- Kaiser Health News Original Stories 2
- Medical Device Failures Brought To Light Now Bolster Lawsuits And Research
- Candidates Are Betting Big On Health. Is That What Voters Really Want?
- Political Cartoon: 'Pizza For Always?'
- Elections 2
- Moderate Dems Are Touting Less Extreme 'Public Option.' But Even That Could Be Earthquake For Industry.
- State Lawmakers' Op-Eds Provide Glimpse Inside Lobbying Machine Working Against 'Medicare For All'
- Supreme Court 2
- Lawmakers, Medical Groups, Lawyers Urge Supreme Court To Block Strict Louisiana Abortion Law
- Could Supreme Court's First Major Gun Case In Nearly A Decade Be Dismissed As Moot?
- Medicaid 1
- Michigan Governor Wants To Pump The Brakes On Medicaid Work Requirements Set To Go Into Effect In January
- Capitol Watch 1
- Bipartisan Group Of Lawmakers Slam Trump's Decision To Back Off Flavor Ban: 'Our Children Should Not Be Used As Guinea Pigs'
- Opioid Crisis 1
- Emails From Purdue Pharma Reveal Just How Aggressively Richard Sackler Pushed Back Against Addiction Warnings
- Quality 1
- Misplaced Breathing Tubes Have Caused 12 Patient Deaths In Rhode Island. But Some Say Suggested Solution Could Cost Lives.
- Public Health 1
- Health Experts Say Teen Suicides Are 'Full-Blown' Crisis, So Why Is Mental Health Issue Being Ignored?
- Environmental Health And Storms 1
- Quartz Countertops Can Be Perfectly Safe If Made Following Regulations. But That Can Be A Big If.
- State Watch 2
- California State Investigation Reveals PG&E Failed To Maintain Transmission Lines For Years Before Deadly Fires
- State Highlights: Worried About Homelessness In Big Cities, Boise Court Case Would Test 'Policing'; Georgia Waits For Public To Comment On Plans To Overhaul Health Care
- Editorials And Opinions 2
- Different Takes: Medicaid Expansion Is Becoming Irresistible, Even In Deep Red States; In Texas, Scrooge Still Rules, Deprives Thousands Of Care
- Viewpoints: Lessons On Fixing Unnecessary Medical Errors In Hospitals; Price Is Gone From HHS, But Someone Else Needs Stronger Oversight
From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:
Millions of injuries and malfunctions once funneled into a hidden Food and Drug Administration database are now available. (Christina Jewett, 12/3)
Polls show that health care is at the top of voters’ issues, but the polls also say Democrats, let alone other Americans, are not ready for “Medicare for All.” (Julie Rovner, 12/3)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Pizza For Always?'" by Mike Peters.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
‘ALARMING’ HOSPITAL NOISE
It's a problem since:
When the "action" is ignored
Someone is to blame!
- Jack Taylor, MD
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Summaries Of The News:
The public option, of course, would be less disruptive than getting rid of private insurance all together, but an inexpensive and attractive plan could still shake up the industry landscape. Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden says 2020 rival Pete Buttigieg "stole" his health care plan.
The New York Times:
Why The Less Disruptive Health Care Option Could Be Plenty Disruptive
The single-payer health plans proposed by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are often assailed as being too disruptive. A government plan for everyone, the argument goes, would mean that tens of millions of Americans would have to give up health insurance they like. Democratic presidential candidates with more moderate brands have their own proposal: a “public option” that would preserve the current private insurance market, while giving people the opportunity to choose government insurance. (Sanger-Katz, 12/3)
Biden Says Buttigieg 'Stole' His Healthcare Plan
U.S. Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden said on Monday that his fast-rising rival Pete Buttigieg "stole" the former vice president's healthcare policy proposals, as the two battle for support in the early nominating state of Iowa. Biden, among the leaders in the 16-member Democratic field for the right to take on Republican President Donald Trump in next year's election, is proposing expanding the Affordable Care Act. (Hunnicutt, 12/3)
The Wall Street Journal:
Biden Targets Warren And Buttigieg On His Tour Of Iowa
Mr. Biden said if another candidate had offered a health care plan that built upon the Obamacare law, provided a public option and offered other elements, “then I came along with the exact same plan—what would you have done to me? You would have torn my ears off.” The Buttigieg campaign said the mayor had been talking about health care in his presidential campaign since he first entered the race last January, months before Mr. Biden’s entrance into the race. (Thomas, 12/2)
Biden On Buttigieg Health Care Policy: He Stole It
The big picture: Biden, who is on an eight-day bus tour of the Hawkeye State, has pledged to build on the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act, with a new public insurance option, which would compete alongside private insurance. (Falconer, 12/2)
Kaiser Health News:
Candidates Are Betting Big On Health. Is That What Voters Really Want?
The one thing we know about health care in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race is that it’s a top issue for voters. The latest Tracking Poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found 24% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they want to hear the candidates discuss health care. (Rovner, 12/3)
The revelation that lobbyists helped draft or made edits to the lawmakers' opinion pieces shows that critics of "Medicare for All" are investing time and energy beyond the presidential debate over the policy issue.
The Washington Post:
State Lawmakers Acknowledge Lobbyists Helped Craft Their Op-Eds Attacking Medicare-For-All
Lobbyists either helped draft or made extensive revisions to opinion columns published by three state lawmakers in a way that suggested Medicare-for-all and other government involvement in health care posed dangers, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post. Montana state Rep. Kathy Kelker (D) and Sen. Jen Gross (D) acknowledged in interviews that editorials they published separately about the single-payer health proposal included language provided by John MacDonald, a lobbyist and consultant in the state who disclosed in private emails that he worked for an unnamed client. (Stein, 12/2)
Lobbyists Guided Op-Eds Against 'Medicare For All' By State Lawmakers: Report
The advocacy group Medicare for All Now obtained industry emails detailing messaging against the proposal through a Freedom of Information Act request and provided them to the Post. The emails show MacDonald apparently excising three paragraphs from Kelker’s piece that concede the U.S. spends more on health care per capita than other developed nations, and also removed a graph depicting the differences in per capita spending between the U.S. and several European nations with universal health care. (Budryk, 12/2)
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in March on the state's new requirements around abortion providers' admitting privileges to hospitals. "Laws regulating abortion should be evidence-based and supported by a valid medical justification," the medical groups wrote to the court. A similar Texas law was ruled unconstitutional, put the political make-up of the high court has shifted since that decision.
House, Senate Democrats Call On Supreme Court To Block Louisiana Abortion Law
A majority of House and Senate Democrats are calling on the Supreme Court to block a Louisiana abortion law. The court is set to hear oral arguments in March challenging the law, which would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a requirement that critics say is designed to force abortion clinics to close. (Weixel, 12/2)
Major Medical, Legal Groups Oppose Louisiana Abortion Law Before U.S. Supreme Court
Several major medical groups and the American Bar Association are weighing in against a Louisiana abortion law set to go before the U.S. Supreme Court next year. In a new amicus brief submitted to the court, medical groups argue the law – which requires doctors who perform abortions in Louisiana to have hospital admitting privileges – is medically unnecessary and harmful to patients. The American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Pediatrics and others have signed on to the brief. (McCammon, 12/2)
Over 350 Lawyers, Legal Professionals Who Had Abortions File Supreme Court Brief
More than 350 lawyers and legal professionals filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court for the June Medical Services vs. Gee abortion case. "My hope is that my classmate on the Supreme Court will not want to demonize me," Claudia Hammerman, a partner at the prestigious law firm Paul, Weiss, told ABC News. Hammerman is also the lead signer of the brief and a Harvard Law School alumnae. "I was smart and I deserved my career and I deserved to be able to give it my all and to become a mother when I was fully, emotionally, psychologically, and in terms of resources prepared to become the best mother I could be." (Svokos, 12/2)
Although the case is being closely watched, much of the arguments focus on whether the court should even decide the merits of the legal challenge because New York City eliminated the limits that are central to the case.
U.S. Supreme Court Justices Debate Whether To Dismiss Major Gun Case
The U.S. Supreme Court's consideration of a major gun rights case could end in a misfire, with the justices on Monday debating whether to dismiss a challenge backed by the powerful National Rifle Association to a New York City handgun ordinance. The justices heard arguments in the first major gun dispute to come before them since 2010, with gun control advocates fearful that the court, with its 5-4 conservative majority, could issue a ruling further expanding firearms rights nationwide. (Chung and Hurley, 12/2)
All For Naught? Supreme Court Indicates Gun Case May Be Moot
The problem for those gun owners was that New York state and New York City abandoned the challenged law this year after the Supreme Court said it would review it. "New York City and New York state actually gave them everything that they had asked for before this argument," said New York City corporation counsel James Johnson after the argument. "That was made very plain in this argument today." (Totenberg, 12/2)
Supreme Court Guns: Big Victory For 2nd Amendment Activists Is Unlikely
Almost immediately after the Supreme Court announced last January that it would hear the case — the first major Second Amendment case to reach the Court since Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation gave the Court a solid conservative majority — New York officials tried to make it go away. New York City changed its rules to allow people with premises licenses to do exactly what these plaintiffs wanted to do, and New York State passed its own law preventing the city from ever restoring the old legal regime. (Millhiser, 12/2)
In other gun violence news —
These Employees Survived The Planned Parenthood Shooting. They Say The Organization Could Have Done More To Help Them.
Cristina Jiminez, assistant manager of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, felt the “warm whisper” of a bullet passing by her head as she hid on the floor of a bathroom during a gunman’s five-hour rampage in 2015. ... Three people died, including University of Colorado Colorado Springs police Officer Garrett Swasey, and nine others were wounded during an attack on the clinic on Nov. 27, 2015. It was one of the longest active shooter events in recent U.S. history; attacks of this type typically last less than 10 minutes. While [four former employees] have the shared experience of making it through that harrowing day, they also all feel Planned Parenthood could have done more to help them through the aftermath of the shooting. (Paul, 12/2)
The New York Times:
Student With Gun Is Shot By Officer In Wisconsin High School, Police Say
An officer at a high school in Waukesha, Wis., shot and injured a student who had a gun and pointed it at law enforcement authorities as they were trying to convince him to hand it over, officials said on Monday. The episode unfolded at Waukesha South High School at about 10:17 a.m., after a student informed the authorities that another student had a handgun, the chief of the Waukesha Police Department, Russell Jack, said. (Hauser, 12/2)
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is worried about coverage losses seen in other states. But the Republican-controlled Legislature would have to agree to the pause.
Michigan Governor Calls For Pause In Medicaid Work Requirements
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is calling for a pause in the state’s Medicaid work requirements to avoid coverage losses on Jan. 1, The Associated Press reported on Monday. Michigan’s work requirements for Medicaid recipients are set to take effect on New Year's Day. Whitmer’s call for a pause, however, would have to be agreed to by the Republican-controlled legislature, raising doubts about whether it will occur. (Sullivan, 12/2)
Whitmer Says Michigan Legislature Should Pause Medicaid Work Requirements
Whitmer called on Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, to move a measure forward in the Legislature. She said she admired Shirkey’s work to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act in 2014. Shirkey also sponsored the bill requiring Medicaid recipients to work. The Trump administration opened the door for Medicaid work requirements by approving a handful of state waivers. Gov. Rick Snyder later signed a bill requiring able-bodied recipients of the state’s Healthy Michigan Medicaid program to work or risk losing health care coverage. (Barrett, 12/2)
The Associated Press:
Whitmer: Legislature Should Help Pause Medicaid Work Rules
Her administration will announce some actions related to the work rules in coming days. Whitmer and Democratic U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin held an event in Lansing Monday to encourage people to enroll for insurance under the federal health law. Enrollment ends Dec. 15. (12/2)
“I’m very disappointed that industry was able to elbow its way into the discussion and hold up the ban," said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) of reports that the vaping industry influenced President Donald Trump's retreat on the issue. "Our children are not for sale." In other vaping news: life insurance, a rise in arrests across U.S., and taxes.
Trump Is Giving In To The Vaping Industry On A Flavor Ban, Lawmakers Say
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers called on President Donald Trump to go ahead with a ban on flavored e-cigarettes on Monday, following the president’s decision to hold off on a sweeping ban he first announced in September. “Our children should not be used as guinea pigs by the tobacco industry,” said the letter from the Senate and House chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus to End the Youth Vaping Epidemic. The letter, signed by 28 senators and representatives, calls for a nationwide ban on all flavored e-cigarettes, including the mint and menthol flavors that the vaping industry has pushed to keep on the market. (Vergano, 12/2)
Could Life Insurance Go Up In Smoke For Some Vapers?
Global reinsurers are stepping up their warnings to life insurer clients about the potential risks of vaping, putting pressure on underwriters to charge certain vapers higher rates than smokers, or even exclude them altogether. U.S. authorities said last month that there had been 47 deaths this year from a lung illness tied to vaping. The health concerns about vaping have grown despite evidence showing e-cigarettes help smokers to quit, and has led to bans in some countries including India and Brazil. (Cohn, Barlyn and Hussain, 12/3)
The Associated Press:
Over 500K Pot Vapes Seized In 2 Years As Busts Rise In US
As health officials scrutinize marijuana vaping, it’s increasingly on law enforcement’s radar, too. From New York City to Nebraska farm country to California, authorities have seized at least 510,000 marijuana vape cartridges and arrested more than 120 people in the past two years, according to an Associated Press tally derived from interviews, court records, news accounts and official releases. (Peltz, 12/3)
St. Louis Post Dispatch:
Raise Taxes To Combat Vaping Epidemic? Probably Not In Missouri
Unlike leaders in other states who are trying to tackle an epidemic of youth vaping by raising taxes on electronic cigarettes, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said he’s not looking at that as an option. “I don’t know if pricing it out of someone’s reach is always the right answer,” Parson said at a recent news conference called to outline an educational campaign designed to crack down on underage use of vaping products. Missouri has not raised its cigarette tax since 1993 and at 17 cents per pack, it is the lowest in the nation. (Erickson, 12/2)
Following a years-long court battle, Stat obtained documents from the early days of the opioid crisis that reveal what was going on behind the scenes at OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma. Meanwhile, in other news from the opioid crisis: advocates worry stigma over drug use will stand in the way of compensation for those who have been harmed; pain doctors stay busy during the epidemic; drugs in schools; and meth.
Purdue’s Richard Sackler Proposed Plan To Play Down OxyContin Risks, And Wanted Drug Maker Feared ‘Like A Tiger,’ Files Show
In the early days of OxyContin, Dr. Richard Sackler, a member of the billionaire family that founded and controls Purdue Pharma, learned about concerns that the potent opioid could lead to abuse in chronic pain patients, and he then proposed executives aggressively push back, according to newly unsealed documents obtained by STAT after a four-year court battle. ... Sackler urged a robust response, writing that the “addiction” objection could be “obliterated.” Specifically, he said executives should consider giving a “convincing presentation” that controlled-release products like OxyContin are “less prone to addiction potential, abuse or diversion” than other opioid pain pills. “I think that can be done,” he wrote, but deferred to the company’s experts about whether it could. (Ross, 12/2)
The History Of OxyContin, Told Through Purdue Pharma Documents
STAT’s multiyear legal battle to unseal secret Purdue Pharma files in a Kentucky court has produced dozens of documents that lay bare new details about the company’s marketing strategy and the role of Dr. Richard Sackler, a member of the family that founded and controls Purdue, in making OxyContin a top-selling pain pill. ... Below is a timeline of Purdue’s activities as revealed by the newly released documents (and some that were already public), and excerpts from those records. (Chakradhar and Ross, 12/3)
The Washington Post:
Prescription Opioids Destroyed Lives. But Victims Say Stigma Of Addiction Hinders Bid For Justice
Soon after getting an OxyContin prescription for back pain and arthritis in 1999, disabled coal miner James P. Craig started popping three of the narcotic pills daily, instead of the prescribed two, he said in a deposition as part of a lawsuit against the drug’s manufacturer, Purdue Pharma. Within months, he said in the deposition, he was swallowing and crushing and snorting up to seven a day to satisfy his craving. When doctors stopped prescribing OxyContin, he said, he started buying the narcotic pain medication illegally. (Rowland, 12/2)
Georgia Pain Doctor Stays Busy Amid Opioid Abuse Epidemic
Veterans shattered by roadside bombs. Amputees. Motorists crushed in car crashes. People wracked by cancer. These are some of the pain patients flocking to Dr. John Downey’s medical office here.Downey watches them wince. He hears them moan. He sees them crying in his exam rooms as their nerves fire off dagger-like messages to their brains. The doctor faces a dilemma: He knows painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone will help. But he is concerned about the deadly risks amid the opioid abuse epidemic, a crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and triggered lawsuits against drug manufacturers, distributors and physicians like him. (Redmon, 12/2)
Health News Florida:
'If You Make A Mistake With Heroin, You're Dead': A Plan To Prevent Opioid Overdoses In Schools
A bill under consideration in the state Legislature would allow schools to obtain the drug naloxone, and let them train school staff members to administer it to students who they believe are suffering from overdoses. The proposal comes as the Miami-Dade County school board has sued the manufacturers and distributors of addictive pain medications. The district claims it has had to divert resources from the classroom to offer nursing and mental health care to students and staff who’ve been affected by opioid addiction. (Bakeman, 12/2)
North Carolina Health News:
As Opioids Rage, Meth Has Never Left WNC
There’s been much talk about drugs in Appalachia, particularly as opioids — first prescription pills, then heroin and its much deadlier cousin, fentanyl — tore through already distressed mountain communities. But even as state and federal agencies set their sights and budgets on ways to combat the opioid epidemic, another drug is wreaking havoc in Western North Carolina: methamphetamine. A stimulant that rose to national infamy in the 1990s and early 2000s, meth has been part of life here for years. Residents say that even as opioid misuse blossomed, meth never went away. (Engel-Smith, 12/3)
Rhode Island is the only state in New England, and among a minority nationally, that allows non-paramedics to intubate patients. The practice has led to 12 patient deaths in the past two years, as air is pumped into their stomach instead of their lungs. But first responders say limiting who can intubate patients would result in more deaths.
EMS Crews Brought Patients To The Hospital With Misplaced Breathing Tubes. None Of Them Survived.
In the summer of 2018, Dr. Nick Asselin was doing research on cardiac arrests in Rhode Island when he made a horrifying discovery. Hospital records showed patients had been arriving by ambulance with misplaced breathing tubes, sending air into their stomachs instead of their lungs, essentially suffocating them. At first, he said, there were four cases, then seven. More trickled in. (Arditi, 12/3)
A Misplaced Breathing Tube Can Be Fatal. New Studies Suggest They Should Be Used Less Often.
As Rhode Island confronts the risks associated with EMS personnel inserting breathing tubes in cardiac arrest patients, new studies suggest that the practice should be limited outside hospitals. Two separate studies published last year, one in the United States and one in the United Kingdom, offer fresh evidence that patients fare at least as well, if not better, when emergency medical services workers opted for alternatives to intubating. (Arditi, 12/3)
One of the selling points of these particular diabetes monitors is that they allow people other than the person with diabetes — like the parent of a young child — to receive alerts when blood sugar drops too low. But in recent days, those alerts stopped working.
A Glitch In Diabetes Monitors Serves As A Cautionary Tale For Health Tech
Here’s the challenge for technology in health care: Success means that new tech also becomes too indispensable to fail. You can deal with Twitter being down, but not the loss of a device that keeps your kid’s blood sugar at safe levels. That message was driven home in recent days by Dexcom, a San Diego company that makes sensors used by people with diabetes to measure their blood sugar. The company has been one of the biggest success stories in applying technology to health. Sales of its continuous glucose monitors climbed to $396 million in the third quarter of 2019, up 49% from a year ago. (Herper, 12/3)
In other health and technology news —
Mental Health Care Dominates Growing Missouri Telemedicine Field
More people in Missouri are consulting doctors via telephone or video services — and mental health care is most in demand. Patient visits using telephones or video conferencing systems have increased tenfold since 2010 among Missouri Medicaid users, according to the Missouri Telehealth Network at the University of Missouri. The vast majority of those visits were for behavioral or mental health services, said Rachel Mutrux, senior program director at the network. (12/2)
Amazon Launches Medical Transcription Service
Amazon on Monday unveiled Transcribe Medical, a medical transcription service the tech giant said is designed to make clinical documentation more efficient. Cerner Corp., which entered into a cloud collaboration with Amazon this summer, has already signed on as a customer of the new machine-learning service. Cerner is using Transcribe Medical to develop a digital voice scribe that can "listen" in the background during a patient's visit and transcribe physician-patient conversations into text. (Cohen, 12/2)
Too often suicide attempts and deaths by suicide, especially among the young, become family secrets that are not dealt with in ways that might helps others, according to mental health specialists. Public heath news is on rising prediabetes rates among the young, HIV treatment efforts, millennials stepping up as caregivers, and chewing gum coming to the rescue, as well.
The New York Times:
The Crisis In Youth Suicide
The death of a child is most parents’ worst nightmare, one made even worse when it is self-inflicted. This very tragedy has become increasingly common among young people in recent years. And adults — parents, teachers, clinicians and politicians — should be asking why and what they can do to prevent it. In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that after a stable period from 2000 to 2007, the rate of suicide among those aged 10 to 24 increased dramatically — by 56 percent — between 2007 and 2017, making suicide the second leading cause of death in this age group, following accidents like car crashes. (Brody, 12/2)
Diabetes: 1 In 5 US Adolescents Is Now Prediabetic, Study Says
Nearly a quarter of young adults and a fifth of adolescents in the United States have prediabetes, according to a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Prediabetes -- a condition wherein blood sugar levels are elevated, but not high enough to warrant a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes -- was estimated at 18% among adolescents ages 12 to 18, and 24% among young adults ages 19 to 34. (Nedelman, 12/2)
New York City Hits HIV/AIDS Target Two Years Ahead Of Schedule
New York City has surpassed a major goal against HIV/AIDS two years ahead of schedule, city officials announced Monday. The target, originally set for 2020 by UNAIDS and known as 90-90-90, represents the percentage of people with HIV who know their status, who are on treatment and whose viral load is suppressed. New York officials said that, as of 2018, they have surpassed those numbers -- 93% of people with HIV have gotten a diagnosis, 90% are on treatment and 92% of those on treatment are virally suppressed. (Nedelman, 12/2)
Health News Florida:
Experts Say Florida’s HIV Epidemic Is Fueled By Stigma, Lack Of Access To Care
Stigma, poverty, immigration issues and access to care are among the main causes to blame for Florida’s high rates of HIV and AIDS.More than 115,000 people in Florida live with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s more than 12 percent of all the cases in the United States. In 2018 alone, Florida reported 4,906 new HIV diagnoses, a 3 percent increase from 2017. (Royal, 12/2)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
'A Socially Isolated Group’: Millennial Caregivers Are Increasing, But They Face Unique Challenges
As the baby boom generation ages, 10,000 Americans turn 65 daily. This population is driving a rising demand for family caregivers, along with the high cost of senior living and in-home care. Millennials are stepping in to fill that gap, and in many cases, make sacrifices to do so. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) estimated in a 2018 report that as of 2015, there were 40 million family caregivers. One in four caregivers is between ages 22 and 37. Over half of them identify as Hispanic or Latino, African American or Asian American — communities where multi-generational homes are common. (Ao, 12/3)
The Wall Street Journal:
Chew On This: Gum That Promises To Help You Sleep And Make You Skinny
Gum makers are mixing everything from vitamins to candy into their recipes to give customers more incentives to pick up a pack. Chewing gum has lost sales to mints, and customers have gravitated to other means of burning nervous energy, like fidget spinners and smartphones, executives and market-research firms say. Some people say they dropped gum-chewing because it seems tacky or causes jaw pain. Gum sales dropped 4% globally by volume between 2010 and 2018, according to Euromonitor, and 23% in the U.S. (Gasparro and Chaudhuri, 12/3)
The dust that can arise when the countertop is cut wrong can lead to severe lung disease or even death. In other environmental health news: air pollution, climate change and superfund sites.
Factory-Made Quartz Countertops Need To Be Cut Safely To Control Silica Dust
Every day, 20 to 30 trucks roll into a factory in Minnesota. They're filled with quartz — some of it like a powder, and some of it like sparkling little pebbles, in big white sacks. "It's about 30 million pounds of quartz a month," says Marty Davis, the CEO of Cambria, a company that manufactures material for kitchen and bathroom countertops. "About a million pounds a day." (Greenfieldboyce, 12/2)
The New York Times:
See How The World’s Most Polluted Air Compares With Your City’s
We visualized the damaging, tiny particles that wreak havoc on human health. From the Bay Area to New Delhi, see how the world’s worst pollution compares with your local air. (Popovich, Migliozzi, Patanjali, Singhvi and Huang, 12/2)
The New York Times:
Teaching Resilience In The Face Of Climate Change
Damariya Carlisle, age 9, jumped as an instructor hauled a crab pot onto the steel deck of the barge docked on the Elizabeth River, a Chesapeake tributary in Norfolk, Va. She marveled at the Atlantic blue crabs’ claws but worried they might pinch her. The visit was part of a fourth-grade class trip in October. “They get to see and feel real crabs,” said Janet Goldbach Ehmer, an educator with the Elizabeth River Project who pulled the trap from the water. (Zeitlin, 12/2)
Montana Residents Ask Supreme Court To Allow Cleanup Beyond Superfund Requirements
Close to 100 rural Montanans are taking on one of the largest corporations in the world Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court. Residents of Opportunity and Crackerville, Mont., say the Atlantic Richfield Company — owned by BP — needs to go beyond what federal Superfund law requires and clean up arsenic pollution leftover from a century of mining. (Mott, 12/3)
State fire investigators had previously determined that PG&E equipment started the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people. But the new report goes beyond that, alleging numerous serious violations of state rules for maintaining electric lines and specific problems with upkeep of the transmission line that started the fire.
PG&E Failed To Inspect Transmission Lines That Caused Deadly 2018 Wildfire-State Probe
Bankrupt California power producer PG&E Corp did not properly inspect and replace transmission lines before a faulty wire sparked a wildfire that killed more than 80 people in 2018, a probe by a state regulator has concluded. The Caribou-Palermo transmission line was identified as the cause of the Camp Fire last year, which virtually incinerated the Northern California town of Paradise and stands as the state's most lethal blaze. (Singh, 12/3)
The Wall Street Journal:
PG&E Had Systemic Problems With Power Line Maintenance, California Probe Finds
In a 700-page report detailing the problems that led the Caribou-Palermo transmission line to malfunction on Nov. 8, 2018, sparking the Camp Fire, investigators with the California Public Utilities Commission said they found systemic problems with how the company oversaw the safety of its oldest lines. State fire investigators had previously determined that PG&E equipment started the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people, and the company hasn’t disputed the findings. But the new report goes well beyond earlier findings, alleging numerous serious violations of state rules for maintaining electric lines and specific problems with upkeep of the transmission line that started the fire. (Gold and Blunt, 12/2)
Los Angeles Times:
PG&E Inspections Of Equipment That Sparked Deadly Camp Fire Were Flawed
PG&E crews had not climbed the tower that malfunctioned and sparked the Camp fire since at least 2001, the report said. “This omission is a violation of PG&E’s own policy requiring climbing inspections on towers where recurring problems exist,” the report states. A climbing inspection could have identified a worn C-hook that failed, and “its timely replacement could have prevented ignition of the Camp fire,” the report says. (Branson-Potts, 12/2)
Media outlets report on news from Idaho, Georgia, New York, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, and Washington.
The New York Times:
How Far Can Cities Go To Police The Homeless? Boise Tests The Limit
During a recent mayoral debate at a Boise homeless shelter, after disposing of icebreakers like the candidates’ favorite Metallica album, the moderator turned to something more contentious: a decade-old lawsuit, now a step away from the Supreme Court. The case, Boise v. Martin, is examining whether it’s a crime for someone to sleep outside when they have nowhere else to go. The suit arose when a half-dozen homeless people claimed that local rules prohibiting camping on public property violated the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. (Dougherty, 12/3)
Public Comment Period Nearly Over For Major Health Care Proposals For Georgia
Gov. Brian Kemp’s health care plans are within weeks of going to the Trump administration for federal review. Opponents have already scheduled a press conference for Tuesday at the Georgia Capitol to voice their scorn. Supporters have posted praise on social media. Analysts across the country have weighed in with published opinions. And for one more day, ordinary Georgians can comment, too. (Hart, 12/2)
The New York Times:
The Rapper T.I.’s Remarks Lead To N.Y. Plan To Ban ‘Virginity Tests’
State lawmakers are considering banning doctors from performing so-called virginity testing, after widespread backlash followed the rapper T.I.’s recent disclosure that he takes his daughter to see a gynecologist every year to ensure that her hymen is still intact. His comments last month sparked a national conversation around a procedure that scientists have long denounced as bogus and unsupported by evidence, as well as a violation of a woman’s rights. (Ferre-Sadurni, 12/3)
To Boost Low Measles Vaccination Rates, Public Health Agencies Are Targeting Colorado’s Biggest Counties
Public health officials in five of Colorado’s most populous counties are trying to make a dent in the state’s low measles vaccination rate, targeting parents of kindergarteners as they warn rates are too low to prevent an outbreak. (Brown, 12/2)
Centene To Sell Illinois Plan To CVS Health
Health insurer Centene Corp. announced plans on Monday to sell its Illinois health plan subsidiary to CVS Health to help secure state approval for its proposed merger with WellCare Health Plans. Centene said its sale of IlliniCare Health Plan includes Medicaid and Medicare Advantage, but Centene will keep its Medicare-Medicaid Alignment Initiative business and a statewide foster-care contract set to begin in February. (Livingston, 12/2)
Los Angeles Times:
Peter Lynn, L.A. Homeless Agency Leader, To Step Down
In a major change for the team tasked with addressing rising homelessness in the region, Peter Lynn announced Monday that he is stepping down as head of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Chief Program Officer Heidi Marston will fill in as interim director during a national search for a replacement when Lynn officially leaves at the end of this month. (Smith and Oreskes, 12/2)
In Georgia, Food Stamp Use And Prices Highest In Rural Areas
Rural Georgians are more likely to need the help of food stamps to pay for their groceries, but that public help probably doesn’t stretch as far as it does in places such as Atlanta because of higher food prices in small-town stores. Poor, rural Georgians pay more for fresh lettuce, macaroni and cheese, and other foods in part because there is so little competition for their business, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review. (Prabhu, 11/27)
Proposed Class Action Moves Forward Against HCA Florida
One of the largest for-profit hospital chains in Florida is accused of charging patients who received care in its affiliated emergency rooms undisclosed “surcharge” fees that can total thousands of dollars, according to a lawsuit claiming the billing practice is “unfair, deceptive and unlawful.” The lawsuit was filed earlier this year in the Southern District of Florida against HCA Healthcare Inc., which does business as HCA Florida in hospitals across the state. (Conarck, 12/3)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Armor Correctional Faces Criminal Trial In Milwaukee County Jail Death
The company that formerly provided medical services at the Milwaukee County Jail has lost its appeal and could now face trial on criminal charges in the dehydration death of an inmate in 2016. Armor Correctional Health Services Inc. is charged with seven misdemeanor counts of intentionally falsifying a health care record and a felony count of abuse of residents of a penal facility. (Vielmetti, 12/2)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Winnebago Mental Health Institute Faces Dozens Of Staff Vacancies
Two years after a patient death brought a flood of attention, state inspectors have left Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh, but staff shortages have gotten worse. At the state's only facility required to accept anyone having a mental health crisis, the staff has been forced to work significant overtime while officials address safety hazards and gaps in care. The facility draws patients from every county in Wisconsin. (Linnane, 12/2)
Tampa Bay Times:
Florida Workers Rank Near The Top In How Much They Pay For Health Insurance
Workers are spending a larger chunk of their paychecks on health insurance, and Floridians are some of the worst off. For years, the cost of insurance has outstripped incomes and the trend continues, according to a recent study from the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for improvements to the health care system. In 2008, the average employee in the country paid 7.9 percent of the median household for health insurance. Last year, the number reached 11.5 percent. (Brink, 12/3)
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Divided Cuyahoga County Council Rejects Possibly Less Costly Alternative To Tax Increase For Health And Human Services
Cuyahoga County Council voted 7-3 on Monday to reject a possibly less costly alternative to a proposed $35 million tax increase to support health and human services in the county. The alternative, proposed by Councilman Jack Schron, would have placed two tax issues on the county’s March ballot that collectively would have raised an extra $35 million, but would have given voters the option of approving only one tax to raise an extra $11 million. (Astolfi, 12/2)
The Star Tribune:
State DHS Leader Lays Out Plan To Rebuild Trust In Troubled Agency
A senior official from the Walz administration acknowledged Monday that the state Department of Human Services (DHS) has been "soft around the edges" for 10 to 20 years, but denied that the agency is in "free fall." In her most comprehensive remarks since taking over the huge agency in September, Commissioner Jodi Harpstead acknowledged the financial and personnel missteps that have produced repeated embarrassments since early summer. But she also said the agency, which runs an $18.5 billion budget and serves more than 1 million Minnesotans, is facing up to its challenges. (Howatt and Serres, 12/2)
Georgia Health News:
Fighting The Doctor Shortage In Rural Georgia
A recently released state report shows some gains in the number of such primary care physicians in the state. But major doctor shortages still exist in rural Georgia, according to the report from Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce. Nine of the state’s 159 counties have no physician at all. Each is in a rural area of the state. (Miller, 12/2)
Deadly Mold Infestation Spurs Class-Action Lawsuit Against Seattle Children's Hospital
Seattle Children's Hospital knew for years that a mold infestation in its facilities could be related to its air-handling system, but "engaged in a cover-up" that sickened many patients and resulted in the deaths of six children, according to a class-action lawsuit filed Monday. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of patients who sought treatment at the hospital and became infected by mold. It claims that Seattle Children's knew since at least 2005 when a family sued the hospital that Aspergillus mold, which is especially dangerous to those with an already weakened immune system, could be transmitted through its air-handling system. (Holcombe, 12/3)
After Shelter Closed, Atlanta's Homeless Hypothermia Deaths Shot Up
At least 18 homeless people died from hypothermia since Atlanta’s infamous homeless shelter known as Peachtree-Pine officially closed in August 2017, according to an internal city report.Fourteen of those deaths occurred in the 2018 calendar year. (Deere, 12/2)
Opinion writers focus on ways to improve health care.
The Washington Post:
Another Red State May Soon Expand Medicaid. There’s A Message In This.
A remarkable two-track dynamic has developed on the politics of the Affordable Care Act. And it has obvious ramifications for both Democrats and Republicans in the 2020 elections. It’s this: Even as President Trump and national Republicans remain as zealous as ever about destroying the ACA, the logic of its Medicaid expansion is proving politically irresistible in numerous states — including deep red ones. (Greg Sargent, 12/2)
A Medicaid Carol: A Ghost Story For Christmas
Thanksgiving has come and gone and the holidays are upon us. This is a good moment to sit down by a cozy fire to read an updated take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” The tale will focus on just one of the deprivations suffered by many Texans at the hands of today’s Gang of Scrooges, otherwise known as the Texas Republican Party: the denial of health care to needy Texans by the Gang’s refusal to accept available federal dollars to expand Medicaid. (Glenn W. Smith, 12/2)
The New York Times:
America’s Red State Death Trip
“E pluribus unum” — out of many, one — is one of America’s traditional mottos. And you might think it would be reflected in reality. We aren’t, after all, just united politically. We share a common language; the unrestricted movement of goods, services and people is guaranteed by the Constitution. Shouldn’t this lead to convergence in the way we live and think? (Paul Krugman, 12/2)
Kansas City Star:
Would Gov. Parson Allow Voter-Approved Medicaid Expansion?
Is the groundwork finally being laid for Medicaid expansion in Missouri? Perhaps.The latest semi-convert to the cause is Republican Gov. Mike Parson. He still opposes growing the government health insurance program for the poor, but now says he’ll implement Medicaid expansion if voters tell him to, and he’s reelected. (12/3)
The Washington Post:
Why The Health-Care Industry Wants To Destroy Any Democratic Reform
If you’re an advocate of Medicare-for-all, it hasn’t been an easy couple of months. A year and a half ago, it seemed as though everyone in the Democratic Party was suddenly embracing the idea, but lately things have changed. As pollsters began asking detailed questions about what people hoped for and feared when it came to health care, it became apparent that opening up public programs on a voluntary basis is substantially more popular than a wholesale reform that puts everyone in a national insurance program. (Paul Waldman, 12/2)
Concerned With Health Costs? Take This 5-Day Health Challenge
The top Democratic presidential candidates continue to include health-care concerns for Americans as a priority, while recent research shows most Americans, or 69 percent, are also concerned about health-care costs. Yet, many Americans do not see the connection between health and weight or other factors they can control. A 2019 Cleveland Clinic survey shows 88 percent of those surveyed understand the link between healthy weight and heart health, yet 43 percent of Americans have tried to make dietary changes to lose weight and 40 percent of those who describe themselves as overweight or obese say they aren't careful about which foods they eat. (Naomi Parrella, 12/1)
Emergency Rooms Shouldn't Be Parking Lots For Patients
Keeping patients in the ER while waiting for an inpatient bed — a practice known as boarding — isn't unique to the busy teaching hospitals where we work. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most American hospitals have boarded patients in the ER for more than two hours while waiting for an inpatient bed. It's a stubborn problem. (Clayton Dalton and Daniel Tonellato, 11/30)
Opinion writers weigh in on these health issues and others.
We Know Medical Error Is A Deadly Problem. Why Haven’t We Fixed It?
Research shows that the majority of medical errors can be traced to poor teamwork and communication as patients — and their medications, charts, labs, and scans — are passed between doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians, and other providers. In response, healthcare organizations have launched numerous initiatives to improve communication and coordination, such as checklists and structured information-sharing tools for high-risk moments like surgery briefing and debriefing. So, two decades after the IOM report and a slew of attempts to prevent medical mistakes, why is it still more dangerous to have a medical procedure than to go sky diving? (Margaret Luciano, 11/29)
Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Vanity Projects Cast Doubt On Leadership At Federal Agency
Dr. Tom Price’s taste for travel by pricey private jets cost him his job two years ago as U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary. So why did the agency recently honor his few, scandal-plagued months of service with a reception this month to unveil an official photo portrait? The Nov. 19 event was especially galling because it’s still unclear whether HHS has recovered the dollars Price spent needlessly chartering aircraft instead of flying commercial. ... The case for stronger oversight is strengthened by a subsequent example of dubious spending by another top HHS official. Seema Verma, the Trump appointee who leads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), has been dogged for months by troubling questions about her agency’s use of expensive outside consultants. (11/27)
Hospice Is More Than Dying And More Families Need To Know That
Every year, more than 1.5 million Americans with a terminal diagnosis choose hospice care because it provides a broad range of services tailored to meet their unique needs. Hospice care is unlike any other service in our healthcare system, and it is still not widely understood, despite being part of Medicare’s benefits since the 1980s. Sadly, many of the families we serve here in Middle Tennessee say they wish they had learned about hospice sooner. (Kimberly Goessele, 11/29)
Senate Bill Would Limit Or Stop Office-Based Medication Infusions
As gastroenterologists, we treat patients in Portland, Ore., and Des Moines, Iowa, with challenging disorders like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis who sometimes need infusions of medications. Legislation before Congress could make it difficult — and potentially impossible — for us to provide this important care in our medical practices. That could force our patients to go to hospitals or large medical centers for their infusions, which is less convenient for them and more expensive for the health care system. (Rajalakshmi Iyer and James Regan, 12/3)
The Wall Street Journal:
Of Gun Rights And A Cup Of Coffee
Can the U.S. Supreme Court trust the politicians of New York City to protect the Second Amendment? Believe it or not, that question consumed the biggest chunk of Monday’s oral argument in the first gun rights case the Justices have heard in 10 years. The answer is no, and the lawyer for the city proved the point during oral argument. The four liberal Justices tried mightily on Monday to support the city’s claim that the case is moot because the NYPD has changed its regulation to allow gun owners to transport licensed firearms outside the city. The liberals want the Court to drop the case without a ruling that might reaffirm the right to bear arms, and toward that end they say there is no longer a live controversy to decide. (12/2)
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
'STRONG' Ohio Bill Will Make A Difference In Controlling Gun Violence
The “STRONG Ohio” initiative to reduce gun violence is a meaningful response to Ohioans who demanded we “do something” about the all-too-frequent gun violence on our streets and in our homes, and to horrific events such as the mass shooting in Dayton. I agreed to be the sponsor of Gov. Mike DeWine’s gun reform bill because it is constitutional, effective and, most importantly, will save lives. (Matt Dolan, 12/3)
St. Louis Post Dispatch:
Parson Should Be Leading The Campaign For A Missouri Vaping Tax, Not Ruling It Out.
Missouri already imposes the lowest cigarette tax in America, which deprives the state of needed revenue to counter tobacco’s health care costs and misses an opportunity to nudge potential new smokers away from starting. Now Gov. Mike Parson says he has no interest in learning from the state’s mistake, nor following the lead of other states that are confronting growing health concerns about vaping by boosting the taxes on it. So-called “sin taxes” are an effective way to contain potentially harmful markets that can’t realistically be outlawed (tobacco, alcohol, gambling) and to recoup some of the fiscal and societal costs they inflict. Why close off that option at the start of a new and growing health crisis? (12/2)
I’m Conservative, Republican And Transgender. The Supreme Court Should Protect My Rights
As a transgender woman, I was grateful to see many of my friends and neighbors following the LGBTQ employment discrimination cases heard before the Supreme Court in October. These cases — which will decide whether federal law protects LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination — are incredibly high stakes. The outcome will affect millions of LGBTQ people working across our country. I know. I was fired from my job after coming out as transgender. (Erin Dotten, 12/2)