Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes
Kaiser Health News
We’re barreling toward November, folks. (How is it mid-October already?) As you might expect, election stories made up the bulk of the health care news this week. Other great gems and intriguing developments surfaced, though, so let’s get right to it.
Republicans on the campaign trail have been hammered by attack ads over their stance on the health law, with “preexisting conditions protections” — insurance safeguards for patients diagnosed with chronic illness — becoming a catch-all phrase for the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Even the law’s most vocal opponents have been reading tea leaves and softening their stances. That’s why statements from GOP leadership this week that Congress could revisit their “repeal” fight post-midterms may have landed with a thunk.
Democrats are pulling out a tried-and-true talking point that seemed perfectly timed for them as news of the federal deficit reignited Republican talk about cutting entitlement programs. Dems (who have been playing defense over Medicare) seized the opportunity to accuse Republicans of putting the beloved program on the chopping block.
As the parties duke it out on the trail, voters seem to agree on one thing: Our health care system is broken and someone needs to fix it. “It’s crippling people. It’s crippling me,” one voter says in Politico’s deep read that takes us to a Pennsylvania county where the “margins of electoral victories traditionally are as slim as the spectrum of political opinion is vast.”
On the state level, a Missouri Democrat opposed to abortion struggles to find her place in the party. And Georgia becomes a preview of the growing political clout of home health aides.
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The Trump administration this week proposed a requirement that pharma add drug prices to TV ads — triggering skepticism. One problem is that ad prices wouldn’t reflect what most people end up paying for a drug at the pharmacy counter.
What I found surprising, considering how common those ads are, is that just a few dozen drugmakers run any at all — nearly half are put out by five companies. Those manufacturers would bear the brunt of the new rules.
Trying to think outside the box to rein in high drug prices, several states are considering treating pharma as they would a public utility — with rate-setting bodies to review, approve or adjust medication prices.
And keep an eye on this battle: Minnesota became the first state to sue drugmakers over the price of insulin, but I don’t think it will be the last. The “life-or-death” drug has gotten a lot of attention recently, synthesizing the human toll of high costs into a digestible talking point.
Another 4,100 Arkansas beneficiaries were dropped from the state’s Medicaid rolls, and 4,800 more are at risk next month (on top of the original 4,353 people dropped last month) — all because of the state’s new work requirements. For critics of the restrictions, their worst fears are realized, while state and national officials focus on what they call positive outcomes. It’s unclear why so many workers are failing to report their hours, but experts suggest limited internet access and lack of knowledge about the requirements as possibilities.
Anthem was slammed this week with a $16 million settlement over its massive data breach. (Remember the biggest known health care hack in U.S. history?) That penalty is nearly three times the previous record paid over such a case.
I’m not sure whether it’s because I saturate myself in health care stories, but I detect a serious reckoning in the field of medical research. The latest call for retractions involves a prominent cardiologist.
In the miscellaneous must-read file:
• A mysterious polio-like illness that causes sudden paralysis is hitting children in states across the country. The wave of cases is similar to one officials saw in 2014 and 2016, but experts are baffled.
• I have to admit, this is the headline that most piqued my interest this week. Gene editing is such a hot field, but in the racially charged landscape of the country, scientists are worried their research into genes and genetic diversity will be twisted by hate groups to support their views.
• Why hasn’t #WhyIStayed caught on fire like #MeToo? Stigma, for one. But also the #MeToo movement has shown how powerful multiple accusations can be, amplified to the point they can’t be ignored. In a domestic violence situation, it’s often only one survivor speaking out.
• Viruses don’t always have to be a scary thing. This therapy uses bacteriophages — literally, eaters of bacteria — that inject themselves into germs and cause them to explode. (As this delightful image from the Stat article describes: The viruses can “pop bacteria the way middle schoolers pop zits.”)
• “Pregnant? Don’t want to be? Call Jane.” That’s how a clandestine underground abortion network advertised during the years leading up to Roe v. Wade, according to this retro report from the NYT.
It turns out, it is now scientifically supported that daylight helps kill germs indoors. So make sure to let the sun in this weekend! And have a good one.