Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Welcome back to the Friday Breeze! Brace yourself, because with the midterms in the rear-view mirror (psshh, the 2018 elections are so five minutes ago), lawmakers, hopefuls and sideline experts are all barreling toward 2020. (I have only just this moment realized the vast opportunity for puns we’ll see when it’s over. Hindsight being … you get it.) First, though, everyone has to make it through two years of likely gridlock with a split Congress.

So what’s on the agenda for the newly empowered Democrats?

“Health care was on the ballot and health care won.” That’s House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s assessment, at least. How it shakes out is trickier.

Some of the Dems’ top priorities are related to bandaging up the health law. Their efforts will likely include forcing a vote on a bill to protect preexisting conditions; shoring up the marketplaces, possibly by helping states pay for large medical claims; and pushing to get the House to intervene in the Texas lawsuit that challenges the law’s constitutionality.

At the same time, many of the party’s 2020 contenders are going to be on the trail going hard for “Medicare-for-all,” aka the litmus test for candidates who want to woo the more progressive wing of voters. The dissonance in the party that has been brewing since MFA gained popularity is at the very least going to require some complicated political maneuvering on all sides.

One Democratic agenda item many people (including President Donald Trump) seem to agree on, though? Reining in drug prices.

The New York Times: Democrats Won a Mandate on Health Care. How Will They Use It?

Politico: California’s New Governor Embodies Democrats’ Dilemma on Single Payer

New numbers out of Arkansas that detail just how many people have been dropped from the state’s Medicaid program since work requirements were enacted have experts increasingly alarmed. An additional 3,815 lost coverage in October for not reporting their hours, pushing the total number of people who have been affected by the state’s new requirements to over 12,000. And about 6,000 more residents are on their second strike and poised to lose coverage next month.

An outcry among health care experts prescribes the rules be suspended until officials figure out why the numbers are so startlingly high.

Modern Healthcare: Arkansas Drops 3,815 More Medicaid Enrollees Over Work Requirement

The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on certain tobacco products and e-cigarettes that contribute to the emerging teen-vaping epidemic. But the ban on selling flavored e-cigarettes at brick-and-mortar stores (a ban that won praise when an early version of the rules was leaked) was conspicuously tempered. Stores will be allowed to sell the products if they can be kept in an age-restricted area.

The agency did come out swinging hard with a proposed ban on menthol. It could take years to enact, and the tobacco industry has hinted at a court battle, but if the ban does go through, it could have a profound effect on African-American males and young people who smoke menthol cigarettes at higher rates than other groups.

The Washington Post: FDA Unveils Sweeping Anti-Tobacco Effort to Reduce Underage Vaping and Smoking

The National Rifle Association has long been a Goliath among Davids when it comes to election spending. New numbers suggest, though, that the gun control movement may actually become a formidable foe for the political powerhouse.

The New York Times: Gun Control Groups Eclipse N.R.A. in Election Spending

It was not a friendly news week for the NRA in general. One of the organization’s tweet’s (a suggestion that doctors should “stay in their lane” on the gun debate) sparked viral outrage from providers. With the floodgates opened, stories of physicians’ firsthand experience with gun violence blanketed social media. “I see no one from the @nra next to me in the trauma bay as I have cared for victims of gun violence for the past 25 years,” tweeted one doctor (from the New York Times’ coverage). “THAT must be MY lane. COME INTO MY LANE. Tell one mother her child is dead with me, then we can talk.”

NPR: After NRA Mocks Doctors, Physicians Reply: ‘This Is Our Lane’

The wildfires continued to devastate California, with the death toll climbing to at least 63 and the number of missing people soaring to more than 600. Heartbreaking tales about elderly and young evacuees living in the harsh conditions of parking-lot tent cities serve as a reminder of just how long recovery will take after the fires are contained.

The (San Jose) Mercury News: Camp Fire: 63 Dead, 631 Missing; Second Origin Spot Probed

Los Angeles Times: Made Homeless by Flames, Camp Fire Evacuees Face Hardship, Disease And Desperation

Drug prices didn’t always used to be this bad. For a while, America was spending about what other wealthy countries did. Then something happened in the 1990s. To be fair, many factors are in play with our current pricing system, but the record number of new drugs that emerged in that decade likely set the stage for our current morass.

The New York Times: Something Happened to U.S. Drug Costs in the 1990s

Enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans was a bit slower at the start of this year’s sign-up season compared with last year’s. The reason this item appears so low in this newsletter, though, is that those numbers lack context (we, as a nation, were kind of preoccupied with a little thing called the midterms) and experts say it’s too early to call this a trend. Something to keep an eye on.

The Hill: ObamaCare Enrollment Down Compared to Last Year

Sick of medical bills? Yeah, doctors aren’t really fans of having to be debt collectors either. Especially when it comes to a patient. As premium costs shift more and more to employees, providers are no longer able to just deal with impersonal insurers and are instead having to go after the very people they’re trying to help.

Bloomberg: Doctors Are Fed Up With Being Turned Into Debt Collectors

Who in the family doesn’t get health care this year? Americans are having to make such tough decisions in an era where insurance plans can be price-tagged at more than $ 1,000 a month. Bloomberg offers a series that puts names and faces to the problem that has been a punch in the gut for many across the country.

Bloomberg: Soaring Health-Care Costs Forced This Family to Choose Who Can Stay Insured

As you can tell, this week was popping in terms of health news, so the miscellaneous file is going to be a bit more robust today:

Native American and Alaska Native women have been vanishing in high numbers, but the reporting on the depth and breadth of the problem is woefully lacking.

• The Associated Press: Report Cites Weak Reporting on Missing, Murdered Native Women

Who decides the parole of people who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity? In Oregon, where it’s a board that reviews the state’s cases, the balance between civil rights and safety has been praised. However, an analysis of 220 defendants found that about a quarter of them were charged with attacking others within three years of being released. And the board hasn’t changed its policies.

• ProPublica: Oregon Board Says Those Found Criminally Insane Rarely Commit New Crimes. The Numbers Say Otherwise.

So, it turns out a 150-pound pig is uncannily humanlike in organ size and function. This could go a long way in addressing our perpetual donated organ shortage.

The New York Times: 20 Americans Die Each Day Waiting for Organs. Can Pigs Save Them?

A sweeping study put a damper on all the “magical thinking” surrounding the benefits of fish oil and vitamin D.

The New York Times: Vitamin D And Fish Oils Are Ineffective For Preventing Cancer And Heart Disease

If it seems as if at least one kid in every classroom these days has a food allergy, that’s because they probably do. Could hypoallergenic food be the answer?

The Boston Globe: Allergies Change How We All Eat

A revealing series of jail conversations between Aaron Hernandez, who died by suicide in April 2017, and other football players details a grim culture of opioid abuse in the NFL.

The Boston Globe: In Jail Calls, Hernandez Discussed NFL’s Reliance on Painkillers With Former Teammates

In an era of medical malpractice suits, it feels rare to get an apology out of anyone health-related these days. But the widower of a woman who died of an asthma attack outside of a locked emergency department got one from the hospital. (It’s a tragic, yet recommended read overall.)

First lady Michelle Obama spoke candidly about her miscarriage and about how women often feel alone and isolated when it comes to fertility and pregnancy.

The Associated Press: Michelle Obama Had Miscarriage, Used IVF to Conceive Girls

Whew! Everyone was definitely busy before heading into the holidays. Speaking of, we’ll be off eating turkey next week, but will hit your inbox again on Nov. 30.

Happy holidays!

Kaiser Health News


Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

It’s late October, so you know what that means: It’s time to get your flu shot! (You thought I was going to say elections, didn’t you? Don’t worry, we’ll be getting to that.) Before your roll up your sleeve, check out this story about pharmacies and grocery stores competing for flu shot customers now that the vaccination is covered by the health law. Would money off gas or gift cards for food be more likely to draw you in? (Also, if you do get the flu, good news: There’s now a single-dose medication for it.)

A quick editor’s note before we get into it: “The Friday Breeze” will be on break for the next two weeks as I take a poorly timed (or well-timed! depending on your mentality) vacation. I’ll be back in your inboxes Nov. 16.

Now, on to what shaped up to be a fairly busy week in the health care realm.

President Donald Trump is proposing tying the amount the government pays for certain drugs to their costs in other countries. The president has long railed against the “global freeloading” that he says forces American consumers to subsidize lower drug prices in foreign countries. To be clear, the plan would not apply to medicines people buy at the pharmacy, just ones administered in a doctor’s office.

The New York Times: Trump Proposes to Lower Drug Prices by Basing Them on Other Countries’ Costs

Pharma came out swinging against the plan in an opening salvo of what is likely to be an uphill, exhausting fight over the issue. But, overall, the reaction seems to be muted from both candidates on the trail and the general public, overshadowed perhaps by more easily digestible talking points.

Bloomberg: Drug Lobby Compares Trump Drug Price Plan to ‘Socialized’ System

Politico: Trump’s Drug Plan Falls Flat in Health Care Messaging War

There’s a feeling of foreboding setting in over the pharmaceutical industry as a blue wave gathers force to possibly sweep into the House. Put together a populist president and a party that’s made high drug costs a central, winning issue and what do you get? Pharma’s worst fears realized.

The New York Times: What Big Pharma Fears Most: A Trump Alliance With Democrats to Cut Drug Prices

Protections for preexisting conditions have become something of an Achilles’ heel for Republicans on the trail. Some have chosen to duck the topic, while others vow to keep that popular provision without providing details on how. But Trump took it a step further by trying to claim that ensuring coverage for preexisting conditions is a Republican priority and not a Democratic one. Critics were quick to point out that in addition to the GOP’s years-long battle to eradicate “every word” of the health law, there’s currently an administration-backed lawsuit in the courts aiming to overturn the whole thing.

The Washington Post: Trump’s False Claim on Health Care Ignores Years-Long GOP Effort to Repeal Obamacare

On that note, the administration this week announced that it is going to give states more flexibility over coverage requirements, which could allow them to circumvent some of the health law’s protections for patients. States could, for example, use federal funds to subsidize short-term insurance plans.

The Washington Post: Trump Administration Allows ACA Subsidies for Leaner Health Plans

Experts worry this is a step back toward the pre-ACA landscape, when the state a patient lived in determined what kind of health care they received.

Modern Healthcare: Waiver Flexibility Could Widen Gap Between States

How do you make Medicaid expansion a winning issue if you’re running as a Democrat in a deep-red state? Make it about smart business decisions. At least, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams hopes that tactic works.

The New York Times: Stacey Abrams Hopes Medicaid Expansion Can Be a Winning Issue in Rural Georgia

A report in The New York Times revealed that the Trump administration is considering redefining gender in a way that would strip transgender individuals of certain protections. Backlash from the LGBTQ community was fierce, with some people questioning the timing of the news. “It’s a reminder that pain is a political tool,” said Gabrielle Bychowski in NYT’s coverage. A #WeWillNotBeErased movement was quickly ignited.

The New York Times: ‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration

The New York Times: Two Weeks Before Midterms, Transgender People Feel Like ‘Pawns’

Biologists spoke out, as well, saying that defining a person’s gender at birth and making it unchangeable is an “insult to science.”

The Associated Press: Science Says: Sex and Gender Aren’t The Same

America is turning the tide against the opioid epidemic, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said this week, citing a dip in overdoses. While acknowledging there’s still a long way to go, Azar was optimistic government efforts have been starting to make a dent in the crisis. Experts were more cautious, however, warning that six months of data is not enough to determine that, and the trend could just be a blip.

Politico: U.S. ‘Turning the Tide’ on the Opioid Crisis, Health Secretary Says

Stat: Is a Recent Fall in Overdose Deaths Temporary or a Sign of a Corner Turned?

Meanwhile, as everyone’s eyes (and money! and resources!) are on the opioid crisis, methamphetamines, cocaine and benzodiazepines are quietly flooding into the gaps left behind.

Politico: Meth and Cocaine Complicate Trump’s War on Drugs

In the miscellaneous must-read file:

• First female Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote a touching email to “friends and fellow Americans” announcing that she’ll be stepping out of public life following a dementia diagnosis. “While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life,” she wrote.

The New York Times: Sandra Day O’Connor, First Female Supreme Court Justice, Says She Has Dementia

• That can’t be legal, right? That was my first thought upon reading this heartbreaking story about women who work in strenuous jobs and are denied lighter duties when pregnant (even when they have a doctor’s note). Some of them go on to have miscarriages while working.

The New York Times: Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination

• We’ve all heard about how crowdfunding sites can be like a miracle to desperate patients who can’t afford care. But there’s a dark side to the recent boom in medical crowdfunding: The campaigns have raked in millions of dollars for scientifically unproven, and potentially dangerous, treatments in the past three years alone.

Stat: Crowdfunding Raises Millions for Unproven and Potentially Harmful Treatments

• The rural mountain West is dubbed the “suicide belt” of America, containing eight of the top 10 states with the highest suicide rates in the country. Stigma, guns and a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” culture may be contributing to the problem.

NPR: Why Are Suicide Rates Higher in the Mountain West?

That’s it from me until after the elections. See you on the flip side!

Kaiser Health News


Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

We’re barreling toward November, folks. (How is it mid-October already?) As you might expect, election stories made up the bulk of the health care news this week. Other great gems and intriguing developments surfaced, though, so let’s get right to it.

Republicans on the campaign trail have been hammered by attack ads over their stance on the health law, with “preexisting conditions protections” — insurance safeguards for patients diagnosed with chronic illness — becoming a catch-all phrase for the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act. Even the law’s most vocal opponents have been reading tea leaves and softening their stances. That’s why statements from GOP leadership this week that Congress could revisit their “repeal” fight post-midterms may have landed with a thunk.

The New York Times: Republican Candidates Soften Tone on Health Care As Their Leaders Dig In

The Washington Post: Trump Says ‘All Republicans’ Back Protections for Preexisting Conditions, Despite Repeated Attempts to Repeal Obamacare

Democrats are pulling out a tried-and-true talking point that seemed perfectly timed for them as news of the federal deficit reignited Republican talk about cutting entitlement programs. Dems (who have been playing defense over Medicare) seized the opportunity to accuse Republicans of putting the beloved program on the chopping block.

The Associated Press: Dems Shift Line of Attack, Warning of GOP Threat to Medicare

As the parties duke it out on the trail, voters seem to agree on one thing: Our health care system is broken and someone needs to fix it. “It’s crippling people. It’s crippling me,” one voter says in Politico’s deep read that takes us to a Pennsylvania county where the “margins of electoral victories traditionally are as slim as the spectrum of political opinion is vast.”

Politico Magazine: The Great American Health Care Panic

On the state level, a Missouri Democrat opposed to abortion struggles to find her place in the party. And Georgia becomes a preview of the growing political clout of home health aides.

The New York Times: Is It Possible to Be an Anti-Abortion Democrat? One Woman Tried to Find Out

Politico: Home Health Aides Test Political Clout in Georgia Governor’s Race

The Trump administration this week proposed a requirement that pharma add drug prices to TV ads — triggering skepticism. One problem is that ad prices wouldn’t reflect what most people end up paying for a drug at the pharmacy counter.

Politico: Trump Set to Force Drugmakers to Post Prices in Ads

What I found surprising, considering how common those ads are, is that just a few dozen drugmakers run any at all — nearly half are put out by five companies. Those manufacturers would bear the brunt of the new rules.

Stat: Five Drug Makers Will Be Hit Hardest By Trump’s New Proposal on Drug Ads

Trying to think outside the box to rein in high drug prices, several states are considering treating pharma as they would a public utility — with rate-setting bodies to review, approve or adjust medication prices.

Stat: A Growing Number of States Consider Legislation to Treat Pharma As a Utility

And keep an eye on this battle: Minnesota became the first state to sue drugmakers over the price of insulin, but I don’t think it will be the last. The “life-or-death” drug has gotten a lot of attention recently, synthesizing the human toll of high costs into a digestible talking point.

Stat: Minnesota Becomes First State to Sue Major Insulin Makers Over Price-Gouging

Another 4,100 Arkansas beneficiaries were dropped from the state’s Medicaid rolls, and 4,800 more are at risk next month (on top of the original 4,353 people dropped last month) — all because of the state’s new work requirements. For critics of the restrictions, their worst fears are realized, while state and national officials focus on what they call positive outcomes. It’s unclear why so many workers are failing to report their hours, but experts suggest limited internet access and lack of knowledge about the requirements as possibilities.

Modern Healthcare: 4,100 More Arkansans Lose Medicaid Over Work Requirements

Anthem was slammed this week with a $ 16 million settlement over its massive data breach. (Remember the biggest known health care hack in U.S. history?) That penalty is nearly three times the previous record paid over such a case.

The Associated Press: Insurer Anthem Will Pay Record $ 16M for Massive Data Breach

I’m not sure whether it’s because I saturate myself in health care stories, but I detect a serious reckoning in the field of medical research. The latest call for retractions involves a prominent cardiologist.

The New York Times: Harvard Calls for Retraction of Dozens of Studies by Noted Cardiologist

In the miscellaneous must-read file:

• A mysterious polio-like illness that causes sudden paralysis is hitting children in states across the country. The wave of cases is similar to one officials saw in 2014 and 2016, but experts are baffled.

Los Angeles Times: What Is AFM? Everything You Need to Know About the Polio-Like Virus Suddenly Affecting Children Across the U.S.

• I have to admit, this is the headline that most piqued my interest this week. Gene editing is such a hot field, but in the racially charged landscape of the country, scientists are worried their research into genes and genetic diversity will be twisted by hate groups to support their views.

The New York Times: Why White Supremacists Are Chugging Milk (And Why Geneticists Are Alarmed)

• Why hasn’t #WhyIStayed caught on fire like #MeToo? Stigma, for one. But also the #MeToo movement has shown how powerful multiple accusations can be, amplified to the point they can’t be ignored. In a domestic violence situation, it’s often only one survivor speaking out.

The New York Times: Domestic Violence Awareness Hasn’t Caught Up With #MeToo. Here’s Why.

• Viruses don’t always have to be a scary thing. This therapy uses bacteriophages — literally, eaters of bacteria — that inject themselves into germs and cause them to explode. (As this delightful image from the Stat article describes: The viruses can “pop bacteria the way middle schoolers pop zits.”)

Stat: How The Navy Brought a Once-Derided Scientist Out of Retirement — and Into the Virus-Selling Business

• “Pregnant? Don’t want to be? Call Jane.” That’s how a clandestine underground abortion network advertised during the years leading up to Roe v. Wade, according to this retro report from the NYT.

The New York Times: Code Name Jane: The Women Behind a Covert Abortion Network

It turns out, it is now scientifically supported that daylight helps kill germs indoors. So make sure to let the sun in this weekend! And have a good one.

Kaiser Health News


Must Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Just in case our ever-decreasing anonymity in this tech-driven world hasn’t scared you enough, new studies find that within a few years 90 percent — 90 percent! — of Americans of European descent will be identifiable from their DNA. If you fall into that group, it doesn’t even matter whether you’ve given a DNA sample to one of the popular gene-testing sites (like 23andMe). Enough of your distant relatives have, so there’s a good chance you’re in the system.

Take your mind off that by checking out what you may have missed in health care this week.

The biggie, of course, was President Donald Trump’s opinion piece in USA Today about “Medicare-for-all.” (And the rebuttal from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.)

Fact checkers came out in droves to comb through Trump’s arguments and found that nearly every paragraph contained a misleading statement or falsehood.

The Washington Post: Fact-Checking President Trump’s USA Today Op-Ed on ‘Medicare-for-All’

More than shedding any kind of light on the complicated topic, the back-and-forth highlights how much of a role health care is playing in the upcoming midterm elections. Each side has doubled down on its respective talking points (read: preexisting conditions and Medicare-for-all — I warned you you’d get tired of me saying that). In fact, health care is featured so heavily in ads that it trumps the topics of jobs or taxes.

The Wall Street Journal: Health Care Crowds Out Jobs, Taxes in Midterm Ads

(Side note: If you do want some light shed on Medicare-for-all and single-payer systems, check out these great pieces from KHN’s own Shefali Luthra.)

Speaking of midterms, the Democrats’ attempt to block the administration’s expansion of short-term plans (very predictably) failed, with only Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins joining the Democrats. It was never about winning, though. What it did was force Republicans to go on record with a vote that is potentially politically dangerous in the current landscape.

Politico: Senate Democrats Fail to Block Trump’s Short-Term Health Plans

In stark contrast to the sharply partisan discourse, Trump signed two bipartisan health care measures into law this week. The bills banned “gag clauses” on pharmacists, which had prohibited them from offering consumers cheaper options. The legislation won’t directly affect drug prices, but it might mean people will pay less at the register.

The New York Times: Trump Signs New Laws Aimed at Drug Costs and Battles Democrats on Medicare

For the first time, premiums for the most popular level of insurance sold in the health law marketplaces have gone down. The numbers are the latest sign that the marketplace is stabilizing. (Centene’s expansion into new states is another from this week.) CMS Administrator Seema Verma touted the success, saying the news counters any accusations of sabotage. Health experts, however, said those price tags would have been even lower if not for the administration’s actions over the past year.

The Washington Post: Premiums for Popular ACA Health Insurance Dip for the First Time

The Justice Department approved CVS’ $ 69 billion merger with Aetna, and although the deal still needs approval from state regulators, the green light is a major hurdle cleared. The merger would reshape the health landscape and mark the end of an era for free-standing pharmacy benefit managers. The potential consolidation is just one of many in recent years in a fast-evolving industry — a trend critics worry will lessen competition and drive up prices for consumers.

The New York Times: CVS Health and Aetna $ 69 Billion Merger Is Approved With Conditions

Hospitals scrambled to ensure patient safety as Hurricane Michael battered Florida and Georgia this week. “It was like hell,” said one doctor who rode out the storm at Bay Medical Center in Panama City, Fla. The hurricane brought with it memories of last year’s power outages that came with Hurricane Irma and were linked to the deaths of several nursing home residents.

The New York Times: Hospitals Pummeled by Hurricane Michael Scramble to Evacuate Patients

Now that the Brett Kavanaugh battle is over and he’s taken a seat on the Supreme Court, Planned Parenthood has gone into planning mode in case anything happens to Roe v. Wade. A key component of the organization’s plan is to shore up networks in states where abortion would likely remain legal (with longer hours for clinics, for example). On the other side, abortion-rights opponents are getting primed for a new high court that’s likely friendlier to them by strategizing what cases would be best to move forward with.

NPR: With Kavanaugh Confirmed, Both Sides of Abortion Debate Gear Up for Battle

How do you fight measures to expand abortion rights in progressive states? Make it about money. A battle in Oregon illustrates a strategy that — although unlikely to be successful — gives opponents of the bills at least a hope of winning.

Politico: Oregon’s Unlikely Abortion Fight Hinges on Taxes

Holes in the court system have allowed state judges to grant full custody of migrant children to American families — without notifying their parents. Federal officials say it should never happen, but oversight of the problem is scattershot and challenging because states handle adoption proceedings differently.

The Associated Press: Deported Parents May Lose Kids to Adoption

Democrats have been vocal about what they don’t like when it comes to immigration policy. But they have a problem: a lack of cohesion within the party about the correct way forward.

The New York Times: The Democrats Have an Immigration Problem

In the miscellaneous, must-read file:

• A gripping piece takes you into the bowels of a Philadelphia neighborhood dubbed the “Walmart of heroin.” “Drug tourists” come from all over to buy the cheap, pure heroin flowing through the veins of the streets, and some never make it out. (Warning: Make sure you have some time before you start, it will suck you in completely.)

The New York Times: Trapped by the ‘Walmart of Heroin’

• Why were nursing home residents getting extremely pricey therapy in the last weeks of their lives? Bloomberg takes a closer look at these cash-strapped facilities and the questionable decisions made about patients’ rehab.

Bloomberg: Nursing Homes Are Pushing the Dying Into Pricey Rehab

• In good news from the segment of people who were too old to take advantage of the HPV vaccine, the Food and Drug Administration just approved its use for those up to age 45.

The Associated Press: FDA Expands Use of Cervical Cancer Vaccine up to Age 45

As an office of ardent dog lovers, we were distressed to hear the news that therapy dogs in hospitals are little germ machines, leaving behind happiness but also superbugs.

Have a great (hopefully superbug-free) weekend!

Kaiser Health News


Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Tucked away in an obit on a physicist’s death this week was the latest reality check-slash-gut punch on the state of spending in our health system. Leon Lederman, aka the man who coined the phrase “God particle,” died Wednesday at 96. A few years back, he auctioned off his Nobel Prize medal for $ 765,000 to help pay for his health care costs. What happens when you don’t have one of those lying around?

Do you need a mental break from following the play-by-play of the Supreme Court battle? Well here’s what you may have missed in health care.

If you think you can escape the phrases “Medicare-for-All” or “preexisting conditions” over the next few weeks, I’m sorry to break the bad news. Both sides have homed in on those key talking points, and we’ll be hearing a lot on both topics for the foreseeable future.

On the Republican side: Candidates are urging voters to believe they’ll preserve the popular insurance protections on preexisting conditions, but it’s difficult to convey that message while there’s a GOP lawsuit underway that would strip them away. To try to get ahead of the issue, some Republican lawmakers released a (non-binding) resolution vowing to keep the guarantees. But with no details on how they’ll accomplish it (turns out it’s hard to get insurers to just offer desserts without eating your veggies, too), the topic remains a thorn in their side.

The Washington Post: GOP Candidates Pay the Price for Attempts to Kill Obamacare and Its Guarantee of Coverage For Preexisting Conditions

The Hill: Vulnerable House Republican Unveils Resolution on Pre-Existing Conditions

(Side note: President Donald Trump did offer a way to cover costs for guaranteed preexisting conditions coverage: getting “a little more money from China.” From The Washington Post.)

Over to the Dems, who have their own vulnerabilities: “Medicare-for-All” has become something of a litmus test for Democrats, especially for progressive candidates, but that doesn’t mean the plan hasn’t left them open to attack from the right. At the same time, moderates in the party would prefer to focus on shoring up the health law.

The Wall Street Journal: Some Democrats Want Medicare for All. Others Aren’t So Sure

The Washington Post Fact Checker: GOP Ads Falsely Depict Democrats As Supporters of Sanders’s Health Plan

And, if you’d like a blast from the past (or a peek into the future?), check out the preexisting conditions checklist for Iowa Farm Bureau plans (the ones the state can sell that don’t fall under health law restrictions).

The Hill: Iowa to Sell Health Plans That Can Disqualify People Based on Pre-Existing Conditions

A lot of news coverage these days focuses on the individual marketplace, but a look at shifting costs for people who receive insurance through their employers paints a grim picture about why health care matters to many voters. Not only has the number of workers who face an annual deductible grown, but the average deductible has crept higher and higher for more than a decade.

The Associated Press: Survey: Companies Continue to Pass Health Costs to Workers

So, I’m not a negotiator. But apparently, if you can haggle, there are all sorts of lucrative clauses, side deals and kickbacks baked into the system that you can use to your advantage to get lower costs for care. Good luck! I’ll be over here wondering why we can’t all get that price.

NPR/ProPublica: Health Insurance Industry Insider to Employers: Learn to Negotiate

Hundreds of detained migrant children are being roused in the middle of the night for under-the-cover-of-darkness journeys to a tent city in West Texas. Advocates are alarmed that they’re being moved from shelters with formal schools and visits from legal representation to a pop-up tent city that has few such regulations in place.

The New York Times: Migrant Children Moved Under Cover of Darkness to a Texas Tent City

Meanwhile, a disturbing inspector general report found numerous safety violations at an immigration detention center in California, including nooses made from bedsheets in 15 of 20 cells (which were “not a high priority” to remove, guards said, per LAT’s coverage); detainees’ rotting teeth from delays to see dentists (and suggestions that they use string from their socks to floss); and more.

Los Angeles Times: Nooses in Cells, Rotting Teeth — Report Details Harsh Conditions at Adelanto Immigration Facility

Pharma failed to attach to the fast-moving opioid legislation its much-desired “doughnut hole” change, which would have let companies off the hook for paying to cover more drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. But the industry is not giving up — and Congress might be more willing to play ball in the lame-duck session post-midterms.

Politico: Why Congress Is Poised to Give the Drug Industry a $ 4B Windfall

One street over. That’s all it took in a Washington state neighborhood for children to have a better chance of being lifted out of poverty. One street. A new, detailed (and very interesting) map looks at how location plays a part in the economic outcomes of children in low-income families. It’s also leaving advocates and city planners wondering if offering incentives to move into the neighborhoods with better statistics would be enough to change these families’ futures.

The New York Times: Detailed New National Maps Show How Neighborhoods Shape Children for Life

In the miscellaneous must-read file:

• Missouri is now down to one abortion clinic, and some of its laws are poised to land in the Supreme Court. Understanding the high-stakes legal developments that got the state to where it is a roller-coaster ride.

KCUR: Timeline: Abortion Restrictions in Missouri on a Possible Path to the U.S. Supreme Court

• Is a little radiation good for you? Like sunlight? That’s at least what Trump administration officials are betting on.

The Associated Press: Proposed Rule Change Worries Some About Radiation Regulation

• The lawsuits against Purdue Pharma have been likened to Big Tobacco’s reckoning in the 1990s. But experts see a big difference: The painkiller-maker will likely not have to pay nearly as much in the expected settlement.

Stat: Opioid Settlement Will Take Time, But May Cost Less Than the Big Tobacco Deal

• Time and again, following the money proves pretty interesting. Here’s a look at the industry behind “hardening” schools for mass shootings, and how it had stalled before the massacre in Parkland, Fla.

The Associated Press: Lawmakers Buy Industry Fix to Stop Mass School Shootings

• Australia is on track to all but eliminate cervical cancer in the coming decades. How did they do it? (Hint: It has to do with aggressive vaccination policies.)

The New York Times: In Australia, Cervical Cancer Could Soon Be Eliminated

Speaking of vaccinations, here’s your reminder to get your flu shot! Winter is coming.

Have a great weekend!

Kaiser Health News