December 8, 2022

InfoTrace

The value of truth

First Edition: Sept. 22, 2022

14 min read

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

KHN:
Buy And Bust: After Platinum Health Took Control Of Noble Sites, All Hospital Workers Were Fired 

The news, under Noble Health letterhead, arrived at 5:05 p.m. on a Friday, with the subject line: “Urgent Notice.” Audrain Community Hospital, Paul Huemann’s workplace of 32 years, was letting workers go. Word travels fast in a small town. Huemann’s wife, Kym, first heard the bad news in the car when a friend who’d gotten the letter, too, texted. (Tribble, 9/22)

KHN:
Death Is Anything But A Dying Business As Private Equity Cashes In

Private equity firms are investing in health care from cradle to grave, and in that latter category quite literally. A small but growing percentage of the funeral home industry — and the broader death care market — is being gobbled up by private equity-backed firms attracted by high profit margins, predictable income, and the eventual deaths of tens of millions of baby boomers. The funeral home industry is in many ways a prime target for private equity, which looks for markets that are highly fragmented and could benefit from consolidation. By cobbling together chains of funeral homes, these firms can leverage economies of scale in purchasing, improve marketing strategies, and share administrative functions. (Hawryluk, 9/22)

KHN:
Opponents Of California’s Abortion Rights Measure Mislead On Expense To Taxpayers 

California Together, a campaign led by religious and anti-abortion groups, is hoping to persuade voters to reject a ballot measure that would cement the right to abortion in the state’s constitution. The group is warning that taxpayers will be on the hook for an influx of abortion seekers from out of state. Proposition 1 was placed on the ballot by the Democratic-controlled legislature in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. If passed, it would protect an individual’s “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion,” along with the right to birth control. (Bluth, 9/22)

KHN:
Shift In Child Hospice Care Is A Lifeline For Parents Seeking A Measure Of Comfort And Hope 

When you first meet 17-month-old Aaron Martinez, it’s not obvious that something is catastrophically wrong. What you see is a beautiful little boy with smooth, lustrous skin, an abundance of glossy brown hair, and a disarming smile. What you hear are coos and cries that don’t immediately signal anything is horribly awry. But his parents, Adriana Pinedo and Hector Martinez, know the truth painfully well. (Wolfson, 9/22)


The Atlantic:
Fauci Addresses ‘The Pandemic Is Over’


Several days after President Joe Biden declared that “the pandemic is over,” Anthony Fauci weighed in on the president’s controversial remarks during an interview at The Atlantic Festival, an annual live event in Washington, D.C.
“He was saying we’re in a much better place with regard to the fulminant stage of the pandemic,” Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said. “It really becomes semantics and about how you want to spin it.” (Stern, 9/21)


Fortune:
Scientists Were Worried About A Particular Variant This Fall. They Didn’t Expect Its Offspring


Omicron spawn BA.2.75, dubbed “Centaurus,” seemed like the COVID variant to watch this summer—one with the potential to wreak unprecedented havoc later in the year. … Instead, one of its children, BA.2.75.2, has outcompeted it, eliminating it as a threat—but replacing it with a more formidable one. It’s one to watch this fall, says Dr. Raj Rajnarayanan, assistant dean of research and associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology campus in Jonesboro, Ark., for more reasons than one. (Prater, 9/21)


Stateline:
More Children Have Gained Health Insurance During Pandemic


The rate of children without health insurance declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, likely the result of a provision passed by Congress that barred states from dropping anyone from Medicaid during the public health emergency. According to an analysis of new U.S. Census Bureau data by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, the child uninsurance rate in 2021 was 5.4%, compared with 5.7% in 2019, the year before the pandemic took hold. (Ollove, 9/21)


The Washington Post:
Nursing Home Understaffing In Pandemic Harmed Residents, House Panel Says 


A special House panel investigating the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic said it has found anecdotal evidence of understaffing at nursing homes that led to patient neglect and harm. At a hearing Wednesday, the select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis discussed some of its findings, including how large nursing home chains reacted to complaints from staff and families. (Rowland, 9/21)


Los Angeles Times:
California Easing COVID-19 Mask Recommendations


In a new sign of improving coronavirus conditions, California will ease its mask-wearing recommendations for the first time in seven months. The state is largely rescinding its broad recommendation that everyone — regardless of vaccination status — mask up when in indoor public settings and businesses. That guidance had been in place since mid-February. (Lin II and Money, 9/21)


AP:
State Employees Likely To Get 1K Bonuses For COVID Booster 


Under a tentative deal Washington state employees would get $1,000 bonuses for receiving a COVID-19 booster shot. The agreement between the state and the Washington Federation of State Employees also includes 4% pay raises in 2023, 3% pay raises in 2024 and a $1,000 retention bonus, The Seattle Times reported. (9/22)


The Hill:
GOP Senators Grill Biden Judicial Nominee Over Past Abortion Advocacy


Republican senators on Wednesday went after Biden judicial nominee Julie Rikelman over her past work at a leading abortion advocacy organization. Rikelman, who has been nominated to serve on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, represented the Mississippi abortion clinic at the center of this year’s Supreme Court case that resulted in the overturning of Roe v. Wade. (Shapero, 9/21)


Reuters:
Abortion Rights Lawyer Vows As Judge To Follow U.S. Supreme Court Ruling


The lawyer who represented the Mississippi clinic at the heart of the U.S. Supreme Court case that resulted in the overturning of women’s constitutional right to abortion pledged during Senate testimony on Wednesday to follow that ruling despite her past advocacy if she is confirmed to the federal judiciary. Julie Rikelman, nominated by Democratic President Joe Biden to serve on the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in her confirmation hearing in Washington that she would follow the June ruling despite having fought to preserve abortion rights. (Raymond, 9/21)


Billings Gazette:
Opponents Say ‘Born-Alive’ Referendum Will Traumatize MT Families


“LR-131 is a piece of propaganda, part of a false narrative created by those who are against individuals and families who want to make health care decisions without interference from the state,” Mitchell said at a press conference at the Capitol in Helena on Wednesday. “The outcomes (that) this initiative claims to exist simply do not happen.” In an interview last week, Mitchell said the referendum, if passed, would force doctors to intervene in situations where no amount of action is going to change the outcome for the family. (Michels, 9/21)


The Colorado Sun:
Young Teens In Foster Care Don’t Know About Birth Control


Teenagers in the child welfare system have sex two years younger on average than other young people and are 2.5 times more likely to get pregnant. New research from the University of Colorado points toward why: About two-thirds of eighth and ninth graders in metro Denver who have been involved with the child welfare system say they have never received information about birth control. (Brown, 9/21)


Reuters:
FDA Warns Of Cybersecurity Risk With Certain Medtronic Insulin Pumps 


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday warned that certain types of insulin pump systems manufactured by Medtronic were vulnerable to cyberattacks and that hackers could potentially hamper insulin delivery by accessing the device. The agency issued a cybersecurity risk alert for the Medtronic MiniMed 600 Series insulin pump system, which has several components including an insulin pump and a blood glucose meter that communicate wirelessly. (9/21)


USA Today:
Adderall Shortage 2022: Limited Supplies Hit Two More US Drug Makers


Lannett Co. and Par Pharmaceuticals are the most recent companies experiencing with limited supplies of generic extended-release Adderall, according to the University of Utah Pharmacy Services website, which tracks drug shortages nationwide. More than six in 10 small pharmacies reported having difficulty in August obtaining the medication, a survey from the National Community Pharmacists Association found. (Neysa Alund, 9/21)


Houston Chronicle:
TMC Plans To Build Massive Biomanufacturing, Distribution Center


The Texas Medical Center plans to build a 500-acre biomanufacturing and medical supplies distribution center in Houston, a project that represents the latest push to establish the city as a premier hub for life sciences. The new campus, called TMC BioPort, is still in the early stages of development. But once it’s completed, it’s expected to double the overall size of the medical center and create 100,000 jobs for Greater Houston residents, TMC President and CEO Bill McKeon said. (MacDonald, 9/21)


The Boston Globe:
R.I. Approves Health Insurance Rate Increases


Three months after health insurance companies requested the state approve steep rate increases, Rhode Island’s health insurance commissioner announced he has approved rate increases for the largest companies, with slight modifications. The Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner on Wednesday released the individual, small, and large group market premium rates, which will go into effect next year. (Gagosz, 9/21)


AP:
New Mexico Braces For Exodus From Medicaid Insurance


New Mexico is bracing for a rapid exodus of up to 100,000 people from subsidized Medicaid health care next year as the federal government phases out special pandemic-era spending and eligibility for the program, the state’s top health official told lawmakers Wednesday. (Lee, 9/21)


AP:
Oregon State Hospital Issued $54K Workplace Safety Fine


The Oregon State Hospital is facing a $54,000 fine for failing to investigate workplace injuries. The citation, brought by the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleges that from January 2021 to June 2022 the hospital didn’t investigate every time workers suffered an injury or illness that caused them to miss work, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. The hospital didn’t look at ways to prevent future injuries and illness from occurring, according to the citation. (9/22)


Houston Chronicle:
Texas Pays Attendants For Disabled People Just $8.11 Per Hour


Nancy Crowther worries every time her personal care attendant leaves the house. She worries that her attendant will see the Dairy Queen banner boasting $16 an hour flapping in the wind on her drive to the grocery store and be tempted to apply. Worries that the taco place down the street promising $17 an hour will catch her eye. (Stuckey, 9/21)


San Francisco Chronicle:
California To Create Nation’s First Office To Combat Gun Violence


California will soon be the only state in the nation to have a governmental office committed to preventing gun violence, state officials said Wednesday. Standing outside the violence prevention organization, United Playaz on Howard Street in San Francisco, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the state’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention, a first-of-its-kind unit that will work with multiple agencies to deal with the mounting issue of gun violence across the state. (Vainshtein, 9/21)


CBS News:
Overdose Deaths Surge As Fentanyl Floods Colorado


The leading cause of overdoses is fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that’s 50 times more powerful than heroin. Overdose deaths topped 100,000 for the first time ever in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with nearly 70% of them involving fentanyl. Colorado saw an almost 70% increase in fatal fentanyl overdoses from 2020 to 2021, with more than 900 deaths total last year, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. (Pegues, 9/21)


USA Today:
Delta-8 Side Effects: FDA Has Received More Than 100 Reports


Similar products that contain delta-8 THC are sold online and at bars and retailers across much of the U.S., including some places where pot remains illegal. That’s because a 2018 federal law legalized hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant. Hemp isn’t allowed to contain more than 0.3% of the psychotropic delta-9 THC found in marijuana. (Berger, 9/22)


AP:
Wildfire Smoke Reaches Unhealthy Levels In Seattle 


Wildfire smoke made the air quality unhealthy for everyone in downtown and North Seattle, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency said Wednesday morning. The agency said a plume of smoke from the Bolt Creek fire near Skykomish was being blown west to Everett, then south into parts of Seattle, The Seattle Times reported. (9/22)


AP:
98% Of Schools And Child Centers Finish Mandated Lead Fixes 


Mandatory testing for lead in drinking water — and repairs to keep that water safe — has been completed at 98% of the Vermont’s schools and child care centers, the state Health Department said Wednesday. Vermont passed a law in 2019 requiring schools and child care facilities to test their drinking and cooking water for lead, a highly toxic metal. (9/21)


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Mayor Johnson Calls 70-Year Timeline For Replacing Lead Pipes ‘Unacceptable’ At Mayor Council On Water Equity


Johnson, who was recently named a co-chair of the Mayors Commission On Water Equity along with Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, made his comments Thursday at the One Water Summit, where mayors from two dozen cities reaffirmed commitments to address water safety, from reducing lead contaminated water to addressing aging water infrastructure in their cities. (Shelbourne, 9/21)


USA Today:
Apples Surpass Potato Chips As Better Snacks For Mental Health: Study


Frequently snacking on fruits can make you feel better, while tasty but less healthy snacks such as potato chips may lead to psychological harm and memory problems, new research suggests. Researchers from Aston University in Birmingham, England, published the findings in the British Journal of Nutrition this past spring. (Martin, 9/21)


The Washington Post:
How To Take A Pill: Our Posture Affects How We Digest Pills, Study Says 


The next time you take a pain reliever for that headache, you may want to consider your posture. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found whether you’re standing upright or leaning, as well as which side you’re leaning to, could affect how fast the contents of a pill are absorbed into your body. The bottom line: leaning to your right side after swallowing a pill could speed absorption by about 13 minutes, compared to staying upright. Leaning to the left would be a mistake — it could slow absorption by more than an hour. (Amenabar and Steckelberg, 9/21)


Newsweek:
Antidepressants Work Better Than Sugar Pills Only 15 Percent Of The Time


Hailed as a revolution for the treatment of depression when they first came out in the 1980s, SSRIs have become a mainstay of mental health treatment. Family doctors with little psychiatric training now prescribe them for adults and children alike. In 2019, one in eight Americans—43 million in all—were taking an SSRI, and those numbers have likely risen among a public ridden with COVID-induced anxiety. During the pandemic, doctors phoned in so many new prescriptions for Zoloft, the FDA warned of a drug shortage. Evidence is mounting, however, that doctors are vastly overprescribing SSRIs. (Piore, 9/21)


NBC News:
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep? Blood Samples Show Heart Risks


An analysis of blood samples from 14 healthy volunteers who agreed to have their sleep shortened by 1½ hours each night for six weeks revealed long-term changes in the way these stem cells behaved, leading to a proliferation of the white blood cells that can spark inflammation, according to the report published Wednesday in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. (Carroll, 9/21)


Modern Healthcare:
Puerto Rico’s Healthcare Supply Chain Reacts To Hurricane Fiona


Hurricane Maria hit medical device company Baxter International especially hard. Its Puerto Rican facilities were largely responsible for making small-volume IV bags, while large-volume bags were manufactured on the mainland. Hospitals resorted to using the larger bags to deliver medications to patients, increasing demand for that product. Baxter’s fourth-quarter revenues were down $70 million due to manufacturing disruptions following the 2017 storm. (Berryman and Hartnett, 9/21)


AP:
Danish Queen Tests Positive After UK Monarch’s Funeral 


Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II has tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the funeral of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, the royal palace said Wednesday. In a statement, the royal household said that Margrethe, 82, who has been on the throne for 50 years, canceled her official duties after the Tuesday night test. (9/21)


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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