- Kaiser Health News Original Stories 2
- EHRs In The ER: As Doctors Adapt, Concerns Emerge About Medical Errors
- R2D2’s Next Assignment: Hospital Orderly
- Political Cartoon: 'Know Of Anyone?'
- Health Law 2
- Administration Retreats On Rules For Insurers' Networks, Standardized Options For 2017
- S.D. Governor Moves His Medicaid Expansion Plan Off Agenda For This Legislative Session
- Health IT 2
- Digital Health Record Initiative Aims To Unclog Bottleneck, But Doubts Remain
- Camera Capsules Let Doctors Catch Glimpse Of Hard To Reach Small Intestine
- Pharmaceuticals 2
- Another SEC Investigation Of Valeant Underway
- Wasted Cancer Medicines Cost Medicare, Insurers $3 Billion Each Year: Study
- Veterans' Health Care 1
- After Being Wounded In War, Veterans Face Daunting IVF Costs Not Covered By VA
- State Watch 2
- As Iowa Prepares For Medicaid Shift, A View Of Kansas' Experience Highlights Obstacles
- State Highlights: Lawyers Claim Arizona Dragging Feet On Health Care Quality Improvements In Prisons
From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:
As hospitals adopt electronic health record systems, some emergency rooms are experiencing new patterns of medical errors. (Shefali Luthra, 3/1)
A gleaming new hospital in San Francisco has a fleet of robots dropping off meals, picking up trash and saving some money in a very 21st century way. (Jenny Gold, 3/1)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Know Of Anyone?'" by Roy Delgado.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
BERNIE SANDERS' BURNING QUESTION
Would Congress keep its
Hands out of it if there were
Medicare for all?
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.
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Summaries Of The News:
Modern Healthcare reports on the final rule out Monday that backs down from earlier efforts by the administration to force insurers to have minimum quantitative standards for networks of hospitals and doctors and to offer standardized options for health plans. News outlets also look at health law issues in Texas, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Obama Administration Backs Off On ACA Rules For 2017 Health Plans
In a major win for the industry, health insurers will not be forced to have minimum quantitative standards when designing their networks of hospitals and doctors for 2017, nor will they have to offer standardized options for health plans. The CMS released a sweeping final rule Monday afternoon that solidifies the Affordable Care Act's coverage policies for 2017. The agency proposed tight network adequacy provisions and standardized health plan options in late November, which fueled antipathy from the health insurance industry. ... The rule addresses several other issues, including surprise medical bills and the 2017 open-enrollment period. (Herman, 2/29)
Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal:
Bills Aim To Save Kynect, Medicaid Programs
Rep. Darryl Owens, a Louisville Democrat, has filed two bills seeking to block Gov. Matt Bevin's plans to dismantle kynect, the state health exchange, and scale back the state Medicaid program. Owens said he hopes to get a hearing on his bills in the House, where Democrats hold the majority, though he acknowledged that they likely won't fare well in the Senate, controlled by Republicans. (Yetter, 2/29)
In Texas, Uneven Expansion Of Obamacare Sows Frustration
People in Texas are significantly more likely than adults nationwide to report that it has gotten harder to see a doctor in the past two years. The finding comes from polling done by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. ... Almost 1 in 5 people in Texas says it's gotten harder to see a doctor in the past two years according to the NPR poll. It didn't matter what kind of insurance they had. About 70 percent of insurance plans for Texans available on HealthCare.gov are small ones, according to Dan Polsky, a health economist at the University of Pennsylvania. (Silverman, 2/29)
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Wisconsin Uses Affordable Care Act But Rejects Funding For It
Wisconsin's decision last week to challenge a fee imposed by the Affordable Care Act set up a comparison not lost on advocates who support the law. The fee has cost the state about $23 million so far. In contrast, Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature's opposition to the law is projected to cost $678.6 million in state tax dollars through the 2017 fiscal year. That's because Wisconsin is the only state in the country to use the Affordable Care Act to expand its Medicaid program while turning down the additional federal dollars available through the law to pay for it. (Boulton, 2/29)
Minnesota Public Radio:
Report: Only 4 Percent Lack Health Insurance In Minnesota
An improving economy and access to affordable coverage led more than 200,000 uninsured Minnesotans to get health insurance the past two years, boosting Minnesota's insured rate to an all-time high, officials said Monday. ... Among its findings, the survey found uninsured rates for Latino Minnesotans fell from 35 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2015. Other groups saw progress, too, although the department said there are still gaps between the insurance rates of whites and people of color in the state. (2/29)
Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard says there isn't enough time left for lawmakers to adequately consider his plan, but he hints the issue could come up in a special session or in 2017. In Utah, a House committee approves a bill that would extend Medicaid coverage to the chronically homeless, mentally ill and those recently released from prison.
The Associated Press:
Governor Won't Pursue Medicaid Expansion This Session
Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Monday that he won't pursue an expansion of Medicaid in South Dakota during the current legislative session. The governor made the announcement after getting input from federal officials about policy revisions necessary to satisfy his conditions. Daugaard said there are not enough days left in the legislative session for lawmakers to consider his plan and adequately make their decisions. (Lammers, 2/29)
Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus-Leader:
Special Session For Medicaid Expansion?
Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Monday said he won't ask lawmakers to take up Medicaid expansion in the final two weeks of the legislative session. But the conversation isn't over. ... The Republican governor reiterated that he won't expand Medicaid to include tens of thousands of additional needy South Dakota residents without the Legislature's and tribes' approval. And he would only move forward if expansion is budget neutral. He said he'd ask the state's budget writing committee to remove the provisions in his proposal that allowed for expansion, but he said the conversation could come up again in 2017 or in special session. (Ferguson, 2/29)
Salt Lake Tribune:
House Panel OKs Bill Promoting Health Care For Homeless, Mentally Ill
With backing from advocates for the poor, a House committee approved legislation Monday that would provide health-care coverage to a portion of Utah's chronically homeless, mentally ill and those recently released from prison. "We have an opportunity to improve the lives of 16,000 of our fellow Utahns. These are people who have virtually no income and they're either homeless, interacting with the corrections [and] justice system, or have behavioral health needs," said House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, the sponsor of the second substitute of HB437. "They need our help," he said. "It's a measured plan, it has cost controls in it, and I think it's the appropriate step at this time." (Gehrke, 2/29)
Committee Approves Bill Extending Medicaid To Utahns In The 'Greatest Need'
A bill backed by Republican House leaders extending Medicaid coverage to Utahns in the "greatest need" because of homelessness, run-ins with the law, substance abuse or mental health issues won committee approval Monday. ... Dunnigan said his proposal to offer assistance to the poorest Utahns currently without coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law is "a measured plan. It has cost controls in it, and I think it's the appropriate step at this time." The plan is the latest attempt by lawmakers to deal with the more than 60,000 Utahns in the coverage gap, earning below the federal poverty level but without federal health care subsidies because Utah has not accepted Medicaid expansion. (Riley Roche, 2/29)
And while much of the excitement over Super Tuesday has centered on the presidential primaries, some legislative races could impact Medicaid expansion.
State Legislative Primaries Could Impact Medicaid Expansion
While many Americans are obsessively following the presidential primary campaign, health policy experts are concerned about little-noticed Republican primary contests for state legislative seats that could determine the fate of Medicaid expansion in Arkansas and other states. (Meyer, 2/29)
The young lawyers will face off on Wednesday in front of the Supreme Court. News outlets offer further coverage of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case centering on a Texas law that requires abortion clinics to meet all standards for an “ambulatory surgical center” and for physicians performing the procedure to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles.
The New York Times:
Young Lawyers Ready To Argue A Major Abortion Case Before The Supreme Court
Facing off before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, in what could be the most momentous abortion case in a quarter-century, will be two lawyers who are still in their thirties and are described by colleagues as whip-smart masters of the law and unflappable under pressure. Arguing in defense of Texas’ sharp restrictions on abortion clinics will be Scott Keller, 34, the state solicitor general. He spent his childhood in rural Wisconsin, clerked for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in the Supreme Court and was legal counsel in the Senate to Ted Cruz, whom Mr. Keller calls a mentor. Speaking on behalf of Texas abortion providers, who are challenging laws that may force many clinics to close, will be Stephanie Toti, 37, a lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. Born in Brooklyn to an Italian-American family, she said her devotion to women’s rights was influenced by her grandmother, whose immigrant parents pulled her from school after the eighth grade because they feared that education would make her unmarriageable. (Eckholm, 2/29)
How Common Are Abortion Complications? A Crucial Question Hits The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court will hear its most important abortion case in decades on Wednesday — and the outcome may depend on one justice’s perception of just how much the procedures put women at risk. (Thielking, 3/1)
High Court To Hear 'Watershed' Texas Abortion Case
The Supreme Court this week will hear arguments on whether Texas can limit abortions to surgical centers and to doctors affiliated with nearby hospitals — potentially reshaping the national landscape on abortion during a presidential election year. Eight justices will hear oral arguments Wednesday in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the most significant abortion case to come before the court since 1992, and among the most significant constitutional tests since the court upheld abortion rights in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. (Haberkorn, 2/29)
Abortion War In Texas Tests High Court Standard
On Wednesday, a suddenly short-staffed Supreme Court will hear the most significant challenge in a generation to the ever-rising number of state abortion restrictions. Clinics in Texas, a dwindling breed under the 2013 law, are fighting requirements that doctors must have admitting privileges at local hospitals and clinics must meet the same operating standards as surgical centers. Texas legislators and the nation's leading abortion opponents say those rules are necessary to protect women's health, even if they result in leaving just 10 clinics in a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age. The nation's leading abortion rights groups and major medical associations say the rules don't serve public health but represent a roadblock for women seeking abortions — the very type of burden the high court's landmark 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey was intended to prohibit. (Wolf, 2/29)
The Washington Post:
The World’s Abortion Policies, Explained In 7 Charts And Maps
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear its most significant abortion-related case in nearly a decade on Wednesday. With eyes focused on Washington, it is worth exploring how other countries have dealt with the issue. In 2013, the United Nations published an extensive report on abortion policies all over the world. Although some details may have changed since then, the data provides striking insights that are worth considering amid the heated U.S. debate. (Cameron and Noack, 3/1)
The frontrunner for the Democratic nomination has turned her attention to the Republican field, homing in on their plan to end the health law. "They never tell you what they’ll put it in its place because you won’t like it," Hillary Clinton says.
Hillary Clinton Shifts Fire From Sanders To GOP Ahead Of Super Tuesday
Hillary Clinton’s main target is Sen. Bernie Sanders no more. Fresh off a resounding victory in the South Carolina primary, the former secretary of State is lambasting the Republican primary field on everything from health care to “hateful rhetoric” and gun control as she prepares for a series of Tuesday contests expected to help tighten her grip on the Democratic presidential nomination. ... Clinton’s assault on Republicans included ... their plan to end Obamacare. “They never tell you what they’ll put it in its place because you won’t like it,” she said, including ending restrictions on insurance company discrimination against individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and kicking adult children off their parents’ health insurance plans. (Przybyla, 2/29)
The Associated Press:
Super Tuesday Is Super 'Nail-Bitey'
Super Tuesday is the big gulp moment for any presidential candidate who makes it that far. It's the biggest day of competition in American democracy except for Election Day itself. It's super nail-bitey, super expensive and often super-clarifying — the killer and maker of dreams. So will it set everything straight in the chaotic presidential race? Maybe. Quite possibly not. (2/29)
Federal health official announced that technology companies, hospital systems and doctors' groups have agreed to take steps that will make electronic health records easier to use including improving patient access to their own files, stop blocking health information sharing and put standards for digital communication between systems in place. But some worry the deal allows companies too much wiggle room.
The Associated Press:
Health Groups Aim To Make Records Easier To Access
Technology companies, hospital systems and doctors' groups have agreed to take steps to make electronic health records easier for consumers to access and use, the Obama administration announced Monday. While nearly all hospitals and most doctors' offices have now gone digital, those systems often don't talk to each other, limiting their usefulness to patients. The latest initiative is meant to speed removal of technological bottlenecks, but it's unclear if it will lead to breakthroughs. The administration needs to make things happen fast, since President Barack Obama leaves office in less than a year. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/1)
Health Companies Will Improve Digital Records, But Safety Concerns Linger
"It’s great to have an electronic record, but if that record can’t be easily accessed by doctors and patients because of clunky technology, then we aren’t consistently seeing the benefit," Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in remarks prepared for delivery Monday night. The information in these records, also called electronic health records (EHRs), is also often blocked either on purpose or because there are misunderstandings about how the main health privacy law works, Burwell says. (O'Donnell, 2/29)
Meanwhile, Kaiser Health News looks at EHRs in the ER —
Kaiser Health News:
EHRs In The ER: As Doctors Adapt, Concerns Emerge About Medical Errors
The mouse slips, and the emergency room doctor clicks on the wrong number, ordering a medication dosage that’s far too large. Elsewhere, in another ER’s electronic health record, a patient’s name isn’t clearly displayed, so the nurse misses it and enters symptoms in the wrong person’s file. These are easy mistakes to make. As ER doctors and nurses grapple with the transition to digitalized record systems, they seem to happen more frequently. (Luthra, 3/1)
The area is hard to navigate using just a scope. In other health IT news, hospitals are using robots to drop off food, pick up trash and other tasks that help save money.
The Wall Street Journal:
Tiny Cameras To See In The Intestines
The digestive tract can be inhospitable terrain to examine. Some of its twists and turns are difficult to reach with a scope, and most scope procedures require patients to undergo sedation or anesthesia. One branch of science is seeking to overcome these obstacles with vitamin-size capsules that can be swallowed and sent through the gut to capture images, and perhaps someday perform basic tasks such as biopsies or drug injection. (Whalen, 2/29)
Kaiser Health News:
R2D2’s Next Assignment: Hospital Orderly
Meet the Tugs — a team of 27 robots now zooming around the hallways of the new University of California-San Francisco hospital at Mission Bay. They look a bit like R2D2, dragging a platform around behind them. Instead of drones, think of them more as little flatbed trucks, ferrying carts of stuff around the vast hospital complex — food, linens, medications, medical waste and garbage. And they do it more efficiently than humans. (Gold, 3/1)
The pharmaceutical company's former ties to drug distributor Philidor Rx Services are being probed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Meanwhile, CEO Mike Pearson returns after a two-month medical leave to an uncertain future for the firm.
The Wall Street Journal:
Valeant Under Investigation By SEC
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. on Monday said it was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Canadian drug company’s stock sank to the lowest level in three years. The SEC has requested information about Valeant’s now-terminated relationship with drug distributor Philidor Rx Services LLC, and Valeant has submitted emails, financial documents and other data to comply with the request, according to a person familiar with the matter. (McNish and Rapoport, 2/29)
Already Facing Investor Concerns, Valeant Hit With Another SEC Probe
Valeant Pharmaceuticals is being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with a previously undisclosed probe, a company spokeswoman said. Further details are not known, but the investigation is not connected to another earlier SEC inquiry into possible securities law violations by Salix Pharmaceuticals, which Valeant acquired last year, concerning inventory accounting. (Silverman, 2/29)
The Wall Street Journal:
Valeant’s ‘Entirely New Story’ Worries Investors
It’s a whole new ballgame at Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. And investors aren’t a fan of the playbook. Valeant on Sunday night pulled its guidance, cancelled its fourth-quarter conference call and said that its chief executive, Michael Pearson, would return to the helm after months of medical leave, while a board member, Robert Ingram, would take over the role of chairman. Investors sent the stock down as much as 9.5% Monday morning on the flurry of news. And one analyst is warning that there’s no way to know what’s coming next. (Farrell, 2/29)
Pearson's Uncertain Return To Valeant
Welcome back, Mike! Now fix everything. It’s been a long two months for Valeant CEO Mike Pearson and his company. He’s taking the reins back after a lengthy medical leave, the company announced Sunday night. Citing the timing of his return, Valeant withdrew its forward earnings guidance and delayed (again) its fourth-quarter earnings call. Valeant needs a command performance from Pearson to stem share losses, reduce uncertainty and convince investors Valeant can move beyond the debt-and-M&A-fueled model with which Pearson built the company. (Misen, 2/29)
The Associated Press:
Valeant's Stock Plunges 18 Pct As Company's Headaches Mount
Valeant Pharmaceuticals' stock tanked Monday amid ongoing turmoil over the embattled drugmaker's delayed financial results, its leader's health and government probes into what has gone wrong at the Canadian company. Even news Sunday that CEO Michael Pearson is returning immediately after nine weeks recovering from pneumonia and unspecified complications failed to buoy Valeant shares. (2/29)
Cancer researchers say that typical drug vials hold too much medication for most patients and that the rest is thrown away. In other pharmaceutical news, The Wall Street Journal reports on how supplements can interfere with prescription drugs while Bloomberg profiles a Gilead executive tackling the high cost of its hepatitis C treatment.
The New York Times:
Waste In Cancer Drugs Costs $3 Billion A Year, A Study Says
The federal Medicare program and private health insurers waste nearly $3 billion every year buying cancer medicines that are thrown out because many drug makers distribute the drugs only in vials that hold too much for most patients, a group of cancer researchers has found. The expensive drugs are usually injected by nurses working in doctors’ offices and hospitals who carefully measure the amount needed for a particular patient and then, because of safety concerns, discard the rest. (Harris, 3/1)
The Wall Street Journal:
How Your Supplements Interact With Prescription Drugs
As millions of Americans consume over-the-counter herbal and botanical supplements in a bid to boost health, there is increasing evidence that these products can interfere with a wide range of prescription medications used to treat everything from cancer to depression to high blood pressure. Recent studies have found that a greater number of supplements than previously thought may affect the way certain enzymes in the body metabolize drugs. Some supplements may inhibit the enzymes’ ability to break down a drug and clear it from the body, causing medication to build up to potentially toxic levels and even cause overdose. Other supplements may increase the rate at which a drug is broken down, clearing it from the body too quickly to be effective. (Landro, 2/29)
His Job Is To Sell A $1,000 Pill For $10 Without Losing Money
Gregg Alton has what seems like a disorienting job at Gilead Sciences Inc. He’s paid to figure out how to sell the drug Sovaldi, which infamously retails in the U.S. at $1,000 a pill, for relatively next to nothing. The instructions for pricing the cure, which wipes out hepatitis C in just 12 weeks, basically go like this: “Get to as many patients as possible in low-income nations --and not lose money,” Alton says. “It’s very simple.” (Chen, 2/29)
The Defense Department covers the treatment while soliders are on active military status, but the Department of Veterans Affairs does not. In other news, the VA's Office of Inspector General has released 11 reports outlining problems at hospitals and clinics in Florida.
The New York Times:
Veterans Seek Help For Infertility Inflicted By Wounds Of War
During a firefight in Afghanistan in 2005, Army Cpl. Tyler Wilson, 20, was hit by a bullet that pierced his spine and left him paralyzed below the waist. Since then, the Department of Veterans Affairs has provided him with free health care, as it does for all veterans who were disabled while serving. Yet there was a gap in his coverage that came as a shock. By law, the V.A. cannot provide in vitro fertilization, not even to a veteran like Corporal Wilson whose ability to have children was impaired by an injury sustained in the line of duty. Doctors have told him and his fiancée, Crystal Black, that in vitro fertilization is their only chance of conceiving a child. Each attempt costs more than $12,000, and they will have to pay for it themselves. (Grady, 2/29)
The Associated Press:
VA Watchdog Releases Reports On Wait-Time Manipulations
Reports documenting scheduling problems and wait-time manipulation at the Department of Veterans Affairs are being made public, as the agency’s internal watchdog bows to pressure from members of Congress and others to improve transparency. The VA’s Office of Inspector General released 11 reports Monday outlining problems at VA hospitals and clinics in Florida. The reports are the first of 77 investigations to be made public over the next few months. (Daly, 2/29)
After North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers helped stop an abortion ban from going through, anti-abortion group leaders vowed to remember her betrayal. But they have been mostly silent during her primary. In other news, clinics in Maine are using technology to ease access to abortions, and a new poll finds that 78 percent of Latino women surveyed believe a woman should make her own decision on the procedure.
Anti-Abortion Groups Aren't Punishing Republican Betrayals
No House Republican did more to anger anti-abortion groups last year than Rep. Renee Ellmers, the North Carolina lawmaker who last January scuttled legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks. At the time, anti-abortion leaders vowed that they and their members would remember Ellmers’ betrayal during her next primary. Apparently, they forgot. Nearly every one of the country’s most prominent anti-abortion groups have stayed out of Ellmers’ primary, not even offering so much as an endorsement to her opponents – much less the financial and grassroots support vital to defeating an incumbent member of Congress. In fact, a review of independent expenditure documents filed with the Federal Election Commission showed that none of these groups has spent money against Ellmers this year, an eye-opening revelation given the anger that still simmers over the congresswoman’s actions and the importance of abortion to many core GOP voters. (Roarty, 2/29)
The Associated Press:
Telemedicine To Expand Access To Abortions In Maine
The operator of one of Maine's three abortion clinics plans to expand access by offering abortion pills without the need for in-office consultation with a doctor. Augusta-based Maine Family Planning said it intends to allow patients to visit one of 16 regional planning clinics, where they'll consult via audio-visual technology with a physician. One of the medications to induce abortion would be given at the clinic, and the second could be taken at home. (2/29)
Poll: Most Latino Voters Think Women Should Have Right To Abortion
The majority of Latino voters believe women should have the right to make their own decisions about having a abortion even if they do not agree themselves, according to a poll released Monday. (Nevarez, 2/29)
During an outbreak in French Polynesia, health officials noticed an increase in patients with Guillain-Barre symptoms -- which include temporary paralysis. In other Zika news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecasts that 20 percent of Puerto Rico's residents will be infected with the virus.
The New York Times:
New Study Links Zika Virus To Temporary Paralysis
A new study of 42 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome in French Polynesia offers the strongest evidence to date that the Zika virus can trigger temporary paralysis, researchers reported on Monday. But experts cautioned that more evidence from other locations was needed to be conclusive. Since last year, doctors have noticed an unusual increase in Guillain-Barré cases in several countries with Zika outbreaks, including Brazil, El Salvador and Venezuela. But as the World Health Organization reported on Friday, a large number of those patients have not yet been confirmed through laboratory testing to have Zika. (Saint Louis, 2/29)
Los Angeles Times:
Zika's Link To Guillain-Barre Syndrome Revealed
During a seven-month outbreak of Zika virus infection that ended in April 2014, health officials in French Polynesia noticed an uptick in the number of patients showing up at hospitals with a rare but dangerous constellation of symptoms known as Guillain-Barre syndrome. Typically in the wake of a viral or bacterial infection, patients stricken with Guillain-Barre syndrome suffer a sudden onset of weakness, pain and paralysis in their legs and arms. Occasionally, paralysis progresses to the chest, impairing a patient's ability to breathe. Even with access to a respirator and intensive care, some 5% of those stricken by Guillain-Barre die. (Healy, 2/29)
Scientists Find Zika Increases Risk Of Rare Neurological Illness
French scientists say they have proved a link between the Zika virus and a nerve syndrome called Guillain-Barre, suggesting countries hit by the Zika epidemic will see a rise in cases of the serious neurological condition. Guillain-Barre (GBS) is a rare syndrome in which the body's immune system attacks part of the nervous system. It usually occurs a few days after exposure to a virus, bacteria or parasite. (Kelland, 2/29)
The Washington Post:
Zika Is Expected To Infect 1 In 5 Puerto Ricans, Raising Threat To Rest Of U.S.
Zika has landed forcefully in America, in one of its poorest and most vulnerable corners, a debt-ridden territory lacking a functioning health-care system, window screens and even a spray that works against the mosquitoes spreading the virus in homes, workplaces, schools and parks. There are 117 confirmed cases of the virus in Puerto Rico, four times the number at the end of January. (Sun, 2/29)
An Iowa television station reports that advocates in Kansas say a move to managed care for the Medicaid system brought problems in oversight, confusing reimbursement requirements and cuts to care. Also in Medicaid news, a look at the Medicaid and health care issues before the Minnesota legislature and expectations about North Carolina's plans to revamp Medicaid.
KCRG (Cedar Rapids, Iowa):
Problems With Medicaid Privatization Plague Other States Ahead of Iowa's Switch
Three years after privatizing its Medicaid system, lawmakers, disability advocates, and providers across the state of Kansas cite several problems with the system. Those problems include a lack of meaningful oversight, confusing reimbursement requirements from the three managed care organizations, or MCOs, who are contracted with the state, and cuts to care. The privatization of Medicaid in Kansas is similar to the system that will roll out for nearly 600,000 Iowans on April 1. (McCarthy, 2/29)
Twin Cities (Minn.) Pioneer Press:
Lawmakers To Tackle Medicaid Eligibility, Liens
MNsure isn’t the only health care topic up for debate this legislative session. Other issues likely to command attention include Minnesota’s public health programs, Medicaid and MinnesotaCare. A recent audit found those programs did a poor job making sure everyone enrolled in those programs was actually eligible to do so — and predicted the cost to taxpayers of this oversight exceeded $100 million per year. (Montgomery, 2/29)
The Associated Press:
Details To Finish North Carolina Medicaid Overhaul Expected
The legislature directed North Carolina Medicaid leaders to come up with the details needed to complete how the government health care program treats patients and pays for services. Now, they've got particulars to share. Top Department of Health and Human Services officials were expected to tell an oversight committee Tuesday about their pathway to complete Medicaid's overhaul in the next few years. (3/1)
News outlets report on health issues in Arizona, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Texas.
The Associated Press:
Lawyers: Arizona Isn't Improving Health Care For Prisoners
Attorneys who won a settlement in a class-action lawsuit over the quality of health care in Arizona's prisons say the state is dragging its feet in carrying out the improvements it promised when it agreed to resolve the case. The lawyers contend health care in the state's prisons hasn't improved since the October 2014 settlement, saying Arizona has dramatically inflated its compliance figures and failed to carry out many requirements called for by the agreement. (Billeaud, 3/1)
The Opioid Treatment Business Is Booming
Ray Tamasi, the president and CEO of Gosnold on Cape Cod, has been working in addiction treatment for more than four decades. But he’s never seen anything like what he’s seeing now: private equity investors lining up to get into the treatment business. (Becker, 3/1)
How Much Did Governor Snyder Know About The Flint Crisis, And When Did He Know?
How much did Governor Snyder know about the Flint water crisis, and when did he know? Late last week thousands of pages of emails were released from Governor Snyder’s office regarding the Flint water crisis. The emails show the governor’s office knew in 2014 there were concerns over the water quality negatively affecting health in that community, and that the office tried to temper media reaction rather than go public with the bad news. Snyder is never directly tied to emails discussing the problems with Flint’s water, but everyone in his immediate circle are in on the messages. Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson is joined by Detroit Free Press political reporter Paul Egan, and Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer. (2/29)
The Associated Press:
Roadblock To Restoring Children's Health Insurance Lifted
The key sponsor of a measure restoring state-sponsored health insurance coverage to low-income children [in Arizona] said she is now confident the once-stalled legislation is moving again. Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, said her bill unfreezing enrollment in what's known as KidsCare should soon appear on the House floor after it was pulled last week from a committee where it never got a hearing. (Christie, 2/28)
The Columbus Dispatch:
Free-Standing Emergency Departments Will Drive Up Costs, Some Warn
The free-standing emergency departments that thousands of central Ohioans have — or will soon have — right around the corner promise convenience. But one prominent local physician says that they will blindside many consumers with large bills and ultimately drive up health-care costs. (Sutherly, 2/29)
The Associated Press:
Limit On Overtime For Illinois In-Home Care Aides Delayed
Illinois officials on Monday delayed for a second time a cost-saving policy that would cap overtime pay for home health care aides. The Department of Human Services told The Associated Press that another grace period will allow officials to negotiate and clarify policy conditions with the union that represents 25,000 home care workers. State officials said they don't know how long the policy will be delayed. (Lisenby, 3/1)
The Detroit Free Press:
In Oakland, 2 Kids With Fever Die
Health officials in Oakland County are reporting an increase in flu activity and urging residents to get vaccinations. The increase comes days after two small children reportedly died following battles with fever, though it's not clear whether those children died of the flu. (Bethencourt, 2/29)
The Sun Times:
Poll: 71 Percent Of Texans Support Expanding Medical Marijuana Access
The conservative state of Texas, infamous for harsh marijuana laws and traditionally strong anti-marijuana sentiment, appears to be warming to medical marijuana access and maybe even recreational marijuana, according to new polling data. Texas lawmakers approved a CBD-only medical cannabis oil law for epilepsy patients in 2015. (Gray, 2/29)
Newspapers around the country provide opinions about the abortion case pending before the Supreme Court and other related issues.
The Washington Post:
Texas’s Assault On Abortion Access
Before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Texas is set to argue that new regulations on abortion clinics in the state are designed to protect patient health. The justices should see through that pretext. Texas’s restrictions are an assault on abortion access dressed up as concern for pregnant women. Previous court rulings barred laws that place an “undue burden ” on women seeking abortions. If this precedent has practical meaning, it should rule out what Texas is trying to do. (2/29)
Texas Law Makes Women Safer: Opposing View
When a case about Texas’ ability to regulate abortion clinics is argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, few Democrats will be supporting Texas, but they ought to. The much needed law at issue is consistent with Democratic Party principles, which favor the underdog, the disenfranchised and the rights of the consumer over those of business. Texas is seeking to prevent the harm that happens when an industry gets a pass on government oversight. (Kristen Day, 2/29)
Reproductive Rights Under Siege: Our View
When the Supreme Court guaranteed the right to abortion 43 years ago in the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, the court meant it to be a right for all women. But as abortion foes have piled on one onerous restriction after another, this constitutional right increasingly depends on where a woman lives or on her financial resources. Whether that unjust trend continues will be the issue Wednesday when the Supreme Court hears arguments on a 2013 Texas law. (2/29)
Texas Abortion Case Tests Kennedy's Commitment
With a new Supreme Court balance somewhere on the horizon, the end is coming for Justice Anthony Kennedy’s dominance of the court. The abortion case Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt may be his swan song, and his last chance to leave a long-term impact on abortion rights. That’s hugely significant for the case that’ll be argued Wednesday. The fate of Texas’s restrictive abortion laws turns on the interpretation of the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. And Casey was the case in which Kennedy first formulated the vision of autonomy and dignity that led him to become a pioneer of constitutional rights for gay people. Casey is the heart of Kennedy’s legacy -- and he’ll want to preserve it. (Noah Feldman, 2/28)
The Washington Post:
An Anti-Poverty Agenda That Excludes Access To Reproductive Health Care Is Woefully Incomplete
I’ve written extensively in this column about anti-poverty policy. I’ve underscored the importance of minimum wages, work supports including child care and wage subsidies, SNAP (food stamps), housing and health care. I’ve often stressed the critical role for criminal justice reform. I never shut up about the benefits of full employment. But I’ve never said a word about reproductive rights. I have long supported such rights. And I’ve long recognized the decline in teenage pregnancy, particularly among poor girls, as an important advance for social policy (see Belle Sawhill’s work on access to contraception and its positive impacts on child/parent outcomes). But I’ve failed to connect the dots between access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion, and economic security. (Jared Bernstein, 3/1)
Women Must Stop 'Band Of Buffoons'
News flash: a woman does not wake up one day and say to herself, "I will need to get milk on the way home from work, and also be sure to get pregnant, so I can have an abortion." No one believes in abortion. The belief is that all women must have the legal right to make that very personal and private decision. And that hard choice for a woman is predicated on so many complex and individual factors that are too long to list here. But fanatical hard-line opponents have turned this arduous medical decision into a political hot button, filled with hypocrisy that defies any rational reasoning. (Honi Marleen Goldman, 2/29)
A selection of opinions from around the country.
Risk Adjustment: State Challenges Expose Constitutional Problems
Obamacare is kind of like an elaborate spaceship circling a black hole. If successful, the states’ attack on Risk Adjustment could place our Obamacare spaceship on a more perilous trajectory. (Seth Chandler, 2/29)
Des Moines Register:
Medicaid Becomes Political Grudge Match
Want to know what would make Gov. Terry Branstad seriously consider running for a seventh term? ... he hinted recently about what would make it tempting to run again: The chance for a rematch against former Gov. Chet Culver. ... Over the past few weeks, Culver has been publicly challenging Branstad’s decision to move ahead with privatization of Medicaid. The Democrat held a public hearing at the Capitol last week. (Kathie Obradovich, 2/29)
The Genetic Technology Revolution
One of the most exciting and promising developments in the history of medical science may bypass the U.S. if Congress fails to act. It needs to lift the ban on federal spending on research involving human embryos. Other governments are already responding to the progress being made in genetic technology. The U.K. has given researchers permission to use an ingenious new gene-cutting technique called Crispr-Cas9 to investigate how human embryos develop. Chinese scientists have wielded the same tool to see if it's possible to fix, in human embryos, the gene responsible for beta-thalassemia, a deadly blood disorder. (So far, no.) (2/29)
How A Blood Test Changed My Life And Helped Me Become A Rare Disease Advocate
A car crash changed my life. The accident itself hardly mattered — I walked away sore but unhurt. Instead, a post-crash blood test sounded an early warning for a rare disease that would spin my life in directions I could never have anticipated. (Christopher Anselmo, 2/29)
It's Not Just Flint; Lead-Poisoning Is A National Crisis
In some St. Louis neighborhoods, according to the Post-Dispatch, more than 20 percent of children have high lead levels ... In Jackson, Miss., last week the Mississippi State Health Department released a statement urging pregnant women and children to take precautions with the city's drinking water. (Jarvis DeBerry, 2/29)
Opioid Crisis: The Perfect Storm Of Unintended Consequences
The Feb. 15 editorial, “The iatrogenic roots of the opioid epidemic,” fails to point out the whole context of the problem. If you put together all of the elements, it is a perfect storm of unintended consequences. Yes, physicians are complicit in the prescription of thes compounds. But what about the drug companies with their misleading and ever-expanding direct marketing? What about the relentless pursuit of increased patient satisfaction metrics and the attendant financial losses for failure to achieve same? And what about the American Pain Society's push to list “pain” as the fifth vital sign? And then there are the Joint Commission's standards for assessment and treatment of pain. (William Cors, 2/27)
The Los Angeles Times:
Keep Taxing Diapers And Tampons
[A] handful of state legislators are pushing sales tax exemptions for things that don't fall under the life-sustaining mantle. If legislators can't find the courage to put the brakes on these breaks, the governor must. (2/29)