Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.
Kaiser Health News: KHN On Call: What’s Next For The ACA?
Health care under the Affordable Care Act is poised to change — again. The Republican-led Congress has vowed to “repeal and replace” the health law known as Obamacare. That has left many people anxious and confused about what will happen and when. So NPR’s Morning Edition asked listeners to post questions on Twitter and Facebook, and we will be answering some of them here and on the radio in the weeks ahead. (Rovner, 2/23)
Kaiser Health News: Sprint To Find Zika Vaccine Could Hinge On Summer Outbreaks
Carmen Heredia Rodriguez reports: “As warmer temperatures herald the arrival of pesky mosquitoes, researchers are feverishly working on several promising vaccines against Zika, a virus notorious for infecting humans through this insect’s bite. The speed and debilitating effects of last year’s Zika outbreak in the Western Hemisphere prompted a sprint to develop a vaccine. Just a little more than a year after the pandemic was declared a global health emergency, a handful of candidates are undergoing preliminary testing in humans.” (Heredia Rodriguez, 2/23)
Kaiser Health News: Geriatricians Can Help Aging Patients Navigate Multiple Ailments
Judith Graham writes: “For months, Teresa Christensen’s 87-year-old mother, Genevieve, complained of pain from a nasty sore on her right foot. She stopped going to church. She couldn’t sleep at night. Eventually, she stopped walking except when absolutely necessary. Her primary care doctor prescribed three antibiotics, one after another. None worked. “Doctor, can’t we do some further tests?” Teresa Christensen remembered asking. “I felt that he was looking through my mother instead of looking at her.” (Graham, 2/23)
Kaiser Health News: Popular Charity Heart Screenings For Teens May Cause More Problems Than They Solve
Mary Chris Jaklevic reports: “Dozens of not-for-profit organizations have formed in the past decade to promote free or low-cost heart screenings for teens. These groups often claim such tests save lives by finding abnormalities that might pose a risk of sudden cardiac death. But the efforts are raising concerns. There’s no evidence that screening adolescents with electrocardiograms (ECG) prevents deaths. Sudden cardiac death is rare in young people, and some physicians worry screening kids with no symptoms or family history of disease could do more harm than good. The tests can set off false alarms that can lead to follow-up tests and risky interventions or force some kids to quit sports unnecessarily. (Jaklevic, 2/22)
California Healthline: Alzheimer’s Looms Large For Latinos
Heidi de Marco reports: “The number of Alzheimer’s cases in the United States is rising, especially among Latinos — the fastest growing minority in the country. With no cure in sight, diagnoses among U.S. Latinos are expected to increase more than eightfold by 2060, to 3.5 million, according to a report by the University of Southern California’s Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging and the Latinos Against Alzheimer’s network.” (de Marco, 2/23)
The New York Times: Repeal Of Health Law Faces Obstacles In House, Not Just In Senate
Ever since Republicans got down to the business of repealing the Affordable Care Act, the Senate has been singled out as the likely problem. Any plan that could zoom through the House would hit roadblocks among Senate Republicans, many of whom have resisted a wholesale repeal of the health law without a robust replacement plan. But after weeks of loud protests, boisterous town hall meetings and scores of quieter meetings with health care professionals, patients, caregivers and hospital managers in their districts, it is becoming increasingly likely that a consensus in the House may be just as hard to reach. (Steinhauer, 2/23)
The Associated Press: Health Care’s Future: Turning Patients Into Savers, Shoppers
The U.S. government may soon lean on someone new to help lower health care costs: you. The idea is that when your money is on the line — and not the insurance company’s — you’ll look for the best value and do your part to curb national health care spending. (2/22)
Los Angeles Times: Obamacare 101: Are Health Insurance Marketplaces In A Death Spiral?
It’s been a rocky few months for the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. Even if you’re not one of the roughly 11 million Americans who rely on these online exchanges to get your health insurance, you’ve probably seen the headlines about rising premiums and insurance companies pulling out of the system. (Levey, 2/23)
The Washington Post: Sen. Chuck Grassley, Once A Tea Party Target, Faces Off With The #Resistance
In the politest possible way, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked his constituents to keep their voices down. … It was Grassley’s second town hall of the day, the umpteenth of a political career that began with a 1958 race for state legislature. He wrote down each question as it was spoken to him. … And he faced round after round of questions on the Affordable Care Act, from people who sometimes choked up as they described their specific, positive interactions with the law. After one woman emotionally described how her family would have been “destroyed” had the ACA’s subsidies not defrayed the cost of her husband’s illness, Grassley assured her that the law would not simply be repealed. (Weigel, 2/22)
Politico: Raucous Crowd Rocks Cotton Town Hall
A combative crowd repeatedly challenged Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton on Wednesday in the latest of a series of highly contentious Republican town halls. During the event, protesters in a packed auditorium at Springdale High School frequently stood and chanted denunciations of the senator’s support of the Trump administration and the GOP’s ongoing efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Lima, 2/22)
Politico: Town Hall Anger Hits N.J. As Republican Lance Faces The Public
For the first few minutes of Republican U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance’s town hall meeting Wednesday evening, it almost looked like he had won over a passionate anti-Trump crowd of nearly 1,000. Lance, an eight-year incumbent, answered a question about repeal of the Affordable Care Act by saying he supports “repairing” the law and keeping some of its most popular provisions, including protections for pre-existing conditions, banning lifetime caps on coverage and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ coverage until age 26. The crowd applauded. Then things changed. (Friedman, 2/22)
The New York Times: Trump Vowed To Protect The Safety Net. What If His Appointees Disagree?
Two days before Election Day, Donald J. Trump traveled to Sioux City, Iowa, and proclaimed that he was the protector of federal programs aimed at helping elderly and low-income Americans. It was Hillary Clinton, he said, who was an untrustworthy steward of the working class and who would slash vital benefits. “I am going to protect and save your Social Security and your Medicare,” Mr. Trump said. “You made a deal a long time ago, a long time ago.” The pledge followed earlier promises to enact a new paid-maternity-leave benefit and not to make cuts to Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor. (Alcindor, 2/23)
The Associated Press: Health Insurer Aetna To Spend $3.3B Buying Back Stock
Aetna will spend $3.3 billion to buy back more than 20 million shares of its stock after the health insurer’s board authorized more repurchases last week. The nation’s third largest insurer said Wednesday that it entered into accelerated buyback agreements with two dealers for about 10.4 million shares from each. Aetna will pay each dealer $1.65 billion and is using available cash to fund the deals. (2/22)
The Wall Street Journal: Second Theranos Lab Has Blood-Testing License Revoked
An Arizona lab run by blood-testing firm Theranos Inc. put patients at risk and failed to quickly fix its deficiencies, the main U.S. lab regulator found, triggering a new round of sanctions last month against the company. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services imposed some of the harshest penalties in its arsenal on the Arizona lab. The agency revoked the lab’s U.S. testing license, barred it from billing Medicare and ordered it to alert customers of its problems, according to a Jan. 27 letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal in a public records request. (Weaver, 2/22)
The Associated Press: Oregon AG Girding To Protect Abortion Rights
On the heels of Washington state’s successful pushback of President Donald Trump’s immigration order, Oregon is readying for a court battle if the federal government tries to curtail abortion rights, the state’s attorney general said. The attorneys general of both Oregon and Washington said in interviews with The Associated Press that they are increasingly sharing information and consulting with each other and with other Democratic counterparts, as the White House and Congress try to roll back Obama policies and steer a conservative course for the nation. (Selsky, 2/22)
The Associated Press: NY Lawmakers: Cuomo Is Moving To Cut Funds To Fight Cancer
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a $25 million reduction to programs that fight cancer, diabetes and other public health challenges — a move intended to eliminate inefficiencies that is being fought by some lawmakers and health advocates who oppose the cuts. (2/22)
The New York Times: In The Face Of A.L.S., Simon Fitzmaurice Finds His Fire Inside
After his short film screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, a euphoric Simon Fitzmaurice was walking the snowy streets of Park City, Utah, when his foot began to hurt. Back home in Ireland that summer, by then dealing with a pronounced limp, he received a shattering diagnosis: motor neuron disease, or M.N.D. (more commonly known in the United States as A.L.S., or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), a neurological disorder that causes increasing muscle weakness and eventual paralysis and is, in most cases, fatal. The doctor gave Mr. Fitzmaurice, then 33, three or four years to live. (Shattuck, 2/22)
The Washington Post: The Best Medicine For ADHD Might Not Be Medicine, At Least At First
Steve and Michelle were desperate. Their 6-year-old son, Sam, was diagnosed with ADHD soon after entering first grade. Sam’s behavior seemed outright defiant: He ignored adults when his name was called and was in constant motion. Sam let out bloodcurdling screams when forced to stop playing a game on the iPad. His teacher had struggled to manage similar behaviors in class, and his guidance counselor said Sam “needed to be on medicine.” Steve and Michelle weren’t so sure, but they wondered if they were being negligent by not putting him on Ritalin or something similar. But despite the relentless advertising for meds, and the occasional coercion by school personnel, your young ADHD child may not need Ritalin. At least not yet. (Griffin, 2/23)
The New York Times: Prolonged Sleep May Be Early Warning Sign Of Dementia
Older adults who started sleeping more than nine hours a night — but had not previously slept so much — were at more than double the risk of developing dementia a decade later than those who slept nine hours or less, researchers report. The increased risk was not seen in people who had always slept more than nine hours. (Rabin, 2/22)
The Washington Post: Do Pet Cats Cause Schizophrenia? A New Study Suggests No.
As if parents of young children didn’t have enough things to worry about, here’s another: Some scientists think pet cats might increase kids’ risk of developing schizophrenia. But there’s good news out of this growing field of research, which focuses on the links between a cat-borne parasite that causes toxoplasmosis and mental health disorders. A new study of about 5,000 children in the United Kingdom found no evidence that cat ownership during gestation or childhood was associated with psychotic experiences that can be early signs of mental illness — such as hallucinations or delusions of being spied on — when they were teenagers. (Brulliard, 2/22)
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.