Tagged Women’s Health

Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Happy Friday! Has everyone recovered from their daylight saving time jet lag? Every year we get a whole host of articles about why changing the clocks is outdated, terrible and really quite bad for our health, and yet! Here were are, still grumpy and tired. But it’s almost the weekend, so let’s soldier on.

Here’s what you may have missed in your spring-forward daze.

President Donald Trump released his $4.75 trillion budget plan this week, which included a big increase in military funding and deep cuts to other domestic spending. Although the proposal will be dead on arrival in Congress, it still serves as a good road map for the administration’s priorities and Trump’s re-election campaign.

There were some health care wins, but there were also some blows, as well. At the heart of it all, critics say, are contradictions that undercut Trump’s talk about supporting certain public health causes. Take the $291 million budgeted for HIV, for example. Trump’s proposal allocates hundreds of millions toward the cause domestically, but then cuts global aid and chips away at programs like Medicaid, which HIV patients rely on.

Some of the health care highlights in the budget:

• Shaving $818 billion from projected spending on Medicare over 10 years and calling for belt-tightening within the popular program to combat “waste, fraud and abuse”;

• Cutting nearly $1.5 trillion from projected spending on Medicaid and transforming the program into a block grant system (a controversial idea that has received a lot of criticism in the past, even from Republican governors);

• Slashing spending on the National Institutes of Health, a longtime favorite of lawmakers of both parties, by $4.5 billion, with the National Cancer Institute absorbing the largest chunk of that cut;

• Increasing funding for pediatric cancer research by $50 million;

• Cutting HHS funding to $87.1 billion, which would be 12 percent less than in the spending plan Congress adopted for this fiscal year;

• Charging the e-cigarette industry $100 million a year in user fees that would go toward the FDA and its oversight efforts;

• And raising funding for VA medical care by nearly 10 percent.

Another interesting tidbit comes out of Politico’s reporting: HHS would be directed to steer $20 million toward a small children’s health program sought by one of Trump’s golfing buddies, Jack Nicklaus.

The New York Times: Trump Proposes a Record $4.75 Trillion Budget

The Washington Post: Springing Forward to Daylight Saving Time Is Obsolete, Confusing and Unhealthy, Critics Say

The Washington Post: Trump Pledges Support for Health Programs but His Budget Takes ‘Legs Out From Underneath the System’

Politico: Trump’s Budget Would Steer $20M to Jack Nicklaus-Backed Hospital Project

Democrats were less than pleased with the suggested budget. Lawmakers warned HHS Secretary Alex Azar — who bore the brunt of their ire at a hearing on Tuesday — that if Medicaid were transformed into a block grant system the change would face “a firestorm” of opposition.

The New York Times: Congress Warns Against Medicaid Cuts: ‘You Just Wait for the Firestorm’

Meanwhile, the “Mediscare” game went another round with Democrats saying that the “unbelievable” cuts fulfill long-standing Republican ambitions “to make Medicare wither on the vine.” If the accusations sound familiar to ones you’ve heard in the past, you’re not mistaken. They just might have been coming from Republicans. The Washington Post Fact Checker untangles it all to show that everyone is guilty of playing this particular scare game.

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Democrats Engage in ‘Mediscare’ Spin on the Trump Budget


Following FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s surprise resignation announcement, Dr. Ned Sharpless has been named as the acting chief of the agency. Sharpless’ current work as the director of the National Cancer Institute has focused on the relationship between aging and cancer, and the development of new treatments for melanoma, lung cancer and breast cancer.

The appointment was a bit of a curveball for some agency watchers. Some Republicans had been chafing at the way Gottlieb embraced his pro-regulation side as commissioner and were hoping for a sea change. But Sharpless is a Democrat who has spoken out before about how his worries over the e-cigarette industry keep him up at night, so the direction of the agency may not be changing soon. (HHS Secretary Alex Azar has said this is a temporary appointment and the search for a permanent commissioner is underway, but there are also hints that Sharpless could step into the role.)

Colleagues were quick to praise the cancer doctor and research veteran for his breadth of experience and his “approachable, objective” demeanor.

Stat: How Ned Sharpless, Biotech Veteran, Vaulted to the Top of the FDA

No one can accuse Gottlieb of getting whatever the professional version of “senioritis” is, despite the fact that he’ll be departing in a few weeks. The FDA has issued a proposal that would sequester flavored e-cigarettes to areas off-limits to anyone under age 18. The stores can still sell tobacco, mint and menthol e-cigarettes, which the FDA says are more popular among adults than minors.

The New York Times: F.D.A. Moves to Restrict Flavored E-Cigarette Sales to Teenagers


Beto O’Rourke is the latest Democrat to throw his hat in the ring for 2020, but can the moderate Texan overcome his baggage when it comes to his past opposition to the Affordable Care Act? In terms of his current stance, he has said that he supports universal health care, but has, like other moderates in the race, taken pains not to name “Medicare-for-all” in particular.

The Wall Street Journal: Beto O’Rourke’s Past GOP Ties Could Complicate Primary Run


The Connecticut Supreme Court has now cleared the way for Sandy Hook families to sue gunmakers over wrongful marketing. In the lawsuit, the families pointed out ads with slogans like “Consider your man card reissued,” which they say is specifically targeted for troubled young men like Adam Lanza. The ruling is fairly narrow and limited to marketing — the justices dismissed other aspects of the lawsuits — but could have far-reaching ramifications because it strips away some of the blanket immunity offered to gun manufacturers by Congress.

The New York Times: Sandy Hook Massacre: Remington and Other Gun Companies Lose Major Ruling Over Liability


Lawyers are starting to warn their clients who have filed disability claims with the government to clean up their social media because Uncle Sam might start snooping for fraud. “You don’t want anything on there that shows you out playing Frisbee,” one said. Advocates for people with disabilities say using social media sites in such a way would be irresponsible, as it’s impossible to gauge just from the pictures people post if they need disability aid.

The New York Times: On Disability and on Facebook? Uncle Sam Wants to Watch What You Post


In the miscellaneous file for the week:

• Calls for a worldwide moratorium on gene-editing human embryos expose the ethical divide over the research, which has been thrust into the spotlight following a Chinese scientist’s shocking and unexpected revelation that he successfully accomplished the feat.

Reuters: Experts Call for Halt to Gene Editing That Results in ‘Designer Babies’

• An entrenched culture of sexism at VA facilities has led female veterans to forgo needed care in order to avoid harassment. “It’s like a construction site,” said Rep. John Carter (R-Texas).

The New York Times: Treated Like a ‘Piece Of Meat’: Female Veterans Endure Harassment at the V.A.

• Court filings detail Johnson & Johnson’s role in the opioid epidemic, including accusations that the company operated like a drug “kingpin … profiting at every stage.’’

Bloomberg: US Opioid Drug Epidemic: J&J Called ‘Kingpin’ by Oklahoma

• The cost of this Oregon child not getting vaccinations? $800,000 in medical bills and 57 days in the hospital. The terrifying ordeal shows how quickly a small cut can spiral into a devastating emergency.

The New York Times: An Unvaccinated Boy Got Tetanus. His Oregon Hospital Stay: 57 Days and $800,000.

• Medical ethicists were given a lot to think about this week: In this case, it’s examining the tough decisions that come from deciding to extract sperm from a deceased loved one. While some support the choice if it’s a spouse, what happens if it’s the parents who are making the call?

Stat: Efforts to Save the Sperm of the Dead Bring Heartache and Tough Questions

• Is there a chilling effect on disease research when social media activists engage in thought-policing? Scientists say yes, and that, ultimately, the patients are the ones getting hurt.

Reuters: Special Report: Online Activists Are Silencing Us, Scientists Say


Doctors say our oversanitized culture does no favors to our immune system. (I have been pounding this drum for years, so I had to include this story.) The next time you drop some food on the floor, apparently the right move is to embrace the three-second rule and eat it. Have a great weekend!

Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Happy Friday! Has everyone recovered from their daylight saving time jet lag? Every year we get a whole host of articles about why changing the clocks is outdated, terrible and really quite bad for our health, and yet! Here were are, still grumpy and tired. But it’s almost the weekend, so let’s soldier on.

Here’s what you may have missed in your spring-forward daze.

President Donald Trump released his $4.75 trillion budget plan this week, which included a big increase in military funding and deep cuts to other domestic spending. Although the proposal will be dead on arrival in Congress, it still serves as a good road map for the administration’s priorities and Trump’s re-election campaign.

There were some health care wins, but there were also some blows, as well. At the heart of it all, critics say, are contradictions that undercut Trump’s talk about supporting certain public health causes. Take the $291 million budgeted for HIV, for example. Trump’s proposal allocates hundreds of millions toward the cause domestically, but then cuts global aid and chips away at programs like Medicaid, which HIV patients rely on.

Some of the health care highlights in the budget:

• Shaving $818 billion from projected spending on Medicare over 10 years and calling for belt-tightening within the popular program to combat “waste, fraud and abuse”;

• Cutting nearly $1.5 trillion from projected spending on Medicaid and transforming the program into a block grant system (a controversial idea that has received a lot of criticism in the past, even from Republican governors);

• Slashing spending on the National Institutes of Health, a longtime favorite of lawmakers of both parties, by $4.5 billion, with the National Cancer Institute absorbing the largest chunk of that cut;

• Increasing funding for pediatric cancer research by $50 million;

• Cutting HHS funding to $87.1 billion, which would be 12 percent less than in the spending plan Congress adopted for this fiscal year;

• Charging the e-cigarette industry $100 million a year in user fees that would go toward the FDA and its oversight efforts;

• And raising funding for VA medical care by nearly 10 percent.

Another interesting tidbit comes out of Politico’s reporting: HHS would be directed to steer $20 million toward a small children’s health program sought by one of Trump’s golfing buddies, Jack Nicklaus.

The New York Times: Trump Proposes a Record $4.75 Trillion Budget

The Washington Post: Springing Forward to Daylight Saving Time Is Obsolete, Confusing and Unhealthy, Critics Say

The Washington Post: Trump Pledges Support for Health Programs but His Budget Takes ‘Legs Out From Underneath the System’

Politico: Trump’s Budget Would Steer $20M to Jack Nicklaus-Backed Hospital Project

Democrats were less than pleased with the suggested budget. Lawmakers warned HHS Secretary Alex Azar — who bore the brunt of their ire at a hearing on Tuesday — that if Medicaid were transformed into a block grant system the change would face “a firestorm” of opposition.

The New York Times: Congress Warns Against Medicaid Cuts: ‘You Just Wait for the Firestorm’

Meanwhile, the “Mediscare” game went another round with Democrats saying that the “unbelievable” cuts fulfill long-standing Republican ambitions “to make Medicare wither on the vine.” If the accusations sound familiar to ones you’ve heard in the past, you’re not mistaken. They just might have been coming from Republicans. The Washington Post Fact Checker untangles it all to show that everyone is guilty of playing this particular scare game.

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Democrats Engage in ‘Mediscare’ Spin on the Trump Budget


Following FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s surprise resignation announcement, Dr. Ned Sharpless has been named as the acting chief of the agency. Sharpless’ current work as the director of the National Cancer Institute has focused on the relationship between aging and cancer, and the development of new treatments for melanoma, lung cancer and breast cancer.

The appointment was a bit of a curveball for some agency watchers. Some Republicans had been chafing at the way Gottlieb embraced his pro-regulation side as commissioner and were hoping for a sea change. But Sharpless is a Democrat who has spoken out before about how his worries over the e-cigarette industry keep him up at night, so the direction of the agency may not be changing soon. (HHS Secretary Alex Azar has said this is a temporary appointment and the search for a permanent commissioner is underway, but there are also hints that Sharpless could step into the role.)

Colleagues were quick to praise the cancer doctor and research veteran for his breadth of experience and his “approachable, objective” demeanor.

Stat: How Ned Sharpless, Biotech Veteran, Vaulted to the Top of the FDA

No one can accuse Gottlieb of getting whatever the professional version of “senioritis” is, despite the fact that he’ll be departing in a few weeks. The FDA has issued a proposal that would sequester flavored e-cigarettes to areas off-limits to anyone under age 18. The stores can still sell tobacco, mint and menthol e-cigarettes, which the FDA says are more popular among adults than minors.

The New York Times: F.D.A. Moves to Restrict Flavored E-Cigarette Sales to Teenagers


Beto O’Rourke is the latest Democrat to throw his hat in the ring for 2020, but can the moderate Texan overcome his baggage when it comes to his past opposition to the Affordable Care Act? In terms of his current stance, he has said that he supports universal health care, but has, like other moderates in the race, taken pains not to name “Medicare-for-all” in particular.

The Wall Street Journal: Beto O’Rourke’s Past GOP Ties Could Complicate Primary Run


The Connecticut Supreme Court has now cleared the way for Sandy Hook families to sue gunmakers over wrongful marketing. In the lawsuit, the families pointed out ads with slogans like “Consider your man card reissued,” which they say is specifically targeted for troubled young men like Adam Lanza. The ruling is fairly narrow and limited to marketing — the justices dismissed other aspects of the lawsuits — but could have far-reaching ramifications because it strips away some of the blanket immunity offered to gun manufacturers by Congress.

The New York Times: Sandy Hook Massacre: Remington and Other Gun Companies Lose Major Ruling Over Liability


Lawyers are starting to warn their clients who have filed disability claims with the government to clean up their social media because Uncle Sam might start snooping for fraud. “You don’t want anything on there that shows you out playing Frisbee,” one said. Advocates for people with disabilities say using social media sites in such a way would be irresponsible, as it’s impossible to gauge just from the pictures people post if they need disability aid.

The New York Times: On Disability and on Facebook? Uncle Sam Wants to Watch What You Post


In the miscellaneous file for the week:

• Calls for a worldwide moratorium on gene-editing human embryos expose the ethical divide over the research, which has been thrust into the spotlight following a Chinese scientist’s shocking and unexpected revelation that he successfully accomplished the feat.

Reuters: Experts Call for Halt to Gene Editing That Results in ‘Designer Babies’

• An entrenched culture of sexism at VA facilities has led female veterans to forgo needed care in order to avoid harassment. “It’s like a construction site,” said Rep. John Carter (R-Texas).

The New York Times: Treated Like a ‘Piece Of Meat’: Female Veterans Endure Harassment at the V.A.

• Court filings detail Johnson & Johnson’s role in the opioid epidemic, including accusations that the company operated like a drug “kingpin … profiting at every stage.’’

Bloomberg: US Opioid Drug Epidemic: J&J Called ‘Kingpin’ by Oklahoma

• The cost of this Oregon child not getting vaccinations? $800,000 in medical bills and 57 days in the hospital. The terrifying ordeal shows how quickly a small cut can spiral into a devastating emergency.

The New York Times: An Unvaccinated Boy Got Tetanus. His Oregon Hospital Stay: 57 Days and $800,000.

• Medical ethicists were given a lot to think about this week: In this case, it’s examining the tough decisions that come from deciding to extract sperm from a deceased loved one. While some support the choice if it’s a spouse, what happens if it’s the parents who are making the call?

Stat: Efforts to Save the Sperm of the Dead Bring Heartache and Tough Questions

• Is there a chilling effect on disease research when social media activists engage in thought-policing? Scientists say yes, and that, ultimately, the patients are the ones getting hurt.

Reuters: Special Report: Online Activists Are Silencing Us, Scientists Say


Doctors say our oversanitized culture does no favors to our immune system. (I have been pounding this drum for years, so I had to include this story.) The next time you drop some food on the floor, apparently the right move is to embrace the three-second rule and eat it. Have a great weekend!

Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ The Karma Of Cutting Medicare

Like those of his recent predecessors, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts in October will not be adopted by Congress. Still, a presidential budget plan is an important indicator of the administration’s priorities.

The Trump administration’s priority for health is for the federal government to spend less. In some cases much less, as evidenced by its proposed funding for the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also this week, a federal district judge in Washington, D.C., heard arguments in a case challenging work requirements for some Medicaid enrollees in Arkansas and Kentucky. This is the same judge who struck down an earlier version of Kentucky’s proposal.

Meanwhile, Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb is stepping down, but this week he issued more rules intended to prevent minors from purchasing flavored e-cigarette products.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal, Alice Ollstein of Politico and Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Trump’s budget may turn the tables on the Republican Party. It calls for more than $500 billion in reductions to Medicare, much of that in payments to providers. That is similar to what Democrats proposed to help fund the Affordable Care Act — a tactic that Republicans used to whip up widespread opposition to the law and gain control of the House of Representatives. Count on Democrats to return the favor in coming campaigns.
  • Some Republicans, including Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a key Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, signaled concerns about budget cuts recommended by the administration, especially for NIH.
  • On Medicaid, the budget suggests that states be allowed to administer many parts of the program as they see fit. But opponents are likely to ask courts to stop any efforts to weaken federal requirements for coverage.
  • House Democrats have begun an investigation of the marketing and benefits of short-term insurance plans to see if they are denying promised coverage to consumers. The lawmakers are concerned that what they call “junk plans” are confusing consumers who would be better off with policies from the ACA’s marketplace. But any efforts to rein in the plans — which have the blessing of the Trump administration — could run into opposition from Republicans.
  • A federal appeals court this week ruled that Ohio may exclude Planned Parenthood from participating in several small federal health programs that provide money to the state to distribute. The case does not involve either Medicaid or the federal family planning program, but the participation of four judges appointed by Trump could signal a judicial trend.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:

Julie Rovner: Buzz Feed News’ “Military Doctors Told Them It Was Just ‘Female Problems.’ Weeks Later, They Were In The Hospital,” by Ema O’Connor and Vera Bergengruen.

AND

The New York Times’ “Treated Like a ‘Piece of Meat’: Female Veterans Endure Harassment at the V.A.,” by Jennifer Steinhauer.

Rebecca Adams: Kaiser Health News’ “’Medicare-For-All Gets Buzzy In Unexpected Locales,” by Shefali Luthra.

Stephanie Armour: Kaiser Health News’ “Understanding Loneliness In Older Adults – And Tailoring A Solution,” by Judith Graham.

Alice Ollstein: HuffPost’s “These Citizen Activists Fought Hard to Expand Health Care. Then Their Lawmakers Rebuked Them,” by Jeffrey Young.

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on iTunesStitcher or Google Play.

Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ The Karma Of Cutting Medicare

Like those of his recent predecessors, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts in October will not be adopted by Congress. Still, a presidential budget plan is an important indicator of the administration’s priorities.

The Trump administration’s priority for health is for the federal government to spend less. In some cases much less, as evidenced by its proposed funding for the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also this week, a federal district judge in Washington, D.C., heard arguments in a case challenging work requirements for some Medicaid enrollees in Arkansas and Kentucky. This is the same judge who struck down an earlier version of Kentucky’s proposal.

Meanwhile, Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb is stepping down, but this week he issued more rules intended to prevent minors from purchasing flavored e-cigarette products.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal, Alice Ollstein of Politico and Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Trump’s budget may turn the tables on the Republican Party. It calls for more than $500 billion in reductions to Medicare, much of that in payments to providers. That is similar to what Democrats proposed to help fund the Affordable Care Act — a tactic that Republicans used to whip up widespread opposition to the law and gain control of the House of Representatives. Count on Democrats to return the favor in coming campaigns.
  • Some Republicans, including Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a key Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, signaled concerns about budget cuts recommended by the administration, especially for NIH.
  • On Medicaid, the budget suggests that states be allowed to administer many parts of the program as they see fit. But opponents are likely to ask courts to stop any efforts to weaken federal requirements for coverage.
  • House Democrats have begun an investigation of the marketing and benefits of short-term insurance plans to see if they are denying promised coverage to consumers. The lawmakers are concerned that what they call “junk plans” are confusing consumers who would be better off with policies from the ACA’s marketplace. But any efforts to rein in the plans — which have the blessing of the Trump administration — could run into opposition from Republicans.
  • A federal appeals court this week ruled that Ohio may exclude Planned Parenthood from participating in several small federal health programs that provide money to the state to distribute. The case does not involve either Medicaid or the federal family planning program, but the participation of four judges appointed by Trump could signal a judicial trend.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:

Julie Rovner: Buzz Feed News’ “Military Doctors Told Them It Was Just ‘Female Problems.’ Weeks Later, They Were In The Hospital,” by Ema O’Connor and Vera Bergengruen.

AND

The New York Times’ “Treated Like a ‘Piece of Meat’: Female Veterans Endure Harassment at the V.A.,” by Jennifer Steinhauer.

Rebecca Adams: Kaiser Health News’ “’Medicare-For-All Gets Buzzy In Unexpected Locales,” by Shefali Luthra.

Stephanie Armour: Kaiser Health News’ “Understanding Loneliness In Older Adults – And Tailoring A Solution,” by Judith Graham.

Alice Ollstein: HuffPost’s “These Citizen Activists Fought Hard to Expand Health Care. Then Their Lawmakers Rebuked Them,” by Jeffrey Young.

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on iTunesStitcher or Google Play.

Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Happy Friday! Headline writers across the world (read: yours truly) breathed a sigh of relief this week when the venture formally known as “the health initiative founded by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase” finally picked a name. After more than a year of tight-lipped secrecy, they settled on “Haven.” What do you guys think? I’m just thankful it’s short.

On to what you may have missed this week!

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb sent shock waves through Washington and the industry when he announced he’ll be retiring at the end of the month. Gottlieb was a standout in the anti-regulatory, pro-business Trump administration as one of the most activist commissioners in recent years. Over the past two years, he has launched what could be termed a crusade against teen vaping — his most recent action coming just the day before the announcement, when he called out Walgreens and gas stations for selling tobacco products to minors — and cracked down on “miracle cures” and unregulated stem cell clinics and supplements, among other initiatives. Public health advocates are fretting that with him gone, some of the progress they’ve seen will be chipped away.

The departure is also a blow to the administration in that Gottlieb is a highly liked health official who worked well with Congress, winning over even Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Behind the scenes, he was known as someone who was “accessible,” would field lawmakers’ questions and was actively working on things that would make Congress happy. “I’ve never seen an administration official, Republican or Democrat, that has worked with the Hill so well on a bipartisan basis,” a senior congressional aide told Stat.

That’s not to say he didn’t have his critics. A decision on approving a powerful opioid late last year, in particular, drew fire from many advocates.

Gottlieb said his decision to leave was based on the fact that he missed spending time with his family, and White House officials confirmed that President Donald Trump did not seek the resignation.

Now the big question is: Who is going to replace him?

Stat: With Gottlieb’s Resignation, the Trump Administration Loses Its Backroom Whisperer on Capitol Hill

Politico: ‘Something Very Rare’: FDA’s Gottlieb Aggressively Tackled Difficult Issues

Stat: The Likely, Possible, and Longshot Contenders to Replace Gottlieb at FDA


As expected, legal challenges to the administration’s changes to the family planning rules came not in a trickle but a flood. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, in his 47th lawsuit against the administration, said the rules restricting abortion referrals were like something out of 1920 and not 2019. Apart from California’s case, 20 states and D.C. announced they will be filing suits. Then came the announcement that Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Medical Association will also challenge the restrictions, deeming the changes a “domestic gag rule” and an overreach from the administration.

The New York Times: California Sues Trump Administration to Block Restrictions to Family Planning Program

The Washington Post: Planned Parenthood, American Medical Association Sue Trump Administration Over Abortion ‘Gag Rule’


Facing increasingly intense outrage over insulin prices, Eli Lilly has decided to offer an authorized generic version of its drug for half the cost. Stories of people dying after they rationed newly pricey insulin have been circulating with ever-increasing frequency, and lawmakers have made it their priority to specifically rout out answers about insulin price hikes. In that context, Eli Lilly’s move here seems more damage control than charitable, but it also puts them in good company with drugmakers who have been hotfooting it to avoid whatever worse would come out of Congress if they don’t make some changes.

Stat: Lilly Will Sell a Half-Price Version of Its Insulin. Will It Appease Critics?


Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper officially threw his hat into the narrowing 2020 field this week. Hickenlooper seems to gravitate more toward the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, saying he supports universal health care in principle but refusing to get behind a “Medicare-for-all” plan. His evolution on gun control (as a governor who oversaw a mass shooting in the state where Columbine occurred) is also worth checking out.

The New York Times: John Hickenlooper on the Issues


There has always been a gap swallowing people who make too much for health law subsidies or Medicaid but not enough to comfortably afford insurance through the exchanges. A new county-by-county analysis looks at just how tough it is for the people who fall into the holes created by the ACA. A particularly striking figure? In almost all of Nebraska, a 60-year-old with a $50,000 income would pay from 30 to 50 percent of that income in premiums for the least expensive ACA health plan.

The Washington Post: ACA Premiums Rising Beyond Reach of Older, Middle-Class Consumers

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is interested in bolstering interstate insurance sales despite there being little appetite for it in the past and experts saying it wouldn’t lower premiums. In fact, the practice is already allowed under the health law, and no one does it because insurers think it’s just not worth it.

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Administration Looks to Jump Start Interstate Health-Insurance Sales


A teenager who got vaccinated against his mother’s wishes was the star witness at a hearing this week sparked in part by the measles outbreak. Ethan Lindenberger, a high school senior, hoisted the blame for his mother’s deeply rooted beliefs squarely on Facebook’s shoulders.

The anti-vaccination movement has long flourished on Facebook, partly because of the site’s search results and “suggested groups” feature. On Thursday, the company announced it has developed a policy to try to curb that culture of misinformation on vaccines, saying it will rank pages and groups that spread that kind of information lower and will keep them out of recommendations or predictions in search.

The Washington Post: Ethan Lindenberger: Facebook’s Anti-Vax Problem Intensified in Congressional Testimony

The New York Times: Facebook Announces Plan to Curb Vaccine Misinformation


After 12 long years, scientists finally announced that a second patient appears to have been cured of HIV. While the news was well-welcomed around the world — “This will inspire people that cure is not a dream,” said Dr. Annemarie Wensing, a virologist — there are some practical obstacles to consider. For example, bone marrow transplants (which is how both patients were cured) are extremely risky, especially since there are drugs that exist that can control HIV fairly well.

The New York Times: H.I.V. Is Reported Cured in a Second Patient, a Milestone in the Global AIDS Epidemic


In a scathing ruling that could have wide-reaching ramifications for the insurance industry, a judge blasted UnitedHealth Group for policies that he says were aimed at effectively discriminating against patients with mental health and substance abuse disorders to save money. The decision is part of a larger debate over parity in relation to coverage for mental health services versus other illnesses like diabetes. Insurance companies have been getting around parity requirements with internal rules, but advocates are viewing the judge’s ruling as a warning shot that those loopholes will no longer be tolerated.

The New York Times: Mental Health Treatment Denied to Customers by Giant Insurer’s Policies, Judge Rules

The FDA this week approved a cousin of party drug “Special K” to help people with severe cases of depression, marking a shift away from traditional antidepressant medications. While many said the news would give hope to desperate patients, others are worried about the potential for abuse.

The New York Times: Fast-Acting Depression Drug, Newly Approved, Could Help Millions


Honorable mention for International Women’s Day: A veritable “tsunami wave of women veterans” over the past several years is forcing the VA to step up in terms of meeting female-specific health care needs. Among basic issues are seeing to it that doctors are trained to deal with gynecological matters and ensuring that VA facilities have child care services available when female veterans come in for appointments.

The Wall Street Journal: As More Military Women Seek Health Care, VA Pursues Improvements


In the miscellaneous file for the week:

• Nearly 600,000 children have dropped off of states’ Medicaid and CHIP rolls over a one-year span. While states rush to assure anyone asking that it’s because the economy is improving, public health experts are alarmed at the disturbing trend.

Stateline: Child Enrollment in Public Health Programs Fell by 600K Last Year

• In a “craning your neck at the car wreck” sort of way, this profile on disgraced pharma bro Martin Shkreli is a wild read. Through the help of a contraband smartphone, Shkreli is, from his prison cell, still pulling the strings at his old company, schmoozing up his prison friends “Krispy” and “D-Block,” and planning his big comeback.

The Wall Street Journal: Martin Shkreli Steers His Old Company From Prison — With Contraband Cellphone

• Last year, doctors burst onto the gun-debate scene through the help of a viral tweet that directed them to “stay in their lane.” But a new analysis provides an interesting look at which lawmakers are getting the most money from physician-related PACs. (Hint: It’s overwhelming ones who are against tighter gun regulations.)

The Wall Street Journal: Doctors’ PACs Favored Candidates Opposing Gun Background Checks

• In slightly terrifying news, research that was halted over concerns it could create deadly flu viruses that could be used by terrorists was just given the green light again —without any explanation as to why. *Gulp*

The New York Times: Studies of Deadly Flu Virus, Once Banned, Are Set to Resume

• Everyone is expecting a big settlement in the sweeping opioid case against Purdue Pharma. But what happens if the opioid maker declares bankruptcy first?

Stat: If Purdue Pharma Declares Bankruptcy, What Happens to the Opioid Cases?

• Luke Perry’s early death from a stroke this week has many middle-aged Americans worried.

The New York Times: Here’s How Strokes Happen When You’re As Young As Luke Perry

• Drug companies and doctors are in a dirty war over fetal transplants. It may seem click-baity at first, but the issue is highly revealing of how the health industry works when it comes to something that could make people lots of money.

The New York Times: Drug Companies and Doctors Battle Over the Future of Fecal Transplants


That’s it from me! Have a great weekend!