First Edition: Dec. 8, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.
KHN: A Family Death During The Holidays Prompts Questions And Reflection
It wasn’t the Thanksgiving holiday any of us had expected. Two weeks before, my 94-year-old father-in-law, Melvin Zax, suffered a stroke after receiving dialysis and was rushed to a hospital near his residence in western New York. There, he underwent a series of tests over the course of several days. With each test, Mel became more agitated. His hearing aids weren’t working right, and he didn’t understand what was happening. (Graham, 12/8)
KHN: More States To Consider Extending Postpartum Medicaid Coverage Beyond Two Months 
Lawmakers in several conservative-led states — including Montana, Wyoming, Missouri, and Mississippi — are expected to consider proposals to provide a year of continuous health coverage to new mothers enrolled in Medicaid. Medicaid beneficiaries nationwide are guaranteed continuous postpartum coverage during the ongoing covid-19 public health emergency. But momentum has been building for states to extend the default 60-day required coverage period ahead of the emergency’s eventual end. Approximately 42% of births nationwide are covered under Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people, and extending postpartum coverage aims to reduce the risk of pregnancy-related deaths and illnesses by ensuring that new mothers’ medical care isn’t interrupted. (Volz, 12/8)
KHN: For Patients With Sickle Cell Disease, Fertility Care Is About Reproductive Justice
Teonna Woolford has always wanted six kids. Why six? “I don’t know where that number came from. I just felt like four wasn’t enough,” said Woolford, a Baltimore resident. “Six is a good number.” Woolford, 31, was born with sickle cell disease. The genetic disorder causes blood cells to become misshapen, which makes it harder for blood to carry oxygen and flow throughout the body. This can lead to strokes, organ damage, and frequent bouts of excruciating pain. (Yousry, 12/8)
Fierce Healthcare: Sign-Ups On ACA Exchanges Up 18% Year Over Year To 5.5M So Far
Sign-ups for plans on the Affordable Care Act's exchanges reached 5.5 million during the first five weeks of open enrollment, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The CMS said Wednesday that figure includes 1.2 million people who have newly signed up for coverage through the exchanges as well as 4.3 million people who have returned to the exchanges to renew or select a new plan for 2023. That represents an 18% increase year over year; in 2021, 4.6 million people had signed up for plans through the first five weeks of the enrollment period. (Minemyer, 12/7)
Reuters: Around 5.5 Mln People Have Signed Up For 2023 Obamacare Plans 
Nearly 5.5 million Americans so far have signed up for health insurance for next year through the Affordable Care Act's marketplace, an 18% increase over the same period last year, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday. People who want to choose a healthcare plan for 2023 under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, can enroll between Nov. 1 and Jan. 15. However, if they want to be covered as of Jan. 1 they generally need to choose a plan by Dec. 15. (12/7)
The Hill: White House Calls It ‘Mistake’ To Repeal Troop Vaccine Mandate, Won’t Say If Biden Would Veto Defense Bill 
The White House on Wednesday called it a “mistake” to repeal the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for military service members through the annual defense policy bill, but officials stopped short of saying President Biden would veto the legislation. “What we think happened here is Republicans in Congress have decided that they’d rather fight against the health and well-being of our troops than protecting them,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “And we believe that it is a mistake, what we saw happen on the NDAA as it relates to the vaccine mandate. Making sure our troops are prepared and ready for service is a priority for President Biden. The vaccination requirement for COVID does just that.” (Samuels, 12/7)
The Washington Post: Rollback Of Covid Vaccine Mandate Met With Furor At Pentagon 
Privately, some Defense Department personnel were even more pointed. One senior defense official said that when service members “inevitability get sick, and if they should die, it will be on the Republicans who insisted upon this.” The official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the polarizing issue, cited the sprawling coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in spring 2020. The vessel — a major power-projection weapon — was sidelined for weeks through a cumbersome quarantine process with more than 1,200 cases in a crew of about 4,800, and one sailor died. (Lamothe, Horton and Demirjian, 12/7)
Reuters: White House Slams Congress For Move To Rescind Military's Vaccine Mandate 
According to Defense Department data, 3,717 Marines, 1,816 soldiers and 2,064 sailors have been discharged for refusing to get vaccinated. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that more than 99 percent of active duty troops have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (12/7)
AP: EXPLAINER: What End Of Vaccine Mandate Means For US Troops 
Congress’ move to eliminate the Pentagon mandate that all U.S. service members get the COVID-19 vaccine delivers a victory for lawmakers and troops who oppose getting the shot, but it raises questions and potential risks, especially for forces deploying overseas. … The bill doesn’t include any order to allow a return to service by the more than 8,000 troops who were discharged for refusing to obey a lawful order when they refused to get the shot. And there appears to be no guarantee that those who don’t get the vaccine won’t see some potential deployment restrictions, which could affect their military careers. (Baldor, 12/7)
Reuters: U.S. Senate Panel Deadlocks On Abortion Rights Lawyer's Judicial Nomination 
A U.S. Senate panel on Thursday was deadlocked on whether to support President Joe Biden's nomination to the federal bench of an abortion rights lawyer who argued the losing side of the U.S. Supreme Court case that led to Roe v. Wade being overturned. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-11 along party lines on Julie Rikelman's nomination to the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals even as the panel agreed to advance 11 of Biden's other judicial nominees. (Raymond, 12/7)
The Hill: Lawmakers Face Closing Window To Pass Landmark Bipartisan Marijuana Bill 
Lawmakers are facing a rapidly closing window to get key marijuana legislation across the finish line in the lame-duck session. Despite fetching broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate, opposition from GOP leadership and a tightening timeline is chipping away at the bill’s chances of passage. (Folley and Evers-Hillstrom, 12/7)
Fierce Healthcare: Bill That Puts More Antibiotics On Market No Sure Thing
Bacteria resistant to antibiotics continue to be a problem that merits monitoring because the pathogens can possibly kick-start the next pandemic, but a bill before Congress promises to wheel new medicinal weapons into the contest. The Pioneering Antimicrobial Subscriptions to End Upsurging Resistance (PASTEUR) Act, if passed, would create a public-private effort to create new antibacterial medications by reassuring pharmaceutical companies that there’d be a market for their product. (Diamond, 12/7)
Politico: Biden At Gun Violence Vigil: Shared Grief And Another Call To Action 
Nearly a decade after 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Joe Biden joined their loved ones and survivors of the mass shooting at a national vigil Wednesday for victims of gun violence. … Biden became the first president to attend the National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence, which has honored more than 1 million gun violence victims since the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting in Newtown, Conn. (Ward and Olander, 12/7)
Bloomberg: Biden Pleads For New Assault Weapons Ban At Vigil For Shooting Victims
President Joe Biden pleaded for US lawmakers to again enact a ban on military-style semi-automatic rifles, outlining measures he believes would combat a scourge of gun violence in remarks at a vigil for shooting victims. (Gardner and Sink, 12/8)
USA Today: Opioid Epidemic: White House Launches New Dashboard Tracking Overdoses
The new database, which went live Thursday, could prevent the deadly impacts from opioids across the country. About 81,000 Americans have died in the past year due to the powerful substance, according to officials. (Rodriguez, 12/8)
Stat: ARPA-H’s New Director Wants To Go On A Hiring Spree 
President Biden’s new health agency with a sweeping mandate to cure some of the system’s biggest problems has one big message: Please apply. (Owermohle, 12/7)
Stat: FDA Chief Calls Agency’s Food Program ‘Under-Supported’
FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said the food side of the agency needs more attention Wednesday, the day after an agency-commissioned report recommended increasing the prominence of its food program. (Wilkerson, 12/7)
The Hill: FDA Gives Priority Review To Pfizer RSV Vaccine For Older Adults 
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accepted Pfizer’s application for an RSV vaccine for older adults, and is expected to make an approval decision by the spring. Pfizer in a statement on Wednesday said the FDA is going to review its application under the priority review program, which reduces the approval timeline by four months. The end of the review period is expected to be May 2023, Pfizer said. (Weixel, 12/7)
Roll Call: CDC Head Asks For COVID-19 Funding, Data As Hill Interest Fades
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is running out of ways to be creative with its limited pandemic funds and needs more flexibility from Congress, Director Rochelle Walensky told CQ Roll Call in an exclusive interview Wednesday. (Cohen and Clason, 12/7)
San Francisco Chronicle: Bivalent Booster No Match For BQ.1 And XBB Subvariants
In a study published Tuesday in Nature Medicine, scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch found the neutralizing antibodies of the bivalent booster shots, which prevent the virus from entering human cells, elicited a high neutralizing titer against BA.4 and BA.5 after 14 to 32 days but “did not produce robust neutralization against the newly emerged BA.2.75.2, BQ.1.1, or XBB.1.” (Vaziri, 12/7)
Los Angeles Times: Experimental Decoy Drug Tricks Coronavirus, Then Destroys It
The coronavirus has been a shifty foe, with new variants and subvariants rapidly evolving to evade vaccines and treatments. Researchers at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are working on an experimental drug that takes one of the virus’ most dangerous traits — its talent for mutation — and turns it back on itself. (Purtill and Healy, 12/7)
The Washington Post: Face Masks May Return Amid Holiday 'Tripledemic' Of Covid, Flu And RSV 
While mask mandates are unlikely in most parts of the country, health experts are renewing recommendations to wear a high-quality medical mask on public transportation, in airports and on planes, while shopping and in other crowded public spaces. What’s notable is that the mask recommendations this time aren’t just about avoiding the coronavirus. Masks are advised to protect against what is being called the “tripledemic” — a confluence of influenza, coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that already is straining hospitals and forcing parents to miss work in record numbers. (Nirappil and Parker-Pope, 12/7)
CIDRAP: New Data Link Disease Severity To Long COVID
An analysis in the Journal of Internal Medicine identifies several characteristics associated with a higher likelihood of developing long COVID, with the condition most common in patients who required treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU). (Soucheray, 12/7)
ABC News: Walgreens Launches Free Paxlovid Delivery Service With DoorDash And Uber
Walgreens has launched a new delivery service for the COVID-19 oral antiviral therapy Paxlovid in partnership with DoorDash and Uber to get the treatment "directly to the doorsteps of those who need it." (Pezenik, 12/8)
ABC News: Doctors Should Ask Heart Patients If They Take Supplements To Manage Heart Failure
Doctors should ask patients with heart failure if they’re using any supplements, specific diets, or other types of complementary and alternative medicines to help manage potential benefits and risks, the American Heart Association said in a scientific statement published Thursday. (12/8)
Fox News: Bullies In White Coats? 'Too Many' Health Care Workers Experience Toxic Workplaces, Studies Show
Some bullies wear white coats, new research reveals. While health care workers aim to treat their patients with compassion, empathy and respect, a significant number don’t follow those same ideals when working with each other, according to an article published recently by Massachusetts General Hospital. (Sudhakar, 12/8)
Stat: Hospital Parking Fees Impose Unjust Financial Burden, Study Says
For many patients, one of the most antagonizing parts of a hospital visit is paying for parking. Those parking fees aren’t just an annoyance for the sick and injured, according to a new paper in the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences. The charges are actually eating into their financial well-being, particularly for people who have cancer and have to make frequent visits to the hospital for treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. (Herman, 12/7)
The 19th: A New Museum And Clinic Will Honor The Enslaved “Mothers Of Gynecology”
33 S. Perry Street in Montgomery, Alabama, is a site of harrowing sacrifice that birthed modern gynecology. But though many know the breakthroughs that happened there, the dozens of enslaved women and girls who suffered for the medical standards that exist today are often erased. (Henry, 12/7)
Modern Healthcare: Amazon Ends Support For Alexa Tool With HIPAA Protections
Amazon is ending support for a program that allowed patients to share Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-protected information with hospitals and health insurers over its artificial intelligence-enabled device Alexa, the tech giant said Thursday. (Perna, 12/7)
Modern Healthcare: UnitedHealth-LHC Group Merger Delayed
A $5.4 billion proposed merger between UnitedHealth Group and LHC Group won't consummate as planned by the end year, LHC Group disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday. (Tepper, 12/7)
CNN: Ramesh 'Sunny' Balwani Sentenced To Nearly 13 Years In Prison For Fraud 
Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the former chief operating officer of failed blood testing startup Theranos, was sentenced Wednesday to nearly 13 years in prison for fraud. It marks an end to the stunning downfall of a high-flying Silicon Valley company that resulted in the rare convictions of two tech executives. (Thorbecke, 12/7)
Stat: Congress Has A Chance To Close The FDA’s Theranos Loophole
Theranos, and the company’s notoriously inaccurate blood tests, could potentially have been stopped earlier if Congress had acted to fix a regulatory loophole. Lawmakers are weighing now whether it’s better late than never. (Cohrs and Owermohle, 12/8)
MSN: Lasik Eye Surgery More Dangerous Than Previously Thought?
Lasik eye surgery has been known in the common vernacular as a surgery that is both beneficial and low-risk for quite some time now. And while that is generally true, there are reportedly risks that some doctors neglect to tell their patients about. According to an investigation done by the Food And Drug Administration (FDA), these risks include a list of complications ranging from prolonged and severe eye pain to still needing prescription lenses. (Eckert, 12/7)
Fox News: Ozempic Warning: Doctors Urge Caution For Those Using Diabetes Drug For Weight Loss
Some doctors are warning against using a drug intended to treat Type 2 diabetes for weight loss after some patients said it helped them shed a few pounds. Approved by the FDA in 2017, the diabetes treatment sold under the name Ozempic helps lower blood sugar, but many patients prescribed the medication reported weight loss as a positive side effect, according to Fox 35 Orlando. (Pritchett, 12/8)
The Boston Globe: Vor Biopharma Says First Patient Given Its Gene Editing Therapy For Leukemia Is In Remission
A Cambridge biotech company using CRISPR gene editing to develop therapies for blood cancers said that its experimental treatment for acute myeloid leukemia proved safe in the first recipient, who is currently in remission. (Cross, 12/7)
Stat: FDA Scolds Valisure, Which Raised Red Flags Over Drug Impurities
Two years after an independent laboratory began pushing the Food and Drug Administration to analyze various medicines for traces of carcinogens, the agency sent inspectors to the company and cited it for failing to comply with federal law. (Silverman, 12/7)
CNN: Statins Lower The Risk Of One Of The Deadliest Kinds Of Strokes, Study Finds 
Doctors know that drugs called statins lower a person’s risk of a stroke due to a blood clot. But a new study shows that the inexpensive medications can also decrease the risk of a first stroke as a result of an intracerebral hemorrhage, the deadliest kind. (Christensen, 12/7)
Becker's Hospital Review: Ohio Measles Outbreak Reaches Partially Vaccinated Kids
At least three partially vaccinated children in Central Ohio have contracted measles, marking the first cases in the region's outbreak that have not been among unvaccinated children. Fifty nine cases had been confirmed as of Dec. 7, according to a dashboard run by the health department in Columbus. All but three of those cases were among unvaccinated children. (Carbajal, 12/7)
AP: Middle Schoolers OD From Taking Pot-Laced Products On Campus
Four students at a Southern California school apparently overdosed Wednesday after eating marijuana-laced products and three of them were taken to the hospital, authorities said. Firefighters were sent to Sunnymead Middle School in Moreno Valley at about noon, Riverside County fire officials said. (12/8)
Bloomberg: Alcohol, Marijuana Use By US Drivers Are Rising Along With Road Deaths
Dangerous driving behaviors — from impaired driving to running red lights to speeding — rose last year, reversing declines since 2018, according to a new survey from the American Automobile Association. Motor vehicle fatalities increased 10.5% to almost 43,000 in 2021, AAA said, citing federal estimates. (Welch, 12/8)
WUSF Public Media: A Study Finds More Kids Struggling With Suicidal Thoughts. Florida Hospitals See It Firsthand
More children and teens are visiting emergency rooms for mental health crises, according to a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics. Some psychologists in Florida say they have been seeing a similar trend. (Colombini, 12/7)
The Colorado Sun: The Number Of Uninsured Colorado Kids Has Been On The Decline During The Pandemic. That Could Change
Colorado is among the states that made the most progress in a nationwide effort to connect kids with health insurance coverage during the pandemic, according to a report published Wednesday by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families. (Breunlin, 12/8)
The Washington Post: Keke Palmer’s Pregnancy Offers Hope To Women With PCOS 
Her announcement was particularly meaningful for people with polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. The hormonal disorder, which starts around puberty and can cause cysts in the ovaries, affects as many as 5 million women of reproductive age in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of its effects include abnormal periods, acne and excess face or body hair. It’s also one of the most common causes of infertility in women. (Chery, 12/7)
News Service of Florida: U.S. Supreme Court Refuses To Hear A Florida Diet Coach's First Amendment Case
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to take up a First Amendment challenge to a Florida law that prevented a woman from providing dietary advice to clients in her health and nutrition coaching business. The court on Monday said it would not hear the case filed by Heather Kokesch Del Castillo, who was cited by the Florida Department of Health in 2017 for getting paid to provide dietary advice without being a licensed dietitian or nutritionist. (Saunders, 12/7)
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