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.
Just in case our ever-decreasing anonymity in this tech-driven world hasn’t scared you enough, new studies find that within a few years 90 percent — 90 percent! — of Americans of European descent will be identifiable from their DNA. If you fall into that group, it doesn’t even matter whether you’ve given a DNA sample to one of the popular gene-testing sites (like 23andMe). Enough of your distant relatives have, so there’s a good chance you’re in the system.
Take your mind off that by checking out what you may have missed in health care this week.
The biggie, of course, was President Donald Trump’s opinion piece in USA Today about “Medicare-for-all.” (And the rebuttal from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.)
Fact checkers came out in droves to comb through Trump’s arguments and found that nearly every paragraph contained a misleading statement or falsehood.
The Washington Post: Fact-Checking President Trump’s USA Today Op-Ed on ‘Medicare-for-All’
More than shedding any kind of light on the complicated topic, the back-and-forth highlights how much of a role health care is playing in the upcoming midterm elections. Each side has doubled down on its respective talking points (read: preexisting conditions and Medicare-for-all — I warned you you’d get tired of me saying that). In fact, health care is featured so heavily in ads that it trumps the topics of jobs or taxes.
The Wall Street Journal: Health Care Crowds Out Jobs, Taxes in Midterm Ads
(Side note: If you do want some light shed on Medicare-for-all and single-payer systems, check out these great pieces from KHN’s own Shefali Luthra.)
Speaking of midterms, the Democrats’ attempt to block the administration’s expansion of short-term plans (very predictably) failed, with only Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins joining the Democrats. It was never about winning, though. What it did was force Republicans to go on record with a vote that is potentially politically dangerous in the current landscape.
Politico: Senate Democrats Fail to Block Trump’s Short-Term Health Plans
In stark contrast to the sharply partisan discourse, Trump signed two bipartisan health care measures into law this week. The bills banned “gag clauses” on pharmacists, which had prohibited them from offering consumers cheaper options. The legislation won’t directly affect drug prices, but it might mean people will pay less at the register.
The New York Times: Trump Signs New Laws Aimed at Drug Costs and Battles Democrats on Medicare
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.
Please confirm your email address below:
For the first time, premiums for the most popular level of insurance sold in the health law marketplaces have gone down. The numbers are the latest sign that the marketplace is stabilizing. (Centene’s expansion into new states is another from this week.) CMS Administrator Seema Verma touted the success, saying the news counters any accusations of sabotage. Health experts, however, said those price tags would have been even lower if not for the administration’s actions over the past year.
The Washington Post: Premiums for Popular ACA Health Insurance Dip for the First Time
The Justice Department approved CVS’ $69 billion merger with Aetna, and although the deal still needs approval from state regulators, the green light is a major hurdle cleared. The merger would reshape the health landscape and mark the end of an era for free-standing pharmacy benefit managers. The potential consolidation is just one of many in recent years in a fast-evolving industry — a trend critics worry will lessen competition and drive up prices for consumers.
The New York Times: CVS Health and Aetna $69 Billion Merger Is Approved With Conditions
Hospitals scrambled to ensure patient safety as Hurricane Michael battered Florida and Georgia this week. “It was like hell,” said one doctor who rode out the storm at Bay Medical Center in Panama City, Fla. The hurricane brought with it memories of last year’s power outages that came with Hurricane Irma and were linked to the deaths of several nursing home residents.
The New York Times: Hospitals Pummeled by Hurricane Michael Scramble to Evacuate Patients
Now that the Brett Kavanaugh battle is over and he’s taken a seat on the Supreme Court, Planned Parenthood has gone into planning mode in case anything happens to Roe v. Wade. A key component of the organization’s plan is to shore up networks in states where abortion would likely remain legal (with longer hours for clinics, for example). On the other side, abortion-rights opponents are getting primed for a new high court that’s likely friendlier to them by strategizing what cases would be best to move forward with.
NPR: With Kavanaugh Confirmed, Both Sides of Abortion Debate Gear Up for Battle
How do you fight measures to expand abortion rights in progressive states? Make it about money. A battle in Oregon illustrates a strategy that — although unlikely to be successful — gives opponents of the bills at least a hope of winning.
Politico: Oregon’s Unlikely Abortion Fight Hinges on Taxes
Holes in the court system have allowed state judges to grant full custody of migrant children to American families — without notifying their parents. Federal officials say it should never happen, but oversight of the problem is scattershot and challenging because states handle adoption proceedings differently.
The Associated Press: Deported Parents May Lose Kids to Adoption
Democrats have been vocal about what they don’t like when it comes to immigration policy. But they have a problem: a lack of cohesion within the party about the correct way forward.
The New York Times: The Democrats Have an Immigration Problem
In the miscellaneous, must-read file:
• A gripping piece takes you into the bowels of a Philadelphia neighborhood dubbed the “Walmart of heroin.” “Drug tourists” come from all over to buy the cheap, pure heroin flowing through the veins of the streets, and some never make it out. (Warning: Make sure you have some time before you start, it will suck you in completely.)
The New York Times: Trapped by the ‘Walmart of Heroin’
• Why were nursing home residents getting extremely pricey therapy in the last weeks of their lives? Bloomberg takes a closer look at these cash-strapped facilities and the questionable decisions made about patients’ rehab.
Bloomberg: Nursing Homes Are Pushing the Dying Into Pricey Rehab
• In good news from the segment of people who were too old to take advantage of the HPV vaccine, the Food and Drug Administration just approved its use for those up to age 45.
The Associated Press: FDA Expands Use of Cervical Cancer Vaccine up to Age 45
As an office of ardent dog lovers, we were distressed to hear the news that therapy dogs in hospitals are little germ machines, leaving behind happiness but also superbugs.
Have a great (hopefully superbug-free) weekend!
From:: KHN uninsured