help Cut Back On Opioid Prescriptions
Led by the University of Southern California’s Jason Doctor, a team of researchers found a dramatic way to nudge doctors to reduce opioid prescriptions. Their starting point was simple: When patients die, clinicians often don’t find out. Their experiment involved 861 clinicians in San Diego. About half of them served as the control. The other half received this letter: “This is a courtesy communication to inform you that your patient (Name, Date of Birth) died on (date). Prescription drug overdose was either the primary cause or contributed to the death.” The letter also offered information on the risks of prescription medication-related deaths. It suggested consultation of a website with additional materials. The researchers hypothesized that the letter would reduce opioid prescriptions. To test that hypothesis, they compared the number of opioid prescriptions a few months before and a few months after the letter was sent. In the control group, prescriptions stayed pretty steady (actually they increased modestly). In the group of clinicians that received the letter, by contrast, prescriptions decreased significantly. And those clinicians were less likely to start new patients on opioids at all. (Cass R. Sunstein, 8/17)
San Francisco Chronicle:
On Fentanyl: Congress Must Avoid Another Drug War
Just like the crack cocaine epidemic that resulted in overly harsh penalties targeted at African Americans in the 1980s, fentanyl and other synthetic drugs are poised to be the next drugs that politicians use to justify long prison sentences for drug users. (Diana Goldstein, 8/17)
Infectious Disease Monitoring — More Care Needed To Control Impacts Of Opioid Crisis
From where we sit in Kentucky, there’s no time to waste, and the bills under consideration would help to lessen the impact of the opioid epidemic. We hope Congress will do what it takes to ensure that a bill including the infectious diseases prevention and workforce provisions is signed into law and fully funded so we and other healthcare providers can do what it takes to lessen and eventually end the multi-faceted impacts of the opioid crisis. (Alice Thornton and Nicole Leedy, 8/17)