First Edition: Nov. 7, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.
KHN: Post-‘Roe,’ Contraceptive Failures Carry Bigger Stakes 
Birth control options have improved over the decades. Oral contraceptives are now safer, with fewer side effects. Intrauterine devices can prevent pregnancy 99.6% of the time. But no prescription drug or medical device works flawlessly, and people’s use of contraception is inexact. “No one walks into my office and says, ‘I plan on missing a pill,’” said obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Mitchell Creinin. (Varney, 11/7)
KHN: Election Canvassers Want Latinos To Know Voting Is Good For Their Health
Jonathan Flores spent a sunny Saturday in late October knocking on the doors of registered voters in this predominantly Latino working-class town in southeastern Los Angeles County. Most people weren’t home or didn’t come to the door. Some of those who did expressed strong opinions about Joe Biden and Donald Trump and took an interest in abortion rights and clean-air initiatives on the California ballot for the Nov. 8 election. One young man gave Flores the brush-off, saying he doubted his vote would be counted. Like the other canvassers sent out that day by AltaMed Health Services Corp., a large chain of community clinics, Flores sported a black baseball cap and a T-shirt emblazoned with “My Vote. My Health.” Underneath, it read the same in Spanish, “Mi Voto. Mi Salud.” His mission was to urge residents to cast their ballots, even if they had never voted, so they could be fairly represented in city hall, Sacramento, and beyond. (Wolfson, 11/7)
KHN: Supreme Court To Hear Nursing Home Case That Could Affect Millions 
When Susie Talevski sued the agency that managed her elderly father’s care before he died, she hoped to get justice for her family. She did not expect the case would grow into a national bellwether. A ruling against her could strip millions of vulnerable Americans of their power to hold states accountable when they do not receive benefits allowed by law. “This case has taken on, really, a life of its own way beyond what I could have foreseen,” said Talevski, a resident of Valparaiso, Indiana. (Yousry, 11/7)
KHN: Journalists Cut Through The Noise, From Open Enrollment To Magic Mushrooms
KHN chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner helped listeners navigate open enrollment season for Affordable Care Act marketplace plans on Maine Public Radio’s “Maine Calling” on Nov. 1. … KHN correspondent Aneri Pattani joined a conversation about the 988 suicide prevention hotline on Apple Podcasts’ “Committable” on Nov. 1. (11/5)
The Boston Globe: Here Are The Many Ways Abortion Is On The Ballot Around The Country On Tuesday
Michigan’s amendment is one of the many ways abortion is on the ballot in elections across the country on Tuesday. The Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and its nearly five-decade-old guarantee of a federal right to an abortion kicked the issue back to the states. It also made abortion a centerpiece of the midterm elections. The abortion rights landscape is now a patchwork of state laws that could be directly or indirectly changed by voters at the polls in the first major election since the decision. (Villa Huerta and Coan, 11/6)
Stat: Health And Science Are On The Ballot This Election. Here’s What We’re Watching
The midterm elections this year are centered on weighty topics: the economy looms large, as does the existential future of democracy. But there are plenty of health and science priorities on the ballot, too, as Tuesday’s votes will chart the course for the future of health care access, affordability, and public health writ large. (11/7)
ABC News: How Abortion Rights Advocates Say Midterm Elections Could Impact Access In Arizona
Arizona abortion rights advocates have been fielding confusing abortion laws in the state for months. Now, those advocates say the midterm elections are critical for determining access to abortion in the state. Abortion providers in Arizona have been living in "legal limbo" since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, abortion rights advocates say. (Guilfoil, 11/7)
Politico: ‘Republicans Abandoned Me’: Meet The Dobbs Voters Of Michigan 
In one state, the fight over abortion rights has made Election Day particularly unpredictable: Michigan, which has both a high-stakes abortion rights referendum and a governor’s race where abortion has become central. POLITICO spoke to nine voters in the state who have been energized by the issue to vote or engage in politics in a wholly new way. Some of them have switched parties; some are engaging in serious activism for the first time; some are casting their first ever ballots. (Ollstein, 11/4)
AP: AG: Disposing Embryos Outside Uterus Not Against Tenn. Law
Tennessee’s strict abortion ban does not apply to the disposal of fertilized human embryos that haven’t been transferred to a uterus, according to a recent state attorney general opinion. The determination is among the first issued by an attorney general that provides insight on how laws heavily restricting abortion affect those seeking in vitro fertilization, or IVF, since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion. (Kruesi, 11/4)
AP: Medicare Enrollees Warned About Deceptive Marketing Schemes
Mailers designed to look like official government forms. Buses sporting scam pitches for Medicare websites. TV commercials featuring celebrities who encourage people to sign up for Medicare plans that do not always include their current doctors. With Medicare’s open enrollment underway through Dec. 7, health experts are warning older adults about an uptick in misleading marketing tactics that might lead some to sign up for Medicare Advantage plans that do not cover their regular doctors or prescriptions and drive up out-of-pocket costs. (Seitz, 11/5)
The New York Times: Medicare Advantage Or Just Medicare?
The sales pitches show up in your mailbox and inbox, in robocalls and texts. Ads target you on radio and television and social media. Touting Medicare Advantage plans, these campaigns promise low premiums and all kinds of extra benefits. And they work. The proportion of eligible Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, funded with federal dollars but offered through private insurance companies, has hit 48 percent. By next year, a majority of beneficiaries will probably be Advantage plan enrollees. (Span, 11/5)
Axios: New Medicare Dental Benefits Give Democrats A Small Reason To Smile
Democrats won a consolation prize this week when Medicare administrators added limited dental benefits to next year's coverage, nodding to a priority that got axed in negotiations over the Inflation Reduction Act. (Owens, 11/4)
Modern Healthcare: Medicaid Plans Scrap, Revise Tools With Racial Biases, Survey Shows
A majority of Medicaid managed care organizations have modified or abandoned algorithms, policies or models they determined to be racially biased, according to survey results the Institute for Medicaid Innovation released Friday. (Hartnett, 11/4)
AP: US Flu Season Off To A Fast Start As Other Viruses Spread
The U.S. flu season is off to an unusually fast start, adding to an autumn mix of viruses that have been filling hospitals and doctor waiting rooms. Reports of flu are already high in 17 states, and the hospitalization rate hasn’t been this high this early since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, there have been an estimated 730 flu deaths, including at least two children. The winter flu season usually flu ramps up in December or January. (Stobbe and Babwin, 11/4)
The Washington Post: As Covid, Flu And RSV Cases Collide, CDC Warms Of A Tough Winter Ahead 
While new coronavirus cases have leveled off in recent weeks, federal health officials warned Friday they are confronting elevated levels of other viruses that are roaring back as pre-pandemic life returns and many Americans, particularly children, lack immunity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory about respiratory viruses to thousands of health-care providers in an attempt to bolster testing, treatment and vaccination. (Nirappil, 11/4)
CIDRAP: CDC Warns About Early Spike In Respiratory Viruses 
Jose Romero, MD, who directs the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said mitigation steps have eased after 2 years of COVID-19 impacts that limited social interactions, and many young children are now being exposed to a host of respiratory viruses for the first time. He also warned that COVID-19 hasn't disappeared, with a rate that has now leveled off after decreasing the last few months. (Schnirring, 11/4)
Modern Healthcare: RSV Wave Has Children's Hospitals In 'Crisis Mode'
Children’s hospitals are being pushed to the brink as they confront a surging respiratory disease outbreak in addition to rising COVID-19 cases and a mental health epidemic. It's a multifaceted threat that may recur without policy fixes. (Hudson and Kacik, 11/4)
The Boston Globe: Eight-Hour Waiting Times. Patients Leaving Before Being Seen. Mass. Hospital Emergency Departments Are Beyond The Brink
The emergency department at Massachusetts General Hospital was so backed up one Friday night last month that Janet Cook waited for nearly eight hours in a wheelchair in a crowded hallway before an inpatient bed opened up. That was after the 69-year-old Norfolk resident had writhed in pain for almost two hours before receiving medication. (Lazar, 11/5)
Becker's Hospital Review: At Hospital Where Nurse Called 911, 'Zero Candidates Interviewing' For ED Roles, Says President
After staffing issues prompted a nurse at Silverdale, Wash.-based St. Michael Medical Center to call 911 on her own emergency department, representatives for the hospital are speaking publicly about staffing in that department and other issues related to the facility, the Kitsap Sun reported Nov. 3.  (Gooch, 11/4)
Becker's Hospital Review: Patients Hospitalwide More Likely To Die When ED Is Overcrowded: Study
Emergency department crowding affects death rates hospitalwide, according to a recent study from University Park, Pa.-based Penn State and the University of California San Francisco. Researchers examined more than 5 million discharge records from California hospitals between October 2015 and December 2017, according to a Nov. 4 article on Penn State's website. They compared these with the number of people in the hospitals' emergency departments to complete their analysis, which was published in the journal Health Sciences Research. (Kayser, 11/4)
Bloomberg: Pfizer’s Paxlovid Antiviral Lowered Long-Covid Risk In Study
Taking the oral medication within five days of testing positive for a SARS-CoV-2 infection was linked to a 26% lower risk of lingering post-viral complications, researchers with the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System said in the study. That equates to 2.3 fewer cases of long Covid within three months of infection for every 100 patients treated, according to the findings released Saturday on the medRxiv server ahead of publication in a peer-reviewed journal. (Gale, 11/6)
CBS News: Man Who Had COVID For 411 Days Finally Cured With Regeneron Cocktail Given To Trump
A man in Britain who was infected with COVID-19 for 411 days was finally cured after receiving the same cocktail of drugs given to former President Donald Trump, doctors in London said. His is one of the longest-know cases of COVID in the world, after another patient who was infected for 505 days, according to the team at the London hospital that treated him. (Ott, 11/4)
CIDRAP: Oral Zinc Cuts Risk Of Death, ICU Stay Nearly 40% In COVID-19 Patients
Tunisian COVID-19 patients given oral zinc twice daily had a nearly 40% lower rate of death and intensive care unit (ICU) admission, as well as shorter hospital stays and time to symptom resolution, concludes a randomized controlled trial published today in Clinical Infectious Diseases. … Zinc has a key role in regulating the immune system, the authors noted. "Zinc should be considered for the treatment of patients with COVID-19," they wrote. (11/4)
CIDRAP: Study Shows Moderate, Severe COVID Diminishes Quality Of Life 1 Year Later
In a new study in BMC Medicine, Dutch researchers report that, 12 months after illness onset, people with initially moderate to severe COVID-19 still had impaired health-related quality of life (HRQL), but the same was not true for mild COVID-19. (11/4)
Becker's Hospital Review: Kaiser Permanente Reports $1.5B Q3 Loss
Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and their subsidiaries reported a net loss of $1.5 billion for the quarter ending Sept. 30, according to a Nov. 4 financial report. The company posted total operating revenues of $24.3 billion and total operating expenses of $24.3 billion for the quarter. Total operating revenues of $23.2 billion and total operating expenses of $23.1 billion for the same period in 2021. (Tucker, 11/4)
The Wall Street Journal: Walgreens Unit Close To Roughly $9 Billion Deal With Summit Health 
A unit of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. WBA 3.72%increase; green up pointing triangle is nearing a deal to combine with a big owner of medical practices and urgent-care centers in a transaction worth roughly $9 billion including debt, according to people familiar with the matter, the latest in a string of acquisitions by big consumer-focused companies aiming to delve deeper into medical care. (Cooper, 11/6)
The Boston Globe: Man Who Was First In Line For A Custom CRISPR Therapy Dies
A man with muscular dystrophy who was first in line to receive an experimental gene editing therapy tailor made to treat the cause of his rare form of the disease has died. The creation of the first-of-its-kind therapy for Terry Horgan, 27, was helmed by the Boston and Connecticut based nonprofit Cure Rare Disease — founded and led by Terry’s older brother, Richard Horgan. (Cross, 11/4)
AP: Death In US Gene Therapy Study Sparks Search For Answers 
The lone volunteer in a unique study involving a gene-editing technique has died, and those behind the trial are now trying to figure out what killed him. Terry Horgan, a 27-year-old who had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, died last month, according to Cure Rare Disease, a Connecticut-based nonprofit founded by his brother, Rich, to try and save him from the fatal condition. Although little is known about how he died, his death occurred during one of the first studies to test a gene editing treatment built for one person. (Ungar, 11/4)
The Boston Globe: Duke, MIT, And Stanford Scientists Create RNA Technology That Could Improve Genetic Therapies
Scientists from Duke, MIT, and Stanford have independently devised a molecular trick that could help make genetic therapies safer and more effective. The technology, which was disclosed in three separate papers published recently, could help ensure that treatments based on DNA or RNA are only activated once they reach the right part of the body. (Cross, 11/6)
NPR: Statins 'Vastly Superior' To Supplements To Cut Heart Attack Risk, Study Finds
"What we found was that rosuvastatin lowered LDL cholesterol by almost 38% and that was vastly superior to placebo and any of the six supplements studied in the trial," study author Luke Laffin, M.D. of the Cleveland Clinic's Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute told NPR. He says this level of reduction is enough to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. (Aubrey, 11/6)
Stat: Supreme Court Agrees To Review A Closely Watched Patent Case
In a boost for Amgen, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case in which the company argued a federal appeals court incorrectly determined its patent claims on a cholesterol medication are invalid. (Silverman, 11/4)
The New York Times: Florida Restricts Doctors From Providing Gender Treatments To Minors
Florida has effectively banned medications and surgery for new adolescent patients seeking gender transitions after an unprecedented vote by the state’s medical board. … The board voted 6-3 (with five others not present) on Friday to adopt a new standard of care that forbids doctors to prescribe puberty blockers and hormones, or perform surgeries, until transgender patients are 18. Exceptions will be allowed for children who are already receiving the treatments. The Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine also voted to restrict care for new patients on Friday, but allowed an exception for children enrolled in clinical studies. Doctors who flout the rules risk losing their medical licenses. (Ghorayshi, 11/4)
WFSU: Florida's Attorney General Launches The One Pill Can Kill Website To Combat Fentanyl
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has launched the One Pill Can Kill website with resources about the dangers of fentanyl. More and more, she says the opioid is being hidden in drugs like marijuana and cocaine, unbeknownst to the user. (Jordan, 11/4)
AP: Maine Clarifies Limits On Medical Marijuana Providers 
Maine delivered an October surprise to medical marijuana providers with guidance limiting the sale of pre-rolled marijuana and liquid concentrates by treating them like tobacco. The Maine Office of Cannabis Policy released guidance on Oct. 7 that effectively bans medical marijuana caregivers without a storefront from providing those products altogether while medical marijuana dispensaries and stores must treat them like tobacco products with an age limit of 21. Previously, those could be provided to people 18 and older with a medical marijuana card. (Sharp, 11/4)
Stateline: States Struggle To Curb Fake Emotional Support Animals
Numerous websites promise to qualify any pet as an emotional support animal that the sites claim can go nearly anywhere — inside restaurants and stores, into “no pets” apartments and throughout college dorms. The easily obtained certificates are making it tough for states to crack down on fake support animals without running afoul of federal fair housing or anti-discrimination laws. (Povich, 11/4)
The Washington Post: Why Aren’t There More Ways To Treat Alcoholism? 
News organizations were quick to trumpet the recent findings of a small study suggesting that “magic mushrooms” could be part of a breakthrough treatment for alcoholism. It’s no wonder. Every year, alcohol abuse kills more than 140,000 Americans and affects millions more, with a steep increase in deaths in recent years, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Nov. 4. But excitement about the psilocybin study also raises a question: Why aren’t there more medical treatments for such an obviously devastating problem? (Ellison, 11/6)
NBC News: FDA Advises Parents Not To Use Infant Head Shaping Pillows
Parents should not use infant head shaping pillows to change a baby’s head shape or symmetry, the Food and Drug Administration advised on Thursday. (Lenthang, 11/4)
NPR: National Park Service Asks Visitors Stop Licking Toxic Toads
The toad, also known as the Colorado river toad, is about seven inches in size and carries a weak, low-pitched ribbit sound. But the creature is far from harmless. Sonoran desert toads secrete a potent toxin that can make people sick if they touch it or get the poison in their mouth, according to the National Park Service. (Kim, 11/6)
NBC News: Highly Processed Foods Are Linked To Early Death, Study Finds
A study published Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine estimated that in 2019, the deaths of around 57,000 Brazilian people between the ages of 30 and 69 were attributable to the consumption of ultra-processed food. That amounts to more than 10% of annual premature deaths in Brazil among that age group. (Bendix, 11/7)
Fox News: Non-Stick Pans Could Release Millions Of Microplastic Particles In Possible 'Health Concern,' Study Says 
Non-stick pots could be releasing millions of tiny plastic particles as users are cooking or washing. (Musto, 11/5)
AP: Pope Calls Female Genital Mutilation A Crime That Must Stop
Pope Francis called female genital mutilation a “crime” on Sunday and said the fight for women’s rights, equality and opportunity must continue for the good of society. “How is it that today in the world we cannot stop the tragedy of infibulation of young girls?” he asked, referring to the ritual cutting of a girls’ external genitalia. “This is terrible that today there is a practice that humanity isn’t able to stop. It’s a crime. It’s a criminal act!” (Winfield, 11/6)
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