Monday, November 14, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News Original Stories
Sick Profit: Investigating Private Equity’s Stealthy Takeover of Health Care Across Cities and Specialties
Private equity firms have shelled out almost $1 trillion to acquire nearly 8,000 health care businesses, in deals almost always hidden from federal regulators. The result: higher prices, lawsuits, and complaints about care. (Fred Schulte, )
Thousands of Experts Hired to Aid Public Health Departments Are Losing Their Jobs
As the covid-19 pandemic raged, an independent nonprofit tied to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hired an army of seasoned professionals to fill the gaps in the country’s public health system. Now, the money has largely run out, and state and local health departments are again without their expertise. (Lauren Weber, )
California Stockpiles Penalties From Uninsured Residents Instead of Lowering Care Costs
California is collecting hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tax penalties from uninsured residents. The state was supposed to use the money to help lower costs for Californians who couldn’t afford insurance but hasn’t distributed any of the revenue it has collected — citing uncertain economic times. (Angela Hart, )
‘Impending Intergenerational Crisis’: Americans With Disabilities Lack Long-Term Care Plans
Many Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities do not have long-term plans for when family members can no longer care for them. Families, researchers, and advocates worry that has set the stage for a crisis in which people with disabilities could end up living in institutional settings. (Sam Whitehead, )
‘An Arm and a Leg’: No Money, No Job, No Health Care? Not Always.
For many Americans, it’s open enrollment season for 2023 health insurance. One listener asked: If you don’t have a job and are too old to be on your parents’ plan, does it make sense to rely on charity care? This episode breaks it all down. (Dan Weissmann, )
Journalists Tackle the Midterms and Open Enrollment
KHN and California Healthline staff made the rounds on national and local media this week to discuss their stories. Here’s a collection of their appearances. ( )
Here's today's health policy haiku:
Disabled and old
Need housing but can’t pay much
The options are few
– Karin Swenson-Moore
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if we can include your name. Haikus follow the format of 5-7-5 syllables. We give extra brownie points if you link back to a KHN original story.
Opinions expressed in haikus and cartoons are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions of KHN or KFF.
Covid-19 Crisis
Health Risks Increase With Repeat Covid Infections: Study
Researchers find that covid reinfections can carry significantly higher risks of severe symptoms, hospitalization, or death than the first bout with covid.
Reuters: Repeat COVID Is Riskier Than First Infection, Study Finds 
The risk of death, hospitalization and serious health issues from COVID-19 jumps significantly with reinfection compared with a first bout with the virus, regardless of vaccination status, a study published on Thursday suggests. "Reinfection with COVID-19 increases the risk of both acute outcomes and long COVID," said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "This was evident in unvaccinated, vaccinated and boosted people." (Lapid, 11/10)
CIDRAP: Repeat COVID Infections Appear To Predispose Patients To Disease, Death
Repeat SARS-CoV-2 infections confer significant additional risk of adverse multi-organ medical conditions and poor outcomes such as hospitalization, diabetes, kidney disease, mental illness, death, and diseases affecting the lungs, heart, brain, blood, and musculoskeletal systems, suggests a study published yesterday in Nature Medicine. (11/11)
Two variants have taken over —
NPR: Omicron Variants BQ.1 And BQ.1.1 Now Dominant In U.S.
Two new omicron subvariants have become dominant in the United States, raising fears they could fuel yet another surge of COVID-19 infections, according to estimates released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Stein, 11/11)
Reuters: COVID Variants BQ.1/BQ.1.1 Make Up 44% Of U.S. Cases – CDC 
The two variants, which are closely related to Omicron's BA.5 sub-variant that drove COVID-19 cases in United States earlier in the year, made up less than 10% of total cases in the country last month, but currently have surpassed Omicron's BA.5, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (11/11)
More on the spread of covid —
Reuters: Global COVID Cases Will Increase In Coming Months, But At A Slower Pace -Report 
Daily global COVID-19 infections are projected to rise slowly to about 18.7 million by February from the current 16.7 million average daily cases, driven by the northern hemisphere's winter months, the University of Washington said in an analysis. Far fewer infections are expected than last winter's estimated peak daily average of about 80 million cases in January of 2022 that was driven by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, according to the report. (11/11)
CNN: Cruise Ship With 800 Covid-Positive Passengers Docks In Sydney
A cruise ship with hundreds of Covid-positive passengers docked in Sydney, Australia, after being hit by a wave of infections. The Majestic Princess cruise ship was about halfway through a 12-day voyage when an outbreak of cases was noticed, Carnival Australia president Marguerite Fitzgerald told reporters in a media briefing on Saturday. (Law, Khalidi and Maruyama, 11/13)
CIDRAP: Infant COVID Hospitalizations—But Not Severe Cases—Rose Amid Omicron
COVID-19 hospitalization rates among US infants younger than 6 months rose during Omicron variant predominance compared to the Delta period, but indicators of severe infection didn't, according to a study published today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. (Van Beusekom, 11/10)
CIDRAP: Kids At Similar Risk For Long COVID As Adults, Study Suggests
A large study today from Germany shows that kids and adolescents are at the same relative risk of experiencing COVID-19 symptoms 90 days or more after acute infection as adults are, according to findings in PLOS Medicine. (Soucheray, 11/10)
CIDRAP: Long Recovery, Brain Damage, Effect Of Stressors With Long COVID 
Four new long-COVID studies reveal that 10% of French patients infected early in the pandemic still had symptoms 1 year later, SARS-CoV-2 can profoundly damage the brain for months, and very stressful events exacerbate persistent symptoms. (Van Beusekom, 11/11)
Also —
Reuters: U.S. COVID Public Health Emergency To Stay In Place
The United States will keep in place the public health emergency status of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing millions of Americans to still receive free tests, vaccines and treatments, two Biden administration officials said on Friday. (Aboulenein and Mason, 11/11)
Study Finds That Masks In Schools Curbed Covid Cases
A newly published study compared schools that required universal masking and those that did not. It found "striking" evidence that face coverings were effective in limiting spread to students and staff members.
The Washington Post: Universal Masking Linked To Fewer Covid Cases In Schools, Study Finds 
Public schools that kept universal masking requirements in place last year had significantly fewer coronavirus cases than their counterparts that lifted mandates as state policies changed, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that weighs in on the hotly debated pandemic safety measure. The study, which followed schools in the Boston region during the 2021-2022 academic year, found that the end of mask requirements was associated with an additional 45 coronavirus cases per 1,000 students and staff members — or nearly 12,000 cases during a 15-week period from March to June. (St. George, 11/10)
The New York Times: Masks Cut Covid Spread In Schools, Study Finds 
The data should help dispel misinformation about the effectiveness of universal masking requirements in stemming viral transmission in schools, said Julia Raifman, an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health and an author of an editorial accompanying the new study. “Even as recently as this summer, people were saying, ‘Oh, Covid doesn’t spread in schools,’ and there was a misconception that kids don’t get Covid,” said Dr. Raifman, who was not involved in the new research. “But what we see in the study is that Covid does spread in schools, and it spreads back home, and it spreads to teachers.” (Rabin, 11/10)
In covid vaccine updates —
CIDRAP: Vaccination Produces Higher Cord Blood Antibodies Than COVID Infection
JAMA Network Open published a new study yesterday showing higher cord blood COVID-19 antibodies in women who were vaccinated compared with those who were infected with COVID-19, suggesting vaccination produces more than 10-fold higher antibody concentrations in unborn babies compared to natural infections. (11/10)
CIDRAP: Israeli Study Shows Fourth Pfizer Dose Protection Wanes By 6 Months
Yesterday in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, Israeli researchers reported an overall vaccine effectiveness of a fourth Pfizer COVID vaccine dose of 41% in the first 6 months, but they said protection decreased from 52% during the first 5 weeks after vaccination to no protection at 15 to 26 weeks. (11/10)
NBC News: Myocarditis After Covid Vaccine: Research On Long-Term Effects Underway
The FDA declined to comment on Pfizer's and Moderna's studies because they are ongoing, but an agency official said the chance of having myocarditis occur following vaccination is "very low." The condition does not lead to cardiac-related death, the official said, as claimed by Florida's surgeon general last month who cited an unpublished analysis of state data. (Lovelace Jr., 11/12)
In other pandemic news —
CBS News: Dr. Anthony Fauci Talks Family, Career And What's Next
Dr. Anthony Fauci may be stepping down from his role as chief medical advisor to the president in December, but the immunologist says he's "not even close" to completely retiring. (Miller and Powell, 11/12)
KHN: Thousands Of Experts Hired To Aid Public Health Departments Are Losing Their Jobs 
As covid-19 raged, roughly 4,000 highly skilled epidemiologists, communication specialists, and public health nurses were hired by a nonprofit tied to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to plug the holes at battered public health departments on the front lines. But over the past few months, the majority of the CDC Foundation’s contracts for those public health workers at local and state departments have ended as the group has spent nearly all of its almost $289 million in covid relief funding. The CDC Foundation, an independent nonprofit that supports the CDC’s work, anticipates that no more than about 800 of its 4,000 hires will ultimately staff those jurisdictions, spokesperson Pierce Nelson said. (Weber, 11/14)
Outbreaks and Health Threats
Flu Activity High In At Least 25 States, CDC Data Show
Levels are "very high" in seven states and Washington, D.C. Axios says CDC data also show the flu season is hitting harder and earlier than in previous years. AP reports that several California hospitals have had to erect tents to cope with overflow patients.
Axios: CDC: Flu Activity "Very High" In 7 States And Washington D.C.
At least 25 U.S. states or territories recently have had "very high" or "high" rates of influenza activity, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data suggests this year's flu season is hitting the U.S. harder and earlier than in previous years, especially in the south. (Knutson, 11/13)
AP: California Hospitals Erect Tents To Cope With Rise In Flu 
Several Southern California hospitals have begun using overflow tents outside emergency rooms to cope with a rising number of patients with flu and other respiratory illness. The San Diego-Union Tribune reported Friday that tents were put up at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas, Jacobs Medical Center at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla and Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa. (11/12)
Health News Florida: Influenza Cases Are Overwhelming Tallahassee Memorial's Emergency Rooms
Last year, COVID was stressing the area's health care system. This year, it seems old-fashioned influenza is back with a vengeance. Maybe it's because fewer people are wearing masks and social distancing nowadays. But Megan Dunaway, assistant nurse manager at Tallahassee Memorial's Northeast emergency room, said flu cases have returned big time. (Flanigan, 11/10)
In updates on RSV —
The Boston Globe: ‘We’re In Uncharted Territory’: Doctors Warn Of Spike In Children Hospitalized With RSV
Pediatric intensive care unit beds at Massachusetts General for Children were operating at 150% capacity on Thursday, as cases of RSV continued to overwhelm regional hospitals. (Bartlett, 11/10)
Indianapolis Star: RSV: Surge Of Respiratory Illnesses Fill Children's Hospitals
The Indiana Hospital Association has issued a rare plea asking the public to do their part to help quell the spread of disease. These measures include getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu, practicing good hygiene, wearing a mask when necessary and exercising patience if visiting an emergency room. (Rudavsky, 11/14)
Also —
CBS News: Doctors Urge COVID-19 And Flu Vaccines Ahead Of Holidays, As Flu Cases Surge
As hospitals and emergency rooms fill up amid a surge of flu cases, doctors are warning people to get vaccinated for that and COVID-19, especially ahead of the holiday season. The flu is already hitting hard, with 22 states and Washington, D.C., reporting high levels of activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Villafranca, 11/11)
After Roe V. Wade
HHS Releases Policy Ensuring Abortion Access For Migrant Youth
Under a new policy, the Biden administration says that unaccompanied pregnant minors can be transported or reassigned to shelters in states where abortion is legal.
AP: US Providing Abortion Access For Detained Migrant Youths
The U.S. government took steps Thursday to ensure that pregnant migrant youths who are in its custody but not accompanied by parents can access abortion services by assigning them to shelters in states that still allow the procedure. Pregnant migrants under 18 who want an abortion should also be provided transportation, if necessary, from states such as Texas, where abortion is largely banned, to a state where it is legal, according to the written guidance from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. (Lee, 11/10)
Roll Call: Government Fortifies Abortion Access For Migrant Children
New Department of Health and Human Services guidelines released Thursday instruct the government to ensure unaccompanied migrant children in its care have access to abortion, even if it means taking them to another state. (Coudriet, 11/10)
More on abortion and reproductive rights —
NPR: Abortion Rights Groups Want To Put Abortion Questions On More State Ballots
Abortion rights supporters had a successful run of ballot measures this year. In every state where voters were asked to weigh in directly on abortion rights, they supported measures that protect those rights and rejected initiatives that could threaten them. Those victories have abortion rights advocates looking at where they can next take the fight directly to voters. (McCammon, 11/11)
Politico: Florida Republicans Eye Further Abortion Restrictions After Big Gains In The Legislature 
Just days after Republicans won supermajorities in the Florida Legislature, the state Senate is considering stricter abortion limits during the upcoming legislative session. Incoming Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) on Friday said she would support restricting abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy as long as there are exceptions for victims of rape and incest. Florida currently bans the procedure at 15 weeks but allows no exceptions except to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has an irregularity that is fatal. (Sarkissian, 11/11)
Mlive.Com: The Abortion Rights And Potential Legal Fights Coming After Michigan’s Prop 3 Won
Mark your calendar for Dec. 23. That’s the day Proposal 3, the constitutional amendment reviving Roe v. Wade, is added to Michigan’s founding document. There is debate over what happens to certain laws when the amendment goes into effect. But at the most basic level, Michiganders receive “a fundamental right to reproductive freedom,” according to the full amendment text. (Orner, 11/11)
Axios: Nonprofit Scores With Progressive Health Ballot Measures In Red States
A progressive nonprofit cemented its status as a key driver of state health policies in the midterms, winning popular votes on ballot questions dealing with abortion rights, Medicaid expansion and medical debt. (Moreno, 11/10)
Idaho Capital Sun: What Does History Tell Us About How The Idaho Supreme Court Might Rule On Abortion?
Idaho drafted its original abortion statute at the First Territorial Session in Lewiston — 25 years before Idaho became a state and drafted the state constitution — in the winter months between December 1863 and early 1864. The wording of the statute is almost identical to statutes several other states were passing to ban abortion around the same time, including Montana and Nevada. Like the ban that took effect in Idaho in August, that law allowed for abortion to save the woman’s life, but not for rape and incest. (Moseley-Morris, 11/14)
Path For Biden Health Nominees Smoother In Democratic-Led Senate
News outlets explore the post-midterms prospects for health and science legislative initiatives. In other election updates, Colorado has become the second state to legalize "magic mushrooms."
Stat: A Democratic Senate Improves The Outlook For Biden Health And Science Priorities, Including Key Nominees
The outlook for the White House’s health and science priorities just got a whole lot brighter. With a Democratic Senate, as the Associated Press projected Saturday night, it will be much easier for President Biden to get nominees confirmed, including whomever he taps to lead the National Institutes of Health. (Cohrs, 11/13)
Health Affairs: What The 2022 Midterm Results Might Mean For Health Care
A divided Congress would likely neither dramatically expand nor broadly repeal the Affordable Care Act. However, there are areas of potential bipartisan opportunity—either for the lame duck session or the next Congress—such as telehealth expansion and mental health care access. With votes continuing to be tallied in several key states and a Senate runoff race in Georgia in early December, it may take days or weeks to know the full results of the 2022 midterm elections. Even so, health care, and especially abortion rights, seems to have been a key factor in many congressional and state races. Based on what we know now, this article takes a first pass at how the results of the midterm elections might impact health policy. (Keith, 11/10)
Politico: It’s Health Care, Stupid
As the party sifts through the results in search of what went right, an early conclusion is that for all the focus on inflation and debates over democracy, tens of millions of voters were motivated by everyday health concerns — and that sizable group trusted Democrats far more than Republicans to address them. … In key races, vulnerable Democrats like Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania ran on cutting drug costs and making health care more affordable. Biden spent the midterm stretch run hammering Republicans for suggesting cuts to Medicare. (Cancryn, Thompson and Stokols, 11/10)
In other election updates —
Stat: Colorado Becomes Second State With Legalized Magic Mushrooms
Colorado legalized magic mushrooms in this week’s midterm elections, with the group opposing the ballot question conceding defeat before the race was called. Proposition 122 passed with 52% of the vote. (Goldhill, 11/10)
NBC News: Colorado Legalized ‘Magic Mushrooms.’ Could The Rest Of The U.S. Follow?
The initiative allows for the use of psilocybin at state-regulated centers under the supervision of licensed facilitators. It also legalizes personal private use, growing and sharing of psilocybin and psilocin, as well as three additional psychedelic compounds — DMT, ibogaine and mescaline — by adults over the age of 21. Retail sales are not permitted, and the law has several limitations, including ones prohibiting use in public, in school, or while operating a vehicle. (Jefferies, 11/11)
The New York Times: RJ Reynolds Sues California Over Flavored Tobacco Ban 
R.J. Reynolds, the maker of Newport menthol cigarettes and top-selling vaping products, filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday challenging California’s landmark ban on flavored tobacco, a day after voters overwhelmingly approved it. The state law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom two years ago, would prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco and vaping products within weeks, undercutting a sizable part of sales for Reynolds and other tobacco companies. Reynolds is seeking an injunction to keep the law from taking effect. (Jewett, 11/10)
Mental Health
Surge Of Children In ERs With Suicidal Thoughts: Study
A new study finds the uptick in emergency room visits driven by children with suicidal thoughts began even before the pandemic. Bangor Daily News reports on higher risk of poor mental health in two Maine counties. Other news covers Alaskan soldiers, Texas veterans, and more.
CNN: Study Finds 'Huge' Increase In Children Going To The Emergency Room With Suicidal Thoughts
There has been a steady increase in the number of children who are seen in emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts, according to a new study – and the increase started even before the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought record high demand for psychological services for children. (Christensen, 11/14)
Bangor Daily News: Young Kids In These 2 Maine Counties Are At Greater Risk For Poor Mental Health
Complex emotions among middle-schoolers are nothing new, but the sadness and hopelessness of students in two of Maine’s poorest counties prior to the COVID-19 pandemic have health officials and youth advocates concerned. (Royzman, 11/14)
In military news —
USA Today: Suicide Took Lives Of Four Alaska Soldiers One Month, Reversing Trend
Four soldiers in Alaska died by suicide in the last month, an alarming spike that came despite a surge in mental health resources to the Army posts there. In May, the Army sent more than 40 counselors and chaplains to Alaska after USA TODAY reported a month earlier that soldiers with suicidal issues had waited weeks for appointments with mental health providers. In 2021, 17 soldiers died by suicide, including eight over four months late in the year as winter descended on the state, daylight shortened and despair deepened. (Vanden Brook, 11/14)
Houston Chronicle: Texas Has A High Veteran Suicide Rate. What's Being Done To Help?
In 2020, the suicide rate for Texas veterans was higher than the national veteran suicide rate – Texas had a rate of 36.6 suicides per 100,000 veterans, while the national rate was 34.4, according to data from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Meanwhile, the suicide rate for the general Texas population remained much lower at 13.3 per 100,000 people. (Goodwin, 11/11)
In other mental health news —
Vice News: How This Seemingly Brutal Instagram Account Is Promoting Mental Health
Like its name suggests, @disappointingaffirmations, which already has over 180,000 followers despite being just four months old, posts statements that are not like other affirmations. Instead of overtly positive, rainbows-and-butterflies, everything-is-going-to-be-ok mantras, the account posts seemingly brutal, slightly defeated, and even jarring dejections. But don’t get it twisted—the account isn’t trying to bring you down. On the contrary, it’s trying to depict struggles with mental health in a raw, real, and refreshing way. (Santos, 11/13)
The Washington Post: A Mental Health Break From College Can Be Helpful. Here Are Expert Tips
Some 40 percent of college students in the United States struggle with anxiety, 45 percent with depression and 16 percent with suicidal thoughts. These numbers, from a survey conducted last year by the Healthy Minds Network, have more than doubled in the past decade. Many students are considering taking time away from school to tend to their mental health — and it is something that should be encouraged, experts say. (Bever, 11/11)
If you are in need of help —
Dial 9-8-8 for 24/7 support from the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. It’s free and confidential.
Alzheimer's Drug From Roche Fails In Much-Watched Trial
The drug candidate did not demonstrate that it could slow the progression of dementia in two drug trials. Stat reports that it did slightly slow decline compared to placebo, but not meaningfully enough. Separately, the benefits of crossword puzzles against cognitive decline are reported.
Reuters: Roche's Alzheimer's Drug Fails To Meet Goal In Long Awaited Trial 
Roche's Alzheimer's drug candidate could not be shown to slow dementia progression in two drug trials, leaving rivals Biogen and Eisai as leaders in a high-stakes race to launch a treatment for the memory-robbing disease. (Burger, 11/14)
Stat: Roche Alzheimer's Treatment Fails To Slow Cognitive Decline
The drug, called gantenerumab, slowed the rate of cognitive and functional decline compared to a placebo by 8% and 6%, respectively — not enough to meet the primary goal of the two studies of just under 2,000 patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s, Roche said in a press release. (Feuerstein and Garde, 11/14)
In related news about cognitive health —
The Washington Post: Crossword Puzzles May Benefit People With Mild Cognitive Impairment 
For years, scientists have been trying to figure out whether “brain workouts” such as puzzles and online cognitive games could strengthen our minds and slow the process of aging. Now, a study published in NEJM Evidence has found that regularly attempting a crossword may help slow decline in some people with mild cognitive impairment, an early stage of faltering memory that can sometimes progress to dementia. (Amenabar, 11/10)
On aging and ageism —
The Wall Street Journal: Your Muscle Weakness May Not Just Be A Sign Of Aging 
After a certain age, when muscle weakness and pain start to accompany exercise and simple daily tasks like getting up from a chair, we often dismiss it as part of the package of getting older. But researchers are learning that some of these ailments that people dismiss as the result of aging may in fact be caused by medication, or an undiagnosed disease or infection. Some studies also have suggested that Covid-19 infection and its treatments can lead to muscle damage, including decreased muscle strength and endurance. (Landro, 11/13)
The Washington Post: Biden, Turning 80, Faces Renewed Age Questions As He Weighs Reelection
Questions about President Biden’s physical and mental fitness have hung over him since he began his presidential run in 2019 and have persisted throughout the first two years of his term. But as Biden prepares to turn 80 on Nov. 20 — potentially announcing a reelection bid shortly thereafter — the United States is entering unmapped territory: an octogenarian in the Oval Office. (Olorunnipa and Abutaleb, 11/11)
CBS News: Fighting Back Against Ageism 
Everyday ageism is everywhere, said University of Oklahoma professor Julie Ober Allen, who conducted a large-scale nationwide survey to assess just how pervasive it really is. She found that more than 93% of older Americans between the ages of 50 and 80 frequently experience everyday ageism interactions and experiences. (Morgan, 11/13)
California Plans Partnership With Civica Rx to Make Low-Cost Insulin
Civica Rx, a nonprofit generics company, will partner with California as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom's plan to combat high insulin prices, NBC News reports. In other news, the pharmaceutical company behind Suboxone will buy the maker of the U.S.'s bestselling overdose reversal drug: Narcan.
NBC News: California Expected To Partner With Nonprofit Civica Rx To Produce Its Own Low-Cost Insulin, Sources Say
California plans to partner with Civica Rx, a nonprofit generic drug company, in the state's effort to produce its own low-cost insulin, according to two people familiar with the matter. (Lovelace Jr., 11/11)
In other pharmaceutical news —
The Wall Street Journal: Narcan Owner Opiant To Be Acquired By Indivior For $145 Million 
One of the biggest addiction-drug makers is set to snatch up the owner of the country’s bestselling overdose-reversal drug, according to people familiar with the transaction. U.K.-based Indivior PLC will pay $20 per share, or about $145 million, to purchase Narcan owner Opiant Pharmaceuticals Inc., according to two people familiar with the transaction. Indivior will pay an additional $8 per share contingent on Opiant’s ability to gain approvals and revenue for an overdose-reversal medication in late-stage development, for a total potential payout of about $203 million, the people said. (Wernau, 11/14)
Stat: Telehealth Companies Prescribing Controlled Drugs Brace For Change
Health tech companies that have taken advantage of the possibility to prescribe controlled substances online during the pandemic may soon find their businesses — and their ability to care for patients — in jeopardy. (Ravindranath and Palmer, 11/11)
CIDRAP: European Energy Crisis May Portend US Drug Shortages 
Facing winter, aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, a looming recession, soaring energy and transportation costs, and dwindling gas reserves due to Russian supply cuts, some European companies are shuttering plants or scaling down production, fueling fresh fears of essential-drug shortages, according to a new report from the Israel-based drug maker Teva. (Van Beusekom, 11/10)
Boston Herald: Mass General Brigham Study: Remote Blood Pressure Monitoring Significantly Lowers Blood Pressure, LDL-Cholesterol
A remote healthcare program aimed at managing patients’ blood pressure and cholesterol levels ended up significantly lowering blood pressure and LDL-cholesterol, according to researchers from Mass General Brigham. (Sobey, 11/11)
Health Industry
Health Care-Related Infections Still Above Pre-Covid Levels
CDC data show that levels of health care-associated infections remain elevated. Clover Health, Cigna, University of North Carolina hospitals, a rural hospital closure in Iowa, and more are also in the news.
CIDRAP: CDC: Healthcare-Associated Infections Continued To Climb In 2021
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) in US hospitals remain elevated above pre–COVID-19 pandemic levels. Findings from the review of quarterly 2021 National Healthcare Safety Network data show continued increases in the quarterly standardized infections ratios (SIRs) for central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), ventilator-associated events (VAEs), and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteremia compared with 2019. The report analyzed data from acute care hospitals, critical access hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, and long-term acute care hospitals. (11/11)
In other health care industry news —
Modern Healthcare: Clover Health Pays Medicare Patients To See Doctors Who Use Clover Assistant
The insurtech will give its Medicare Advantage members $150 when they schedule in-person, virtual or home visits with providers that use Clover Assistant. The company, which has 88,000 Medicare Advantage customers, describes Clover Assistant as an electronic medical record combined with an artificial intelligence tool that prompts physicians for diagnoses, code entries and care protocols. (Tepper, 11/11)
Stat: Cigna Bets On Value-Based Care For A Younger, Healthier Crowd
These days, if you’re an insurer and you’re not buying into the health care provider space, you’re falling behind. And insurers are coming up with all sorts of creative ways to plant their flags. (Bannow, 11/14)
AP: UNC To Get Infectious Disease Treatment Designation
University of North Carolina hospitals will soon be designated as a treatment center for patients with highly infectious diseases in the region. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports that UNC and Emory University are the only two Regional Emerging Special Pathogen Treatment Centers in the Southeast. (11/12)
Des Moines Register: Rural Hospital Closed In Iowa. Could CMS Designation Prevent More?
In the weeks since Blessing Health Keokuk shut its doors to patients, residents of the community in southeast Iowa have reeled from the closure. Residents still have access to outpatient care, but the community has lost its sole access to 24-hour emergency treatment ― a terrifying new reality for patients like Leeper. (Ramm, 11/13)
St. Louis Public Radio: SLU Medical Students Honor Body Donors With Memorial Service
When hundreds of people packed a memorial service at St. Louis University's Francis Xavier Church, many came to celebrate people they had never spoken to. Medical student Stanley Wu addressed the standing-room only audience at the ornate church, letting those in the sanctuary know how much he and his classmate appreciated their departed family members. (Fentem, 11/14)
CBS News: Investigation Finds Failures In Organ Transplant System: "17 To 20 People A Day Die On The Wait List"
"Seventeen to 20 people a day die on the wait list because they can't get organs, and the OPOs are just not recovering enough organs and making sure they're getting into people who need them," said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who chairs the House subcommittee. (Werner Wernera, 11/11)
Also —
Public Service Journalism Team: ‘It Can Completely Destroy A Family’: Medical Debt Weighs On 1 In 5 North Carolinians
About 20% of North Carolina residents have medical debt that is in collections, making it the state with the fourth-highest level of unpaid medical debt. Alicia Pender lived a fairly normal life before contracting COVID-19 in 2020. She was a travel nurse working in central North Carolina and was active, taking vacations and handling her own home repairs. Nearly two years later, she’s facing a long list of health issues and more than $30,000 in medical debt. (Annable, 11/11)
KHN: Sick Profit: Investigating Private Equity’s Stealthy Takeover Of Health Care Across Cities And Specialties 
Two-year-old Zion Gastelum died just days after dentists performed root canals and put crowns on six baby teeth at a clinic affiliated with a private equity firm. His parents sued the Kool Smiles dental clinic in Yuma, Arizona, and its private equity investor, FFL Partners. They argued the procedures were done needlessly, in keeping with a corporate strategy to maximize profits by overtreating kids from lower-income families enrolled in Medicaid. Zion died after being diagnosed with “brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen,” according to the lawsuit. (Schulte, 11/14)
KHN: ‘An Arm And A Leg’: No Money, No Job, No Health Care? Not Always
If you don’t have money and you don’t have a job, what are your best options for getting health care? It’s 2023 open enrollment season, and a lot of Americans are shopping for health insurance plans. And some are weighing the risks of skipping health insurance altogether. (Weissmann, 11/11)
KHN: Journalists Tackle The Midterms And Open Enrollment
KHN chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner discussed how politicians plan to take on health care costs and how health issues are playing into the midterm elections on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” on Nov. 4. … KHN senior correspondent Julie Appleby discussed open enrollment and Affordable Care Act health plans on the “America’s Heroes Group” podcast on Nov. 5. (11/11)
Public Health
Scientists Find Mutation Clues To Monkeypox Outbreak
Separately, CIDRAP reports on CDC data showing that Black and Hispanic men who have sex with men are the most affected by the monkeypox outbreak. In other news, teen weight loss surgeries, toxic wildfire smoke, lack of long-term care plans for Americans with disabilities, and more.
St. Louis Public Radio: Missouri Scientists Find Mutations Behind Monkeypox Outbreak
A team of researchers at the University of Missouri has discovered viral mutations that are behind this year’s monkeypox outbreak. Like the coronavirus, monkeypox evolves over time to become more hardy and infectious. Viruses can mutate through interactions with medications or the environment. (Fentem, 11/11)
CIDRAP: CDC: Black, Hispanic MSM Most Affected By Monkeypox
New, updated epidemiologic information about the US monkeypox outbreak appears today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, showing that 70% of the 26,384 US monkeypox case-patients confirmed to have the virus between May 17 and Oct 6 reported recent male-to-male sexual contact. (Soucheray, 11/11)
In other public health news —
USA Today: Obesity: Teen Weight Loss Surgeries Rising But Experts Say Not Enough
A new study found the rate of weight loss surgery among teenagers has doubled in recent years, but experts argue the procedure is still severely underutilized in the United States. (Rodriguez, 11/14)
The Washington Post: Toxic Wildfire Smoke Raises Health Risks Across The Country
State public health officials and experts are increasingly concerned about residents’ chronic exposure to toxin-filled smoke. This year has seen the most wildfires of the past decade, with more than 59,000 fires burning nearly 7 million acres nationwide, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Although the total area burned is less than in some recent years, heavy smoke has still blanketed communities throughout the country. (Vasilogambros, 11/13)
KHN: ‘Impending Intergenerational Crisis’: Americans With Disabilities Lack Long-Term Care Plans 
Thinking about the future makes Courtney Johnson nervous. The 25-year-old blogger and college student has autism and several chronic illnesses, and with the support of her grandparents and friends, who help her access a complex network of social services, she lives relatively independently in Johnson City, Tennessee. “If something happens to them, I’m not certain what would happen to me, especially because I have difficulty with navigating things that require more red tape,” she said. (Whitehead, 11/11)
The Washington Post: All-Terrain Wheelchairs Arrive At U.S. Parks: ‘This Is Life-Changing’
Cory Lee has visited 40 countries on seven continents, and yet the Georgia native has never explored Cloudland Canyon State Park, about 20 minutes from his home. His wheelchair was tough enough for the trip to Antarctica but not for the rugged terrain in his backyard. Lee’s circumstances changed Friday, when Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources and the Aimee Copeland Foundation unveiled a fleet of all-terrain power wheelchairs for rent at 11 state parks and outdoorsy destinations, including Cloudland Canyon. The Action Trackchair models are equipped with tank-like tracks capable of traversing rocks, roots, streams and sand; clearing fallen trees; plowing through tall grass; and tackling uphill climbs. (Sachs and Compton, 11/8)
State Watch
California Sues 18 Companies Over 'Staggering' Chemical Water Pollutants
California Attorney General Rob Bonta says the manufacturers, including DuPont and 3M, should be held liable for “hundreds of millions of dollars” in penalties and cleanup costs across the state of "forever chemicals." Other state health news comes from Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, and elsewhere.
Bloomberg: DuPont, 3M Sued By California Over Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’
California is suing 3M Co., DuPont de Nemours Inc. and other chemical companies over “staggering” water contamination from products made with “forever chemicals” that are impossible to get rid of after they accumulate in the ground. (Nayak, 11/10)
KHN: California Stockpiles Penalties From Uninsured Residents Instead Of Lowering Care Costs 
Nearly three years after California started fining residents who don’t have health insurance, the state has not distributed any of the revenue it has collected, KHN has learned — money that was intended to help Californians struggling to pay for coverage. And so far, the majority of Californians paying the tax penalty for not having insurance are low- and middle-income earners, according to state tax officials — just the people the money was intended to help. (Hart, 11/14)
Columbus Dispatch: Rural Health In Ohio: Doctor Shortage In Small Towns Threatens Care
Dr. Dhriti Sooryakumar gets to know her patients in a way many physicians won't ever have the chance to. When Sooryakumar clocks in every morning at the hospital, one of the first things she does is look to see if she knows any of the patients she'll be treating in the emergency department. (Filby, 11/14)
Public Service Journalism Team: Medicaid Expansion Remains On Hold In Texas As State Struggles With Medical Debt, High Uninsured Rate
The country’s medical debt crisis is at its most dire in several parts of Texas, which is home to three of the worst 10 U.S. counties for medical debt, according to data analyzed by the Urban Institute. (Colombo, 11/11)
Charlotte Ledger: In Charlotte, Health Care For Women Only? 
The term “women’s health” tends to conjure images of gynecology offices, hospital maternity centers or other facilities focused on women’s reproductive health. But at the Novant Health Women’s Center in Charlotte’s SouthPark area, you can find neurology, psychiatry, pulmonary and cardiology clinics tailored specifically to women. (Crouch, 11/14)
The Boston Globe: As Recreational Marijuana Prices Plummet In Massachusetts, Medical Sales Slump
At the same time, the medical side of the business is slumping, as some shoppers calculate the cost of obtaining a card is no longer worth the savings from not having to pay taxes on recreational pot. That’s a reversal from the explosion in medical sales at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when recreational pot stores were among the businesses deemed nonessential by the state and had to shut for nearly two months. (Adams, 11/13)
Editorials And Opinions
Viewpoints: Violence Against Medical Professionals Should Be Federal Crime; Ideas To Tackle The ER Crisis
Editorial writers tackle these public health topics.
Stat: Health Care Workers Deserve Protection From Violence 
There is no place for violence in civil society. Yet stabbings, shootings, threats and other violent attacks have become frighteningly common, including in America’s hospitals and other health care settings. (Mary Beth Kingston and Christopher S. Kang, 11/11)
The Boston Globe: Growing Emergency Department Crisis Symptom Of Bigger Problem 
Acute care hospitals are operating at 94 percent capacity, and many patients occupying those hospital beds are just as stuck as those trying to access emergency care because they can’t get a bed in a rehab or nursing facility. (11/14)
The Star Tribune: Plea From A Trauma Nurse: Stay Away From Me
Nov. 18 is National Injury Prevention Day. It's a day focused on efforts to steal business from my place of work. Let me explain. (Kelly Maynard, 11/13)
The Tennessean: Caregivers Need Help, But Few Realize How Soon Hospice Is Available
November is National Hospice Month and National Caregivers Month. It’s fitting that these two important topics “share” a month because hospice care is for caregivers just as much as it is for patients living out their final months and, sometimes, years. (Kimberly Goessele, 11/11)
The New York Times: How ‘Instagram Therapy’ Creates A Moral Vortex 
Our political lives have become saturated with the language and imagery of therapy. Our personal lives too: The language of “trauma” and “attachment styles” has become a common way to understand ourselves and our relationships. (Tara Isabella Burton, 11/12)
Different Takes: Will We Ever Know How Covid Originated?; Some New Covid Variants Appear More Mild
Opinion writers weigh in on covid and alzheimers.
Bloomberg: Where Did Covid Come From? The China Lab Leak Theory Persists 
The possibility that the Covid pandemic started with a lab accident isn’t a conspiracy theory. Nor has science conclusively proven that it started in a Wuhan wet market. (Faye Flam, 11/12)
The Washington Post: Covid Variants BA.5 And BQ.1.1 Show Reassuring Early Signs
A few weeks ago, a new and disturbing wave of covid infections looked possible. Several worrisome new variants capable of evading immunity landed in the United States. (11/13)
Scientific American: The International Community Must Prioritize COVID Treatment And Test Access 
Decades of international collaborative research, much of it funded or conducted by governments including that of the United States, enabled the rapid development of highly effective COVID mRNA vaccines. (Joseph Stiglitz and Lori Wallach, 11/14)
Stat: Lessons From Polio About Vaccinating Kids Against Covid-19 
As pediatricians, epidemiologists, and professors of public health — as well as mothers — we are often asked if we recommend Covid vaccines for children. Those asking are often skeptical about the benefits and make the point that relatively few kids have died from Covid-19. (Lynn R. Goldman and Amanda D. Castel, 11/11)
Stat: Amyloid-PET Scans Won't Reduce Alzheimer's Inequities 
At first glance, it might appear that better access to so-called amyloid-PET scans could compensate for some of the racial inequities in Alzheimer’s disease, as Linda Goler Blount called for in a recent First Opinion essay. In theory, such scans should lead to more Black people — who are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s — being screened and having greater access to favorable treatment for their disease. (Poul Hoilund-Carlsen, Abass Alavi and Jorge R. Barrio, 11/14)
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