- Kaiser Health News Original Stories 4
- The Women's Health Issue No One Talks About
- In Battle Against Zika, Researchers Seek Foolproof Test For Infection
- Health Law Expanded Coverage For Ex-Inmates, But Gaps Remain
- Seattle Dentists, Clinics And A Hospital Partner To Provide Specialty Care For Teeth
- Political Cartoon: 'Something's Going Around'
- Capitol Hill Watch 1
- Anxious To Get Vulnerable Incumbents Back To Campaign Trail, Congress Buckles Down On Zika
- Marketplace 1
- Insurers Are Often Chastised For Poor Service But Some Are Working To Improve Reputations
- Administration News 2
- Tough New Medical Research Rules Strive For Clarity In Previously 'Opaque' World
- Feds Mull Rules To Criminalize Paying Bone-Marrow Donors Amid Exploitation Concerns
- Public Health And Education 3
- Biden: Cancer 'Moonshot' Work Not Just A Passing Phase
- Study Linking ADD To Suicide In Young Children May Prompt New Prevention Strategy
- Looming Threat Of Antibiotic Resistance Prompts Unprecedented Meeting At UN
- State Watch 2
- Home Health Companies Overbilled Massachusetts Medicaid, According To Audit
- State Highlights: Henry Ford Health System Refinancing Debt; Problems For Calif.'s Aid-In-Dying Efforts
From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:
Depression is common among American women, and antidepressant use is on the rise. Yet women tend to keep both a secret. Why aren't we discussing this more? (Jenny Gold, 9/19)
Most people who have been infected don’t have symptoms, so they don’t know they have the virus. (John Pope, 9/19)
The health law’s Medicaid expansion and its requirement that employer medical plans cover dependents up to age 26 had a significant impact on coverage for this population. The portion of young adult ex-inmates without insurance fell from 40 percent to 32 percent. (Jay Hancock, 9/19)
A pilot project involving Swedish Medical Center and the Neighborcare Health network of community clinics offers care for uninsured adults or those on Medicaid. (Zhai Yun Tan, 9/19)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Something's Going Around'" by Mike Keefe.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
A POLITICAL ISSUE WITH LOTS OF BUZZ
Rising drug prices
Are something to talk about.
But is there a fix?
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:
Although the debate over the Planned Parenthood provision is defused, other sticking points arose over the weekend. Still, lawmakers hope to seal an agreement Monday.
The Associated Press:
Congress Works To Finish Zika Aid, Prevent Shutdown
Driven by a desire to free up endangered lawmakers to campaign, congressional negotiators are working to quickly complete a spending bill to prevent an election-season government shutdown and finally provide money to battle the threat of the Zika virus. The stopgap measure would keep the government running past the end of the budget year this month. It's the only measure that has to pass before Congress adjourns for Election Day. As such, the talks have been tricky, with Republicans controlling Congress battling Democrats and the Obama administration. (Taylor, 9/19)
In other Zika news —
Kaiser Health News:
In Battle Against Zika, Researchers Seek Foolproof Test For Infection
The Zika virus has struck fear throughout the Americas, but determining whether people have been infected can be difficult. Here’s why: Most infected people don’t display symptoms or they choose to tough out what may seem like nothing more than influenza instead of seeking medical help. Moreover, infected people don’t have much detectable virus, and what’s in the body doesn’t linger. (Pope, 9/19)
Zika Prevention Efforts Have South Florida Beekeepers Concerned
Dan Novak, of Coral Springs, has witnessed such a massive die-off before — in his own backyard, where he's tended honey bee colonies for seven years. He is hoping he doesn't have to see it again. Like many of South Florida's hundreds of beekeepers, he is keeping a close eye on ramped-up local mosquito spraying programs aimed at combating the Zika virus. Some chemicals being used against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, Zika's most common carrier, unfortunately also kill some of our most valuable winged insects — pollinators like honey bees and butterflies included. (Lade, 9/17)
Modern Healthcare looks at consumers' frustrations with their insurance companies. Meanwhile, the rate of uninsured falls to an all-time low in Massachusetts, and Republicans on Capitol Hill gear up to fight any efforts to give insurers extra money for health law programs.
What Insurers Are Doing To Fix Their Reputation For Awful Customer Service
Cindi Rountree knew she was fed up with her health insurer after she was told she had to drive 80 miles if she wanted to buy a new breast prosthesis at a lower, in-network rate. That was not the only challenge Rountree, a breast cancer survivor, had with her insurer, the now-defunct Kentucky Health Cooperative. ... Rountree's experience provides a glimpse into the failures of the ACA's co-ops, which were both underfunded and underpriced. But her frustrations, and those of many other people who have voluntarily reached out to Modern Healthcare, also show that health insurance companies of all sizes still have not mastered the art of customer service. ... A May 2016 CMS' Office of the Medicare Ombudsman (PDF) fielded more than 97,000 online and phone complaints from people enrolled in Medicare Advantage and Part D plans in 2013, according to the office's most recent report to Congress. (Herman, 9/17)
Rate Of Uninsured In Mass. Reaches All-Time Low
Fewer than 3 percent of Massachusetts residents lacked health insurance last year, an all-time low in a state that served as a model for President Obama’s federal health care overhaul. Figures released last week by the US Census Bureau show that at 2.8 percent, Massachusetts has fortified its longstanding position as the state with the lowest rate of uninsured residents. Nationally, 9.4 percent of people had no health insurance, down from 15.5 percent in 2010. The uninsured rate had already been steadily declining in Massachusetts. For example, it stood at 4.4 percent in 2010, the year the federal Affordable Care Act went into effect. (Freyer, 9/17)
‘Just in Case’ Campaign Launches Against Insurer Payments
A post-election fight about giving extra money to Obamacare insurance plans is brewing on Capitol Hill, following a summer of bad news for insurers. Given the considerable opposition in Congress, however, it will likely amount to nothing more than hot air. Conservative groups are sounding the alarm anyway, warning against “insurer bailouts” and urging Congress not to give any additional money to the industry. It may be a long shot, but insurers are still lobbying lawmakers for relief after a bruising few years of losses. (Owens, 9/16)
The new rules are designed to make it easier for researchers to understand what experiments must be included in the federal database. "This has been a very opaque world up until to now," Food and Drug Commissioner Robert Califf said. "These are tremendous changes."
New Rules Aimed To Make Clinical Trials Safer, More Effective
Universities and drug companies that use human volunteers for research face tough new rules designed to make sure that valuable information from these volunteers is widely available, not only to the volunteers themselves but to scientists trying to advance medical science. The rules currently on the books are confusing and often ignored. (Harris, 9/16)
The Washington Post:
Medical Researchers Will Have To Share More Data More Quickly
The government unveiled new policies Friday designed to make findings from clinical trials of therapies and devices more widely available, warning that it would block future funding for universities and other institutions that do not comply. The updated rules are designed to encourage more participation in research studies and to spread the results of those efforts faster and more completely to the patients, physicians and clinical investigators who need them. Officials also described them as an effort to enforce the pact with volunteers in medical experiments that they or others will someday benefit from their participation in research. (Bernstein, 9/16)
Clinical Trial Rules Aim To Improve Public Reporting Of Results
Researchers will have to publicly report the results of many more clinical trials, including some for drugs and devices that never reach the market, under new government rules announced Friday. The federal rules, which also require more complete reporting of deaths, clarify and strengthen a 2007 law that requires researchers to report results of many human studies of experimental treatments for ailments such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. (Piller, 9/16)
Some say technology has evolved enough to cut back on the biggest risks involved in the process, though.
The Associated Press:
Money For Bone-Marrow Donors? Company Says Yes; Feds Say No
Doug Grant says his new company, Hemeos, can save lives. But a proposed change in federal regulations could make his business a criminal enterprise. The goal of Grant’s D.C.-based startup company is to find matches for people who need bone-marrow transplants, particularly in the African-American community, where matches are harder to find. To do that, Grant wants to be able to pay donors, just as people are paid to donate blood plasma, eggs, or sperm. (Barakat, 9/16)
Many veterans who have given up on medication or exposure therapy find solace in activities such as scuba diving and yoga. Meanwhile, Reveal has launched a series looking back on the VA scandal and what happened after it all came to light.
The New York Times:
Scuba, Parrots, Yoga: Veterans Embrace Alternative Therapies For PTSD
The broad acceptance of PTSD after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has posed an unexpected challenge. Acknowledging PTSD has only spurred a wide-ranging debate over the best way to treat it. Traditional medical approaches generally rely on drugs and controlled re-experiencing of trauma, called exposure therapy. But this combination has proved so unpopular that many veterans quit before finishing or avoid it altogether. This has given rise to hundreds of small nonprofits across the country that offer alternatives: therapeutic fishing, rafting and backpacking trips, horse riding, combat yoga, dogs, art collectives, dolphin swims, sweat lodge vision quests and parrot husbandry centers, among many, many others. (Philipps, 9/17)
No Choice: Failing America’s Veterans
Two years ago, the system that provides American veterans with health care was rocked by scandal when whistleblowers told the world that vets were dying while the Phoenix VA concealed them on a secret waiting list. Reveal revisits the scandal, then investigates what happened next, examining how a national effort to get veterans faster care turned Alaska’s homegrown health care system upside down, and how a deeply troubled VA hospital in Cincinnati responded to its own scandal by blaming the messengers. (Greenblatt, 9/17)
The vice president talks with Stat about his lifelong commitment to improve cancer research, "cancer politics" and more.
Joe Biden Outlines A Lifelong Role In Cancer Research After Politics
Biden said he is still exploring ways in which he might help accelerate cancer research once he and President Obama leave office. His commitment is borne out of personal loss: His son Beau died of brain cancer last year. He said he has discussed his next steps with scientists, foundations, and other institutions, and he recalled a recent conversation with “a billionaire philanthropist” — whom his aides declined to identify — about how he might work with “existing philanthropic efforts relating to cancer.” (Scott, 9/19)
In other news —
The Washington Post:
Brain Cancer Replaces Leukemia As The Leading Cause Of Cancer Deaths In Kids
It's official: Brain cancer has replaced leukemia as the leading cause of cancer deaths among children and adolescents. In 1999, almost a third of cancer deaths among patients aged 1 to 19 were attributable to leukemia while about a quarter were caused by brain cancer. By 2014, those percentages were reversed, according to a report published Friday by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (McGinley, 9/16)
Can Immunotherapy For Cancer Go Mainstream?
It was in 1909 that Nobel Prize-winning German physician Paul Ehrlich proposed the idea that our bodies are fighting constant battles with cancer and that, thankfully, most of the time we win. Ehrlich was a visionary in recognizing the interaction between cancer and the immune system. Specifically, that cancerous cells are continuously arising in the body but that our immune defenses in many if not most cases keep them at bay. Now, after his and related ideas sputtered along for decades, the theory is at the core of one of oncology's hottest areas, immunotherapy, or the mobilization of the human immune system to fight malignancy. (Stetka, 9/17)
NH Times Union:
Salem Husband Betting On Controversial Cancer Drug To Cure Wife's Dementia
For seven years, the 84-year-old has been struggling with a disease called Lewy Body Dementia, which, in the simplest terms, is a living hell, according to [Don] Carano. It's like a combination of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and it's progressive, killing most victims within eight years, according to the Mayo Clinic. It's characterized by severe dementia, aggressive behavior, horrific hallucinations, rigid muscles and tremors - and it only gets worse. But Carano believes there is a cure - a daily dose of the drug nilotinib (marketed as Tasigna) used to help treat chronic myeloid leukemia patients in remission. (Grosky, 9/17)
Prevention has typically focused on depression, but for children under 12, attention deficit disorder is a bigger factor, a new study finds. Meanwhile, the Boston Globe looks at the high rate of depression and suicide among veterinarians.
The New York Times:
More Child Suicides Are Linked To A.D.D. Than Depression, Study Suggests
Attention deficit disorder is the most common mental health diagnosis among children under 12 who die by suicide, a new study has found. Very few children aged 5 to 11 take their own lives, and little is known about these deaths. The new study, which included deaths in 17 states from 2003 to 2012, compared 87 children aged 5 to 11 who committed suicide with 606 adolescents aged 12 to 14 who did, to see how they differed. (Saint Louis, 9/19)
Why Do So Many Veterinarians Commit Suicide?
A 2014 federal Centers for Disease Control online survey of 10,000 practicing veterinarians published last year found that more than one in six American veterinarians has considered suicide. Veterinarians suffer from feelings of hopelessness, depression, and other psychiatric disorders two to three times more often than the general population. Two studies published in the British Veterinarian Association’s journal, The Veterinary Record, found suicide rates are double or more those of dentists and doctors, and four to six times higher than the general population. (Montgomery, 9/19)
In other news on mental health —
The Associated Press:
Police Officer Trial Spotlights Conflicts With Mentally Ill
Officers spent hours calling for a homeless man gripped by a range of delusions to drop his knives, abandon his campsite and walk down the rocky slope with them. But James Boyd stayed put, shouting about a made-up "matter of national security" and a mission for the Department of Defense. In short bursts of outrage, he yelled threats at officers. At another point, he offered them gum. Nineteen Albuquerque and state police officers, including tactical officers and K-9 units, responded to the scene of Boyd's illegal campsite, many surrounding him with weapons drawn before it appeared, according to a police video, that he might surrender. "I'll put my hands on my head; I'm not a criminal" said the 38-year-old Boyd, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Moments later, he was fatally shot after police deployed a smoke bomb and authorities say he brandished his knives. (9/17)
Why Do Suicidal Patients Wait Hours For A Hospital Bed?
Health workers and lawmakers are working to accommodate patients like Durant as America endures a suicide surge, with suicide deaths rising from 29,000 people to 43,000 people between 1999 and 2014. Some have tried to increase the number of psychiatric beds available to suicidal patients, a disappearing resource in recent years that forces patients like [Brie Bullinger] Durant to wait longs hours for care. Meanwhile, others are assessing whether the hospital is even the right place to start considering treatment. (Segal, 9/18)
Kaiser Health News:
The Women’s Health Issue No One Talks About
About 1 out of 5 women in America will experience depression in her lifetime, twice the number of men. Some are depressed throughout the course of their lives; others, like Kieley, become depressed following a big change. Over the past decade, people have increasingly treated depression with medication: Starting in 1994, the number of antidepressant prescriptions written by doctors went up 400 percent over a 10-year period. And today, about 15 percent of women take an antidepressant. Among women age 40 to 59, that number is nearly 23 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (Gold, 9/19)
Scientists are hopeful that any resolution coming from the high-level meeting will provide advocates with ammunition: “It gives people and organizations a hammer to hit them on the head to say, ‘You agreed to this and you are not doing it,’” says Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Washington-based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy.
At The UN, Superbugs Get Their Day On Their World Stage
Heads of state from around the globe will gather this week to try to address a long-neglected issue that poses perhaps the biggest health threat the world faces: the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. Antimicrobial resistance is not traditionally the domain of world leaders, and health-related issues — outside of crises such as the Ebola outbreak — are rarely discussed at venues like the United Nations General Assembly. (Branswell, 9/19)
In other news —
Drug To Combat Brain-Eating Amoeba Exists — But How To Get It To Patients?
Hospitals are stocked with lots of vital drugs. But there’s one that is time-sensitive, life-saving, and an utter necessity in treating a rare kind of infection — but you’ll find it almost nowhere in the US. The drug is called miltefosine. It is a microbe-killing drug that can sometimes save the lives of people infected with a brain-eating amoeba, if given immediately upon diagnosis. The problem is that, until recently, the only place the drug came from was CDC headquarters; when an infection was reported, the drug would have to be flown or driven from Atlanta, adding hours of delay. (Wessel, 9/16)
'The Mind-Gut Connection': Could Your Gut Microbes Be Affecting How You Feel?
My trillions of gut microbes, it seems, are in constant communication with my brain, and there’s mounting evidence that they may affect how I feel — not just physically but emotionally. Does this mean — gulp — that maybe our bugs are driving the bus? I spoke with the book’s author, Dr. Emeran Mayer, professor of medicine and psychiatry at UCLA, executive director of the Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience and expert in brain-gut microbiome interactions. (Goldberg, 9/16)
The companies are accused in the state audit of scores of violations in 2015, with some allegedly overcharging by millions of dollars, the Boston Globe reports. Also, West Virginia officials report on savings on inmates' hospitalization costs through Medicaid, and Wisconsin health officials request an increase Medicaid spending.
Audit Says Home Health Care Companies Overbilled Mass. Medicaid By $23M
The state’s Medicaid program was routinely billed for home health care services that were never provided or were not medically necessary. Providers submitted documents with missing dates and signatures. Sometimes basic information like a patient’s medical history was nowhere to be found. These and other alleged violations were uncovered in an audit of nine agencies that do business with the state’s Medicaid program, called MassHealth — part of an effort by Governor Charlie Baker’s administration to rein in soaring spending on home health services. (McCluskey, 9/18)
Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette-Mail:
WV Saves Money On Inmates With Medicaid
State Division of Corrections officials project having inmates on Medicaid has saved the division more than $1 million in medical treatment for inmates this year so far. The Division has been signing up eligible inmates for Medicaid since January 2014, when West Virginia expanded its program to cover those who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, a provision of the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid will pay for treatment of inmates only after they have been admitted to a hospital for more than 24 hours. So far, 367 inmates have signed up for Medicaid once they've been in the hospital for more than 24 hours, Debbie Hissom, health services administrator for the Division of Corrections, said earlier this month. (Kersey, 9/19)
Wisconsin Public Radio:
Agency Requests $450M Increase To Cover Growing Medicaid Costs
Medicaid costs are expected to grow again in the next state budget – but the increase will be less than in recent years. The state Department of Health Services is requesting a $450 million funding increase to cover Medicaid spending in the next biennial budget. In her agency's biennial budget request, Secretary Linda Seemeyer called the sum "a significant amount of funding" and "by far, the largest component of the Department of Health Services Budget." She added, however, "this increase is small by historical standards." (White, 9/16)
Outlets report on health news from Michigan, California, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Washington.
Detroit Free Press:
Massive $1B Debt Refinancing At Henry Ford Health System
The Henry Ford Health System says it will save more than $125 million after undertaking a massive debt refinancing this week that could be the biggest of its kind in Michigan history. The Detroit-based health system announced that it sold about $1 billion in bonds on Tuesday in order to buy back older bonds that had higher interest rates. The interest rates on these new 30-year, tax-exempt bonds average 3.7%. The previous average was 4.2%. (Reindl, 9/16)
San Jose Mercury News:
Terminally Ill Californians Struggling To Find Doctors To Help With Aid In Dying
For 78-year-old Judy Dale, this wasn’t the way California’s new aid-in-dying law was supposed to work. The San Francisco grandmother, her body riddled with cancer, had hoped to die on her own terms when the time came by ingesting lethal medications prescribed by a physician. But the panic-filled weeks she spent this summer trying to find a doctor — any doctor — willing to participate in the state’s End of Life Option Act were running out. By the time she located one, it was too late, and when Dale drew her final breath Tuesday morning, it was not the kind of death she — or her family — had envisioned. (Seipel, 9/17)
San Francisco Chronicle:
New Law Lets Businesses Get EpiPen Prescriptions To Save Lives
Restaurants, day care centers and other businesses will be able to stock and administer life-saving prescription medicine to immediately treat severe allergic reactions in their diners, pupils or customers under a bill signed Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor, however, took the unusual step of condemning the pharmaceutical company that makes the lifesaving drug known as the EpiPen, or epinephrine auto-injectors, in a bill-signing message that spoke of “unconscionable price increases.” (Gutierrez, 9/16)
The Associated Press:
Oklahoma’s First New Abortion Clinic In 40 Years Opens Doors
Despite facing some of the nation’s strictest anti-abortion laws, a Kansas-based foundation opened a new facility in Oklahoma City — the first new abortion provider in the state in 40 years. The Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center welcomed the first patients last week to its clinic on the city’s south side. Six licensed physicians are providing services there, including abortions, OB-GYN care, family planning, adoption and emergency contraception. (Murphy, 9/16)
Health News Florida:
Survey: Florida Health Care System Ranks 38 In Nation
The Sunshine State’s health care system is one of the worst in the country, according to a new survey from the personal-finance website Wallet Hub. One Northeast Florida public health expert said that has more to do with state policy than it does with the quality of doctors. WalletHub looked at three different health care factors: cost, access and outcome. (Benk, 9/16)
$3M Grant For Black Colleges And University Healthcare Students
A $3 million grant from Kaiser Permanente to the Morehouse School of Medicine is being used to run an undergraduate program to help students at historic black colleges and universities in Atlanta enter graduate-level study in the health and biomedical fields. The Undergraduate Health Sciences Academy at Morehouse School of Medicine was announced during the school’s 32nd fall convocation, white coat and pinning ceremony. (Quinn, 9/16)
Central Ohio Hospitals Show Video On Infant Deaths To All New Moms
Amanda Williamson-Cline cuddled her 2-day-old son in bed at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s on Thursday with husband, Matthew, by their side. They were watching a new video on the benefits of breast-feeding, the ABCs of safe sleeping for infants (alone, on their backs and in a crib), and a reminder to make sure parents and guardians trust the person they hand their crying child to. Central Ohio’s four main hospital systems — Mount Carmel, Nationwide Children’s, OhioHealth and Ohio State University — have agreed to show the video to all new mothers before they’re discharged. That’s about 19,000 deliveries a year in the county. (Rinehart, 9/18)
Community Health Said To Explore Options Including Sale
Community Health Systems Inc., the troubled hospital operator, is exploring a possible sale of its business, people with knowledge of the matter said. The Franklin, Tennessee-based company is working with advisers to consider options, although the deliberations are at an early stage and there is no certainty of a deal, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. (Hammond and Lauerman, 9/16)
Summa Health To Offer Instant Doctors Appointment Scheduling
Summa Health has launched a new doctors appointment scheduling service that will allow patients to schedule themselves online. The scheduling service, summahealth.org/schedulenow, allows patients to view doctors' schedules in real time, select an open timeslot and schedule their appointment. The service also allows patients to view provider qualifications, patient reviews and additional tools for selecting providers who best fit their needs. (Becka, 9/16)
West County: After Hospital Closure, What’s Next For Health District?
More than a year after the closure of Doctors Medical Center, the agency tasked with its day-to-day operations still functions, spending an estimated $500,000 a month of taxpayer money on administrative, legal and financial costs. But with the sale of the hospital property expected to be finalized by early next year, discussions are in the works over what should happen to the West Contra Costa Healthcare District now that it doesn’t have a medical center to run. (Ioffee, 9/16)
San Jose Mercury News:
California Tobacco Tax: Prop. 56 Faces Uphill Battle Against Lobbies
The tobacco industry has poured nearly $56 million into fighting Proposition 56, about three times the $17.5 million raised by supporters as of August. If approved, the new tobacco tax would generate $1.4 billion in its first year. Most of the additional tax would go toward Medi-Cal, which provides health coverage for California’s poor and which backers say shoulders $3.5 billion a year for treating tobacco-related illnesses. (Giwargis, 9/16)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Jefferson To Restart, Expand Heart Transplant Program
Jefferson Health announced Friday it plans to resume heart transplants this fall and boost the size of its program after making the unusual move of voluntarily suspending the program for seven months. Heart transplants are among the most prestigious services a hospital can offer, and sometimes such programs are shut down by regulators due to subpar performance. But that wasn't the case for Jefferson, which chose to put the operation on ice as it embarked on a national search for new leadership. (Avril, 9/16)
Governor Weighs Legislation On Surprise Medical Bills
In California, it is not unusual for patients to be hit by large, unexpected medical bills when they are unwittingly treated by someone outside their insurance company’s network. A 2015 survey by Consumers Union found that nearly 1 in 4 Californians who’d had hospital visits or surgery in the previous two years reported receiving an unexpected bill from an out-of-network provider. The issue can arise when a patient is treated in an in-network facility by out-of-network professionals. (O'Neill, 9/19)
4th Patient Infected With Legionella Bacteria In Growing Outbreak At UW Medical Center
A fourth patient at University of Washington Medical Center has been infected with the bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease and hospital officials are screening those at high risk from the deadly outbreak. In a memo to staff Friday, UW Medicine officials said the latest infected patient was hospitalized in Cascade Tower before water restrictions were put in place Tuesday. (Aleccia, 9/16)
Cops Take Softer Stance On Medical-Pot Amendment
Law-enforcement opposition to the Nov. 8 medical marijuana ballot measure is less potent than it was two years ago, when a similar proposal narrowly failed. Many police and sheriff's officials are still staunchly against Amendment 2, which would allow patients with certain chronic or debilitating illnesses to be prescribed cannabis products by a state-sanctioned physician. But there is also a growing acknowledgment that attitudes toward marijuana – among the general public and, increasingly, Republican lawmakers – are dramatically changing. (Rohrer, 9/18)
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
The Baltimore Sun:
The ACA's successes seem to get lost in the shuffle for two reasons. First, because health care reform has become so politicized, particularly in Washington where Republicans in Congress have voted to repeal the law something on the order of 60 times. Terrorists don't suffer that many negative votes on Capitol Hill. But second, because an obvious problem has arisen that's received a disproportionate share of attention — the manner in which the individual market is out of whack, with rising premiums and insurers dropping out of exchanges. (9/18)
The Washington Post:
Finally, Some Good News For Obamacare
It has been a summer of bad news for the Affordable Care Act, but last week brought some numbers that should put worries about the law into perspective. The Census Bureau announced Tuesday that the proportion of people in the United States who lack health-care coverage continued to plunge last year — to only 9.1 percent. This figure is even better than it looks for Obamacare, because it factors in uninsured undocumented immigrants, of which there are perhaps several million, who are not eligible for the law’s programs. But the overall number could be cut much lower, and quickly, if Obamacare were working as it was meant to. (9/17)
The Wall Street Journal:
The Missing Debate Over Rising Health-Care Deductibles
While the political world focuses on the Affordable Care Act, changes have been occurring for the many more Americans who get health insurance through work. The biggest change: rising deductibles, which are transforming the nature of health insurance from more comprehensive coverage to skimpier insurance with higher out-of-pocket costs. This change has happened gradually and has not been the subject of a big legislative debate, as the Affordable Care Act was. The shift is not a result of Obamacare; the trend began well before the ACA was passed in 2010. The trend is not highly politicized or covered daily by the general news media. All of which contribute to making the changing nature of insurance the most important development in the U.S. health system the public is not debating. (Drew Altman, 9/18)
The New York Times:
California’s Nifty Idea On Immigrant Health Care
The Affordable Care Act has helped 20 million people gain health insurance, but it explicitly excludes one group: undocumented immigrants. Now, lawmakers in California want to help change that by letting all immigrants purchase policies on the state’s insurance marketplace without federal subsidies. This is a good idea that the Obama administration should support. The act bars undocumented immigrants from purchasing policies on the federal and state health insurance marketplaces with or without tax subsidies. California officials say they will seek a waiver from the federal government under a provision of the law that allows states to experiment with different approaches. (9/17)
Doctors Shouldn't Worry About Getting Good At MIPS. They Should Get Out Of It
Medicare's new payment system for physicians is causing anxiety because of the short stretch of road before their performance is judged for a raise or pay cut. In the long-term, though, Medicare and most everyone else want providers to leave that new system behind. It's value-based training wheels. (Gregg Blesch, 9/17)
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Build Better Drugs Faster With Nontraditional, Adaptive Clinical Trials
Breast cancer surgeon Dr. Laura Esserman of San Francisco sings to her patients as they go under anesthesia. She tackles any song request, whether it's a top 40 hit or a Broadway ballad. This same patient-centric attitude drove Dr. Esserman to participate in adaptive clinical trials, a game-changing way to test new medications. It's past time that other researchers think beyond traditional clinical trials. (Peter J. Pitts, 9/18)
San Francisco Chronicle:
How Congress Is Failing On Zika
As the fiscal year nears its end on Sept. 30, the next Zika showdown will now be linked to the debate about the 2017 federal budget. This means that the overarching U.S. response to Zika may not be based on the best approach to stop the spread of the disease, but on compromise on other issues like reallocation of leftover Ebola money, politics around Planned Parenthood and, now, size of the federal funding package. (Rutschman, 9/18)
Lexington Herald Leader:
Like Other States, Kentucky Should Look To Hospitals, Tobacco Tax To Fund Medicaid Expansion
Amid the hue and cry over Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed Medicaid revamp, an important point has been missing: It would not save very much money. Like his predecessors, Bevin is right to worry about the increasing drain that Medicaid, the health-care plan for low-income and disabled people, puts on the $11 billion General Fund, siphoning money that’s needed for education, infrastructure and other needs. ... But the modest savings from his rollback of coverage would come at a high price. To save the average $66.3 million a year projected by Bevin’s plan, Kentucky would have to forfeit $380 million a year in matching federal funds for health care, a poor tradeoff in a state that suffers a surplus of sick people and a shortage of primary care. (9/18)
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
'Healthy Ohio' Plan Not Healthy For Ohio
The Ohio Department of Medicaid is asking the federal government for permission to change Ohio's Medicaid program in ways that will make it far less effective. Medicaid provides health care to those who cannot afford health insurance. It is our largest insurer, covering a quarter of Ohioans. (Wendy Patton, 9/18)
Is Tennessee's Insurance Marketplace 'Near Collapse'?
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has been granted a 62 percent increase, while Cigna and Humana have been approved for increases of 46 percent and 44.3 percent, respectively. The 62 percent rate increase is one of the largest in the country, and the rates requested by Cigna and Humana are notable as well. But does this mean Tennessee will have the most expensive premiums? Not necessarily. (Alex Tolbert, 9/18)
Los Angeles Times:
It's Time To Legalize And Regulate Marijuana In California. Yes On Proposition 64.
Six years ago California voters were asked to make recreational marijuana legal under state law and they declined to do so. But the close decision — 46% voted “yes” on Proposition 19 — suggested that the battle was not yet over. At that time, The Times opposed Proposition 19 not because legalization was necessarily a bad idea, but because it was a poorly drafted mess that would have created a regulatory nightmare. In the years since, a lot has changed. (9/16)
The New York Times:
Defending Your Children’s Teeth (And Dentists): The Value Of Sealants
Your dentist has probably offered dental sealants for your child. Mine has. Without knowing whether they work, I’ve always accepted them. Turns out, this was a good move. Introduced in the 1960s, dental sealants are plastic coatings applied to the surfaces of teeth. They fill in and seal pits and grooves of teeth, making them more resistant to bacteria that can cause cavities. Because molars are more cavity-prone, sealants are usually applied there. Dental sealants are most often recommended when children’s first, permanent molars come in — between ages 5 and 7 — and again when their “12-year molars” arrive — usually between ages 11 and 14. Dentists may also offer sealants for older children and for adults prone to cavities. (Austin Frakt, 9/19)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
A Good Step To Fight A Lifetime Of Nicotine Addiction
The tobacco industry might have retreated in the fight to keep Americans smoking, but the battle to ensure people stay addicted to nicotine still rages. St. Louis County has made the right call to give younger residents at least a fighting chance against a predatory industry that wants nothing more than to keep teens and young adults hooked for life. The County Council voted this month to raise the minimum legal purchasing age to 21 for tobacco and e-cigarette products. Critics suggest this is an ineffective and unnecessary effort to restrict personal freedoms. We see it as a way to delay dangerous behaviors and help young people avoid lifetimes of addiction. (9/18)
The New York Times:
The Insomnia Machine
In 1914, The Lancet reported on a clergyman who was found dead in a pool; he had left behind this suicide note: “Another sleepless night, no real sleep for weeks. Oh, my poor brain, I cannot bear the lengthy, dark hours of the night.” I came across that passage with a shock of recognition. Many people think that the worst part of insomnia is the daytime grogginess. But like that pastor, I suffered most in the dark hours after midnight, when my desire for sleep, my raging thirst for it, would drive me into temporary insanity. On the worst nights, my mind would turn into a mad dog that snapped and gnawed itself. (Pagan Kennedy, 9/17)