- KFF Health News Original Stories 3
- Tracking Who Makes Money On A Brand-Name Drug
- Dialysis At Home? Medicare Wants More Patients To Try It
- A Bygone Era: When Bipartisanship Led To Health Care Transformation
- Political Cartoon: 'Nip And Tuck'
- Health Law 2
- Obama Administration Set To Pick Coverage For Customers Who Lose Plans On Marketplaces
- States Worry About Rising Costs Of Medicaid Expansion
- Marketplace 2
- Bruised Theranos Shutters Labs To Devote Attention To Research
- $39.35 Charge For Mom To Hold Newborn Incites Outpouring Of Medical Billing Horror Stories
- Public Health 4
- We've Hit Our Lifespan Ceiling As Humans, Scientists Say
- When A Tragedy Saves A Life: Surge In Fatal Overdoses Is Leading To More Transplants
- Depression Among Doctors Is Rarely Discussed: Academy Of Medicine Tries To Break Taboo
- Roundup: Late-Stage Cancer Patients Struggle With Immunotherapy Choice; The Danger Of PCBs
- State Watch 1
- State Highlights: Texas Is Most Dangerous State To Be Pregnant; Aid-In-Dying Bill Advances In D.C.
From KFF Health News - Latest Stories:
KHN’s Julie Appleby joined forces with USA Today to create this chart, which details the various industry players and how they contribute to a prescription drug’s cost. (Julie Appleby, )
Nationwide, fewer than 10 percent of people who need kidney dialysis do it at home. But close to 40 percent of patients of a Montana doctor do it at home. Medicare is hoping it's a trend. (Eric Whitney, Montana Public Radio, )
A federal law enacted shortly after the end of World War II provided grants and loans to fund hospital construction that have left a lasting legacy. (John Henning Schumann, )
KFF Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Nip And Tuck'" by Mike Peters.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
WHO PROFITS FROM PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
Time to get graphic
About all who have a stake
In brand-name drug costs.
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:
Some consumer advocates say the government assistance on choosing coverage will benefit people whose plans have exited the health law's exchanges, but insurers worry that it could create confusion. In other health law news, Republicans on Capitol Hill are hoping to stop administration efforts to pay insurers more under a risk program to help the businesses that have been hurt by enrolling too many sick customers.
The Associated Press:
Government To Pick Plans For Displaced Health Law Customers
Worried that insurers bailing out of the health law's markets may prompt their customers to drop out, too, the Obama administration plans to steer affected policyholders to remaining insurance companies. But those consumers could get an unwelcome surprise if their new government-recommended plan isn't what they're used to. The backstop was outlined in an administration document circulating among insurers and state regulators. It also calls for reaching those "discontinued consumers" with a constant stream of reminders as the health law's 2017 sign-up season goes into full swing. Open enrollment for HealthCare.gov starts Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 31. A copy of the strategy was provided to The Associated Press. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/6)
House Republicans Probe Potential Risk-Corridor Settlements
Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have deepened their probe into the Obama administration's plans for a controversial Affordable Care Act insurance provision by asking insurers to unveil any settlement talks. The committee sent letters to six insurers and two insurance associations requesting any communications between them and the administration about the risk-corridor program and any related lawsuits or settlement discussions. (Teichert, 10/5)
GOP Seeks To Block ObamaCare Settlements With Insurers
Republicans in Congress are plotting ways to block the Obama administration from paying insurance companies hundreds of millions of dollars as part of an ObamaCare program. GOP lawmakers say they are looking at “a dozen” options — including a possible provision in the year-end spending bill — to prevent the administration from using an obscure fund within the Treasury Department to pay out massive settlements to insurers. The insurance companies are suing over a shortfall in an ObamaCare program that they say is damaging their businesses. (Sullivan and Ferris, 10/5)
In other health news —
What Happens If Congress Doesn’t Change Obamacare?
If Congress can’t come to agreement on any sort of changes to the Affordable Care Act — a reasonable assumption, given the lack of action in the last six years — the law will continue operating on autopilot for another two to four years. What happens then? Health analysts point to a few different scenarios. The most optimistic projection is that the law could naturally work out its kinks and be fine — i.e., more people would enroll and more insurers would participate, creating a healthy market. On the other side of the spectrum, the ACA exchanges could fall into a death spiral of fewer healthy enrollees and fewer insurers offering products. (Owens, 10/5)
Slavitt Says Health Industry’s Transformation Still To Come
CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt called the health care law a “disruption” that could force the industry to make major changes, comparing the concerns about rising premiums that arose this summer to concerns that were raised ahead of major changes in the auto and banking industries years ago. “What we see here, is the opening up of a new $40 billion and growing market with lots of capital,” Slavitt said, referring to the marketplace set up under the Affordable Care Act. “As disruptions go, this is a pretty great one.” (McIntire, 10/5)
HHS Chief Hints At Tweaks To ObamaCare Marketplace
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Wednesday sought to calm fears about the still-shaky ObamaCare marketplaces in the final stretch before this year’s sign-up period. Speaking to health insurance executives in Washington, Burwell stressed that the White House is listening to insurers as some of them worry about staying afloat in the ObamaCare business. She ticked off several of the tweaks that the administration has already made this year and hinted that more changes were in the works. (Ferris, 10/5)
Did Land Of Lincoln Members Need To Shop For New Coverage After All?
About one-third of the individual members of failed insurer Land of Lincoln did not buy new health coverage on the state's Obamacare exchange as of last week's deadline, according to the Illinois Department of Insurance. But that may not mean they are uninsured. Former members began receiving letters in the past few days — after the Friday deadline for securing uninterrupted Obamacare coverage through other companies — saying they may be entitled to coverage through a state entity. (Schencker, 10/5)
These budget concerns may hamper efforts to get the remaining 19 states to accept the health law's Medicaid expansion. Also, Georgia lawmakers weigh models that would allow expansion of coverage for low-income residents but at a lower cost.
The Associated Press:
Rising Cost Of Medicaid Expansion Is Unnerving Some States
The cost of expanding Medicaid under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is rising faster than expected in many states, causing budget anxieties and political misgivings. Far more people than projected are signing up under the new, more relaxed eligibility requirements, and their health care costs are running higher than anticipated, in part because the new enrollees are apparently sicker than expected. Rising drug prices may also be a factor. (Cassidy, 10/5)
Georgia Health News:
Lawmakers Begin Looking At Alternatives To Standard Medicaid Expansion
A legislative panel heard testimony Wednesday on ideas for reducing the high number of uninsured people in Georgia through alternatives to a standard Medicaid expansion. The Senate study committee focused on a variation of expansion that Arkansas and other states have launched. Under this “premium assistance,’’ a state would use Medicaid funds to purchase coverage in the health insurance exchange for newly eligible adults. (Miller, 10/5)
CEO Elizabeth Holmes announces that about 340 employees will be laid off as the company closes both its clinical labs and its blood collection centers. The company's focus will shift to developing technology for its miniLab, a new blood-testing device.
The Washington Post:
Theranos Will Close Labs And Walgreens Testing Sites, Laying Off Hundreds Of Employees
Elizabeth Holmes, the embattled founder and chief executive of Theranos, said late Wednesday that the company will close its clinical labs and Walgreens testing centers. The open letter, posted on the company’s website, was essentially an epitaph for the consumer business that was the focus of the once-celebrated Silicon Valley company that Holmes boasted would change the world with its simple and inexpensive pinprick blood test. In magazine interviews, TV appearances and keynote speeches she gave around the world, Holmes said the innovation would empower consumers by giving them the ability to bypass the gatekeepers — their doctors — to get important information about the health of their own bodies. (Cha, 10/5)
Theranos To Shut Labs, Lay Off Hundreds As Mission Shifts
The embattled blood-testing company Theranos on Wednesday night announced a major retrenchment, saying it will shut down its clinical labs and blood collection sites. About 340 employees in Arizona, California, and Pennsylvania will be laid off, the company indicated in an open letter signed by CEO Elizabeth Holmes and posted to the company’s website. That’s nearly half of the 790 workers the company said over the summer that it employed. (Robbins, 10/5)
Theranos Closes Testing Labs And Centers, Fires 340 Workers
Blood-testing company Theranos Inc. will close its testing labs and fire about 340 workers, following months of run-ins with regulators and questions about whether its products work. Instead, the Palo Alto, California-based startup will focus on developing what it says is its next-generation testing device, miniLab, Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Holmes said in a statement posted on the startup’s website. (Chen, 10/5)
Embattled Theranos Founder Announces Company Pivot
Embattled Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes announced Wednesday that the once high-flying biotech start-up would close its Wellness Centers and lay off 340 employees. Holmes wrote in a company blog post that Theranos would instead focus on a proprietary blood testing machine that would, in theory, requires mere drops of blood to perform tests that traditionally require vials of blood. (della Cava, 10/5)
The Wall Street Journal:
Theranos Retreats From Blood Tests
The shutdowns and layoffs could help the closely held company accelerate its shift to developing products that could be sold to outside laboratories. Ms. Holmes announced in August a new blood-testing device called miniLab, which is about the size of a printer but hasn’t been approved by regulators. (Carreyrou and Weaver, 10/6)
After a man posted the bill for his wife's C-section online, showing a fee for "skin to skin after c-sec," outrage spread like wildfire as it resonated with so many people who faced similar situations.
The New York Times:
How Much Is It Worth To Hold Your Newborn? $40, Apparently
After holding his newborn son for the first time at a Utah hospital last month, a man found a strange charge on his bill: $39.35.The man, Ryan Grassley, thought the charge, which appeared to be for holding his baby to his wife’s chest, was a bit of a joke. (The charge was listed as “skin to skin after C-sec.”) So he didn’t take it too seriously when he posted a picture of the bill on Reddit. ... The Reddit post touched a nerve with people because it seemed to underscore a national frustration with unexpected hospital fees and arcane medical billing. (Bromwich, 10/5)
A new study claims that humans' biological limit on how long our lives can reach is 115 years.
The New York Times:
What’s The Longest Humans Can Live? 115 Years, New Study Says
On Aug. 4, 1997, Jeanne Calment passed away in a nursing home in France. The Reaper comes for us all, of course, but he was in no hurry for Mrs. Calment. She died at age 122, setting a record for human longevity. Jan Vijg doubts we will see the likes of her again. True, people have been living to greater ages over the past few decades. But now, he says, we have reached the upper limit of human longevity. (Zimmer, 10/5)
Humans Can Only Live So Long, And We're Nearing The Limit
Humans have squeezed almost as much they can out of their natural lifespans and are approaching the biological limit of how long they can extend their years. So suggests a paper published Wednesday in Nature that argues that the human lifespan appears to be fixed. By analyzing demographic data, the authors write that the number of years any one human can live has a natural cap and is restricted by all the biological time bombs that can take us down. Even if scientists are able to slow some aspects of aging, they say, there are plenty more that can kill us. (Joseph and Bronshtein, 10/5)
Los Angeles Times:
When, And Why, Must We Die?
Life-extension zealots have championed many strategies aimed at prolonging our days here on Earth, and not all sound like much fun (I’m thinking specifically about caloric restriction). Super-centenarians — those rare humans who live beyond the age of 110 — by contrast seem to embrace much more appealing life-extension strategies: They routinely endorse regular naps, consumption of large quantities of chocolate, and a daily nip of strong drink, for instance. (Healy, 10/5)
Research Suggests Longevity Is At Its Max
"We cannot break through that ceiling," Vijg says. "The take-home message essentially is this whole ever-increasing life expectancy of humans cannot go on." (Stein, 10/5)
And, can a heart attack increase someone's lifespan? —
The Associated Press:
Study: Good Heart Attack Care Could Add A Year To Your Life
Going to the right hospital for heart attack care could add a year to your life, a new study suggests. Using Medicare records, researchers found that roughly 17 years after a heart attack, average life expectancy was 9 to 14 months longer for patients who had been treated at hospitals that do best on widely used quality measures than for those treated at low-rated ones. (Marchione, 10/5)
The opioid crisis is having a noticeable impact on organ donations, especially in hard-hit areas like New England. “Finding out that with his death someone else could benefit was such a joy," says one mother. Meanwhile, mom-and-pop pill mills are cropping up around the country, Breaking-Bad style.
The New York Times:
As Drug Deaths Soar, A Silver Lining For Transplant Patients
The surge in deaths from drug overdoses has become an unexpected lifeline for people waiting for organ transplants, turning tragedy for some into salvation for others. As more people die from overdoses than ever before, their organs — donated in advance by them or after the fact by their families — are saving lives of people who might otherwise die waiting for a transplant. (Seelye, 10/6)
The Wall Street Journal:
The Pill Makers Next Door: How America’s Opioid Crisis Is Spreading
The married couple living in the third-floor, ocean-view apartment were friendly and ambitious. She explored the city, posting selfies on Facebook. He started a small music label at home. “They were nice people,” said Ann McGlenon, their former landlady. “She’s very sweet. He’s a go-getter.” Authorities say Candelaria Vazquez and Kia Zolfaghari had darker aspirations. (Kamp and Campo-Flores, 10/5)
And in other news on the opioid epidemic —
Kratom Ban Being Reconsidered By DEA
Affter announcing that the herbal supplement kratom would be made as illegal as heroin, the Drug Enforcement Administration is now reconsidering its decision, a US official familiar with the process told STAT on Wednesday morning. In late August, the DEA announced that it would ban the substance for two or three years, a step that it could take unilaterally in a case it deems to be a “public health crisis.” (Boodman, 10/5)
The Washington Post:
A 7-Year-Old Told Her Bus Driver She Couldn’t Wake Her Parents. Police Found Them Dead At Home.
For more than a day, the 7-year-old girl had been trying to wake her parents. Dutifully, she got dressed in their apartment outside Pittsburgh on Monday morning and went to school, keeping her worries to herself. But on the bus ride home, McKeesport, Pa., police say, she told the driver she’d been unable to rouse the adults in her house. Inside the home, authorities found the bodies of Christopher Dilly, 26, and Jessica Lally, 25, dead of suspected drug overdoses, according to police. (Wootson, 10/5)
Stronger Heroin Laced With Fentanyl Prompts FDA Panel To Call For Larger Naloxone Doses
A rise in overdose deaths from heroin laced with fentanyl and other powerful additives prompted two federal advisory committees on Wednesday to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration authorize stronger minimum dosages of naloxone, the lifesaving drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdose. The FDA’s Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee and Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee voted 15-13 to recommend increasing the minimum amount for an injectable and intravenous dose of naloxone – currently 0.4 milligram – when considering approval of new naloxone products for use outside of a hospital or medical setting. (Pugh, 10/5)
Chicago Sun Times:
As Deaths Soar, Emanuel To Boost Spending On Heroin Treatment
Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to boost spending to combat opioid and heroin abuse — and license pharmaceutical representatives to prevent the over-prescription of opioids. A $700,000 investment in drug-treatment programs — a 50 percent increase over current funding — will be directed first to “opioid treatment deserts,” which have a disproportionate level of addiction and are largely concentrated on the West Side. (Spielman and Main, 10/5)
Suicide among middle- and high-schoolers, a new California law expanding mental health services for low-income patients and training programs for law enforcement officers are also covered by media outlets.
National Academy Of Medicine 'Breaking Silence' On Doctors' Distress, Suicide
Rates of depression and suicide are strikingly high among doctors, and The National Academy of Medicine wants to help the profession talk about it. In June, it published "Breaking The Culture of Silence on Physician Suicide," an exploration of the 2013 suicide of a third-year medical student, Kaitlyn Elkins. And now, it has re-posted Dr. Elisabeth Poorman's recent CommonHealth piece — "I Felt Alone But I Wasn't: Depression Is Rampant Among Doctors In Training" — at the top of its website.It has also created the infographic below, to go with the piece. (Goldberg, 10/5)
North Carolina Health News:
Youth Suicide: Out Of Balance
Students in Wake County schools learn about suicide in seventh, ninth, and twelfth grades through a program called “Signs of Suicide” that discusses risk factors and warning signs. At the end of the training session, students take a screening assessment and have the opportunity to request an assessment from a nurse, counselor, psychologist, or social worker — a member of the team with specialized training. Any student who requests an assessment will receive one by the end of that school day. (Rhew, 10/5)
New Law Will Expand Mental Health Services For Low-Income Californians
The staff of Clinica Sierra Vista, which has health centers throughout the Central Valley, screened its mostly low-income patients last year for mental health needs and determined that nearly 30 percent suffered from depression, anxiety or alcoholism. Christopher Reilly, Sierra Vista’s chief of behavioral health services, said he was concerned about the high percentage of patients afflicted, but even more so about the clinic’s ability to treat them. (Gorman, 10/6)
The Newnan Times-Herald:
Mental Health Crisis Training For Officers Expanding
Teaching law enforcement officers to identify, understand, and defuse situations when people they are interacting with are having mental health crises is the goal of Georgia’s Crisis Intervention Team training... A significant part of the class is teaching law enforcement to recognize the various disorders, and the signs and symptoms of people experiencing them. (Campbell, 10/5)
In other public health news, the Los Angeles Times reports on exploding e-cigarettes while The Star Tribune looks at the science behind the "runner's high."
Cancer Patients Face The Ultimate Choice, With No Room For Error
Immunotherapy, which harnesses the body’s immune system to attack tumors, brings with it the hope of significant remission, if not a cure, for some patients. But clinical trials often exclude those who have already had similar treatments, in part because researchers are seeking clear indications of a particular drug’s effectiveness. For patients, that means the stakes on a single decision couldn’t be higher. And many have little data on the drugs to guide them. (Tedeschi, 10/6)
The Washington Post:
Activists Warn That PCBs — Toxic Industrial Chemicals — Contaminate Thousands Of U.S. Schools
Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are industrial chemicals so toxic that Congress banned them 40 years ago. Research has shown that they can cause a range of health concerns, including cancer and neurological problems such as decreased IQ. And yet, because they were commonly used in building materials for decades, they continue to contaminate classrooms in between 13,000 and 26,000 schools nationwide, according to Harvard researchers. No one knows exactly how many schools are affected — nor how many children are being exposed to these toxic chemicals — because many schools don’t test for PCBs. Under federal law, they don’t have to. (Brown, 10/5)
Los Angeles Times:
This Is What Can Happen If An E-Cigarette Blows Up While You’re Using It
It was an injury unlike any Dr. Elisha Brownson had seen — a young man whose teeth were blown out when his electronic cigarette exploded in his mouth. His injuries were so severe he was admitted to the trauma intensive care unit.“I had never heard of an injury mechanism like this before,” said Brownson, a surgeon who specializes in treating people with burns. The patient “left a gruesome impression on me.” (Kaplan, 10/5)
The Star Tribune:
What Causes Runner's High? Scientists Are Still Chasing After The Answer
For many of the runners in this weekend’s Twin Cities Marathon, the reward for pushing themselves during the race will extend beyond the finish line in the form of a hidden perk: runner’s high. But knowing what causes that euphoric feeling — and how to achieve it — has been a bit of a mystery. (Shah, 10/5)
The report claimed that there are ongoing scheduling problems at the hospital, but VA Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin says the situation has improved with additional training for the staff.
The Associated Press:
Official Says Phoenix VA Health Care System Has Improved
Despite a new report raising serious questions about the quality of care within the Phoenix VA Health Care System, a top official in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs said Wednesday that significant progress has been made. ... The report, which was released Tuesday, found Phoenix VA staff inappropriately canceled medical consults that possibly contributed to the death of one veteran who did not get a recommended stress test. Consults include appointments, lab tests, teleconferencing and other planned patient contacts. (10/5)
In other news on veterans' health care —
The Washington Post:
After War Wounds And A Long Wait, A Quadruple Amputee Gets New Arms — And A New Life
Retired Marine Corps Sgt. John Peck is crying as he lies on the operating table, the stumps of his arms anesthetized, the room filled with lights and figures in blue scrubs. He’s been praying since his plane left Virginia the night before, asking for strength. And a nurse keeps trying to comfort him. But the weight of what’s happening has hit him, and for the moment he is overcome. It’s been six years since he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and became a quadruple amputee. Almost two years since he got on the waiting list for a double arm transplant. Less than 24 hours since the urgent summons from the hospital here. (Ruane, 10/5)
Kansas City Star:
Lee's Summit Man Fears Menninger VA Hospital's LSD Experiments Sped Brother's Fall Into Schizophrenia
The LSD experiments were conducted by VA psychiatrist Ken Godfrey, one of the doctors who had presented on his research in the 1965 colloquium at the Menninger Clinic, then in Topeka. Any records that would show whether Rowland was part of the LSD research are either missing or don’t exist. But he stayed at the Topeka VA hospital briefly in 1972, and a subsequent doctor’s note, recorded when Rowland visited the Kansas City VA hospital, includes this scrawled entry: “The (patient) feels that on last admission he was given LSD and suffered hallucinations.” (Robertson, 10/5)
Outlets report on health news from Texas, D.C., Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, Colorado, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Ohio, Wisconsin and Georgia.
Dallas Morning News:
Is It More Dangerous To Be Pregnant In Texas Than Any Other State?
While pregnancy is becoming safer across the world, it’s becoming more dangerous in the United States. Maternal mortality dropped in 157 countries between 2000 and 2013 but went up 27 percent in the U.S. over a similar time period. The U.S. ranks lower than Kazakhstan, Kuwait and Libya when it comes to keeping pregnant women alive...Bleeding to death, heart attack and infection were some of the most common causes of death, according to a study published last year. A researcher at Texas Tech looked at the records of 557 Texas women who died during or shortly after pregnancy. (Yasmin, 10/5)
The Washington Post:
‘An Act Of Kindness’: Medical Aid-In-Dying Legislation Advances In The District
A D.C. Council panel on Wednesday advanced a bill allowing physicians to prescribe fatal medication to help terminally ill residents legally end their lives, setting the stage for a fight over the emotionally charged issue in the nation’s capital. The legislation squeaked out of the Committee on Health and Human Services on a 3-to-2 vote after an intense lobbying effort from patients pleading for an option to avoid prolonged suffering and from religious leaders and medical professionals who object to the prospect of hastening death. (Nirappil, 10/5)
The CT Mirror:
Anthem And Yale Medicine Reach Contract Deal
Yale Medicine and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield reached a new contract agreement Wednesday, averting the possibility that the large New Haven medical practice would leave the network of the state’s largest insurer later this week. The two sides agreed not to release terms of the agreement, according to Anthem, but both described it as including provisions intended to reduce the cost of care while improving care coordination for patients. A statement from Anthem described the deal as including “new approaches to managing cost and quality,” with more proactive management of Yale Medicine’s patients. (Levin Becker, 10/5)
Health News Florida:
Hurricane Matthew Causes Delay In Sarasota County Hospital Case
The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday postponed arguments until February in a constitutional battle about a 2003 state law that directed Sarasota County to reimburse private hospitals for indigent care... The Supreme Court rescheduled the hearing for Feb. 8. Sarasota Doctors Hospital, Inc., Englewood Community Hospital Inc., and the former Venice Regional Medical Center, now known as Venice Regional Bayfront Health, went to the Supreme Court after the 2nd District Court of Appeal last year ruled that part of the 2003 law was unconstitutional. (10/5)
Ardent To Buy Texas Hospital Operator
Ardent Health Services has agreed to buy LHP Hospital Group, a Texas-based hospital operator, in a deal that positions the company to take on more hospitals. The scale that comes with adding five hospitals to its existing 14-hospital fleet is central to Ardent's growth plan, said David Vandewater, CEO. LHP owns majority stakes in the hospitals alongside either not-for-profit operators or physicians — partnerships that Vandewater said are advantageous to improving quality and efficiency. (Fletcher, 10/5)
The Baltimore Sun:
Hospitals Embrace Family Programming As Medical Benefits Emerge
When it comes to life-threatening illnesses in children, many families are learning there is more to treatment than pills. There are prepared meals and outings, opportunities to paint a picture and even a fresh set of clothes. There once was little consideration given to patients' and their families' quality of life during extended hospital stays or therapies, especially when the medical situation was grave. But that thinking is changing among those giving and those receiving care. (Cohn, 10/5)
Former Director Of Pueblo Center Where Disabled Were Abused Now Oversees Adult Services In Grand Junction
The former director of a Pueblo center where residents with severe disabilities were abused is now in charge of adult services at one of Colorado’s 20 community boards that manage benefit money for the disabled, a move that has angered numerous parents...Valita Speedie oversaw the Pueblo Regional Center for several years, including 2014-15, when a female resident performed a sexual act on a staff member for a soda and when several male residents had words such as “kill” and “die” scratched into their skin, most likely with a fingernail, according to a recently released federal report. Speedie, who resigned last year during an investigation, now is vice president of adult programs at Strive, the community-centered board that serves people with disabilities in the Grand Junction area. (Brown, 10/5)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
NewCourtland Gets $11M In Tax Credits For Frankford Senior Site
A NewCourtland Senior Services has received $11 million in New Markets Tax Credits to build a 15,000 square foot facility in the former St. Bartholomew Catholic School in Frankford to provide medical services, adult day care, and other services for low-income seniors, according to Corporation for Supportive Housing, a New York community development organization that provided the credits. The facility will be used for NewCourtland's Living Independently for Elders (LIFE) program, which is for seniors who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid and have health problems that would make them eligible to be in a nursing home. (Brubaker, 10/5)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Pa., N.J. Investigating Cause Of Bacterial Infections
The Pennsylvania and New Jersey Health Departments have announced ongoing investigations into a possible link between a bacterial infection and a type of prefilled syringe that is used to flush intravenous lines with saline solution to keep them sterile. Over the last several months, federal agencies have been tracking reports by several states of clusters of Burkholderia cepacia in health-care facilities. (Sapatkin, 10/5)
Parents, City Reach $15 Million Settlement In Girl’s Death At Camp Sacramento
Natalie Giorgi’s parents say a powerful message lives in their daughter’s sudden death three years ago from an allergic reaction to peanuts at a signature Sacramento-run campground. Food allergies are real, and they can kill. On the day the Giorgis’ attorneys announced that the city reached a $15 million wrongful-death settlement with the family in the 13-year-old girl’s death at Camp Sacramento in July 2013, parents Joanne and Louis Giorgi vowed Natalie’s death would not be in vain, while chastened city officials promised changes within the next 12 months to ensure the safety of future campers. (Smith, 10/5)
Banner Health's Summer Data Hack Triggers 10 Civil Lawsuits
Banner Health's admission this summer that a large-scale cyberattack may have compromised the records of 3.7 million people has been followed by a flurry of civil lawsuits from a doctor and patients who allege harm from the data breach. Plaintiffs have filed 10 civil lawsuits in Maricopa County Superior Court or U.S. District Court in Phoenix naming Banner Health as a defendant since the Phoenix-based health system disclosed the data breach Aug. 3. (Alltucker, 10/5)
‘Sweetheart Swindler’ Hired By Company As In-Home Caregiver, Suit Says
A northeastern Ohio company hired Tonya Weiss — also known as the “Sweetheart Swindler’’ for ripping off lonely seniors in Ohio and Florida — to provide in-home care for elderly clients. She was hired just a few months after her release from prison, according to a lawsuit filed by an 83-year-old Painesville woman who alleges that she is Weiss’ latest victim. (Pyle, 10/6)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Aurora Expanding ER Technology
Aurora Health Care said Wednesday it will add technology developed by Brookfield start-up EmOpti Inc. to the emergency rooms at two more of its hospitals. The technology is designed to reduce emergency room wait times and leads to patients being treated more quickly. The technology, which the health care provider tested at Aurora Sinai Medical Center in early 2016, reduced emergency room initial wait times by 75%, said Mike Rodgers, director of strategic innovation at Aurora. (Gallagher, 10/5)
The Augusta Chronicle:
Stem Cell Trial Aims To Provide New Therapy For Stroke Patients
Dr. David Hess, chairman of the Department of Neurology at AU, will head up a Phase III international clinical trial for stroke patients using the MultiStem cell therapy to treat ischemic stroke, the company Athersys said. Unlike the previous Phase II study, which extended the treatment window out to 48 hours after the stroke, the study will focus on 18-36 hours, which Hess believes is the best time window. Athersys is conducting a similar clinical trial in Japan in conjunction with the company Healios. (Corwin, 10/5)
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Summit County Public Health Receives $2.9 Million Grant For Lead Hazard Control Program
Summit County Public Health, in partnership with the Summit County Department of Community and Economic Development, successfully removed lead from 140 homes with the previous lead control grant awarded in 2013. The current grant award is to provide remediation to 160 eligible Summit County households. (Becka, 10/5)
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
The Wall Street Journal:
ObamaCare’s Meltdown Has Arrived
Tennessee is ground zero for ObamaCare’s nationwide implosion. Late last month the state insurance commissioner, Julie Mix McPeak, approved premium increases of up to 62% in a bid to save the exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act. “I would characterize the exchange market in Tennessee as very near collapse,” she said. (Andrew Ogles and Luke Hilgemann, 10/5)
Los Angeles Times:
Bill Clinton Was Right That Obamacare Needs Improvement — But We Knew That Already
My quiet afternoon was interrupted Tuesday by an outburst of blather on CNN about a gaffe that Bill Clinton had uttered, supposedly calling the Affordable Care Act “the craziest thing in the world.” There followed lots of speculation about how Hillary Clinton would tamp down the controversy, lots of chortling over whether the time had come to put a leash on the ex-president lest he embarrass his wife again, etc., etc. You know the drill. (Michael Hiltzik, 10/5)
The ACA Started With A False Policy Premise, And It's Failing
The Obamacare experiment has left consumers with fewer health insurance options, narrower provider networks and higher premiums. United Healthcare and Aetna - two of the nation's largest insurers - have withdrawn from most of the health exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act. And they're not the first. Years of losses on the exchanges have led many insurers to drop out. (Nina Owcharenko, 10/5)
ACA Isn't Perfect, But Let's Fix It, Not Kill It
Three years after its enactment, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, or "Obamacare") remains the subject of intense debates driven by politics, not facts. What's inescapable is this: The ACA accomplished several important objectives, most significantly, cutting the rate of uninsured Americans from 18 percent to 11 percent. That's 20 million people who now have been able to obtain insurance. (Hagop M. Kantarjian, 10/5)
How To Get Public Option Benefits Without A Public Option
The public option debate, in hibernation since a public option was removed from health reform legislation in 2009, has reawakened. In July, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party endorsed the idea of a launching a government-run plan to exert competitive pressure on private plans offered in Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces. A nearly identical arrangement exists in Medicare—with a little-known twist that might be the key to getting most of the public option’s benefits, with fewer of its political risks. (Austin Frakt, 10/5)
The Fiscal Times:
White House To Americans: Pay Astronomical Deductibles -- Or Else
HHS has floated a new attempt to drive fixed-benefit plans out of the market, this time by forcing insurers to pay the exact same dollar amount for any payable event. In other words, whatever payment the insurer provides for a day in the hospital would have to equal what they pay for a doctor visit, and vice-versa. Not only is this irrational, but it also has no precedent in insurance or any other form of commerce. Rather than make fixed-benefit plans less confusing – the ostensible rationale for the Obama administration’s hostility toward such offerings – it makes them almost incomprehensible and completely unmanageable. (Edward Morrissey, 10/6)
We Already Have Health-Risk Scores. Now Let's Use Them.
Most Americans know they have a personal credit score, and many know where to find it. Few know they also have a personal health-risk score. If these were better known, and better constructed, health insurance markets in the U.S. would work more smoothly. Commercial health insurance plans, as well as Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs, generate risk scores every year for most of the people they cover. These scores are estimates of each person’s cost of care, compared with the average costs in a large population. And they play a big role in health insurance; they’re often used, for example, to determine how much more insurers are paid for sicker beneficiaries. (Peter R. Orszag and Timothy G. Ferris, 10/6)
Will Precision Medicine Improve Population Health?
Announcement of the precision medicine initiative has led to a variety of responses, ranging from enthusiastic expectations1 to explicit skepticism,2 about potential health benefits, limitations, and return on investment. This Viewpoint discusses whether precision medicine is unlikely or likely to improve population health, aiming to forge a consensus that bridges disparate perspectives on the issue. The potential of precision medicine to improve the health of individuals or small groups of individuals is not addressed here because it involves a different question with different metrics. (Muin J. Khoury and Sandro Galea, 10/4)
It's Not Just Apps. Health Care Innovation Requires True Communication
Health care, like many industries, places great emphasis on innovation. In just the past decade, we have moved rapidly from paper medical records to electronic ones and web portals that let information pass seamlessly between health systems and patients at the touch of a finger. Smartphone apps, wearables, medical devices, and other gadgets that promise to improve health are being developed at an ever faster pace...Although it is essential to welcome ideas and creative solutions from diverse sources, many of these “innovations” aren’t solving well-defined problems in health care or they don’t easily fit into current systems that deliver care to patients. (Karen DaSilva, 10/6)
Do Ethics Fall To The Wayside When Doctors Become Pundits?
[Dr. Mehmet] Oz’s recent foray into political journalism is yet another example of the emerging physician-pundit. In some cases, their contributions come in the form of relatively objective explanatory articles unpacking the significance of Hillary Clinton’s recent pneumonia diagnosis or interpreting Trump’s widely publicized “medical reports.” But others editorialize science and manipulate political debate under the objective veneer of medicine. (Vishal Khetpal, 10/5)
The Washington Post:
Does Lack Of HHS Controls Contribute To Personal-Care Abuse Of The Elderly And Disabled?
There’s a decent chance that sooner or later, you or a loved one will need a personal-care attendant. I’ve already been there, having to arrange personal in-home care for my mother before she died. Fortunately, most of the attendants we hired were good. That’s not the case with the miscreants described in a report released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG). (Joe Davidson, 10/5)
The Washington Post:
A Mega-Case Puts Opioids On Trial
Nearly 19,000 people lost their lives to opioid overdoses in 2014, a quadrupling of these deaths in just 15 years. The devastation wrought by the prescription opioid crisis, and the subsequent related epidemic of addiction to chemically similar heroin, is spreading anguish across America. Government’s response so far consists mainly of damage control — more drug treatment, distributing overdose antidotes to first responders. (Charles Lane, 10/5)
Changing The Language Of Addiction
Words matter. In the scientific arena, the routine vocabulary of health care professionals and researchers frames illness and shapes medical judgments. When these terms then enter the public arena, they convey social norms and attitudes. As part of their professional duty, clinicians strive to use language that accurately reflects science, promotes evidence-based treatment, and demonstrates respect for patients. (Michael P. Botticelli and Howard K. Koh, 10/4)
Counterfeits Kill: Stronger Law Enforcement Needed
When one thinks of counterfeit goods, it can conjure up images of customers being duped into buying inferior quality designer bags or other fashion knockoffs. However, when it comes to the manufacturing, distribution and sale of counterfeit medications, the outcomes can be much more serious and life threatening. (Steve Pociask, 10/6)
Cheap EpiPen Alternative Risks Patients’ Lives, And I’ve Seen It Myself
A mistake I made as an intern more than 20 years ago still haunts me. It’s one that doctors continue to make today, even though a simple solution — affordable EpiPens for emergency departments — could make these errors a thing of the past. ... For someone having a potentially deadly anaphylactic reaction, a small dose of epinephrine (0.3 milligrams) can help reverse the rash, wheezing, swelling of the throat, and other symptoms. It should be injected into the muscle or under the skin so it doesn’t get into the bloodstream too fast, which can dangerously stress the heart. By comparison, a larger dose (1 milligram) is injected into the bloodstream to try to restart the heart when the heart stops during a “code blue.” (Jennifer Brokaw, 10/5)
Los Angeles Times:
Why Won't UC Health Centers Provide Birth Control Without A Prescription?
On Aug. 6, 2013, just weeks after Janet Napolitano was named the first woman president of the University of California, the institution offered its complete support for a bill, SB 493, known as the “pharmacist protocol.” After unanimous legislative approval, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law, which permits pharmacists to furnish self-administered hormonal contraceptives (birth control) to women without a prescription from a physician. The law also outlines training standards to make implementation as practicable as possible. (Olivia Weber, Ali Chabot and Laura Lively, 10/5)
The New York Times:
Can Women Be Trusted On Abortion? Two Men Weigh In
Well, that was painful. What with the cross talk, interruptions, insults, sneers and overly rehearsed zingers, the vice-presidential debate on Tuesday surely bewildered more voters than it enlightened. There was one area, though, in which both Senator Tim Kaine and Gov. Mike Pence were crystal-clear and decidedly different: abortion rights. (Katha Pollitt, 10/5)
The Mercury News:
Make End Of Life Options Real With Palliative Care
While controversy remains about California’s recently passed End of Life Option Act, we need to accept that aid-in-dying is now legal and that the state needs to support additional real options for patients—especially good palliative care with its focus on the whole-person and pain management. Alarmingly, California falls woefully short in providing universal access to palliative care. Community-based palliative care is currently unavailable in 22 of our 58 counties; there are no inpatient services in 19 counties. Specialists in palliative care are in short supply and reliable funding is nonexistent. Most rural communities in the state have limited, or no, access to this vital service. (Margaret R. McLean, 10/5)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The Public Health Crisis In Mental Illness
From a personal standpoint, I am all too familiar with the use of solitary confinement. My father, a Vietnam veteran has bipolar disorder and has spent over 15 years in and out of our state correctional facilities. Most solitary confinements occurred when he would have a medication adjustment and mania, a symptom of his illness, would ensue. (Heidi Plach, 10/5)
Is It Time To Give Up On The Phoenix VA?
It apparently wasn’t enough of a wake-up call more than two years ago, when the Phoenix VA Health Care System was at the center of a national scandal over the unbelievable -- and sometimes fatal -- amount of time veterans were expected to wait before getting medical care. It apparently wasn’t enough that the Phoenix VA has endured seven directors since then. The latest one started this week, a career bureaucrat who has the distinction of having run the worst VA hospital in the country before being packed off to a tiny clinic in the Philippines. (Laurie Roberts, 10/5)