First Edition: August 11, 2017

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Aug 11 2017

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

Kaiser Health News: Obesity And Depression Are Entwined, Yet Scientists Don’t Know Why
About 15 years ago, Dr. Sue McElroy, a psychiatrist in Mason, Ohio, started noticing a pattern. People came to see her because they were depressed, but they frequently had a more visible ailment as well: They were heavy.McElroy was convinced there had to be a connection. “Many of my [depressed] patients were obese. And they were very upset by obesity,’’ McElroy recalled. ”I looked into the literature, and it said there was no relationship. It didn’t make sense.” (Luthra, 8/11)

Kaiser Health News: Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ No Vacation For Insurers
Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Sarah Kliff of Vox.com and Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times discuss the state of the individual health insurance markets in the wake of the failure (for now) of Congress’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. (8/10)

Kaiser Health News: Americans Eager For Leaders To Cooperate To Make Health Law Work
Move on. That’s what most people say Congress and the Trump administration should do after the Senate failed to approve legislation in July to  revamp the Affordable Care Act, according to a survey this month. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans say President Donald Trump should be trying to make the health law work, according to poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. This includes large majorities of Democrats (95 percent) as well as half of Republicans (52 percent) and President Trump’s supporters (51 percent). (Galewitz, 8/11)

Kaiser Health News: A Long And Winding Road: Kicking Heroin In An Opioid ‘Treatment Desert’
Heather Menzel squirmed in her seat, unable to sleep on the Greyhound bus as it rolled through the early morning darkness toward Bakersfield, in California’s Central Valley. She’d been trapped in transit for three miserable days, stewing in a horrific sickness only a heroin addict can understand. Again, and again, she stumbled down the aisle to the bathroom to vomit. She hadn’t used since Chicago. She told herself that if she could just get through this self-prescribed detox, if she could get to her mother’s house in her hometown of Lake Isabella, Calif., all her problems would be solved. (Rinker, 8/11)

The Associated Press: Trump To Declare Opioid Crisis A ‘National Emergency’
“The opioid crisis is an emergency. And I am saying officially right now: It is an emergency, it’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” Trump told reporters during a brief question-and-answer session ahead of a security briefing Thursday at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. (8/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Declares Opioid Epidemic A National Emergency
Declaring an emergency under the Public Health Service Act, or the Stafford Act, would “empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the executive branch even further to deal with this loss of life,” Mr. Christie’s commission said. The Stafford Act was designed to organize federal assistance to natural disasters. Jessica Nickel, president of the Addiction Policy Forum, who testified before the opioid commission, applauded the announcement. “This declaration can help communities with flexibility and resources to help implement a comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic,” she said. (Radnofsky and Campo-Flores, 8/10)

Politico: Trump Says He Will Declare Opioid Crisis A ‘National Emergency’
Trump was briefed on the epidemic Tuesday by HHS Secretary Tom Price, who told reporters at the time that the administration believed the crisis could be effectively addressed without the declaration of an emergency. Trump vowed his administration would beat the epidemic by beefing up law enforcement and strengthening security on the southern border to stop illegal drugs from entering the country. (Ehley, 8/10)

The Washington Post: Trump Says Opioid Crisis Is A National Emergency, Pledges More Money And Attention
Last week, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which is led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), issued a preliminary report that described the overdose death toll as “September 11th every three weeks” and urged the president to declare a national emergency. On Tuesday, Trump received an extended briefing on the subject in Bedminster. White House aides said Trump was still reviewing the report and was not yet ready to announce which of its recommendations he would embrace. (Achenbach, Wagner and Bernstein, 8/10)

NPR: A ‘Vaccine For Addiction’ Would Be Complicated. No Guarantees
It’s always appealing to think that there could be an easy technical fix for a complicated and serious problem. For example, wouldn’t it be great to have a vaccine to prevent addiction? “One of the things they’re actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is an incredibly exciting prospect,” said Dr. Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services. (Harris, 8/10)

The Associated Press: Swing-District House GOP Feel The Heat On Health Care
Republican Rep. David Young angered conservatives in Iowa when he initially opposed a House Republican health care bill then weeks later backed it. Independents were frustrated with the two-term congressman’s embrace of a partisan approach to repealing and replacing Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. And now the Democrats are coming. (8/11)

The Associated Press: Poll: Most Say Time To End Effort To Repeal Obama Health Law
Message to President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans: It’s time to make the Obama health care law more effective. Stop trying to scuttle it. That’s the resounding word from a national poll released Friday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. The survey was taken following last month’s Senate derailment of the GOP drive to supplant much of President Barack Obama’s statute with a diminished federal role in health care. (8/11)

Politico: Trump To GOP: Get Obamacare Repeal Bill Done
President Donald Trump renewed his call for Senate Republicans to take another crack at dismantling Obamacare, saying Thursday it’s a “disgrace” that they failed to pass a repeal bill. “They lost by one vote,” Trump said from his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course. “For a thing like that to happen is a disgrace.” (Cancryn, 8/10)

The Washington Post: Trump Attacks On McConnell Bring Rebukes From Fellow Republicans
President Trump aimed a fresh barrage of criticism at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday, escalating an extraordinary fight with a key Republican leader that could undermine the party’s ability to regroup and pass shared legislative priorities this fall. … Trump associates said the attacks, which began Wednesday night and resumed Thursday, were intended to shore up Trump’s outside-the-Beltway populist credentials and would resonate with core supporters frustrated by a lack of progress in Washington. But the tweets were quickly met with public and private defenses of McConnell — and rebukes of Trump. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), tweeted: “@SenateMajLdr has been the best leader we’ve had in my time in the Senate, through very tough challenges. I fully support him.” (Wagner, O’Keefe and Kane, 8/10)

The New York Times: Trump’s Twitter Fury At McConnell Risks Alienating A Key Ally
By preventing President Barack Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy, Senator Mitch McConnell secured Donald J. Trump the signature accomplishment of his young presidency: the confirmation of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. But any gratitude President Trump felt for Mr. McConnell’s first-of-its-kind maneuver appears to be exhausted as the president, upset at the failed health care repeal, has turned his Twitter fire and fury on Mr. McConnell, the one person he may most need to execute a stalled Republican legislative agenda. (Hulse, 8/10)

The New York Times: Gene Editing Spurs Hope For Transplanting Pig Organs Into Humans
In a striking advance that helps open the door to organ transplants from animals, researchers have created gene-edited piglets cleansed of viruses that might cause disease in humans. The experiments, reported on Thursday in the journal Science, may make it possible one day to transplant livers, hearts and other organs from pigs into humans, a hope that experts had all but given up. (Kolata, 8/10)

The Washington Post: Scientists Create The First Mutant Ants
Despite what you might’ve seen in 1950s monster movies, it’s difficult to raise mutant ants. For years biologists have altered the genetics of organisms as varied as mice and rice. Mutant fruit flies are a laboratory staple. But ants’ complex life cycle hampered efforts to grow genetically engineered ants — until now. On Thursday, two independent research teams described their work deleting ant genes. Two papers chronicling the first mutant ants appeared in the journal Cell, along with a third study that altered ant behavior using an insect brain hormone. (Guarino, 8/10)

NPR: Public Opinion On Gene Editing Varies Depending On Knowledge, Religion
People generally think that editing human genes might be OK, but most think that there’s a clear line that’s shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to changing traits that would be passed down to new generations, according to a survey reported Thursday. It’s not an abstract question. Earlier this month, gene editing made headlines after scientists in Oregon reported they had successfully corrected a genetic defect in human embryos in the laboratory. (Columbus, 8/10)

NPR: Hospice, Designed For The Dying, Is Discharging Many Live Patients
Hospice care is for the dying. It helps patients manage pain so they can focus on spending their remaining time with loved ones. But in recent years, nearly one in five patients have been discharged from hospice before they die, according to government reports. A study published last month in the journal Health Affairs finds that hospices with the highest rate of so-called “live discharges” also have the highest profits. The lead author is Rachel Dolin, a David A. Winston fellow researching health policy. Her paper found an association between high live discharge rates and high profit margins, but it didn’t determine the cause. (Jaffe, 8/11)

The New York Times: Your Instagram Posts May Hold Clues To Your Mental Health
The photos you share online speak volumes. They can serve as a form of self-expression or a record of travel. They can reflect your style and your quirks. But they might convey even more than you realize: The photos you share may hold clues to your mental health, new research suggests. From the colors and faces in their photos to the enhancements they make before posting them, Instagram users with a history of depression seem to present the world differently from their peers, according to the study, published this week in the journal EPJ Data Science. (Chokshi, 8/10)

NPR: Cancer Doctor Studies ‘Financial Toxicity’ To Help Patients Struggling With Debt
Ten years ago, Fumiko Chino was the art director at a television production company in Houston, engaged to be married to a young Ph.D. candidate. Today, she’s a radiation oncologist at Duke University, studying the effects of financial strain on cancer patients. And she’s a widow.How she got from there to here is a story about how health care and money are intertwined in ways that doctors and patients don’t like to talk about. But Chino is determined to do so. (Kodjak, 8/10)

The New York Times: ABC’s ‘Pink Slime’ Report Tied To $177 Million In Settlement Costs
The Walt Disney Company said in its latest quarterly financial statement that it had $177 million in costs related to settling litigation. The announcement came just weeks after ABC News, a Disney unit, reached a settlement with a meat producer that accused the network of defamation for its reports about so-called pink slime, a processed beef product used as low-cost filler. (Hauser, 8/10)

The Associated Press: Police Continuing Probe Into Alleged Prescription Fraud
Delaware State Police say more arrests are expected in an investigation involving a Philadelphia woman accused of distributing fraudulent prescriptions for controlled substances. Police said Thursday that 49-year-old Annette Scott stole blank prescription pads from a Wilmington-area doctor’s office where she worked and forged the doctor’s signature. Investigators say she then distributed 23 prescriptions to several individuals, who would fill the prescriptions at area pharmacies and use their Medicaid insurance to pay for them. (8/10)

The Wall Street Journal: New York To Broaden Medical Marijuana Program
The state of New York is about to make it more convenient for patients to use medical marijuana. The drug will be available in lotions, lozenges, patches and chewable tablets for the first time this fall. Currently, patients have to use an inhaler, a vaporizer or ingest capsules. Smoking marijuana remains prohibited under the new rules. (Alfaro, 8/10)

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