Home Trending Tuesday, December 18, 2018 | Kaiser Health News

Tuesday, December 18, 2018 | Kaiser Health News


The health care industry adds thousands of jobs to the economy each month. While they aren’t all doctors and nurses, they aren’t all paper pushers either. (Rachel Bluth,

In their filing to U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and other Democratic attorneys general also asked for permission to immediately appeal’s his decision that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. For its part, HHS says that since O’Connor had not issued a final judgment or an injunction, the department “will continue administering and enforcing all aspects of the ACA as it had before the court issued its decision.” Meanwhile, Democrats prepare to act to protect the law as soon as they take the majority in the House next month.

The New York Times:
States Ask Judge To Declare Health Law Still In Effect While Ruling Is Appealed

California and 15 other states asked a federal judge on Monday to protect current health care coverage for millions of Americans while courts sort out the implications of his ruling that the Affordable Care Act was invalid in its entirety. The states, which support the health care law, said the ruling on Friday, by Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth, had caused immense confusion about whether the law was still in effect, and whether consumers were still entitled to its benefits and protections. The states asked Judge O’Connor to clarify whether he meant his decision to have “any immediate legal effect.” (Pear, 12/17)

Boston Globe:
18 States, Including Massachusetts, File Motion To Challenge Ruling Striking Down Affordable Care Act

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and her counterparts in 17 other states filed a motion Monday challenging a Texas federal judge’s ruling last week that struck down the Affordable Care Act. … “Millions of Americans who rely on the protections of the Affordable Care Act have been left confused and uncertain about the future of their health care coverage,” Healey said. “We are urging the court to clarify its ruling to avoid massive disruption in the healthcare market.” (Cote, 12/18)

The Wall Street Journal:
States Ask For Clarity On Judge’s Ruling On Affordable Care Act

The states filed a motion that asks U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas to either clarify his ruling or grant a stay of his decision during litigation. The states also asked for permission to appeal it right away. The judge cast a cloud over the ACA’s future in a sweeping ruling that declared the ACA unconstitutional without a penalty on people forgoing health coverage. Congressional Republicans have eliminated the penalty starting for next year. Because the insurance mandate was central to the law, the whole law must be invalidated, the judge ruled. (Armour, 12/17)

The Hill:
Dem AGs Begin Process Of Appealing Court Ruling That Struck Down ObamaCare

The state officials noted in their filing Monday that O’Connor’s opinion created confusion about whether ObamaCare will be unenforceable once the repeal of the individual mandate takes effect Jan. 1. They also asked that he certify his opinion so it can be appealed to the Fifth Circuit. They asked for a response by Friday. “The district court’s ruling poses a dangerous threat to the healthcare of millions of Americans. We’re asking the court to make clear that the ACA is still the law and ensure that all Americans can continue to access affordable healthcare under it,” Becerra said in a statement. (Hellmann, 12/17)

Modern Healthcare:
Obamacare’s Uncertain Fate Leaves Congress, Industry Lying In Wait

Although the effective elimination of the individual mandate penalty starts Jan. 1—before the filing deadline—HHS and the White House say the law will remain in place since O’Connor did not grant an injunction. “This decision does not require that HHS make any changes to any of the ACA programs it administers or its enforcement of any portion of the ACA at this time,” HHS said Monday. (Luthi, 12/17)

The Hill:
Incoming Dem Chairman Vows Hearings On ObamaCare Lawsuit ‘Right Away’

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, vowed Monday to hold oversight hearings “right away” on the Trump administration’s involvement in a court case over the weekend that ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called ObamaCare, was unconstitutional. Pallone will take over the chairmanship of the panel when Democrats assume the House majority next year. He said they will “get to the bottom” of the administration’s decision not to defend the health-care law against a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general. (Hellmann, 12/17)

House Democrats Are Said To Plan Joining Obamacare Legal Fight 

In the 2018 election, polls showed health care ranked as the single most important issue to voters. Democrats across the country highlighted the GOP’s attempts to do away with Obamacare’s consumer protections, and it paid dividends as the party won 40 House seats. It wouldn’t be the first time the House has gotten formally involved in a lawsuit or other legal action involving Obamacare. Republicans previously used their majority control to make legal attacks on aspects of the 2010 health-care law. (House, 12/17)

Kaiser Health News:
What Just Happened To The ACA And What Happens Now? A Special Bonus Edition

Federal District Judge Reed O’Connor again thrust the Affordable Care Act into uncertainty with his ruling Friday that eliminating the tax penalty for not having insurance renders the entire law unconstitutional. The panelists for this special bonus episode of KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal and Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post. (12/17)

Kaiser Health News:
Watch And Listen: Court Decision Rocks ACA

Julie Rovner, KHN’s chief Washington correspondent, was featured on NPR’s “Up First” podcast Monday morning to discuss a federal judge’s ruling late Friday invalidating the Affordable Care Act. She also joined NPR’s Michel Martin on Saturday on “All Things Considered” to talk about the case. (12/17)

Boston Globe:
Mass. ‘Not Immune’ To Ripple Effect Of Health Care Law Ruling

A Texas judge’s ruling late last week to throw out the Affordable Care Act could have far-reaching consequences, threatening health coverage for millions and insurance markets nationwide — even in Massachusetts, which has its own universal health care law. The Massachusetts law, which went into effect more than a decade ago, has bipartisan support and was the model for the sweeping federal health care overhaul approved under President Obama in 2010. (Dayal McCluskey, 12/18)

New Orleans Times-Picayune:
After Obamacare Ruling, Louisiana Officials Want Pre-Existing Health Conditions Covered

Three days after a Texas judge ruled President Barack Obama’s signature federal health care law unconstitutional, state leaders are assessing their next move pending the likely appeal of the decision. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, one of 20 attorneys general seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, reiterated that he will back state legislation requiring health insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions if a lawsuit that he’s bringing strikes down the law’s current mandate for such coverage. (O’Donoghue, 12/17)

The Baltimore Sun:
Here’s How Many People Enrolled In Health Insurance Through Maryland’s Marketplace 

Nearly 157,000 Marylanders enrolled in health insurance through the state’s insurance marketplace for 2019, according to the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. During the open enrollment period from Nov. 1-Dec. 15, 156,963 Marylanders enrolled in health insurance through Maryland Health Connection, marking a 2 percent increase from the 153,571 people that signed up for health insurance through the state’s exchange last year. (Meehan, 12/17)

In theory, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s declaration that the health law is unconstitutional without the individual mandate tax should be a victory for Republicans who have been waging a war against the ACA for years. In practice, experts say it may be putting the party in a “lose-lose scenario” with voters. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump maintains that the ruling presents an opportunity for lawmakers to create a better health care system.

The Hill:
GOP Lawmakers Distance Themselves From ObamaCare Ruling

Republicans are keeping their distance from a recent court ruling that struck down ObamaCare, as GOP lawmakers are wary of the political backlash that could ensue from scrapping the law. Many congressional Republicans remain silent after a federal judge on Friday struck down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. And those who have spoken out largely steered clear of embracing the decision. (Sullivan, 12/17)

GOP Stuck In A ‘Lose-Lose’ Dilemma With Judge’s Obamacare Ruling 

Congressional Republicans were handed the gift they said they wanted when a Texas judge invalidated Obamacare late last week. Yet few now seem willing to open it. After spending the eight years since the law passed promising — and failing — to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are no closer to crafting a politically viable alternative to the law, which has gained favor with voters and has transformed the nation’s health-care system. (Kapur, 12/18)

Politico Pro:
GOP Has No Backup Plan After Ruling That Struck Obamacare

The Trump administration said it had a contingency plan in case a court struck Obamacare’s patient protections — though it never revealed what the plan was, or how it would keep vulnerable Americans covered. But a federal judge in Texas went further than many expected on Friday, invalidating the entire 2010 law. Now, the administration’s plan is essentially to do nothing for the moment — keeping in place a statute it reviles and letting the courts sort matters out in a process that could drag well into the 2020 election cycle. (Cancryn, Demko and Ollstein, 12/17)

The Washington Post:
Trump Suggests A Supreme Court Ruling Invalidating Affordable Care Act Would Lead To Better Health Care

President Trump on Monday suggested that the Supreme Court should affirm a ruling by a federal judge in Texas that the entire Affordable Care Act is invalid, writing on Twitter that doing so “will lead to GREAT HealthCare results for Americans!” The president weighed in on the judicial process as the ruling on Friday cast great uncertainty over the U.S. health-care system, with the expectation that the case would ultimately make its way to the Supreme Court. In his tweet, Trump sought to make the case, as he first did over the weekend, that the ruling presented an opportunity for his Republican administration to work with Democrats to craft a better law than President Barack Obama’s signature achievement, which Trump continued to criticize. (Wagner, 12/17)

Why Trump Still Needs Obamacare

A Texas judge’s stunning declaration that Obamacare is unconstitutional not only kneecaps the health care law, it would also cripple President Donald Trump’s entire health care agenda. Trump wants lower drug prices, drastic action on the opioid crisis and protection for people with pre-existing conditions. Those are the parts of the law many Republicans do want to keep, but with the entire law invalidated — pending appeal — Trump and Republicans are trying to figure out how to live with a judicial ruling they kind of wanted, but didn’t want in such a big way. (Karlin-Smith, Roubein and Ehley, 12/17)

The industry was left reeling despite the fact that many legal experts expect the decision to be overturned. Meanwhile, insurers hastened to try to reassure their customers that nothing is changing immediately.

U.S. Healthcare Stocks Drop After Judge Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional

Shares of U.S. health insurers, hospitals and healthcare companies fell on Monday in the aftermath of a ruling by a federal judge in Texas that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly called Obamacare, was unconstitutional. Many legal experts predicted U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s decision on Friday eventually will be reversed on appeal considering that the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court, but the uncertainty created by the ruling drove down healthcare stocks on Monday. (12/17)

The Associated Press:
Health Care Sector Roils After ACA Court Ruling

Hospital chains HCA Inc. and Tenet Healthcare Corp. dropped 7 percent and 4 percent respectively when markets opened Monday. Centene Corp., a health insurer focused heavily on the government-funded Medicaid program and the ACA’s individual insurance exchanges, fell 8 percent. Other insurers that slipped included Molina Healthcare Inc. and Anthem Inc., companies that have benefited from either the insurance exchanges or the law’s Medicaid expansion.(12/17)

Health Stocks CYH, THC, HCA Fall After Obamacare Ruling 

Debt investors were also weary of the political uncertainty that was created after the judge’s decision. Tenet and Community Health’s bonds were among the top decliners in the high-yield market on Monday, according to Trace bond trading data. Tenet’s 6.75 percent and 7 percent senior unsecured notes due 2025 and 2022 slipped 2 cents on the dollar to 94.75 and 94.25 respectively, according to Trace. (Darie, 12/17)

States’ Credit Quality Threatened By Obamacare Ruling, S&P Says 

A federal judge’s ruling Friday that Obamacare is unconstitutional poses a threat to the credit quality of some U.S. states, as well as to hospitals and insurance companies, S&P Global Ratings warned. States that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — the signature health-care overhaul under President Barack Obama — could lose billions of dollars in federal money and could face significant costs if they try to keep coverage for people newly-covered by the program, S&P said in a release Monday. Certain providers of substance abuse treatment, emergency services and mental health services could also be negatively impacted. (Albright, 12/17)

Modern Healthcare:
Obamacare Ruling Has Health Insurers Reassuring Customers

Health insurers and the lobbying groups that represent them blasted a Texas federal judge’s decision to strike down the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional on Friday. They moved quickly to ensure plan members that their insurance coverage and any federal financial help they receive will stay unchanged during the long legal fight sure to ensue. “While we remain extremely disappointed in this decision, this is going to be a lengthy legal process and while it continues, we are assuring Blue Cross and Blue Shield members that their health coverage and the financial assistance they may be receiving to help them afford it remains in place,” said Justine Handelman, senior vice president in the office of policy and representation at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. (Livingston, 12/17)

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bill would establish an Office of Drug Manufacturing that would be required to manufacture at least 15 different generic drugs in its first year where the agency determines there is a failure in the market. Meanwhile, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is also introducing legislation geared toward high drug costs and increasing transparency in Medicaid funding.

Warren Bill Would Get Feds Into Generic Drug Manufacturing

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a likely 2020 presidential candidate, will release a bill on Tuesday that would effectively create a government-run pharmaceutical manufacturer to mass-produce generic drugs and bring down prices, several sources in her office told POLITICO on Monday in an exclusive preview of the legislation. The bill, dubbed the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act, is unlikely to pass the Republican-led Senate, but it signals that a future Warren White House could try to radically revamp the federal government’s role in the pharmaceutical market in order try to lower prices. (Thompson and Karlin-Smith, 12/17)

Sen. Cory Booker Seeks Increased Transparency In Medicaid’s Drug Decisions

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., says he will introduce federal legislation this week that would require more transparency surrounding states’ Medicaid drug decisions. The bill comes in response to a recent investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and NPR. The measure, known as the “Medicaid Drug Decisions Transparency Act,” would require pharmaceutical companies to disclose their payments to pharmacists and others who serve on state Medicaid drug boards. These boards help decide which drugs Medicaid patients will be able to access easily. Currently drugmakers must only disclose perks given to doctors, such as free dinners, speaking fees and consulting gigs. In addition, the bill would increase penalties for companies that fail to comply with reporting requirements. (Whyte, 12/17)

And, in other news —

The Post and Courier:
Clyburn Has Taken More Than $1 Million In Pharma Money In A Decade, Far Surpassing Peers

While South Carolina’s longest-serving congressman threw his support to research and the growth of the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry in his district, drug- and device-making companies rewarded him by giving liberally to his campaign war chest for years. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, has collected more in the last decade from powerful political action committees attached to the pharmaceutical industry than anyone else in the House or Senate, according to Kaiser Health News and a Post and Courier analysis. (Wildeman, 12/16)

Want more information on lawmakers’ ties to pharma? Explore our Pharma Cash To Congress database.

Alexander Announces He Won’t Seek Re-Election In 2020

“I will not be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate in 2020. The people of Tennessee have been very generous, electing me to serve more combined years as Governor and Senator than anyone else from our state. I am deeply grateful, but now it is time for someone else to have that privilege,” Alexander said in a statement. Alexander had said he would decide by the end of the year whether he’d seek re-election. As recently as last week, it seemed his team was gearing up for him to seek a fourth term, when his pollster released a poll showing the senator with a 65 percent favorability rating among likely Republican primary voters. (Lesniewski, 12/17)

Kaiser Health News:
After Her Skiing Accident, An Uphill Battle Over Snowballing Bills

Sarah Witter couldn’t get a break even though her leg had gotten several. As she lay on a ski trail in Vermont last February, Witter, now 63, knew she hadn’t suffered a regular fall because she could not get up. An X-ray showed she had fractured two major bones in her lower left leg. A surgeon at Rutland Regional Medical Center screwed two gleaming metal plates onto the bones to stabilize them. “I was very pleased with how things came together,” the doctor wrote in his operation notes. But as spring ended, the wound started to hurt more. (Rau, 12/18)

Supporters thought that strategy would boost their effort with voters, but it attracted Big Tobacco into the fight. As more people look to the success of the three states who were successful in expanding Medicaid through ballot initiatives, the strategy may offer lessons for 2020. Meanwhile, since work requirements were added to Arkansas’ Medicaid program earlier this year, more than 17,000 beneficiaries have lost coverage.

Lone Medicaid Expansion Defeat Offers Lessons For Other States

Montana was one of four red states with Medicaid expansion on the ballot, and the only one where it failed. And the reason why, many close observers both inside and outside of the state agree, almost certainly came down to a tactical decision to link expansion to an increase in the state’s tobacco tax. Supporters thought that strategy would boost their effort with voters, but it attracted Big Tobacco into the fight, along with the $17.2 million it spent, much of it on a television advertising blitz. Opponents raised nearly $19 million to defeat the measure, finance reports filed with the state show. (Ollove, 12/17)

Despite Uncertainty After Court Ruling, Medicaid Expansion Likely To Proceed

The three red states — Idaho, Nebraska and Utah — that bucked their own Republican legislatures last month and approved Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act are likely to proceed, despite Friday’s ruling by a federal judge in Texas that the entire federal health care law is unconstitutional. Even in Montana, where voters last month defeated an extension of the temporary Medicaid expansion approved in 2015, legislative leaders predict that lawmakers will make the expansion permanent, since it is politically unpopular to take coverage away from people once it has been extended. (Vestal, 12/18)

The Hill:
Almost 17K Arkansans Have Lost Medicaid Coverage Due To Work Requirements

Nearly 17,000 people have lost Medicaid coverage in Arkansas because they did not comply with the state’s work requirements, according to new state data released Monday. Arkansas began phasing in work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries in August. In the first three months the requirements have been in effect, more than 12,000 people were removed from Medicaid. (Weixel, 12/17)

U.S. Border Agents Will Not Speak To Lawmakers About Girl’s Death

U.S. Border Patrol agents who detained a 7-year-old Guatemalan migrant girl who later died in federal custody will not speak with U.S. lawmakers investigating her death, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on Monday, citing their union membership. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Tuesday plan to visit the New Mexico patrol station where Jakelin Caal and her father were taken on Dec. 7 to learn more about why she died the next day. (Hay, 12/17)

Los Angeles Times:
A 2-Year-Old Is On Life Support In Oakland. Trump’s Travel Ban Could Keep His Yemeni Mother From Saying Goodbye

The mother of a 2-year-old boy on life support in an Oakland hospital may not receive a travel ban waiver in time to say goodbye to her son, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Monday. At a news conference in Sacramento, members of CAIR, community activists and faith leaders stood alongside the boy’s father and demanded that the Trump administration expedite the woman’s application for a waiver. (Parvini, 12/17)

New Year Brings Altered Landscape For Abortion Battle

Those engaged in the battle over abortion in the United States are looking out at the thorny landscape and gearing up for what is on the horizon in 2019. What they see includes a more conservative US Supreme Court, 85 confirmed judges appointed by President Donald Trump who are reshaping the courts, and legislative bodies — both state and federal — transformed by a contentious midterm election. Experts from four groups dedicated to protecting abortion access spoke with reporters on a conference call Monday afternoon to discuss what lies ahead from their perspective. On the call were representatives from the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Network of Abortion Funds. (Ravitz, 12/17)

Melissa A. Bright, the lead author of the study, said the idea for the research arose from the personal accounts of pediatricians and teachers who saw a pattern of abuse shortly after report cards were released. In other children’s health news: e-cigarettes, helicopter parenting, day care, vaccines and social media.

The Associated Press:
Child Abuse Climbs After Friday Report Cards, Study Says

Child abuse increases the day after school report cards are released — but only when kids get their grades on a Friday, a study in Florida suggests. The curious finding startled researchers, who had figured abuse might go up regardless of the specific day kids got their grades. But their study of reports to a child abuse hotline that included broken bones, burns and other confirmed abuse found otherwise. An increase only occurred on Saturdays after a report-card Friday. (Tanner, 12/17)

The New York Times:
When Report Cards Go Out On Fridays, Child Abuse Increases On Saturdays, Study Finds

Dr. Randell C. Alexander of Jacksonville, Fla., a pediatrician who specializes in treating victims of abuse, said that for years he and his colleagues had heard children recount episodes of violence arising from unsatisfactory grades. They would see children with black eyes, marks from belts and electrical cords, and at times more serious injuries, he said. “When you say, ‘How did you get it?,’ they say it’s because of their report card,” said Dr. Alexander, an author of the study and the chief of the child protection and forensic pediatrics division of the University of Florida’s College of Medicine, Jacksonville. (Jacobs, 12/17)

Politico Pulse Check:
Surgeon General Jerome Adams

The U.S. surgeon general explains why he’s issuing a rare warning on e-cigarettes and kids. (12/18)

The Washington Post:
Raising Boys Today: Eliot’s Father Wants Him To Be The 8-Year-Old He Is, Not What Society Expects

Brian and Bonnie, who live in Raleigh, N.C., are raising their son at a turbulent time, when the boy next door could be exposed as the next perpetrator of a Me Too moment or grow into the bully in the C-suite. How, in the words of Bonnie, can they make sure to “not raise a jerk?” Such questions are close at hand but not always solvable. Especially at a time when the problems facing boys are mounting. (Joyce, 12/17)

PBS NewsHour:
Why Helicopter Parenting May Jeopardize Kids’ Health

Several high-profile news stories, along with increasing rates of childhood obesity, anxiety and depression, have sparked a movement encouraging parents to allow their children greater freedom. The nonprofit Let Grow is leading the call for what’s known as “free range parenting,” in which kids can just be kids. (William Brangham, 12/17)

Austin American-Statesman:
Advocacy Groups Demand Child Care Fixes After Statesman Investigation

Nearly two dozen advocacy groups are calling for improvements to the Texas child care system in the wake of an American-Statesman investigation that found dangerous conditions in many day cares across the state. The groups on Monday sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, state legislators and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, asking them to, among other things, increase the number of caregivers required to look after children at licensed day cares; require the state to collect data on the connection between caregiver-to-child ratios and unsafe day care environments; and improve access to quality day care. (Ball, 12/17)

Arizona Republic:
Arizona Vaccine Education Course For Parents, Cut Once, Could Return

The Arizona Department of Health Services confirmed it is working to develop a redesigned program to address falling immunization coverage among schoolchildren in the state. The revamped immunization education program is expected to launch in the 2019-2020 academic year, the state health department said in a statement. (Innes, 12/17)

Teen Girls And Their Moms Get Candid About Phones And Social Media

A recent survey by the Deseret News and Brigham Young University showed that technology overuse was the number one concern of parents of teenagers — more than sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. And teens themselves even admit to being concerned. In a Pew survey in August, over half of teens said they’d tried to cut back on smartphone use and social media. Recently I sat down with two teen girls and their mothers in New York City to get a snapshot of what it’s like to grow up with smartphones right now. (Kamenetz, 12/17)

The New York Times:
Trump Officials Plan To Rescind Obama-Era School Discipline Policies

The Trump administration is planning to roll back Obama-era policies aimed at ensuring that minority children are not unfairly disciplined, arguing that the efforts have eased up on punishment and contributed to rising violence in the nation’s schools, according to documents obtained by The New York Times. (Green and Benner, 12/17)

The Wall Street Journal:
Trump School-Safety Panel Targets Obama Policy On Race And Discipline

The commission, formed after the school shooting Feb. 14 that killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla., largely sidesteps making any recommendations to tighten access to firearms, falling far short of what Democrats and most education policy officials say is necessary to reduce the frequency of gun-related violence. The 177-page report, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and will be released publicly Tuesday afternoon, does recommend that individual states or districts consider arming school personnel, either teachers or law-enforcement officials present in school buildings, particularly in rural areas where supplemental help would take longer to arrive. (Hackman, 12/18)

“I think there’s great potential to develop therapeutics out of human milks, simply because they’ve been battle-tested for quite some time,” said Lars Bode, director of the Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence at the University of California, San Diego. Other public health news focuses on diet trends, gene-edited steaks, and a new “black-lung” epidemic.

Scientists Start To See Breast Milk As Rich Source For New Therapeutics

They’re studying how certain human milk components might ward away superbugs, treat diseases of the gastrointestinal system, improve vaccine efficacy, reduce inflammation, or kill cancer. …But breast milk is not some kind of magical panacea. Some cancer patients have taken to drinking breast milk for therapeutic gains, though it’s highly unlikely they will see any, [Lars] Bode said. Some bodybuilders have fueled a black market for breast milk — paying high premiums to drink it in hopes of boosting their muscle mass. (Keshavan, 12/18)

The New York Times:
Is There An Optimal Diet For Humans?

Nutrition experts have long debated whether there is an optimal diet that humans evolved to eat. But a study published this month adds a twist. It found that there is likely no single natural diet that is best for human health. The research, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, looked at the diets, habits and physical activity levels of hundreds of modern hunter-gatherer groups and small-scale societies, whose lifestyles are similar to those of ancient populations. They found that they all exhibit generally excellent metabolic health while consuming a wide range of diets. (O’Connor, 12/18)

The Washington Post:
Gene-Edited Farm Animals Are Coming. Will We Eat Them?

Three cows clomped, single-file, through a chute to line up for sonograms — ultrasound “preg checks” — to reveal if they were expecting calves next summer. “Right now. This is exciting, right this minute,” animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam said as she waited for a tiny blob of a fetus to materialize on a laptop screen on a recent afternoon at the Beef Barn, part of the University of California at Davis’s sprawling agricultural facilities for teaching and research. The cows had been implanted a month and a half earlier with embryos genetically edited to grow and look like males, regardless of their biological gender. (Johnson, 12/17)

An Epidemic Is Killing Thousands Of Coal Miners. Regulators Could Have Stopped It

A federal monitoring program reported just 99 cases of advanced black lung disease nationwide from 2011-2016. But NPR identified more than 2,000 coal miners suffering from the disease in the same time frame, and in just five Appalachian states. (Berkes, Jingnan and Benincasa, 12/18)

Chicago Tribune:
‘I Was Given A Gift:’ United Airlines CEO Recalls Heart Transplant 

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz had just finished working out at home when his knees buckled. He remembers thinking, “That was weird.” But he recalled the words of a doctor friend who had warned him not to ignore seemingly odd symptoms that could indicate heart problems. …Munoz runs one of the world’s largest airlines. But on Monday, the 59-year-old wasn’t at United’s Chicago headquarters or on a plane. He was sitting alongside others who had also undergone heart transplants at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. They gathered as Northwestern doctors announced that this year they’ve broken the record for performing the most heart transplants ever at an Illinois hospital in one year. (Schencker, 12/17)

Obamacare Stock Market Panic Creates A Buying Opportunity

The words “Obamacare” and “unconstitutional” in quick succession made for scary weekend reading in the health-care community, and that fear played out in a market rout on Monday — the first chance shareholders had to react to a Texas judge’s decision late last week to strike down the law. But a massive sell-off arguably isn’t warranted. Uncertainty is unpleasant, but the Affordable Care Act isn’t going away any time soon, and most likely isn’t going anywhere at all. (Max Nisen, 12/17)

The GOP’s Health Problem: They Like Big Chunks Of The Affordable Care Act

Now that a Texas judge has ruled that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional — all because of its individual mandate — Republicans may find themselves wishing for a different outcome.The big picture: There is little hope of a deal with Democrats on health reform in a divided Congress if the decision is upheld. Democrats will now use the 2020 campaign to paint Republicans as threatening a host of popular provisions in the ACA. And here’s the kicker: protections for pre-existing conditions, the provision that played such a big role in the midterms, is not even the most popular one. (Drew Altman, 12/18)

The Detroit News:
Why Obamacare Enrollment Is Down

Thanks to President Donald Trump’s slashes to the federal government’s Affordable Care Act advertising budget and his administration’s “sabotage” of “Obamacare,” hundreds of thousands of clueless people have been left in the dark and aren’t enrolling in Obamacare—at least, that’s what countless reporters and pundits would have you believe. However, the truth is this issue is far more complex that what many on the Left suggest. (Justin Haskins, 12/17)

The Washington Post:
It’s Time To Let The Government Manufacture Generic Drugs

Forty-seven states and the Justice Department are investigating a price-fixing conspiracy that’s driving up the cost of generic drugs in the United States. One investigator called it “most likely the largest cartel in the history of the United States .” This crisis calls for action. That is why I’m introducing legislation to authorize the public manufacture of generic drugs wherever drug companies have warped markets to drive up prices. Drug companies use the “free market” as a shield against any effort to reduce prices for families. But they’re not operating in a free market; they’re operating in a market that’s rigged to line their pockets and limit competition. (Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 12/17)

The Wall Street Journal:
Single Payer’s Misleading Statistics

Critics of American heath care—and advocates of single-payer insurance or other forms of socialized medicine—point to poor U.S. rankings in infant mortality and life expectancy. It turns out both are grossly flawed calculations that misleadingly make the U.S. rank low. America’s rate of infant mortality—death within the first year after birth—was 5.9 per 1,000 live births in the latest statistics, 32nd among 35 developed countries, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But these aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons. Unlike many other countries, the U.S. strictly adheres to the World Health Organization’s definition, recording as a live birth any baby, “irrespective of the duration of the pregnancy,” who “breathes or shows any other evidence of life.” (Scott W. Atlas, 12/17)

USA Today:
Improve Addiction Treatment By Rating The Providers.

Addiction is a treatable disease with success rates comparable to other chronic illnesses. But the treatment system for addiction is broken, fragmented and centered on outdated models. Only one in 10 Americans with a substance use disorder receives any treatment at all — and far fewer receive treatment based on proven research. Desperate families need credible informationThis is unacceptable. Access to legitimate addiction treatment shouldn’t be a roll of the dice depending on where you live, what kind of insurance you have or what hotline you happened to call for help. (Gary Mendell, 12/18)

Coordinated Care Teams Can Improve The Doctor-Patient Relationship

There’s no question that the doctor-patient relationship is sick in some ways. But I directly witnessed how a disciplined approach to coordination through CARE could improve my own relationship with my patients. Our intervention included building integrated teams of social workers, care navigators, nurses, and physicians — and supporting them with technology — to help them quickly identify patients who needed help after a hospitalization, transportation to an upcoming appointment, or access to community services to address challenges at home. These changes drove my team to see the value of engaging patients outside of the office so we could spend more quality time addressing their pressing needs and health issues when they came to see me. (David Rubin , 12/18)

Columbus Dispatch:
DeWine Must Make Medicaid PBM Reform A Top Priority

We’ve learned a lot over the past year about one glaring problem: an enormous lack of transparency in the deal taxpayers are getting from pharmacy benefit managers, the middleman companies that control what drugs Medicaid will pay for and who will pay how much. In Ohio, a big piece of that will change in January, with a new rule requiring more transparency in those contracts. That’s a significant improvement, but it won’t guarantee an end to abuses that stem from the PBM model. The state should continue reform efforts. In particular, it should look to West Virginia, where that state’s Medicaid program has shed PBMs altogether, relying instead on a state university to do the work. (12/16)

Cincinnati Enquirer:
It’s Time To Stop Workplace Violence Against Nurses

Regardless of the genesis of the violence, members of the Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA), the professional association for nurses, felt it imperative that a group of nursing leaders and administrators from across the state come together to begin dialogue about the events and craft some responses toward a solution. To that end, the KNA recently hosted a “Workplace Forum,” and those attending stressed the critical importance of bringing this safety concern that impacts nurses and health care workers, to the forefront of public discussion. (Ruth Carrico, 12/17)


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