- Kaiser Health News Original Stories 3
- Sometimes Tiny Is Just The Right Size: ‘Microhospitals’ Filling Some ER Needs
- Soda Taxes: Gaining Steam Or Getting Steamrolled?
- ‘Don’t Cut Me!’: Discouraged By Experts, Episiotomies Still Common In Some Hospitals
- Political Cartoon: 'Priorities'
- Marketplace 4
- Starbucks Will Give Employees Access To Private Insurance Exchange Options
- Drugmakers Looking At Creative Ways To Attract Patients To Clinical Trials
- Health Innovations: Tiny Robot Could Mend Stomach Troubles; Growing A Hip Replacement
- Hospital Roundup: Ransomware Attacks Worry Congress; A Rise In 'Microhospitals'
- Public Health 6
- Addiction Law Fails To Adequately Strengthen Opioid Tracking System, Critics Say
- More Than 1 In 4 LGBT Adults Could Not Afford Food In Last Year: Report
- Benefits Of Electroshock For Some Depression Patients Outweigh Risks: FDA
- U.N. Chief: Progress Against AIDS 'Inadequate - And Fragile'
- Number Of Incurable Prostate Cancer Cases On The Rise: Report
- If Placebos Have No Pharmaceutical Effect, Why Do They Still Deliver Health Benefits?
- State Watch 1
- State Highlights: Lobbying Picks Up Over Calif. Tobacco Tax Ballot Measure; Okla., Colo. And Pa. Receive Grants To Train Rural Doctors
From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:
These facilities are full-service hospitals and offer a full array of emergency services but may have only a handful of beds for admitted patients. (Michelle Andrews, )
A staunch advocate of taxing sugary drinks discusses the benefits and difficulties of enacting such policies. (Anna Gorman, )
Overall rates are falling in California and nationally but data point to certain hospitals with extremely high percentages. (Jocelyn Wiener, )
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Priorities'" by Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
COMPOUNDING DRUGS FACE COMPOUNDING PROBLEMS
First came questions of
Safety, quality and cost.
Now it’s about fraud.
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if we can include your name. Haikus follow the format of 5-7-5 syllables. We give extra brownie points if you link back to a KHN original story.
Opinions expressed in haikus and cartoons are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions of KHN or KFF.
Summaries Of The News:
The disease does not appear to have been transmitted through a mosquito bite or sexual contact, the two ways previously identified by researchers for Zika to spread.
The New York Times:
New Utah Zika Case Baffles Health Officials
In another puzzling twist to the Zika epidemic, the Utah Department of Health on Monday reported the diagnosis of a new case of the virus that did not appear to have been contracted through either of the known sources of transmission: a mosquito bite or sexual contact. The patient, who has fully recovered, was a “family contact” who helped care for an older man who had become infected with the virus after traveling abroad. (Tavernise, 7/18)
The Washington Post:
Elderly Zika Patient In Utah May Have Infected A Family Contact
An elderly Utah man who died after contracting Zika from travel abroad may have spread the virus to a family contact who did not leave the country, raising troubling questions about a possible new route of transmission of the mosquito-borne virus, state and federal officials said Monday. Officials said they are investigating how the second person became infected. One possibility is close contact between the critically ill patient and the caregiver, who has since recovered. (Sun and Dennis, 7/18)
Health Officials Puzzled By Zika Case In Utah
Dr. Erin Staples, an epidemiologist who is on the ground in Utah, wrote in a statement that the spread of Zika through any means other than mosquitoes “does not appear to be common.” Out of 1,306 cases of Zika in the U.S., only 14 have been spread through sexual contact and one was the result of a laboratory exposure. Still, Staples acknowledged the new case in Utah “is a surprise, showing that we still have more to learn about Zika.” (Ferris, 7/18)
A Case Of Zika Apparently Spread From A Patient To A Family Caregiver
Health officials stressed to reporters in a press briefing that mosquitoes remain the main way that Zika spreads. And there is no evidence at this point that the virus can be spread from one person to another "by sneezing or coughing, routine touching, kissing, hugging or sharing utensils," Dr. Satish Pillai, the CDC's incident manager, told reporters. (Stein, 7/18)
US Health Officials Investigating Mysterious Case Of Zika Virus
The man who died had exceptionally high levels of the Zika virus in his system at the end of his life. Health officials acknowledged the younger man was related to the man who died earlier this month but declined to provide further details; they were father and son, according to a person who was familiar with the case but who was not authorized to speak for attribution. A statement from the CDC said the older man’s blood contained 100,000 times more virus than is normally seen in Zika infection. (Branswell, 7/18)
Zika Mystery: How Did An Elderly Patient Infect A Family Contact?
To unravel the mystery, the CDC has dispatched an emergency response team to Utah after a request for help from the state’s health department. The team is similar to others the agency has sent to outbreak regions in Brazil and Puerto Rico where the virus is rampant. A virologist, infection control and mosquito control experts, investigators and health communication officers are currently in Utah. (Bentley, 7/18)
And in news on Zika research and prevention --
The Wall Street Journal:
Public Health Officials Across U.S. Race To Build Defenses Against Zika Virus
With summer in full swing, public-health and mosquito-control officials are pulling out the stops to stop the Zika virus taking root and spreading in the continental U.S. The mosquitoes that are able to spread the virus are flourishing this summer in Key West, Fla., just as they did six years ago during an outbreak of dengue—another disease they can transmit, said Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. “We’re on high alert,” he said. (McKay and McWhirter, 7/18)
Antibiotic May Help Limit Zika’s Damage, New Study Suggests
New research shows that the Zika virus has two routes by which it can infect a developing fetus, depending on when during a pregnancy the infection occurs. It also shows an existing drug might be able to limit the damage wreaked by the virus. The new study, by scientists at the University of California at San Francisco and the University of California at Berkeley, suggests that an antibiotic called duramycin seems to be able to block Zika’s ability to latch onto the cells it wants to affect. (Branswell, 7/18)
The New York Times:
Zika Data From The Lab, And Right To The Web
Of the hundreds of monkeys in the University of Wisconsin’s primate center, a few — including rhesus macaque 827577 — are now famous, at least among scientists tracking the Zika virus. Since February, a team led by David H. O’Connor, the chairman of the center’s global infectious diseases department, has been conducting a unique experiment in scientific transparency. The tactic may presage the evolution of new ways to respond to fast-moving epidemics. ... But then, instead of saving their data for academic journals, the researchers have posted it almost immediately on a website anyone can visit. (McNeil, 7/18)
The New York Times:
Confronting A Lingering Question About Zika: How It Enters The Womb
As scientists learn more about how the Zika virus can cause brain damage in a developing fetus, a major question has remained: How does a virus that infects a pregnant mother through a mosquito bite on her skin get into her womb? It is not a simple question. Most viruses that infect a pregnant woman cannot cross from her bloodstream through the placenta, the organ that forms to nourish and protect the fetus as it grows and develops. (Belluck, 7/19)
Knowledge Is Power Against Mosquito-Borne Illness
The presence of mosquito-borne illness is apparent both with the season and the Zika news coverage, in turn prompting a need for the public to know how to protect themselves. Dr. Charles Ruis, director of the Southwest Public Health District, said that — apart from Eastern Equine Encephalitis in a horse in Valdosta — there is nothing particularly new to report as far as mosquito-borne illness in the region. Aside from Zika, West Nile is another health concern — the peak season for which is usually August. (Parks, 7/16)
Covered California is scheduled to unveil its 2017 rates today, and experts predict that the increases could be far higher than in previous years. Also, outlets report on insurance co-op news in Wisconsin, New Mexico and Oregon.
Your Obamacare Premiums Are Probably Going Up Next Year. Here’s Why.
California’s Obamacare customers can expect a hefty increase in their monthly health insurance premiums next year. Covered California will announce new 2017 rates Tuesday morning for people who buy their plan through the state marketplace, and experts are predicting that increases will be double or even triple what they were last year. ... Covered California’s proposed budget for 2017, released in May, projected average rate increases of 8 percent. Industry insiders are suggesting the average jump could be even higher. (Dembosky, 7/18)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative Faces A Few Fateful Months
Fifteen of the health insurance cooperatives started with federal dollars through the Affordable Care Act have failed — four of them just this month — saddling taxpayers with an estimated $1.7 billion in bad loans. Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative is one of seven still standing. But the next few months will determine whether Common Ground, which insures about 20,000 in 19 counties in eastern Wisconsin, manages to survive. (Boulton, 7/18)
Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal:
More ACA Health Co-Ops Close, But NM’s Is Safe
Martin Hickey, CEO of New Mexico Health Connections says the cooperative here is on sound financial footing with over $63 million in reserves. The co-op’s membership has doubled over 2015 and is showing a slight first-quarter profit. Nevertheless, Hickey said the Albuquerque-based nonprofit insurance cooperative is seeking sharp increases in its individual rates next year because it will have to pay a “risk adjustment bill” of $14.6 million to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for 2015. (Sinovic, 7/18)
Members Of Closing Oregon Co-Op Can Apply Costs Paid This Year To New Plans
Members of Oregon Health, one of the health insurance co-ops that recently announced it would close its doors, will be able to get credit for money they’ve put toward deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, the state announced Monday. Customers who had purchased individual plans through the insurer will need to purchase plans from new carriers that will be effective by Aug. 1, the state’s Department of consumer and Business Services announced Monday. (McIntire, 7/18)
Meanwhile, outlets report on a range of women's health developments including pregnancy with reimplanted ovaries; mammograms and breast density; episiotomies; and other news.
The Dallas Morning News:
Hispanic Women Bore Brunt Of Texas Abortion Law, Data Shows
In 2014 — the first full year since restrictions on abortion doctors, pills and clinics forced facilities to close — women in Texas had 9,000 fewer abortions than the year before. That's a 14 percent drop in abortions statewide, a much bigger drop than seen in previous years. But among Texas' Hispanic women, the drop in abortions was especially steep: The number dropped 18 percent from 2013 to 2014, data shows. (McSwane and Martin, 7/18)
Twin Sisters Try To Get Pregnant With Ovaries They Froze In 2012
Not only do the sisters hope their reimplanted ovaries will help them get pregnant, they are also hoping the procedure will reverse their menopause. "I'm really excited," Sarah [Gardner] says. "It will be really nice to not have another hot flash." The approach was originally developed for women who are being treated for cancer and hope to preserve their fertility, but don't have time to freeze their eggs. Some cancer treatments can destroy fertility. (Stein, 7/19)
Got Dense Breasts? That Can Depend On Who Is Reading The Mammogram
If you're a woman who gets screening mammograms, you may have received a letter telling you that your scan was clear, but that you have dense breasts, a risk factor for breast cancer. About half of U.S. states require providers to notify women if they fall into that category. But what you may not know is that gauging breast density isn't a clear-cut process. Researchers reporting in Annals of Internal Medicine Monday found that density assessments varied widely from one radiologist to another. That means you shouldn't let one finding freak you out too much, nor should you assume something's wrong if your reported density changes from year to year. (Hobson, 7/18)
‘Don’t Cut Me!’: Discouraged By Experts, Episiotomies Still Common In Some Hospitals
Episiotomy, a once-common childbirth procedure ... has been officially discouraged in most cases for a decade. Yet it is still being performed at much higher than recommended rates in certain hospitals and by certain doctors. (Weiner, 7/19)
How A Planned Parenthood Executive Talks To Her Daughters About Sex
Dawn Laguens’s day job gives her a bit of extra ammunition as the mom of 17-year-old identical triplets — all girls. Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has championed access to no-copay birth control and accurate sex education. She fought to reverse Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s decision to stop funding preventive care at Planned Parenthood. She’s also embarrassed her daughters by talking about sex while their friends are over. (Thielking, 7/19)
How Vaginal Bacteria Could Be Stoking HIV Cases And Blocking Prevention
By some estimates, about 40 percent of HIV infections are associated with biological mechanisms — mechanisms that scientists are just beginning to unravel. Some of that unraveling is being done in real time. At the International AIDS Conference in Durban today, researchers at the Center for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) will unveil startling new evidence of a bacterial culprit that could be responsible for as many as two out of every five new cases of HIV among women. They’ll also reveal how another bacteria blocks the effectiveness of those pills [Jacqualine] Ncube takes. (Boerner, 7/18)
Workers at the coffee company will be able to select a plan from as many as six national and regional carriers, instead of the one currently offered, starting in October. And casino owner Carl Icahn withdraws a health care offer in the labor dispute at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J.
The Wall Street Journal:
Starbucks Widens Workers’ Health-Insurance Options
Starbucks Corp. on Monday became one of the most high-profile employers to switch its employees to a private health insurance exchange. Instead of the one health insurer and three medical coverage levels they have now, U.S. employees from Chief Executive Howard Schultz to store baristas working at least 20 hours a week will be able to choose from among up to six national and regional carriers, and five levels of medical plan starting in October. (Jargon and Wilde Mathews, 7/18)
The Associated Press:
Health Care Offer Withdrawn As Taj Mahal Strike Continues
An Atlantic City casino owned by billionaire Carl Icahn withdrew an offer to restore health insurance for its striking workers Monday after the union refused to put the measure up for a vote 18 days into a walkout. The Trump Taj Mahal had given striking Local 54 of Unite-HERE workers until Monday to vote on its offer, but union president Bob McDevitt said that the offer was "essentially half" of what workers at other casinos received. (7/18)
Researchers count on about 1.7 million patients to participate in drug trials around the world each year, but they are resorting to new methods of helping consumers find out about the opportunities and participate because they have trouble retaining patients. In other drug developments, Glaxo scientists and federal prosecutors wrestle over access to trade secrets; questions about whether Pfizer will split into two parts; Teva, a generic drug maker, joins the pharmaceutical industry's trade group; and other news.
The Wall Street Journal:
Companies Try New Ways To Attract Patients To Drug Trials
Drug companies are testing new ways to get more people to participate in clinical trials for promising medicines. Some companies sift through laboratory-test records to identify people with certain diseases who might qualify for drug trials. Other firms monitor how patients discuss their diseases in online forums to develop effective recruitment approaches. (Rockoff, 7/18)
Former Glaxo Scientists And The Feds Fight Over Reviewing Allegedly Stolen Documents
A pair of former GlaxoSmithKline scientists, who were indicted earlier this year for allegedly stealing trade secrets and funneling the information to a company in China, is fighting with the federal government over their ability to stage a defense. At issue is a protracted tussle over how the former scientists — and two of their compatriots — will be able to review millions of pages of documents and other evidence that will be used at their trials, but remain under government supervision while they do so. And more than mere logistics are at stake, at least according to the feds. (Silverman, 7/18)
To Split Or Not To Split? One Wall Street Wag Thinks Pfizer May Remain Intact
After its deal to acquire Allergan fell apart three months ago, Pfizer executives indicated they may split the company into different parts. The idea, which Pfizer first floated five years ago, would presumably unlock, or bolster, shareholder value by creating two different entities to produce older drugs and another that would focus on newer medicines. A decision is expected later this year, but one Wall Street analyst is questioning whether the big drug maker will follow through. (Silverman, 7/18)
Teva, One Of The Biggest Generic Makers, Joins The Brand-Name Club
In a move that underscores the changing landscape of the pharmaceutical industry, the chief trade group has officially accepted one of the world’s largest generic drug makers into its ranks. Last Friday, Teva Pharmaceuticals became a member of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which has burnished its reputation on Capitol Hill and elsewhere as a staunch defender of brand-name companies. The decision to accept Teva, which had been telegraphed in recent days, came as a surprise to some industry watchers, given the historical rivalry between brand-name and generic manufacturers. (Silverman, 7/18)
The Wall Street Journal:
Novartis Says Profit Could Dip As It Boosts Investment In Heart Drug Entresto
Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG cut its profit guidance for the year as it ramps up investment in its new heart-failure drug to offset falling sales of cancer blockbuster Gleevec. Joe Jimenez, chief executive, said he had made a “hard decision” to boost investment in Entresto by an additional $200 million this year, a move that could cost the company 1-2% of core operating income. (Roland, 7/19)
Novartis, World's Top Drugmaker, Plays Down Brexit Threat
Switzerland's Novartis, the world's biggest maker of prescription drugs, will continue to invest in Britain, despite the country's decision to leave the European Union, its chief executive said on Tuesday. Joe Jimenez also told reporters he expected the European Medicines Agency (EMA), currently based in London, to continue its work on approving new medicines in an "orderly" fashion, even though it is likely to have to move to a new location. (Revill, 7/19)
Gene editing and a new spinal surgery guidance system also make headlines.
The Associated Press:
Having Stomach Troubles? Try Swallowing An Origami Robot
Has your child swallowed a small battery? In the future, a tiny robot made from pig gut could capture it and expel it. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are designing an ingestible robot that could be used to patch wounds, deliver medicine or dislodge a foreign object. They call their experiment an “origami robot” because the accordion-shaped gadget gets folded up and frozen into an ice capsule. (O'Brien, 7/19)
St. Louis Public Radio:
How To Grow A Hip Replacement With Your Own Stem Cells
A St. Louis orthopedic researcher has developed a way to grow a hip replacement out of stem cells found in a patient’s fat reserves, and is now testing it in animals. The discovery that made it possible happened by accident, said Farshid Guilak, who directs regenerative medicine research for St. Louis Shriner’s Hospital and Washington University. (Bouscaren, 7/18)
Do CRISPR Enthusiasts Have Their Head In The Sand About The Safety Of Gene Editing?
While the 150 experts from industry, academia, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration were upbeat about the possibility of using genome-editing to treat and even cure sickle cell disease, leukemia, HIV/AIDS, and other blood disorders, there was a skunk at the picnic: an emerging concern that some enthusiastic CRISPR-ers are ignoring growing evidence that CRISPR might inadvertently alter regions of the genome other than the intended ones. (Begley, 7/18)
Mazor Robotics Unveils New System
Mazor Robotics, a company based in Israel with U.S. headquarters in Orlando, has unveiled Mazor X, a new guidance system for spine surgery. The company recently signed a commercial co-promotion and co-development with Medtronic, which has already ordered 15 Mazor X systems. (Miller, 7/18)
In other news related to the hospital industry, a Georgia court case tests privacy laws, CEOs discuss gun violence and race relations, a nasty budget fights hits a Massachusetts agency that tracks health care costs, Catholic Health System works on turnaround plan and a Florida family sues a hospital for forcing a patient release.
Cyber Ransom Attacks Panic Hospitals, Alarm Congress
When the Obama administration pushed out a $35 billion incentive program to pay doctors and hospitals to convert to electronic records, the idea was to modernize the health care industry, not serve it up on a platter to cyber criminals. But now, American hospitals face weekly ransom threats. If they don’t pay up, files get frozen, surgeries delayed and patients sent across town. One of these days, someone could die as a result. And no one in government has a clear plan to handle it. (Allen, 7/18)
Kaiser Health News:
Sometimes Tiny Is Just The Right Size: ‘Microhospitals’ Filling Some ER Needs
Eyeing fast-growing urban and suburban markets where demand for health care services is outstripping supply, some health care systems are opening tiny, full-service hospitals with comprehensive emergency services but often fewer than a dozen inpatient beds. These “microhospitals” provide residents quicker access to emergency care, and they may also offer outpatient surgery, primary care and other services. They are generally affiliated with larger health care systems, which can use the smaller facility to expand in an area without incurring the cost of a full-scale hospital. (Andrews, 7/19)
Georgia Health News:
Hospital Privacy Or Hospital Secrecy? Court Case Tests Limits Of Openness
The Georgia Open Records Act, known as a “sunshine law,” was created to allow the people of the state to know what their government agencies are doing. Private citizens, lawyers and reporters routinely use the act to find out how agencies make decisions and spend money. But Atlanta-based Northside Hospital Inc. says it’s not bound by that law. (Miller, 7/18)
Hospital CEOs Drawn Into Race Dialogue By Police Shootings
The growing number of shootings involving police is drawing hospital CEOs into the conversation on race relations. In an essay Monday on Linkedin, Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson called for a national dialogue on race and rebuilding trust through community policing. (Barkholz, 7/18)
The Boston Globe:
Funds Slashed At Agency Studying Ways To Contain Health Costs
It’s an obscure agency with a vital role: providing in-depth research to help the state monitor and contain health care costs. But the Center for Health Information and Analysis, or CHIA, was blindsided when its budget was slashed by more than a third as part of a deal to avert a potentially nasty fight over hospital funding. Under the compromise, reached in May, Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union dropped its push for a ballot proposal that would have yanked $440 million in annual payments from Partners HealthCare, the state’s largest health system, and redistributed much of that money to lower-paid hospitals. (McCluskey, 7/18)
Catholic Health System Makes Progress In Turnaround Plan
Presence Health's shaky financial condition has taken a slight turn for the better after the Catholic health system reduced its workforce by more than 650 full-time jobs and increased prices in the first half of the year. But it's too early to say whether the Chicago-based company is on the road to recovery. (Sachdev, 7/18)
The Associated Press:
Family Files Lawsuit Against Hospital And City In Death
The family of a Florida woman who died outside a hospital after she was forcibly removed by police has filed a federal lawsuit against those who forced her exit. Frances Scott, who is the personal representative of the estate of Barbara Dawson, filed it against Calhoun Liberty Hospital, including two of its former employees, the City of Blountstown and former Blountstown Police officer. (Reedy, 7/18)
Language was eliminated from the final bill that would have only provided grants to states that required physicians to check drug databases before they wrote a painkiller prescription. Doctors lobbied against the provision, saying it was too burdensome. And marijuana laws make news in Texas and New Hampshire.
Did New Addiction Treatment Bill Miss An Opportunity To Strengthen State Drug-Monitoring Programs?
Patient advocates say a bill passed by Congress last week that ostensibly decriminalizes drug addiction will no doubt open doors for those seeking treatment. But others say the legislation is a lost opportunity to strengthen the country's ability to track opioid prescriptions. (Johnson, 7/18)
Lawmakers: Decriminalizing Marijuana Could Be Good For Texas Business
Texans who are arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana shouldn’t be locked out of jobs and haunted by minor lapses in judgment for the rest of their lives, business and legislative leaders say. As acceptance of marijuana — medical and otherwise — grows nationally and in Texas, members of both major political parties in the Legislature have staked out positions supporting the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana. The proposed change could be beneficial for Texas businesses, proponents have said. (Eaton, 7/18)
New Hampshire Public Radio:
Why New Hampshire's Medical Marijuana Law Shuts Out People With Chronic Pain
New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program finally got off the ground in April, with the opening of the state’s first cannabis treatment center. Three of the four state-licensed dispensaries are now operating, and more than 1,100 people with serious illnesses are approved to use the drug. But many, if not most, of the New Hampshire residents who could potentially benefit from medical marijuana won’t be able to legally obtain it. (Wallstin, 7/18)
In other news related to Americans' eating habits, a new app aims to help consumers navigate nutrition and exercise, farm subsidies go toward crops that contribute to obesity and more states consider a soda tax.
The New York Times:
A Hunger Crisis In The L.G.B.T. Community
A new report on hunger found that more than one in four L.B.G.T. adults could not afford to feed themselves or their families at least once in the past year. By comparison, only one in six heterosexual adults reported a similar crisis. Certain subgroups in the L.G.B.T. community are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity, including minorities, women, the unmarried, bisexuals, those without college degrees, younger people and those who have children in the home. (Rabin, 7/18)
The New York Times:
An App To Deconstruct Your Food
Ever wondered how long you’d have to swim to burn off the calories in an organic peanut butter cup? Or how far the strawberries or burger on your plate traveled to get there? For answers, ask the Sage Project, one of the latest of the food technology companies helping consumers navigate nutrition. While a number of food apps count calories and track eating habits, Sage goes beyond the food label to give customers additional information about additives and preservatives, how much sugar has been adding during processing or how far a food has traveled. (Strom, 7/18)
Does Subsidizing Crops We're Told To Eat Less Of Fatten Us Up?
We — the U.S. taxpayers — help subsidize farmers by paying part of the premiums on their crop insurance. This helps ensure that farmers don't go belly up, and it also protects against food shortages. But are there unintended consequences? For instance, do subsidies encourage the production — and perhaps overconsumption — of things that we're told to eat less of? Think high fructose corn syrup or perhaps meat produced from livestock raised on subsidized grains. (Aubrey, 7/18)
Kaiser Health News:
Soda Taxes: Gaining Steam Or Getting Steamrolled?
A sip of soda will become more expensive next year in Philadelphia, which recently became the second city in the United States to pass a tax on sugary beverages — after Berkeley voters passed one in 2014. The Philadelphia measure, approved by the City Council in June, could lend momentum to efforts by public health advocates to get similar taxes enacted elsewhere around the nation." (Gorman, 7/19)
In other mental health treatment news, free counseling is offered by black doctors in Atlanta for racial trauma and in Minneapolis for children coping with a loss while groups find that kids and seniors both benefit from intergenerational activities.
The Washington Post:
FDA: Electroshock Has Risks But Is Useful To Combat Severe Depression
After years of consideration, the Food and Drug Administration has determined that for carefully selected patients with profound depression, the benefits of electroconvulsive therapy, long demonized, outweigh the risks of possible memory loss caused by its use. Citing evidence from 60 randomized trials of ECT, once known as electroshock therapy, the FDA acknowledged the risk but said that there is now enough evidence to ease access to the therapy for certain people. (Hurley, 7/18
Can A Stint In The ‘Fever Machine’ Treat Depression? This Psychiatrist Aims To Find Out
One night, (Charles) Raison’s companion told him about a meditation practice called “tummo,” a kind of fast track to enlightenment. Using only breathing and visualization techniques, he said, monks raised their body temperatures to feverish levels — so high that their body heat could steam dry sheets dipped in an icy Himalayan lake. Raison was entranced. At that moment, he decided he would study how body temperature connected to feelings of bliss. That conversation would lead to decades of research — and a controversial idea for treating depression by putting patients inside a machine that induces fever. (Boodman, 7/19)
Black Doctors Offer Free Therapy Space For Racial Trauma
It's been nearly a week of daily protests in Atlanta since the fatal shootings in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and Dallas. For many, those protests have included a form of collective grieving. On Wednesday night, a group of mental health professionals invited members of the black community to address difficult feelings with their help, for free. WABE spoke to psychologist Ifetayo Ojelade before the meeting she helped organize, which was closed to the media. (Hagen, 7/14)
Free Grief Counseling For Kids Comes To North Minneapolis
Fairview Health Care has expanded its grief support program for children to North Minneapolis. The health system facilitates a free series that is one of the few resources in the Twin Cities to help children and families cope after the loss of a parent, grandparent or sibling or someone else close. It’s been offered twice a year in Burnsville and once a year in South Minneapolis and about 800 children and adults have gone through it since 2012, according to Fairview. (Beckstrom, 7/18)
California Health Report:
How Uniting Kids, Elders Helps Both
It’s a solution for two problems at once: children desperately need mentors to guide them, and isolated seniors yearn for more connection and meaning. The growing intergenerational activities movement received a powerful jolt last year when the Los Angeles-based Eisner Foundation sharpened its focus to solely support intergenerational programming. ... Eisner grant recipient Jumpstart for Young Children saturates 13 preschools with adult mentors over 55 in underserved LA neighborhoods — Compton, South LA, East LA and Echo Park. (Perry, 7/18)
His comments came on the opening day of the 21st International AIDS conference. News outlets also report on both international and domestic issues related to curbing the disease's spread.
The Washington Post:
United Nations Chief: Progress In Fighting AIDS Is ‘Inadequate — And Fragile’
On Monday, the opening day of the world's largest AIDS conference, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon struck a somber tone, saying that the gains that have been made in the global fight against the virus are "inadequate — and fragile." Ban's remarks are striking given the optimism that has prevailed about the disease in recent years thanks to new drugs that have helped those infected have life expectancies similar to those of people who are not infected and stopped many others from getting infected in the first place. (Cha, 7/18)
A New Generation Learns How To Live With HIV
Chisanga's story is part of a project by the Children's Radio Foundation, launched to coincide with Monday's opening of the 21st International AIDS Conference 2016 in Durban, South Africa. Michal Rahfaldt, the head of the Children's Radio Foundation, says for teenagers today HIV is different than it was 20, 15 or even 10 years ago. (Beaubien, 7/18)
Fighting HIV In Two High-Risk Groups: Sex Workers And Truck Drivers
She's a sex worker. She's clutching a glass of beer. She's drunk and can barely stand up. ... The woman is one of the many sex workers in the city of Beira in Mozambique — and one of the targets of a new pilot program set up by Doctors Without Borders to prevent the spread of HIV. The initiative focuses on sex workers and another group at high risk of infection — truck drivers. (Beaubien, 7/18)
Study Confirms Vaginal Ring Protects Women From HIV
A silicone ring impregnated with an antiviral drug can protect 75 percent or more of women from the AIDS virus, researchers reported Monday. The ring has been designed to give women a discreet way to protect themselves from infection in situations where they may not be able to refuse sex or demand that a man use a condom. (Fox, 7/18)
Meanwhile, in California, pathologists at a dozen hospitals team up to improve the state's cancer database.
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Metastatic Prostate Cancer Cases Surge, Adding To Screening Controversy
A new study documents a decade-long increase in the number of men who have incurable prostate cancer at their initial diagnosis, an ominous finding that prostate cancer-screening proponents have been predicting. Both screening and diagnosis of early-stage prostate cancer have declined, coinciding with recommendations from an influential government advisory panel. (McCullough, 7/19)
Tracking Cancer In Real Time
California is overhauling the way it collects information for its massive cancer database in the hope of improving how patients are treated for the disease. Pathologists at a dozen hospitals in the state are part of a pilot project — the first of its kind in the United States — in which they are reporting cancer diagnoses in close to real-time to the California Cancer Registry. And they are using standardized electronic forms to make their reporting more consistent and accurate. (Gorman, 7/19)
The latest research finds that the fake drugs may cause changes in the body, not just the mind. Meanwhile, news outlets report on other public health developments related to Alzheimer's, hepatitis C and the effect of heat on prescription drugs.
The Wall Street Journal:
Why Placebos Really Work: The Latest Science
Scientists are finding a growing number of ways placebos appear to bring about real health benefits in patients. The research could someday lead to increased use of placebos—substances that have no apparent pharmaceutical effect—in treatments for common diseases. (Reddy, 7/18)
The Washington Post:
How Alzheimer’s Turned A Daughter Into Her Mom’s Mom
As her mother’s memories began to fade, [Loretta] Veney fashioned a new role for herself as a memory-keeper, leading her to write and self-publish “Being My Mom’s Mom: A Journey Through Dementia From a Daughter’s Perspective.” ... “When I started looking for information to help me understand more about dementia,” she says, “I found that there weren’t a lot of books that were written from an adult child’s perspective, and there were definitely not any written by African Americans. So I thought maybe I could write down my experience, the things I’d learned, the things that I did wrong, and make it a little easier for someone else.” (Hartke, 7/18)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Despite Promising Treatments, Hepatitis C Continues To Rise
About twice the number of Wisconsinites are living with hepatitis C than have been diagnosed. About 38,000 Wisconsinites have confirmed cases of the virus, according to the state Department of Health Services' most recent figures from December 2013, though an estimated 74,000 Wisconsin residents are projected to be infected. And that number is going up, fueled by drug users who contract the virus by sharing infected needles, according to preliminary figures to be released by the Department of Health Services later this month. (Bekker, 7/18)
Sun And Heat Can Make Some Drugs Dangerous While Making Others Less Potent
Some widely used medications can make you far more sensitive to summer’s sunlight and heat than you’d usually be. For example: Certain over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines and common antidepressants reduce your ability to sweat, which makes it difficult for your body to regulate its temperature properly. That makes you more prone to muscle cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can rapidly escalate into an emergency. (7/18)
And in more news on the Pregnancy Study Online, Paralympics and WWE —
Caffeine? Boxers Or Briefs? Laptop Use? Study Seeks Clues To Fertility, Including Men's
Hundreds of men are offering up intimate details of their lives — from sex to food to their underwear preferences — as part of a major study on fertility led by researchers at Boston University. It's called PRESTO, for Pregnancy Study Online, and it's the largest preconception study in North America. When it comes to male participation, it's the largest study of its kind in the world: Nearly 3,500 women and 945 men from the U.S. and Canada have enrolled in the web-based study, and all of the participants are just starting to try to conceive. (Zimmerman, 7/18)
A Star Athlete Heads To Rio To Keep Paralympians Healthy — And To Watch For ‘Boosting’
When Paralympic athletes hit the swimming pool and race tracks in Rio de Janeiro, Dr. Cheri Blauwet will be there — this time, not as a competitor, but as a medical advisor tracking concussions, infections, and blindfolded collisions. Blauwet, who’s 36, rose to fame as a wheelchair racer, scoring two Boston Marathon victories and seven Paralympic medals. Paralyzed from the waist down after a childhood farming accident, she is now an instructor at Harvard Medical School, a researcher, and a sports medicine doctor at two Boston hospitals, Brigham and Women’s and Spaulding Rehabilitation. Blauwet plans to head to Rio in late August in a new role: heading up the medical committee that advises the Paralympic Games. (Bailey, 7/19)
The Boston Globe:
Ex-Wrestlers File Suit Against WWE For Concealing Concussion Dangers
More than 50 former professional wrestlers filed a lawsuit Monday against World Wrestling Entertainment, alleging the company concealed the dangers of repetitive head injuries that caused them debilitating neurological damage. The suit, which was filed in US District Court in WWE’s home state of Connecticut, details the experiences of 53 ex-performers who allege a possible link between their head injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative brain disease that has been diagnosed in many deceased athletes and at least two professional wrestlers. (Hohler, 7/18)
Outlets report on health news from California, Oklahoma, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Texas.
Tobacco Companies Drop Nearly $17 Million Into Anti-Tax Campaign
After months of eerie silence from the tobacco industry, Altria and R.J. Reynolds reported nearly $17 million in contributions Friday to oppose Proposition 56, which would increase tobacco taxes by $2 a pack in California. Altria contributed $10.8 million through its subsidiary companies: Marlboro-maker Philip Morris, cigar brand John Middleton Co. and e-cigarette brand NuMark. R.J. Reynolds, which makes Camel cigarettes and other brands, gave an additional $6.2 million. The companies organized and funded the campaign to highlight the “many problems with Prop. 56,” said Beth Miller, a spokeswoman for the campaign, in a statement. (Luna, 7/18)
New Federal Grants To Help Train Rural Doctors To Fight Addiction
The Obama administration is committing $9 million to rural health officials in three states that are testing the waters of telemedicine as they try to stem the rising tide of overdose deaths. The latest set of federal grants, which was announced at a meeting of the National Governors Association, will go to Oklahoma, Colorado and Pennsylvania over the next three years. (Ferris, 7/18)
San Francisco Chronicle:
In Reversal, Powerful Health Care Workers Union Expected To Back Senate GOP
The politically powerful state health care workers union is planning to back Republicans in their battle to retain control of the state Senate this year, a reversal from the 2014 elections when the union threw its support behind Democrats, according to a person close to the organization. The union, 1199 SEIU, made a $100,000 donation on July 11 to the Senate Republicans' campaign arm. The union also has a potent voter turnout operation, though the degree to which it will commit resources to help the GOP maintain its narrow working majority was not yet clear. (Bragg, 7/18)
The Des Moines Register:
Mental Health Programs Shifting To Broadlawns
A Des Moines mental health agency is set to lose a $2.4 million contract to aid people in crisis. Polk County supervisors are scheduled to vote Tuesday on their staff’s proposal to shift the programs from Eyerly Ball Community Health Services to Broadlawns Medical Center on Aug. 1. Eyerly Ball helped create the programs, which include a long-standing Mobile Crisis Response Team. (Leys, 7/18)
Los Angeles Times:
CalPERS Posts Worst Year Since 2009, With Slim Returns
California’s largest public pension fund made a return of less than 1% in its most recent fiscal year, the fund’s worst performance since 2009. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System said Monday that its rate of return for the year ended June 30 was just 0.61%. What’s more, Ted Eliopoulos, the pension fund’s chief investment officer, said the poor year has pushed CalPERS’ long-term returns below expected levels. (Koren, 7/18)
The Des Moines Register:
He Thought He Would Die Before Leaving The Home He Loved
[John] Tapscott has been a vocal proponent of physician-assisted suicide, and even testified on its behalf in January at the state Capitol where he spent so much of his time in the 1960s and '70s. Yet he's stymied by what has become his own discombobulated timeline at the end of life. He already has outlived one terminal diagnosis. Last year, he staged his own premature funeral, a wake on July Fourth that drew 400 people. (Munson, 7/18)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Metro East Nursing Homes Fined After Residents' Deaths
Two nursing homes in the Metro East have been fined by the state after investigations found potentially preventable deaths of two residents. The Illinois Department of Public Health fined Willowcreek Rehab and Nursing facility in Belleville $25,000 after a woman died in March when staff members mistakenly stopped cardiopulmonary resuscitation. (Bernhard, 7/18)
Kansas Health Institute:
Shawnee Nursing Home Facing Financial Consequences Of Medicaid Backlog
At one point recently she was waiting on Medicaid coverage approval for 17 residents — which means Sharon Lane [Health Services] was providing free care for almost one-fourth of its clients. Nursing homes got an increase in their reimbursements through a "bed tax" this year, but Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislators also approved a 4 percent cut in those reimbursements. That made the increase less than expected and made the eligibility problems even harder to absorb. (Marso, 7/18)
Children’s Hospital Partners With Stillwater Diabetes-Care Tech Startup
A Stillwater-based medical-technology startup is tapping medical know-how at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota to accelerate the development of a phone-connected diabetes-testing device. Pops! Diabetics Care in January demonstrated a blood-sugar testing kit that fits onto the back of a smartphone and sends its results to the handset. The medical gadget was then in prototype form, and remains so today. (Ojeda-Zapata, 7/18)
The Associated Press:
Air Pollution Reduction Settlement Reached For 6 Refineries
Federal officials say the settlement will improve air quality for people and the environment because the installed equipment will reduce pollutants, including an estimated 47,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Leaks, flares and excess emissions from the refineries emit dangerous air pollutants known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects, and seriously harm the environment, the officials said. (Le, 7/18)
The Boston Globe:
State Won’t Fault Hospital That Released Man Before Fatal Rampage
A state investigation into Morton Hospital’s release of Arthur J. DaRosa, a seemingly suicidal man who went on to kill two people, found that staff who evaluated him were “thorough and comprehensive’’ and followed appropriate procedures. A licensed social worker with more than 30 years of experience spoke with DaRosa for 2½ hours and concluded he did not need to be admitted to the hospital. A Morton emergency room physician agreed and signed off on DaRosa’s release, with recommendations for outpatient therapy, according to a state report. (Kowalczyk, 7/19)
The Dallas Morning News:
3 Suing Johnson County Jail, Saying Lousy Medical Care Ended In Deaths
Three people are suing the Johnson County jail, saying it failed to provide adequate medical treatment to inmates, two of whom died, according to the plaintiffs. The lawsuits, the latest of which was filed last month in federal court in Dallas, allege the jail has a pattern of ignoring medical requests to save money, providing inmates only with Tylenol or other pain medication until their conditions worsened and required hospitalization. (Downs, 7/18)
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
The New York Times:
The Most Extreme Republican Platform In Memory
This majority has triumphed in securing retrograde positions that include making no exceptions for rape or women’s health in cases of abortion; requiring the Bible to be taught in public high schools; selling coal as a “clean” energy source; demanding a return of federal lands to the states; insisting that legislators use religion as a guide in lawmaking; appointing “family values” judges; barring female soldiers from combat; and rejecting the need for stronger gun controls — despite the mass shootings afflicting the nation every week. (7/19)
Trump Health Plan Forces Question: How Much Is Covering The Uninsured Worth?
The Trump health plan reportedly would make 18 million people uninsured by 2017. But by entirely repealing Obamacare and all its attendant taxes and regulations, the plan also is expected to reduce net federal savings over 10 years of $583 billion and reduce premiums in the non-group market by at least 20%. Progressives surely would be aghast at this prospect and you can be certain that unless Trump modifies the plan’s key features, Hillary Clinton will make it an important campaign issue this fall. But what should the average American think about this trade-off? It all comes down to how much Americans should be forced to pay to prevent each year of being uninsured. (Chris Conover, 7/18)
Ryan Prevails Over Trump In Republican Health Policy Platform
The Paul Ryan wing of the party mostly carried the day, getting its conservative health policy proposals into the platform. The platform statement, which will be voted on by delegates at the convention, left no trace of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump's repeated campaign statements about not touching Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and making sure all Americans have healthcare when they need it. (Harris Meyer, 7/18)
BMJ Medical Errors Paper Fuels Growing Debate
In early May, the BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, published a study that claimed medical errors led to the death of 251,454 people in the United States every year. The report immediately generated headlines in leading news outlets like the New York Times, NPR, the Washington Post and others. It also led to a tsunami of backlash from doctors and others in the medical community. The study's estimates were inflated, many were quick to argue. Critics targeted everything from the researchers' methodology (flawed, lazy) to their agenda (headline-chasing). They decried the damage it had inflicted on the U.S.' medical reputation and on relationships between doctors and patients. Yet others have said the study ought to instead draw badly needed attention to the subject of medical error and the inconsistent ways in which it's measured. (Elizabeth Whitman, 7/18)
Los Angeles Times:
FTC Moves Against Herbalife, But Leaves A Question: Why Is This Company Still Allowed In Business?
The legal complaint and settlement with Herbalife unveiled Friday by the Federal Trade Commission answers several questions about the Los Angeles-based nutritional supplement marketing company, but leaves the most important question wide open. The answered questions involve Herbalife’s business model. The FTC says in its complaint, filed Friday in Los Angeles Federal Court: Yes, Herbalife’s business model is deceitful. (Michael Hiltzik, 7/18)
The New York Times:
Winning The Campaign To Curb Teen Pregnancy
No one really knows why these birthrates have dropped. It’s not because teenagers are having more abortions; those have dropped even more precipitously than births. The most important reason appears to be increased contraceptive use, perhaps as a result of comprehensive sex education and fear of H.I.V. Part of the decline may also be credited to “16 and Pregnant.” (Tina Rosenberg, 7/19)
We Must Treat This Childhood Ailment That Often Goes Unnoticed
As pediatricians in Chicago, one of America’s most diverse cities, we see children of many races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Pediatricians treat all the usual ailments such as ear infections, asthma, strep throat, and the like. But we are also trying to address another one — the developmental gap — that often goes unnoticed. ... According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, almost half of young children in the United States live in poverty or near poverty. Growing up poor can dramatically influence the physical development of children’s brains, which affects their overall developmental and learning trajectories. (Sarah C. Bauer and Reshma Shah, 7/18)
The Washington Post:
I Thought Melanoma Would Kill Me. Here’s Why It Didn’t.
When I was diagnosed in 1996, very early surgery was the only reliably successful treatment. A more advanced case was essentially a death sentence. Over the past five years, a series of revolutionary drugs have given me and many other people a surprisingly hopeful prospect. Nevertheless, the drugs’ development process has often been excruciating for participants in clinical trials, and the drugs’ remarkably high costs limit their value. (Jonathan Friedlaender, 7/18)
Workplace Violence In Health Care
Workplace violence prevention should be addressed aggressively and comprehensively in health care. Safety in health care workplaces relies on leadership enacting appropriate policies; trained employees intervening and reporting; multidisciplinary teams using evidence-based threat assessment and management practices, communicating safety plans, and analyzing the environmental context; and ongoing evaluation of program effectiveness. A workplace violence prevention program should be a required component of the patient safety system of all health care organizations. (Ron Wyatt, Kim Anderson-Drevs and Lynn M. Van Male, 7/18)
FIU Changing The Future Of Medical Education — For The Better
Ten years ago, the Florida Legislature authorized creation of a medical school at FIU. In exchange, we promised to change the future of medical education and healthcare in our community. A decade later, we hav ekept our promise. We are training the next generation of physicians who understand the social determinants of health; who understand that your ZIP code is a better predictor of your health than your genetic code. (John Rock, 7/18)
Big Tobacco Gets Crushed By Tiny Uruguay
Six years ago, when Philip Morris International took Uruguay to court over the country’s aggressive anti-smoking policies, few people would have bet on the gauchos. After all, Uruguay’s gross domestic product of $53 billion was about two-thirds of the tobacco giant’s yearly sales in 2015, and its newly elected president was a septuagenarian chain smoker. (Max Margolis, 7/18)
Des Moines Register:
Future Of Health Care Is Here In Iowa
Today, more Iowans are covered, and coverage for Iowans is better than before. There are no longer lifetime or annual dollar limits on coverage. Preventive services like flu shots, screening for type 2 diabetes, well-woman visits, and many more are covered at no extra cost. And no one can be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition — a protection that helps about 1.3 million Iowans get covered today. These are critical, historic accomplishments. But we have more to do. The Affordable Care Act isn’t just about coverage in the Marketplace. We need to make sure that our health care system works better for every American — whether you get coverage through your job, HealthCare.gov, Medicare, or Medicaid. (HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, 7/17)
The Des Moines Register:
Public Health Outweighs Property Values
The EPA wants all of the nation's water systems to complete their inventories of properties with lead pipes so the states can post that data online in searchable databases. That will enable homeowners, and prospective buyers, to easily determine which houses have lead service lines that increase the risk of contamination. Some states have complied with the EPA directive, but others, including Iowa, have not. (7/17)