First Edition: Sept. 15, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

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Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.
KHN: Impending Hospital Closure Rattles Atlanta Health Care Landscape And Political Races
Like many neighborhoods in cities across the country, Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward is changing. Condo buildings and modern minimalist homes punctuate city blocks of low-income housing. Many longtime residents of the historic neighborhood where Martin Luther King Jr. was born have been priced out and pushed to other parts of town. Atlanta Medical Center, a 460-bed Level 1 trauma center, will be the next fixture to change. (Whitehead and Miller, 9/14)
KHN: Experts Question The Role Of White Mulberry In The Death Of Congressman’s Wife
Scientists, doctors, and pathologists are questioning the Sacramento County coroner’s conclusion that Lori McClintock’s death was related to white mulberry, a plant that has been used as an herbal remedy for centuries — and one that the coroner’s botanical consultant called “not toxic” in a letter to her office. McClintock, the wife of U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), died suddenly in December from dehydration due to gastroenteritis — an inflammation of the stomach and intestines — that was caused by “adverse effects of white mulberry leaf ingestion,” according to a report from the Sacramento County coroner. The coroner ruled the death an accident. (Young, 9/14)
KHN: Court Ruling May Spur Competitive Health Plans To Bring Back Copays For Preventive Services 
Tom and Mary Jo York are a health-conscious couple, going in for annual physicals and periodic colorectal cancer screening tests. Mary Jo, whose mother and aunts had breast cancer, also gets regular mammography tests. The Yorks, who live in New Berlin, Wisconsin, are enrolled in Chorus Community Health Plans, which, like most of the nation’s health plans, is required by the Affordable Care Act to pay for those preventive services, and more than 100 others, without charging deductibles or copays. (Meyer, 9/15)
KHN: Montana Health Department Seeks To Ax Board That Hears Public Assistance Appeals
Montana health officials are asking state lawmakers to eliminate a board that hears appeals from people who believe they were wrongly denied public assistance benefits. Since 2016, the Board of Public Assistance has heard fewer than 20 cases a year, and very few of those are overturned, but preparing for those appeals and board meetings takes time from state Department of Public Health and Human Services’ staff members and attorneys, according to the department’s proposal. (Volz, 9/15)
AP: WHO: COVID End 'In Sight,' Deaths At Lowest Since March 2020 
The head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday that the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide last week was the lowest reported in the pandemic since March 2020, marking what could be a turning point in the years-long global outbreak. At a press briefing in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world has never been in a better position to stop COVID-19. “We are not there yet, but the end is in sight,” he said, comparing the effort to that made by a marathon runner nearing the finish line. “Now is the worst time to stop running,” he said. (9/14)
Bloomberg: End Of Covid Pandemic In Sight, WHO Head Says
While Covid continues to circulate intensely around the world, future waves of infections don’t have to translate into waves of fatalities, said Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead officer for Covid. The organization declared Covid a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Since then, more than 606 million cases have been recorded, with nearly 6.5 million deaths. (Kresge, 9/14)
CNN: Covid-19 Death Toll Is A Tragedy And 'Massive Global Failure At Multiple Levels,' Lancet Commission Says 
The death toll from Covid-19 is "both a profound tragedy and a massive global failure at multiple levels," the Lancet Covid-19 Commission said in a report Wednesday. (Thomas, 9/14)
CIDRAP: Global COVID-19 Cases Fall 28%; Deaths Drop 22% 
New COVID-19 cases worldwide fell 28% last week—marking a fifth straight week of declining cases—and COVID-related deaths dropped 22% from the previous week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its weekly update today. (Wappes, 9/14)
ABC News: Hundreds Of Americans Still Dying Of COVID-19 Each Day Ahead Of The Fall
The U.S. is currently averaging just under 400 daily COVID-19 related deaths. Although the daily number of fatalities is far lower than it was at the nation's peak, in January 2021, 3,400 Americans died of COVID-19 each day. (Mitropoulos, 9/15)
The New York Times: Ohio Judge Temporarily Suspends Abortion Ban 
An Ohio judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked the state’s ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, saying that the right to abortion is protected under the state’s Constitution. The decision restores broad abortion access — at least for the next 14 days — in Ohio and widens access in a block of states where abortion has been banned or unavailable since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision ended the constitutional right to abortion. (Zernike, 9/14)
The Hill: Judge Blocks Ohio’s Six-Week Abortion Ban For 14 Days 
Jenkins granted the pause in part because he believes the plaintiffs have a substantially likely chance of winning the case under protections granted by the state’s constitution. “No great stretch is required to find that Ohio law recognizes a fundamental right to privacy, procreation, bodily integrity and freedom of choice in health care decision making,” Jenkins wrote in the ruling. (Schonfeld, 9/14)
The Washington Post: Most Abortions Stop In West Virginia After Lawmakers Pass Near-Total Ban 
The Women’s Health Center had an empty parking lot Wednesday. A printed sign on the door said the health center was “closed for staff rest” and would open the next day. Across the street, a crisis pregnancy center run by antiabortion advocates remained open to patients. (Shepherd and Heyman, 9/14)
Indianapolis Star: Indiana's Abortion Law Goes Into Effect Today
Abortion care providers say it's difficult to predict how many abortions will performed in Indiana under the new law. Last year, 8,414 abortions occurred in Indiana, according to the Indiana Department of Health's annual pregnancy termination report. The report does not include information on how many of those abortions were performed for any of the instances allowed under the new law. (Rudavsky, 9/15)
AP: Philadelphia To Consider Local Abortion Access Protections 
Members of the Philadelphia City Council announced plans Wednesday to introduce legislation aimed at protecting access to abortions inside city limits — including a bill proponents said would be one of the nation’s strongest privacy protection laws. The measures would bar the voluntary sharing of information about reproductive health choices for the purpose of prosecution or civil lawsuits and update the city’s antidiscrimination laws to include protections for reproductive health decisions. It also would create a right of patients and providers to counter-sue if they are sued by out-of-state residents under one of several laws seeking to prevent people from traveling across state lines to seek abortions. (9/14)
The Hill: House GOP Leaders Hedge On 15-Week Abortion Ban
House Republicans will not commit to bringing up a 15-week abortion ban legislation if the party wins control of the House next year. “First we’d need to see what our majority looks like,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in a news conference on Wednesday when asked if Republicans would put a 15-week abortion ban bill on the floor, adding: “We are a party that defends life. We stand up for life.” (Brooks, 9/14)
The 19th: Americans Don’t Trust Politicians To Make Abortion Laws, Poll Finds
The vast majority of Americans — 7 in 10 —  do not believe politicians are informed enough about abortion to craft fair policies, according to a new 19th News/SurveyMonkey poll. (Luthra and Mithani, 9/15)
NBC News: Republican Candidate Tests A Novel Strategy On Abortion In Nevada House Race
April Becker doesn’t want to talk about abortion. As Democrats seek to make the November elections a referendum on Republican efforts to restrict abortion rights, the GOP nominee challenging Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in a competitive House district in Nevada is pursuing a highly unusual strategy: arguing that Congress doesn’t have the power to regulate abortion. … Becker’s opinion is exceedingly rare and has drawn condemnation from both sides of the abortion debate, an indication of the tightrope she is walking. (Kapur, 9/15)
CIDRAP: CDC Head Says Monkeypox Slowing In US
Today the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee met for the first time to address the federal response to the US monkeypox outbreak, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, addressed the rocky federal start of outbreak response but noted that cases are now declining. She also highlighted CDC outreach at a time when the disease was brand new to most frontline clinicians. (Soucheray, 9/14)
NPR: What Happened In The Senate's Hearing On The Federal Response To Monkeypox 
Congress held its hearing on the federal response to the monkeypox outbreak. That comes as cases — and vaccinations — slow down in the U.S. (Huang, 9/14)
PBS NewsHour: WATCH: Senate Committee Hearing On Monkeypox With CDC’s Rochelle Walensky, Anthony Fauci 
The Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions committee held a hearing Wednesday with Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. (9/14)
CBS News: FDA Warns Monkeypox Could Mutate If Antiviral Drug Is Overused
The monkeypox virus is only one mutation away from evading a key antiviral drug being used to treat at-risk patients, federal health officials are now warning — and they're urging doctors to be "judicious" in prescribing the sought-after treatment. (Tin, 9/14)
Fortune: White Men Initially Suffered The Highest Number Of Monkeypox Cases In The U.S. Not Anymore 
The number of Black men in the U.S. diagnosed with monkeypox is growing—and vaccines aren’t keeping up. At the beginning of the global outbreak, declared in May, the vast majority of U.S. patients—75%—were white. That share has slowly dropped over the course of the outbreak and now sits at around 25%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Prater, 9/14)
Des Moines Register: Iowa Nurse Fired After Improperly Administering Monkeypox Vaccine
The county health department said Cheryl Sondall, an on-call nurse who had worked for the department for several years, chose not to follow protocol when she administered the vaccine to five patients during a clinic last week. Nola Aigner Davis, the department spokesperson, said the vaccine was supposed to be administered intradermally, or between the layers of the skin. Instead, the shots were given subcutaneously, or in the fatty tissue under the skin. (Ramm, 9/14)
Press Association: Burned-Out Doctors Pose Risks To Patient Safety, BMJ Study Finds
Patients being treated by burned-out doctors may face additional risks when they receive care, a new study suggests. A new review concluded that doctors experiencing burnout are twice as likely to be involved in patient safety incidents such as medication errors and "suboptimal care". (Pickover, 9/14)
Roll Call: Pandemic Fatigue Threatens COVID-19, Monkeypox Funding Requests 
As the Biden administration asks Congress for additional federal dollars to fight infectious diseases, it faces a conundrum: pandemic fatigue. (Cohen, 9/14)
Stat: U.S. To Spend More Than $2B To Launch Biden’s Biomanufacturing Initiative
The federal government is pledging more than $2 billion to launch President Biden’s new national biomanufacturing initiative, funding efforts to build or expand drug manufacturing sites in the U.S. and readying the raw materials needed to respond to a new pandemic. (DeAngelis, 9/14)
Reuters: White House Unveils $2 Billion Biotech Spending Plan Ahead Of Industry Summit
The White House released new details on Wednesday on how it plans to invest more than $2 billion in the U.S. biotechnology sector as it hosts a meeting of government leaders to discuss the emerging industry. … The executive order allows the federal government to direct funding for the use of microbes and other biologically derived resources to make new foods, fertilizers and seeds, as well as making mining operations more efficient, administration officials said. It also will help fund a quest for medical breakthroughs, such as a vaccine to prevent cancer, or a blood test that could detect cancer in an annual physical. (Renshaw, 9/14)
Modern Healthcare: Medicare Advantage Prior Authorization Bill Passes House
Medicare Advantage carriers would be subject to new requirements governing the prior authorization process under legislation that passed the House Wednesday. The measure would compel Medicare Advantage insurers to use electronic prior authorization programs, annually submit lists of items and services subject to prior authorization, and adopt beneficiary protection standards. The Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act now moves the Senate, where supporters hope it will advance after the November congressional elections. (Goldman, 9/14)
Stat: Medicare Is Found To Give Insufficient Access To Opioid Addiction Treatment
Medicare is vastly underserving older Americans with opioid use disorder, with only 18% of enrollees with the diagnosis receiving recommended medication treatment, according to a new federal oversight report. (Joseph, 9/15)
Modern Healthcare: Joint Commission Standards Under Review
The Joint Commission plans to name the first major set of standards to be retired in January, President and CEO Dr. Jonathan Perlin said. (Devereaux, 9/14)
Modern Healthcare: HHS Requests Info On Explanation Of Benefits Policy Changes
The government wants feedback on how to regulate the advanced explanation of benefits and cost estimate provisions of the surprise billing ban, several departments announced in a request for information issued Wednesday. (Goldman, 9/14)
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer: St. Vincent To Close To Inpatient Care Nov. 15 At Cleveland Hospital; Will Keep Some Outpatient, Primary Care
St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, which has been caring for Cleveland’s sick since the Civil War era, announced Wednesday that in mid-November it will stop offering inpatient, surgical and emergency room care. (Washington, 9/14)
Houston Chronicle: Areas Of Ben Taub Hospital Closed Amid Heightened Legionella Bacteria Levels
Parts of Ben Taub Hospital have been closed after tests revealed heightened levels of Legionella bacteria in water samples, Harris Health System confirmed on Wednesday night. (Wayne Ferguson, 9/14)
USA Today: Nurses Strike In Minnesota Highlights Worsening Pay, Staff Shortages
"The challenges that we highlighted around the fatigue and the mental well-being of nurses continue to this day," said Zina Gontscharow, a senior policy adviser at the  American Nurses Association. "Nurses are really feeling a lot of stress with not having adequate (staffing) on the floor, overtime and long shifts." (Alltucker, 9/14)
The Colorado Sun: Colorado Mental Health Workers Demand Equal Pay
A legislative-ordered report aimed at shining a light on Colorado’s payment system for mental health care has done little to calm the ongoing frustration of therapists and psychologists in private practice. (Brown, 9/14)
The Boston Globe: N.H. Hospital Promises Review After Revelations About Doctor With 21 Malpractice Settlements
Leaders of Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., told employees on Wednesday that they will launch a full review of how the hospital oversees medical care after a Boston Globe Spotlight Team series revealed that a former surgeon there racked up one of the worst surgical malpractice records in the country and that administrators did little to address repeated warnings by employees. (Fernandes and Saltzman, 9/14)
Reuters: New York Hospital To Pay $2.6 Mln Over Doctor's Unnecessary Surgeries
A New York hospital has agreed to pay about $2.6 million to settle claims that a former physician affiliated with it performed and billed for unnecessary implantable defibrillator battery replacements, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn announced Wednesday. (Pierson, 9/14)
The 19th: LGBTQ+ Americans Report More Discrimination At The Doctor, Poll Finds
When LGBTQ+ people go to the doctor, they are more likely to be refused medical services, blamed for their health problems and discriminated against than cisgender and heterosexual people, a new 19th News/SurveyMonkey poll has found. (Rummler and Mithani, 9/15)
Reuters: Philip Morris Appoints Two Former U.S. FDA Officials To Key Roles
Philip Morris International Inc (PM.N) said on Wednesday it had appointed two former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials to key positions at a time when tobacco companies have come under intense regulatory and public scrutiny. (9/14)
AP: California Governor OKs Mental Health Courts For Homeless 
With more than 100,000 people living on California’s streets, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a first-of-its kind law on Wednesday that could force some of them into treatment as part of a program he describes as “care” but opponents argue is cruel. Newsom signed the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Act on Wednesday. It would let family members, first responders and others ask a judge to draw up a treatment plan for someone diagnosed with certain disorders, including schizophrenia. Those who refuse could be placed under a conservatorship and ordered to comply. (Har and Beam, 9/14)
News Service of Florida: Florida Pushes Back On Medicaid Class Action Suit Over Incontinence Supplies
Florida is trying to fend off a potential class-action lawsuit alleging that the Medicaid program is denying coverage for incontinence supplies in violation of laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Saunders, 9/14)
Anchorage Daily News: Gov. Dunleavy Vetoes Alaska Tax On Vaping And Increase To Minimum Tobacco Purchase Age
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed legislation last week that would have imposed a statewide tax on e-cigarettes and brought the state’s minimum age to buy tobacco into compliance with federal law, raising it from 19 to 21, because the governor thought the vaping tax rate was too high. (Maguire, 9/14)
Stateline: Court Victories Deliver Cautious Hope For Voters With Disabilities
Paralyzed from the neck down, downtown Milwaukee resident Martha Chambers has difficulty voting. She can use a mouth stick to mark her ballot and sign her name on an absentee ballot, but she has no way of folding the ballot, slipping it back in the envelope or returning it to the mailbox. Driven by its conservative majority, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in July outlawed assistance in the absentee voting process. (Vasilogambros, 9/14)
North Carolina Health News: Momentum Building For MAT In Jails Across N.C.
During his 20 years in the field of substance use disorders, Eric Morse has seen countless patients forced off their medication-assisted treatment (MAT) — a treatment that’s often working — while incarcerated. (Crumpler, 9/15)
Stat: Multivitamins Improved Cognition Of Seniors, But Questions Remain
While pharma companies struggle to show that cutting-edge therapies can treat, prevent, or slow Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, a new study suggests that a far simpler and cheaper tool could improve cognition in seniors: daily multivitamins. (Wosen, 9/14)
CIDRAP: Possible 69% Higher Risk Of Alzheimer's For Older COVID Survivors 
Older COVID-19 survivors may be at a 69% higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease within 1 year of infection, according to a retrospective study of 6 million Americans 65 years and older published yesterday in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. (Van Beusekom, 9/14)
The Washington Post: Are You An Active Couch Potato? How Sitting All Day Can Erase A Workout 
Are you an active couch potato? Take this two-question quiz to find out: Did you work out for 30 minutes today? Did you spend the rest of the day staring at your computer and then settle in front of the television at night? If you answered yes to both questions, then you meet the definition of what scientists call “an active couch potato.” It means that, despite your commitment to exercise, you could be at risk for a variety of health problems, according to a sweeping new study of how people move — or don’t move — throughout the day. (Reynolds, 9/14)
Bloomberg: HIV Vaccine Still Years Away, Former AIDS Society Head Warns
The use of messenger RNA to make vaccines for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic has reinvigorated a decades-long hunt for a shot to safeguard against HIV, but the development process will still be a protracted one, according to a leading South African scientist. (Cohen, 9/14)
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