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HHS Proposes New Rules to Improve the Interoperability of Electronic Health Information

HHS Gov News - February 12, 2019

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today proposed new rules to support seamless and secure access, exchange, and use of electronic health information. The rules, issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), would increase choice and competition while fostering innovation that promotes patient access to and control over their health information. The proposed ONC rule would require that patient electronic access to this electronic health information (EHI) be made available at no cost.

“These proposed rules strive to bring the nation’s healthcare system one step closer to a point where patients and clinicians have the access they need to all of a patient’s health information, helping them in making better choices about care and treatment,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “By outlining specific requirements about electronic health information, we will be able to help patients, their caregivers, and providers securely access and share health information. These steps forward for health IT are essential to building a healthcare system that pays for value rather than procedures, especially through empowering patients as consumers.”

CMS’ proposed changes to the healthcare delivery system support the MyHealthEData initiative and would increase the seamless flow of health information, reduce burden on patients and providers, and foster innovation by unleashing data for researchers and innovators. In 2018, CMS finalized regulations that use potential payment reductions for hospitals and clinicians to encourage providers to improve patient access to their electronic health information. For the first time, CMS is now proposing requirements that Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare Advantage plans and Qualified Health Plans in the Federally-facilitated Exchanges must provide enrollees with immediate electronic access to medical claims and other health information electronically by 2020.

In support of patient-centered healthcare, CMS would also require these health care providers and plans to implement open data sharing technologies to support transitions of care as patients move between these plan types. By ensuring patients have easy access to their information, and that information follows them on their healthcare journey, we can reduce burden, and eliminate redundant procedures and testing thus giving clinicians the time to focus on improving care coordination and, ultimately, health outcomes.

“Today’s announcement builds on CMS’ efforts to create a more interoperable healthcare system, which improves patient access, seamless data exchange, and enhanced care coordination,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.  “By requiring health insurers to share their information in an accessible, format by 2020, 125 million patients will have access to their health claims information electronically. This unprecedented step toward a healthcare future where patients are able to obtain and share their health data, securely and privately, with just a few clicks, is just the beginning of a digital data revolution that truly empowers American patients.”

The CMS rule also proposes to publicly report providers or hospitals that participate in “information blocking,” practices that unreasonably limit the availability, disclosure, and use of electronic health information undermine efforts to improve interoperability.  Making this information publicly available may incentivize providers and clinicians to refrain from such practices.

ONC’s proposed rule promotes secure and more immediate access to health information for patients and their healthcare providers and new tools allowing for more choice in care and treatment. Specifically, the proposed rule calls on the healthcare industry to adopt standardized application programming interfaces (APIs), which will help allow individuals to securely and easily access structured and unstructured EHI formats using smartphones and other mobile devices. It also implements the information blocking provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act, including identifying reasonable and necessary activities that do not constitute information blocking. The proposed rule helps ensure that patients can electronically access their electronic health information at no cost. The proposed rule also asks for comments on pricing information that could be included as part of their EHI and would help the public see the prices they are paying for their healthcare.

“By supporting secure access of electronic health information and strongly discouraging information blocking, the proposed rule supports the bi-partisan 21st Century Cures Act. The rule would support patients accessing and sharing their electronic health information, while giving them the tools to shop for and coordinate their own health care,” said Don Rucker, M.D., National Coordinator for Health IT. “We encourage everyone – patients, patient advocates, healthcare providers, health IT developers, health information networks, application innovators, and anyone else interested in the interoperability and transparency of health information – to share their comments on the proposed rule we posted today.”

Policies in the proposed CMS and ONC rules align to advance interoperability in several important ways. CMS proposes that entities must conform to the same advanced API standards as those proposed for certified health IT in the ONC proposed rule, as well as including an aligned set of content and vocabulary standards for clinical data classes through the United States Core Data for Interoperability standard (USCDI). Together, these proposed rules address both technical and healthcare industry factors that create barriers to the interoperability of health information and limit a patient’s ability to access essential health information. Aligning these requirements for payers, health care providers, and health IT developers will help to drive an interoperable health IT infrastructure across systems, ensuring providers and patients have access to health data when and where it is needed.

For a fact sheet on the CMS proposed rule (CMS-9115-P), please visit: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/cms-advances-interoperability-patient-access-health-data-through-new-proposals

For fact sheets on the ONC proposed rule, please visit: https://healthit.gov/nprm

To receive more information about CMS’s interoperability efforts, sign-up for listserv notifications, here: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USCMS/subscriber/new?topic_id=USCMS_12443

To view the CMS proposed rule (CMS-9115-P), please visit: https://www.cms.gov/Center/Special-Topic/Interoperability-Center.html

OCR Finds the State of California Violated Federal Law in Discriminating Against Pregnancy Resource Centers

HHS Gov News - February 12, 2019

Today the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it found that the State of California violated the federal conscience protection laws known as the Weldon and Coats-Snowe Amendments. This is the first time since the launch of the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division a year ago that OCR has found a violation under these laws. This matter arose from complaints filed by Sacramento Life Center, LivingWell Medical Clinic, Pregnancy Center of the North Coast, and Confidence Pregnancy Center alleging that California subjected them to potential fines and discrimination for refusing to post notices referring for abortion.

California adopted the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act (the “FACT Act”) on October 9, 2015, which required pregnancy resource centers that met the FACT Act’s definition of “licensed covered facilities” to post notices stating that California provides free or low-cost family planning services and abortion. The FACT Act also required pregnancy resource centers that constituted “unlicensed covered facilities” under the Act to post notices in advertisements and communications. A violation of the FACT Act threatened civil fines of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

The Weldon and Coats-Snowe Amendments prohibit state and local governments that receive certain federal funds from subjecting health care entities to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not perform or refer for abortions.

On June 26, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court decided National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra (“NIFLA”), finding that the FACT Act likely violated the First Amendment rights of pregnancy resource centers by impermissibly compelling speech. In concurrence, Justice Kennedy stated that “viewpoint discrimination is inherent in the design and structure of [the] Act” and that California required “primarily pro-life pregnancy centers to promote the State’s own preferred message advertising abortions.”

OCR’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, established last year, conducted an independent investigation and determined that the FACT Act violated the Weldon and Coats-Snowe Amendments by requiring “licensed covered facilities” to refer for abortion and violated the Weldon amendment by subjecting “unlicensed covered facilities” to discrimination by targeting them for burdensome and unnecessary notice requirements because they do not refer for or make arrangements for abortion.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in NIFLA, a federal district court enjoined California from enforcing the FACT Act against any pregnancy resource center in the state. OCR is issuing its finding of violation for California’s unlawful discrimination, and, as a result of the permanent injunction, is closing the complaint as favorably resolved for the complainants and all similarly situated parties. If California were to violate the terms of the injunction it would be subject to a reopening of the complaints and further enforcement action by OCR.

Roger Severino, director of OCR, stated, “We are pleased that the Supreme Court blocked California’s blatant discrimination against non-profits that give life-affirming options to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Our violation finding underscores not only that California must follow the Constitution, but that it also must respect federal conscience protection laws when it accepts federal funds.”

View the California Notice of Violation

A ‘Fountain Of Youth’ Pill? Sure, If You’re A Mouse.

Kaiser Health News:Marketplace - February 11, 2019

Renowned Harvard University geneticist David Sinclair recently made a startling assertion: Scientific data shows he has knocked more than two decades off his biological age.

What’s the 49-year-old’s secret? He says his daily regimen includes ingesting a molecule his own research found improved the health and lengthened the life span of mice. Sinclair now boasts online that he has the lung capacity, cholesterol and blood pressure of a “young adult” and the “heart rate of an athlete.”

Despite his enthusiasm, published scientific research has not yet demonstrated the molecule works in humans as it does in mice. Sinclair, however, has a considerable financial stake in his claims being proven correct, and has lent his scientific prowess to commercializing possible life extension products such as molecules known as “NAD boosters.”

His financial interests include being listed as an inventor on a patent licensed to Elysium Health, a supplement company that sells a NAD booster in pills for $60 a bottle. He’s also an investor in InsideTracker, the company that he says measured his age.

Discerning hype from reality in the longevity field has become tougher than ever as reputable scientists such as Sinclair and pre-eminent institutions like Harvard align themselves with promising but unproven interventions — and at times promote and profit from them.

Fueling the excitement, investors pour billions of dollars into the field even as many of the products already on the market face fewer regulations and therefore a lower threshold of proof. 

“If you say you’re a terrific scientist and you have a treatment for aging, it gets a lot of attention,” said Jeffrey Flier, a former Harvard Medical School dean who has been critical of the hype. “There is financial incentive and inducement to overpromise before all the research is in.”

Mice frolic in Richard Miller’s pathology and geriatrics lab at the University of Michigan. Miller heads one of the three labs funded by NIH to test anti-aging substances on mice.(Melanie Maxwell for KHN)

Elysium, co-founded in 2014 by a prominent MIT scientist to commercialize the molecule nicotinamide riboside, a type of NAD booster, highlights its “exclusive” licensing agreement with Harvard and the Mayo Clinic and Sinclair’s role as an inventor. According to the company’s press release, the agreement is aimed at supplements that slow “aging and age-related diseases.”

Further adding scientific gravitas to its brand, the website lists eight Nobel laureates and 19 other prominent scientists who sit on its scientific advisory board. The company also advertises research partnerships with Harvard and U.K. universities Cambridge and Oxford.

Some scientists and institutions have grown uneasy with such ties. Cambridge’s Milner Therapeutics Institute announced in 2017 it would receive funding from Elysium, cementing a research “partnership.” But after hearing complaints from faculty that the institute was associating itself with an unproven supplement, it quietly decided not to renew the funding or the company’s membership to its “innovation” board.

“The sale of nutritional supplements of unproven clinical benefit is commonplace,” said Stephen O’Rahilly, the director of Cambridge’s Metabolic Research Laboratories who applauded his university for reassessing the arrangement. “What is unusual in this case is the extent to which institutions and individuals from the highest levels of the academy have been co-opted to provide scientific credibility for a product whose benefits to human health are unproven.”

The bottom line is I don’t try any of these things. Why don’t I? Because I’m not a mouse.

Felipe Sierra, the director of the division of aging biology at the National Institute on Aging at NIH

The Promise

A generation ago, scientists often ignored or debunked claims of a “fountain of youth” pill.

“Until about the early 1990s, it was kind of laughable that you could develop a pill that would slow aging,” said Richard Miller, a biogerontologist at the University of Michigan who heads one of three labs funded by the National Institutes of Health to test such promising substances on mice. “It was sort of a science fiction trope. Recent research has shown that pessimism is wrong.”

Mice given molecules such as rapamycin live as much as 20 percent longer. Other substances such as 17 alpha estradiol and the diabetes drug Acarbose have been shown to be just as effective — in mouse studies. Not only do mice live longer, but, depending on the substance, they avoid cancers, heart ailments and cognitive problems.

“Until about the early 1990s, it was kind of laughable that you could develop a pill that would slow aging,” says University of Michigan biogerontologist Richard Miller. “It was sort of a science fiction trope. Recent research has shown that pessimism is wrong.”(Melanie Maxwell for KHN)

But human metabolism is different from that of rodents. And our existence is unlike a mouse’s life in a cage. What is theoretically possible in the future remains unproven in humans and not ready for sale, experts say.

History is replete with examples of cures that worked on mice but not in people. Multiple drugs, for instance, have been effective at targeting an Alzheimer’s-like disease in mice yet have failed in humans.

“None of this is ready for prime time. The bottom line is I don’t try any of these things,” said Felipe Sierra, the director of the division of aging biology at the National Institute on Aging at NIH. “Why don’t I? Because I’m not a mouse.”

The Hype

Concerns about whether animal research could translate into human therapy have not stopped scientists from racing into the market, launching startups or lining up investors. Some true believers, including researchers and investors, are taking the substances themselves while promoting them as the next big thing in aging.

“While the buzz encourages investment in worthwhile research, scientists should avoid hyping specific [substances],” said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor who specializes in aging at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Yet some scientific findings are exaggerated to help commercialize them before clinical trials in humans demonstrate both safety and efficacy, he said.

“It’s a great gig if you can convince people to send money and use it to pay exorbitant salaries and do it for 20 years and make claims for 10,” Olshansky said. “You’ve lived the high life and get investors by whipping up excitement and saying the benefits will come sooner than they really are.”

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Promising findings in animal studies have stirred much of this enthusiasm.

Research by Sinclair and others helped spark interest in resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine, for its potential anti-aging properties. In 2004, Sinclair co-founded a company, Sirtris, to test resveratrol’s potential benefits and declared in an interview with the journal Science it was “as close to a miraculous molecule as you can find.” GlaxoSmithKline bought the company in 2008 for $720 million. By the time Glaxo halted the research in 2010 because of underwhelming results with possible side effects, Sinclair had already received $8 million from the sale, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents. He also had earned $297,000 a year in consulting fees from the company, according to The Wall Street Journal.

At the height of the buzz, Sinclair accepted a paid position with Shaklee, which sold a product made out of resveratrol. But he resigned after The Wall Street Journal highlighted positive comments he made about the product that the company had posted online. He said he never gave Shaklee permission to use his statements for marketing.

Harvard University geneticist David Sinclair poses for a portrait in the lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston last year.(Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Sinclair practices what he preaches — or promotes. On his LinkedIn bio and in media interviews, he describes how he now regularly takes resveratrol; the diabetes drug metformin, which holds promise in slowing aging; and nicotinamide mononucleotide, a substance known as NMN that his own research showed rejuvenated mice.

Of that study, he said in a video produced by Harvard that it “sets the stage for new medicines that will be able to restore blood flow in organs that have lost it, either through a heart attack, a stroke or even in patients with dementia.”

In an interview with KHN, Sinclair said he’s not recommending that others take those substances.

“I’m not claiming I’m actually younger. I’m just giving people the facts,” he said, adding that he’s sharing the test results from InsideTracker’s blood tests, which calculate biological age based on biomarkers in the blood. “They said I was 58, and then one or two blood tests later they said I was 31.4.”

InsideTracker sells an online age-tracking package to consumers for up to about $600. The company’s website highlights Sinclair’s support for the company as a member of its scientific advisory board. It also touts a study that describes the benefits of such tracking, which Sinclair co-authored.

Sinclair is involved either as a founder, an investor, an equity holder, a consultant or a board member with 28 companies, according to a list of his financial interests. At least 18 are involved in anti-aging in some way, including studying or commercializing NAD boosters. The interests range from longevity research startups aimed at humans and even pets to developing a product for a French skin care company to advising a longevity investment fund. He’s also an inventor named in the patent licensed by Harvard and the Mayo Clinic to Elysium, and one of his companies, MetroBiotech, has filed a patent related to nicotinamide mononucleotide, which he says he takes himself.

Sinclair and Harvard declined to release details on how much money he — or the university — is generating from these disclosed outside financial interests. Sinclair estimated in a 2017 interview with Australia’s Financial Review that he raises $3 million a year to fund his Harvard lab.

Liberty Biosecurity, a company he co-founded, estimated in Sinclair’s online bio that he has been involved in ventures that “have attracted more than a billion dollars in investment.” When KHN asked him to detail the characterization, he said it was inaccurate, without elaborating, and the comments later disappeared from the website.

Sinclair cited confidentiality agreements for not disclosing his earnings, but he added that “most of this income has been reinvested into companies developing breakthrough medicines, used to help my lab, or donated to nonprofits.” He said he did not know how much he stood to make off the Elysium patent, saying Harvard negotiated the agreement.

Harvard declined to release Sinclair’s conflict-of-interest statements, which university policy requires faculty at the medical school to file in order to “protect against any faculty bias that could heighten the risk of harm to human research participants or recipients of products resulting from such research.”

“We can only be proud of our collaborations if we can represent confidently that such relationships enhance, and do not detract from, the appropriateness and reliability of our work,” the policy states.

Elysium advertises both Harvard’s and Sinclair’s ties to its company. It was co-founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Leonard Guarente, Sinclair’s former research adviser and an investor in Sinclair’s Sirtris.

Echoing his earlier statements on resveratrol, Sinclair is quoted on Elysium’s website as describing NAD boosters as “one of the most important molecules for life.”

Supplement Loophole?

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t categorize aging as a disease, which means potential medicines aimed at longevity generally can’t undergo traditional clinical trials aimed at testing their effects on human aging. In addition, the FDA does not require supplements to undergo the same safety or efficacy testing as pharmaceuticals.

The banner headline on Elysium’s website said that “clinical trial results prove safety and efficacy” of its supplement, Basis, which contains the molecule nicotinamide riboside and pterostilbene. But the company’s research did not demonstrate the supplement was effective at anti-aging in humans, as it may be in mice. It simply showed the pill increased the levels of the substance in blood cells.

“Elysium is selling pills to people online with the assertion that the pills are ‘clinically proven’” said O’Rahilly. “Thus far, however the benefits and risks of this change in chemistry in humans is unknown.”

“Many interventions that seem sensible on the basis of research in animals turn out to have unexpected effects in man,” he added, citing a large clinical trial of beta carotene that showed it increased rather than decreased the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

Elysium’s own research documented a “small but significant increase in cholesterol,” but added more studies were needed to determine whether the changes were “real or due to chance.” One independent study has suggested that a component of NAD may influence the growth of some cancers, but researchers involved in the study warned it was too early to know.

Guarente, Elysium’s co-founder and chief scientist, told KHN he isn’t worried about any side effects from Basis, and he emphasized that his company is dedicated to conducting solid research. He said his company monitors customers’ safety reports and advises customers with health issues to consult with their doctors before using it.

If a substance meets the FDA’s definition of a supplement and is advertised that way, then the agency can’t take action unless it proves a danger, said Alta Charo, a former bioethics policy adviser to the Obama administration. Pharmaceuticals must demonstrate safety and efficacy before being marketed.

“A lot of what goes on here is really, really careful phrasing for what you say the thing is for,” said Charo, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin. “If they’re marketing it as a cure for a disease, then they get in trouble with the FDA. If they’re marketing it as a rejuvenator, then the FDA is hamstrung until a danger to the public is proven.”

“This is a recipe for some really unfortunate problems down the road,” Charo added. “We may be lucky and it may turn out that a lot of this stuff turns out to be benignly useless. But for all we know, it’ll be dangerous.”

The debate about the risks and benefits of substances that have yet to be proven to work in humans has triggered a debate over whether research institutions are scrutinizing the financial interests and involvement of their faculty — or the institution itself — closely enough. It remains to be seen whether Cambridge’s decision not to renew its partnership will prompt others to rethink such ties.

Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, had earlier heard complaints and looked into the relationships between scientists and Elysium after he stepped down as dean. He said he discovered that many of the board members who allowed their names and pictures to be posted on the company website knew little about the scientific basis for use of the company’s supplement.

Flier recalls that one scientist had no real role in advising the company and never attended a company meeting. Even so, Elysium was paying him for his role on the board, Flier said.

Caroline Perry, director of communications for Harvard’s Office of Technology Development, said agreements such as Harvard’s acceptance of research funds from Elysium comply with university policies and “protect the traditional academic independence of the researchers.”

Harvard “enters into research agreements with corporate partners who express a commitment to advancing science by supporting research led by Harvard faculty,” Perry added.

Like Harvard, the Mayo Clinic refused to release details on how much money it would make off the Elysium licensing agreement. Mayo and Harvard engaged in “substantial diligence and extended negotiations” before entering into the agreement, said a Mayo spokeswoman.

“The company provided convincing proof that they are committed to developing products supported by scientific evidence,” said the spokeswoman, Duska Anastasijevic.

Guarente of Elysium refused to say how much he or Elysium was earning off the sale of the supplement Basis. MIT would not release his conflict-of-interest statements.

Private investment funds, meanwhile, continue to pour into longevity research despite questions about whether the substances work in people.

One key Elysium investor is the Morningside Group, a private equity firm run by Harvard’s top donor, Gerald Chan, who also gave $350 million to the Harvard School of Public Health.

Billionaire and WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann has invested in Sinclair’s Life Biosciences.

An investment firm led by engineer and physician Peter Diamandis gave a group of Harvard researchers $5.5 million for their startup company after their research was publicly challenged by several other scientists.

In its announcement of the seed money, the company, Elevian, said its goal was to develop “new medicines” that increase the activity levels of the hormone GDF11 “to potentially prevent and treat age-related diseases.”

It described research by its founders, which include Harvard’s Amy Wagers and Richard Lee, as demonstrating that “replenishing a single circulating factor, GDF11, in old animals mirrors the effects of young blood, repairing the heart, brain, muscle and other tissues.”

Other respected labs in the field have either failed to replicate or contradict key elements of their observations.

Elevian’s CEO, Mark Allen, said the early scientific data on GDF11 is encouraging, but “drug discovery and development is a time-intensive, risky, regulated process requiring many years of research, preclinical [animal] studies, and human clinical trials to successfully bring new drugs to market.”

Flier worries research in the longevity field could be compromised, although he recognizes the importance and promise of the science. He said he’s concerned that alliances between billionaires and scientists could lead to less skepticism.

“A susceptible billionaire meets a very good salesman scientist who looks him deeply in the eyes and says, ‘There’s no reason why we can’t have a therapy that will let you live 400 or 600 years,’” Flier said. “The billionaire will look back and see someone who is at MIT or Harvard and say, ‘Show me what you can do.’”

Despite concerns about the hype, scientists are hopeful of finding a way forward by relying on hard evidence. The consensus: A pill is on the horizon. It’s just a matter of time — and solid research.

“If you want to make money, hiring a sales rep to push something that hasn’t been tested is a really great strategy,” said Miller, who is testing substances on mice. “If instead you want to find drugs that work in people, you take a very different approach. It doesn’t involve sales pitches. It involves the long, laborious, slogging process of actually doing research.”

KHN senior correspondent Jay Hancock contributed to this report.

A ‘Fountain Of Youth’ Pill? Sure, If You’re A Mouse.

Renowned Harvard University geneticist David Sinclair recently made a startling assertion: Scientific data shows he has knocked more than two decades off his biological age.

What’s the 49-year-old’s secret? He says his daily regimen includes ingesting a molecule his own research found improved the health and lengthened the life span of mice. Sinclair now boasts online that he has the lung capacity, cholesterol and blood pressure of a “young adult” and the “heart rate of an athlete.”

Despite his enthusiasm, published scientific research has not yet demonstrated the molecule works in humans as it does in mice. Sinclair, however, has a considerable financial stake in his claims being proven correct, and has lent his scientific prowess to commercializing possible life extension products such as molecules known as “NAD boosters.”

His financial interests include being listed as an inventor on a patent licensed to Elysium Health, a supplement company that sells a NAD booster in pills for $60 a bottle. He’s also an investor in InsideTracker, the company that he says measured his age.

Discerning hype from reality in the longevity field has become tougher than ever as reputable scientists such as Sinclair and pre-eminent institutions like Harvard align themselves with promising but unproven interventions — and at times promote and profit from them.

Fueling the excitement, investors pour billions of dollars into the field even as many of the products already on the market face fewer regulations and therefore a lower threshold of proof. 

“If you say you’re a terrific scientist and you have a treatment for aging, it gets a lot of attention,” said Jeffrey Flier, a former Harvard Medical School dean who has been critical of the hype. “There is financial incentive and inducement to overpromise before all the research is in.”

Mice frolic in Richard Miller’s pathology and geriatrics lab at the University of Michigan. Miller heads one of the three labs funded by NIH to test anti-aging substances on mice.(Melanie Maxwell for KHN)

Elysium, co-founded in 2014 by a prominent MIT scientist to commercialize the molecule nicotinamide riboside, a type of NAD booster, highlights its “exclusive” licensing agreement with Harvard and the Mayo Clinic and Sinclair’s role as an inventor. According to the company’s press release, the agreement is aimed at supplements that slow “aging and age-related diseases.”

Further adding scientific gravitas to its brand, the website lists eight Nobel laureates and 19 other prominent scientists who sit on its scientific advisory board. The company also advertises research partnerships with Harvard and U.K. universities Cambridge and Oxford.

Some scientists and institutions have grown uneasy with such ties. Cambridge’s Milner Therapeutics Institute announced in 2017 it would receive funding from Elysium, cementing a research “partnership.” But after hearing complaints from faculty that the institute was associating itself with an unproven supplement, it quietly decided not to renew the funding or the company’s membership to its “innovation” board.

“The sale of nutritional supplements of unproven clinical benefit is commonplace,” said Stephen O’Rahilly, the director of Cambridge’s Metabolic Research Laboratories who applauded his university for reassessing the arrangement. “What is unusual in this case is the extent to which institutions and individuals from the highest levels of the academy have been co-opted to provide scientific credibility for a product whose benefits to human health are unproven.”

The bottom line is I don’t try any of these things. Why don’t I? Because I’m not a mouse.

Felipe Sierra, the director of the division of aging biology at the National Institute on Aging at NIH

The Promise

A generation ago, scientists often ignored or debunked claims of a “fountain of youth” pill.

“Until about the early 1990s, it was kind of laughable that you could develop a pill that would slow aging,” said Richard Miller, a biogerontologist at the University of Michigan who heads one of three labs funded by the National Institutes of Health to test such promising substances on mice. “It was sort of a science fiction trope. Recent research has shown that pessimism is wrong.”

Mice given molecules such as rapamycin live as much as 20 percent longer. Other substances such as 17 alpha estradiol and the diabetes drug Acarbose have been shown to be just as effective — in mouse studies. Not only do mice live longer, but, depending on the substance, they avoid cancers, heart ailments and cognitive problems.

“Until about the early 1990s, it was kind of laughable that you could develop a pill that would slow aging,” says University of Michigan biogerontologist Richard Miller. “It was sort of a science fiction trope. Recent research has shown that pessimism is wrong.”(Melanie Maxwell for KHN)

But human metabolism is different from that of rodents. And our existence is unlike a mouse’s life in a cage. What is theoretically possible in the future remains unproven in humans and not ready for sale, experts say.

History is replete with examples of cures that worked on mice but not in people. Multiple drugs, for instance, have been effective at targeting an Alzheimer’s-like disease in mice yet have failed in humans.

“None of this is ready for prime time. The bottom line is I don’t try any of these things,” said Felipe Sierra, the director of the division of aging biology at the National Institute on Aging at NIH. “Why don’t I? Because I’m not a mouse.”

The Hype

Concerns about whether animal research could translate into human therapy have not stopped scientists from racing into the market, launching startups or lining up investors. Some true believers, including researchers and investors, are taking the substances themselves while promoting them as the next big thing in aging.

“While the buzz encourages investment in worthwhile research, scientists should avoid hyping specific [substances],” said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor who specializes in aging at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Yet some scientific findings are exaggerated to help commercialize them before clinical trials in humans demonstrate both safety and efficacy, he said.

“It’s a great gig if you can convince people to send money and use it to pay exorbitant salaries and do it for 20 years and make claims for 10,” Olshansky said. “You’ve lived the high life and get investors by whipping up excitement and saying the benefits will come sooner than they really are.”

Email Sign-Up

Subscribe to KHN’s free Morning Briefing.

Sign Up Please confirm your email address below: Sign Up

Promising findings in animal studies have stirred much of this enthusiasm.

Research by Sinclair and others helped spark interest in resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine, for its potential anti-aging properties. In 2004, Sinclair co-founded a company, Sirtris, to test resveratrol’s potential benefits and declared in an interview with the journal Science it was “as close to a miraculous molecule as you can find.” GlaxoSmithKline bought the company in 2008 for $720 million. By the time Glaxo halted the research in 2010 because of underwhelming results with possible side effects, Sinclair had already received $8 million from the sale, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents. He also had earned $297,000 a year in consulting fees from the company, according to The Wall Street Journal.

At the height of the buzz, Sinclair accepted a paid position with Shaklee, which sold a product made out of resveratrol. But he resigned after The Wall Street Journal highlighted positive comments he made about the product that the company had posted online. He said he never gave Shaklee permission to use his statements for marketing.

Harvard University geneticist David Sinclair poses for a portrait in the lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston last year.(Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Sinclair practices what he preaches — or promotes. On his LinkedIn bio and in media interviews, he describes how he now regularly takes resveratrol; the diabetes drug metformin, which holds promise in slowing aging; and nicotinamide mononucleotide, a substance known as NMN that his own research showed rejuvenated mice.

Of that study, he said in a video produced by Harvard that it “sets the stage for new medicines that will be able to restore blood flow in organs that have lost it, either through a heart attack, a stroke or even in patients with dementia.”

In an interview with KHN, Sinclair said he’s not recommending that others take those substances.

“I’m not claiming I’m actually younger. I’m just giving people the facts,” he said, adding that he’s sharing the test results from InsideTracker’s blood tests, which calculate biological age based on biomarkers in the blood. “They said I was 58, and then one or two blood tests later they said I was 31.4.”

InsideTracker sells an online age-tracking package to consumers for up to about $600. The company’s website highlights Sinclair’s support for the company as a member of its scientific advisory board. It also touts a study that describes the benefits of such tracking, which Sinclair co-authored.

Sinclair is involved either as a founder, an investor, an equity holder, a consultant or a board member with 28 companies, according to a list of his financial interests. At least 18 are involved in anti-aging in some way, including studying or commercializing NAD boosters. The interests range from longevity research startups aimed at humans and even pets to developing a product for a French skin care company to advising a longevity investment fund. He’s also an inventor named in the patent licensed by Harvard and the Mayo Clinic to Elysium, and one of his companies, MetroBiotech, has filed a patent related to nicotinamide mononucleotide, which he says he takes himself.

Sinclair and Harvard declined to release details on how much money he — or the university — is generating from these disclosed outside financial interests. Sinclair estimated in a 2017 interview with Australia’s Financial Review that he raises $3 million a year to fund his Harvard lab.

Liberty Biosecurity, a company he co-founded, estimated in Sinclair’s online bio that he has been involved in ventures that “have attracted more than a billion dollars in investment.” When KHN asked him to detail the characterization, he said it was inaccurate, without elaborating, and the comments later disappeared from the website.

Sinclair cited confidentiality agreements for not disclosing his earnings, but he added that “most of this income has been reinvested into companies developing breakthrough medicines, used to help my lab, or donated to nonprofits.” He said he did not know how much he stood to make off the Elysium patent, saying Harvard negotiated the agreement.

Harvard declined to release Sinclair’s conflict-of-interest statements, which university policy requires faculty at the medical school to file in order to “protect against any faculty bias that could heighten the risk of harm to human research participants or recipients of products resulting from such research.”

“We can only be proud of our collaborations if we can represent confidently that such relationships enhance, and do not detract from, the appropriateness and reliability of our work,” the policy states.

Elysium advertises both Harvard’s and Sinclair’s ties to its company. It was co-founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Leonard Guarente, Sinclair’s former research adviser and an investor in Sinclair’s Sirtris.

Echoing his earlier statements on resveratrol, Sinclair is quoted on Elysium’s website as describing NAD boosters as “one of the most important molecules for life.”

Supplement Loophole?

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t categorize aging as a disease, which means potential medicines aimed at longevity generally can’t undergo traditional clinical trials aimed at testing their effects on human aging. In addition, the FDA does not require supplements to undergo the same safety or efficacy testing as pharmaceuticals.

The banner headline on Elysium’s website said that “clinical trial results prove safety and efficacy” of its supplement, Basis, which contains the molecule nicotinamide riboside and pterostilbene. But the company’s research did not demonstrate the supplement was effective at anti-aging in humans, as it may be in mice. It simply showed the pill increased the levels of the substance in blood cells.

“Elysium is selling pills to people online with the assertion that the pills are ‘clinically proven’” said O’Rahilly. “Thus far, however the benefits and risks of this change in chemistry in humans is unknown.”

“Many interventions that seem sensible on the basis of research in animals turn out to have unexpected effects in man,” he added, citing a large clinical trial of beta carotene that showed it increased rather than decreased the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

Elysium’s own research documented a “small but significant increase in cholesterol,” but added more studies were needed to determine whether the changes were “real or due to chance.” One independent study has suggested that a component of NAD may influence the growth of some cancers, but researchers involved in the study warned it was too early to know.

Guarente, Elysium’s co-founder and chief scientist, told KHN he isn’t worried about any side effects from Basis, and he emphasized that his company is dedicated to conducting solid research. He said his company monitors customers’ safety reports and advises customers with health issues to consult with their doctors before using it.

If a substance meets the FDA’s definition of a supplement and is advertised that way, then the agency can’t take action unless it proves a danger, said Alta Charo, a former bioethics policy adviser to the Obama administration. Pharmaceuticals must demonstrate safety and efficacy before being marketed.

“A lot of what goes on here is really, really careful phrasing for what you say the thing is for,” said Charo, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin. “If they’re marketing it as a cure for a disease, then they get in trouble with the FDA. If they’re marketing it as a rejuvenator, then the FDA is hamstrung until a danger to the public is proven.”

“This is a recipe for some really unfortunate problems down the road,” Charo added. “We may be lucky and it may turn out that a lot of this stuff turns out to be benignly useless. But for all we know, it’ll be dangerous.”

The debate about the risks and benefits of substances that have yet to be proven to work in humans has triggered a debate over whether research institutions are scrutinizing the financial interests and involvement of their faculty — or the institution itself — closely enough. It remains to be seen whether Cambridge’s decision not to renew its partnership will prompt others to rethink such ties.

Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, had earlier heard complaints and looked into the relationships between scientists and Elysium after he stepped down as dean. He said he discovered that many of the board members who allowed their names and pictures to be posted on the company website knew little about the scientific basis for use of the company’s supplement.

Flier recalls that one scientist had no real role in advising the company and never attended a company meeting. Even so, Elysium was paying him for his role on the board, Flier said.

Caroline Perry, director of communications for Harvard’s Office of Technology Development, said agreements such as Harvard’s acceptance of research funds from Elysium comply with university policies and “protect the traditional academic independence of the researchers.”

Harvard “enters into research agreements with corporate partners who express a commitment to advancing science by supporting research led by Harvard faculty,” Perry added.

Like Harvard, the Mayo Clinic refused to release details on how much money it would make off the Elysium licensing agreement. Mayo and Harvard engaged in “substantial diligence and extended negotiations” before entering into the agreement, said a Mayo spokeswoman.

“The company provided convincing proof that they are committed to developing products supported by scientific evidence,” said the spokeswoman, Duska Anastasijevic.

Guarente of Elysium refused to say how much he or Elysium was earning off the sale of the supplement Basis. MIT would not release his conflict-of-interest statements.

Private investment funds, meanwhile, continue to pour into longevity research despite questions about whether the substances work in people.

One key Elysium investor is the Morningside Group, a private equity firm run by Harvard’s top donor, Gerald Chan, who also gave $350 million to the Harvard School of Public Health.

Billionaire and WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann has invested in Sinclair’s Life Biosciences.

An investment firm led by engineer and physician Peter Diamandis gave a group of Harvard researchers $5.5 million for their startup company after their research was publicly challenged by several other scientists.

In its announcement of the seed money, the company, Elevian, said its goal was to develop “new medicines” that increase the activity levels of the hormone GDF11 “to potentially prevent and treat age-related diseases.”

It described research by its founders, which include Harvard’s Amy Wagers and Richard Lee, as demonstrating that “replenishing a single circulating factor, GDF11, in old animals mirrors the effects of young blood, repairing the heart, brain, muscle and other tissues.”

Other respected labs in the field have either failed to replicate or contradict key elements of their observations.

Elevian’s CEO, Mark Allen, said the early scientific data on GDF11 is encouraging, but “drug discovery and development is a time-intensive, risky, regulated process requiring many years of research, preclinical [animal] studies, and human clinical trials to successfully bring new drugs to market.”

Flier worries research in the longevity field could be compromised, although he recognizes the importance and promise of the science. He said he’s concerned that alliances between billionaires and scientists could lead to less skepticism.

“A susceptible billionaire meets a very good salesman scientist who looks him deeply in the eyes and says, ‘There’s no reason why we can’t have a therapy that will let you live 400 or 600 years,’” Flier said. “The billionaire will look back and see someone who is at MIT or Harvard and say, ‘Show me what you can do.’”

Despite concerns about the hype, scientists are hopeful of finding a way forward by relying on hard evidence. The consensus: A pill is on the horizon. It’s just a matter of time — and solid research.

“If you want to make money, hiring a sales rep to push something that hasn’t been tested is a really great strategy,” said Miller, who is testing substances on mice. “If instead you want to find drugs that work in people, you take a very different approach. It doesn’t involve sales pitches. It involves the long, laborious, slogging process of actually doing research.”

KHN senior correspondent Jay Hancock contributed to this report.

Direct And Unfiltered: John Dingell’s Popular Health Care Tweets

Kaiser Health News:The Health Law - February 08, 2019

Former Rep. John Dingell, who died Thursday, was known for his strong opinions during his nearly 60 years in Congress. And even after leaving Congress, he continued to express his views through a lively, partisan — and sometimes earthy — Twitter account that attracted a keen following of more than 265,000 supporters and critics.

Related Story: Former Rep. John Dingell Dies; Longest-Serving Congressman Was A Force In Health Policy

Although his posts dealt with a wide variety of issues, Dingell’s longtime devotion to improving health care was a frequent topic.

Here is a small sampling of his musings on health care. Click on the examples to see the full post and retweets.

From his many years championing health reform in Congress, Dingell could offer a unique historical perspective of the efforts to expand coverage, a quest he said would make “my pop” proud.

Who knew health care could be so complicated?

— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) March 21, 2017

Dingell took great pride in the passage of the Affordable Care Act. He acknowledged it wasn’t perfect. “The only perfect law was handed to Moses on stone tablets by God himself.”

Was Obamacare perfect? Hell no. The only perfect law was handed to Moses on stone tablets by God himself. Obamacare was an important start.

— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) March 22, 2017

He had no patience with Republican lawmakers’ efforts to repeal and replace the ACA.

House GOP had the better half of a decade to provide a viable alternative to the ACA. Instead, they scribbled some tax cuts on a bar napkin.

— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) March 7, 2017

And he didn’t take kindly to efforts by “knaves and know-nothings” in recent years to add work requirements to Medicaid programs.

Republicans love trying to tack work requirements onto basic services like nutrition assistance and now even Medicaid.

How about some work requirements for this White House staff? I want a daily report on what these knaves and know-nothings actually do each day. Trump included.

— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) August 14, 2018

He clearly enjoyed jousting with friends and foes on Twitter.

.@MEPFuller I passed Medicare and the Civil Rights Act. Surely someone else can get the blame for this place. cc: @anthonyweiner

— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) February 28, 2015

Utah Voters Approved Medicaid Expansion, But State Lawmakers Are Balking

Kaiser Health News:Medicaid - February 08, 2019

[UPDATED at 4:30 p.m. ET]

Utah residents may have thought they were done fighting about Medicaid expansion last November. But when Utah lawmakers opened a new legislative session in late January, they began pushing through a bill to roll back the scope and impact of an expansion that voters approved in a ballot measure.

That scaled-back version of Medicaid expansion passed the Utah House on Friday by a 56-19 vote.

The activists who pushed the ballot measure are not pleased.

“We were very clear about what we wanted,” said Andrew Roberts, a spokesman for Utah Decides, the group that organized the Medicaid expansion referendum, known as Proposition 3. “We are frustrated, and I think Utahns are frustrated.”

That frustration led his group to hire a billboard truck to drive in circles around the Capitol building and through the snowy streets of Salt Lake City and its suburbs. Signs on the sides of the truck flash phrases in LED lights, including “Support democracy. Support Utah’s vote.” A looping video advertisement urges residents to call lawmakers “who don’t respect the will of the people.”

After six years of talking about Medicaid expansion, voters approved the ballot measure on Nov. 6, with 53 percent in favor. If implemented fully, 150,000 Utahns would gain coverage. The skinny expansion — which the state Senate and governor support — will also need federal approval.

Similar legislative efforts to curtail expansion are also happening in Idaho, where voters passed a Medicaid expansion initiative in November. Sixty-one percent of voters were in favor. Idaho lawmakers are considering ways to scale that program back.

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In politically and fiscally conservative Utah, legislators argue the 0.15 percent non-food sales tax that voters approved won’t be enough to pay for Medicaid expansion. So they’ll pass an expansion, but only a very limited one.

Voters “wanted Medicaid expansion, and that’s what we’re doing,” said Republican state Sen. Allen Christensen. But, he added, the voters “didn’t fill in the proper blanks. We are filling in those blanks for them. They are not obligated to balance the budget. We are.”

Christensen is leading the rollback effort in Utah. His alternative proposal, SB 96, would cap the number of individuals who would qualify for Medicaid, add work requirements and lower the annual income limit. Proposition 3 supporters had wanted the coverage available for people who made up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or nearly $17,000 a year. But Christensen’s bill would offer Medicaid coverage only to people who made less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $12,000 for an individual.

Making those changes would require the state of Utah to get approval for two federal waivers from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Proposition 3 supporters point out that similar requests from other states have been denied.

“From the perspective of voters, I think voters have a right to be furious right now,” said Matt Slonaker, executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project, another group that has supported Medicaid expansion.

Slonaker said changing the scope of Proposition 3 would mean fewer people getting health coverage, and the state would receive less money from the federal government. He also fears it could make voters feel disillusioned.

“Why would voters ever want to pursue ballot initiatives and direct democracy if the legislature’s just going to repeal it anyway?” Slonaker asked.

While some Utah lawmakers, such as Christensen, describe being “philosophically opposed” to Medicaid expansion, much of the political debate in Utah is about how much expansion will cost, and whether the new sales tax will pay for it. Supporters point to the fiscal experience of other states.

“You should think of Medicaid expansion as no different than if you said, ‘Oh, hey, somebody’s going to go open up a factory,'” said Bryce Ward, an economist at the University of Montana, in Missoula. “And that factory is going to bring, in the case of Montana, $600 million of outside money into the state that we’re going to pay to workers here.”

Ward recently published a report on the economic impacts of Medicaid expansion in Montana during the first two years of that program. He said it brought in about $600 million dollars in new funds to the state per year. That money supported about 6,000 jobs, he added, or about $350 million in additional income for residents.

Ward said states like his also can take advantage of savings, because Medicaid expansion makes providing health care to certain groups, like prisoners, more affordable. While states do have to pay 10 percent of the cost of expanded Medicaid (the federal government covers 90 percent — a more generous “match” than traditional Medicaid), the combination of savings and economic growth meant that, in the case of Montana, the program basically pays for itself, Ward said.

“The benefits that people in Utah have is that people like me in other states have done the work trying to figure this out,” he said. “Or at least get some ballpark estimates of it.”

So far, Utah lawmakers remain unconvinced by studies like Ward’s. The bill to restrict Medicaid expansion is moving fast, and could reach the governor’s desk as soon as next week.

This story is part of a partnership that includes KUERNPR and Kaiser Health News.

Utah Voters Approved Medicaid Expansion, But State Lawmakers Are Balking

Kaiser Health News:States - February 08, 2019

[UPDATED at 4:30 p.m. ET]

Utah residents may have thought they were done fighting about Medicaid expansion last November. But when Utah lawmakers opened a new legislative session in late January, they began pushing through a bill to roll back the scope and impact of an expansion that voters approved in a ballot measure.

That scaled-back version of Medicaid expansion passed the Utah House on Friday by a 56-19 vote.

The activists who pushed the ballot measure are not pleased.

“We were very clear about what we wanted,” said Andrew Roberts, a spokesman for Utah Decides, the group that organized the Medicaid expansion referendum, known as Proposition 3. “We are frustrated, and I think Utahns are frustrated.”

That frustration led his group to hire a billboard truck to drive in circles around the Capitol building and through the snowy streets of Salt Lake City and its suburbs. Signs on the sides of the truck flash phrases in LED lights, including “Support democracy. Support Utah’s vote.” A looping video advertisement urges residents to call lawmakers “who don’t respect the will of the people.”

After six years of talking about Medicaid expansion, voters approved the ballot measure on Nov. 6, with 53 percent in favor. If implemented fully, 150,000 Utahns would gain coverage. The skinny expansion — which the state Senate and governor support — will also need federal approval.

Similar legislative efforts to curtail expansion are also happening in Idaho, where voters passed a Medicaid expansion initiative in November. Sixty-one percent of voters were in favor. Idaho lawmakers are considering ways to scale that program back.

Email Sign-Up

Subscribe to KHN’s free Morning Briefing.

Sign Up Please confirm your email address below: Sign Up

In politically and fiscally conservative Utah, legislators argue the 0.15 percent non-food sales tax that voters approved won’t be enough to pay for Medicaid expansion. So they’ll pass an expansion, but only a very limited one.

Voters “wanted Medicaid expansion, and that’s what we’re doing,” said Republican state Sen. Allen Christensen. But, he added, the voters “didn’t fill in the proper blanks. We are filling in those blanks for them. They are not obligated to balance the budget. We are.”

Christensen is leading the rollback effort in Utah. His alternative proposal, SB 96, would cap the number of individuals who would qualify for Medicaid, add work requirements and lower the annual income limit. Proposition 3 supporters had wanted the coverage available for people who made up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or nearly $17,000 a year. But Christensen’s bill would offer Medicaid coverage only to people who made less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $12,000 for an individual.

Making those changes would require the state of Utah to get approval for two federal waivers from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Proposition 3 supporters point out that similar requests from other states have been denied.

“From the perspective of voters, I think voters have a right to be furious right now,” said Matt Slonaker, executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project, another group that has supported Medicaid expansion.

Slonaker said changing the scope of Proposition 3 would mean fewer people getting health coverage, and the state would receive less money from the federal government. He also fears it could make voters feel disillusioned.

“Why would voters ever want to pursue ballot initiatives and direct democracy if the legislature’s just going to repeal it anyway?” Slonaker asked.

While some Utah lawmakers, such as Christensen, describe being “philosophically opposed” to Medicaid expansion, much of the political debate in Utah is about how much expansion will cost, and whether the new sales tax will pay for it. Supporters point to the fiscal experience of other states.

“You should think of Medicaid expansion as no different than if you said, ‘Oh, hey, somebody’s going to go open up a factory,'” said Bryce Ward, an economist at the University of Montana, in Missoula. “And that factory is going to bring, in the case of Montana, $600 million of outside money into the state that we’re going to pay to workers here.”

Ward recently published a report on the economic impacts of Medicaid expansion in Montana during the first two years of that program. He said it brought in about $600 million dollars in new funds to the state per year. That money supported about 6,000 jobs, he added, or about $350 million in additional income for residents.

Ward said states like his also can take advantage of savings, because Medicaid expansion makes providing health care to certain groups, like prisoners, more affordable. While states do have to pay 10 percent of the cost of expanded Medicaid (the federal government covers 90 percent — a more generous “match” than traditional Medicaid), the combination of savings and economic growth meant that, in the case of Montana, the program basically pays for itself, Ward said.

“The benefits that people in Utah have is that people like me in other states have done the work trying to figure this out,” he said. “Or at least get some ballpark estimates of it.”

So far, Utah lawmakers remain unconvinced by studies like Ward’s. The bill to restrict Medicaid expansion is moving fast, and could reach the governor’s desk as soon as next week.

This story is part of a partnership that includes KUERNPR and Kaiser Health News.

Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Kaiser Health News:Medicaid - February 08, 2019
The Friday Breeze

Newsletter editor Brianna Labuskes, who reads everything on health care to compile our daily Morning Briefing, offers the best and most provocative stories for the weekend.

Happy Friday! Also known as the day President Donald Trump is getting his second annual physical. Last year, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson attributed the president’s “excellent health” to good genes and God. Will this year be different with a new physician?

The headliner from this week was obviously the State of the Union address, so let’s get right to it.

Trump’s pledge to end the HIV epidemic was greeted with cautious optimism — laced with a heavy dose of skepticism. The administration’s plan involves targeting HIV hot spots and increasing access to medications that treat and prevent the disease. However, the lack of specific details in Trump’s address have HIV advocates nervous. “To date, this administration’s actions speak louder than words and have moved us in the wrong direction,” said AIDS United.

The Associated Press: Trump Launching Campaign to End HIV Epidemic in US by 2030

Kaiser Health News: Trump Pledges To End HIV Transmission By 2030. Doable, But Daunting.

When it comes to high drug prices, Trump had very simple instructions for Congress: “Do more.” The response, as you can imagine, was mixed. Some Democrats saw it as an invitation to work on an issue that could be one of the few bipartisan successes emerging from the current Congress. Others don’t have any interest in getting on board with the president’s policies — which include capping U.S. drug payments based on prices paid abroad.

Stat: Democrats Can’t Decide How to React to Trump’s Call for ‘More’ on Drug Pricing

Meanwhile, in his address, Trump used a pretty wonky (as in, in the weeds) metric to praise his administration’s efforts on bringing down drug prices. The consumer price index, at best, doesn’t tell the full story of costs, and experts say that, given how complicated the system has become (i.e. with rebates), it has outlived its usefulness.

Stat: Trump Claims Drug Prices Have Fallen. But He’s Cherry-Picking That Data

Recent controversies over abortions provided Trump the perfect opportunity, as he starts to gear up for 2020, to give a little love to a highly valued segment of his base. Virginia’s governor had made comments last week that led to accusations that he supported infanticide; and New York just passed a bill that protects against efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade. Trump used those incidents as a springboard to call on Congress to ban “late-term abortions.” And the language he used in the speech — “All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God” — is being seen as a play for evangelical voters.

The Associated Press: With Anti-Abortion Push, Trump Woos Evangelicals Again

Doctors weighed in on the debate with this reality check: Clinically, there is no such thing as a “late-term abortion.” See what else they say the president got wrong.

The New York Times: What Is Late-Term Abortion? Trump Got It Wrong

Childhood cancer also got a shout-out in the SOTU. Although it has an 80 percent cure rate, scientists say that number is skewed by the tremendous progress that’s been made against childhood leukemia. Other pediatric cancers have a long way to go. (And so they are welcoming the $500 million with open arms and a distinct list of ideas.)

Stat: Scientists Have Ideas to Spend Trump’s Money for Childhood Cancer

The Friday Breeze

Want a roundup of the must-read stories this week chosen by KHN Newsletter Editor Brianna Labuskes? Sign up for The Friday Breeze today.

Sign Up Please confirm your email address below: Sign Up

Former Rep. John Dingell died on Thursday at age 92. Lawmakers and politicians praised the country’s longest-serving congressman, calling him a “beloved pillar of the Congress” who is leaving behind “a towering legacy.” One common thread in the heartfelt messages was the impact he had on America’s health care. “He had a long tradition of introducing legislation on the first day of each new Congress to guarantee health care for every single American,” former President Barack Obama wrote. “Because of him, we’ve come closer to that vision than ever before. And when we finally achieve it — and we will — we’ll all owe him our gratitude.”

The Washington Post: Colleagues, friends remember John Dingell, an ‘American legend’ and ‘beloved pillar of Congress’

Fresh off their midterm victories, Democrats are wasting no time setting up hearings to secure protections for people with preexisting conditions. Any legislation would be mostly symbolic because it would face an all-but-certain death in the Republican-controlled Senate, but it solidifies talking points that have been successful for Democrats recently.

The New York Times: Democrats Unite to Begin Push to Protect Pre-Existing Condition Coverage

If you’re confused about Trump’s rebate proposal join the (very crowded) club. But here’s the bottom line: Most patients will pay a little more since their premiums will go up (because insurers would no longer be able to apply rebate money from the drugs to lower premiums). However, people who take outrageously expensive medication will get relief. Experts say the trade-off is worth it.

The New York Times: How Trump’s Latest Plan to Cut Drug Prices Will Affect You

How does a drug that, until December, was free to patients now have a $375,000 price tag? Paint Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … curious … to say the least.

Stat: Sanders Calls Price of a Rare Disease Drug ‘Immoral Exploitation’

Court watchers were eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on a Louisiana admitting-privileges law — the first real gauge of how the new dynamics of the court will play out with abortion decisions. The Louisiana restrictions are quite similar to ones knocked down in a 2016 ruling, but the court is also more conservative than it was at that time. For now, Chief Justice John Roberts disappointed his conservative colleagues by joining with the liberal justices in issuing a stay on the law. The decision likely means the court will take up the issue in its next term, which starts in October.

The New York Times: Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Law

Medicaid expansion advocates were ecstatic last year when ballot initiatives proved a successful way to circumnavigate red-state legislatures that had been blocking changes to the program. This week, a bucket of cold water has doused that enthusiasm as lawmakers in both Utah and Idaho scramble to counter the expansion as much as possible. While the proposals — like adding work requirements — gain popularity in red states across the country, the fact it’s happening at all after voters OK’d the expansion highlights the reality that ballot initiatives can do only so much.

The New York Times: In Utah and Idaho, G.O.P. Looks to Curb Medicaid Expansions That Voters Approved

In a startling, horrifying trend, veterans have been killing themselves in VA parking lots in what experts see as a protest against a system that failed them. The latest was a Marine colonel who, dressed in his uniform blues and medals, sat on top of his military and VA records and shot himself with a rifle outside the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs. “It’s very important for the VA to recognize that the place of a suicide can have great meaning. There is a real moral imperative and invitation here to take a close inspection of the quality of services at the facility level,” said Dr. Eric Caine, director of the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention at the University of Rochester.

The Washington Post: Parking Lot Suicides at Veterans Hospitals Prompt Calls for Better Staff Training, Prevention Efforts

Meanwhile, USA Today released a comprehensive analysis on the quality of VA hospitals versus civilian ones. Some of the scores came back positive (death rates, on the whole, were lower at VA facilities); others that look at preventable infection rates and bedsores hinted at neglect. USAT offers a very cool look-up tool if you want to see how your clinic fared.

USA Today: Death Rates, ER Waits: Where Every VA Hospital Lags, Leads Other Care

An HHS official is arguing that pulling separated migrant children from their sponsor homes to reunite them with their families would do more harm than good psychologically at this point. Jonathan White, an official leading HHS’ reunification efforts, said in a court filing that it would make more sense for the government to focus on children who were still in custody. The ACLU called the position a “shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents, and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them.”

The Associated Press: US Sees Limitations on Reuniting Migrant Families

In the miscellaneous file for the week:

• There’s a long history of mistrust between the African-American community and medical professionals, and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s photo involving black face pressed sharply against that never-healed wound. (At the time, Northam was graduating from medical school on his way to becoming a pediatrician.)

The Associated Press: Blackface Photo Reopens Long History of Bigotry in Medicine

• Anecdotal evidence was thick on the ground that women were seeking emergency contraception in the wake of Trump’s election victory. Now there are numbers to back it up.

The Hill: Demand for Certain Forms of Contraception Increased After Trump’s Election: Study

• Could an infamous party drug really help quiet suicidal ideation in the midst of an ever-worsening crisis? This fascinating history on the use of ketamine is well-worth the read.

Bloomberg: Ketamine Could Soon Be Used to Treat Suicidal Ideation

• “It’s like throwing a match into a can of gasoline,” experts say of the measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest. Are they just the norm now? And why were there so many kids who weren’t vaccinated?

The New York Times: ‘A Match Into a Can of Gasoline’: Measles Outbreak Now an Emergency in Washington State

CNN: Measles Rarely Kills in the US — But When It Does, Here’s How 

I was delighted this morning over the fact that scientists had a major breakthrough in creating a way to take insulin in pill form because of … turtles! Last week hedgehogs, this week turtles. I swear the Breeze isn’t turning into an animal news newsletter (or is it?). Have a great weekend!

Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Kaiser Health News:States - February 08, 2019
The Friday Breeze

Newsletter editor Brianna Labuskes, who reads everything on health care to compile our daily Morning Briefing, offers the best and most provocative stories for the weekend.

Happy Friday! Also known as the day President Donald Trump is getting his second annual physical. Last year, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson attributed the president’s “excellent health” to good genes and God. Will this year be different with a new physician?

The headliner from this week was obviously the State of the Union address, so let’s get right to it.

Trump’s pledge to end the HIV epidemic was greeted with cautious optimism — laced with a heavy dose of skepticism. The administration’s plan involves targeting HIV hot spots and increasing access to medications that treat and prevent the disease. However, the lack of specific details in Trump’s address have HIV advocates nervous. “To date, this administration’s actions speak louder than words and have moved us in the wrong direction,” said AIDS United.

The Associated Press: Trump Launching Campaign to End HIV Epidemic in US by 2030

Kaiser Health News: Trump Pledges To End HIV Transmission By 2030. Doable, But Daunting.

When it comes to high drug prices, Trump had very simple instructions for Congress: “Do more.” The response, as you can imagine, was mixed. Some Democrats saw it as an invitation to work on an issue that could be one of the few bipartisan successes emerging from the current Congress. Others don’t have any interest in getting on board with the president’s policies — which include capping U.S. drug payments based on prices paid abroad.

Stat: Democrats Can’t Decide How to React to Trump’s Call for ‘More’ on Drug Pricing

Meanwhile, in his address, Trump used a pretty wonky (as in, in the weeds) metric to praise his administration’s efforts on bringing down drug prices. The consumer price index, at best, doesn’t tell the full story of costs, and experts say that, given how complicated the system has become (i.e. with rebates), it has outlived its usefulness.

Stat: Trump Claims Drug Prices Have Fallen. But He’s Cherry-Picking That Data

Recent controversies over abortions provided Trump the perfect opportunity, as he starts to gear up for 2020, to give a little love to a highly valued segment of his base. Virginia’s governor had made comments last week that led to accusations that he supported infanticide; and New York just passed a bill that protects against efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade. Trump used those incidents as a springboard to call on Congress to ban “late-term abortions.” And the language he used in the speech — “All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God” — is being seen as a play for evangelical voters.

The Associated Press: With Anti-Abortion Push, Trump Woos Evangelicals Again

Doctors weighed in on the debate with this reality check: Clinically, there is no such thing as a “late-term abortion.” See what else they say the president got wrong.

The New York Times: What Is Late-Term Abortion? Trump Got It Wrong

Childhood cancer also got a shout-out in the SOTU. Although it has an 80 percent cure rate, scientists say that number is skewed by the tremendous progress that’s been made against childhood leukemia. Other pediatric cancers have a long way to go. (And so they are welcoming the $500 million with open arms and a distinct list of ideas.)

Stat: Scientists Have Ideas to Spend Trump’s Money for Childhood Cancer

The Friday Breeze

Want a roundup of the must-read stories this week chosen by KHN Newsletter Editor Brianna Labuskes? Sign up for The Friday Breeze today.

Sign Up Please confirm your email address below: Sign Up

Former Rep. John Dingell died on Thursday at age 92. Lawmakers and politicians praised the country’s longest-serving congressman, calling him a “beloved pillar of the Congress” who is leaving behind “a towering legacy.” One common thread in the heartfelt messages was the impact he had on America’s health care. “He had a long tradition of introducing legislation on the first day of each new Congress to guarantee health care for every single American,” former President Barack Obama wrote. “Because of him, we’ve come closer to that vision than ever before. And when we finally achieve it — and we will — we’ll all owe him our gratitude.”

The Washington Post: Colleagues, friends remember John Dingell, an ‘American legend’ and ‘beloved pillar of Congress’

Fresh off their midterm victories, Democrats are wasting no time setting up hearings to secure protections for people with preexisting conditions. Any legislation would be mostly symbolic because it would face an all-but-certain death in the Republican-controlled Senate, but it solidifies talking points that have been successful for Democrats recently.

The New York Times: Democrats Unite to Begin Push to Protect Pre-Existing Condition Coverage

If you’re confused about Trump’s rebate proposal join the (very crowded) club. But here’s the bottom line: Most patients will pay a little more since their premiums will go up (because insurers would no longer be able to apply rebate money from the drugs to lower premiums). However, people who take outrageously expensive medication will get relief. Experts say the trade-off is worth it.

The New York Times: How Trump’s Latest Plan to Cut Drug Prices Will Affect You

How does a drug that, until December, was free to patients now have a $375,000 price tag? Paint Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … curious … to say the least.

Stat: Sanders Calls Price of a Rare Disease Drug ‘Immoral Exploitation’

Court watchers were eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on a Louisiana admitting-privileges law — the first real gauge of how the new dynamics of the court will play out with abortion decisions. The Louisiana restrictions are quite similar to ones knocked down in a 2016 ruling, but the court is also more conservative than it was at that time. For now, Chief Justice John Roberts disappointed his conservative colleagues by joining with the liberal justices in issuing a stay on the law. The decision likely means the court will take up the issue in its next term, which starts in October.

The New York Times: Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Law

Medicaid expansion advocates were ecstatic last year when ballot initiatives proved a successful way to circumnavigate red-state legislatures that had been blocking changes to the program. This week, a bucket of cold water has doused that enthusiasm as lawmakers in both Utah and Idaho scramble to counter the expansion as much as possible. While the proposals — like adding work requirements — gain popularity in red states across the country, the fact it’s happening at all after voters OK’d the expansion highlights the reality that ballot initiatives can do only so much.

The New York Times: In Utah and Idaho, G.O.P. Looks to Curb Medicaid Expansions That Voters Approved

In a startling, horrifying trend, veterans have been killing themselves in VA parking lots in what experts see as a protest against a system that failed them. The latest was a Marine colonel who, dressed in his uniform blues and medals, sat on top of his military and VA records and shot himself with a rifle outside the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs. “It’s very important for the VA to recognize that the place of a suicide can have great meaning. There is a real moral imperative and invitation here to take a close inspection of the quality of services at the facility level,” said Dr. Eric Caine, director of the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention at the University of Rochester.

The Washington Post: Parking Lot Suicides at Veterans Hospitals Prompt Calls for Better Staff Training, Prevention Efforts

Meanwhile, USA Today released a comprehensive analysis on the quality of VA hospitals versus civilian ones. Some of the scores came back positive (death rates, on the whole, were lower at VA facilities); others that look at preventable infection rates and bedsores hinted at neglect. USAT offers a very cool look-up tool if you want to see how your clinic fared.

USA Today: Death Rates, ER Waits: Where Every VA Hospital Lags, Leads Other Care

An HHS official is arguing that pulling separated migrant children from their sponsor homes to reunite them with their families would do more harm than good psychologically at this point. Jonathan White, an official leading HHS’ reunification efforts, said in a court filing that it would make more sense for the government to focus on children who were still in custody. The ACLU called the position a “shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents, and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them.”

The Associated Press: US Sees Limitations on Reuniting Migrant Families

In the miscellaneous file for the week:

• There’s a long history of mistrust between the African-American community and medical professionals, and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s photo involving black face pressed sharply against that never-healed wound. (At the time, Northam was graduating from medical school on his way to becoming a pediatrician.)

The Associated Press: Blackface Photo Reopens Long History of Bigotry in Medicine

• Anecdotal evidence was thick on the ground that women were seeking emergency contraception in the wake of Trump’s election victory. Now there are numbers to back it up.

The Hill: Demand for Certain Forms of Contraception Increased After Trump’s Election: Study

• Could an infamous party drug really help quiet suicidal ideation in the midst of an ever-worsening crisis? This fascinating history on the use of ketamine is well-worth the read.

Bloomberg: Ketamine Could Soon Be Used to Treat Suicidal Ideation

• “It’s like throwing a match into a can of gasoline,” experts say of the measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest. Are they just the norm now? And why were there so many kids who weren’t vaccinated?

The New York Times: ‘A Match Into a Can of Gasoline’: Measles Outbreak Now an Emergency in Washington State

CNN: Measles Rarely Kills in the US — But When It Does, Here’s How 

I was delighted this morning over the fact that scientists had a major breakthrough in creating a way to take insulin in pill form because of … turtles! Last week hedgehogs, this week turtles. I swear the Breeze isn’t turning into an animal news newsletter (or is it?). Have a great weekend!

Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Kaiser Health News:Marketplace - February 08, 2019
The Friday Breeze

Newsletter editor Brianna Labuskes, who reads everything on health care to compile our daily Morning Briefing, offers the best and most provocative stories for the weekend.

Happy Friday! Also known as the day President Donald Trump is getting his second annual physical. Last year, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson attributed the president’s “excellent health” to good genes and God. Will this year be different with a new physician?

The headliner from this week was obviously the State of the Union address, so let’s get right to it.

Trump’s pledge to end the HIV epidemic was greeted with cautious optimism — laced with a heavy dose of skepticism. The administration’s plan involves targeting HIV hot spots and increasing access to medications that treat and prevent the disease. However, the lack of specific details in Trump’s address have HIV advocates nervous. “To date, this administration’s actions speak louder than words and have moved us in the wrong direction,” said AIDS United.

The Associated Press: Trump Launching Campaign to End HIV Epidemic in US by 2030

Kaiser Health News: Trump Pledges To End HIV Transmission By 2030. Doable, But Daunting.

When it comes to high drug prices, Trump had very simple instructions for Congress: “Do more.” The response, as you can imagine, was mixed. Some Democrats saw it as an invitation to work on an issue that could be one of the few bipartisan successes emerging from the current Congress. Others don’t have any interest in getting on board with the president’s policies — which include capping U.S. drug payments based on prices paid abroad.

Stat: Democrats Can’t Decide How to React to Trump’s Call for ‘More’ on Drug Pricing

Meanwhile, in his address, Trump used a pretty wonky (as in, in the weeds) metric to praise his administration’s efforts on bringing down drug prices. The consumer price index, at best, doesn’t tell the full story of costs, and experts say that, given how complicated the system has become (i.e. with rebates), it has outlived its usefulness.

Stat: Trump Claims Drug Prices Have Fallen. But He’s Cherry-Picking That Data

Recent controversies over abortions provided Trump the perfect opportunity, as he starts to gear up for 2020, to give a little love to a highly valued segment of his base. Virginia’s governor had made comments last week that led to accusations that he supported infanticide; and New York just passed a bill that protects against efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade. Trump used those incidents as a springboard to call on Congress to ban “late-term abortions.” And the language he used in the speech — “All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God” — is being seen as a play for evangelical voters.

The Associated Press: With Anti-Abortion Push, Trump Woos Evangelicals Again

Doctors weighed in on the debate with this reality check: Clinically, there is no such thing as a “late-term abortion.” See what else they say the president got wrong.

The New York Times: What Is Late-Term Abortion? Trump Got It Wrong

Childhood cancer also got a shout-out in the SOTU. Although it has an 80 percent cure rate, scientists say that number is skewed by the tremendous progress that’s been made against childhood leukemia. Other pediatric cancers have a long way to go. (And so they are welcoming the $500 million with open arms and a distinct list of ideas.)

Stat: Scientists Have Ideas to Spend Trump’s Money for Childhood Cancer

The Friday Breeze

Want a roundup of the must-read stories this week chosen by KHN Newsletter Editor Brianna Labuskes? Sign up for The Friday Breeze today.

Sign Up Please confirm your email address below: Sign Up

Former Rep. John Dingell died on Thursday at age 92. Lawmakers and politicians praised the country’s longest-serving congressman, calling him a “beloved pillar of the Congress” who is leaving behind “a towering legacy.” One common thread in the heartfelt messages was the impact he had on America’s health care. “He had a long tradition of introducing legislation on the first day of each new Congress to guarantee health care for every single American,” former President Barack Obama wrote. “Because of him, we’ve come closer to that vision than ever before. And when we finally achieve it — and we will — we’ll all owe him our gratitude.”

The Washington Post: Colleagues, friends remember John Dingell, an ‘American legend’ and ‘beloved pillar of Congress’

Fresh off their midterm victories, Democrats are wasting no time setting up hearings to secure protections for people with preexisting conditions. Any legislation would be mostly symbolic because it would face an all-but-certain death in the Republican-controlled Senate, but it solidifies talking points that have been successful for Democrats recently.

The New York Times: Democrats Unite to Begin Push to Protect Pre-Existing Condition Coverage

If you’re confused about Trump’s rebate proposal join the (very crowded) club. But here’s the bottom line: Most patients will pay a little more since their premiums will go up (because insurers would no longer be able to apply rebate money from the drugs to lower premiums). However, people who take outrageously expensive medication will get relief. Experts say the trade-off is worth it.

The New York Times: How Trump’s Latest Plan to Cut Drug Prices Will Affect You

How does a drug that, until December, was free to patients now have a $375,000 price tag? Paint Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … curious … to say the least.

Stat: Sanders Calls Price of a Rare Disease Drug ‘Immoral Exploitation’

Court watchers were eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on a Louisiana admitting-privileges law — the first real gauge of how the new dynamics of the court will play out with abortion decisions. The Louisiana restrictions are quite similar to ones knocked down in a 2016 ruling, but the court is also more conservative than it was at that time. For now, Chief Justice John Roberts disappointed his conservative colleagues by joining with the liberal justices in issuing a stay on the law. The decision likely means the court will take up the issue in its next term, which starts in October.

The New York Times: Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Law

Medicaid expansion advocates were ecstatic last year when ballot initiatives proved a successful way to circumnavigate red-state legislatures that had been blocking changes to the program. This week, a bucket of cold water has doused that enthusiasm as lawmakers in both Utah and Idaho scramble to counter the expansion as much as possible. While the proposals — like adding work requirements — gain popularity in red states across the country, the fact it’s happening at all after voters OK’d the expansion highlights the reality that ballot initiatives can do only so much.

The New York Times: In Utah and Idaho, G.O.P. Looks to Curb Medicaid Expansions That Voters Approved

In a startling, horrifying trend, veterans have been killing themselves in VA parking lots in what experts see as a protest against a system that failed them. The latest was a Marine colonel who, dressed in his uniform blues and medals, sat on top of his military and VA records and shot himself with a rifle outside the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs. “It’s very important for the VA to recognize that the place of a suicide can have great meaning. There is a real moral imperative and invitation here to take a close inspection of the quality of services at the facility level,” said Dr. Eric Caine, director of the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention at the University of Rochester.

The Washington Post: Parking Lot Suicides at Veterans Hospitals Prompt Calls for Better Staff Training, Prevention Efforts

Meanwhile, USA Today released a comprehensive analysis on the quality of VA hospitals versus civilian ones. Some of the scores came back positive (death rates, on the whole, were lower at VA facilities); others that look at preventable infection rates and bedsores hinted at neglect. USAT offers a very cool look-up tool if you want to see how your clinic fared.

USA Today: Death Rates, ER Waits: Where Every VA Hospital Lags, Leads Other Care

An HHS official is arguing that pulling separated migrant children from their sponsor homes to reunite them with their families would do more harm than good psychologically at this point. Jonathan White, an official leading HHS’ reunification efforts, said in a court filing that it would make more sense for the government to focus on children who were still in custody. The ACLU called the position a “shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents, and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them.”

The Associated Press: US Sees Limitations on Reuniting Migrant Families

In the miscellaneous file for the week:

• There’s a long history of mistrust between the African-American community and medical professionals, and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s photo involving black face pressed sharply against that never-healed wound. (At the time, Northam was graduating from medical school on his way to becoming a pediatrician.)

The Associated Press: Blackface Photo Reopens Long History of Bigotry in Medicine

• Anecdotal evidence was thick on the ground that women were seeking emergency contraception in the wake of Trump’s election victory. Now there are numbers to back it up.

The Hill: Demand for Certain Forms of Contraception Increased After Trump’s Election: Study

• Could an infamous party drug really help quiet suicidal ideation in the midst of an ever-worsening crisis? This fascinating history on the use of ketamine is well-worth the read.

Bloomberg: Ketamine Could Soon Be Used to Treat Suicidal Ideation

• “It’s like throwing a match into a can of gasoline,” experts say of the measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest. Are they just the norm now? And why were there so many kids who weren’t vaccinated?

The New York Times: ‘A Match Into a Can of Gasoline’: Measles Outbreak Now an Emergency in Washington State

CNN: Measles Rarely Kills in the US — But When It Does, Here’s How 

I was delighted this morning over the fact that scientists had a major breakthrough in creating a way to take insulin in pill form because of … turtles! Last week hedgehogs, this week turtles. I swear the Breeze isn’t turning into an animal news newsletter (or is it?). Have a great weekend!

Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Kaiser Health News:Insurance - February 08, 2019
The Friday Breeze

Newsletter editor Brianna Labuskes, who reads everything on health care to compile our daily Morning Briefing, offers the best and most provocative stories for the weekend.

Happy Friday! Also known as the day President Donald Trump is getting his second annual physical. Last year, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson attributed the president’s “excellent health” to good genes and God. Will this year be different with a new physician?

The headliner from this week was obviously the State of the Union address, so let’s get right to it.

Trump’s pledge to end the HIV epidemic was greeted with cautious optimism — laced with a heavy dose of skepticism. The administration’s plan involves targeting HIV hot spots and increasing access to medications that treat and prevent the disease. However, the lack of specific details in Trump’s address have HIV advocates nervous. “To date, this administration’s actions speak louder than words and have moved us in the wrong direction,” said AIDS United.

The Associated Press: Trump Launching Campaign to End HIV Epidemic in US by 2030

Kaiser Health News: Trump Pledges To End HIV Transmission By 2030. Doable, But Daunting.

When it comes to high drug prices, Trump had very simple instructions for Congress: “Do more.” The response, as you can imagine, was mixed. Some Democrats saw it as an invitation to work on an issue that could be one of the few bipartisan successes emerging from the current Congress. Others don’t have any interest in getting on board with the president’s policies — which include capping U.S. drug payments based on prices paid abroad.

Stat: Democrats Can’t Decide How to React to Trump’s Call for ‘More’ on Drug Pricing

Meanwhile, in his address, Trump used a pretty wonky (as in, in the weeds) metric to praise his administration’s efforts on bringing down drug prices. The consumer price index, at best, doesn’t tell the full story of costs, and experts say that, given how complicated the system has become (i.e. with rebates), it has outlived its usefulness.

Stat: Trump Claims Drug Prices Have Fallen. But He’s Cherry-Picking That Data

Recent controversies over abortions provided Trump the perfect opportunity, as he starts to gear up for 2020, to give a little love to a highly valued segment of his base. Virginia’s governor had made comments last week that led to accusations that he supported infanticide; and New York just passed a bill that protects against efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade. Trump used those incidents as a springboard to call on Congress to ban “late-term abortions.” And the language he used in the speech — “All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God” — is being seen as a play for evangelical voters.

The Associated Press: With Anti-Abortion Push, Trump Woos Evangelicals Again

Doctors weighed in on the debate with this reality check: Clinically, there is no such thing as a “late-term abortion.” See what else they say the president got wrong.

The New York Times: What Is Late-Term Abortion? Trump Got It Wrong

Childhood cancer also got a shout-out in the SOTU. Although it has an 80 percent cure rate, scientists say that number is skewed by the tremendous progress that’s been made against childhood leukemia. Other pediatric cancers have a long way to go. (And so they are welcoming the $500 million with open arms and a distinct list of ideas.)

Stat: Scientists Have Ideas to Spend Trump’s Money for Childhood Cancer

The Friday Breeze

Want a roundup of the must-read stories this week chosen by KHN Newsletter Editor Brianna Labuskes? Sign up for The Friday Breeze today.

Sign Up Please confirm your email address below: Sign Up

Former Rep. John Dingell died on Thursday at age 92. Lawmakers and politicians praised the country’s longest-serving congressman, calling him a “beloved pillar of the Congress” who is leaving behind “a towering legacy.” One common thread in the heartfelt messages was the impact he had on America’s health care. “He had a long tradition of introducing legislation on the first day of each new Congress to guarantee health care for every single American,” former President Barack Obama wrote. “Because of him, we’ve come closer to that vision than ever before. And when we finally achieve it — and we will — we’ll all owe him our gratitude.”

The Washington Post: Colleagues, friends remember John Dingell, an ‘American legend’ and ‘beloved pillar of Congress’

Fresh off their midterm victories, Democrats are wasting no time setting up hearings to secure protections for people with preexisting conditions. Any legislation would be mostly symbolic because it would face an all-but-certain death in the Republican-controlled Senate, but it solidifies talking points that have been successful for Democrats recently.

The New York Times: Democrats Unite to Begin Push to Protect Pre-Existing Condition Coverage

If you’re confused about Trump’s rebate proposal join the (very crowded) club. But here’s the bottom line: Most patients will pay a little more since their premiums will go up (because insurers would no longer be able to apply rebate money from the drugs to lower premiums). However, people who take outrageously expensive medication will get relief. Experts say the trade-off is worth it.

The New York Times: How Trump’s Latest Plan to Cut Drug Prices Will Affect You

How does a drug that, until December, was free to patients now have a $375,000 price tag? Paint Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … curious … to say the least.

Stat: Sanders Calls Price of a Rare Disease Drug ‘Immoral Exploitation’

Court watchers were eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on a Louisiana admitting-privileges law — the first real gauge of how the new dynamics of the court will play out with abortion decisions. The Louisiana restrictions are quite similar to ones knocked down in a 2016 ruling, but the court is also more conservative than it was at that time. For now, Chief Justice John Roberts disappointed his conservative colleagues by joining with the liberal justices in issuing a stay on the law. The decision likely means the court will take up the issue in its next term, which starts in October.

The New York Times: Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Law

Medicaid expansion advocates were ecstatic last year when ballot initiatives proved a successful way to circumnavigate red-state legislatures that had been blocking changes to the program. This week, a bucket of cold water has doused that enthusiasm as lawmakers in both Utah and Idaho scramble to counter the expansion as much as possible. While the proposals — like adding work requirements — gain popularity in red states across the country, the fact it’s happening at all after voters OK’d the expansion highlights the reality that ballot initiatives can do only so much.

The New York Times: In Utah and Idaho, G.O.P. Looks to Curb Medicaid Expansions That Voters Approved

In a startling, horrifying trend, veterans have been killing themselves in VA parking lots in what experts see as a protest against a system that failed them. The latest was a Marine colonel who, dressed in his uniform blues and medals, sat on top of his military and VA records and shot himself with a rifle outside the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs. “It’s very important for the VA to recognize that the place of a suicide can have great meaning. There is a real moral imperative and invitation here to take a close inspection of the quality of services at the facility level,” said Dr. Eric Caine, director of the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention at the University of Rochester.

The Washington Post: Parking Lot Suicides at Veterans Hospitals Prompt Calls for Better Staff Training, Prevention Efforts

Meanwhile, USA Today released a comprehensive analysis on the quality of VA hospitals versus civilian ones. Some of the scores came back positive (death rates, on the whole, were lower at VA facilities); others that look at preventable infection rates and bedsores hinted at neglect. USAT offers a very cool look-up tool if you want to see how your clinic fared.

USA Today: Death Rates, ER Waits: Where Every VA Hospital Lags, Leads Other Care

An HHS official is arguing that pulling separated migrant children from their sponsor homes to reunite them with their families would do more harm than good psychologically at this point. Jonathan White, an official leading HHS’ reunification efforts, said in a court filing that it would make more sense for the government to focus on children who were still in custody. The ACLU called the position a “shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents, and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them.”

The Associated Press: US Sees Limitations on Reuniting Migrant Families

In the miscellaneous file for the week:

• There’s a long history of mistrust between the African-American community and medical professionals, and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s photo involving black face pressed sharply against that never-healed wound. (At the time, Northam was graduating from medical school on his way to becoming a pediatrician.)

The Associated Press: Blackface Photo Reopens Long History of Bigotry in Medicine

• Anecdotal evidence was thick on the ground that women were seeking emergency contraception in the wake of Trump’s election victory. Now there are numbers to back it up.

The Hill: Demand for Certain Forms of Contraception Increased After Trump’s Election: Study

• Could an infamous party drug really help quiet suicidal ideation in the midst of an ever-worsening crisis? This fascinating history on the use of ketamine is well-worth the read.

Bloomberg: Ketamine Could Soon Be Used to Treat Suicidal Ideation

• “It’s like throwing a match into a can of gasoline,” experts say of the measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest. Are they just the norm now? And why were there so many kids who weren’t vaccinated?

The New York Times: ‘A Match Into a Can of Gasoline’: Measles Outbreak Now an Emergency in Washington State

CNN: Measles Rarely Kills in the US — But When It Does, Here’s How 

I was delighted this morning over the fact that scientists had a major breakthrough in creating a way to take insulin in pill form because of … turtles! Last week hedgehogs, this week turtles. I swear the Breeze isn’t turning into an animal news newsletter (or is it?). Have a great weekend!

Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Kaiser Health News:The Health Law - February 08, 2019
The Friday Breeze

Newsletter editor Brianna Labuskes, who reads everything on health care to compile our daily Morning Briefing, offers the best and most provocative stories for the weekend.

Happy Friday! Also known as the day President Donald Trump is getting his second annual physical. Last year, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson attributed the president’s “excellent health” to good genes and God. Will this year be different with a new physician?

The headliner from this week was obviously the State of the Union address, so let’s get right to it.

Trump’s pledge to end the HIV epidemic was greeted with cautious optimism — laced with a heavy dose of skepticism. The administration’s plan involves targeting HIV hot spots and increasing access to medications that treat and prevent the disease. However, the lack of specific details in Trump’s address have HIV advocates nervous. “To date, this administration’s actions speak louder than words and have moved us in the wrong direction,” said AIDS United.

The Associated Press: Trump Launching Campaign to End HIV Epidemic in US by 2030

Kaiser Health News: Trump Pledges To End HIV Transmission By 2030. Doable, But Daunting.

When it comes to high drug prices, Trump had very simple instructions for Congress: “Do more.” The response, as you can imagine, was mixed. Some Democrats saw it as an invitation to work on an issue that could be one of the few bipartisan successes emerging from the current Congress. Others don’t have any interest in getting on board with the president’s policies — which include capping U.S. drug payments based on prices paid abroad.

Stat: Democrats Can’t Decide How to React to Trump’s Call for ‘More’ on Drug Pricing

Meanwhile, in his address, Trump used a pretty wonky (as in, in the weeds) metric to praise his administration’s efforts on bringing down drug prices. The consumer price index, at best, doesn’t tell the full story of costs, and experts say that, given how complicated the system has become (i.e. with rebates), it has outlived its usefulness.

Stat: Trump Claims Drug Prices Have Fallen. But He’s Cherry-Picking That Data

Recent controversies over abortions provided Trump the perfect opportunity, as he starts to gear up for 2020, to give a little love to a highly valued segment of his base. Virginia’s governor had made comments last week that led to accusations that he supported infanticide; and New York just passed a bill that protects against efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade. Trump used those incidents as a springboard to call on Congress to ban “late-term abortions.” And the language he used in the speech — “All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God” — is being seen as a play for evangelical voters.

The Associated Press: With Anti-Abortion Push, Trump Woos Evangelicals Again

Doctors weighed in on the debate with this reality check: Clinically, there is no such thing as a “late-term abortion.” See what else they say the president got wrong.

The New York Times: What Is Late-Term Abortion? Trump Got It Wrong

Childhood cancer also got a shout-out in the SOTU. Although it has an 80 percent cure rate, scientists say that number is skewed by the tremendous progress that’s been made against childhood leukemia. Other pediatric cancers have a long way to go. (And so they are welcoming the $500 million with open arms and a distinct list of ideas.)

Stat: Scientists Have Ideas to Spend Trump’s Money for Childhood Cancer

The Friday Breeze

Want a roundup of the must-read stories this week chosen by KHN Newsletter Editor Brianna Labuskes? Sign up for The Friday Breeze today.

Sign Up Please confirm your email address below: Sign Up

Former Rep. John Dingell died on Thursday at age 92. Lawmakers and politicians praised the country’s longest-serving congressman, calling him a “beloved pillar of the Congress” who is leaving behind “a towering legacy.” One common thread in the heartfelt messages was the impact he had on America’s health care. “He had a long tradition of introducing legislation on the first day of each new Congress to guarantee health care for every single American,” former President Barack Obama wrote. “Because of him, we’ve come closer to that vision than ever before. And when we finally achieve it — and we will — we’ll all owe him our gratitude.”

The Washington Post: Colleagues, friends remember John Dingell, an ‘American legend’ and ‘beloved pillar of Congress’

Fresh off their midterm victories, Democrats are wasting no time setting up hearings to secure protections for people with preexisting conditions. Any legislation would be mostly symbolic because it would face an all-but-certain death in the Republican-controlled Senate, but it solidifies talking points that have been successful for Democrats recently.

The New York Times: Democrats Unite to Begin Push to Protect Pre-Existing Condition Coverage

If you’re confused about Trump’s rebate proposal join the (very crowded) club. But here’s the bottom line: Most patients will pay a little more since their premiums will go up (because insurers would no longer be able to apply rebate money from the drugs to lower premiums). However, people who take outrageously expensive medication will get relief. Experts say the trade-off is worth it.

The New York Times: How Trump’s Latest Plan to Cut Drug Prices Will Affect You

How does a drug that, until December, was free to patients now have a $375,000 price tag? Paint Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … curious … to say the least.

Stat: Sanders Calls Price of a Rare Disease Drug ‘Immoral Exploitation’

Court watchers were eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on a Louisiana admitting-privileges law — the first real gauge of how the new dynamics of the court will play out with abortion decisions. The Louisiana restrictions are quite similar to ones knocked down in a 2016 ruling, but the court is also more conservative than it was at that time. For now, Chief Justice John Roberts disappointed his conservative colleagues by joining with the liberal justices in issuing a stay on the law. The decision likely means the court will take up the issue in its next term, which starts in October.

The New York Times: Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Law

Medicaid expansion advocates were ecstatic last year when ballot initiatives proved a successful way to circumnavigate red-state legislatures that had been blocking changes to the program. This week, a bucket of cold water has doused that enthusiasm as lawmakers in both Utah and Idaho scramble to counter the expansion as much as possible. While the proposals — like adding work requirements — gain popularity in red states across the country, the fact it’s happening at all after voters OK’d the expansion highlights the reality that ballot initiatives can do only so much.

The New York Times: In Utah and Idaho, G.O.P. Looks to Curb Medicaid Expansions That Voters Approved

In a startling, horrifying trend, veterans have been killing themselves in VA parking lots in what experts see as a protest against a system that failed them. The latest was a Marine colonel who, dressed in his uniform blues and medals, sat on top of his military and VA records and shot himself with a rifle outside the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs. “It’s very important for the VA to recognize that the place of a suicide can have great meaning. There is a real moral imperative and invitation here to take a close inspection of the quality of services at the facility level,” said Dr. Eric Caine, director of the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention at the University of Rochester.

The Washington Post: Parking Lot Suicides at Veterans Hospitals Prompt Calls for Better Staff Training, Prevention Efforts

Meanwhile, USA Today released a comprehensive analysis on the quality of VA hospitals versus civilian ones. Some of the scores came back positive (death rates, on the whole, were lower at VA facilities); others that look at preventable infection rates and bedsores hinted at neglect. USAT offers a very cool look-up tool if you want to see how your clinic fared.

USA Today: Death Rates, ER Waits: Where Every VA Hospital Lags, Leads Other Care

An HHS official is arguing that pulling separated migrant children from their sponsor homes to reunite them with their families would do more harm than good psychologically at this point. Jonathan White, an official leading HHS’ reunification efforts, said in a court filing that it would make more sense for the government to focus on children who were still in custody. The ACLU called the position a “shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents, and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them.”

The Associated Press: US Sees Limitations on Reuniting Migrant Families

In the miscellaneous file for the week:

• There’s a long history of mistrust between the African-American community and medical professionals, and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s photo involving black face pressed sharply against that never-healed wound. (At the time, Northam was graduating from medical school on his way to becoming a pediatrician.)

The Associated Press: Blackface Photo Reopens Long History of Bigotry in Medicine

• Anecdotal evidence was thick on the ground that women were seeking emergency contraception in the wake of Trump’s election victory. Now there are numbers to back it up.

The Hill: Demand for Certain Forms of Contraception Increased After Trump’s Election: Study

• Could an infamous party drug really help quiet suicidal ideation in the midst of an ever-worsening crisis? This fascinating history on the use of ketamine is well-worth the read.

Bloomberg: Ketamine Could Soon Be Used to Treat Suicidal Ideation

• “It’s like throwing a match into a can of gasoline,” experts say of the measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest. Are they just the norm now? And why were there so many kids who weren’t vaccinated?

The New York Times: ‘A Match Into a Can of Gasoline’: Measles Outbreak Now an Emergency in Washington State

CNN: Measles Rarely Kills in the US — But When It Does, Here’s How 

I was delighted this morning over the fact that scientists had a major breakthrough in creating a way to take insulin in pill form because of … turtles! Last week hedgehogs, this week turtles. I swear the Breeze isn’t turning into an animal news newsletter (or is it?). Have a great weekend!

Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

The Friday Breeze

Newsletter editor Brianna Labuskes, who reads everything on health care to compile our daily Morning Briefing, offers the best and most provocative stories for the weekend.

Happy Friday! Also known as the day President Donald Trump is getting his second annual physical. Last year, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson attributed the president’s “excellent health” to good genes and God. Will this year be different with a new physician?

The headliner from this week was obviously the State of the Union address, so let’s get right to it.

Trump’s pledge to end the HIV epidemic was greeted with cautious optimism — laced with a heavy dose of skepticism. The administration’s plan involves targeting HIV hot spots and increasing access to medications that treat and prevent the disease. However, the lack of specific details in Trump’s address have HIV advocates nervous. “To date, this administration’s actions speak louder than words and have moved us in the wrong direction,” said AIDS United.

The Associated Press: Trump Launching Campaign to End HIV Epidemic in US by 2030

Kaiser Health News: Trump Pledges To End HIV Transmission By 2030. Doable, But Daunting.

When it comes to high drug prices, Trump had very simple instructions for Congress: “Do more.” The response, as you can imagine, was mixed. Some Democrats saw it as an invitation to work on an issue that could be one of the few bipartisan successes emerging from the current Congress. Others don’t have any interest in getting on board with the president’s policies — which include capping U.S. drug payments based on prices paid abroad.

Stat: Democrats Can’t Decide How to React to Trump’s Call for ‘More’ on Drug Pricing

Meanwhile, in his address, Trump used a pretty wonky (as in, in the weeds) metric to praise his administration’s efforts on bringing down drug prices. The consumer price index, at best, doesn’t tell the full story of costs, and experts say that, given how complicated the system has become (i.e. with rebates), it has outlived its usefulness.

Stat: Trump Claims Drug Prices Have Fallen. But He’s Cherry-Picking That Data

Recent controversies over abortions provided Trump the perfect opportunity, as he starts to gear up for 2020, to give a little love to a highly valued segment of his base. Virginia’s governor had made comments last week that led to accusations that he supported infanticide; and New York just passed a bill that protects against efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade. Trump used those incidents as a springboard to call on Congress to ban “late-term abortions.” And the language he used in the speech — “All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God” — is being seen as a play for evangelical voters.

The Associated Press: With Anti-Abortion Push, Trump Woos Evangelicals Again

Doctors weighed in on the debate with this reality check: Clinically, there is no such thing as a “late-term abortion.” See what else they say the president got wrong.

The New York Times: What Is Late-Term Abortion? Trump Got It Wrong

Childhood cancer also got a shout-out in the SOTU. Although it has an 80 percent cure rate, scientists say that number is skewed by the tremendous progress that’s been made against childhood leukemia. Other pediatric cancers have a long way to go. (And so they are welcoming the $500 million with open arms and a distinct list of ideas.)

Stat: Scientists Have Ideas to Spend Trump’s Money for Childhood Cancer

The Friday Breeze

Want a roundup of the must-read stories this week chosen by KHN Newsletter Editor Brianna Labuskes? Sign up for The Friday Breeze today.

Sign Up Please confirm your email address below: Sign Up

Former Rep. John Dingell died on Thursday at age 92. Lawmakers and politicians praised the country’s longest-serving congressman, calling him a “beloved pillar of the Congress” who is leaving behind “a towering legacy.” One common thread in the heartfelt messages was the impact he had on America’s health care. “He had a long tradition of introducing legislation on the first day of each new Congress to guarantee health care for every single American,” former President Barack Obama wrote. “Because of him, we’ve come closer to that vision than ever before. And when we finally achieve it — and we will — we’ll all owe him our gratitude.”

The Washington Post: Colleagues, friends remember John Dingell, an ‘American legend’ and ‘beloved pillar of Congress’

Fresh off their midterm victories, Democrats are wasting no time setting up hearings to secure protections for people with preexisting conditions. Any legislation would be mostly symbolic because it would face an all-but-certain death in the Republican-controlled Senate, but it solidifies talking points that have been successful for Democrats recently.

The New York Times: Democrats Unite to Begin Push to Protect Pre-Existing Condition Coverage

If you’re confused about Trump’s rebate proposal join the (very crowded) club. But here’s the bottom line: Most patients will pay a little more since their premiums will go up (because insurers would no longer be able to apply rebate money from the drugs to lower premiums). However, people who take outrageously expensive medication will get relief. Experts say the trade-off is worth it.

The New York Times: How Trump’s Latest Plan to Cut Drug Prices Will Affect You

How does a drug that, until December, was free to patients now have a $375,000 price tag? Paint Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … curious … to say the least.

Stat: Sanders Calls Price of a Rare Disease Drug ‘Immoral Exploitation’

Court watchers were eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on a Louisiana admitting-privileges law — the first real gauge of how the new dynamics of the court will play out with abortion decisions. The Louisiana restrictions are quite similar to ones knocked down in a 2016 ruling, but the court is also more conservative than it was at that time. For now, Chief Justice John Roberts disappointed his conservative colleagues by joining with the liberal justices in issuing a stay on the law. The decision likely means the court will take up the issue in its next term, which starts in October.

The New York Times: Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Law

Medicaid expansion advocates were ecstatic last year when ballot initiatives proved a successful way to circumnavigate red-state legislatures that had been blocking changes to the program. This week, a bucket of cold water has doused that enthusiasm as lawmakers in both Utah and Idaho scramble to counter the expansion as much as possible. While the proposals — like adding work requirements — gain popularity in red states across the country, the fact it’s happening at all after voters OK’d the expansion highlights the reality that ballot initiatives can do only so much.

The New York Times: In Utah and Idaho, G.O.P. Looks to Curb Medicaid Expansions That Voters Approved

In a startling, horrifying trend, veterans have been killing themselves in VA parking lots in what experts see as a protest against a system that failed them. The latest was a Marine colonel who, dressed in his uniform blues and medals, sat on top of his military and VA records and shot himself with a rifle outside the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs. “It’s very important for the VA to recognize that the place of a suicide can have great meaning. There is a real moral imperative and invitation here to take a close inspection of the quality of services at the facility level,” said Dr. Eric Caine, director of the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention at the University of Rochester.

The Washington Post: Parking Lot Suicides at Veterans Hospitals Prompt Calls for Better Staff Training, Prevention Efforts

Meanwhile, USA Today released a comprehensive analysis on the quality of VA hospitals versus civilian ones. Some of the scores came back positive (death rates, on the whole, were lower at VA facilities); others that look at preventable infection rates and bedsores hinted at neglect. USAT offers a very cool look-up tool if you want to see how your clinic fared.

USA Today: Death Rates, ER Waits: Where Every VA Hospital Lags, Leads Other Care

An HHS official is arguing that pulling separated migrant children from their sponsor homes to reunite them with their families would do more harm than good psychologically at this point. Jonathan White, an official leading HHS’ reunification efforts, said in a court filing that it would make more sense for the government to focus on children who were still in custody. The ACLU called the position a “shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents, and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them.”

The Associated Press: US Sees Limitations on Reuniting Migrant Families

In the miscellaneous file for the week:

• There’s a long history of mistrust between the African-American community and medical professionals, and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s photo involving black face pressed sharply against that never-healed wound. (At the time, Northam was graduating from medical school on his way to becoming a pediatrician.)

The Associated Press: Blackface Photo Reopens Long History of Bigotry in Medicine

• Anecdotal evidence was thick on the ground that women were seeking emergency contraception in the wake of Trump’s election victory. Now there are numbers to back it up.

The Hill: Demand for Certain Forms of Contraception Increased After Trump’s Election: Study

• Could an infamous party drug really help quiet suicidal ideation in the midst of an ever-worsening crisis? This fascinating history on the use of ketamine is well-worth the read.

Bloomberg: Ketamine Could Soon Be Used to Treat Suicidal Ideation

• “It’s like throwing a match into a can of gasoline,” experts say of the measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest. Are they just the norm now? And why were there so many kids who weren’t vaccinated?

The New York Times: ‘A Match Into a Can of Gasoline’: Measles Outbreak Now an Emergency in Washington State

CNN: Measles Rarely Kills in the US — But When It Does, Here’s How 

I was delighted this morning over the fact that scientists had a major breakthrough in creating a way to take insulin in pill form because of … turtles! Last week hedgehogs, this week turtles. I swear the Breeze isn’t turning into an animal news newsletter (or is it?). Have a great weekend!

Shrinking Medicaid Rolls In Missouri And Tennessee Raise Flag On Vetting Process

Kaiser Health News:Medicaid - February 08, 2019

Tangunikia Ward, a single mom of two who has been unemployed for the past couple of years, was shocked when her St. Louis family was kicked off Missouri’s Medicaid program without warning last fall.

She found out only when taking her son, Mario, 10, to a doctor to be treated for ringworm.

When Ward, 29, tried to contact the state to get reinstated, she said it took several weeks just to have her calls returned. Then she waited again for the state to mail her a long form to fill out attesting to her income and family size, showing that she was still eligible for the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

Mario, who is in third grade, missed much of school in December because Ward could not afford a doctor visit without Medicaid. His school would not let him return without a doctor’s note saying he was no longer infected.

In January, with the help of lawyers from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, she was able to get back on Medicaid, take her son to a doctor and return him to school. “It was a real struggle as it seemed like everyone was giving me the runaround,” Ward said. “I am upset because my son was out of school, and that pushed him behind.”

Ward and her children are among tens of thousands of Medicaid enrollees who were dropped by Missouri and Tennessee last year as both states stepped up efforts to verify members’ eligibility.

Last year, Medicaid enrollment there declined far faster than in other states, and most of those losing coverage are children, according to state data.

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State health officials say several factors, including the improved economy, are behind last year’s drop of 7 percent in Missouri and 9 percent in Tennessee.

But advocates for the poor think the states’ efforts to weed out residents who are improperly enrolled, or the difficulty of re-enrolling, has led to people being forced off the rolls. For example, Tennessee sent packets to enrollees that could be as long as 47 pages to verify their re-enrollment. In Missouri, people faced hours-long waits on the state’s phone lines to get help in enrolling.

Medicaid enrollment nationally was down about 1.5 percent from January to October last year, the latest enrollment data available from the federal government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Herb Kuhn, president and chief executive of the Missouri Hospital Association, said the state’s efforts to verify Medicaid eligibility could be tied to an increase in the number of people without coverage that hospitals are seeing.

“When we see over 50,000 children come off the Medicaid rolls, it raises some questions about whether the state is doing its verifications appropriately,” he said. “Those who are truly entitled to the service should get to keep it.”

In 2018, Missouri Medicaid began automating its verification system for the state-federal insurance program for the poor. People who were identified as ineligible, for income or other reasons, were sent a letter asking them to provide updated documentation. Those who did not respond or could not prove their eligibility were dropped.

The state does not know how many letters it sent or how many people responded, said Rebecca Woelfel, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services, which oversees Medicaid. She said Missouri Medicaid enrollees were given 10 days to respond.

Woelfel cited the new eligibility system, the improved economy and Congress rescinding the federal tax penalty for people who lack insurance as factors behind the decline in enrollment.

Missouri’s unemployment rate dropped from 3.7 percent in January 2018 to 3.1 percent in December as the number of unemployed people fell by about 17,000.

Missouri Medicaid had almost 906,000 people enrolled as of December, down from more than 977,000 in January 2018, according to state data. About two-thirds of those enrolled are children or pregnant women.

Timothy McBride, a health economist at Washington University in St. Louis who heads a Missouri Medicaid advisory board, said the state’s eligibility system has made it too difficult for people to stay enrolled. Since low-income people move or may be homeless, their mailing addresses may be inaccurate. Plus, many don’t read their mail or may not understand what was required to stay enrolled, he added.

“I worry some people are still eligible but just did not respond, and the next time they need health care they will show up with their Medicaid card and find out they are not covered,” McBride said.

Tennessee’s Medicaid enrollment fell from 1.48 million in January 2018 to 1.35 million in December, according to state data. Tennessee Medicaid spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson credits a healthy job market. The state’s unemployment rate was relatively stable last year at under 4 percent.

“Tennessee is experiencing a state economy that continues to increase at what appears to be near-historic rates, which is positively impacting Tennesseans’ lives and, in some cases, decreasing their need to access health insurance through the state’s Medicaid” program and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), she said.

She added that the state has a “robust appeals process” for anyone who was found ineligible by the state’s reverification system.

The Tennessee Justice Center, an advocacy group, has worked with hundreds of families in the past year trying to restore their Medicaid coverage. The verification process will make “Medicaid rolls smaller and saves money, and that’s a poor way for the state to measure success,” said Michele Johnson, executive director of the nonprofit group. “But it’s penny-wise and pound-foolish” because it leads to people showing up at emergency rooms without coverage — and hospitals have to pass on those costs to everyone else.

After rapid growth since 2014, when the Affordable Care Act expanded health insurance coverage to millions of Americans, Medicaid enrollment nationally started to fall, declining from 74 million in January 2018 to about 73 million in October, according to the latest enrollment data released by CMS.

Missouri and Tennessee are among 17 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA. But many of those non-expansion states nevertheless saw enrollment grow, because as people tried to sign up for insurance on the ACA exchanges, those meeting state criteria were routed to Medicaid.

McBride, the health economist, said the steep drop is especially disconcerting because most of those affected are children. Because children are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP with family incomes as high as 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $77,250 for a family of four, he said, it’s unlikely a parent’s change in job would be enough for a child to lose eligibility.

Missouri’s 70,000-person drop in enrollment, he noted, marks the biggest single-year reduction since 2006, when the state instituted tighter eligibility levels for certain groups.

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, which advocates for low-income residents, estimates that nearly 57,000 of those dropped from the Medicaid rolls were children, a decline that is nine times the national average.

Joe Pierle, chief executive officer of the Missouri Primary Care Association, a trade group representing community health centers, said he doesn’t think the state is doing anything “underhanded or nefarious.” Nevertheless, he’s not sure Medicaid officials did enough to reach out to people before dropping them.

“I suspect some people are falling through the cracks,” he said.

Shrinking Medicaid Rolls In Missouri And Tennessee Raise Flag On Vetting Process

Kaiser Health News:States - February 08, 2019

Tangunikia Ward, a single mom of two who has been unemployed for the past couple of years, was shocked when her St. Louis family was kicked off Missouri’s Medicaid program without warning last fall.

She found out only when taking her son, Mario, 10, to a doctor to be treated for ringworm.

When Ward, 29, tried to contact the state to get reinstated, she said it took several weeks just to have her calls returned. Then she waited again for the state to mail her a long form to fill out attesting to her income and family size, showing that she was still eligible for the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

Mario, who is in third grade, missed much of school in December because Ward could not afford a doctor visit without Medicaid. His school would not let him return without a doctor’s note saying he was no longer infected.

In January, with the help of lawyers from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, she was able to get back on Medicaid, take her son to a doctor and return him to school. “It was a real struggle as it seemed like everyone was giving me the runaround,” Ward said. “I am upset because my son was out of school, and that pushed him behind.”

Ward and her children are among tens of thousands of Medicaid enrollees who were dropped by Missouri and Tennessee last year as both states stepped up efforts to verify members’ eligibility.

Last year, Medicaid enrollment there declined far faster than in other states, and most of those losing coverage are children, according to state data.

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Subscribe to KHN’s free Morning Briefing.

Sign Up Please confirm your email address below: Sign Up

State health officials say several factors, including the improved economy, are behind last year’s drop of 7 percent in Missouri and 9 percent in Tennessee.

But advocates for the poor think the states’ efforts to weed out residents who are improperly enrolled, or the difficulty of re-enrolling, has led to people being forced off the rolls. For example, Tennessee sent packets to enrollees that could be as long as 47 pages to verify their re-enrollment. In Missouri, people faced hours-long waits on the state’s phone lines to get help in enrolling.

Medicaid enrollment nationally was down about 1.5 percent from January to October last year, the latest enrollment data available from the federal government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Herb Kuhn, president and chief executive of the Missouri Hospital Association, said the state’s efforts to verify Medicaid eligibility could be tied to an increase in the number of people without coverage that hospitals are seeing.

“When we see over 50,000 children come off the Medicaid rolls, it raises some questions about whether the state is doing its verifications appropriately,” he said. “Those who are truly entitled to the service should get to keep it.”

In 2018, Missouri Medicaid began automating its verification system for the state-federal insurance program for the poor. People who were identified as ineligible, for income or other reasons, were sent a letter asking them to provide updated documentation. Those who did not respond or could not prove their eligibility were dropped.

The state does not know how many letters it sent or how many people responded, said Rebecca Woelfel, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services, which oversees Medicaid. She said Missouri Medicaid enrollees were given 10 days to respond.

Woelfel cited the new eligibility system, the improved economy and Congress rescinding the federal tax penalty for people who lack insurance as factors behind the decline in enrollment.

Missouri’s unemployment rate dropped from 3.7 percent in January 2018 to 3.1 percent in December as the number of unemployed people fell by about 17,000.

Missouri Medicaid had almost 906,000 people enrolled as of December, down from more than 977,000 in January 2018, according to state data. About two-thirds of those enrolled are children or pregnant women.

Timothy McBride, a health economist at Washington University in St. Louis who heads a Missouri Medicaid advisory board, said the state’s eligibility system has made it too difficult for people to stay enrolled. Since low-income people move or may be homeless, their mailing addresses may be inaccurate. Plus, many don’t read their mail or may not understand what was required to stay enrolled, he added.

“I worry some people are still eligible but just did not respond, and the next time they need health care they will show up with their Medicaid card and find out they are not covered,” McBride said.

Tennessee’s Medicaid enrollment fell from 1.48 million in January 2018 to 1.35 million in December, according to state data. Tennessee Medicaid spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson credits a healthy job market. The state’s unemployment rate was relatively stable last year at under 4 percent.

“Tennessee is experiencing a state economy that continues to increase at what appears to be near-historic rates, which is positively impacting Tennesseans’ lives and, in some cases, decreasing their need to access health insurance through the state’s Medicaid” program and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), she said.

She added that the state has a “robust appeals process” for anyone who was found ineligible by the state’s reverification system.

The Tennessee Justice Center, an advocacy group, has worked with hundreds of families in the past year trying to restore their Medicaid coverage. The verification process will make “Medicaid rolls smaller and saves money, and that’s a poor way for the state to measure success,” said Michele Johnson, executive director of the nonprofit group. “But it’s penny-wise and pound-foolish” because it leads to people showing up at emergency rooms without coverage — and hospitals have to pass on those costs to everyone else.

After rapid growth since 2014, when the Affordable Care Act expanded health insurance coverage to millions of Americans, Medicaid enrollment nationally started to fall, declining from 74 million in January 2018 to about 73 million in October, according to the latest enrollment data released by CMS.

Missouri and Tennessee are among 17 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA. But many of those non-expansion states nevertheless saw enrollment grow, because as people tried to sign up for insurance on the ACA exchanges, those meeting state criteria were routed to Medicaid.

McBride, the health economist, said the steep drop is especially disconcerting because most of those affected are children. Because children are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP with family incomes as high as 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $77,250 for a family of four, he said, it’s unlikely a parent’s change in job would be enough for a child to lose eligibility.

Missouri’s 70,000-person drop in enrollment, he noted, marks the biggest single-year reduction since 2006, when the state instituted tighter eligibility levels for certain groups.

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, which advocates for low-income residents, estimates that nearly 57,000 of those dropped from the Medicaid rolls were children, a decline that is nine times the national average.

Joe Pierle, chief executive officer of the Missouri Primary Care Association, a trade group representing community health centers, said he doesn’t think the state is doing anything “underhanded or nefarious.” Nevertheless, he’s not sure Medicaid officials did enough to reach out to people before dropping them.

“I suspect some people are falling through the cracks,” he said.

Shrinking Medicaid Rolls In Missouri And Tennessee Raise Flag On Vetting Process

Kaiser Health News:The Health Law - February 08, 2019

Tangunikia Ward, a single mom of two who has been unemployed for the past couple of years, was shocked when her St. Louis family was kicked off Missouri’s Medicaid program without warning last fall.

She found out only when taking her son, Mario, 10, to a doctor to be treated for ringworm.

When Ward, 29, tried to contact the state to get reinstated, she said it took several weeks just to have her calls returned. Then she waited again for the state to mail her a long form to fill out attesting to her income and family size, showing that she was still eligible for the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

Mario, who is in third grade, missed much of school in December because Ward could not afford a doctor visit without Medicaid. His school would not let him return without a doctor’s note saying he was no longer infected.

In January, with the help of lawyers from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, she was able to get back on Medicaid, take her son to a doctor and return him to school. “It was a real struggle as it seemed like everyone was giving me the runaround,” Ward said. “I am upset because my son was out of school, and that pushed him behind.”

Ward and her children are among tens of thousands of Medicaid enrollees who were dropped by Missouri and Tennessee last year as both states stepped up efforts to verify members’ eligibility.

Last year, Medicaid enrollment there declined far faster than in other states, and most of those losing coverage are children, according to state data.

Email Sign-Up

Subscribe to KHN’s free Morning Briefing.

Sign Up Please confirm your email address below: Sign Up

State health officials say several factors, including the improved economy, are behind last year’s drop of 7 percent in Missouri and 9 percent in Tennessee.

But advocates for the poor think the states’ efforts to weed out residents who are improperly enrolled, or the difficulty of re-enrolling, has led to people being forced off the rolls. For example, Tennessee sent packets to enrollees that could be as long as 47 pages to verify their re-enrollment. In Missouri, people faced hours-long waits on the state’s phone lines to get help in enrolling.

Medicaid enrollment nationally was down about 1.5 percent from January to October last year, the latest enrollment data available from the federal government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Herb Kuhn, president and chief executive of the Missouri Hospital Association, said the state’s efforts to verify Medicaid eligibility could be tied to an increase in the number of people without coverage that hospitals are seeing.

“When we see over 50,000 children come off the Medicaid rolls, it raises some questions about whether the state is doing its verifications appropriately,” he said. “Those who are truly entitled to the service should get to keep it.”

In 2018, Missouri Medicaid began automating its verification system for the state-federal insurance program for the poor. People who were identified as ineligible, for income or other reasons, were sent a letter asking them to provide updated documentation. Those who did not respond or could not prove their eligibility were dropped.

The state does not know how many letters it sent or how many people responded, said Rebecca Woelfel, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services, which oversees Medicaid. She said Missouri Medicaid enrollees were given 10 days to respond.

Woelfel cited the new eligibility system, the improved economy and Congress rescinding the federal tax penalty for people who lack insurance as factors behind the decline in enrollment.

Missouri’s unemployment rate dropped from 3.7 percent in January 2018 to 3.1 percent in December as the number of unemployed people fell by about 17,000.

Missouri Medicaid had almost 906,000 people enrolled as of December, down from more than 977,000 in January 2018, according to state data. About two-thirds of those enrolled are children or pregnant women.

Timothy McBride, a health economist at Washington University in St. Louis who heads a Missouri Medicaid advisory board, said the state’s eligibility system has made it too difficult for people to stay enrolled. Since low-income people move or may be homeless, their mailing addresses may be inaccurate. Plus, many don’t read their mail or may not understand what was required to stay enrolled, he added.

“I worry some people are still eligible but just did not respond, and the next time they need health care they will show up with their Medicaid card and find out they are not covered,” McBride said.

Tennessee’s Medicaid enrollment fell from 1.48 million in January 2018 to 1.35 million in December, according to state data. Tennessee Medicaid spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson credits a healthy job market. The state’s unemployment rate was relatively stable last year at under 4 percent.

“Tennessee is experiencing a state economy that continues to increase at what appears to be near-historic rates, which is positively impacting Tennesseans’ lives and, in some cases, decreasing their need to access health insurance through the state’s Medicaid” program and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), she said.

She added that the state has a “robust appeals process” for anyone who was found ineligible by the state’s reverification system.

The Tennessee Justice Center, an advocacy group, has worked with hundreds of families in the past year trying to restore their Medicaid coverage. The verification process will make “Medicaid rolls smaller and saves money, and that’s a poor way for the state to measure success,” said Michele Johnson, executive director of the nonprofit group. “But it’s penny-wise and pound-foolish” because it leads to people showing up at emergency rooms without coverage — and hospitals have to pass on those costs to everyone else.

After rapid growth since 2014, when the Affordable Care Act expanded health insurance coverage to millions of Americans, Medicaid enrollment nationally started to fall, declining from 74 million in January 2018 to about 73 million in October, according to the latest enrollment data released by CMS.

Missouri and Tennessee are among 17 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA. But many of those non-expansion states nevertheless saw enrollment grow, because as people tried to sign up for insurance on the ACA exchanges, those meeting state criteria were routed to Medicaid.

McBride, the health economist, said the steep drop is especially disconcerting because most of those affected are children. Because children are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP with family incomes as high as 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $77,250 for a family of four, he said, it’s unlikely a parent’s change in job would be enough for a child to lose eligibility.

Missouri’s 70,000-person drop in enrollment, he noted, marks the biggest single-year reduction since 2006, when the state instituted tighter eligibility levels for certain groups.

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, which advocates for low-income residents, estimates that nearly 57,000 of those dropped from the Medicaid rolls were children, a decline that is nine times the national average.

Joe Pierle, chief executive officer of the Missouri Primary Care Association, a trade group representing community health centers, said he doesn’t think the state is doing anything “underhanded or nefarious.” Nevertheless, he’s not sure Medicaid officials did enough to reach out to people before dropping them.

“I suspect some people are falling through the cracks,” he said.

Secretary Azar Praises New Drug Industry Steps on Transparency

HHS Gov News - February 07, 2019

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar released the following statement on Johnson & Johnson’s decision to include the list price of its drugs in television advertisements:

“President Trump has put forth a plan for bringing unprecedented transparency and competition to the prescription drug market, which includes requiring the disclosure of list prices in television ads. We commend Johnson & Johnson for recognizing the value of informing consumers about list prices and for doing so voluntarily. We call on other manufacturers to follow their lead.

"Transparency around list prices is complemented by the President’s proposal last week to replace backdoor rebates with upfront discounts at the pharmacy counter. Before a patient is prescribed a drug, they deserve to know what that drug costs and what it will cost them. We will continue to take action to make that a reality.”

Read more about HHS’s recent proposal on upfront discounts

Read about the administration’s proposal to require list prices in television advertising.

OCR Concludes All-Time Record Year for HIPAA Enforcement with $3 Million Cottage Health Settlement

HHS Gov News - February 07, 2019
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services concluded an all-time record year in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) enforcement activity.  In 2018, OCR settled 10 cases and was granted summary judgment in a case before an Administrative Law Judge, together totaling $28.7 million from enforcement actions. This total surpassed the previous record of $23.5 million from 2016 by 22 percent.  In addition, OCR also achieved the single largest individual HIPAA settlement in history of $16 million with Anthem, Inc., representing a nearly three-fold increase over the previous record settlement of $5.5 million in 2016.   OCR’s final settlement of the year occurred in December 2018, when Cottage Health agreed to pay $3 million to OCR and to adopt a substantial corrective action plan to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Rules. Cottage Health operates Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Santa Ynez Cottage Hospital, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital and Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital, in California. OCR received two notifications from Cottage Health regarding breaches of unsecured electronic protected health information (ePHI) affecting over 62,500 individuals, one in December 2013 and another in December 2015.     The first breach arose when ePHI on a Cottage Health server was accessible from the internet.  OCR’s investigation determined that security configuration settings of the Windows operating system permitted access to files containing ePHI without requiring a username and password.  As a result, patient names, addresses, dates of birth, diagnoses, conditions, lab results and other treatment information were available to anyone with access to Cottage Health’s server.  The second breach occurred when a server was misconfigured following an IT response to a troubleshooting ticket, exposing unsecured ePHI over the internet.  This ePHI included patient names, addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers, diagnoses, conditions, and other treatment information.   OCR’s investigation revealed that Cottage Health failed to conduct an accurate and thorough assessment of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the ePHI; failed to implement security measures sufficient to reduce risks and vulnerabilities to a reasonable and appropriate level; failed to perform periodic technical and non-technical evaluations in response to environmental or operational changes affecting the security of ePHI; and failed to obtain a written business associate agreement with a contractor that maintained ePHI on its behalf.   “Our record year underscores the need for covered entities to be proactive about data security if they want to avoid being on the wrong end of an enforcement action,” said OCR Director Roger Severino. “The Cottage settlement reminds us that information security is a dynamic process and the risks to ePHI may arise before, during, and after implementation covered entity makes system changes.”    In addition to the $3 million settlement, Cottage will undertake a robust corrective action plan to comply with the HIPAA Rules.  The resolution agreement and corrective action plan may be found on the OCR website at https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/compliance-enforcement/agreements/cottage/index.html.   A summary of all 2018 OCR HIPAA settlements and judgments may be found at https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/compliance-enforcement/agreements/2018enforcement/index.html.  

John Dingell, ‘Dean Of The House,’ Remembered As A Force In Health Policy

Kaiser Health News:Medicaid - February 07, 2019

Former Rep. John Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who holds the record as the longest-serving member of the U.S. House, died Thursday night in Michigan. He was 92.

And while his name was not familiar to many, his impact on the nation, and on health care in particular, was immense.

For more than 16 years Dingell led the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

With nearly 60 years of service, Dingell was the longtime “dean of the House,” an honor accorded to the longest tenured member. As a young legislator, he presided over the House during the vote to approve Medicare in 1965. As a tribute to his father, who served before him and who introduced the first congressional legislation to establish national health insurance during the New Deal, Dingell introduced his own national health insurance bill at the start of every Congress.

And when the House passed what would become the Affordable Care Act in 2009, leaders named the legislation after him. Dingell sat by the side of President Barack Obama when he signed the bill into law in 2010.

Dingell was “a beloved pillar of the Congress and one of the greatest legislators in American history,” said a statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Yet, among the vast array of historic legislative achievements, few hold greater meaning than his tireless commitment to the health of the American people.”

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He was not always nice. He had a quick temper and a ferocious demeanor when he was displeased, which was often. Witnesses who testified before him could feel his wrath, as could Republican opponents and even other committee Democrats. And he was fiercely protective of his committee’s territory.

In 1993, during the effort by President Bill Clinton to pass major health reform, as the heads of the three main committees that oversee health issues argued over which would lead the effort, Dingell famously proclaimed of his panel, “We have health.”

Dingell and his health subcommittee chairman, California Democrat Henry Waxman, fought endlessly over energy and environmental issues. The Los Angeles-based Waxman was one of the House’s most active environmentalists. Dingell represented the powerful auto industry in southeastern Michigan and opposed many efforts to require safety equipment and fuel and emission standards.

In 2008, Waxman ousted Dingell from the chairmanship of the full committee.

But the two were of the same mind on most health issues, and together during the 1980s and early 1990s they expanded the Medicaid program, reshaped Medicare and modernized the FDA, NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It was always a relief for me to know that when he and I met with the Senate in conference, we were talking from the same page, believed in the same things, and we were going to fight together,” Waxman said in 2009.

Dingell was succeeded in his seat by his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, herself a former auto industry lobbyist.

Former Rep. John Dingell Dies; Longest-Serving Congressman Was A Force In Health Policy

Kaiser Health News:The Health Law - February 07, 2019

Former Rep. John Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who holds the record as the longest-serving member of the U.S. House, died Thursday night in Michigan. He was 92.

And while his name was not familiar to many, his impact on the nation, and on health care in particular, was immense.

For more than 16 years Dingell led the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

As a young legislator, he presided over the House during the vote to approve Medicare in 1965. As a tribute to his father, who served before him and who introduced the first congressional legislation to establish national health insurance during the New Deal, Dingell introduced his own national health insurance bill at the start of every Congress.

And when the House passed what would become the Affordable Care Act in 2009, leaders named the legislation after him. Dingell sat by the side of President Barack Obama when he signed the bill into law in 2010.

Dingell was “a beloved pillar of the Congress and one of the greatest legislators in American history,” said a statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Yet, among the vast array of historic legislative achievements, few hold greater meaning than his tireless commitment to the health of the American people.”

Don't Miss A Story

Subscribe to KHN’s free Weekly Edition newsletter.

Sign Up Please confirm your email address below: Sign Up

He was not always nice. He had a quick temper and a ferocious demeanor when he was displeased, which was often. Witnesses who testified before him could feel his wrath, as could Republican opponents and even other committee Democrats. And he was fiercely protective of his committee’s territory.

In 1993, during the effort by President Bill Clinton to pass major health reform, as the heads of the three main committees that oversee health issues argued over which would lead the effort, Dingell famously proclaimed of his panel, “We have health.”

Dingell and his health subcommittee chairman, California Democrat Henry Waxman, fought endlessly over energy and environmental issues. The Los Angeles-based Waxman was one of the House’s most active environmentalists. Dingell represented the powerful auto industry in southeastern Michigan and opposed many efforts to require safety equipment and fuel and emission standards.

In 2008, Waxman ousted Dingell from the chairmanship of the full committee.

But the two were of the same mind on most health issues, and together during the 1980s and early 1990s they expanded the Medicaid program, reshaped Medicare and modernized the FDA, NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It was always a relief for me to know that when he and I met with the Senate in conference, we were talking from the same page, believed in the same things, and we were going to fight together,” Waxman said in 2009.

Dingell was succeeded in his seat by his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, herself a former auto industry lobbyist.

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