- KFF Health News Original Stories 3
- A Nurse's Lesson: Babies In Opioid Withdrawal Still Need Mom
- Mortgages For Expensive Health Care? Some Experts Think It Can Work.
- When Medicare Advantage Drops Doctors, Some Members Can Switch Plans
- Political Cartoon: 'Start A Rye-ot'
- Health Law 2
- HHS Touts Drug Treatment, Mental Health Benefits Of Medicaid Expansion
- Idaho Governor Rules Out Special Session Or Executive Action For Medicaid Expansion
- Marketplace 3
- A Troubled New York Hospital Seeks To Rebound
- Special Clinics Emerge To Help Children With Complex Medical Conditions
- Blood Test Could Clear Uncertainty That Envelops Concussion Diagnosis
- Public Health 2
- On The Front Line Of Opioid Crisis, One Emergency Department Experiments With Alternative Treatment
- Johns Hopkins To Get $125M For Immunotherapy Institute
From KFF Health News - Latest Stories:
One hospital in Connecticut gives babies and moms fighting addiction a quiet room where they can be together as the drugs leave their systems. (Jeff Cohen, WNPR, )
An MIT economist and Harvard oncologist propose offering loans to patients to cover the cost of expensive, curative drugs, financed by private sector investment in loan securities. (Michelle Andrews, )
In the past eight months, Medicare officials have quietly granted the special enrollment periods to more than 15,000 Medicare Advantage members in seven states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (Susan Jaffe, )
KFF Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Start A Rye-ot'" by Hilary Price.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
NURSES ADJUST ATTITUDES WHEN TREATING DRUG-DEPENDENT INFANTS
A lesson to learn:
Treating mom as a mom and
Not as an addict.
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 proposed rule would double the number of patients to whom physicians can prescribe buprenorphine, a medication used to help addicted people reduce or quit their use of heroin or painkillers.
Obama To Unveil Plan To Allow More Patients Access To Opioid Medication
The Obama administration on Tuesday will unveil a handful of measures intended to help curb the nation’s opioid epidemic, including a plan to permit doctors to double the number of patients who may receive a medication used to combat drug addiction. (Kaplan, 3/29)
The Associated Press:
Obama To Address Nation’s Growing Opioid Problem
The Obama administration will issue a proposed rule Tuesday that aims to increase medication-based treatment for tens of thousands of people addicted to opioids. The proposed rule, along with a commitment from 60 medical schools to heighten training for prescribing opioids, will coincide with President Barack Obama’s visit to Atlanta where he will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit. (Freking, 3/29)
Obama To Announce Steps To Fight Heroin, Opioid Epidemic
U.S. President Barack Obama is set to announce steps on Tuesday to expand treatment for people addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers, the White House said. Obama will travel to a summit in Atlanta to meet addicts in recovery, family members, medical professionals and law enforcement officials to talk about the opioid epidemic, which has become an issue in the 2016 presidential election campaign. (3/29)
Los Angeles Times:
Vilsack, At Drug Abuse Summit, Recalls His Mother's Struggles
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack remembers his adoptive mother struggling with alcohol and prescription drug addictions when he was growing up. She tried to commit suicide a couple of times. And he nearly flunked out of high school as his parents separated. The former Iowa governor and former Democratic presidential candidate said his mother eventually got help from a 30-day treatment program and never drank again. Vilsack's grades shot up and he landed on the honor roll when his parents reunited. The experience, he said, taught him drug and alcohol addictions are diseases not character flaws that require responses from whole communities. (Redmon, 3/28)
The Huffington Post:
The Young Woman Whose Addiction Story Touched Obama’s Heart Just Died
On Oct. 21, Jessica Grubb flipped open her laptop and watched a live stream of her father telling President Barack Obama about her addiction to heroin. Obama was in Charleston, West Virginia, Jessica’s hometown, to discuss the opioid epidemic. When the local newspaper solicited questions for the president from its readers, Grubb’s parents asked their daughter if they could tell her story. (Grim and Stein, 3/28)
A new report released by the Department of Health and Human Services says there are 2 million people with either a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder that could be helped in the 20 states that have not expanded Medicaid. Media outlets from Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Idaho and Utah also offer coverage of report.
The Wall Street Journal:
Officials Emphasize Drug Treatment, Mental Health In Medicaid Push
In its latest effort to get more states to states to expand their Medicaid programs, health officials are emphasizing its role in paying for treatment of opioid abuse and mental health issues. Federal health officials are still pressing to get more states to agree to extend Medicaid eligibility to all low-income residents under the Obama health law, in the wake of a 2012 Supreme Court decision that effectively gave governors and state legislators a choice over whether to do so. To date, 30 states have opted in; 20 are sitting out. (Radnofsky, 3/28)
Georgia Health News:
Feds: Medicaid Expansion Would Help Thousands Of Mental Health, Drug Patients
Expanding the state’s Medicaid program could bring tens of thousands of low-income Georgia into treatment for mental health and substance use problems, federal officials said Monday. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report said 159,000 uninsured Georgians with mental illness or a substance use disorder had incomes that would qualify them for expanded Medicaid coverage in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act. (Miller, 3/28)
Federal Regulators Tout Behavioral Health Benefits To Medicaid Expansion In North Carolina
Federal health regulators made another pitch Monday about the benefits of expanding Medicaid coverage in North Carolina and 18 other states, this time focusing on behavioral health issues. Legislators have debated for more than three years about whether to expand Medicaid coverage to an additional 500,000 North Carolinians. ... “Medicaid expansion under the ACA can greatly improve the quality of life for state residents by improving access to treatment for behavioral health needs,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials said in a 17-page report. “Among this population, there is great need for treatment, as about 30 percent (144,000) have either a mental illness, substance use disorder or both.” (Craver, 3/28)
The Austin American Statesman:
Medicaid Expansion Could Help 400,000 Mentally Ill Texans, Report Says
About 406,000 Texans with mental illness and substance abuse disorders could have health insurance if the state expanded Medicaid, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Monday. Texas is one of 20 states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage, opting out of many provisions of the Affordable Care Act. (Chang, 3/28)
Report: Medicaid Expansion Could Boost Access To Treatment For Mental Illness, Substance Abuse
Expanding Medicaid could allow more than 300,000 Floridians to gain access to treatment for mental illness and substance abuse, according to a new federal government report. Some 726,000 people living in Florida have a mental illness or substance abuse disorder but don’t have health insurance, according to the report, released Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. States are allowed to expand Medicaid health coverage to households that earn 138 percent of the federal poverty level — $16,284 for an individual or $33,534 for a family of four. (Auslen, 3/28)
Memphis Commercial Appeal:
Medicaid Expansion Would Provide Behavioral Health Coverage For 114,000 Tennesseans
An estimated 114,000 low-income uninsured residents in Tennessee would get access to care for mental illness and substance use disorder if the state accepted a federal offer of Medicaid expansion dollars, federal officials reported today. In Mississippi, 61,000 uninsured residents would gain coverage for behavioral health and drug and alcohol disorder services if that state accepted the Affordable Care Act’s offer of expanded Medicaid. (McKenzie, 3/28)
New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Medicaid Expansion Could Mean Better Mental Health Outcomes: Federal Study
Louisiana residents who need mental health treatment are likely to see improved health care outcomes after Medicaid eligibility is expanded on July 1, according to a policy brief released Monday (March 28) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ... In Louisiana, as many as 81,000 people who need mental illness or substance abuse treatment will likely qualify for Medicaid expansion, according to the brief. The full number of people without insurance who need mental illness or substance treatment in Louisiana is about 176,000. (Litten, 3/28)
Twin Falls Times-News:
Idaho, Utah Lead Medicaid Gap States In Mental Illness, Substance Abuse
Of the non-expansion states, Idaho and Utah have the highest level of uninsured, low-income residents with mental illness or substance-abuse disorders — 39 and 40 percent, respectively. Substance-use disorders, from opiate addiction to alcoholism, currently disqualify a person from Medicare, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Disability and Medicaid coverage. (Matthews, 3/28)
Gov. Butch Otter says instead he will work with a legislative committee studying the issue. Also, news on expansion issues in New Hampshire and Virginia.
Idaho Gov. Otter Says No Special Session, Executive Action On Health Care For Poor
Gov. Butch Otter Monday ruled out calling a special legislative session or taking action on his own to advance an Idaho-designed, federally-funded health care program for 78,000 poor and uninsured Idahoans. Instead, he said his administration would work with a forthcoming interim legislative committee that will study how Idaho should proceed, likely via a federal waiver that would permit the state to implement an alternate approach to Medicaid expansion to cover the uninsured group. (Dentzer, 3/28)
Twin Falls Times-News:
Otter: No Executive Action On Medicaid Expansion
Democrats have called on Otter to either take executive action or to call a special session to work on a coverage plan for the estimated 78,000 Idahoans in the Medicaid gap. On Monday, Otter threw cold water on the second idea, too. “I know of no reason at this moment that I am going to call a special session for the gap population,” he said. (Brown, 3/28)
The Associated Press:
NH Senate Panel Approves Medicaid Expansion Reauthorization
A key state Senate committee endorsed the continuation of New Hampshire's Medicaid expansion plan Monday after a debate over how hard the state should fight to include a work requirement for recipients. The program, which insures roughly 48,000 people, will end this year if lawmakers do not pass the reauthorization bill. Now backed by the Senate Finance Committee, the bill will go before the entire Republican-led chamber on Thursday. It has already passed the House, also controlled by Republicans, and will go to Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan's desk if it passes the Senate unchanged later this week. (Ronayne, 3/28)
The Richmond Times-Dispatch:
McAuliffe Faults Assembly For Linking Capitol Square Projects To Bonds For Universities
Gov. Terry McAuliffe promised Monday to remove language from a pending $2.1 billion bond bill that would prevent capital projects at colleges and universities from moving forward until he signs construction contracts for replacing the General Assembly Building as part of a pending $300 million overhaul of state buildings on Capitol Square. ... McAuliffe’s remarks escalate a long-simmering confrontation between the governor and Republican leaders over their refusal to expand the state’s Medicaid program for uninsured Virginians under the Affordable Care Act. He has made expansion of insurance coverage a condition for signing the bonds to finance the replacement of the deteriorating General Assembly Building. (Martz, 3/28)
And in Oklahoma, a Senate panel opts against cuts in the current Medicaid program —
The Associated Press:
Plan To Cut 111K From Medicaid Derailed In Oklahoma Senate
A plan to remove about 111,000 Oklahoma residents with dependents from Medicaid to free up money for other health care needs has been derailed in the Oklahoma Senate. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 5-3 on Monday against the bill by Republican Sen. Brian Crain of Tulsa. The bill would have eliminated Medicaid eligibility for any non-pregnant, able-bodied adult younger than 65. Most would be single parents with preschool-age children. (3/28)
Elsewhere, the Federal Trade Commission will pause its challenge of a proposed West Virginia hospital merger while it examines a state law which would protect the arrangement from anti-trust issues, and a new study finds the number of out-of-hospital births in the U.S. is on the rise.
The Wall Street Journal:
Public-Hospital Network Aims For Recovery
At 4 a.m. Saturday, when the city’s public-hospital network expects to switch on its new electronic medical-records system at two hospitals in Queens, its president and chief executive plans to be at Elmhurst Hospital. “I will be physically present,” said Ramanathan Raju, a trauma surgeon who became head of the system in 2014. “People will be anxious.” The $764 million implementation is the latest step in what hospital officials hope will be a five-year transformation of the financially troubled public health system. NYC Health + Hospitals, which until a $250,000 rebranding in November was called New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, concluded last fiscal year with a $58 million operating loss. (Ramey, 3/28)
FTC Pauses Challenge Of W.Va. Hospital Merger After Passage Of New Law
The Federal Trade Commission will hold its challenge of a West Virginia hospital merger while it examines a new state law that aims to protect the deal from federal antitrust scrutiny. The FTC's order (PDF), issued Thursday, delays for 30 days administrative law proceedings over Cabell Huntington Hospital's proposed acquisition of St. Mary's Medical Center, also located in Huntington. A hearing before an administrative law judge had been scheduled for April 5. The order follows the recent signing of a new West Virginia law designed to shield hospital mergers from state and federal antitrust review, assuming they get certain other state approvals. (Schencker, 3/28)
U.S. Out-Of-Hospital Births On The Rise In The U.S.
Giving birth outside of a hospital has become more common in the U.S., especially for white women, with almost 60,000 out-of-hospital births in 2014, according to a new study. “I think it speaks to some women’s growing discomfort with the standard hospital-based system of childbirth in the U.S,” said lead author Marian F. MacDorman of the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland in College Park. (Doyle, 3/28)
“Care for these kids is unbelievably time-consuming and labor-intensive, and there is no way in the current system there is enough financial incentive for providers to do this,” says Dr. Jay Berry, a physician and researcher in the Complex Care Service at Boston Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. In other news, new studies find that preemies face struggles even after infancy.
The Wall Street Journal:
New Model For Meeting The Needs Of The Most Fragile Children
Hospitals are creating special clinics to coordinate care for the close to three million U.S. children—about one in 25—who suffer from complex medical conditions and will in many cases require a lifetime of care. Children with medical complexity, known as CMC, are the sickest and most fragile children; an estimated one-third to one-half of all U.S. spending on children’s health care goes to filling their medical needs. (Landro, 3/28)
Tiniest Preemies Struggle With School And Adult Life
Although extremely preterm birth is no longer the death sentence it once was, many of the tiniest preemies still struggle in school and have a harder time as adults, two new studies suggest. One study focused on the most vulnerable subset of preemies: those born at no more than 28 weeks gestation. More than half of these infants went on to have moderate to severe cognitive deficits and had academic test scores well below average. (Rapaport, 3/25)
Researchers have discovered that the levels of a certain biomarker changed with a traumatic head injury, which has always been tricky to diagnose because of, among other things, delayed symptoms.
The Washington Post:
Blood Test That Can Find Evidence Of A Concussion Days Later Is Closer To Becoming A Reality
When head injuries aren't treated or are under-treated, it puts patients at risk of more serious injury. This is why children with concussions are often asked not to return to class or sports until their symptoms have resolved and adults often have to take days off work. One of the challenges has been that concussions are tricky to diagnose, and it isn't uncommon for a patient to rush to the ER only to be met with a vague response from the doctor about whether there's anything worrisome. Symptoms often aren't apparent for hours or even days after the initial injury, and the imaging technology we have can't pick up anything other than larger bleeds and lesions. How different could things have been if there was a simple blood test to detect a concussion? (Cha, 3/28)
In other news, a new study shows just how flawed Theranos blood tests were —
The Wall Street Journal:
Theranos Results Could Throw Off Medical Decisions, Study Finds
A study by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai showed that results for cholesterol tests done by Theranos Inc. differed enough from the two largest laboratory companies in the U.S. that they could throw off doctors’ medical decisions. The Mount Sinai study was published online Monday in the peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Investigation. The authors recruited 60 healthy adults in the Phoenix area and sent them for 22 commonly prescribed blood tests over a five-day period in July 2015. (Carreyrou, 3/28)
The breach comes just weeks after similar cyberattacks on at least three other medical institutions in California and Kentucky, and The Washington Post looks at the reasons why hackers target health care providers.
The Associated Press:
FBI Probing Virus Behind Outage At Medstar Health Facilities
Hackers crippled computer systems Monday at a major hospital chain, MedStar Health Inc., forcing records systems offline for thousands of patients and doctors. The FBI said it was investigating whether the unknown hackers demanded a ransom to restore systems. A computer virus paralyzed some operations at Washington-area hospitals and doctors' offices, leaving patients unable to book appointments and staff locked out of their email accounts. Some employees were required to turn off all computers since Monday morning. (3/28)
FBI Investigating Outage At Maryland Hospital Chain
The FBI is looking into how a computer virus infected systems at MedStar Health, a large Maryland chain with 10 hospitals and dozens of clinics. "Early this morning, MedStar Health's IT system was affected by a virus that prevents certain users from logging into our system," the hospital chain announced on its Facebook page Monday. (Paglieri, 3/28)
The Washington Post:
Virus Infects MedStar Health System’s Computers, Forcing An Online Shutdown
A virus infected the computer network of MedStar Health early Monday morning, forcing the Washington health-care behemoth to shut down its email and vast records database and raising additional concerns about the security of hospitals nationwide. The FBI is investigating the breach, which comes just weeks after similar cyberattacks on at least three other medical institutions in California and Kentucky. Still, MedStar officials said they had found “no evidence that information has been stolen.” (Cox, Turner and Zapotosky, 3/28)
Washington's MedStar Health Shuts Down Computers After Virus
MedStar Health, one of the biggest medical providers in the Washington, D.C., area, said on Monday it shut down some computer systems after discovering a computer virus. "Networks temporarily shut down to prevent virus spread," MedStar, the operator of 10 hospitals in Washington and Maryland, said on Twitter. "We have no evidence of compromised information. All facilities remain open." (Finkle and Volz, 3/28)
The Washington Post:
Why Hackers Are Going After Health-Care Providers
Washington is reeling from the news of a hack at MedStar, one of the largest medical providers in the area. A computer virus infecting the organization's computer systems forced MedStar to shut down much of its online operations Monday. The exact nature of the attack is not yet known, but MedStar is just the latest victim in a string of cyberattacks that have hit the health-care industry hard. Here's what you need to know about how health-care providers became the latest digital battleground. (Peterson, 3/28)
Instead of trying to push defunding through on a national level, activists have taken their strategy to the states, and laws aimed at blocking money to the nation's largest abortion provider and creating more restrictions on clinics are piling up across the country.
The Associated Press:
State-By-State Strategy Wielded To Defund Planned Parenthood
Though congressional Republicans' bid to defund Planned Parenthood was vetoed by President Barack Obama, anti-abortion activists and politicians are achieving a growing portion of their goal with an aggressive state-by-state strategy. Over the past year, more than a dozen states have sought to halt or reduce public funding for Planned Parenthood. The latest to join the offensive is Florida; GOP Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday that bars Planned Parenthood from accessing state funds. (Crary, 3/28)
Activists Revive Push For Abortion Bans In The Name Of Protecting Disabled
Abortion opponents are pushing to enact more state bans modeled after a new law in Indiana that makes it illegal to abort a fetus because it would be born with a disability. The Indiana law, signed by Republican Governor Mike Pence last week, bars abortions when the woman is seeking to terminate solely because her fetus is expected to have a physical or mental disability, including Down syndrome. Women in that situation could still obtain abortions, as long as they had other reasons for doing so. (Nather and Samuel, 3/28)
The Associated Press:
Florida Drops Complaints Against Abortion Clinics
Florida health regulators are dropping their push to fine three Planned Parenthood centers, saying such action would be redundant now that the governor has signed a law that puts new restrictions on abortions and prohibits any state money from going to the clinics. Court documents show the Agency for Health Care Administration last Friday asked an administrative judge to dismiss complaints first filed last year against clinics located in St. Petersburg, Naples and Fort Myers. (Fineout, 3/28)
The Associated Press:
Utah Governor Signs Bill Requiring Abortion Anesthesia
The governor has signed a bill that makes Utah the first state to require doctors to give anesthesia to women having an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later. The bill signed by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert Monday is based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that point. "The governor is adamantly pro-life. He believes in not only erring on the side of life, but also minimizing any pain that may be caused to an unborn child," Herbert spokesman Jon Cox said. (Golden, 3/29)
Telemedicine Could Expand Access To Medical Abortions
Women in the U.S. without reproductive health services close to home might have an easier time getting medical abortions if they could consult with doctors online instead of scheduling in-person visits, some providers argue. Although surgical abortions require clinic visits, roughly one quarter of abortions are done with medication and might be provided with telemedicine – using webcams and video chats to diagnose and treat these patients, Dr. Elizabeth Raymond of Gynuity Health Projects in New York and colleagues argue in JAMA Internal Medicine. (Rapaport, 3/28)
The Arizona senator says the VA Choice Card — which allows some patients to obtain private care at the department's expense — must be made universal and permanent.
The Arizona Republic:
Sen. John McCain Calls For Universal, Permanent VA Choice Card
Arizona Sen. John McCain unveiled a new action plan for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at a Monday town hall in Phoenix, declaring that after nearly two years of reform efforts "our veterans still have not gotten the care they need and deserve." The Republican senator's new initiative calls for the VA Choice Card — which allows some patients to obtain private care at the department's expense — to be made universal and permanent. (Wagner, 3/28)
The New Jersey hospital is hoping its initiative to try other treatments before prescribing opioids will help in the epidemic that's sweeping the country. In the first two months, 75 percent of the 300 patients that have gone through the program did not need opioids. In other news, nurses and hospitals are changing their approach when it comes to taking drug-dependent babies away from their mothers.
The Associated Press:
As Crisis Rages, Hospital Works To Reduce Opioids In The ER
To combat what health professionals say is a nationwide epidemic ... St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, has been using opioid alternative protocols in its emergency room since January. The goal of the Alternatives to Opiates (ALTO) program is to try to treat most patients without opioids before considering using them. In the first two months, 75 percent of the 300 patients that have gone through the program did not need opioids, Rosenberg said. Patients with cancer or those with chronic pain who are already dependent on opioids aren't part of the program. (3/28)
Kaiser Health News:
A Nurse's Lesson: Babies In Opioid Withdrawal Still Need Mom
Like many hospitals across the country, [Hospital of Central Connecticut] has seen the number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome go up dramatically in recent years. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports more than 21,000 infants in the U.S. were born in withdrawal from opioids in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available. The hospital says each baby costs roughly $50,000 to treat. These fragile and fitful babies present new challenges for hospitals. There’s research that suggests they may do best when they can be held for hours, by their mothers, in a quiet, private room as they go through the process of being weaned off the drugs. But delivering that care means changing hospital systems and attitudes about addiction among doctors and nurses. (Cohen, 3/29)
Michael Bloomberg, who will be donating $50 million, said the immunotherapy treatment, which uses a patient's own immune system to to attack cancer, has enormous potential. "This really may have the possibility for a unique Eureka moment," he said. In other news, STAT follows one advocate's battle against federal testicular cancer guidelines, and The Washington Post examines the lifestyle changes of a cancer survivor.
The Washington Post:
Bloomberg, Others Give Hopkins $125 Million For Cancer Research That Helped Jimmy Carter
Research into immunotherapy, which cancer experts are calling the most promising approach in decades, will get a big boost Tuesday when Michael Bloomberg and other philanthropists announce $125 million in donations to Johns Hopkins University for a new institute focused solely on the therapy and accelerated breakthroughs for patients. Michael Bloomberg, the businessman, philanthropist and former New York mayor, will donate $50 million, as will Sidney Kimmel, a philanthropist and founder of Jones Apparel Group. (McGinley, 3/29)
The Feds Say Screening For Testicular Cancer Isn't Necessary. This Health Advocate Is Out To Prove Them Wrong.
The official advice on whether men should regularly check their testicles for signs of cancer is: no, don’t do it. But ever since he discovered a lump at the age of 17, health policy researcher Michael Rovito has been on a one-man mission to change the minds of the medical establishment. (Roberts, 3/29)
The Washington Post:
You Survived Cancer. Now What?
Cancer patients used to be told to go home and take care of themselves without too many specifics for life after treatment. Now, as soon as they’re feeling strong enough, they’re advised to mind their lifestyle: lace up their sneakers, eat healthy, watch their weight and avoid tobacco and excess alcohol. Roughly a third of cancers are considered preventable and the lifestyle recommended to help avoid them is the focus of ongoing research to help cancer survivors live healthier and, perhaps, longer. (Levingston, 3/28)
A selection of opinions from around the country.
Hold The Obamacare Celebrations
President Barack Obama and his allies are celebrating the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, on the sixth anniversary of its passage. They say it has provided insurance coverage to millions of Americans and come in below cost. They are right to claim that many Americans have benefited from the law. But the benefits are overstated, and the law's harms look set to rise. (Ponnuru, 3/28)
Los Angeles Times:
Why Are We Wasting Future MDs' Time And Money With This Pointless Test?
Every physician who wishes to practice medicine in this country must pass a test most Americans have never heard of: Step 2 Clinical Skills. Approximately 20,000 medical students from U.S. and Canadian schools take it each year, paying hefty fees for a decidedly ineffectual exam. For anyone who wants to end waste in medical education, getting rid of Step 2 CS is a good place to start. (Christopher R. Henderson and Nathaniel P. Morris, 3/29)
The New York Times:
The State Assault On Planned Parenthood
Last summer, after deceptively edited videos were used to accuse Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue, congressional Republicans voted to block all federal financing for the organization, and threatened to shut down the entire federal government if they didn’t get their way. The charges against Planned Parenthood were completely bogus — investigations in 12 states found no wrongdoing, and one, in Texas, resulted in the indictment in January of the video makers. (3/28)
A Call For Protecting The Health Of Women Who Donate Their Eggs
The egg market is growing. As couples and individuals continue to rely on assisted reproductive technology to overcome infertility, to make parenthood possible for gay couples and for other reasons, the demand for eggs is increasing swiftly. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of donor eggs used for in vitro fertilization increased about 70 percent per year, from 10,801 to 18,306, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Judy Norsigian and Timothy R.B. Johnson, 3/28)
The Daily Beast:
The GOP’s Anti-Abortion Crusade Is Working—And No One Cares
The word “abortion” was not mentioned once in the first seven Democratic debates. It wasn’t until Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were asked about the issue at a Fox News town hall in March that either of the candidates addressed the issue in prime time and, even then, only briefly. Finally, in the eighth Democratic debate on Univision, after a full month of social media pressure to #AskAboutAbortion, The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty mentioned that the Supreme Court is “considering the most significant abortion restrictions in a generation.” But the moderator quickly segued into a more general question about nominating new justices. (Samantha Allen, 3/29)
What Valeant's Fall From Grace Can Teach Us About The Drug Industry
As reversals of fortune go, Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ would be hard to beat. The drug maker became a Wall Street darling by purchasing products and then jacking up prices to new heights. Bankers collected fees on deals, investors profited on a soaring stock price, and Valeant successfully held itself out as a new industry growth model by pooh-poohing investments in research and development. (Ed Silverman, 3/29)
Pharmacist-Prescribed Birth Control In Oregon And Other States
In Oregon, a new law took effect on January 1, 2016, allowing women 18 years or older to obtain hormonal contraception directly from pharmacies, without having to visit a physician or other prescribing clinician .... California will follow Oregon later in 2016 .... The new birth control laws in Oregon and California decrease barriers to contraceptive access and may reduce costs and unintended pregnancies. However, instead of providing over-the-counter, easily accessible birth control for women, the new laws shift the burden of prescribing onto the pharmacy. Even though this approach provides an excellent way to economize health care costs and free up physicians and resources, it stops short of fully alleviating the burden of prescription on women who seek to access contraceptives. (Y. Tony Yang, Katy B. Kozhimannil and Jonathan M. Snowden, 3/28)
The Seattle Times:
More Help On The Way To Fight Opioid Health Crisis
Most primary-care providers — including family doctors, dentists, podiatrists and nurse practitioners — are not well educated in the hazards of opioids and opioid dosage, and the need for patient monitoring. (3/27)
The New York Times' Upshot:
How Britain’s Soda Tax Plan Could Spur New Low-Sugar Drinks
Public health advocates who push for taxes on soda say any reduction in sugary drinks can help fight obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. Yet most soda taxes treat all sugary drinks as if they have the same amount of sugar. That’s the structure of Mexico’s soda tax, which went into effect in 2014 and is being closely watched by researchers. It’s also a feature of the soda tax in Berkeley, Calif., the first American city to pass one. Those taxes apply a surcharge on every liter or ounce of sugary drink, no matter how much sugar it has. A new soda tax in Britain, expected to become law, is different. (Margot Sanger-Katz, 3/29)