- Kaiser Health News Original Stories 1
- Death Talk Is Cool At This Festival
- Political Cartoon: 'Open Carry'
- Health Law 2
- Insurers Request 2017 Obamacare Rate Hikes
- La. Hospitals, Fearing Budget Cuts, Welcome Medicaid Expansion
- Administration News 1
- FDA Unveils New Sodium Guidelines: 'The Deck Has Been Stacked Against' Consumers
- Capitol Watch 1
- Senators Push HHS To Allow Doctors To Treat More Patients With Addiction Treatment Medication
- Marketplace 3
- From $4.5 Billion To $0: Theranos Founder's Net Worth Bottoms Out, Forbes Estimates
- Will One Nonprofit Hospital's Move To Stop Suing Poor Patients For Unpaid Bills Start A Trend?
- Bon Secours Launches Richmond Insurance Network; Georgia Network In Dispute With UnitedHealthcare
- Public Health 3
- Medicaid Can Pay For Mosquito Repellent, Condoms In Effort To Curb Zika
- Teen Pregnancy Rate Drops To Historic Low
- Med Student Finds Strength In Not Hiding Her Mental Illness
- State Watch 2
- Florida Changes Medicaid Policy To Provide Costly Hepatitis Drugs To Patients Earlier
- State Highlights: Tenn. Health Care Task Force Faces Challenge; Orlando Is Home To Health Care Startups
From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:
Kaiser Health News Original Stories
Death Talk Is Cool At This Festival
How to make thinking about death less somber? Hold a festival! Indianapolis did. Through art, film and book talks, residents explored everything from bucket lists to advance directives and cremation. (Jake Harper, WFYI, )
Political Cartoon: 'Open Carry'
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Open Carry'" by Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
A LOOMING DISASTER
Afraid of Zika
we are. Congress, when will you
provide the funding?
- Laurie Feinberg
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.
Summaries Of The News:
Insurers Request 2017 Obamacare Rate Hikes
Meanwhile, House Republicans and the Obama administration are at odds over subpoenas.
The Associated Press:
Insurance Rates Going Up: New Concerns For Obamacare
Fresh problems for "Obamacare": The largest health insurer in Texas wants to raise its rates on individual policies by an average of nearly 60 percent, a new sign that President Barack Obama's overhaul hasn't solved the problem of price spikes. Texas isn't alone. Citing financial losses under the health care law, many insurers around the country are requesting bigger premium increases for 2017. That's to account for lower-than-hoped enrollment, sicker-than-expected customers and problems with the government's financial backstop for insurance markets. (6/2)
Blue Cross Blue Shield Seeks 60% Rate Hikes In 2017
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, the state's largest insurer, has asked for rate hikes of nearly 60 percent for next year in three popular HMO plans, filings with federal regulators show. (Deam, 6/1)
Showdown Over ObamaCare Subpoenas Quickly Escalating
House Republicans and the Obama administration are clashing over subpoenas for ObamaCare documents. Republicans are upping the pressure on the administration, saying officials are withholding documents that Congress has every right to see. The administration argues that it is justified in withholding some documents, as predecessors have done, because of the executive branch's interest in protecting the confidentiality of internal deliberations. (Ferris, 6/1)
And in California —
Will Covered California Sell Plans To Undocumented Immigrants?
California is moving to become the first state to allow unauthorized immigrants to purchase insurance through the state exchange. The state assembly voted Tuesday to open up Covered California to immigrants living in U.S. illegally who want to purchase a health plan with their own funds.SB 10, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara from southeast Los Angeles County, would authorize the state to apply for a federal waiver to make the change. (Kutscher, 6/1)
La. Hospitals, Fearing Budget Cuts, Welcome Medicaid Expansion
Thousands of people are expected to sign up for Medicaid under the expansion, which is part of the federal health law. Hospitals, especially those that serve low-income residents, are hoping that will help cut their costs for providing uncompensated care.
Facing Budget Ax, Louisiana Hospitals Welcome Looming Medicaid Expansion
One of the nation's poorest, least-insured and unhealthiest states is launching a major effort Wednesday to expand Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income residents. Hospitals and other healthcare providers there say it can't happen soon enough. Surprisingly, the state's Republican-controlled Legislature is largely going along, in part because the big infusion of federal Medicaid money will ease the state's dire budget problems. But the expansion still doesn't solve the problem of a big budget shortfall that's threatening the survival of some of the state's nine formerly public safety net hospitals, an issue that may take lawmakers into a special legislative session this month. (Meyer, 6/1)
Aspiring Senate Democrats Embrace Louisiana’s Medicaid Expansion
Democrats in red states will often try to place distance between themselves and the health care law signed by the president in 2010, but in Louisiana, two candidates for Senate are doing the opposite. Foster Campbell, a wealthy businessman, and Caroline Fayard both issued statements praising their state on Wednesday – the first day its government began issuing cards for its new Medicaid expansion program, Healthy Louisiana. (Yokley, 6/1)
WAFB (Baton Rouge, La.):
More Louisianans Covered Thanks To New Medicaid Income Requirements
Enrollment specialists across the state spent Wednesday enrolling people into the new, expanded Medicaid program in Louisiana. Open enrollment started Wednesday and thousands of people in the state wasted no time signing up. "Tons will be eligible because it's so many people that, you know fell into that range of no coverage," said Stephanie Harold, an enrollment specialist at Care South in Baton Rouge. Previously, a household of three had to have an income of less than $3,500 a year. Now, that income limit has jumped significantly to around $27,000 a year. (Reynold, 6/1)
New Orleans Times-Picayune:
John Bel Edwards Talks Medicaid Expansion In Visit To University Medical Center
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the executive order to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program on Tulane Medical School resident Sarah Candler's birthday, Jan. 12. On Wednesday, Candler got to tell Edwards what it was like to inform her patients that they could sign up for the health care coverage. "Many of them are newly eligible today, so that means patients I've wanted to prescribe certain medications to, I've wanted to get screening tests for and haven't been able to do so because they didn't have enough health insurance," Candler said. "Today that changes." (Litten, 6/1)
And in Utah —
Salt Lake Tribune:
Utah’s Medicaid Expansion Plan Moving Forward With Little Comment From Public
The plan targets childless adults who are chronically homeless, involved in the justice system, or in need of substance-abuse or mental-health treatment. It also expands coverage to low-income parents with dependent children previously not covered by Medicaid. Officials originally estimated that about 16,000 people would be covered through the expansion, but that estimate has been tapered. ... The health department began accepting public comment last month on the proposal, which it must soon finalize and submit to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for approval. Only 13 people ... testified at the three public hearings, held in Salt Lake City and Logan. The department had received 23 written comments on the draft as of Wednesday. There is about a week until the public comment period closes. (Stuckey, 6/1)
FDA Unveils New Sodium Guidelines: 'The Deck Has Been Stacked Against' Consumers
“The majority of sodium intake comes from processed and prepared foods, not the saltshaker," the agency says in new voluntary guidelines, which set targets for a gradual reduction in sodium across a range of food categories for both manufactured and restaurant products.
The New York Times:
F.D.A. Proposes Guidelines For Salt Added To Food
The Food and Drug Administration proposed voluntary guidelines for the food industry to reduce salt on Wednesday, a move long sought by consumer and public health advocates who said the standards could eventually help save thousands of American lives. Though the guidelines are not mandatory, consumer advocates said they are meaningful because they will serve as a benchmark by which companies can be measured. More than 70 percent of sodium consumed is already in food before it reaches the table, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and health advocates say the guidelines could help reduce that. (Tavernise, 6/1)
The Washington Post:
FDA Proposes Guidelines To Prod Food Industry To Cut Salt In Products
“Many Americans want to reduce sodium in their diets, but that’s hard to do when much of it is in everyday products we buy in stores and restaurants,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is about putting power back in the hands of consumers, so that they can better control how much salt is in the food they eat and improve their health.” The agency said that many food companies -- including General Mills, Mars and Nestle -- already have cut back on salt but that the overall level in the food supply remains too high. After a lengthy analysis, the FDA created 150 categories of foods and set targets for sodium reductions. (McGinley, 6/1)
FDA Advises Americans To Decrease Sodium Intake
The guidelines, which are voluntary, urge the food industry to decrease salt levels in food to help people decrease their sodium intake to a healthier level over a short-term (two year) and long-term (10 year) period. The FDA suggests sodium intake be at about 2,300 milligrams per day, whereas the average daily sodium intake in the U.S. is 3,400 milligrams per day. (McIntire, 6/1)
Senators Push HHS To Allow Doctors To Treat More Patients With Addiction Treatment Medication
The group of lawmakers urges the Department of Health and Human Services to raise the number of patients a doctor can treat for opioid addiction with buprenorphine from 200 to 500. Meanwhile, New Hampshire Public Radio profiles a former addict who is now helping others struggling with substance abuse.
Senators Urge Feds To Expand Access To Opioid Addiction Medication
A group of 22 senators, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, think the Department of Health and Human Services could do more to increase access to a medication viewed by the medical establishment as the best chance for opioid addicts to make a lasting recovery. Under current federal regulations, doctors can treat only 30 patients at a time in the first year they’re certified to prescribe buprenorphine (commonly sold in the U.S. as Suboxone), a medication that can reduce opioid cravings and ward off harsh withdrawal symptoms. (Cherkis, 6/1)
New Hampshire Public Radio:
Former Heroin Addict Helps Users Get Treatment
For the first time in a decade, the U.S. death rate is up across the entire population. Researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics say the increase was driven in part by more people dying from drug overdoses. One Seattle woman could have been among that statistic. She was homeless and addicted to heroin. Today, she’s no longer using, but helps those who are. (de Luna, 6/1)
From $4.5 Billion To $0: Theranos Founder's Net Worth Bottoms Out, Forbes Estimates
Forbes magazine estimates that Elizabeth Holmes' stake in her own company is "essentially worth nothing." The blood-testing startup has been plagued with difficulties in the past year, which have caused the value to drop.
Forbes Estimates Theranos Founder's Net Worth Now Zero
Forbes magazine on Wednesday reduced its estimate of the net worth of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and chief executive of health technology company Theranos Inc, to zero from $4.5 billion last year. Holmes' blood-testing company has been under investigation by several federal and state agencies and was accused in a suit filed last week of endangering customer health through "massive failures" that misrepresented the accuracy and quality of its blood tests, according to court papers. Forbes said private investors had bought stakes in Theranos that implied a $9 billion valuation but said $800 million is a more realistic figure. (Tennery, 6/1)
Theranos CEO Holmes’ Net Worth Is Now Zero, Says Forbes
Forbes announced today it has revised its estimate of the net worth of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, from last year’s $4.5 billion to: absolutely nothing. Analysts cut the estimate of the company’s net worth to $800 million, a fraction of its previous estimated value of $9 billion. (Brooks, 6/1)
From $4.5 Billion To $0: Forbes Revalues Elizabeth Holmes' Worth
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was once hailed by Forbes as America's richest self-made woman. That was just last year, when Forbes estimated that she was worth $4.5 billion. But oh how one year has changed things. (O'Brien, 6/1)
Will One Nonprofit Hospital's Move To Stop Suing Poor Patients For Unpaid Bills Start A Trend?
In other news, The Wall Street Journal reports National Institutes of Health doctors are protesting a shake-up at the agency's renowned hospital and the Los Angeles Times reports on scope-related deaths at a Pasadena hospital.
ProPublica and NPR:
Nonprofit Hospital Stops Suing So Many Poor Patients: Will Others Follow?
For years, Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in the small city of St. Joseph, Missouri, had quietly sued thousands of its low-income patients over their unpaid bills. But after an investigation by ProPublica and NPR prompted further scrutiny by Sen. Charles Grassley, the hospital overhauled its financial assistance policy late last year and forgave the debts of thousands of former patients. (Kiel and Arnold, 6/1)
The Wall Street Journal:
Senior NIH Doctors Protest Hospital Restructuring
A high-level revolt is erupting among National Institutes of Health doctors who are disputing an outside panel’s assessment that an unsafe culture existed at the agency’s renowned hospital, and are protesting a shake-up of senior leadership based on the findings. Central to the quarrel is NIH Director Francis Collins, an eminent gene scientist who announced plans in May to replace the top three officials at NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., with a new management structure. His decision came after an expert panel in April concluded that drug-sterility problems had occurred because doctors there allowed patient safety to be “subservient to research.” (Burton, 6/1)
Los Angeles Times:
11 Deaths At Huntington Hospital Among Patients Infected By Dirty Scopes, City Report Says
Pasadena health officials said Wednesday that 16 patients were infected by dangerous bacteria from medical scopes at Huntington Hospital from January 2013 to August 2015, including 11 who have now died. Many of those patients were already severely ill, including some with cancer. Health officials said that only one of the 11 death certificates listed the bacteria as the cause. It was not clear if infection was a factor in any of the other deaths. (Petersen, 6/1)
Bon Secours Launches Richmond Insurance Network; Georgia Network In Dispute With UnitedHealthcare
News outlets also report on the progress health insurance mega-mergers are having with state and federal regulators, what human resources executives think about the future of employer-sponsored insurance and a move by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to expand the reach of its Omnia plans.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Bon Secours Launches Health Insurance Network
Bon Secours Richmond Health System has entered the health insurance game. The system recently launched its Bon Secours Value Network, a self-insured program for small- and medium-sized businesses in central Virginia. (Demeria, 6/1)
Georgia Health News:
Patient Alert: Deadlock Looms Between Piedmont, United
Piedmont Healthcare is sending letters to about 150,000 Georgians, warning them that its network agreement with UnitedHealthcare will end unless a new contract is approved soon. The letter, obtained by GHN, indicates the current three-year contract between the two organizations expires June 30. And Piedmont officials said Wednesday that they have little hope for a new agreement before the old deal lapses. (Miller, 6/1)
Health Insurance Mega-Deals Aren't Winning Over A Key Party: Large Employers
Federal and state insurance regulators are determining the fate of the pending health insurance mergers, and many large employers won't be disappointed if officials torpedo the deals.Several surveys of Fortune 500 companies and other big employers reveal nervousness that the reduced competition among health insurers will mean higher healthcare costs for them. (Herman, 6/1)
HR Executives See Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Sustaining
Employer-sponsored health insurance is likely to remain in place for an extended period of time, about two dozen chief human resources officers told researchers with the American Health Policy Institute, according to a new report. The executives say health insurance helps recruit employees, and then keeps them healthy and on the job. More than half of the insured people in the U.S. are covered through their employer. (McIntire, 6/1)
Horizon Expands Reach Of Omnia Plans
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey will offer several of its Omnia health plans though an organization that provides self-funded health and dental benefits to 15 independent trade association employers, covering about 18,000 employees and their dependents. The deal with Association Master Trust started Wednesday, Horizon, New Jersey's biggest health insurer, said. Horizon's Omnia plans sparked protests last year because they lower premiums and lower out-of-pocket costs if consumers use a limited set of Tier 1 hospitals and health systems. (Brubaker, 6/1)
Why 2016 Has Anti-Abortion Advocates Celebrating For Fifth Year In A Row
This year, 14 states have passed about 30 laws adding limitations to women trying to obtain abortions. But this success isn't new. In total, the past five years account for a quarter of all abortion restrictions enacted since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973.
The Washington Post:
14 States Have Passed Laws This Year Making It Harder To Get An Abortion
As state legislatures across the country wrap up their 2016 sessions, one of the most active areas of legislating hasn't been red-hot LGBT issues or immigration. It's been the decades-old issue of abortion. And on that issue, social conservatives are on a roll. This year, antiabortion advocates passed some 30 laws in 14 states to make it harder for people to get abortion. ... Antiabortion advocates aren't just celebrating one good year: 2016 marks the fifth straight year they've passed a large number of abortion restrictions. In 2011 alone, Republican legislatures passed some 92 laws limiting abortions. In total, the past five years account for a quarter of all abortion restrictions enacted since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973. (Phillips, 6/1)
In other news, Ohio settles with Planned Parenthood —
Ohio To Reimburse Planned Parenthood Nearly $50,000 After Long-Running Lawsuit
Ohio will pay Planned Parenthood nearly $50,000 as part of a high-profile settlement after its top legal official accused the group of illegally dumping fetal remains in landfills. Planned Parenthood filed the lawsuit last December over the explosive charges from Attorney General Mike DeWine, who said fetal remains from Ohio clinics were being “steam-cooked and taken to a Kentucky landfill.” (Ferris, 6/1)
Medicaid Can Pay For Mosquito Repellent, Condoms In Effort To Curb Zika
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent the guidance to states to clarify how money could be used to fight the virus. In other news, underlying issues with Texas women's access to health care could complicate its efforts against Zika, and Florida's governor wrote a letter to President Barack Obama warning of a "disaster" if funding isn't approved.
Feds Say Medicaid Can Pay For Mosquito Repellent To Prevent Zika
Medicaid can be used to cover mosquito repellent to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, federal regulators told state and private Medicaid officials in a letter sent Wednesday. Coverage of repellent — when prescribed by a health professional — with the federal matching dollars given other Medicaid-covered treatments is the primary change in the new Department of Health and Human Services guidance. The letter is intended to clarify how low-income people covered by Medicaid can protect themselves so they don't contract the virus or get tested and treated in case they do. HHS alerted about 50,000 people involved in Medicaid plans. (O'Donnell, 6/1)
States Told They Can Use Medicaid To Fight Zika
States can use Medicaid dollars to pay for Zika virus-fighting tools such as mosquito repellent and condoms, according to a new memo from the Obama administration. The five-page letter, distributed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Wednesday, offers long-awaited guidance for states looking to bolster their response to the Zika virus without extra funding from Congress. (Ferris, 6/1)
CMS Says States Can Fight Zika With Medicaid Funds
Services covered by Medicaid include the cost of mosquito repellent prescribed by a healthcare professional, as well as any and all diagnostic services recommended by a physician to detect for signs of Zika or microcephaly. States also have the option to cover the cost of family-planning counseling for men and women and provide various forms of contraception, including intrauterine devices and implants, to reduce the occurrence of sexually-transmitted infected cases. (Johnson, 6/1)
KUT (Austin, Texas):
Why Texas’ Reproductive Health Policies Could Complicate The State's Response To Zika
Even though leaders are on high alert, experts warn there are some underlying health care access issues in Texas that could make dealing with Zika difficult. ... the biggest worry right now is what this means for women who are pregnant or could get pregnant in the coming months. ... [Dr. Ted Held] explains when it comes to access to health care in Texas, there’s a big difference for women who are currently pregnant and women who aren’t, but could get pregnant in the near future. (Lopez, 5/31)
The Associated Press:
Florida: Disaster Coming Without Help On Zika Fight
Florida will experience a “disaster” with the Zika virus if federal authorities don’t immediately provide money to help battle the virus, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday. Scott, who had already visited Washington, D.C., in an effort to get Congress to act, sent a strongly worded letter to President Barack Obama asking the federal government to do something. The Republican governor called it “profoundly disappointing” that Congress has not taken “immediate action.” (Fineout and Kay, 6/1)
As New Zika Cases Reported In Florida, Gov. Scott Presses Feds For Help
With two new Zika infections confirmed on Wednesday, including one in Miami-Dade and one pregnant woman in an unidentified county, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a letter to President Obama calling for immediate federal action to help state and local officials combat spread of the virus. Florida has confirmed 162 Zika infections this year, including 38 cases involving pregnant women regardless of whether they showed symptoms. Miami-Dade has reported the most cases, with 49 people affected this year. Broward has reported 17 cases. (Chang, 6/1)
Teen Pregnancy Rate Drops To Historic Low
Experts cite a range of factors, including less sex, positive peer influence and more consistent use of birth control. In other public health news, NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health poll, 1 in 4 Americans reports having had a concussion.
The Associated Press:
Teen Births Fall Again, Another Drop In Decades Of Decline
Teen pregnancies fell again last year, to another historic low, a government report shows. "The continued decline is really quite amazing," said Brady Hamilton, the lead author of the new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, the birth rate for U.S. teens dropped 8 percent. Rates have been falling since 1991, and this marks yet another new low. (6/2)
Poll: Nearly 1 In 4 Americans Reports Having Had A Concussion
Concussions have become part of the daily news. But how much have these brain injuries become part of daily life? To find out, we asked people across the country about concussions in the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll. The poll, conducted during the first half of March, found that nearly a quarter of people — 23 percent of those surveyed — said they had suffered a concussion at some point in their lives. Among those who said they'd had a concussion, more than three-quarters had sought medical treatment. (Hensley, 5/31)
Med Student Finds Strength In Not Hiding Her Mental Illness
Medical schools often struggle with finding the balance when it comes to mental health. One woman, when applying, was advised not to show "any kind of weakness," but instead she chose to be upfront about her struggles.
A Med Student Decides To Be Upfront About Her Mental Issues
At first Giselle wasn't sure what to put on her medical school application. She wanted to be a doctor, but she also wanted people to know about her own health: years of depression, anxiety and a suicide attempt. (We're using only her first name in this story, out of concern for her future career.) "A lot of people were like, you don't say that at all," she said. "Do not mention that you have any kind of weakness." Giselle remembers having her first intense suicidal thoughts when she was 10 years old. (Aronczyk, 6/1)
Elsewhere, in rural California, insurance denials and scarcity of doctors complicate access to proper mental health care —
Depressed Teen’s Struggle To Find Mental Health Care In Rural California
There’s a hot pink suitcase on the floor of Shariah Vroman-Nagy’s bedroom. The 18-year-old is packing for a trip to Disneyland, one of several she takes with her family every year. (Dembosky, 6/1)
Smartphone App Empowers 'Citizen Responders' To Report Cardiac Emergencies In Seattle
Local medical and fire department officials want 15,000 to download the PulsePoint CPR app that allows bystanders to report a cardiac arrest happening nearby. In other information technology news, Politico interviews Karen DeSalvo, the White House’s point person on digitizing health care.
This App Turns Seattle Bystanders Into First Responders
The Medic One Foundation, in conjunction with the Seattle Fire Department, is introducing PulsePoint, a free phone app that turns ordinary bystanders into first responders who can beat even fire engines to emergency scenes. The idea is to notify volunteers through phone messages when someone collapses nearby, alerting people willing to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the precious first minutes after cardiac arrest occurs. (Aleccia, 6/1)
Karen DeSalvo On How Data Will Transform Health Care
Growing up, Karen DeSalvo never planned to have one of the nation’s most important health care jobs. Now she has two of them. As National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, she’s the White House’s point person on digitizing health care — and as acting Assistant Secretary for Health, she also helps guide the nation's public health strategy. (Diamond, 6/1)
Florida Changes Medicaid Policy To Provide Costly Hepatitis Drugs To Patients Earlier
The change comes after three groups filed suit alleging that the old policy violated patient rights. Also in the news, North Carolina sends its proposal for revamping its Medicaid program to federal officials for review and a shortfall in Kansas tax receipts raises fears of more cuts to Medicaid.
The Associated Press:
Florida Changes Hep C Drug Policy For Medicaid After Lawsuit
Florida health officials are changing the state's policy for administering costly hepatitis C drugs to Medicaid patients and will now require insurance companies to provide the drug at an earlier stage in the disease. ... Previously, hepatitis C patients were only given the medication when they were at a so-called fibrosis level three or four. Patients often have such severe liver damage in stage four that they require a transplant, said Vicki Tucci Krusel, an attorney with Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County. ... The drugs can cost between $24,000 and $31,000 a month. It's unclear how many Medicaid patients in Florida have hepatitis C or have been denied the drug. (Kennedy, 6/1)
Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal:
Medicaid Reform Request Heads To D.C. Without Expansion On Board
The state Medicaid reform waiver request is headed to Washington with Gov. Pat McCrory’s approval and — as expected — without an expansion proposal piggybacking along. The request starts a three- to five-year process with an end goal of Medicaid oversight being placed in the hands of three statewide managed care organizations, likely pre-paid health plans from commercial insurers, and up to 12 provider-led entities, likely to involve not-for-profit health care systems. (Craver, 6/2)
WRAL (Raleigh, N.C.):
NC Sends Medicaid Reform Plan To Feds
Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday signed an application seeking a waiver from the government to allow changes to how the $14 billion health insurance program for the poor and disabled is run in North Carolina. "Our proposal provides a North Carolina Medicaid plan that focuses on patient-centered care and improves health outcomes at more predictable costs," McCrory said. (Brown, 6/1)
Kansas Health Institute:
Revenue Shortfall Spurs Fear Of More Medicaid Cuts
Kansas tax collections for May fell short of projections by about $74 million, and legislators said Wednesday they fear that will mean more cuts to Medicaid. The May shortfall comes despite the state’s revenue estimating group revising projections downward for the third consecutive time about six weeks ago. It wipes out the meager savings Gov. Sam Brownback created when he made cuts two weeks ago after the Legislature sent him a budget that didn’t balance. (Smith, 6/1)
State Highlights: Tenn. Health Care Task Force Faces Challenge; Orlando Is Home To Health Care Startups
Outlets report on health news from Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oregon.
Group Raises Issues With Health Care Task Force
A health care organization is taking issue with the work of a legislative task force, arguing there has been little indication lawmakers are working to address the state's "health coverage crisis" and that the group has failed to fulfill their directive. The comments were part of a letter written by Walter Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, which was similarly endorsed by a host of organizations and individuals. (Ebert, 6/1)
Orlando Ranks High For Health Startup Growth
Orlando is getting national recognition as a good place for fast-growing health-care startup companies. The metro area ranked No. 4 in the nation among the 40 largest metros for its density of high-growth companies in the health industry, according to a new survey by the Kauffman Foundation, a leading nonprofit foundation that ranks startup activity. The region came in just behind Nashville, Tenn.; Austin, Texas; and Atlanta. (Brinkmann, 6/1)
Tennessee Lags In Addressing Public Health Concerns
At the end of February the CDC updated its Prevention Status Reports, which highlight the 10 most important public health concerns in the nation. The Prevention Status Reports website also allows you to view state-specific status reports and the state of current state public health policies on those issues. (Javier, 6/2)
Kansas City Star:
Shut-Down KC Mental Illness Alliance Remembered As Fighter For Families
They’re going to tell their stories of mental illness, the old fear and pain and unfair feelings of shame be damned. One reason is that they can’t offer a proper requiem for NAMI-KC — the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Kansas City — without telling. Funding problems and staff health issues have compelled NAMI-KC’s small staff and board to shut down the 36-year-old chapter that launched a nationwide service for families. (Robertson, 5/30)
Minnesota Public Radio:
Minnesota Heart Researchers Urge Patients To 'Ask About Aspirin'
Heart attack and stroke prevention have long focused on avoiding smoking, fatty foods and inactivity. But a new public health campaign launching today in Minnesota showcases a strategy many should embrace: taking a daily dose of aspirin. (Benson, 6/1)
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Froedtert, Medical College To Launch High-Speed Cancer Trial Matches
Froedtert Hospital & the Medical College of Wisconsin will announce an agreement with IBM Thursday that will make the medical center only the second in the country to use a new high-speed computer program called Watson that matches cancer patients with the most appropriate clinical trials in a matter of minutes. (Johnson, 6/1)
Lead In Drinking Water: Portland Chief Says No Record Of Fixes At Five Schools
Portland Superintendent Carole Smith disclosed Wednesday that as many as five additional Portland schools that showed elevated levels of lead in drinking water may also have drinking fountains or food preparation sinks that were not fixed. A single drinking fountain or sink in each of the schools — Jackson Middle School, Applegate Head Start, Vernon School, Peninsula Elementary and Whitman Elementary — was found to be giving off tainted water, Smith said. (Hammond, 6/1)
CDC Links General Mills Flour Plant In Kansas City To E. Coli
An E. coli outbreak that sickened at least 38 people in 20 states was probably caused by flour produced at a General Mills Inc. plant in Kansas City, Missouri, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ten of the people who fell ill were hospitalized in the outbreak, which began in December, the CDC said on Wednesday. (Giammona, 6/1)
Tampa Bay Times:
DCF To Hire New Executive To Oversee Mental Hospitals
Florida will hire a top-level administrator to find ways to curb violence and improve medical care at state mental hospitals. The new position will oversee Florida's three remaining state-run mental facilities, including the flagship Florida State Hospital with nearly 1,000 patients. Department of Children and Families officials on Tuesday said the change will put one person in charge of monitoring and improving patient care, and will allow DCF to standardize policies at the hospitals it oversees. (Cormier and Anton, 6/1)
Viewpoints: Fundamental Issues In Play As GOP Crafts Obamacare Alternatives; Expanding Medicare To Solve Problems?
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
The Wall Street Journal:
What If GOP Alternatives To Obamacare Cover Fewer People–And That’s Not A Flaw?
Republican lawmakers crafting alternatives to Obamacare face a fundamental decision: whether to focus on expanding coverage or containing costs. Their choice may be driven, at least in part, by budget scorekeepers. The Congressional Budget Office released a report in December 2008 on key issues in analyzing major health-care proposals. Included was a chart projecting individuals’ willingness to enroll in health insurance at various levels of subsidy (in technical terms, an elasticity curve). That curve suggested that insurance enrollment would remain below 40% until subsidies reached 70% of cost and that even if costs were 100% subsidized, about a fifth of individuals would decline to enroll. (And that level of subsidy is probably much greater than many Republicans would be willing to offer.) (Chris Jacobs, 6/1)
New Health Reform Bill Shows Why Republicans Struggle With Replacing Obamacare
Sweeping new legislation unveiled by two congressional Republicans to partly repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act highlights the formidable political and policy challenges the GOP faces in taking on a law that has significantly expanded coverage and made popular changes in insurance practices. ... With most Republicans demanding total repeal of the ACA, what's unusual is that the bill would allow people in ACA exchange plans to keep their plans and premium subsidies or switch to a new system under which everyone is eligible to receive a $2,500 per person refundable tax credit for buying coverage. (Harris Meyer, 5/31)
The New York Times:
Expanding Medicare Would Solve Some Problems, Create New Ones
In 1998, President Bill Clinton suggested a partial solution to help millions of Americans without health insurance: The country should let those 55 and older without employer coverage buy into the government Medicare system. A few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton brought the idea back. It’s a proposal she’s talked about before: It was part of her 2000 Senate campaign platform and an option she mentioned for health insurance expansion when she ran for president in 2008. But a lot has changed with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, leading several health policy experts to wonder whether a Medicare buy-in would be a welcome new option, or a confounding misfit. (Margot Sanger-Katz, 6/2)
Obamacare, Executive Power And The Rule Of Law
A few weeks back, I noted that a judge had ruled against the Obama administration in a dispute over health-insurance subsidies. Some background: Obamacare makes insurers reduce out of pocket costs, like deductibles, to low-income people who purchase qualifying plans; the government is supposed to reimburse the companies directly. However, Congress didn’t appropriate any money to pay for these subsidies. When the administration went ahead and paid the insurers anyway -- distributing about $7 billion without congressional approval -- House lawmakers sued. (Megan McArdle, 6/1)
The Wall Street Journal:
Why Clinton Should Fear ObamaCare
Will ObamaCare be a top issue in this fall’s presidential and congressional campaigns? Republicans better make it one if they want to prevail. The continuing unpopularity of President Obama’s signature domestic achievement gives Republicans an enormous opportunity. Only 39.2% of Americans favor ObamaCare in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls; nearly half, 48.8%, oppose it. There’s also a sharp partisan divide that benefits the GOP: While 78% of Democrats approve of ObamaCare, according to an April survey from the Pew Research Center, 58% of independents and 89% of Republicans disapprove of it. (Karl Rove, 6/1)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Sen. Roy Blunt Can't Have It Both Ways On Veterans Issues
It’s nothing new to hear politicians talk out of both sides of their mouths, but it is unusual to be caught as blatantly as Missouri’s junior senator was recently. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., joined the drumbeat of those calling for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald after he compared waiting lines at VA hospitals with those at Disney theme parks. No question it was a callous and tone-deaf comment, for which McDonald later apologized. But Blunt’s hypocrisy in calling for McDonald’s resignation is galling when you consider his record on caring for veterans. (6/1)
Los Angeles Times:
Forbes Cuts Estimated Wealth Of 'Billionaire' Theranos Founder To $0
Forbes, the publisher of seemingly countless lists of the world’s billionaires, is patting itself on the back for seeing through the hype about the blood-testing company Theranos and its glamorous 32-year-old founder, Elizabeth Holmes. In connection with the release Wednesday of its second annual list of America’s richest self-made women, it cut the estimate of Holmes’ net worth from $4.5 billion—the tally that placed her at the very summit of the list last year – to zero. In doing so, however, Forbes unwittingly exposed the essential fatuousness of such lists.The question Forbes should answer is how Holmes got listed in the first place. (Michael Hiltzik, 6/1)
The New York Times:
Hustling Dollars For Public Health
On Tuesday, a woman infected with the Zika virus gave birth to a girl with microcephaly, a malformed head, in New Jersey. Federal officials say there are more than 300 pregnant women possibly infected with Zika around the country. Yet every time an emergency like this happens, public health officials must go begging bowl in hand to Congress for the funds to deal with it. And as the current squabble between Republicans and President Obama over money for the Zika virus shows, there’s no guarantee of significant or even timely relief. The obvious answer is to establish a permanent pool of money that federal health authorities can tap into quickly, much like the disaster relief fund that enables the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond quickly to hurricanes and other natural disasters. (6/2)
The Charlotte Observer:
A Lesson From Prince? Addiction Is A Disease, Not A Personal Failure
I have followed news of Prince’s death this spring with a mix of anger and insight. While the cause is still under investigation, officials suspect prescription drugs played a role; authorities found opioid medication on him when he died and in his Minnesota home. From my experience as a doctor specializing in treating those addicted to such pain medications, I believe it likely he was taking more and more of these medications because of withdrawal symptoms until he overdosed and died. I hope his death inspires people to look at how we treat those with addictions, as much as his music inspired them in life. (Lee Tannenbaum, 6/1)
A Feeding Cup Designed By A Seattle Team Is A Lifesaver
CAN a Nobel Prize be awarded for a reusable cup to feed breast milk to newborn and premature babies who are having trouble with breast-feeding? Why not? Such venerated recognition would be wholly appropriate. The transformative invention is the result of a collaboration of Seattle talent and a nonprofit Norwegian-based firm that specializes in global-health technologies. (6/1)
Sodium Reduction—Saving Lives by Putting Choice Into Consumers’ Hands
Although sodium reduction has been proposed as a public health strategy in the United States for more than 4 decades, there has been no progress reducing consumption. One reason for this lack of progress is the continued ubiquity of dietary sodium in the US food supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released draft proposed voluntary guidelines to encourage companies to steadily reduce sodium in processed and restaurant foods, a change that would increase consumers’ control over their sodium intake. The proposed guidelines set targets for the gradual reduction in sodium across a range of food categories for both manufactured and restaurant products and would lead to a sustained reduction in the amount of sodium added to the food supply before foods reach consumers’ hands. (Thomas R. Frieden, 6/1)