- Kaiser Health News Original Stories 1
- One Implant, Two Prices. It Depends On Who’s Paying.
- Political Cartoon: 'On Your Tail?'
- Supreme Court 1
- Planned Parenthood's State Medicaid Funding Protected After Supreme Court Decides Not To Hear Case
- Veterans' Health Care 1
- Republicans And Democrats Find Common Ground In Efforts To Ramp Up Scrutiny Of Veterans Affairs Department
- Capitol Watch 1
- Health Industry Groups: Congress Must Act To Protect Patients From Surprise Medical Billing
- Health Law 1
- Obama Strikes Serious Tone As He Implores People To Sign Up For Health Law Coverage Before Deadline
- Government Policy 1
- Proposed 'Public Charge' Policy Would Have 'Deleterious Impact' On Dallas' Economy And Public Health, Mayor Says
- Administration News 1
- NIH Interested In Investing Up To $20M To Develop Alternatives To Using Fetal Tissue In Research
- Opioid Crisis 1
- Sen. Markey Wants To Know Why Nurses, Other Good Samaritans Are Denied Life Insurance For Carrying Naloxone
- Women’s Health 2
- Women Who Have Children More At Risk For Breast Cancer For 23 Years, But Then It Flips And Becomes Protective
- Abortion Services Halted At Only Nashville Clinic That Offers Procedure
- Public Health 3
- Sandy Hook Shooter's Documents Offer No Revelations, But Experts Say They Could Offer Insights About Disturbed Minds
- Number Of Cases Of Mysterious Polio-Like Illness In Children Climbs To Record High, Well Above Previous Years
- Want To Avoid That Holiday Weight Gain? Keep Stepping On The Scale, Limit The Alcohol, And Don't Skip Exercising
- State Watch 1
- State Highlights: Mass. Residents Struggle To Get Mental Health Care Even With Insurance; Calif. Mental Health Workers' Weeklong Strike Kicks Off
From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:
Breast implants — used for both cancer and cosmetic surgeries — give a glimpse into how hospitals mark up prices of medical devices to increase their bottom lines. (Victoria Knight, )
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'On Your Tail?'" by Dave Coverly, Speed Bump.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN...
Worried about those
Holiday pounds? Keeping an
Eye on the scale helps.
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Summaries Of The News:
The decision drew rebukes from the court's more conservative judges, with Justice Clarence Thomas saying his colleagues' refusal to hear the case over Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood was politically motivated. “What explains the court’s refusal to do its job here? I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named ‘Planned Parenthood,’” Thomas wrote.
The Associated Press:
Justices Won't Hear States' Appeal Over Planned Parenthood
The Supreme Court on Monday avoided a high-profile case by rejecting appeals from Kansas and Louisiana in their effort to strip Medicaid money from Planned Parenthood, over the dissenting votes of three justices. The court's order reflected a split among its conservative justices and an accusation from Justice Clarence Thomas that his colleagues seemed to be ducking the case for political reasons. New Justice Brett Kavanaugh was among the justices who opted not to hear the case. (12/10)
The New York Times:
Supreme Court Won’t Hear Planned Parenthood Cases, And 3 Court Conservatives Aren’t Happy
It takes four votes to add a case to the court’s docket, but the cases attracted only three — Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch. Neither of the court’s other conservatives — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh — proved willing to supply a fourth vote. That split on the right side of the court is evidence that Chief Justice Roberts is trying to keep the court out of major controversies and that Justice Kavanaugh, who joined the court in October after a fierce confirmation battle, is, for now at least, following his lead. In his dissent, Justice Thomas questioned his colleagues’ motives. They had voted to duck the cases, he wrote, for a bad reason. (Liptak, 12/10)
The Washington Post:
Supreme Court Declines To Review Rulings That Blocked Efforts To End Planned Parenthood Funding
“Some tenuous connection to a politically fraught issue does not justify abdicating our judicial duty,” Thomas wrote. “If anything, neutrally applying the law is all the more important when political issues are in the background.” (Barnes, 12/10)
Los Angeles Times:
Kavanaugh And Roberts Join Liberals To Reject Planned Parenthood Case
The lower courts are divided on the Medicaid funding dispute, making the high court’s refusal to clarify the issue all the more surprising to some. “We created the confusion. We should clear it up,” Thomas wrote in Gee vs. Planned Parenthood. “So what explains the court’s refusal to do its job here? I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named ‘Planned Parenthood.’ ” (Savage, 12/10)
The Wall Street Journal:
Three Conservative Justices Chide Supreme Court For Not Taking Case Touching On Abortion
Monday’s action leaves in place the lower-court decisions that give Medicaid patients the right to sue over provider issues in much of the country, under rulings from federal appeals courts in Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, New Orleans and San Francisco. An opposite conclusion reached by the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, denies such rights, and it stands in the seven states that court oversees. Typically, the Supreme Court steps in to clarify questions of federal law that divide lower courts. Because the lead case Monday arrived at a preliminary stage and the issue shows no sign of dying down, the question is likely to return to the Supreme Court. (Bravin, 12/10)
Kavanaugh, Roberts Side With Liberal Judges On Planned Parenthood Case
Tim Jost, an emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, said it's "noteworthy" that Kavanaugh passed on the cases. "If Kavanaugh was going to deal a major blow to health care rights during his first session on the court, this would have been the case to do it," Jost said. The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List said it was "disappointed" the Supreme Court declined the case, as it called on the Trump administration to quickly finalize rules blocking federal funds to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers through the Title X family planning program. (Ollstein, 12/10)
Supreme Court Lets Stand Rulings Favoring Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood said the rebuff preserves Medicaid patients’ access to birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. “We are pleased that lower court rulings protecting patients remain in place," Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "Every person has a fundamental right to health care, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much they earn." (Stohr, 12/10)
Reluctant U.S. Supreme Court On Collision Course With Trump
The U.S. Supreme Court's reluctance to take up new cases on volatile social issues is putting it on a collision course with President Donald Trump, whose Justice Department is trying to rush such disputes through the appeals system to get them before the nine justices as quickly as possible. (Hurley, 12/11)
Next year, lawmakers are expected to take on various pieces of legislation and an array of investigations on such issues as preventing veteran suicide, the quality of VA nursing homes and the implementation of the Choice program, a comprehensive measure concerning veterans health care passed this year.
The New York Times:
Republicans And Democrats Unite On At Least One Issue: Oversight Of The V.A.
Even before the next Congress convenes, Republicans are joining Democrats in a vigorous examination of failings by the Department of Veterans Affairs, a rare area of bipartisan oversight in a blistering political environment. The unity was emphasized in recent weeks when lawmakers in the House and Senate from both parties sharply criticized the response of department officials after it was revealed that the agency failed to make housing and tuition payments under the G.I. Bill after its computer systems were unable to keep up with recent changes to that law. (Steinhauer, 12/10)
Tampa Bay Times:
Mold Outbreak At VA Pines Center Called 'Chronic, Recurrent Problem'
An outbreak of mold at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center shows the Veterans Administration isn’t doing enough to deal a “chronic, recurrent problem,” says an allergist who has treated people who complained about health problems from the mold. ...What’s more, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist said “the situation falls far short” of the world-class care military veterans deserve. (Altman, 12/10)
"When doctors, hospitals or care specialists choose not to participate in networks, or if they do not meet the standards for inclusion in a network, they charge whatever rates they like," wrote the groups, which include powerful lobbyists like the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, the National Business Group on Health, and the Consumers Union. "The consequence is millions of consumers receiving surprise, unexpected medical bills that can often break the bank."
Health Insurer, Employer Groups Call On Congress To End Surprise Billing
Nine groups representing health insurers, employers and consumers on Monday called for federal legislation to protect patients from surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers. Surprise medical bills may arise when a patient unintentionally visits a doctor or healthcare facility that does not contract with the patient's health insurer. This sometimes occurs when patients are taken to an out-of-network emergency department during a crisis. Surprise billing is common, with 4 in 10 insured adults reporting they received a surprise medical bill in the last year, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found in September. (Livingston, 12/10)
In other news from Capitol Hill —
Brady Drops Extenders, Adds Health Care Tax Rollbacks
Meanwhile, [House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin] Brady would further delay the onset of several of the 2010 health care law's taxes that Congress has already repeatedly pushed back, namely the excise tax on medical device manufacturers, a fee applied to health insurers and the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health plans. Brady's revised bill would extend the medical device tax suspension for five years, through 2024; suspend the health insurer fee for two years through 2021; and delay the Cadillac tax from taking effect for one additional year, through 2022. In addition, the measure would repeal the law's tax on indoor tanning-bed services, at a relatively small cost of about $400 million over a decade. (Sword, 12/10)
"No jump shots. No ferns. No memes. Not this time. I’m going to give it to you straight: If you need health insurance for 2019, the deadline to get covered is December 15," tweeted former President Barack Obama, who in the past has taken more light-hearted approaches. "Pass this on — you just might save a life." Enrollment news comes out of Maryland and Georgia, as well.
Obama: 'No Ferns. No Memes' In Final Plea Urging People To Sign Up For ObamaCare
Former President Obama on Monday took to Twitter to urge his followers to sign up for health insurance before the Saturday deadline. Obama mentioned how in the past he had made more light-hearted efforts in trying to boost enrollment into ObamaCare, but said this year he decided to play it straight. “This year is different,” Obama says in a video to his Twitter followers. “Young people have stepped up like never before, on campuses, at the voting booth and at the doors of power.” (Daugherty, 12/10)
The Baltimore Sun:
State Health Exchange Enrollment Up, Federal Enrollment Down In Last Week
As the state health exchange enters the final week of this year’s open enrollment, Marylanders appear more interested in buying health insurance than many other Americans. The number of people buying private policies through the state’s online marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act is up a bit, while enrollment on the federal exchange that serves 39 states is down 11 percent. (Cohn, 12/10)
Open Enrollment In Final Week For Obamacare Coverage
This is the final week to sign up for 2019 health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act before open enrollment closes Saturday. And patient advocates are growing concerned. Compared with this time last year, enrollment is lagging, with 182,000 Georgians selecting a plan under the ACA, also known as Obamacare. (Hart, 12/10)
And Oklahoma is seeking to add work requirements to its Medicaid program —
Oklahoma Seeks Trump Approval On Medicaid Work Requirements
The Trump administration is set to consider Oklahoma’s plan for work requirements in its Medicaid program, as the state formally submitted its request late last week. If the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approves the request, certain “able-bodied” Medicaid beneficiaries will be required to work, volunteer, or go to school for 80 hours a month beginning Feb. 1. If they fail to meet the requirements for three months, they will have their coverage removed until the requirements are met. (Weixel, 12/10)
The city is the latest to take a stand against the Trump administration's proposed policy that would penalize legal immigrants who are seeking green cards for accepting government aid such as Medicaid. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers at the national level are coming out against the proposal.
Dallas Morning News:
Dallas Mayor Says Trump Administration's Proposed 'Public Charge' Rules Would Harm City's Immigrants, Economy
The city of Dallas is taking a stand against proposed changes by the Trump administration that could make it more difficult for some immigrants to obtain some visas or green cards. The proposed changes would redefine how the government determines whether an immigrant is deemed likely to need public assistance, such as food stamps and Medicaid. In public comments submitted to the federal government on behalf of the city, Mayor Mike Rawlings argued that an overhaul of the so-called “public charge” test could have a “deleterious impact” on Dallas’ immigrant community, economy and public health. (Solis and Manuel, 12/10)
Democrats Join Advocates In Opposing 'Public Charge' Rule
Democratic lawmakers are joining local health officials, community organizers and immigrant rights groups around the country in opposition to a Trump administration regulatory proposal that would make it harder for foreign nationals to obtain green cards if they have received government assistance. Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Nanette Barragán, both California Democrats, said in a public comment submitted to the Homeland Security Department that the proposed regulation would represent “another misguided step in advancing this administration’s cruel, anti-immigrant agenda.” (DeChiaro, 12/10)
The notice comes in the wake of news reports that in September the Trump administration ordered NIH scientists, including one team researching a treatment for HIV, to stop buying new human fetal tissue.
NIH To Fund Research Into Fetal Tissue Alternatives
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is looking for alternatives to fetal tissue in research projects after facing pressure from anti-abortion groups. NIH announced Monday a new program that would spend up to $20 million over two years to find and develop alternatives to using fetal tissue in research projects. (Hellmann, 12/10)
NIH Pledges $20M To Find Alternatives To Fetal Tissue For Research
The announcement is largely preliminary. The formal funding opportunity announcements will be published at some date in the future, the agency said, and scientists cannot yet submit proposals to be funded. The total amount of money available has not been determined, according to the announcement, but the agency is “interested” in investing $20 million over the course of two years. (Swetlitz, 12/10)
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wants to know how insurers determine if an applicant is prescribed naloxone because they are at risk for an overdose, or to save others; how often have applicants been denied life insurance for carrying naloxone; and whether there are guidelines to prevent wrongful denials. Other news on the national drug epidemic comes from Oregon and Texas.
Markey Demands Details About Life Insurance Denials For Carrying Naloxone
Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Ed Markey is asking two national organizations that deal with life insurance for details about companies that deny coverage to applicants who carry naloxone, often sold as Narcan, the drug that reverses an opioid overdose. Markey's letter comes in response to a WBUR story last week about a nurse at Boston Medical Center who was denied coverage from two different insurers because she carries naloxone. She's reapplied for coverage with the second insurer. (Bebinger, 12/10)
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Eyes ‘Jail Alternative’ For Mentally Ill, Drug Addicted
Portland officials are in the early stages of exploring whether the city may create a “jail alternative” for people arrested for non-violent misdeeds related to mental health or addiction, newly released public records show. ...But there are many restrictions on that kind of facility, [deputy city attorney Andrea] Barraclough said. It would need state regulators’ go-ahead and likely would need to follow the same laws as correctional facilities. A person could be held against their will there for only two to five days, she wrote. (Friedman, 12/10)
More Drug Treatment Resources Needed, Texas House Report Finds
While opioids remain at the forefront of drug discussions nationwide, the 108-page report from the House Select Committee on Opioids and Substance Use also found that methamphetamine was the state’s biggest problem, saying it should be labeled a “Texas crisis.” More people died from methamphetamine use in Texas in 2016 than from opioids, according to data from a recent University of Texas report. (Huber, 12/10)
Experts say that women should not worry overall, though, and that the risk is small. Meanwhile, a study found that the current guidelines for genetic testing of breast cancer patients is out of date.
Increased Breast Cancer Risk Might Last Decades After Childbirth, Study Says
Compared with women who have never had children, women who have given birth may have an increased breast cancer risk that continues for up to 23 years after their most recent birth, according to a new study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday. "What we saw was this pattern where risk was highest about five years after birth, and then it gradually declined as time went on," said Hazel Nichols, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health, who was first author of the study. (Howard, 12/10)
Breast Cancer Testing Genetic Guidelines Out Of Date, Says Study
The current guidelines for genetic testing of breast cancer patients limit the number of women who can get tested. Because of these restrictions, these tests miss as many patients with hereditary cancers as they find, according to a study published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. "Unfortunately, insurance companies pay attention to these guidelines," said Dr. Peter Beitsch, co-author of the study and a cancer surgeon practicing in Texas. Insurance companies and other payers reimburse genetic testing -- or not -- based on the guidelines. (Scutti, 12/10)
In other women's health news —
Questions About Treatments For Pregnant Women Arise From Study Exclusions
Jenna Neikirk was nearing the end of her first pregnancy when her blood pressure shot up to dangerous levels. "I started feeling splotchy and hot, just kind of uncomfortable, so I took my blood pressure at work and it was 160 over 120," she says. Neikirk's a physical therapist in Atlanta and knew that level was alarmingly high. She left work and walked over to her obstetrician's office, which was in the same medical complex. (Kodjak, 12/10)
Another one of the city's abortion providers was closed in August, following several significant abortion restrictions in Tennessee in recent years. In other women's health news, Ohio lawmakers examine two abortion bans.
The Associated Press:
Nashville's Only Abortion Clinic Suspends Abortion Services
Women seeking abortions in Nashville will now have to travel hours outside the city after the only clinic offering abortions in the region has temporarily halted its services. Tereva Parham, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, confirmed Monday the Nashville-based clinic stopped offering abortions last week but is still open for all other health services. "At this time, abortion services have been halted and we're undergoing a period of quality improvement," Parham said. (12/10)
Lame Duck: Will Ohio Lawmakers Send 2 Abortion Bills To Gov. Kasich?
While all eyes were focused on a proposed six-week ban on abortions, a bill to outlaw a common second-trimester abortion method could move through the GOP-controlled Legislature. Senate Bill 145 would ban dilation and evacuation, an abortion method typically used between 12 weeks gestation and Ohio's limit of roughly 22 weeks. (Balmert, 12/10)
Under a court order, Connecticut State Police released hundreds of pages of documents that shed light on gunman Adam Lanza's anger and fascination with mass shootings. While some in the criminology field say it could spur copy cat killer or glorify mass shooters, others see it as helpful insights about his isolation and odd behaviors.
The Associated Press:
Researchers: Lanza Documents May Boost Study Of Mass Killers
The disclosure of Adam Lanza's writings and other documents offer little toward understanding why he carried out the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, but researchers say the detail on the gunman's mental decline could offer insights into the mind of a mass killer. Some relatives of the 20 children and six educators gunned down at the school on Dec. 14, 2012, said they welcomed the release of the long-withheld records, although they wish it had not come the week of the tragedy's sixth anniversary. (Collins, 12/10)
In other news —
The Associated Press:
The Myths And Truths About Chicago's Guns And Murder Rate
Chicago police are wrestling with gun violence, blamed largely on gangs. President Donald Trump has frequently singled out the city for criticism , calling the crime problem "a total disaster" and claiming Chicago has the strongest guns laws in the nation and still hasn't been able to curb violence. But there are common misunderstandings about Chicago's homicide rate and how the city regulates firearms. Here are some of the myths and truths. (Cohen, 12/10)
The Washington Post:
Errant ‘Active Shooter’ Alerts That Locked Down Walter Reed Appear The Result Of Multiple Miscommunications
The errant “active shooter” alerts that placed the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on lockdown last month appear to have resulted from multiple miscommunications at the military complex in Bethesda, Md., that houses the prestigious health facility, according to accounts from an installation spokesman. As the confusion unfolded, swarms of tactical officers searched for a gunman who didn’t exist while hospital staff members were told to move patients to secure rooms, lock doors and turn off lights. The lockdown lasted approximately 80 minutes. (Morse, 12/10)
What's more, CDC officials say many children have lasting paralysis, and close to half the kids diagnosed with it this year were admitted to hospital intensive care units. In other public health news: CRISPR and gene editing ethics; screen time for kids; telemedicine; suicide; and more.
The Associated Press:
Record Count Reported For Mysterious Paralyzing Illness
This year has seen a record number of cases of a mysterious paralyzing illness in children, U.S. health officials said Monday. It's still not clear what's causing the kids to lose the ability to move their face, neck, back, arms or legs. The symptoms tend to occur about a week after the children had a fever and respiratory illness. No one has died from the rare disease this year, but it was blamed for one death last year and it may have caused others in the past. (Stobbe, 12/10)
Cases Of Polio-Like Illness Hit Record High
The CDC confirmed 22 cases in 2015 and 149 in 2016. In 2017, the CDC confirmed 35 cases. AFM, a serious condition that affects the nervous system, is still rare, the CDC said. Most AFM patients had a mild respiratory illness or fever consistent with a viral infection before developing AFM. The CDC still does not know the cause of AFM, however. (Hellmann, 12/10)
Amid Ethics Outcry, Should Journals Publish 'CRISPR Babies' Paper?
Like researchers everywhere, He Jiankui — the scientist in China who claims to have used CRISPR to edit embryos to create babies protected from HIV — is eager to publish scientific papers. It is, after all, a publish-or-perish world — although in He’s case, his fate at home may rest more with what the Chinese government thinks of his behavior than what a peer reviewer says about his work. As STAT reported Monday, He shopped around a manuscript earlier this fall about using CRISPR to edit genes for a different purpose — to prevent an inherited condition that causes sky-high cholesterol levels — but it was rejected because of ethical and scientific shortcomings. And two weeks ago, in the face of withering criticism over his lack of transparency, He told the International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong that he had submitted a paper on the “CRISPR babies” work to a journal. (Marcus, 12/11)
The New York Times:
Is Screen Time Bad For Kids’ Brains?
A generation ago, parents worried about the effects of TV; before that, it was radio. Now, the concern is “screen time,” a catchall term for the amount of time that children, especially preteens and teenagers, spend interacting with TVs, computers, smartphones, digital pads, and video games. This age group draws particular attention because screen immersion rises sharply during adolescence, and because brain development accelerates then, too, as neural networks are pruned and consolidated in the transition to adulthood. (Carey, 12/10)
The Washington Post:
Telemedicine Surging In US But Still Uncommon
Although telemedicine visits have increased sharply in the United States in recent years, the vast majority of American adults still receive care from doctors in person rather than via remote technology, a new study suggests. The goal of telemedicine is to help improve access to specialty care, particularly in rural, underserved areas of the country, researchers note in JAMA. As of 2016, 32 states have passed “parity” laws requiring insurance coverage and reimbursement for telemedicine visits. (Rapaport, 12/11)
As U.S. Suicides Rates Rise, Hispanics Show Relative Immunity
Overtaken by feelings of anxiety and despair, and increasingly lonely after the last of her older sisters left for college, Sarai had been cutting her arms. She wore long sleeves, even on warm days, so her mother and friends wouldn’t see the marks. “I thought every time I did it, that it would let out some of the frustration and anger and sadness that I had,” said Sarai, a 15-year-old Latina in Southern California who requested that her full name not be used. (Huff, 12/10)
If You Have A Mental Illness, Should You Tell Your Employer? The Answer Isn't Cut And Dry
For Taylor Nieman, who has bipolar disorder, holding down consistent work has proven difficult, and she has struggled deciding whether or not to tell employers about her illness — a choice psychologist and lawyer Susan Goldberg says is difficult to make due to a variety of factors. (O'Dowd, 12/10)
Experts offer tips to keep off those one or two pounds that many Americans gain in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Los Angeles Times:
Here’s What It Takes To Avoid Gaining Weight This Holiday Season
Eggnog. Gingerbread houses. Peppermint bark. All those delightful cookies. There’s no doubt it’s the most wonderful time of the year — for putting on a few extra pounds. Studies have found that most of our annual weight gain occurs during the holiday season, when adults typically bulk up by about 1 to 2 pounds. It may not sound like much, but over the course of a decade it adds up to 10 to 20 pounds — enough to fuel the obesity epidemic, researchers say. (Kaplan, 12/10)
Maintaining Your Weight Through The Holidays
The average person gains 1 to 2 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, and those who are overweight often gain more, including children. Research shows that holiday weight gain is a major contributor to total yearly weight gain, so why not resolve to maintain your weight this holiday season? Here are 10 tips that may help. (Jampolis, 12/10)
In other news on food and nutrition —
The New York Times:
What We Know About Diet And Weight Loss
You’d think that scientists at an international conference on obesity would know by now which diet is best, and why. As it turns out, even the experts still have widely divergent opinions. At a recent meeting of the Obesity Society, organizers held a symposium during which two leading scientists presented the somewhat contradictory findings of two high-profile diet studies. A moderator tried to sort things out. (Kolata, 12/10)
The Associated Press:
Artificial Dyes Fading, But Food Will Still Get Color Boosts
Many companies including McDonald's and Kellogg are purging artificial colors from their foods, but don't expect your cheeseburgers or cereal to look much different. Colors send important signals about food, and companies aren't going to stop playing into those perceptions. What's accepted as normal can change, too, and vary by region. Up until the 1980s, Americans expected pistachios to be red because they were mostly imported from places where the nuts were dyed to cover imperfections. (Choi, 12/10)
Media outlets report on news from Massachusetts, California, Ohio, Texas, Iowa, Maryland, Illinois, Virginia, Connecticut and Louisiana.
Even With Insurance, Getting Mental Health Treatment Is A Struggle In Mass., Study Says
More than half of adults who sought mental health or addiction treatment in recent months had difficulty getting that care, according to a survey of 2,201 residents by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation in Boston. About 39 percent of those surveyed went without needed treatment. (Kowalczyk, 12/11)
The Associated Press:
Mental Health Workers Start Weeklong Strike In California
Thousands of Kaiser Permanente mental health professionals throughout California started a weeklong strike Monday to protest what they say is a lack of staffing that affects care. Outside Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics in the San Francisco Bay Area dozens of workers marched Monday holding signs that read "Kaiser, Don't Deny My Patients Mental Health Care," and "Care Delayed is Care Denied." (12/10)
Kaiser Permanente Mental Health Workers Begin Five-Day Strike
Monday marked day one of a five-day strike for 4,000 Kaiser Permanente mental health clinicians and other healthcare professionals across more than 100 California hospitals and clinics. The National Union of Healthcare Workers organized the strike. The NUHW says it has been in contract negotiations with the massive, Oakland, Calif.-based not-for-profit health system since June. The union says Kaiser has rejected therapists' proposals to boost staffing and end long waits for therapy appointments, while Kaiser says it has hired more than 500 new therapists in California since 2015. (Bannow, 12/10)
'Praying They Would Make It Out Of There'
As burning ash and black smoke eclipsed six lanes of terrified motorists fleeing the worst fire in California history, Elizabeth Steffen was driving in the wrong direction. Steffen, the director of the SacValley Medshare health information exchange, rushed down Route 99 to Oroville Hospital last month on a single-minded mission: to turn an electronic switch enabling medical records to follow 200 patients evacuated in a mad scramble from a burning hospital and nursing home in Paradise, a town that would soon be annihilated by the Camp Fire. (Allen, 12/7)
Cincinnati's New Health Commissioner Faces Challenge Of Staff Churn
Melba Moore came to town in August to lead the Cincinnati Health Department and shoulder a mountain of challenges, including the primary health care for one of six city residents, the opioid epidemic and a stubbornly high infant mortality rate. But her first major test as the city’s 42nd health commissioner is taking control of the Cincinnati Health Department. (Saker, 12/10)
Lawmakers Pledge Crackdown On Free-Standing ER Billing Practices
Texas lawmakers on Monday vowed to crack down on the state's booming free-standing emergency room industry in the wake of a troubling AARP Texas survey and a Houston Chronicle story that both showed how some facilities are sending confusing messages to patients. The AARP Texas survey showed that 30 percent of the state's 213 for-profit free-standing emergency rooms "appear to not comply fully with state disclosure laws," according to findings presented at a state Senate committee meeting in Austin. (Deam, 12/10)
Des Moines Register:
Thanks To Congress, Iowa's Cost To Insure Kids Will Rise By Millions
It’s about to cost Iowa a lot more to provide health insurance to 70,000 children from moderate-income families. The state’s share of the cost for kids in the HAWK-I program is set to more than quintuple in the next two years, from $7 million to $37 million. Iowa legislators, who already face tight budgets, will have to find that money to keep the popular program going. ...The future of HAWK-I and similar programs across the country was in doubt last winter, as Congress let the programs' federal funding lapse during a contentious attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Leys, 12/10)
The Baltimore Sun:
University Of Maryland Medical System Investigating Malware Attack
The University of Maryland Medical System is investigating a malware attack on its computer system that occurred early Sunday, according to the hospital network. The ransomware-style attack affected about 250 of the hospital system’s 27,000 devices, said Jon Burns, the hospital system’s chief information officer and senior vice president. (Meehan, 12/10)
The Associated Press:
Doctor To Pay $3M To Resolve Improper Medicaid Billing
Maryland officials say a doctor will pay about $3 million to settle civil liability claims from improperly billing Medicaid programs in Maryland and Delaware and the Medicare program. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said Monday that the settlement was reached with Zahid Aslam. He owned medical practices in Maryland and Delaware. The Maryland share of the settlement is about $1.3 million. (12/10)
'I Think People Are Sadly Used To It Now': Northwestern University Grapples With Suicides
Alarmed by the suicides of four students this year, including a sophomore found dead in his dormitory in late November, Northwestern University is boosting staff at the campus’ main counseling center. Two new employees will join its mental health center, Counseling and Psychological Services, to perform suicide screenings and clinical support services, Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin announced in a message to students last week. (Rhodes, 12/11)
San Jose Mercury News:
Santa Clara County Buys Hospitals For $235 Million
Santa Clara County has succeeded in buying two financially struggling hospitals for $235 million, the cornerstone of its plan to relieve overcrowding at the county-run Valley Medical Center and expand services to central San Jose and south county. The purchase came after the county entered the only bid in Friday’s auction of O’Connor Hospital in San Jose and St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, including the De Paul Health Center in Morgan Hill. (Kaplan, 12/10)
The Washington Post:
Stepped Up Disinfecting Of UMd Dorm Rooms Is Announced To Combat Viruses
A total of 30 cases of adenovirus have been confirmed at the University of Maryland, and university officials announced plans to intensify its dormitory cleaning program to help prevent additional infections. An announcement made last week by the university’s department of resident life gave the updated adenovirus infection numbers. Of the 30 confirmed cases, eight of the students have been hospitalized. It said four cases have been confirmed of adenovirus 7, a particularly virulent strain of the virus. (Weil, 12/11)
Report Finds A 'Mixed Bag' Of Health Outcomes For Mass. Seniors
The mortality rate for Massachusetts residents 65 and older is down, but some specific health problems, like asthma and breast cancer, are getting worse. Those are among the findings of the 2018 Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data report, out Monday from the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston. (Wasser and Chanatry, 12/10)
'Devastating Report' Highlights Virginia's Poor Oversight Of Local Foster Care Programs
Virginia does such a poor job of supervising local foster care programs that the state doesn’t have a list of foster parents currently in the system, according to a new legislative study. The study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission finds that the state’s 120 foster care programs don’t do a good job of recruiting foster parents, especially relatives; working to reunite children with birth parents; or finding them permanent homes. (Martz, 12/10)
The CT Mirror:
Shingles Vaccine Scarce In Conn. Shortage To Continue
A new vaccine to protect against a painful disease known as shingles is a victim of its own success and nearly impossible to find in Connecticut and many parts of the United States. The vaccine, produced solely by GlaxoSmithKline and called Shingrix, became broadly available in the United States about a year ago. (Radelat, 12/11)
Texas Prisons To Start 3D-Printing Dentures For Toothless Inmates
[David Ford] waited four years before finally getting his dentures in November after a Houston Chronicle investigation revealed that toothless inmates in Texas prisons were routinely denied dental prosthetics and instead forced to gum their food or drink it, pureed in cups. But Ford’s new pearly whites could mark the end of an era for the state’s prison system. Starting in the spring, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will no longer have traditionally molded dentures made for its inmates. Instead, they’ll become what’s believed to be the first corrections agency in the country to 3D-print them on site. (Blakinger, 12/10)
New Orleans Times-Picayune:
How 2 New Orleans Health Providers Are Beating National Rates For Colon Cancer Screening
The second most deadly form of cancer among U.S. adults is also one of the most treatable, if caught early. However, many health care providers have struggled to improve screening rates for colon cancer. The American Cancer Society kicked off an initiative called 80 by 2018 three years ago to boost screening rates to 80 percent, but nationally, that rate has fallen short, said Letitia Thompson, vice president of Regional Cancer Control for the ACS. Two New Orleans-area health providers, however, recently proved that reaching the 80 percent mark is possible. (Clark, 12/10)
San Jose Mercury News:
See San Jose's New Tiny Homes For Homeless Residents
In a new memo to the City Council, the head of the city’s Housing Department, Jacky Morales-Ferrand, and the budget director recommend putting 40 of the homes at a Valley Transportation Authority staging site on Mabury Road near Coyote Creek and another 40 at a Caltrans site in the southwest quadrant of the intersection of Highways 680 and 101, adjacent to Felipe Avenue. The council is expected to approve the suggestion on Dec. 18, with the pilot program running at least through January 2022, when the state law that permits the homes is currently scheduled to expire. (Deruy, 12/10)
Editorial pages focus on these health care topics and others.
Trump’s ‘Public Charge’ Anti-Immigrant Proposal Is Cruel And Unusual
Even compared with President Trump’s other radical anti-immigration proposals, his plan to expand dramatically the so-called public charge rule shocks the conscience. The administration’s proposal is so chilling and cruel that, even before becoming law, it’s already pushing people to make decisions that jeopardize their health and their children’s. (12/10)
Planned Parenthood Case Shows Justice Thomas-Kavanaugh Dynamic
Justice Clarence Thomas has a message for Justice Brett Kavanaugh: Let’s roll. Kavanaugh, however, isn’t yet taking up the invitation. The newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court may eventually join a conservative majority of five to roll back large swaths of liberal jurisprudence. Yet it’s noteworthy that Thomas is already impatient with Kavanaugh, just a couple of months into the latter’s life tenure. All this is the takeaway from the tea leaves of an otherwise opaque opinion issued Monday with Thomas dissenting from the court’s refusal to hear a case brought by Planned Parenthood. (Noah Feldman, 12/10)
St. Louis Post Dispatch:
GOP Doubles Down With Extreme Abortion Bills
It’s that time of year again. That time when state legislatures pre-file restrictive reproductive bills for upcoming 2019 sessions. The number of punitive anti-abortion and contraception bills grows each year in conservatively controlled states with many intended to revisit Roe v. Wade in the U.S. Supreme Court. (Rep. Stacey Newman, 12/10)
What Impact Does Migration Have On The Health Of Societies?
The UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health — on which we both were commissioners — was convened in 2016 to look at migration and health in the largest sense. The commission studied key evidence and impacts and has now released a new report to coincide with the adoption of the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Morocco on Dec. 10 and 11. The compact is the first, inter-governmentally negotiated agreement to cover international migration in a comprehensive manner.What we at the commission found was that evidence does not conform to the myths about migrants. On the contrary, the pervasive violations of the human rights of migrants lead to untold and needless suffering. (Paul B. Spiegel and Leonard Rubenstein, 12/10)
Don't Make Medicare Part B Participants Go Through 'Step Therapy'
Step therapy is a practice that requires patients to first try and “fail” an insurer’s preferred treatment before being able to access the therapy their own doctors have prescribed. It’s essentially an insurer’s way of saying, “We know more about drug therapy than your doctor and we need to protect you from his or her prescribing the most expensive drug first.” The insurers’ agents who make these decisions, by the way, are not always doctors. (Elizabeth Krempley, 12/11)
The Civil War Over Prescription Opioids
Five years ago, Kathy S., a nurse, underwent spinal surgery. She has been in pain ever since. Still, she needs two more operations. She emailed me recently to say that her physician cannot prescribe her pain medicine because of government pressure against prescribing opioids. She asked me why she is being treated like a drug addict when all she wants is to function. Once, Kathy's story would have shocked me. Now, although her experience distresses me, I’m no longer surprised. (Lynn R. Webster, 12/10)
The Washington Post:
A Damning Pentagon Report Reveals How The Air Force Failed To Stop A Mass Shooting
After last year’s mass shooting at a rural Texas church, the Air Force acknowledged it had failed to alert the FBI to information that would have prevented the shooter, a disgraced airman, from legally purchasing weapons used in the attack. What was not known then was the extent of the failure — how the Air Force had multiple warnings and failed multiple times to live up to its obligation. A damning new report by the Defense Department inspector general reveals systemic issues that demand urgent attention. (12/10)
The Wall Street Journal:
Don’t Sentence Prisoners To Addiction
Refusing to provide insulin to a diabetic in prison would be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court held in 1976 that the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment includes the right to necessary medical care behind bars. In a first-of-its-kind case last month, a federal trial judge in Boston ordered a county jail to allow an inmate to take his prescribed methadone for opioid-use disorder. The standard of care for opioid addiction is medication-assisted treatment, which combines counseling and other supportive services with medications such as methadone or buprenorphine, which reduce cravings for opioids without providing their associated euphoria. (Abbe R. Gluck and Kate Stith, 12/10)
The Washington Post:
If You Want Medicare-For-All, Prepare For A Long And Bloody Fight
Over the last two years, the idea of government-guaranteed universal health coverage, often shorthanded as Medicare-for-all (I’ll refer to it as M4A from here) has grown from a minority belief within the Democratic Party to a majority belief, and one that is on its way to becoming consensus. We are now entering a period of debate within the party about what universal coverage should look like and how to transition from the system we have now to the system we want. (Paul Waldman, 12/10)
Organ Transplants — A Sign Of Empathy And Care
Imagine being able to conceive and birth a child despite infertility, or having been born without a womb or losing one to cancer. Thanks to the miracle of modern science, that hope is now a reality, not only via a transplanted live womb (11 previous births have used wombs from a living donor) but, for the first time ever, successfully from a cadaver. What makes this event in Brazil so incredible (the baby girl was born by C-section on Dec. 15, 2017), beyond the sheer emotions of life-affirming joy at a new life, is the complex and intricate science involved. Science made more difficult by the compromised rich uterine blood supply in a deceased donor. (Marc Siegel, 12/10)
Richmond Times Dispatch:
Medicaid Expansion Means Critical Role For Virginia's Free Clinics
While all eyes have been on the newly enrolled, there is another significance to Medicaid expansion that will further enhance access to health care for many of the remaining 300,000 of the uninsured, those whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid yet too low to afford private insurance, given the demands on their household income for housing, food, transportation, and other essentials. These “working uninsured” — by and large working families with at least one parent holding down a full-time job — represent four of the five Virginians who are currently uninsured. (Linda D. Wilkinson, 12/9)
The Washington Post:
This Racist Paramedic Hates Some People Whose Lives Depend On Him. He Needs To Be Fired.
The Virginia paramedic uses a racist slur for African Americans, calling them “dindus.” In his world — the world of open white supremacists — that’s supposed to mean something like “didn’t do anything.” On the popular neo-Nazi podcast he co-hosts, Alex J. McNabb once compared an African American woman he cared for to a gorilla. (Petula Dvorak, 12/10)