Thursday, December 8, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News Original Stories
A Family Death During the Holidays Prompts Questions and Reflection
The death of a sharp but frail patriarch just days before Thanksgiving casts a shadow on a family’s holiday season. (Judith Graham, )
More States to Consider Extending Postpartum Medicaid Coverage Beyond Two Months
Fifteen states haven’t moved to extend Medicaid coverage for new moms beyond the minimum of 60 days after birth. But at least four of those holdout states — Montana, Wyoming, Missouri, and Mississippi — are expected to consider proposals to extend coverage in their upcoming legislative sessions. (Matt Volz, )
For Patients With Sickle Cell Disease, Fertility Care Is About Reproductive Justice
The disease, which predominantly affects Black patients, can damage the body in ways that can make having a child difficult. But patients don’t always have access to fertility care. (Farah Yousry, Side Effects Public Media, )
Political Cartoon: 'Viral Injuries?'
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Viral Injuries?'" by Dave Coverly.
Love to write haiku poems? If so, you’ll love seeing them come to life! Starting tomorrow, we will occasionally showcase a health haiku with an illustration by KHN artist Oona Tempest. Be sure to read tomorrow’s Morning Briefing to see if your haiku was chosen! And keep those haiku submissions coming – yours might be next!
Health Law
ACA Enrollment On Pace For Record Year With 5.5 Million Sign-Ups So Far
CMS says that enrollments for 2023 plans through are up 18% over this time last year. Of those who have so far registered, 1.2 million are new consumers to the marketplace.
Fierce Healthcare: Sign-Ups On ACA Exchanges Up 18% Year Over Year To 5.5M So Far
Sign-ups for plans on the Affordable Care Act's exchanges reached 5.5 million during the first five weeks of open enrollment, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The CMS said Wednesday that figure includes 1.2 million people who have newly signed up for coverage through the exchanges as well as 4.3 million people who have returned to the exchanges to renew or select a new plan for 2023. That represents an 18% increase year over year; in 2021, 4.6 million people had signed up for plans through the first five weeks of the enrollment period. (Minemyer, 12/7)
Reuters: Around 5.5 Mln People Have Signed Up For 2023 Obamacare Plans 
Nearly 5.5 million Americans so far have signed up for health insurance for next year through the Affordable Care Act's marketplace, an 18% increase over the same period last year, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday. People who want to choose a healthcare plan for 2023 under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, can enroll between Nov. 1 and Jan. 15. However, if they want to be covered as of Jan. 1 they generally need to choose a plan by Dec. 15. (12/7)
In related news about the ACA —
Health Affairs: Paying For ACA Cost-Sharing Reductions: Are Premiums Too Low Or Too High? 
Access to health insurance with affordable premiums is only one aspect of access to health care. Consumers may face barriers to care if a plan’s cost-sharing requirements (e.g., deductibles and coinsurance) are unaffordable. (Bohl, Karcher, Novak and Uccello, 12/6)
From Oklahoma and Colorado —
Oklahoman: Oklahoma’s Child Health Insurance Rate Saw The Biggest Improvement
Oklahoma’s child health insurance rate saw the biggest improvement in the country, a new report found. Experts say Medicaid expansion and continuous Medicaid coverage during the pandemic helped drive the gains in children’s health care coverage, but the state has work to do to retain that progress. (Branham, 12/7)
The Colorado Sun: The Number Of Uninsured Colorado Kids Has Been On The Decline During The Pandemic. That Could Change
Colorado is among the states that made the most progress in a nationwide effort to connect kids with health insurance coverage during the pandemic, according to a report published Wednesday by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families. (Breunlin, 12/8)
Opioid Crisis
White House Dashboard: Over 180,000 Nonfatal Opioid Overdoses In A Year
News outlets report on a new opioid data system debuted by the White House today. The first-of-its-kind dashboard also shows emergency services took 9.8 minutes on average to reach an overdose patient. Separately, a study shows opioid misusers with disabilities are more likely to attempt suicide.
CNN: More Than 180,000 People Overdosed On Opioids And Survived In The Past Year, New White House Dashboard Shows
There were about 181,806 nonfatal opioid overdoses recorded in the United States in the past year, and it’s taken about 9.8 minutes on average for emergency medical services to reach someone who’s overdosing, according to a data dashboard that the White House debuted Thursday. This first-of-its-kind dashboard was developed to track nonfatal opioid overdoses, which have become a growing public health concern as the US struggles with a decades-long opioid epidemic. (Howard, 12/8)
USA Today: The White House Is Now Tracking Nonfatal Opioid Overdoses By State. Why That's Important
“We are hoping that this will be used by first responders, by clinicians as well as policymakers to make sure that we are working to provide that response, connect people to care as well as to minimize the response times and ensure that there's resources available on the ground,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. (Rodriguez, 12/8)
NPR: The White House Unveils A New System To Track And Better Prevent Opioid Overdoses
For decades, the U.S. struggled to create a national system for tracking opioid overdoses. Critics including Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) say the lack of accurate, real-time data has made it harder for health officials to respond as black market pain pills, heroin and illicit fentanyl flooded communities. "It is absolutely a monstrous failure of government," Trone said in an interview with NPR. "The excuses are unending. "Thursday morning, the Biden administration moved to close the data gap, unveiling a new website that will track non-fatal opioid overdoses. (Mann, 12/8)
In other news about opioid abuse —
MedicalXpress: People With Disabilities Who Misuse Opioid Drugs 73% More Likely To Attempt Suicide, National Study Finds
People who take medical opioid drugs without a doctor's prescription are 37% more likely than non-users to plan suicide—and the risk is even greater for those with disabilities, who have 73% higher odds of attempting to take their own life. The findings are from a study of over 38,000 adults who took part in the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2019, published in the journal Substance Use and Misuse. (12/8)
Pandemic Policymaking
It's A 'Mistake' To Repeal Covid Vax Mandate For Military, White House Says
Administration officials did not indicate whether President Joe Biden would veto legislation that would roll back the covid vaccine mandate.
The Hill: White House Calls It ‘Mistake’ To Repeal Troop Vaccine Mandate, Won’t Say If Biden Would Veto Defense Bill 
The White House on Wednesday called it a “mistake” to repeal the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for military service members through the annual defense policy bill, but officials stopped short of saying President Biden would veto the legislation. “What we think happened here is Republicans in Congress have decided that they’d rather fight against the health and well-being of our troops than protecting them,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “And we believe that it is a mistake, what we saw happen on the NDAA as it relates to the vaccine mandate. Making sure our troops are prepared and ready for service is a priority for President Biden. The vaccination requirement for COVID does just that.” (Samuels, 12/7)
The Washington Post: Rollback Of Covid Vaccine Mandate Met With Furor At Pentagon 
Privately, some Defense Department personnel were even more pointed. One senior defense official said that when service members “inevitability get sick, and if they should die, it will be on the Republicans who insisted upon this.” The official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the polarizing issue, cited the sprawling coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in spring 2020. The vessel — a major power-projection weapon — was sidelined for weeks through a cumbersome quarantine process with more than 1,200 cases in a crew of about 4,800, and one sailor died. (Lamothe, Horton and Demirjian, 12/7)
Reuters: White House Slams Congress For Move To Rescind Military's Vaccine Mandate 
According to Defense Department data, 3,717 Marines, 1,816 soldiers and 2,064 sailors have been discharged for refusing to get vaccinated. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that more than 99 percent of active duty troops have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (12/7)
AP: EXPLAINER: What End Of Vaccine Mandate Means For US Troops 
Congress’ move to eliminate the Pentagon mandate that all U.S. service members get the COVID-19 vaccine delivers a victory for lawmakers and troops who oppose getting the shot, but it raises questions and potential risks, especially for forces deploying overseas. … The bill doesn’t include any order to allow a return to service by the more than 8,000 troops who were discharged for refusing to obey a lawful order when they refused to get the shot. And there appears to be no guarantee that those who don’t get the vaccine won’t see some potential deployment restrictions, which could affect their military careers. (Baldor, 12/7)
Covid-19 Crisis
FDA Speeds Up Review Of Pfizer's RSV Vaccine For Older Adults
But don't get your hopes up for any help this winter: The review period likely won't end until May. Meanwhile, as the "tripledemic" of RSV, flu, and covid wreaks havoc on hospitals nationwide, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told Roll Call that the agency is running out of ways to be creative with its limited pandemic funds.
The Hill: FDA Gives Priority Review To Pfizer RSV Vaccine For Older Adults 
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accepted Pfizer’s application for an RSV vaccine for older adults, and is expected to make an approval decision by the spring. Pfizer in a statement on Wednesday said the FDA is going to review its application under the priority review program, which reduces the approval timeline by four months. The end of the review period is expected to be May 2023, Pfizer said. (Weixel, 12/7)
More on the spread of RSV, flu, and covid —
Roll Call: CDC Head Asks For COVID-19 Funding, Data As Hill Interest Fades
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is running out of ways to be creative with its limited pandemic funds and needs more flexibility from Congress, Director Rochelle Walensky told CQ Roll Call in an exclusive interview Wednesday. (Cohen and Clason, 12/7)
The Washington Post: Face Masks May Return Amid Holiday 'Tripledemic' Of Covid, Flu And RSV 
While mask mandates are unlikely in most parts of the country, health experts are renewing recommendations to wear a high-quality medical mask on public transportation, in airports and on planes, while shopping and in other crowded public spaces. What’s notable is that the mask recommendations this time aren’t just about avoiding the coronavirus. Masks are advised to protect against what is being called the “tripledemic” — a confluence of influenza, coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that already is straining hospitals and forcing parents to miss work in record numbers. (Nirappil and Parker-Pope, 12/7)
CIDRAP: New Data Link Disease Severity To Long COVID
An analysis in the Journal of Internal Medicine identifies several characteristics associated with a higher likelihood of developing long COVID, with the condition most common in patients who required treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU). (Soucheray, 12/7)
The Washington Post: The Pandemic Made Work Holiday Parties Weird. How To Navigate Yours.
Many workers are wondering if work culture shifts caused by the pandemic have impacted what’s expected at holiday work parties. Are you required to attend? Exactly how long is long enough? Is it okay to arrive late? Does any of this change if the party is virtual? Does being a fully remote, hybrid or full-time office worker create different dynamics? What about masking? (Abril, 12/7)
On covid vaccines and treatments —
San Francisco Chronicle: Bivalent Booster No Match For BQ.1 And XBB Subvariants
In a study published Tuesday in Nature Medicine, scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch found the neutralizing antibodies of the bivalent booster shots, which prevent the virus from entering human cells, elicited a high neutralizing titer against BA.4 and BA.5 after 14 to 32 days but “did not produce robust neutralization against the newly emerged BA.2.75.2, BQ.1.1, or XBB.1.” (Vaziri, 12/7)
Los Angeles Times: Experimental Decoy Drug Tricks Coronavirus, Then Destroys It
The coronavirus has been a shifty foe, with new variants and subvariants rapidly evolving to evade vaccines and treatments. Researchers at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are working on an experimental drug that takes one of the virus’ most dangerous traits — its talent for mutation — and turns it back on itself. (Purtill and Healy, 12/7)
ABC News: Walgreens Launches Free Paxlovid Delivery Service With DoorDash And Uber
Walgreens has launched a new delivery service for the COVID-19 oral antiviral therapy Paxlovid in partnership with DoorDash and Uber to get the treatment "directly to the doorsteps of those who need it." (Pezenik, 12/8)
After Roe V. Wade
Senate Deadlock Hits Judicial Nomination Of Abortion Rights Lawyer
Julie Rikelman's nomination to the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is deadlocked in the Senate Judiciary Committee, even as the panel advanced 11 of President Joe Biden's other judicial picks. Rikelman argued the losing side of the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade.
Reuters: U.S. Senate Panel Deadlocks On Abortion Rights Lawyer's Judicial Nomination 
A U.S. Senate panel on Thursday was deadlocked on whether to support President Joe Biden's nomination to the federal bench of an abortion rights lawyer who argued the losing side of the U.S. Supreme Court case that led to Roe v. Wade being overturned. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-11 along party lines on Julie Rikelman's nomination to the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals even as the panel agreed to advance 11 of Biden's other judicial nominees. (Raymond, 12/7)
In other abortion news —
USA Today: Independent Abortion Clinics Are 'Disappearing From Communities' After The End Of Roe V. Wade
Twice as many independent abortion clinics have closed so far in 2022 compared to the year before as facilities shuttered in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision this year to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to an association for independent abortion care providers. As of November, 42 independent abortion clinics closed or were forced to stop providing abortion care in 2022 — more than double the 20 closures in 2021, according to a Tuesday report by the Abortion Care Network. (Fernando, 12/8)
Roll Call: At International Conference, Dobbs Dominates Debate
For years, the biennial International Conference on Family Planning has mostly shied away from focusing on abortion. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn a woman’s right to an abortion has galvanized the issue internationally, leading the more than 125 countries represented at an annual event last month billed as the “world’s largest gathering of family planning and reproductive health professionals” to wonder how the seismic change in U.S. policy will impact nations that receive U.S. global aid or look to the country for leadership. (Raman, 12/7)
Business Insider: Woman Seeking Abortion Met With Pushback From Crisis Pregnancy Center
Estefanía thought she was making an appointment to get an abortion. Fearing she might be pregnant after a missed period, she typed "abortion pill near me" into Google and went to the first clinic that came up on the web page. When she got to The Keim Center in Virginia Beach, it didn't look or smell like a medical clinic — it was too nice, too inviting. (Getahun, Zavarise and Nixdor, 12/5)
More on reproductive health —
KHN: More States To Consider Extending Postpartum Medicaid Coverage Beyond Two Months 
Lawmakers in several conservative-led states — including Montana, Wyoming, Missouri, and Mississippi — are expected to consider proposals to provide a year of continuous health coverage to new mothers enrolled in Medicaid. Medicaid beneficiaries nationwide are guaranteed continuous postpartum coverage during the ongoing covid-19 public health emergency. But momentum has been building for states to extend the default 60-day required coverage period ahead of the emergency’s eventual end. Approximately 42% of births nationwide are covered under Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people, and extending postpartum coverage aims to reduce the risk of pregnancy-related deaths and illnesses by ensuring that new mothers’ medical care isn’t interrupted. (Volz, 12/8)
KHN: For Patients With Sickle Cell Disease, Fertility Care Is About Reproductive Justice
Teonna Woolford has always wanted six kids. Why six? “I don’t know where that number came from. I just felt like four wasn’t enough,” said Woolford, a Baltimore resident. “Six is a good number.” Woolford, 31, was born with sickle cell disease. The genetic disorder causes blood cells to become misshapen, which makes it harder for blood to carry oxygen and flow throughout the body. This can lead to strokes, organ damage, and frequent bouts of excruciating pain. (Yousry, 12/8)
The Washington Post: Keke Palmer’s Pregnancy Offers Hope To Women With PCOS 
Her announcement was particularly meaningful for people with polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. The hormonal disorder, which starts around puberty and can cause cysts in the ovaries, affects as many as 5 million women of reproductive age in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of its effects include abnormal periods, acne and excess face or body hair. It’s also one of the most common causes of infertility in women. (Chery, 12/7)
Gun Violence
Biden Is First President To Attend National Gun Violence Vigil
The president again urged a ban on assault weapons. Also: Politico reports on a little-known administration initiative to curb gun violence through community intervention programs; and ABC News says doctors are trying to reframe gun violence as a major health crisis.
Politico: Biden At Gun Violence Vigil: Shared Grief And Another Call To Action 
Nearly a decade after 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Joe Biden joined their loved ones and survivors of the mass shooting at a national vigil Wednesday for victims of gun violence. … Biden became the first president to attend the National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence, which has honored more than 1 million gun violence victims since the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting in Newtown, Conn. (Ward and Olander, 12/7)
Bloomberg: Biden Pleads For New Assault Weapons Ban At Vigil For Shooting Victims
President Joe Biden pleaded for US lawmakers to again enact a ban on military-style semi-automatic rifles, outlining measures he believes would combat a scourge of gun violence in remarks at a vigil for shooting victims. (Gardner and Sink, 12/8)
Politico: Inside The White House Gun Violence Initiative They Say Is Actually Working 
Amid intense criticism from the left that the White House and Congress haven’t done enough to stop gun violence, the Biden administration has been underwriting an initiative that’s drawn barely any notice. The work started on the campaign trail, when Joe Biden pitched community violence intervention as a component of his gun violence prevention plan. Once he took office, Biden secured tens of billions of dollars that can be used for community violence intervention, which he and advocates say is critical for reducing recidivism rates. (Ward, 12/6)
Also —
ABC News: Firearm Deaths Among Black Men At 28-Year High, Doctors Are Taking Steps To Reframe Gun Violence As One Of America's Major Health Crisis
"Gun violence is an incredible scourge in our country. Gun violence affects everybody, and that's an important thing to recognize. However, it affects certain groups far more than others. Black men speak to one of the greatest disparities, if not the greatest disparity," co-author Eric Fleegler, associate professor of pediatrics and emergency physician at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement. (Crittenden, 12/6)
Capitol Watch
Help Wanted: Recruitment Tops ARPA-H Director's Early Priorities
Renee Wegrzyn, director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, told Stat that hiring program managers ranks high on her list of steps needed to prove that the federal investment in the new agency will pay off.
Stat: ARPA-H’s New Director Wants To Go On A Hiring Spree 
President Biden’s new health agency with a sweeping mandate to cure some of the system’s biggest problems has one big message: Please apply. (Owermohle, 12/7)
FDA Chief Robert Califf responds to a scathing report —
Stat: FDA Chief Calls Agency’s Food Program ‘Under-Supported’
FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said the food side of the agency needs more attention Wednesday, the day after an agency-commissioned report recommended increasing the prominence of its food program. (Wilkerson, 12/7)
In updates from Capitol Hill —
The Hill: Lawmakers Face Closing Window To Pass Landmark Bipartisan Marijuana Bill 
Lawmakers are facing a rapidly closing window to get key marijuana legislation across the finish line in the lame-duck session. Despite fetching broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate, opposition from GOP leadership and a tightening timeline is chipping away at the bill’s chances of passage. (Folley and Evers-Hillstrom, 12/7)
Fierce Healthcare: Bill That Puts More Antibiotics On Market No Sure Thing
Bacteria resistant to antibiotics continue to be a problem that merits monitoring because the pathogens can possibly kick-start the next pandemic, but a bill before Congress promises to wheel new medicinal weapons into the contest. The Pioneering Antimicrobial Subscriptions to End Upsurging Resistance (PASTEUR) Act, if passed, would create a public-private effort to create new antibacterial medications by reassuring pharmaceutical companies that there’d be a market for their product. (Diamond, 12/7)
ABC News: House Poised To Pass Bill Protecting Same-Sex, Interracial Marriage
The House on Thursday is set to pass a bill to codify federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages, bringing the landmark legislation one step closer to landing on President Joe Biden's desk for his signature. (Peller, 12/8)
Can Congress prevent another mess like what happened at Theranos? —
Stat: Congress Has A Chance To Close The FDA’s Theranos Loophole
Theranos, and the company’s notoriously inaccurate blood tests, could potentially have been stopped earlier if Congress had acted to fix a regulatory loophole. Lawmakers are weighing now whether it’s better late than never. (Cohrs and Owermohle, 12/8)
CNN: Ramesh 'Sunny' Balwani Sentenced To Nearly 13 Years In Prison For Fraud 
Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the former chief operating officer of failed blood testing startup Theranos, was sentenced Wednesday to nearly 13 years in prison for fraud. It marks an end to the stunning downfall of a high-flying Silicon Valley company that resulted in the rare convictions of two tech executives. (Thorbecke, 12/7)
Health Industry
Bullying Among Health Care Workers In Spotlight
Fox News covers a recent article from Massachusetts General Hospital on bullying and toxic workplaces in health care. Separately, a study says hospital parking fees are more than an annoyance and can impose a significant burden on patients, particularly those who have to make frequent visits.
Fox News: Bullies In White Coats? 'Too Many' Health Care Workers Experience Toxic Workplaces, Studies Show
Some bullies wear white coats, new research reveals. While health care workers aim to treat their patients with compassion, empathy and respect, a significant number don’t follow those same ideals when working with each other, according to an article published recently by Massachusetts General Hospital. (Sudhakar, 12/8)
In other health care industry news —
Stat: Hospital Parking Fees Impose Unjust Financial Burden, Study Says
For many patients, one of the most antagonizing parts of a hospital visit is paying for parking. Those parking fees aren’t just an annoyance for the sick and injured, according to a new paper in the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences. The charges are actually eating into their financial well-being, particularly for people who have cancer and have to make frequent visits to the hospital for treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. (Herman, 12/7)
Modern Healthcare: Amazon Ends Support For Alexa Tool With HIPAA Protections
Amazon is ending support for a program that allowed patients to share Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-protected information with hospitals and health insurers over its artificial intelligence-enabled device Alexa, the tech giant said Thursday. (Perna, 12/7)
Modern Healthcare: UnitedHealth-LHC Group Merger Delayed
A $5.4 billion proposed merger between UnitedHealth Group and LHC Group won't consummate as planned by the end year, LHC Group disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday. (Tepper, 12/7)
The 19th: A New Museum And Clinic Will Honor The Enslaved “Mothers Of Gynecology”
33 S. Perry Street in Montgomery, Alabama, is a site of harrowing sacrifice that birthed modern gynecology. But though many know the breakthroughs that happened there, the dozens of enslaved women and girls who suffered for the medical standards that exist today are often erased. (Henry, 12/7)
Stat: Oncologist Otis Brawley On The Future Of Equitable Cancer Care
Oncologist Otis Brawley has dedicated his career to advocating for orthodoxy in medicine. Now, he says, advances in cancer treatments and early-detection screenings are fast outpacing the medical community’s ability to assess them — warranting more caution lest doctors inadvertently cause more harm to cancer patients. (Williamson-Lee, 12/7)
FDA Wants Lasik Eye Surgeons To Warn Patients Of Risks
MSN reports on an FDA investigation into Lasik risks and an initiative to press doctors to warn patients of complications. Some eye surgeons push back, saying the FDA focused only on negative information sharing. Also: supplements and heart patients, marijuana use by drivers, and more.
MSN: Lasik Eye Surgery More Dangerous Than Previously Thought?
Lasik eye surgery has been known in the common vernacular as a surgery that is both beneficial and low-risk for quite some time now. And while that is generally true, there are reportedly risks that some doctors neglect to tell their patients about. According to an investigation done by the Food And Drug Administration (FDA), these risks include a list of complications ranging from prolonged and severe eye pain to still needing prescription lenses. (Eckert, 12/7)
In health and wellness news —
ABC News: Doctors Should Ask Heart Patients If They Take Supplements To Manage Heart Failure
Doctors should ask patients with heart failure if they’re using any supplements, specific diets, or other types of complementary and alternative medicines to help manage potential benefits and risks, the American Heart Association said in a scientific statement published Thursday. (12/8)
Bloomberg: Alcohol, Marijuana Use By US Drivers Are Rising Along With Road Deaths
Dangerous driving behaviors — from impaired driving to running red lights to speeding — rose last year, reversing declines since 2018, according to a new survey from the American Automobile Association. Motor vehicle fatalities increased 10.5% to almost 43,000 in 2021, AAA said, citing federal estimates. (Welch, 12/8)
WUSF Public Media: A Study Finds More Kids Struggling With Suicidal Thoughts. Florida Hospitals See It Firsthand
More children and teens are visiting emergency rooms for mental health crises, according to a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics. Some psychologists in Florida say they have been seeing a similar trend. (Colombini, 12/7)
KHN: A Family Death During The Holidays Prompts Questions And Reflection
It wasn’t the Thanksgiving holiday any of us had expected. Two weeks before, my 94-year-old father-in-law, Melvin Zax, suffered a stroke after receiving dialysis and was rushed to a hospital near his residence in western New York. There, he underwent a series of tests over the course of several days. With each test, Mel became more agitated. His hearing aids weren’t working right, and he didn’t understand what was happening. (Graham, 12/8)
The Washington Post: Celine Dion Shares Diagnosis Of Incurable Disorder, Stiff-Person Syndrome
Celine Dion announced that she was diagnosed with a rare and incurable neurological condition known as stiff-person syndrome, and that she will cancel or postpone dozens of shows in her “Courage World Tour.” … Stiff-person syndrome, or SPS, is a neurological and autoimmune disorder that causes muscles to stiffen progressively, causing painful and debilitating spasms. In more extreme forms, it can prevent people from walking or going about their day-to-day lives. (Timsit, 12/8)
Also —
USA Today: Russia's War Renews Nuclear Disaster Fears. What To Know About The Dangers Of Radiation
Experts say there are medicines that can help protect people from some types of nuclear disaster. And understanding the risks and the kinds of radiation people are exposed to are key to treating potential exposures. (Hughes, 12/8)
Lifestyle and Health
Statins Have Another Trick: Decreasing Risk Of Deadliest Strokes
Statins are already known to be a useful tool to lower the risk of stroke due to blood clots, but now new data show they are also good at lowering risk of stroke from intracerebral hemorrhage — which CNN calls "the deadliest kind." Other news includes new melanoma immunotherapies, and more.
CNN: Statins Lower The Risk Of One Of The Deadliest Kinds Of Strokes, Study Finds 
Doctors know that drugs called statins lower a person’s risk of a stroke due to a blood clot. But a new study shows that the inexpensive medications can also decrease the risk of a first stroke as a result of an intracerebral hemorrhage, the deadliest kind. (Christensen, 12/7)
On metastatic melanoma —
Stat: In ‘Landmark’ Study, Cell Therapy Exceeds Expectations In Melanoma Patients
When tumors like melanoma form, the immune system mobilizes for war. White blood cells called lymphocytes rush to assault the tumor — but cancer has ways of disabling the immune system. Once the immune cells penetrate the area in and around the tumor, they can be caught in chemical snares that render them inert or exhausted, so they cease working. (Chen, 12/7)
NBC News: New Immunotherapy May Be More Effective For Advanced Melanoma
The results of a phase 3 clinical trial published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the treatment, which uses a superconcentrated boost of the person's own immune cells, was more effective than the leading existing treatment at putting patients into remission. (Miller, 12/7)
In other pharmaceutical news —
Stat: FDA Scolds Valisure, Which Raised Red Flags Over Drug Impurities
Two years after an independent laboratory began pushing the Food and Drug Administration to analyze various medicines for traces of carcinogens, the agency sent inspectors to the company and cited it for failing to comply with federal law. (Silverman, 12/7)
The Boston Globe: Vor Biopharma Says First Patient Given Its Gene Editing Therapy For Leukemia Is In Remission
A Cambridge biotech company using CRISPR gene editing to develop therapies for blood cancers said that its experimental treatment for acute myeloid leukemia proved safe in the first recipient, who is currently in remission. (Cross, 12/7)
Stat: Prometheus’ Inflammatory Bowel Drug Succeeds In Two Mid-Stage Trials
An investigative medicine from Prometheus Biosciences met its goals in a pair of Phase 2 studies enrolling patients with inflammatory bowel disease, setting the stage for pivotal trials and nearly doubling the company’s stock price. (Garde, 12/7)
State Watch
To Beat Pediatric Nurse Shortage, Nevada Fast-Tracks Temp Licenses
The Las Vegas Review-Journal says the Nevada State Board of Nursing can now issue a temporary Nevada license within a couple hours to a nurse already licensed in another state. Other news is from Connecticut, Missouri, Southern California, and elsewhere.
Las Vegas Review-Journal: Nevada Fast-Tracks Application Process For Temporary Nursing Licenses
Nevada has fast-tracked its application process for a temporary nursing license in an effort to ease the current shortage of pediatric nurses, officials said this week. The Nevada State Board of Nursing can now issue a temporary Nevada license within a couple hours to a nurse already licensed in another state, executive director Cathy Dinauer said. Normally the process would take several days. (Hynes, 12/7)
In other health news from across the U.S. —
WSHU: Windham Hospital Nurses Reach Deal With Hartford HealthCare
Nurses at Windham Hospital in Connecticut have finally agreed to new contracts with their employer Hartford HealthCare a year after their previous contracts expired. Andrea Riley, a registered nurse and president of the Windham Federation of Professional Nurses, said the road to get to an agreement with their employer has been a long time coming. (Scott-Smith, 12/7)
St. Louis Public Radio: Impact Of No Patient Left Alone Act Minimal For Now 
The true impact of a Missouri patient rights law enacted this past legislative session likely won’t be known until there is another health emergency. Earlier this year, lawmakers passed the No Patient Left Alone Act, which requires health care facilities, like hospitals or long-term care facilities, to allow for in-person visitors. Facilities must also allow patients to designate an essential caregiver for in-person contact during a public state of emergency. (Kellogg, 12/7)
AP: Middle Schoolers OD From Taking Pot-Laced Products On Campus
Four students at a Southern California school apparently overdosed Wednesday after eating marijuana-laced products and three of them were taken to the hospital, authorities said. Firefighters were sent to Sunnymead Middle School in Moreno Valley at about noon, Riverside County fire officials said. (12/8)
Becker's Hospital Review: Ohio Measles Outbreak Reaches Partially Vaccinated Kids
At least three partially vaccinated children in Central Ohio have contracted measles, marking the first cases in the region's outbreak that have not been among unvaccinated children. Fifty nine cases had been confirmed as of Dec. 7, according to a dashboard run by the health department in Columbus. All but three of those cases were among unvaccinated children. (Carbajal, 12/7)
NBC News: Salt Lake City’s Efforts To Fight Pollution Face A New Challenge: Toxic Dust
Parts of the Great Salt Lake hardly resembled a lake at all this fall. Water levels in October fell to the lowest levels on record, exposing much of the lakebed and creating conditions for storms of dust — laden with toxic metals — that now threaten the 2 million people living nearby. (Bush, 12/7)
Health Policy Research
Research Roundup: Mpox; Covid; Cancer Detection; AI In Health Care
Each week, KHN compiles a selection of recently released health policy studies and briefs.
CIDRAP: Studies Detail Mpox In Women, Cases After Vaccination 
Late last week, Eurosurveillance published two studies on mpox in 158 women in Spain and detailed 5 cases of severe disease following Jynneos vaccination in Belgium. (Soucheray, 12/5)
CIDRAP: Certain Glucose-Lowering Drugs May Be Better For COVID Patients With Diabetes
The research team said that, despite the findings and the knowledge that SGLT-2is also have potential cardiovascular and kidney advantages, it is still unclear whether they should be used to lower glucose levels during the COVID-19 pandemic because they can lead to dehydration and the life-threatening complication euglycemic diabetic ketoacidosis. (Van Beusekom, 12/7)
ScienceDaily: Ground-Breaking New Method For Multi-Cancer Early Detection
An international study shows that a new, previously untested method can easily find multiple types of newly formed cancers at the same time — including cancer types that are difficult to detect with comparable methods. (Chalmers University of Technology, 12/7)
ScienceDaily: AI Enables Large-Scale Brain Tumor Study, Without Sharing Patient Data 
Researchers studying rare conditions, like GBM, an aggressive type of brain tumor, often have patient populations limited to their own institution or geographical location. (University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 12/5)
Editorials And Opinions
Viewpoints: Should Medical Schools Change The MCAT?; Proposed Medicare Cuts Will Be Disastrous
Editorial writers delve into these public health concerns.
The Washington Post: Med Schools Should De-Emphasize Standardized Admissions Tests
The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) currently mandates that medical school admissions teams include the MCAT score among the many variables they use in evaluating applicants. (Alessandro Hammond and Cameron Sabet, 12/7)
Stat: Health Care Will Get Even More Dysfunctional After January 1 
Doctors across the country, especially those in primary care, have been up in arms about Medicare’s proposed cuts in reimbursement that are scheduled to go into effect on January 1. They are concerned — rightfully so — that these cuts will be ruinous to their practices and compromise the care they can provide to their patients. (Greg Jasani, 12/8)
The Washington Post: Three Viruses Are Waging An Attack. But You Don't Have To Surrender.
The epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina spared no words this week in noting that the United States is awash in viruses, with covid-19, RSV and influenza all rising together. (12/7)
The CT Mirror: Endometriosis And The Barriers To Care
Endometriosis is a debilitating disease– body, mind and spirit. For those with endometriosis, endometrial-like tissue grows outside the uterus. Nearby reproductive organs are often affected but the disease has been found in every major organ system. Tissue can grow on or around a person’s ovaries, fallopian tubes, and beyond. (Jillian Gilchrest, 12/7)
USA Today: America Has A Mental Health Crisis. Jail Isn’t The Answer.
People living with mental illness and their loved ones deserve more. We need law enforcement, prosecutors, health experts and community leaders to come together to chart a new way forward in responding to mental health crises. And a recently released national toolkit offers a road map for how we find our way there. (Sarah George, Miriam Krinsky and Brendan Cox, 12/8)
The Washington Post: China’s Covid Policy Failed. But Don’t Get Cocky. So Did America’s. 
The United States has the highest number of confirmed deaths from the pandemic: more than 1.1 million. By comparison, if official statistics are to be believed, just 5,235 Chinese have died of the disease. (Max Boot, 12/7)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: In The Face Of Rising Gun Violence, Ambulances Should Carry Blood 
Carrying blood in local ambulances would save lives. Given Pittsburgh’s rise in gun violence, it’s imperative that Emergency Medical Services get the resources to do it. Transporting blood in ambulances has already saved lives in a few cities across the country, including San Antonio, over the last four years. Currently, Pittsburgh EMS uses saline to replace fluids. It’s effective, but not as effective as whole blood. (12/7)
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