- KFF Health News Original Stories 3
- Grilled About Deadly Superbug Outbreaks, Execs At Scope Maker Olympus Take Fifth
- In Colorado, A Low-Price Drug Cocktail Will Tamp Down Cost Of Death With Dignity
- Please, Baby, Please: Some Couples Try Crowdfunding For IVF
- Political Cartoon: 'Plugging Along'
- Public Health 5
- From Addiction To Zika: The Biggest Health Stories Of 2016
- System Stretched Beyond Its Limits Unable To Provide Protection To Relatives Of Mentally Ill
- The More Scientists Study Zika, The Blurrier The Picture Gets
- With More Women Drinking, Health Officials Warn Of Damaging Effects Of Alcohol
- Homeless Particularly Susceptible To Dirt-Cheap, Dangerous Synthetic Marijuana
- State Watch 2
- New Hampshire In Search Of Nurses
- State Highlights: Va. Gov. Submits Budget Without Plans For Medicaid Expansion; Calif. Children's Dental Clinic Closes Due To Water Contamination
From KFF Health News - Latest Stories:
Lawyers who deposed top company officials in a civil case say they declined to answer questions about their failure to warn American hospitals of infection risks. Industry giant Olympus also is the subject of a criminal probe. (Chad Terhune, )
Advocates want alternatives to drugmaker's pricey pills for those who choose to die in Colorado and elsewhere. (JoNel Aleccia, )
Infertility treatment rarely is covered by health insurance. And more couples who need it to conceive are turning to crowdfunding sites. (Stephanie O'Neill, )
KFF Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Plugging Along'" by John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
A MARKET RESPONSE TO ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT BACTERIA
Disposable scopes …
Are they the next big thing in
Fighting super bugs?
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 an original story.
Opinions expressed in haikus and cartoons are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions of KFF Health News or KFF.
Summaries Of The News:
Officials announce that 670,000 people signed up for coverage on Thursday, outpacing the previous high of 600,000 from last year.
The Washington Post:
Obama Announces Record Sign-Ups For A Single Day In ACA Marketplaces
President Obama used his final pre-Christmas news conference to tout anew the popularity of the sprawling health-care law that his successor wants to abolish, announcing that sign-ups in Affordable Care Act marketplaces just hit an all-time record for a single day. The president said 670,000 Americans chose health plans in states relying on HealthCare.gov on Thursday, the original deadline to have ACA coverage in place by Jan. 1. That is 70,000 more than the enrollment on the same date last year — a record at the time. (Goldstein, 12/16)
The Wall Street Journal:
Health-Care Website Saw Busiest Sign-Up Day Ever Thursday, Obama Says
President Barack Obama said the website selling coverage under his signature health law had seen its busiest day ever on Thursday, with 670,000 people using HealthCare.gov to renew or obtain health plans ahead of a year in which Republicans have pledged to begin dismantling the law. The president announced the numbers early into his final press conference of 2016, listing them as one of the achievements of his eight years in office that he said he was proud to leave to his successor. (Radnofsky, 12/16)
Los Angeles Times:
Obamacare Sign-Ups Hit New Record Even As GOP Promises Repeal
The record tally, announced by President Obama at his year-end news conference Friday, continues the strong enrollment this fall following Donald Trump’s Nov. 8 election victory. And it underscored again the challenge that Trump and his Republican congressional allies face in repealing Obamacare, as the law is often called. "More are signing up by the day," Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room. (Levey, 12/16)
Obama Touts 'Biggest Day Ever' For Healthcare Signups
President Obama on Friday announced that the federal government’s healthcare marketplace had seen its “biggest day ever” for signups. Obama used the good news for HealthCare.gov to tout the progress made by his signature healthcare law. “Since I signed ObamaCare into law, businesses have added more than 15 million new jobs,” he said in his final press conference of 2016. (Ferris, 12/16)
In other health law news —
Feds Issue New Rules Aimed To Strengthen ObamaCare Market
The Obama administration on Friday issued new rules making tweaks to the ObamaCare insurance marketplaces for next year, seeking to address lingering issues even as Republicans push forward with plans to repeal the law. The 465-page final regulation for 2018, part of an annual process to set the rules for the law’s marketplaces, seeks to address some insurer complaints with how the marketplaces operate. (Sullivan, 12/16)
The Star Tribune:
Hospitals Face Uncertain Prognosis With Affordable Care Act Up In The Air
In 2010, when federal lawmakers passed the Affordable Care Act, Minnesota health systems provided $226 million in charity care to patients who couldn’t cover all of their treatment costs. By the time Minnesota fully expanded its Medicaid insurance program as part of health law in 2014, annual charity care expenses dropped to just $164 million. The savings point to one reason why hospitals and clinics are apprehensive about Republican control in Washington, D.C., where President-elect Donald Trump and congressional leaders have vowed to repeal and replace the health law. (Snowbeck, 12/17)
If You Have Employer Health Insurance, An Obamacare Repeal Will Affect You Too
In recent weeks, much attention has focused on what repealing and replacing the law might mean for the roughly 1 million Illinois residents and nearly 20 million Americans who get health insurance through the law's exchanges or Medicaid expansion. But Obamacare is far broader than that. Scrapping the law also could change how health insurance works for 6.8 million Illinois residents and 156 million Americans who had coverage last year through employers, as estimated by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (Schencker, 12/17)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
GOP Eager To Roll Back Health Law. Then Comes Hard Part.
While the GOP is united on gutting the law often called Obamacare, they have yet to agree on what they would do differently.Some want to move as fast and aggressively as possible anyway. Others, including lawmakers from the Philadelphia area, hope for a two- or three-year transition period while they sort out a Republican replacement that will address the 20 million people who get coverage under the law. Democrats, meanwhile, will have to choose between firmly opposing Republicans - leaving the GOP to own any consequences of their changes - and cooperating on a replacement in an attempt to preserve as many of the law's benefits as they can. (Tamari, 12/19)
Birth-Control Coverage At Risk In Obamacare Repeal
Trump and congressional Republicans have vowed as soon as next month to scrap the 2010 health-care law known as Obamacare. The law requires private health-insurance policies sold through the state and federal marketplaces known as exchanges to include coverage of contraceptive devices. (Heigl, 12/19)
Health News Florida:
Intersection: The Fate Of The Affordable Care Act In Florida
For people who want their insurance to kick in January 1st, enrollment has been extended through Monday Dec. 19. With that said, the big question for those who get their health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act is, what will happen to the ACA once President Elect Donald Trump takes office Jan. 20? (Miller, Aboraya and Peddie, 12/16)
And from the states —
High Volume, Longer Waits At MNsure Deadline
Thousands of people swarmed MNsure’s help lines Thursday evening, trying to purchase health insurance on the deadline for it to take effect in January. A total of 52,000 Minnesotans have signed up for insurance through Thursday’s deadline, which means around 8,000 signed up on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This is around twice as fast as the pace of enrollment last year, a change a MNsure spokesperson attributed to carriers imposing new enrollment caps this year and Minnesotans trying to sign up before those caps are reached. (Montgomery, 12/16)
For Conservatives, It’s A New Day In Health Care
So what would a Republican replacement plan actually look like? And would it maintain some of the more popular pieces of the ACA? To find out, we spoke with leading conservative health care expert, Lanhee Chen, co-author of the influential American Enterprise Institute replacement proposal. Chen previously served as the policy director for Governor Mitt Romney during his presidential campaign and is currently a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. (Gold, 12/19)
California Consumers Face More Immediate Concerns Than Obamacare’s Uncertain Future
While Washington debates the future of the Affordable Care Act, many Californians face more pressing concerns about rising premiums and shrinking networks of doctors and hospitals. Open enrollment for the Covered California exchange is underway, and sign-ups are running ahead of last year’s pace. About 1.2 million Californians had renewed their existing coverage and more than 190,000 people had signed up for new health plans as of last week. The enrollment deadline for coverage that starts Jan. 1 ends Monday at midnight. But people can still sign up for 2017 coverage until Jan. 31. (12/19)
One of congressional Republicans' first order of business is to vote on legislation that includes defunding Planned Parenthood.
The Associated Press:
Trump Action On Health Care Could Cost Planned Parenthood
One of President-elect Donald Trump's first, and defining, acts next year could come on Republican legislation to cut off taxpayer money from Planned Parenthood. Trump sent mixed signals during the campaign about the 100-year-old organization, which provides birth control, abortions and various women's health services. He said "millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood," but he also endorsed efforts to defund it. (12/19)
The Associated Press:
Oklahoma Lawmaker Abandons Anti-Abortion Bathroom Signs Law
An Oklahoma Republican lawmaker on Friday abandoned a measure that required public bathrooms to display anti-abortion signs after an outcry from business leaders and health providers who said it would cost millions of dollars. (Miller, 12/16)
Dr. Francis Collins chats with Stat about what projects he's excited about and if he would stay on at NIH if asked.
NIH's Francis Collins On Obama, Congress, And His One Regret
At what was supposed to be the end of his tenure atop the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins is still a very busy man. In his seven and a half years leading the agency, Collins has been involved in the response to Ebola and Zika. He has helped secure the first funding increases for the NIH in decades. Congress just this month funneled billions of dollars into several major projects — the Precision Medicine Initiative, the cancer moonshot — that Collins helped craft. This was supposed to be the finale for Collins. But, as he told STAT in a recent interview in his offices here, he loves the NIH and believes in public service, so if asked he would consider it a “privilege” to remain director under President-elect Donald Trump. (Kaplan and Scott, 12/16)
In other Flint news, $170 million in federal aid is now authorized to repair the city's tainted water system after President Barack Obama signed a water infrastructure projects bill.
The Associated Press:
House GOP Quietly Closes Flint, Mich. Water Investigation
Congressional Republicans quietly closed a year-long investigation into Flint, Michigan's crisis over lead in its drinking water, faulting both state officials and the Environmental Protection Agency for contamination that has affected nearly 100,000 residents. In letters to fellow Republicans, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Friday that Michigan and federal officials were slow in detecting high levels of lead in the water and did not act fast enough once the problem was discovered. (Daly, 12/16)
CQ Roll Call:
Obama Signs Water Bill, Finally Providing Aid To Flint
President Barack Obama's signature of a water infrastructure projects authorization bill Friday removes the final hurdle to getting $170 million in federal aid to Flint, Mich., to help repair its lead-tainted drinking water system. The law also authorizes $11.7 billion for 30 new Army Corps of Engineers projects for waterway navigation, ecosystem restoration and natural disaster protection, and modifications of eight existing projects. And it achieves House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster's, R-Pa., ambition of keeping water infrastructure authorization on a two-year legislative cycle. (Fischler, 12/16)
Veterans believe the toxin is not only hurting their health, but that of their children and grandchildren as well.
Agent Orange Curse Hangs Over Families Of Virginia Veterans
There’s no absolute proof it did. But statistics have long shown that a higher-than-normal percentage of Vietnam veterans like Eddie have particular health problems. Now, a year-long investigation by ProPublica and The Pilot reveals new evidence suggesting their offspring might, too. The investigation examined data from the Department of Veterans Affairs that has never before been analyzed. (Kimberlin, 12/16)
A Public Official’s Private Pain
VVA has organized some 250 town halls like the one Kochmar attended as part of a project called Faces of Agent Orange. The stories voiced in Seattle were typical of those shared at meetings coast to coast. And they echoed thousands of stories shared with ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot over the past 18 months as we have investigated the possible generational effects of Agent Orange, some four decades after the war’s end. (Ornstein, 12/16)
Both The New York Times and Modern Healthcare take a look at health care in the past year.
The New York Times:
Medical And Health News That Stuck With Us In 2016
As the year ends, the Science desk at The New York Times asked its reporters to look back at the news they reported on that was the most memorable. These are the selections, with a focus on health and medicine news. (12/16)
The 2016 Year In Review: It All Looks So Different Now...
The earthquake of Donald Trump's presidential election victory casts a completely different light on the healthcare politics and policy developments that preceded it this year. Healthcare generally did not play a top-tier role in the campaign rhetoric or advertising of Trump, Hillary Clinton, House or Senate candidates of either party, or gubernatorial contenders. Despite polarized public views of the Affordable Care Act, the law was not expected to be a pivotal election issue. Yet Obamacare's deep unpopularity with Republican voters helped Trump mobilize his supporters and win the presidency. (Meyer, 12/17)
A six-month Sun Sentinel investigation determined that people with mental illness have killed or brutally assaulted at least 500 loved ones in Florida since 2000.
Dying For Help
Norman and Joan Scott hid the knives when their grown son came for dinner. They coped as best they could with his mental illness and wanted nothing more than for him to get better. They paid his insurance, covered his motel bills so he wouldn't be homeless and saw him through at least 23 hospitalizations. (O'Matz, Kestin and Maines, 12/15)
In other mental health news —
Detention System Strains To Keep Up With Mentally Ill Immigrants
A yearlong STAT investigation, including a review of thousands of pages of court documents and federal government reports and dozens of interviews with immigration attorneys, former detainees, and mental health experts, found that the detention system often fails to protect vulnerable immigrants with psychiatric disorders. STAT found detainees with mental illness being held in solitary confinement against the advice of prison doctors. The investigation also found immigrants at clear risk of suicide being left alone with the means to make another attempt to end their lives. Others, who were mentally and physically unable to care for themselves, were abruptly released in the US or deposited across the border, without any support network. (Siegelbaum, 12/16)
There is a lot of research being done on the virus in the months since it was declared a crisis, but our understanding of it has not sharpened yet.
With Latest Zika Research, Our Picture Of The Virus Gets Cloudier
Are you starting to think the Zika epidemic is the most confusing outbreak ever? Join the club. Since Zika surfaced on the global radar about a year ago, scientists have been trying to figure out if what seemed like a pretty paltry virus could cause serious birth defects if it infected a fetus in the womb and, if so, how often? There is really no doubt now that the answer to the first question is yes. Over the course of 2016 a lot of science has been published showing that the Zika virus wreaks havoc on a developing brain if it gets into a fetus. (Branswell, 12/16)
The Associated Press:
Hard Times For Puerto Rico Family Of Child With Zika Defect
Michelle Flandez had just given birth to her first son, but doctors in this U.S. territory whisked him away before she could see him. Perplexed, she demanded him back and then slowly unwrapped the blanket that covered him. "My husband and I looked at each other," she recalled. "No one had warned us. No one had given us the opportunity to decide what to do." (12/19)
In other public health news, NPR writes about genetic breast cancer tests that often return different results to patients. Meanwhile, other news outlets report on cancer-causing asbestos, Denver's efforts to battle AIDS, disability claims and senior loneliness.
As More Women Drink, Some States Take Action
As the holidays approach, state and local governments are gearing up for a predictable surge in drunken driving and emergency room visits related to binge drinking. Little has changed when it comes to America’s alcohol problem, with one exception: substantially more women are drinking compared to a decade ago, and a higher percentage of them are binge drinking. Because women are more vulnerable to the damaging health effects of alcohol than men, and because drinking during pregnancy can have devastating effects on a fetus, the federal government and some states have made the growing trend a top public health priority. (Vestal, 12/19)
When Genetic Tests Disagree About Best Option For Cancer Treatment
Two widely used tests to analyze the genetics of tumors often don't come to the same conclusions, according to head-to-head analyses. Authors of two recent studies comparing these tests say doctors need to be careful not to assume that these tests are providing a complete picture of a tumor's genetic variants, when using them to select treatments for cancer patients. (Harris, 12/16)
The New York Times:
Cancer Patient Awaits Day She Can Return To The Kitchen
Stuffed inside cookie tins and between the pages of books in Diane Fields’s kitchen are multitudes of recipes. Ms. Fields has clipped them from newspapers and kept them for years, intent on preparing and sampling them all. But for the past year, a cancer diagnosis has cast those aspirations in doubt. (Otis, 12/18)
Concerns About Cancer-Causing Asbestos Rise Amid Mass. Renovation Boom
Asbestos embedded in old buildings is creating a new wave of danger for laborers as renovation work soars -- even as the use of the carcinogenic mineral in new construction has been sharply curbed. Regulators found more than 300 asbestos safety violations resulting in fines in Massachusetts in the last five years ending in June 2016, the majority of them on job sites, state data show. (Daley, Bebinger and Burdick, 12/19)
Can Denver Quash AIDS By 2030? The City Is Ahead On International Health Goals
Denver — along with many other cities across the world — pledged to meet three measures by 2020: 90 percent of people with HIV know they have it, 90 percent of those diagnosed are receiving care and 90 percent of those in care have, thanks to medication, no detectable virus in their blood. Denver is two-thirds of the way there, officially reaching a 90 percent diagnosis rate earlier this year and, this fall, achieving the “viral suppression” benchmark. (Brown, 12/18)
Mapping The Growth Of Disability Claims In America
If you’ve paid into Social Security, become injured or sick, and can no longer earn more than $1,130 a month, you can get a monthly subsidy from Social Security’s Disability Insurance Trust Fund. In 1990 fewer than 2.5 percent of working-age Americans were “on the check.” By 2015 the number stood at 5.2 percent. That growth has left the fund in periodic need of rescues by Congress—most recently in 2015, when the Bipartisan Budget Act shifted money from Social Security’s old-age survivors’ fund to extend the solvency of the disability fund to 2023. (Greeley, 12/16)
Senior Loneliness, Isolation In The Spotlight, Just In Time For The Holidays
Too often considered just a fact of life for seniors, the issue of isolation and loneliness is a big one for the AARP Foundation and other advocacy groups. In fact, the foundation is kicking off an initiative this month, during what can be a difficult holiday season for seniors, to confront what it says is an isolation epidemic affecting 8 million older adults nationwide. (Lade, 12/16)
And more on children's dolls and baby teething products —
More Dolls With Disabilities By Mainstream Toymakers Hitting Store Shelves
When Dominika Tamley chose "Isebelle," her American Girl doll, she picked a toy whose hair and eye color matched her own. But the 10-year-old is quick to point out that's not the only way the doll resembles the real child who plays with her. "She's like a mini-me," Tamley explained with pride. "Because she has a hearing aid and I have a hearing aid." (Ulaby, 12/18)
Some Baby Teething Toys May Contain Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals
Some baby teething toys marketed as nontoxic may contain chemicals that could interfere with hormones involved in normal growth and development, a study suggests. Fifty-nine water-filled, solid or gel-filled teethers were purchased online and tested for 26 compounds that are called endocrine-disrupting chemicals. (12/18)
In other news, a study examines the effects of parents smoking marijuana around their kids, pet stores are finding a new use for cannabidiol and the man who helped Colorado navigate legalization may be headed to Massachusetts.
The Associated Press:
Homeless Across Country Fall Victim To Synthetic Marijuana
The nation’s homeless are proving to be especially susceptible to a new, dirt-cheap version of synthetic marijuana, which leaves users glassy-eyed, aimless, sprawled on streets and sidewalks oblivious to their surroundings or wandering into traffic. Nearly 300 homeless people became ill last month in St. Louis due to the man-made hallucinogen that experts believe is far more dangerous and unpredictable than the real thing. Other outbreaks have occurred in New York City, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. (Salter, 12/17)
Smoking Pot Around The Kids Isn't A Good Idea, Doctors Say
With more states legalizing recreational marijuana, parents are facing the question of whether they should smoke pot around their children. "I have never smoked and would never smoke around my child," says one mother who lives in San Francisco. California is one of eight states that allows recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and older. (Greenhalgh, 12/19)
Tampa Bay Times:
Medical Marijuana Is Going To The Dogs
A handful of pet stores, websites and catalogs are now offering pet products that contain cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of hemp and marijuana that can calm anxious pooches and provide relief from pain, swelling and arthritis, the manufacturers say. (Stockfisch, 12/16)
Colo. Pot Problem Solver Seen As Possible Mass. Regulator
Marijuana legalization brought unexpected challenges to Colorado, and it was rarely clear what part of state government was supposed to solve them, or how. Businesses were selling marijuana-infused, animal-shaped candy attractive to children. Residents growing pot at home were selling it illegally in other states. Growers were applying pesticides to cannabis plants even though none was specifically approved by the federal government for such use. (Miller, 12/18)
Mass. Supporters Celebrate First Day Of Legal Marijuana
It would have been illegal two days ago. But marijuana enthusiasts in Massachusetts can now lawfully possess and show their pot. (Brown, 12/16)
The state is turning to incentives to attract nurses and aides.
New Hampshire Union Leader:
NH Facilities Offer Nurses Incentives
With a limited pool of nurses to care for the state’s growing number of elderly patients, many facilities are turning to incentives to attract nurses and aides. The Grafton County Nursing Home offers $500 sign-on bonuses and a $10,000 loan-forgiveness program for registered nurses...The state community college system is also trying to encourage students to go into nursing. The state’s community colleges are offering two-year associate’s degree nursing students the opportunity to get a four-year bachelor’s degree at Granite State College at community college prices. This “pathway” program means a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing will cost about $38,000. That compares to more than $57,000 at the University of New Hampshire. (Grosky, 12/18)
New Hampshire Union Leader:
Silver Linings: Where Are All The Nurses?
There are beds available at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton, but there aren't enough nurses for the facility to take in new patients. Of the 225 budgeted beds, only 203 were filled last month because the facility was down 33 full- and part-time nurses and nursing aides... In-Home Care of Concord provides at-home care to frail, elderly and poorer patients who would otherwise be in nursing homes. And it's turning away clients every week because they don't have the nursing staff.(Grosky, 12/17)
Outlets report on health news from Virginia, California, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Massachusetts and Ohio.
The Washington Post:
McAuliffe Submits Cautious Budget That Closes Shortfalls And Boosts Mental-Health Programs
Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Friday proposed a cautious budget that relies on improved revenue and modest spending cuts to close a shortfall while funding some new initiatives. Unlike in previous years, the plan he submitted to the General Assembly’s finance committees is not built around expanding Medicaid — a fight he has picked, and lost, for three straight sessions with the Republican-controlled legislature. (Schneider, 12/16)
Los Angeles Times:
Orange County Children's Dental Clinic Closed After Bacteria Found In New Water System
Orange County health officials have ordered the closure of a children’s dental office in Anaheim after lab tests found bacteria in its new internal water system, which had replaced a system blamed for an earlier outbreak of bacterial infections. (Rocha and Lozano, 12/17)
The Washington Post:
Inova Launches Investment Fund To Find Personalized Medicine Innovators
Inova Health System, the giant nonprofit hospital network serving Northern Virginia, is creating a new start-up incubator and investment program focusing on “personalized” medicine innovations. Executives say they plan to invest at least $100 million over the next three to five years making $2 million to $5 million bets on promising young companies with products that have gained some traction in the marketplace. (Gregg, 12/17)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Philly Discovery For Kids With Leukemia Prepares To Go Global
Initial results from the first-ever international clinical trial of the T-cell treatment, presented recently at the American Society of Hematology meeting, put the pharmaceutical giant [Novartis] far ahead in the high-stakes race to market the first such immunotherapy. The company said it will file early next year for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the pediatric leukemia therapy, and later in 2017 for European regulatory approval. Twenty-five highly specialized medical centers in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia are part of the ongoing trial. Of the first 50 children treated, 41, or 82 percent, had no signs of acute lymphoblastic leukemia three months later. At six months, 24 children remained cancer-free. Those results parallel the high rates of lasting remissions achieved over the last four years in nearly 150 children treated at CHOP. (McCullough, 12/16)
Three Clovis West High School Student Suicides In Three Months
Clovis Unified maintains that it has deployed ample resources to educate students and parents. Students, teachers and staff members are encouraged to ask for help and report warning signs. The suicides may be part of a larger issue, as local government and health officials are working to curb an unusually large number of child suicides across Fresno County. (Appleton, 12/16)
Jury: Mesa Man Who Owns Arizona One Medical Transportation Bilked AHCCCS Of $1.2 Million
A federal jury has convicted the owner of a Mesa medical transportation company of health-care fraud and aggravated identity theft after he billed Medicaid for thousands of trips that never occurred. Elseddig Elmarioud Musa, owner and operator of Arizona One Medical Transportation, was convicted Dec. 9 in U.S. District Court on 35 counts of health-care fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 6. (Alltucker, 12/16)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Two More Infections Tied To Heart-Surgery Device; Area Total Hits 24
Two more heart-surgery patients in the Philadelphia area have tested positive for a worrisome, slow-growing bacteria that has been linked to a device called a heater-cooler. One of the two patients, at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del., has died, though hospital officials said it was not yet clear what role the bacteria may have played in the death. In Pennsylvania, 21 cases have been reported at three facilities, according to the state department of health. (Avril, 12/16)
On A 'Eugenics Registry,' A Record Of California's Thousands Of Sterilizations
There's a grim chapter in American history that involves forced sterilization. And for much of this past century, California had one of the most active sterilization programs in the country. A state law from 1909 authorized the surgery for people judged to have "mental disease, which may have been inherited." That law remained on the books until 1979. (12/18)
Helping Others Helps Volunteers’ Own Health, Research Finds
Scientists have long studied the potential benefits of generosity, and by now the research speaks for itself: Those who give of their time tend to be happier, less stressed and physically healthier than those who do not. (Lagatta, 12/19)
Opinion writers speculate on what's next in terms of the nation's health policy.
The New York Times:
Want To Get Rid Of Obamacare? Be Careful What You Wish For
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act have denounced it bitterly for more than six years, so it is not surprising that, despite the program’s successes, public opinion about it would be divided. Even so, a repeal would unleash the awesome power of loss aversion, among the more deeply rooted human tendencies known to behavioral scientists. Their consistent finding: The amount of effort people will expend to resist being stripped of something they already possess is significantly larger than the effort they will devote to acquiring something they don’t already have. (Robert H. Frank, 12/16)
'Repealing' Obamacare Without Repealing It
Long before Obamacare, the federal government had been subsidizing health insurance for scores of millions of Americans. The law expanded that subsidization to cover several million more people. ... But the Obamacare law also, for the first time, made the federal government the chief regulator of health insurance. And these regulations are responsible for nearly all the uproar about the law. ... The Republicans are thinking of leaving Obamacare’s regulations in place because they fear that a bill altering them would die in a filibuster. They are sure they can use a procedure for avoiding filibusters if they target only the law’s tax and spending provisions. This course could cause the insurance exchanges, already in trouble, to collapse entirely. (Ramesh Ponnuru, 12/16)
Repeal And Delay Obamacare Is A Cop-Out: Our View
Defunding the health law through a budgetary process known as reconciliation would be easy enough: It takes only a simple majority in both chambers of Congress. But this would wreak havoc on the American health care system. As a coalition of hospitals made clear recently, it would unleash an “unprecedented public health crisis” as uninsured patients pour into emergency rooms. (12/18)
Obamacare Must Be Repealed, Replaced
Every day I hear from Ohioans and families nationwide who are paying higher premiums, losing access to their doctors, and paying more for less quality care under Obamacare. My colleagues and I are listening to these stories, but you also don’t need to look any further than the pages of USA TODAY to find evidence of Obamacare’s broken promises. (Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, 12/19)
The Washington Post:
Why Do Republicans Want To Repeal Obamacare So Much? Because It Would Be A Big Tax Cut For The Rich.
There are going to be so many tax cuts for the rich, you're going to get tired of tax cuts for the rich. You're going to say, “Mr. President, please don't cut taxes for the rich so much, this is getting terrible.” And it will start when Republicans repeal Obamacare. (Matt O'Brien, 12/16)
The Washington Post:
How Exactly Does This New Health-Care Plan Get Passed?
GOP House and Senate leadership are bent on repealing Obamacare in January, cutting off its funding and then delaying the repeal for a few years until they can come up with something to replace it. If they go into the 2018 election with no health-care substitute passed, Republicans are likely to take a beating from voters who feel that they’ve “lost” health-care insurance and not gotten anything better. House and Senate leaders are convinced they can face the voters without a replacement and then pick up extra votes to pass it in an election in which Democrats must defend 23 seats. It’s not clear their members will go along. (Jennifer Rubin, 12/16)
Diagnosis For Chaos: Obamacare Repeal Without Alternative. Where We Stand
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is among Republican leaders champing at the bit for President-elect Donald Trump to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature health-care law. "Day one would be nice for me," Scott said Tuesday after meeting with Trump's pick to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Republican Congressman Tom Price of Georgia. Rapid repeal would cap an ideological triumph for Scott, who broke into politics as a fierce critic of Obamacare. But it could turn into a tragedy for more than a million of his constituents. (12/17)
Detroit Free Press:
Beyond Obamacare: What The ACA Has Meant For Michigan
Michigan has always done better by its citizens than most other states when it comes to health care and health insurance. Even before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Michigan had more people insured than most states and lower average health care spending. Michigan has been characterized by innovation and collaboration when it comes to the design and implementation of health care programs and coverage. (Marianne Udow-Phillips, 12/18)
What Happens To Long-Term Care If Trump Remakes Medicare And Medicaid?
Washington is buzzing with speculation about how President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican majority in Congress will remake Medicare and Medicaid. But neither the incoming administration nor the Hill GOP is giving much thought to what those changes would mean for frail older adults and younger people with disabilities. By failing to do so, they are creating a potential crisis and missing an opportunity. (Howard Gleckman, 12/16)
Words Of Wisdom For 2017: 'The Healthcare Industry Is Headed For Turbulent Times.'
Probably the best thing that can be said about 2016 is that it's finally over. Alas, 2017 doesn't hold much promise, either. The healthcare industry is headed for turbulent times. The Affordable Care Act, which provided more than 20 million Americans with health insurance coverage and is having another record-breaking sign-up season despite the election results, appears headed for extinction. What it will be replaced with exactly, no one knows. (Merrill Goozner, 12/17)
A selection of opinions and editorials from around the country.
Los Angeles Times:
‘Honest Placebos’ Show Medicine Can Work Without Any Actual Medicine
Placebo effects have a bad reputation in the medical world. Physicians are trained to dismiss them as misleading — as in, “it’s only a placebo effect,” or “it’s no different from a placebo effect.” Placebo is a label that marks a drug as ineffective and disqualifies research subjects who respond to “bogus” treatments. But what if patients who take “honest placebos” — meaning they are told explicitly that they are swallowing sugar pills — can still experience relief from discomfort and disability? (Ted J. Kaptchuk, 12/19)
Toward Digital Health Biographies
Many technology enthusiasts believe electronic health records (EHRs) have the potential to substantially improve health and reduce the cost of care. A broad swath of physicians believe EHRs are costly, burdensome monstrosities, draining the pleasure out of practicing medicine and profoundly disrupting the interaction between doctor and patient. (Robert F. Graboyes and Darcy Nikol Bryan, 12/19)
The Des Moines Register:
Hospitals Spend Millions Luring Patients Away From Each Other
The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is spending $3.7 million of its operational funds promoting its new Stead Family Children’s Hospital. UIHC officials told the Cedar Rapids Gazette's Erin Jordan that the campaign is intended to raise awareness of the new facility not only in Iowa, but Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. But are these ads helping parents make informed choices about their children’s health care, or do they simply advance the interests of the state’s largest public hospital? (12/17)
San Jose Mercury News:
GOP War On Women Is Going Nuclear
With conservative Republicans in control of all three branches of government, the GOP war on women is about to go nuclear. Abortion has been the main battlefield for half a century, but now even contraception is eyed with disdain. (12/17)
Abortion Ban Takes Choice Out Of The Hands Of Parents, Doctors
What the governor and other pro-life people do not realize is that most abortions that happen after 20 weeks are usually for medical reasons and are not because the pregnancy is inconvenient or unwanted. Some examples include patients whose membranes rupture prematurely while the fetus still has a heartbeat. These patients have the option to continue the pregnancy. However, without fluid in the second trimester, the lungs may not develop and the fetus will die after delivery or the mother will become infected and, if not allowed to deliver while the fetus has a heartbeat, she could die of sepsis. (Anita Somani, 12/16)
Beware, You Do Not Want Your Doctor Working 28 Hours Straight
Next year, you may notice that your young doctor looks even more sleep-deprived than usual. The council that oversees American medical residencies has recently proposed allowing first-year residents to work 28 hours in a row, instead of the current limit of 16. (Elisabeth Poorman, 12/16)
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Rising Food Insecurity Among Greater Cleveland's Senior Citizens Prompts Food Bank, MetroHealth Partnership
There have always been food-insecure senior citizens in lines at pantry and hot meal programs served by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, but in the last few years, there has been a marked change. In the wake of the recession, the Food Bank began receiving numerous calls to their Help Center from seniors, many of them homebound and in need of food, but unable to get to a pantry. (Kristin Warzocha and Akram Boutros, 12/16)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Drug Testing Students Is A Bad Idea
Determined to retroactively turn "Dazed and Confused" into a documentary, Wisconsin state Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) is proposing a new state law requiring all public and private school students involved in extracurricular activities be subjected to random drug testing. The proposed bill, which won't be introduced until next year, also would require the state Department of Instruction to set a statewide "model policy" for school districts. (Christian Schneider, 12/16)