First Edition: Sept. 29, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

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Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.
KHN: Turned Away From Urgent Care — And Toward A Big ER Bill 
Frankie Cook remembers last year’s car crash only in flashes. She was driving a friend home from high school on a winding road outside Rome, Georgia. She saw standing water from a recent rain. She tried to slow down but lost control of her car on a big curve. “The car flipped about three times,” Frankie said. “We spun around and went off the side of this hill. My car was on its side, and the back end was crushed up into a tree.” Frankie said the air bags deployed and both passengers were wearing seat belts, so she was left with just a headache when her father, Russell Cook, came to pick her up from the crash site. (Whitehead, 9/29)
KHN: Centene Agrees To Pay Massachusetts $14 Million Over Medicaid Prescription Claims 
Massachusetts has become the latest state to settle with health insurance giant Centene Corp. over allegations that it overbilled the state’s Medicaid program for pharmacy services, KHN has learned. Centene, the nation’s largest Medicaid managed-care insurer, will pay $14.2 million, according to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. An official announcement is expected later Thursday. (Miller and Young, 9/29)
KHN: Environmental Justice Leader Says Proposition 30 Would Help Struggling Areas Clear The Air
Ana Gonzalez grew up watching the Inland Empire transform from citrus groves and grapevines into warehouses and retail distribution centers. The booming region east of Los Angeles now comprises 4.65 million people — and 1 billion square feet of warehouse space. n 2015, one of those warehouses was built right in front of her old house, blocking her view of her suburban neighborhood. Soon thereafter, her son battled bronchitis and pneumonia. “It got so bad that I ended up taking him to the ER about three to four times a year,” she said. Her son, now 16, like so many others in the region developed asthma due to air pollution. She grew concerned that state policies were overlooking predominantly Hispanic and low-income residents in her community. (de Marco, 9/29)
KHN: Readers And Tweeters Take A Close Look At Eye Care Traps And White Mulberry Leaf
KHN gives readers a chance to comment on a recent batch of stories. (6/29)
The Washington Post: The FDA Issues New Guidelines On What Foods Can Be Labeled 'Healthy' 
The Food and Drug Administration announced new rules Wednesday for nutrition labels that can go on the front of food packages to indicate that they are “healthy.” Under the proposal, manufacturers can label their products “healthy” if they contain a meaningful amount of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups (such as fruit, vegetable or dairy) recommended by the dietary guidelines. They must also adhere to specific limits for certain nutrients, such as saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. For example, a cereal would need to contain three-quarters of an ounce of whole grains and no more than 1 gram of saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium and 2.5 grams of added sugars per serving for a food manufacturer to use the word “healthy” on the label. (Reiley, 9/28)
The Hill: FDA Proposes New Rules For ‘Healthy’ Label On Food Packaging 
According to the FDA, the new rules would change the definition of “healthy” to reflect “current nutrition science.” Under these new rules, more foods like nuts, seeds and certain oils would be permitted to be labelled as “healthy.” If the FDA’s proposed rules are adopted, foods labeled as “healthy” would need to have “meaningful” amounts of at least one food group or subgroup that is recommended by the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines. The products would also have to meet certain limitations on nutrients like saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. (Choi, 9/28)
AP: Biden On Ending Hunger In US: 'I Know We Can Do This' 
President Joe Biden said Wednesday his administration’s goal of ending hunger in the U.S. by the end of the decade was ambitious but doable, if only the nation would work together toward achieving it. “I know we can do this,” Biden told an auditorium full of public health officials, private companies and Americans who have experienced hunger. They were gathered for the first White House conference on hunger, nutrition and health since 1969. It was the president at his most optimistic, sketching out a future where no child in the U.S. would go hungry, and diet-related diseases would diminish because of better, healthier food alternatives and access to vast outdoor spaces. (Khalil and Superville, 9/28)
The Washington Post: White House Hosts Conference On Hunger, With $8B In Commitments 
Among the specific policies Biden previously promised: expanding free school meals to 9 million more children in the next decade; improving transportation options for an estimated 40 million Americans who have low access to grocery stores or farmers markets; reducing food waste (one-third of all food in the United States goes uneaten, the White House says); conducting more screenings for food insecurity; educating health-care providers on nutrition; reducing sodium and sugar in U.S. food products; addressing marketing that promotes fast food, sugary drinks, candy and unhealthful snacks; and building more parks in “nature-deprived communities.” (Viser, 9/28)
Modern Healthcare: Kaiser, Boston Medical Join $8B White House Food Insecurity Initiative
Healthcare organizations including Kaiser Permanente, Boston Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital are making investments in nutrition and food insecurity programs as part of a White House initiative aiming to end hunger and reduce diet-related disease by 2030. (Hartnett, 9/28)
AP: Hurricane Ian Strikes Florida Hospital From Above And Below
Hurricane Ian swamped a Florida hospital from both above and below, the storm surge flooding its lower level emergency room while fierce winds tore part of its fourth floor roof from its intensive care unit, according to a doctor who works there. Dr. Birgit Bodine spent the night at HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte, anticipating the storm would make things busy, “but we didn’t anticipate that the roof would blow off on the fourth floor,” she said. (Hartounian, 9/29)
Tampa Bay Times: Tampa General Fortifies For Ian With ‘Aqua Fence,’ Water-Tight Doors
While some of the region’s hospitals located in evacuation zones closed ahead of Hurricane Ian, that’s not an option for Tampa General Hospital. The hospital is the region’s only Level 1 trauma center. … So the hospital, which is licensed for more than 1,000 beds, has deployed an array of defenses against possible flooding and hopes to remain fully operational during Hurricane Ian. That includes deployment of an “aqua fence,” a water impermeable barrier that stretches around the hospital campus. (O'Donnell and Ogozalek, 9/28)
WCBD News 2 Charleston: Lowcountry Hospitals Preparing For Hurricane Ian Impacts
Hospitals across the Lowcountry are getting ready for the potential impacts of Hurricane Ian. “We have to be concerned about whether we need to shelter in place, or if we still have access to our facilities because people still have emergency medical conditions that need care, even though a storm is coming. People still have babies,” said Stephanie Palmer, the Emergency Management Program Manager at Roper St. Francis Healthcare. (Cioppa, 9/27)
Stat: Early Analysis Suggests Monkeypox Vaccine Is Reducing Risk Of Infection
A very preliminary analysis of data from 32 states appears to suggest that the monkeypox vaccine being used in the United States is reducing the risk of infection among vaccinated people, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday. (Branswell, 9/28)
The Washington Post: Should I Still Be Worried About Monkeypox?
The monkeypox outbreak is showing signs of slowing in the United States and around the globe. Daily U.S. infections now average around 200 after peaking around 450 in mid-August. Health officials attribute the decline to vaccines and behavioral change among gay men who have reduced sexual activity, the most common mode of transmission. But they’re also bracing for monkeypox to stick around as a background threat with periodic flare-ups. (Nirappil and Sun, 9/28)
NPR: Zoonotic Diseases Like COVID-19 And Monkeypox Will Become More Common, Experts Say
Researchers say these types of viruses, known as zoonotic diseases, or ones that spread between humans and animals, will become increasingly commonplace as factors such as the destruction of animal habitats and human expansion into previously uninhabited areas intensify. (Archie, 9/29)
Bloomberg: Monkeypox Update: WHO Renaming Effort Too Slow For Some
More than three months after the World Health Organization said it would combat the stigma and racism around the monkeypox virus with a new name, no decision has been made. (Ighodaro, 9/28)
AP: Scientists Honored For COVID-19 Tracker, Prenatal Test 
A Johns Hopkins University scientist who created a website to track COVID-19 cases worldwide is the recipient of this year’s Lasker award for public service. The $250,000 awards, announced Wednesday by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, recognize achievements in medical research. The public service award went to Lauren Gardner, an engineer who studies the spread of diseases. She worked with her lab team to develop the COVID-19 tracker as the coronavirus began spreading worldwide in January 2020. The dashboard became a key resource and now tracks global cases, deaths, vaccines and more. Through it all, the team has made the tracker freely available to the public. (Burakoff, 9/28)
CIDRAP: New Blood Test Aims To Predict Who Will Get Long COVID
In a small study today in eBioMedicine, researchers from University College London show that a blood sample taken at the time of COVID-19 infection could predict who would develop persistent symptoms up to 1 year later by using precise measurements of proteins. (9/28)
The Boston Globe: The Level Of Coronavirus In Eastern Mass. Waste Water Just Shot Up
An important indicator of the prevalence of COVID-19 infections, the levels of coronavirus detected in Eastern Massachusetts waste water shot up sharply in recent days. (Finucane and Huddle, 9/28)
The Wall Street Journal: Bionic Pancreas Shown To Manage Blood-Sugar Levels For Type 1 Diabetics 
A wearable device that automatically regulates blood-sugar levels was found to help people with Type 1 diabetes better manage their condition, potentially expanding the field of treatments for the chronic disease. The iLet bionic pancreas made by Concord, Mass.-based Beta Bionics helped people with Type 1 diabetes reduce average blood-sugar levels more effectively than other treatment methods including similar devices, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Mosbergen, 9/28)
The Wall Street Journal: Alzheimer’s Blockbuster Might Spur Investor Bonanza, Higher Medicare Costs
The Alzheimer’s drug data released Tuesday night aren’t only going to be transformative for Biogen, which has been struggling to get love from investors after its botched launch of Aduhelm. The results are also breathing new life into a class of anti-amyloid drugs that had been partially written off, increasing investor confidence that drugs from Eli Lilly and Roche Holding could also deliver positive results. (Wainer, 9/28)
Bloomberg: How Japanese Drugmaker Eisai Got The ‘Clean Win’ Over Alzheimer’s
Three decades after the presumed cause of Alzheimer’s disease was identified, a Japanese company little known outside of the pharmaceutical industry has become the first drugmaker to prove the debilitating condition can be slowed. (Matsuyama and Fay Cortez, 9/28)
Stat: Burning Questions Left Unanswered About The Latest Alzheimer’s Therapy
News of the first clearly successful clinical trial for a new Alzheimer’s disease treatment in two decades has brought hope, scrutiny, and skepticism to a field accustomed to disappointment. (Feuerstein, Garde and Cohrs, 9/29)
Reuters: Gilead Widens Battle Against Alleged Counterfeit HIV Drug Ring 
A federal judge in New York has frozen the assets of dozens of people and entities accused of operating a massive nationwide scheme to distribute counterfeit bottles of Gilead Sciences Inc HIV drugs, including two alleged "kingpins." Gilead, which has been pursuing alleged counterfeiters in a civil lawsuit since last year, said in a court filing unsealed on Wednesday it had uncovered an operation that was "staggering in scope," responsible for sales of hundreds of millions of dollars of counterfeit bottles of its top sellers Descovy, Genvoya and Biktarvy, and other medicines. (Pierson, 9/28)
Stat: Ebola Experimental Vaccine Trial May Begin Soon In Uganda
A clinical trial of one or perhaps two experimental vaccines designed to protect against the Ebola Sudan virus could soon begin in Uganda, as long as the country agrees to allow the research to take place, an official of the World Health Organization said Wednesday. (Branswell, 9/29)
Stat: Medicare Lays Out The Bureaucracy It Will Need To Negotiate Drug Prices
New documents obtained by STAT outline how Medicare is planning to build out a sizable new bureaucratic infrastructure to handle its new power to negotiate drug prices and penalize drugmakers for price hikes. (Cohrs, 9/29)
Modern Healthcare: Low-Wage Healthcare Job Benefits Increase Amid Labor Shortage
At 37% of hospital systems, benefit contributions charged to low-wage workers have been reduced, compared with 30% a year ago. Another 21% are considering such reductions in the next year, up from 15% last year, according to an annual survey released this week by financial-services firm Aon. The firm surveyed 145 health systems representing more than 1,200 hospitals and 2.6 million employees. (Hudson, 9/28)
Axios: Nonprofit Hospitals' Vague Charity Care Criteria
Tax-exempt hospitals revamped their charity care policies during the pandemic, in some cases using vague language to describe who was eligible and occasionally tightening access based on immigration status, according to an analysis in JAMA Network Open. (Dreher, 9/28)
Modern Healthcare: Nursing Homes, Senior Living Facilities Driving Healthcare Bankruptcies
From 2021 through June 2022, 30 senior care providers declared bankruptcy, representing more than half of bankrupticies among large healthcare companies with more than $10 million in liabilities during that time, according to Gibbins Advisors research. (Christ, 9/28)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: What To Know About A Backlog In Wisconsin Professional Licenses
While the issue has become a political talking point during a close gubernatorial race between incumbent Tony Evers and Republican challenger Tim Michels, doctors, nurses, and other critical health care professionals continue to wait. (Hess, 9/28)
Columbus Dispatch: Autopsies In Ohio: Montgomery County Helps Half Of State's Counties
As some families wait months to find out how their loved ones died and Ohio's county coroners spend millions of dollars for the services of forensic pathologists amid a nationwide shortage, one county has quietly become the Boardwalk in an unfortunate game of morgue Monopoly. (Shuda, 9/29)
The Boston Globe: Staffing Shortages Keep One-Fifth Of Psychiatric Beds Out Of Commission
The survey by the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association and the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems found that 19.9 percent of inpatient psychiatric beds at surveyed facilities were offline due to staffing shortages. That’s up from 9 percent in February 2021. (Bartlett, 9/28)
AP: Oregon Hospitals Sue State Over Mental Health Care Treatment 
Three of Oregon’s largest hospital systems are suing the state over its alleged lack of adequate mental health care, which they say has forced the hospital systems to house patients in need of mental health treatment for months. Providence Health & Services, Legacy Health and PeaceHealth say in the lawsuit the Oregon Health Authority has forced them to provide care they’re not equipped to give for patients who should be civilly committed to psychiatric institutions such as the Oregon State Hospital, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. (9/29)
The Wall Street Journal: Cerebral Treated A 17-Year-Old Without His Parents’ Consent. They Found Out The Day He Died
Telehealth startup Cerebral had software that could verify customer IDs but didn’t use it to check birth dates and other details, a policy that resulted in some minors being treated without parental consent, according to former employees and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. An internal memo reviewed by the Journal described the software ID check as an impediment to customer retention when Cerebral was trying to quickly enroll tens of thousands of customers for mental-health treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic. The company used software to capture selfies of patients but relied on clinicians to verify details such as ages during 30-minute video chats. (Safdar, 9/29)
Stat: Virtual Drug Screen Finds Possible Antidepressants In LSD-Like Molecules
What’s a hallucinogen without the hallucinations? Perhaps a potent and fast-acting antidepressant, according to a new study based on virtual drug screening. (Keshavan, 9/28)
NBC News: Dogs Can Smell When We're Stressed Out, A New Study Shows
The researchers also collected before and after measurements of heart rate and blood pressure and responses to questionnaires that asked about the volunteers’ stress levels before and after the math task. The dogs' accuracy at detecting the stress samples — from 90 percent to 96.88 percent — was even better than the researchers anticipated. (Carroll, 9/28)
USA Today: Teen Drinking Is Down But Marijuana Use Is Up, And More Popular, Study Suggests
The increase in cannabis use could be happening because the risk perception of the drug is steadily dropping, said Dr. Christian Hopfer, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, who was not involved in this study. (Martin, 9/28)
San Francisco Chronicle: S.F. Releases First-Of-Its Kind Drug Overdose Plan. Here’s What It Promises
The plan, released Wednesday by the Department of Public Health, calls for reducing overdoses in San Francisco by 15% by 2025, reducing racial disparities in overdose deaths by 30% by 2025 and increasing the number of people receiving medications for addiction treatment by 30% by 2025. (Moench and Mishanec, 9/28)
San Francisco Chronicle: How Many Abortion-Seekers Are Actually Traveling To California?
Not only is California one of a handful of states that doesn’t track the number of abortions providers perform, none of the new abortion-related legislation that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on Tuesday — much of it backed by $200 million in state funds — requires disclosure, either. (Garofoli and Bollag, 9/28)
Stateline: 'Shocking' Rise In STIs During COVID Alarms Health Workers
In 2019, Columbus, Ohio, had seven reported cases of congenital syphilis, or cases in which a newborn child was infected during pregnancy. Two years later, that number rose to 20. And now? “Year to date, we’ve already seen 28 cases,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, the city’s health commissioner. One of this year’s cases, she added, resulted in the death of a child. (Ollove, 9/28)
The Washington Post: Katie Couric, Cancer-Screening Advocate, Announces Her Own Diagnosis
Katie Couric announced Wednesday that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June and has undergone surgery and radiation treatment. In a first-person essay posted to her website, the news media personality, 65, said she received the Stage 1 diagnosis after missing an annual mammogram. (Rao, 9/28)
Fortune: Mammograms Can Help Prevent Breast Cancer, But 22% Of Women Have Never Had One 
Preventive care is crucial to detecting diseases, but with busy calendars and lengthy to-do lists, scheduling appointments isn’t always top of mind. According to a survey by Orlando Health, 22% of women between the ages of 35 to 44 have never gotten a mammogram and have no plans of getting one. The survey also revealed that less than half of U.S. women know their family history of breast cancer and only about a third know their individual risk factors for breast cancer. The findings are troubling to doctors who know that early detection is key to preventing breast cancer, which claims the lives of about 42,000 women each year. (Payton, 9/28)
Reuters: Amazon.Com Unveils Device That Tracks Breath While Sleeping Inc on Wednesday announced a contactless gadget that can monitor people's sleep, along with updates to its lineup of voice-controlled devices and e-readers. The online retailer said its $139.99 sleep gadget, known as Halo Rise, tracks room temperature, humidity and light, plus the breathing patterns of the person closest to it. The goal is to provide insight to users on why they may or may not feel well-rested when they wake up. (9/28)
The Hill: 200M Pounds Of Toxic Chemicals Dumped Into US Waterways In 2020: Analysis 
Polluters in just 10 states were responsible for more than half of the 193.6 million pounds of contaminants released into U.S. waterways in 2020, a new report has found. Toxic discharge flowed into one in every three local watersheds across the country and included many cancer-linked chemicals, according to the findings, published three weeks ahead of the Clean Water Act’s 50th anniversary. (Udasin, 9/28)
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