First Edition: April 21, 2017

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Apr 21 2017

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: Clamping Down On Visas Could Leave Some Areas Underserved By Doctors
Michelle Andrews reports: “Limiting the number of foreign doctors who can get visas to practice in the United States could have a significant impact on certain hospitals and states that rely on them, according to a new study. The research, published online in JAMA this week, found that more than 2,100 U.S. employers were certified to fill nearly 10,500 physician jobs nationwide, in 2016. That represents 1.4 percent of the physician workforce overall. There were wide variations by state and employer, however.” (Andrews, 4/21)

Kaiser Health News: What Doesn’t Kill You Can Maim: Unexpected Injuries From Opioids
WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports: “The trouble started for Lisa when she took a blood pressure pill and one to control seizures, along with methadone, a drug used to help wean patients off heroin. “I inadvertently did the methadone cocktail and I went to sleep for like 48 hours,” Lisa said, rolling her eyes and coughing out a laugh. “It kicked my butt. It really kicked my butt.” (Bebinger, 4/21)

California Healthline: Hospital Ratings Sites Give Consumers Something To Go On
One in 25 patients develop an infection while in the hospital, according to federal estimates. Many of those infections and other medical mistakes are preventable. Nationally, an estimated 440,000 people die each year from hospital errors, injuries and infections. A recent report card from the nonprofit Leapfrog Group showed there’s plenty of room for improvement by California hospitals on a wide range of patient safety measures. Nearly half of the 271 California hospitals that were reviewed received a grade of C or lower. (4/21)

The New York Times: White House Officials, Craving Progress, Push Revised Health Bill
White House officials, desperate to demonstrate progress on President Trump’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, are pushing to resurrect a Republican health care bill before his 100th day in office next week. Some members of the president’s team have grown consumed by that deadline, worrying that appraisals of the president’s tenure will be brutal and hoping that a last push on health care might bring a measure of salvation. (Flegenheimer and Ableson, 4/20)

The Associated Press: White House Pushes Uncertain Bid To Revive Health Care Bill
The White House optimism is driven largely by a deal brokered by leaders of the conservative Freedom Caucus and the moderate Tuesday Group aimed at giving states more flexibility to pull out of “Obamacare” provisions. A senior White House official acknowledged that it was unclear how many votes Republicans had, but said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has told the White House that a vote could come together quickly. Yet GOP lawmakers and aides to party leaders, conservatives and moderates alike were skeptical that the House would vote next week on the health legislation. (4/20)

The Washington Post: White House Turns Up Heat On Congress To Revise The Affordable Care Act
The fresh hopes for resuscitating the American Health Care Act are pegged to an amendment being offered by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) that aims to attract enough conservatives and moderates that the measure can pass in the House. White House officials said language would be circulated among members in the next few days, and the modifications will be discussed Saturday in a conference-wide call as Republicans prepare to return to Washington next week. The MacArthur amendment would allow states to obtain permission from the federal government to write their own list of essential health benefits and allow insurers to charge people with preexisting conditions higher premiums, as long as they also make a high-risk pool available to those patients — a change conservatives have demanded. As a concession to moderates, the amendment would also add back federal requirements for essential health benefits, which the measure’s current version instead leaves up to states. (Winfield Cunningham, Snell and Wagner, 4/20)

Los Angeles Times: Trump Is Trying To Repeal Obamacare Again, But He Still Doesn’t Have The Votes
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), a centrist who has been working on the new language, said in a Facebook post that sick patients would still be able to get coverage because states would be required to offer a special health plan, known as a high-risk pool, for people unable to get other coverage. “This amendment will make coverage of preexisting conditions sacrosanct for all Americans,” he said. But these high-risk pools were almost universally unsuccessful before the advent of Obamacare, and the new GOP proposals drew swift criticism from many patient advocates and others. (Levey, 4/20)

NPR: GOP Health Proposal Could Ditch Protections For People Who Are Sick
The plan “would make coverage unaffordable for many older consumers and would segregate high-cost consumers in coverage that would likely be inadequate,” says Timothy Jost, a professor emeritus at Washington and Lee Law School who writes a health policy blog for Health Affairs. The proposal could also cause premiums to spike for people with medical issues, according to comments posted on Twitter by Topher Spiro, vice president for health policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. (Kodjak, 4/20)

Politico: White House Pressures GOP Leaders On Obamacare Showdown Next Week
The White House does not schedule House floor votes. And while some senior administration officials suggested Thursday that a vote will occur next week, multiple House GOP sources told POLITICO that is unlikely. Indeed, the vote is not currently on the calendar. Nor do Republican insiders think it’s even possible, as Congress will reconvene Tuesday after a two-week Easter recess. That would leave them with one day to whip votes — an unlikely time frame for such a heavy legislative lift. (Bade, Dawsey and Cancryn, 4/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump, GOP Race To Avoid Government Shutdown As They Juggle Health-Care Revamp
The White House has thrust a new set of proposals into talks to avoid shutdown of the government next week, while also seeking to revive a health-care overhaul that had collapsed last month. With less than a week to pass legislation funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year, negotiations are beginning to take shape. Democrats are demanding that the legislation include money for insurance companies, without which fragile insurance markets could implode, while the White House in return wants additional money for defense, the border wall and border enforcement. (Radnofsky, Hughes and Peterson, 4/20)

The Associated Press: Lawmakers Revisiting Requiring Those On Medicaid To Work
A simple question — should adults who are able to work be required to do so to get taxpayer-provided health insurance? — could lead to major changes in the social safety net. The federal-state Medicaid program for low-income and disabled people covers more than 70 million U.S. residents — about 1 in 5 — including an increasing number of working-age adults. (4/21)

The New York Times: How G.O.P. In 2 States Coaxed The Health Law To Success Or Crisis
When President Trump describes the Affordable Care Act as “imploding,” Lori Roll, an insurance agent here, does not consider it hyperbole. Only one health insurer in Oklahoma is left selling coverage through the federal marketplace, and the hospital in this city of 36,000 is not in the network. Premiums are among the highest in the country, and while most marketplace customers qualify for the Affordable Care Act’s income-based subsidies that lower the cost, many of Ms. Roll’s middle-class clients do not. (Goodnough and Abelson, 4/20)

The Washington Post: Cherokee Nation Sues Drug Firms, Retailers For Flooding Communities With Opioids
Lawyers for the Cherokee Nation opened a new line of attack against the pharmaceutical industry Thursday, filing a lawsuit in tribal court that accuses the nation’s six top drug distributors and pharmacies of flooding communities in Oklahoma with hundreds of millions of highly addictive pain pills. The suit alleges that the companies violated sovereign Cherokee laws by failing to prevent the diversion of pain pills to the black market, profiting from the growing opioid epidemic and decimating communities across the nation’s 14 counties in the state. (Higham and Bernstein, 4/20)

The Washington Post: The DEA Warned NFL Doctors About Drug Laws In 2011. It Didn’t Go Well.
On a cold day in February 2011, doctors and athletic trainers from the NFL’s 32 teams gathered at a hotel ballroom in downtown Indianapolis. Under scrutiny for its handling of prescription drugs, the league had invited the Drug Enforcement Administration , and an official named Joseph T. Rannazzisi made the trip from Washington armed with more than 80 slides of charts, photographs and bullet points about federal laws that govern how the doctors can medicate professional football players suffering from pain and injuries. (Maese, 4/20)

The New York Times: F.D.A. Strengthens Warnings For Painkillers In Children
The Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday that any child younger than 12 should not take the opioid codeine and that those 18 and younger should not take tramadol, another painkiller, after certain types of surgery. In addition, nursing mothers should avoid both opioids because they pose dangers to breast-feeding babies, the agency said. (Saint Louis, 4/20)

The Washington Post: FDA Warns Of Dangers Of Codeine And Tramadol For Children And Breast-Feeding Mothers
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday warned parents against giving their children prescription medicines with codeine and tramadol, saying the drugs could lead to severe breathing problems and death. The agency said it would require manufacturers to make label changes to warn that the drugs shouldn’t be used for anyone under 12 and should be restricted in older children. The FDA also warned breast-feeding mothers to avoid using the medicines while nursing their babies. (McGinley, 4/20)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Expands Warnings On Codeine And Tramadol For Children
The federal agency said it identified 64 cases of serious breathing problems, including 24 deaths, with codeine-containing medicines in children younger than 18, in reports from 1969 through May 2015. The FDA said it also found nine cases of serious breathing problems, including three deaths, with the use of tramadol medicines in children under 18, from 1969 through March 2016. (Burton, 4/20)

NPR: Don’t Give Kids Cough Syrup That Contains Codeine, FDA Says
Multiple prescription drugs contain codeine or tramadol. For example, the painkiller Tylenol 3 contains acetaminophen and codeine. Drugs containing codeine already carry a black-box warning against using it to treat pain in children who have their tonsils removed. (Hersher, 4/20)

NPR: Clues To Failing Memory Found In Brain Stimulation Study
“When memory was predicted to be poor,” he explains, “brain stimulation enhanced memory, and when it was predicted to be good, brain stimulation impaired memory. “In other words, on a bad memory day, stimulation helped. On a good day, it hurt. When stimulation was delivered to the right place at the right time, the researchers found, it could improve memory performance among the patients by as much as 50 percent. (Hamilton, 4/20)

Los Angeles Times: Venture Capitalists Look Beyond Tech To The Dietary Supplements Market
How do you stay sharp and fit despite fatigue and age? By consuming substances extracted from blueberries, flowers and algae, say the makers of a new group of unregulated and unproven health pills. Trusting natural chemicals to solve inevitable ailments is familiar to anyone who has visited a GNC store or contributed to the $30 billion spent annually in the U.S. on dietary supplements. (Dave, 4/21)

The Associated Press: Health Care Lobby Pushes Back On Hawaii LGBT Fertility Bill
Health care lobbyists in Hawaii are pushing lawmakers to kill part of a bill that would expand access to fertility treatments to same-sex couples who want to have a child. They’re saying requiring insurers to cover fertility treatments for gestational carriers that male couples rely on could lead to legal problems. (4/20)

Los Angeles Times: University Of California Officials Will Ask Judge To Halt Alleged Health Fraud Scheme They Claim Stole Millions
The University of California is alleging that it’s uncovered a scheme that targeted hundreds of students through its student healthcare plan and cost the UC almost $12 million. In a complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the UC said the scheme used information from more than 500 students enrolled in its systemwide Student Health Insurance Plan that allowed doctors to write fraudulent medical prescriptions. The UC is seeking a temporary restraining order hoping to halt the practice and the people behind it. (Landa, 4/20)

The Washington Post: A Rare Tick-Borne Disease Infected A Baby, The First Case In A New State
It started with fever and vomiting. Then the 5-month-old baby developed facial twitching, stiffening of his right arm and seizures. The family rushed him to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Clinicians there performed tests, including a brain MRI that showed clear signs of a serious infection. The testing showed that the baby didn’t have meningitis, an infection in the tissues surrounding the brain. But he did have an unusual pattern of inflammation in the very deep parts of his brain. (Sun, 4/20)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.