- KFF Health News Original Stories 2
- Florida Stores Help Consumers Buy Imported Drugs Despite Federal Ban
- Regulators Probing Whether Health Net Is Stiffing Drug Treatment Providers
- Political Cartoon: 'Free Refills?'
- Capitol Watch 1
- A FEMA-Like Fund Exists To Fight Zika -- But Congress Has Left That Piggy Bank Empty
- Health Law 1
- Conflict Brewing In Alaska Over Whether House GOP Can Continue Medicaid Expansion Fight
- Public Health 5
- 'We Had To Define It, Before It Defined Us': States Go All-In Against Opioid Epidemic
- A Hot New Trend In Oncology: Blood Tests Over Invasive Biopsies
- Deployment Of Crispr Gene Editing May Unlock Vast Potential To Target Viruses
- Mentally Ill Have Disproportionately High Number Of Fatal Encounters With Police
- Muhammad Ali And Parkinson's: 'He Can Speak To People With His Heart'
- State Watch 3
- Texas Medicaid Officials Again Propose Pay Cuts For Disabled Children's Therapists
- Outpatient Centers Claim Share Of Joint Replacement Procedures From Hospitals
- State Highlights: Nurses Strike Looms In Twin Cities; Planned Parenthood Files Legal Challenge Against Fla. Abortion Law
From KFF Health News - Latest Stories:
Thousands of Floridians patronize storefront businesses that help them buy cheaper drugs online from Canada and other countries, but the Food and Drug Administration calls the practice illegal and risky. (Phil Galewitz, )
Insurance officials in California have received widespread complaints that the insurer has not paid rehab centers for months, as the company sifts claims for fraud. (Chad Terhune, )
KFF Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Free Refills?'" by Matt Wuerker.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
OBAMA ON THE VA HEALTH SYSTEM
Would be a mistake, he said.
We’re making progress.
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:
The fund to help deal with public health disasters was created by Congress in 1983 with an initial appropriation of $30 million. But Congress only put money into it again twice: in 1987 and again in 1993, in response to the outbreak of hantavirus. Today the fund balance is $57,000. Meanwhile, both the surgeon general and Sen. March Rubio, R-Fla, warn about the lack of Zika prevention funding.
A Permanent Fund That Could Help Fight Zika Exists, But It's Empty
Public health advocates who are exasperated by the fight on Capitol Hill over how much to spend to combat the Zika virus are looking longingly at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA has a standing fund that it can draw upon when disaster strikes. The fund is replenished when the money is spent cleaning up from hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. If only, public health experts sigh. (Kodjak, 6/3)
Surgeon General: ‘We Are Going To Run Out Of Funds’ For Zika
The nation’s top doctor is stepping up his warnings about the need for funds to fight the Zika virus in the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says federal health agencies are nearing the end of their reserves as they to try to halt the outbreak and will need new funds from Congress immediately to keep fighting the disease. (Ferris, 6/3)
The Associated Press:
Sen. Rubio Pressures Congress To Act On Zika Money
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio says that if Congress does not act now on Zika prevention funding, lawmakers may have to return to Washington later for an emergency vote. (6/5)
In other news, the birth defects associated with Zika go beyond microcephaly, and the World Health Organization says it will hold an emergency meeting to evaluate the risks of holding the Olympics in Brazil —
WHO Experts Say Zika May Cause Birth Defects In Thousands Of Babies
World Health Organization officials on Friday cautioned that "many thousands" of infants infected with Zika virus could suffer neurological abnormalities and said nations dealing with an outbreak need to watch for problems beyond the widely reported cases of microcephaly. These include spasticity, seizures, irritability, feeding difficulties, eyesight problems and evidence of severe brain abnormalities. (Berkrot, 6/3)
WHO Expands List Of Possible Zika-Related Birth Defects
The damage the Zika virus can do to a developing fetus appears to be even greater than has been previously understood, the World Health Organization said Friday. (Branswell, 6/3)
WHO Emergency Panel To Meet In June On Zika And Olympics: Spokeswoman
With debate growing over the safety of holding the Olympics in Brazil amid the ongoing Zika virus outbreak, the World Health Organization's Emergency Committee on Zika will meet in the coming weeks to evaluate the risks tied to going on with the Games in August, a WHO spokeswoman said on Friday. "The Emergency Committee meeting will consider the situation in Brazil, including the question of the Olympics," WHO spokeswoman Nyka Alexander told Reuters in response to a query. (Nebehay and Berkrot, 6/3)
The Associated Press:
Gabby Douglas: 'I Don't Care About No Stupid Bugs.'
Olympic champion Gabby Douglas says the Zika virus won't affect her plans to pursue more gold in Rio de Janeiro. "It's the Olympics," Douglas said Friday. "Mosquitoes? Like, whatever. I'm going. This is my shot. I don't care about no stupid bugs." The 20-year-old Douglas and other Olympic hopefuls are in Hartford for the Secret U.S. Classic on Saturday. The meet is the final tune-up for the national championships in St. Louis this month. (6/3)
The president says a move to privatize the veterans' health care system would undercut the progress his administration has made in modernizing the department and bringing veterans timely care. Meanwhile, the VA proposes a rule change to allow veterans to apply for medical services to change their sex.
The Associated Press:
Obama Opposes Privatization Of The Department Of Veterans Affairs
President Obama is opposing suggestions to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve the health care that veterans receive. In an interview with The Colorado Springs Gazette, he said that his administration had made progress modernizing the department and providing veterans with more timely care. Privatizing the agency would delay that progress, Mr. Obama said. (6/5)
Colorado Springs Gazette:
Obama: VA Is Healing
"The notion of dismantling the VA system would be a mistake," Obama told The Gazette on Thursday after he shook the hands of 812 new Air Force officers -- all of whom will someday be veterans. He said his administration has made steady progress in modernizing the VA and providing veterans with more timely health care. Reinventing the system would derail that progress. "If you look at, for example, VA health care, there have been challenges getting people into the system. Once they are in, they are extremely satisfied and the quality of care is very high," Obama said. (Schrader, 6/5)
The Wall Street Journal:
Veterans Affairs Department Proposes Coverage For Gender Reassignment Surgery
The Department of Veterans Affairs is proposing a rule change to begin covering sex-reassignment surgeries and other related medical treatment for transgender veterans. ... “Surgical procedures are now widely accepted in the medical community as medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria,” the medical diagnosis required for a transgender person to have sex-reassignment surgery, the proposed rule change said. “Recent medical research shows that gender dysphoria is a serious condition that has had severe medical consequences for certain patients if transition-related surgeries and procedures are not provided.” (Kesling and Radnofsky, 6/3)
The ballot measure would give California health agencies the ability to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug costs for 5 million people who are on Medicaid plans and those enrolled in the HIV/AIDS drug assistance program. Also, a look at how experts are parsing Clinton's proposal to extend Medicare to people 55 and older.
Sanders Pressures Clinton To Back Drug Price Initiative
Hillary Clinton is under mounting pressure from supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to back California’s ballot measure aimed at reducing steep drug prices ahead of the state’s primary on Tuesday. The first-in-the-nation ballot measure would allow California’s health agencies to negotiate directly with drug companies to lower drug costs. (Ferris, 6/4)
The Fiscal Times:
Clinton’s Plan To Extend Medicare Raises Red Flags
Hillary Clinton last month dusted off a long-standing proposal of hers to expand health care coverage by allowing uninsured people 55 and older to qualify for Medicare – the government health care program for the elderly. ... her idea is generating substantial buzz among health care experts and professionals, some of whom question whether it would be a panacea for millions of uninsured Americans or a “bad fit” for a health care system that has been revolutionized by the Affordable Care Act. (Pianin, 6/5)
Republican legislators lost their effort to derail the governor's order to expand Medicaid in a case that went to the state Supreme Court. The House wants to appeal but hasn't secured consent from the Senate. Meanwhile in Wyoming, a poll by researchers at the University of Wyoming finds residents support Medicaid expansion if it will help the state budget.
Alaska Dispatch News:
Lawyers Spar Over Whether Alaska House Can Appeal In Medicaid Expansion Lawsuit
Lawyers hired by Alaska lawmakers to sue Gov. Bill Walker over Medicaid expansion said in a court filing last week that the Alaska House can properly take over the appeal of a case originally brought by the Alaska Legislative Council even though no legislative body has voted to approve the move. But one of the Senate leaders, John Coghill, R-North Pole, who supported the original lawsuit, said Wednesday that he didn't think the House could insert itself into the already-existing contracts between the two hired law firms and the 14-member Alaska Legislative Council, a committee of House and Senate lawmakers that meets year-round and that voted to sue Walker. (Hanlon, 6/5)
Caper (Wyo.) Star Tribune:
Study: Majority Of Wyoming Residents Want Medicaid Expansion To Help Balance Budget
A majority of Wyoming residents support using money from the federal government to expand Medicaid over tapping the rainy day fund, cutting government or raising taxes. While 41 percent of Wyoming residents supported the budget the Legislature adopted in March, support for the bill would have increased to 52 percent had lawmakers had accepted $268 million in federal money to expand Medicaid, a new survey showed. (Hancock, 6/5)
Economists are divided on how the rise in technology will impact industries like health care. Meanwhile, Mazor Robotics and Medtronic strike a deal for the development of robotic-based spine systems.
The New York Times:
Why The Economic Payoff From Technology Is So Elusive
For several years, economists have asked why ... technical wizardry seems to be having so little impact on the economy. The issue surfaced again recently, when the government reported disappointingly slow growth and continuing stagnation in productivity. The rate of productivity growth from 2011 to 2015 was the slowest since the five-year period ending in 1982. One place to look at this disconnect is in the doctor’s office. Dr. Peter Sutherland, a family physician in Tennessee, made the shift to computerized patient records from paper in the last few years. There are benefits to using electronic health records, Dr. Sutherland says, but grappling with the software and new reporting requirements has slowed him down. He sees fewer patients, and his income has slipped. (Lohr, 6/5)
Mazor Robotics Inks Deal With Medtronic
Mazor Robotics, which has its U.S. headquarters in downtown Orlando, has entered commercial and equity agreements with Medtronic, a global leader in medical technology. (Miller 6/5)
The company's announcement, however, has left even more confusion in its wake.
The Associated Press:
Theranos Says Only 1% Of Results Affected
Less than 1 percent of the blood test results Theranos has provided have either been voided or corrected, according to the company, which last month said it was canceling or altering tens of thousands of results, including two years of results on some of the company's proprietary machines. (6/3)
In other news, Modern Healthcare examines a growing trend of compensating board members at health care systems —
To Pay Or Not To Pay: Some Not-For-Profit Systems Give Board Members Big Pay
In 2015, Sally Smith made $3.9 million as CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings, the investor-owned restaurant chain that is a mecca of hot wings, beer, sports and heartburn. Smith also sits on the board of Allina Health, a hospital system headquartered in Minneapolis, as is Buffalo Wild Wings, colloquially known as “B-Dubs.” It's an interesting juxtaposition for Smith: providing guidance to a $3.8 billion health system dedicated to improving everyone's health while running a company built on bar food and booze. (Herman, 6/4)
Cities and states across the country are realizing they can't arrest their way out of the drug problem.
An All-In Response To The Opioid Crisis
By its own calculations, this city of 50,000 on the Ohio River has the highest drug overdose death rate in a state ranked No. 1 in the nation for overdose deaths. The city’s overdose death rate, at 119 per 100,000 last year, is nearly 10 times the national rate...Every Wednesday, addicts gather in a brightly lit waiting room, seeking clean needles and other services that might reduce the health risks of their intravenous drug use. It won’t necessarily change their lives, but it could reduce the harm that comes with a life of drug addiction. (Vestal 6/6)
Meanwhile, Prince's high-profile death could spur legislative action, and naloxone is becoming easier to get —
The New York Times:
Prince’s Death May Spur Action On Opioid Bill
The official confirmation of Prince’s death by opioid overdose is likely to reverberate in Washington, where lawmakers are still trying to hammer out a deal on legislation attempting to stem a national crisis in abuse of those drugs. “No one is immune,” Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican and one of the main authors of the Senate legislation, said in a statement. “The heroin and prescription drug epidemic is devastating families and communities all over the country, and we need to get this bill to the president’s desk as quickly as possible.” (Hulse, 6/3)
The Associated Press:
Heroin, Painkiller Overdose Antidote Getting Easier To Buy
It is becoming easier for friends and family of heroin users or patients taking strong painkillers to buy an antidote that can reverse the effect of an overdose, as policymakers look for ways to fight a growing epidemic. Naloxone, which is known by the brand-name Narcan, can quickly revive someone who has stopped breathing after overdosing on so-called opioids, highly addictive drugs that include prescription painkillers like Vicodin as well as illegal narcotics like heroin. In the past, naloxone has been available mostly through clinics, hospitals or first responders like paramedics. (6/3)
Researchers report that these "liquid tests" -- which are less painful and risky -- have proven to have results that agree with a tumor biopsy. In other news, a study shows that women who take an estrogen-suppressing drug for double the time lower their risk of their cancer returning; scientists say immunotherapy is untested in patients with autoimmune diseases; and a Minnesota cancer research center celebrates its expansion.
The New York Times:
‘Liquid’ Cancer Test Offers Hope For Alternative To Painful Biopsies
A blood test to detect cancer mutations produced results that generally agree with those of an invasive tumor biopsy, researchers reported, heralding a time when diagnosing cancer and monitoring its progression may become less painful and risky. The blood tests, known as liquid biopsies, represent one of the hottest trends in oncology. They take advantage of the fact that DNA fragments from tumors can be found in tiny amounts in the blood of patients with cancer. (Pollack, 6/4)
The New York Times:
Extending Estrogen Suppressor May Aid Breast Cancer Patients, Study Says
Women with early-stage breast cancer could benefit from taking an estrogen-suppressing drug for 10 years rather than the standard five, researchers reported here on Sunday, citing the results of a new study. In the study, postmenopausal women who took a drug known as an aromatase inhibitor for an additional five years lowered the risk of their cancer returning or of a new case of cancer occurring in the other breast. (Pollack, 6/5)
Cancer Treatment Untested In Many Patients With Immune Problems
The safety and effectiveness of a new cancer treatment known as immunotherapy is largely unknown in patients with autoimmune diseases, researchers say - and that might account for up to a quarter of individuals with lung cancer. In autoimmune diseases - such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis or psoriasis, for example - the immune system attacks the body. (Seaman, 6/4)
Austin's Hormel Institute Cancer Research Center Expands Again
A cancer research center in Austin, Minn., has doubled in size, making room for a 250-seat auditorium, 20 more labs and a massive microscope that takes up an entire room. (Ross 6/4)
Many viruses don't contain DNA. Instead, their genetic information is encoded in RNA, which they use to hijack the genes of their hosts. If scientists can use gene editing to target that RNA instead, they could make advances in such areas as HIV and poliovirus. In other news, families that have a child with a rare genetic condition often struggle with isolation when coping with the diagnosis.
The New York Times:
Scientists Find Form Of Crispr Gene Editing With New Capabilities
Just a few years ago, Crispr was a cipher — something that sounded to most ears like a device for keeping lettuce fresh. Today, Crispr-Cas9 is widely known as a powerful way to edit genes. Scientists are deploying it in promising experiments, and a number of companies are already using it to develop drugs to treat conditions ranging from cancer to sickle-cell anemia. Yet there is still a lot of misunderstanding around it. Crispr describes a series of DNA sequences discovered in microbes, part of a system to defend against attacking viruses. Microbes make thousands of forms of Crispr, most of which are just starting to be investigated by scientists. If they can be harnessed, some may bring changes to medicine that we can barely imagine. (Zimmer, 6/3)
Families Isolated By Rare Genetic Conditions Find New Ways To Reach Out
Shortly after Milo Lorentzen was born, nurses whisked him away to the neonatal intensive care unit for low blood sugar and jaundice. An exam then found a cluster of irregularities, including a cleft palate and a hole in his heart. The staff called in a geneticist, who issued a misdiagnosis — the first frustrating episode in what would become years of testing, as Karen Park and Peter Lorentzen searched for a way to help their son. (Snow, 6/5)
People with severe untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed in a police encounter.
At least 45 percent of the people who have died in forceful encounters with law enforcement in Minnesota since 2000 had a history of mental illness or were in the throes of a mental health crisis, according to a Star Tribune analysis of death certificate data, court and law enforcement records and interviews with family members...In a 2015 spike, 9 of the 13 people who died statewide had mental health problems. The toll is grim proof that law enforcement agencies across Minnesota are working the jagged edge of a splintered mental health care system, where the most available tool for families facing a psychological emergency remains 911 and a squad car. (Bjorhus 6/5)
As Mental Health Calls Pile Up, St. Paul Police Seek A Defter Response
As St. Paul police look for better ways to handle the mentally ill, they rely more and more on Ramsey County mental health professionals. City police recently applied for a $250,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant to create a Mental Health Response Team pairing officers with crisis workers. (Gottfried, 6/3)
Muhammad Ali, who died on Friday, was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1984, a disease that eventually took away his motor skills and his ability to speak clearly. The boxer has been instrumental in raising awareness of the condition.
The New York Times:
Parkinson’s: A Progressive, Incurable Disease
Muhammad Ali, who died on Friday after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease, was given the diagnosis in 1984 when he was 42. The world witnessed his gradual decline over the decades as tremors and stiffness set in, replacing his athletic stride with a shuffle, silencing his exuberant voice and freezing his face into an expressionless mask. (Grady, 6/4)
Muhammad Ali's Health Battle: What Is Parkinson's Disease?
In the following years, Parkinson's began to take away Ali's motor skills and his ability to speak coherently, but he never strayed from the spotlight. "Even though Muhammad has Parkinson's and his speech isn't what it used to be, he can speak to people with his eyes. He can speak to people with his heart, and they connect with him," wife Lonnie Ali said. (Smith, 6/4)
Head Trauma May Have Contributed To Ali's Parkinson's
Muhammad Ali died Friday with the Parkinson’s disease that helped define his life for the last 32 years. Boxing may have contributed to his illness, but genetics was likely a bigger factor, experts said. “It’s bad luck on top of genetics,” said Ole Isacson, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School who met Ali several times. People who lose consciousness through head trauma are at 50% higher risk of Parkinson’s than those who don’t, he said. (Weintraub, 6/4)
The move comes after therapists lost an effort in court to stop the reimbursement cuts. In other news, advocates for Medicaid are questioning the move to private managed care plans in Iowa.
The Dallas Morning News:
Freed By Court Ruling, Texas Medicaid Again Orders Pay Cuts For Disabled Kids’ Therapists
The Texas Medicaid program, under pressure from lawmakers, is again proposing significant cuts in pay for therapists who treat more than a quarter-million disabled children and elderly Texans...Pay cuts for certain services would be nearly 26 percent, said Rachel Hammon, the [Texas Association for Home Care & Hospice] executive director. (Garrett, 6/3)
The Associated Press:
Iowa Advocates Remain Skeptical About New Medicaid Oversight
Newly approved state oversight of Iowa's privatized Medicaid program will make it one the most transparent in the country, according to Gov. Terry Branstad, but some health advocates remain skeptical as state officials begin determining plans for organizing and delivering some information required under the oversight. (Rodriguez, 6/5)
In other news, plans for the development of a regional hospital in the Washington, D.C., suburbs face challenges and two new hospitals are approved by Florida regulators.
Hospitals Fret As Joint Replacements Move To Outpatient Centers
Before Stacey Cook received the first of two hip replacements last year at an outpatient surgery center in Davenport, Iowa, his surgeon, Dr. John Hoffman, told him he would be standing and walking within a few hours and would go home the next morning. Cook, a safety facilitator at Monsanto Co. in his mid-40s, didn't believe it. “I said, 'Yeah, right,'” he recalled. “But I was surprised that was exactly what happened. Six hours later I was walking. (Meyer, 6/4)
The Washington Post:
Hurdles For Long-Awaited Hospital Stir Worry In Prince George’s
Shortly after Prince George’s County officials chose a Largo site for their proposed regional medical center, developers launched apartments and retail projects across the street. The apartments are finished and are being leased. But the ground-floor retail spaces are as empty as the grass lot on Arena Drive where, according to the original plans, the new hospital should be nearing completion. The projected 2017 opening date has been pushed back nearly three years as the state hospital board assesses the project and weighs whether to approve it. (Hernández, 6/3)
Health News Florida:
Florida Regulators Approve 2 New Hospitals, Deny 2
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration approved two new hospitals Friday and denied two others. Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital is allowed to build a 132-bed children’s hospital in Jacksonville, with an intensive care unit for babies. The state also approved a 95-bed hospital in Volusia County, a smaller hospital than Halifax Health asked for. (Aboraya, 6/3)
Meanwhile, in Iowa —
The Des Moines Register:
State Mental Hospital Ends Pediatric Program, Cuts Jobs
The state mental hospital at Independence is cutting 10 positions related to a children’s mental-health unit that stopped accepting patients last year. The residential program for mentally ill children had no current patients, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Amy Lorentzen McCoy said Friday. She said only 26 patients were admitted to the 15-bed unit in the fiscal year that ended last June 31, and the facility had seen a 50 percent decline in patients over five years. (Leys 6/3)
Outlets report on health news from Minnesota, Florida, California, Tennessee, Colorado, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Minnesota Public Radio:
Strike Fears Loom As 5,000 Twin Cities Nurses Weigh Contract
Nearly 5,000 union nurses vote Monday on a contract offer from Allina Health. Union leaders predict it will be rejected and both sides are preparing for the possibility of strikes at four major Twin Cities hospitals. (Zdechlik, 6/6)
Strike Possibility Looms Ahead Of Allina Nurse Vote
Nurses at five Allina Health hospitals will vote Monday whether to authorize potential strikes or accept three-year contracts in a showdown over Allina’s insistence that they give up their union-protected health insurance and move to their employer’s standard benefits. (Olson 6/5)
Health News Florida:
Planned Parenthood Challenges New Abortion Law
Planned Parenthood on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit challenging a major new Florida abortion law and accused the Legislature of seeking to "punish, harass, and stigmatize the state's abortion providers for their and their patients' exercise of constitutional rights." (6/3)
Kaiser Health News:
Regulators Probing Whether Health Net Is Stiffing Drug Treatment Providers
California insurance officials are looking into whether Health Net Inc. has improperly withheld payments to addiction treatment centers for months while the company investigates concerns about fraudulent claims. The California Department of Insurance began an inquiry after receiving numerous complaints from substance-abuse treatment facilities statewide that Health Net had not paid them since at least January, according to providers questioned by the agency. Health Net is California’s fourth-largest health insurer, acquired in March for $6 billion by Centene Corp., a St. Louis-based insurer. (Terhune, 6/6)
3 Things Tennessee Health Care Consumers Can Expect In 2017
Three insurance companies have filed in Tennessee to sell 2017 health plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Cigna and Humana will all offer plans, while the nation’s largest insurer, UnitedHealthcare, has pulled out of the state. (Tolbert 6/5)
Los Angeles Times:
Medical Technician Suspected Of Contaminating Instruments At Hospitals Tests Positive For HIV
Rocky Elbert Allen, the medical technician suspected of stealing drugs and contaminating surgical instruments at six Western hospitals, has tested positive for HIV, the Denver U.S. attorney’s office said. Confirmation that Allen has the virus that causes AIDS poses an added concern for 6,400 surgical patients in California, Washington, Colorado and Arizona who may have been exposed to infection by Allen’s alleged needle swapping, said an attorney who has filed lawsuits against five of the hospitals. (Anderson, 6/3)
Boards Serving People With Disabilities Grapple With New Conflict-Of-Interest Rules
Colorado community centers that manage public money for people with disabilities have grown into multimillion-dollar enterprises embedded with what federal authorities are condemning as conflicts of interest. The same agencies that have the power to decide whether a Colorado family is eligible for benefits for a disabled child also are allowed to provide that care themselves, often own the group home where the child could live and may even own the construction company the family hires to build a wheelchair ramp at their home. (Brown, 6/5)
An Effort To Increase Breast-Feeding In Philly
Nationwide, 78 percent of new moms start breast-feeding their infants. Which means that 22 percent do not, a figure that distresses breast-feeding advocates. The scenario is even more worrisome in Philadelphia, where in 2011, the most recent data available, just 62 percent begin breast-feeding. The Maternity Care Coalition, a nonprofit formed in 1980, aims to increase that number. (Bauers, 6/5)
North Carolina Health News:
Senators Eyeing Solutions For Optometrist Shortage
The eyes have it in this year’s Senate budget, which calls for $2.1 million to fund adult eye exams. “We have reinstated [that] coverage so that we can continue to find glaucoma and diabetes and other vision issues that exist in the Medicaid population for adults,” said Senate Health and Human Services appropriations co-chair Ralph Hise (R-Spruce Pine). (Nigam, 6/6)
Bay City News Service:
$1 Million Given To Build Dental Clinic For Low-Income Oakland Residents
Officials with the Asian Health Services in Oakland received $1 million to build a dental clinic to serve low-income residents in Alameda County, the officials said Thursday. The 4,000 square-foot clinic will be located at 11th and Jackson streets on the first floor of a building with 71 new affordable housing units inside. (6/5)
Clean Pools Can Still Cause Health Hazards
Researchers from the University of South Carolina report that the disinfectants used to keep pools clean can create dangerous disinfection byproducts (DBPs) when combined with sweat, personal care products and urine. (Checn 6/3)
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
Superbugs Will Lead To A Darker World
“The end of modern medicine as we know it” is a scary phrase coming from a respected world leader. We hope [British Prime Minister David] Cameron is exaggerating for effect, but we also hope his sense of urgency to develop powerful new antibiotics is, well, infectious. Developing more potent antibiotics is vital to vanquish a fast-encroaching army of superbugs — bacteria that have become resistant to current antibiotics. (6/3)
Want More People To Have Health Insurance? Look To Louisiana
Six years after Obamacare became law, some 30 million Americans still lack health insurance. Louisiana has found a trick to get a great number of them to sign up for Medicaid. The policy is based on a simple coincidence: Medicaid and the federal food stamp program have almost the same income threshold, at least in the 31 states that have expanded their Medicaid programs under Obamacare. The Bayou State has decided to automatically check to see whether the residents who receive food stamps also qualify for Medicaid -- and if so, to reach out and sign them up. This approach will at once lower the state’s uninsured rate (one of the highest in the country) and cut Medicaid’s administrative costs. (6/3)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Expanding Medicaid Would Decrease Emergency Health Care Visits
Every day, Missourians lose thousands of dollars because their neighbors do not have access to preventive care. Many individuals who fall in the “Medicaid gap” seek emergency care, a costly alternative. (Ed Shew, 6/6)
Do You Know Your Healthcare Credit Score?
Healthcare providers shouldn't let the good news on shrinking bad debt distract them from dealing with one of the more pressing financial issues facing the industry—helping people saddled with unmanageable bills. Before the Affordable Care Act, bad debt was heavily concentrated among the uninsured. They faced financial ruin when hit by a major illness. (Merrill Goozner, 6/4)
Health Affairs Blog:
‘Value Creation’ And ‘Value Shifting’ In Health Care
Corporate executives, the management consultants who advise them, and the financial industry executives who help corporations finance their capital investments tend to believe that whenever their joint work enhances the wealth of a firm’s shareholders, they ipso facto enhance also the nation’s wealth. It is a soothing narrative, one routinely trotted out to college students in their textbooks of economics, which often slouch vaguely toward propaganda. (Uwe E. Reinhardt, 6/1)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Mosquitoes Breed, Zika Looms, Congress Dithers
Tiny mosquitoes of the genus Aedes are helping to demonstrate why the U.S. Congress so richly deserves its 11 percent public approval rating. Aedes mosquitoes carry the Zika virus, which is believed to cause serious abnormalities in fetuses, and may cause debilitating nerve disorders in children and adults. In February, President Barack Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight the spread of the disease. Congress still hasn’t acted. Given its vacation schedule, it may not act until this fall. (6/5)
Maryland's New Health Care Debate
An annual struggle between Maryland's hospitals and the state's Health Services Cost Review Commission is tradition dating back to the 1970s. Under a unique arrangement with the federal government that has allowed the state to collect larger reimbursements from Medicare than it otherwise would, Maryland for four decades maintained a system in which state regulators determined annually what each service a hospital provided would cost. (6/4)
The New York Times:
Republicans’ Latest Attempt To Discredit Fetal Tissue Research
As part of their continuing war on fetal tissue research, House Republicans are now accusing a tissue procurement company and three abortion clinics of violating federal privacy law. In a letter dated Wednesday, Representative Marsha Blackburn, chair of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, charged that StemExpress and the clinics, two of which are Planned Parenthood affiliates, violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) by sharing information on patients receiving abortions. A separate letter accuses StemExpress of using improper consent forms, among other infractions. The letters ask officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate whether the company and the clinics broke the law. (Anna North, 6/3)
An AIDS-Free World Is Possible, But Do We Have The Will To Achieve It?
Thirty-five years ago this week, our lives — and the lives of millions of people around the globe — changed forever with the publication of a report of five previously healthy gay men in Los Angeles diagnosed with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, a disease typically seen only in those with profoundly impaired immune function. (Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, 6/6)
Los Angeles Times:
How To Treat A Drug-Addicted Doctor
It wasn’t until the state police and the DEA were sitting in my primary care office that I finally stopped denying that I was hopelessly addicted to prescription opiates. The DEA agent said, “Doc, cut the crap, we know you’ve been writing bad scrips.” The windows in my office didn’t open, otherwise I might have jumped out and fled. As it was, I was charged with three felony counts of fraudulent prescribing. Physicians are invested with awesome responsibility and trust. We are thought of as invulnerable, as miracle workers, and we're told, "Heal thyself." We're no better at that than the rest of you and in some ways, we're far worse. (Peter Grinspoon, 6/5)
The Des Moines Register:
Editorial: Nursing Home Giveaway Must Lead To New Rules
A few weeks ago, shortly after The Des Moines Register reported that state lawmakers had just approved one of the biggest corporate giveaways in Iowa history, legislative leaders and the governor said they had no idea the House and Senate had even considered, let alone passed, the measure. (6/5)
Lexington Herald Leader:
Psychological Testing, Therapy Can Light Way To Better Health
A recently published op-ed by Herald-Leader parenting columnist John Rosemond questioned both the science and regulation of psychology. Rosemond made several unfounded assertions. Decades of rigorous scientific research have shown that psychotherapy works. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a highly effective treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, ADHD, PTSD and anxiety disorders. (Jennifer L. Price, 6/3)
The Untold Story Of America’s Opioid Addiction
We learned Thursday that Prince died of an opioid overdose—specifically from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid often prescribed to people who have built up a tolerance to oral opioids. (Fentanyl is more potent than powerful drugs like OxyContin and is most commonly administered via a patch.) While the toxicology report has not yet been made public—and may never be—it’s possible that Prince, who had a reputation for living substance-free but also suffered from debilitating hip and knee pain, got his drugs from his doctor, not a dealer. Why would the legendary recording artist have been prescribed a drug that put his life at risk? (Jeremy Samuel Faust, 6/3)
The New York Times:
Are Opioids The Next Antidepressant?
One of the most painful experiences of being a psychiatrist is having a patient for whom none of the available therapies or medications work. A while back, I was asked to do a consultation on just such a patient. This person had been a heroin addict in her early 20s. She had quit the opioid five years earlier, but her life was plagued with anxiety, apathy and self-doubt that prior treatments had not helped. At the end of the session, almost as an afterthought, she noted with irony that the only time in her adult life when she had been able to socialize easily and function at work was when she had been hooked on heroin. (Anna Fels, 6/4)
Los Angeles Times:
Legalizing Marijuana Is A Hazy Question Once You've Seen Addiction Up Close
I've spilt more than you’ve smoked,” my brother-in-law, let’s call him Marty, bragged to my husband in the throes of his addiction. A measure to legalize recreational marijuana is heading toward the California ballot in November. Marty would have been thrilled — but then, he didn’t bother much with voting. My vote, too, would have been a no-brainer some years ago. Legalize it, tax it, make it safer, I would have said then, back when I felt more certain about everything, when I viewed addiction as a lack of self-discipline and personal weakness. I never dreamed it could take down an entire family. (Kerry Madden, 6/5)