February 24, 2024


The value of truth

First Edition: July 25, 2022

15 min read

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Ad Targeting Manchin And AARP Mischaracterizes Medicare Drug-Price Negotiations

A snappy political advertisement from the conservative advocacy group American Commitment bluntly charges Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) with supporting a legislative plan that would drain “billions in funds” from Medicare. Specifically, the ad claims that Manchin and AARP, the well-known advocacy group for people 50 and older, “support government price-setting schemes that’ll give liberal politicians billions in funds meant for Medicare to spend on unrelated government programs or pad big insurers’ profits.” Here, “price-setting” is a reference to a policy proposal that its backers say would give Medicare the ability to rein in the prices it pays for some prescription drugs so they are more in line with prices in other industrialized countries. (Knight and DeGuzman, 7/25)

‘True Cost Of Aging’ Index Shows Many Seniors Can’t Afford Basic Necessities

Fran Seeley, 81, doesn’t see herself as living on the edge of a financial crisis. But she’s uncomfortably close. Each month, Seeley, a retired teacher, gets $925 from Social Security and a $287 disbursement from an individual retirement account. To make ends meet, she’s taken out a reverse mortgage on her Portland, Maine, home that yields $400 monthly. (Graham, 7/25)

Post-‘Roe,’ People Are Seeking Permanent Sterilizations, And Some Are Being Turned Away

A handful of people recently gathered in the shade of a large pine tree for a going-away party of sorts. Their friend, Dani Marietti, was going to have her fallopian tubes removed, a decision she made after a leaked draft of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion was published in May. The small group kicked off the “sterilization shower” for the 25-year-old by laying out chalk-written signs that said “See Ya Later Ovulater” and “I got 99 problems but tubes ain’t one.” And they munched on cookies that had abortion-rights slogans, such as “My Body, My Choice,” written on them in frosting. (Bolton and Juhlin, 7/25)

Journalists Reexamine Mental Health Barriers, Gun Control Laws, And Homelessness

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. (7/23)

The New York Times:
W.H.O. Declares Monkeypox Spread A Global Health Emergency

The W.H.O.’s declaration signals a public health risk requiring a coordinated international response. The designation can lead member countries to invest significant resources in controlling an outbreak, draw more funding to the response, and encourage nations to share vaccines, treatments and other key resources for containing the outbreak. It is the seventh public health emergency since 2007; the Covid pandemic, of course, was the most recent. Some global health experts have criticized the W.H.O.’s criteria for declaring such emergencies as opaque and inconsistent. (Mandavilli, 7/23)

Fox News:
White House COVID Adviser Addresses Current Monkeypox Threat Level

White House COVID-19 Adviser Dr. Ashish Jha has assured Americans that monkeypox poses a “pretty small” threat to the general population even as the World Health Organization (WHO) declares an emergency. “No Americans have died of monkeypox in this outbreak,” Jha said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t know globally – I think it’s a very small number –  but zero Americans have died of monkeypox, so the risk to the broader population is pretty small.” (Aitken, 7/24)

The Washington Post:
First Cases Of Monkeypox In Children In U.S. Confirmed

CDC and public health authorities are still investigating how the children became infected. The two cases are unrelated and in different jurisdictions, the agency said in a statement. The toddler is in California; the infant’s case was confirmed while the family was traveling in Washington, D.C., but they are not residents of this country. (Sun and Nirappil, 7/22)

The Hill:
Lawmakers Step Up Pressure On Administration Over Monkeypox

Top-ranking members in the House and Senate, on both sides of the aisle, have asked Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra for answers on what his department is doing to handle the monkeypox outbreak, with several lawmakers questioning what they perceive to be a failed response. (Choi, 7/24)

Largest Monkeypox Study To Date Highlights New Symptoms

“This truly global case series has enabled doctors from 16 countries to share their extensive clinical experience and many clinical photographs to help other doctors in places with fewer cases. We have shown that the current international case definitions need to be expanded to add symptoms that are not currently included, such as sores in the mouth, on the anal mucosa and single ulcers,” said Chloe Orkin, PhD, of the Queen Mary University of London, in a university press release. (7/22)

Catholic Hospitals’ Growth Impacts Reproductive Health Care

Even as numerous Republican-governed states push for sweeping bans on abortion, there is a coinciding surge of concern in some Democratic-led states that options for reproductive health care are dwindling due to expansion of Catholic hospital networks. These are states such as Oregon, Washington, California, New York and Connecticut, where abortion will remain legal despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. (Haigh and Crary, 7/24)

The New York Times:
After Roe, Pregnant Women With Cancer Diagnoses May Face Wrenching Choices

Before the Supreme Court decision, a pregnant woman with cancer was already “entering a world with tremendous unknowns,” said Dr. Clifford Hudis, the chief executive officer at the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Now, patients as well as the doctors and hospitals that treat them, are caught up in the added complications of abortion bans. “If a doctor can’t give a drug without fear of damaging a fetus, is that going to compromise outcomes?” Dr. Hudis asked. “It’s a whole new world.” (Kolata, 7/23)

The New York Times:
Interstate Abortion Travel Is Already Straining Parts Of The System

Of all the states, New Mexico has been most affected by interstate abortion travel in making appointments, according to a nationwide survey of clinics by a research team led by Caitlin Myers, a professor of economics at Middlebury College who studies the effects of reproductive policy. But the data suggests that as more bans go into effect, women who need to travel to another state for an abortion may have more difficulty getting appointments. It may even become hard for those living in some states where it remains legal. (Sanger-Katz, Cain Miller and Katz, 7/23)

The New York Times:
Kansans Fiercely Debate The First Post-Roe Vote On Abortion

Kansas is a conservative state where registered Republicans far outnumber Democrats. But what limited public polling has been conducted on abortion suggests a relatively tight race leading up to the Aug. 2 vote on whether to amend the State Constitution to say there is no guaranteed right to abortion. The outcome will hinge on which side can persuade voters to turn out for a summertime election featuring a ballot question with language that critics say can be hard to understand. (Smith, 7/24)

St. Louis To Help Women Get Out-Of-State Abortion Access

St. Louis has joined the growing list of Democrat-led cities seeking to help women gain abortion access, even in red states that have largely banned the procedure. Not long after Democratic Mayor Tishaura Jones on Thursday signed a measure providing $1 million for travel to abortion clinics in other states, Republican Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued to stop what he called a “blatantly illegal move to spend Missourians’ hard-earned tax dollars on out-of-state abortions.” (Salter, 7/22)

Kentucky Judge Extends Block Of State’s Abortion Ban

A Kentucky judge granted an injunction on Friday that prevents the state’s near-total ban on abortions from taking effect, meaning the state’s two clinics can continue providing abortions, for now. Jefferson Circuit Judge Mitch Perry’s ruling says there is “a substantial likelihood” that Kentucky’s new abortion law violates “the rights to privacy and self-determination” protected by Kentucky’s constitution. (Lovan, 7/22)

Minnesota Abortion Clinic Braces For Tide Of Out-Of-Staters

In the waiting room at WE Health Clinic in Duluth, patients from Wisconsin and Texas sit among Minnesotans — the leading edge of an expected uptick in out-of-state patients following the Supreme Court’s removal of the federal right to abortion. (Ahmed, 7/23)

Wyoming Abortion Ban Expected To Take Effect In Coming Days

Most abortions will become illegal in Wyoming on Wednesday after Gov. Mark Gordon gave the go-ahead Friday under a new state law. The law bans abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to protect the mother’s life or health, not including psychological conditions. (Gruver, 7/22)

Indiana Republicans Pairing Abortion Ban With Services Boost

Indiana Republican lawmakers are pairing a proposal to ban nearly all abortions in the state with promises to boost spending toward helping pregnant women, young children and adoptions. Republicans say the proposals show dedication to mothers and babies. Democrats say Republicans have underfunded such programs for years and rejected earlier efforts to help pregnant women. (Rodgers and Davies, 7/22)

Biden Improves ‘Significantly,’ Throat Still Sore From COVID

“The president is responding to therapy as expected,” wrote Dr. Kevin O’Connor in his latest note. Biden has been taking Paxlovid, an antiviral drug that helps reduce the chance of severe illness. O’Connor wrote that Biden still has a sore throat, though other symptoms, including a cough, runny nose and body aches, “have diminished considerably.” (Megerian, 7/24)

The Washington Post:
Biden Covid Symptoms Continue To Improve, White House Says

President Biden, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, probably has the BA.5 variant and continues to experience mild symptoms that are improving, the White House said Sunday. His physician, Kevin O’Connor, wrote in a letter that the president’s pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and temperature all remain normal, and he doesn’t have any shortness of breath. (Reiley and Bhattarai, 7/24)

The 19th News:
COVID Continues To Hit Nursing Homes Harder, AARP Data Shows

More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic — and amid another nationwide surge — nursing home residents are still disproportionately at risk for severe illness and death, according to new numbers from AARP. One in 35 nursing home residents tested positive for COVID-19 in June, a 27 percent increase from the previous month. The death rate from COVID between May and June of this year nearly doubled, from 0.04 deaths per hundred residents to 0.07 deaths per hundred residents. (Luterman, 7/22)

Joe Biden’s Critics Use COVID News To Mislead People About Vaccines

Using examples of so-called breakthrough infections, in which people get infected with COVID despite vaccination, is a tactic that vaccine skeptics have used to question the effectiveness of vaccines or mandates. “Today he [Biden] should end his destructive vaccine mandate on our military,” tweeted Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California, referring to Biden’s 2021 comment. (Browne, 7/22)

The Hill:
Buttigieg Hits Rubio For Calling Same-Sex Marriage Bill ‘Waste Of Time’

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called out Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday for his comments that a vote on a bill protecting same-sex marriage would be a “stupid waste of time.” “If he’s got time to fight against Disney, I don’t know why he wouldn’t have time to help safeguard marriages like mine,” Buttigieg told CNN “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper. (Mueller, 7/24)

Harris Plots Her Next, More Aggressive, Volley In The Abortion Fights

Vice President Kamala Harris and her team plan to hit the campaign and fundraising circuit in an aggressive bid to elevate Democratic state legislators and governors on the abortion rights frontlines. The events reflect the vice president’s expanding work on abortion policy since the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade. And, if executed, they would mark an aggressive push by the second highest Democrat in the land to get involved in races often overlooked by the national party. (Daniels, 7/25)

The Hill:
GOP Plots Fauci Probe After Midterms

Congressional Republicans are eagerly floating investigations into Anthony Fauci and the Biden administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic if they win back control of the House or Senate in the midterm elections. (Weixel, 7/25)

The Hill:
Permanent Daylight Saving Time Hits Brick Wall In House

More than four months after the Senate unanimously passed a bill to make daylight saving time permanent in the U.S., the measure has hit a brick wall in the House. The main impediments dimming the legislation’s chances of passing appear to be fundamental disagreements over its language and a general consensus that other matter take precedence as the House grapples with high inflation, gun massacres and fending off judicial threats on issues such as abortion and marriage equality. (Schnell, 7/25)

Modern Healthcare:
Health Insurance Is Not A Proxy For Good Health, Study Says

How a patient identifies across racial and ethnic lines can be a greater indicator of their health than their insurance status, a new study suggests. Health inequities and access issues exist among individuals who receive health insurance through their employer, despite arguments that access to commercial insurance acts as a great equalizer among patients, according to a study published Monday by NORC at the University of Chicago. (Tepper, 7/25)

The Hill:
Nearly One In Three Americans Say It May Soon Be Necessary To Take Up Arms Against The Government

Two-thirds of Republicans and independents say the government is “corrupt and rigged against everyday people like me,” according to the poll, compared to 51 percent of liberal voters. Twenty-eight percent of all voters, including 37 percent of gun owners, agreed “it may be necessary at some point soon for citizens to take up arms against the government,” a view held by around 35 percent of Republicans and around 35 percent of Independents. One in five Democrats concurred. (Dress, 7/24)

6% Of Kids Tested For COVID At EDs Had Symptoms At 90 Days

Nearly 6% of children who visited emergency departments (EDs) for COVID-19 testing, including nearly 10% of those hospitalized and 5% of those released from the hospital, reported symptoms of long COVID 90 days later, finds an international study led by researchers from the University of Calgary in Canada and UC Davis Health. (Van Beusekom, 7/22)

The Wall Street Journal:
Covid-19 Lab Companies Retrench As Rapid Tests Take Over

U.S. laboratories currently have the capacity to process the results of about 62 million PCR tests for Covid-19 a month, which is half of what it was in March, researchers at the consulting firm Health Catalysts Group estimate, after demand dropped and government funding diminished. Some laboratories and diagnostic companies have laid off employees or reassigned them to other tasks. (Abbott, 7/24)

Hospitals Struggle With Staff Shortages As Federal Covid Funds Run Out

Hospitals across the country are grappling with widespread staffing shortages, complicating preparations for a potential Covid-19 surge as the BA.5 subvariant drives up cases, hospital admissions and deaths. Long-standing problems, worker burnout and staff turnover have grown worse as Covid-19 waves have hit health care workers again and again — and as more employees fall sick with Covid-19 themselves. (Mahr, 7/25)

Modern Healthcare:
CMS Sets Quality Measures For State-Funded Home Care Programs

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the release of voluntary quality measures for state Medicaid home and community-based service programs to assess patient health outcomes. While reporting on the measures is currently voluntary, CMS said it encourages states to incorporate the quality assessments into existing home and community-based service reporting requirements, evaluating their performance biannually, setting targets and developing a quality improvement plan. (Devereaux, 7/22)

Modern Healthcare:
Yuvo Health, Centene’s Fidelis Care Target New York For Partnership

Yuvo Health, a startup that offers value-based contracting services, and Centene Corp. subsidiary Fidelis Care are partnering to expand resources for federally qualified health centers in New York. The centers provide services such as preventative care, specialty services and behavioral health resources for underserved populations, while also addressing socioeconomic barriers. They qualify for federal funding and enhanced reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. Charges are based on a patient’s income. (Hudson, 7/22)

Tennessee Drops Medicaid Drug Change Over Federal Concerns

TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, said it will abandon a proposal to impose limits on some prescription drugs following pressure from the federal government. The state last year received approval from former President Donald Trump’s administration for a TennCare overhaul that included the change. Officials argued the overhaul could produce flexibility and savings that would then fuel additional health coverage offerings, including prescription drug limits aimed at rising costs. (Matisse, 7/22)

Mask Wearing Required In Kentucky’s Largest School District 

Kentucky’s largest school district will require universal masking on school property as Jefferson County moves into the highest level of COVID-19 community spread. The change begins Monday and lasts until Jefferson County comes out of the red, media outlets reported. It comes a little more than two weeks before classes resume in Jefferson County Public Schools. (7/24)

‘Dead Bodies’ And Dump Sites Draw DOJ Civil Rights Probe Of Houston

The northeast Houston area in question has suffered for years from the dumping of dead bodies, animals, medical waste, mattresses and other trash that pose health and quality of life risks into Houston’s “Super Neighborhood 48,” known as Trinity/Houston Gardens, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke said in a call with reporters. (Colman, 7/22)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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