Monday, December 12, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News Original Stories
KHN Investigation: The System Feds Rely On to Stop Repeat Health Fraud Is Broken
A months-long KHN examination of the system meant to bar fraudsters from Medicaid, Medicare, and other federal health programs found gaping holes and expansive gray areas through which banned individuals slip to repeatedly bilk taxpayer-funded programs. (Sarah Jane Tribble and Lauren Weber, )
In Rural America, Deadly Costs of Opioids Outweigh the Dollars Tagged to Address Them
Some people say it’s reasonable for densely populated areas to receive more settlement funds, since they serve more of those affected. But others worry this overlooks rural communities disproportionately harmed by opioid addiction. (Aneri Pattani and Rae Ellen Bichell, )
Journalists Explain Medicaid Work Requirements and Hospital Price Transparency
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. ( )
Here's today's health policy haiku:
Folks, just remember:
Before the holidays, go
to get your flu shots!
– Anonymous
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if we can include your name. Haikus follow the format of 5-7-5 syllables. We give extra brownie points if you link back to a KHN original story.
Opinions expressed in haikus and cartoons are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions of KHN or KFF.
Covid-19 Crisis
Masks Again Recommended By Officials In NYC, Other Major Cities
With the "tripledemic" of covid, flu, and RSV filling up hospitals and medical offices, health authorities in New York City, Los Angeles, and elsewhere are urging people to again break out the face coverings.
Bloomberg: New York City Recommends Masks As Covid-19, Flu, RSV Rise
The New York City Health Commissioner on Friday issued a health advisory urging residents to mask up in public indoor and crowded outdoor settings. (Barton, 12/9)
NPR: Authorities Are Urging Indoor Masking In Major Cities As The 'Tripledemic' Rages
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted this past week that the simultaneous combination of viruses has been straining healthcare systems across the country. The center's map that tracks COVID-19 community levels has been showing more orange recently, a color indicating an area of "high" infection, Walensky told NPR's Alisa Chang on All Things Considered. (Kim, 12/11)
Fox News: Fauci Acknowledges Americans Have Mandate 'Fatigue': 'People Don't Like To Be Told What To Do'
In an interview with Fox 5 New York, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert said that while he believes future decisions about implementing restrictions should be left up to the discretion of local health authorities, he knows that people "don't like being told what to do." (Musto, 12/10)
Covid, flu, and RSV are surging across the U.S. —
Politico: ‘The Situation In The Hospitals Is Grim’: States Face Brutal Virus Fallout 
State health officials are warning people that time is running out to get vaccinated before gathering with family over the holidays as Covid-19 cases surge nationwide alongside unseasonably severe waves of flu and respiratory syncytial virus. The guidance comes after two excruciating holiday seasons that sent Covid-19 cases and deaths skyrocketing. And it underscores the ongoing struggle of public health officials at the state and federal level to get Americans vaccinated against the flu and Covid. (Messerly, 12/11)
AP: Hospitalizations Signal Rising COVID-19 Risk For US Seniors
Coronavirus-related hospital admissions are climbing again in the United States, with older adults a growing share of U.S. deaths and less than half of nursing home residents up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. These alarming signs portend a difficult winter for seniors, which worries 81-year-old nursing home resident Bartley O’Hara, who said he is “vaccinated up to the eyeballs” and tracks coronavirus hospital trends as they “zoom up” for older adults, but remain flat for younger folks. (Johnson and Ungar, 12/11)
The Atlantic: It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Another COVID Surge
Here we go again: For the first time in several months, another wave seems to be on the horizon in the United States. In the past two weeks, reported cases have increased by 53 percent, and hospitalizations have risen by 31 percent. Virus levels in wastewater, which can provide an advance warning of spread, are following a similar trajectory. (Tayag, 12/11)
CIDRAP: US Flu Surge Continues Amid Jump In COVID Activity
The nation's flu activity remained at very high levels last week, as hospitalizations soared and states reporting seven more pediatric deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today in its latest update. (Schnirring, 12/9)
Also —
CIDRAP: Early-Pandemic COVID-19 Infections Linked To Depression 
Patients who contracted COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic were 1.67 times more likely to show clinically significant levels of anxiety after 13 months, according to a British study published in Scientific Reports. (Soucheray, 12/9)
OSHA About To Set Permanent Health Worker Rules On Masks, Covid Vaccines
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent a final version of the health worker safety regulation to the White House budget office for review. The draft version has already sparked controversy in the medical community.
Stat: Coming Soon: Permanent Covid Safety Rules For Health Care Workers
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been working since last year on rules governing masks and vaccination requirements in hospitals. After putting out proposed standards and then gathering hundreds of comments from hospitals, clinicians, unions, and others, it sent a final version of the regulation to the White House budget office for review last week. (Bannow, 12/12)
In other pandemic news —
CIDRAP: Half Of COVID Preprint Studies Later Published In Journals 
Slightly more than half of COVID-19–related scientific studies posted on the preprint server medRxiv were published in peer-reviewed journals within the next 2 years, according to a research letter published yesterday in JAMA Network Open. … "This unprecedented increase in preprints has been subject to criticism, mainly because of reliability concerns owing to their lack of peer review," the researchers wrote. (Van Beusekom, 12/9)
Stat: The Covid-19 Test Maker That Pivoted To Health Insurance
Curative rose to prominence during the throes of the pandemic, as people and governments across the country used its Covid-19 tests. But that business is now firmly in the past, and the company has switched to an even more regulated industry: health insurance. (Herman, 12/12)
Axios: Biden’s Potential First Veto
House Republicans may soon force President Biden to issue his first veto — over a measure to terminate the national emergency declaration for COVID. (Solender and Knight, 12/10)
CDC Gives Green Light To Omicron Vaccines For Some Infants
Children ages 6 months old through 5 years may now receive a third shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as long as they already received their first two doses. In other vaccine news, a study of people in 21 countries found that vaxxed people look down on unvaxxed people, but not vice versa.
CNBC: Children As Young As 6 Months Old Are Now Eligible For Omicron Covid Vaccines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday signed off on omicron vaccines for children as young as 6 months old, giving pharmacies and physicians the green light to start administering the shots. Children ages 6 months through 5 years old who received the two-dose Moderna primary series can now get an omicron booster two months after their second dose. Meanwhile, kids ages 6 months through 4 years old who are completing their Pfizer primary series will received the omicron shot as their third dose. (Kimball, 12/9)
More on the covid vaccine rollout —
CIDRAP: COVID-Vaccinated Disdain Unvaccinated, Multi-Country Surveys Find
People around the world who are vaccinated against COVID-19 look down on the unvaccinated as much or more than they do often-marginalized groups such as immigrants, drug addicts, and ex-convicts, while the unvaccinated display little rancor toward the vaccinated, suggests a study of more than 15,000 people from 21 countries with broad vaccine access. (Van Beusekom, 12/9)
WFLA: DeSantis Plans To Hold COVID Vaccine Makers Accountable For Side Effects 
Speaking at a private event over the weekend, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said his administration plans to hold vaccine manufacturers accountable for making false claims about vaccine side effects. “We are going to work to hold these manufacturers accountable for this mRNA [vaccine] because they said there was no side effects, and we know that there have been, and there have been a lot,” DeSantis said at the event. (Abad, 12/9)
Fortune: China Approves Pfizer/BioNTech MRNA COVID Vaccine—Only For Foreigners
Two years after the first countries approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine for domestic use, China will finally allow the mRNA vaccine to be used domestically—but there’s a catch. On Friday, China confirmed in a press briefing that it would let German nationals receive the BioNTech COVID vaccine, which uses mRNA technology, in exchange for German health authorities on Wednesday approving China’s Sinovac jab for Chinese nationals living in Germany. (Gordon 12/12)
Health Industry
Appeals Court: Catholic Providers Can Deny Gender Care To Trans People
News outlets report on a unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which supported an earlier North Dakota federal judge's ruling against HHS rules barring sex discrimination. Thus the Catholic health providers can deny trans care on religious grounds.
Reuters: Catholic Healthcare Providers Can't Be Forced To Do Gender Surgeries: U.S. Court
The Biden administration cannot force a group of Catholic healthcare providers and professionals to perform gender transition surgeries under an Obama-era regulation barring sex discrimination in healthcare, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday. (Wiessner, 12/9)
Modern Healthcare: Catholic Providers Can Deny Trans Care Over Religious Objections: Court
The case is the latest in a series of legal battles determining whether gender-affirming care is protected under the Affordable Care Act's nondiscrimination regulations. Protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation were initially enshrined into law during President Barack Obama's administration but were scrapped during Donald Trump's presidency. (Hartnett, 12/9)
In related news about LGBTQ+ health care — CT Imposes Restrictive Mandates On Trans Patients, Providers Say
A coalition of mental health providers who treat transgender people in Connecticut has complained for months that the state Department of Social Services has imposed what they call unnecessary and overly restrictive requirements on patients seeking gender-affirming surgery. (Farrish, 12/9)
The New York Times: Transgender Americans Feel Under Attack As Political Vitriol Rises
Since far-right social media activists began attacking Boston Children’s Hospital over the summer for providing care for transgender children, the hospital has received repeated bomb threats. Doctors across the country who do similar work have been harassed. The Justice Department charged a Texas man this month with threatening a Boston doctor; it also recently charged at least two others with threatening anti-gay or anti-transgender attacks. Twelve times as many anti-L.G.B.T.Q. incidents have been documented this year as in 2020, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which tracks political violence. (Astor, 12/10)
MedPAC Endorsing 2024 Medicare Payment Increases To Congress
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has hammered out draft recommendations asking Congress to boost 2024 Medicare payment rates for hospitals and clinicians by at least 1% over what the law prescribes, and likely higher for safety-net facilities.
Axios: MedPAC Wants Pay Boost For Docs And Hospitals
MedPAC wants Congress to increase hospitals and clinicians' 2024 Medicare payment rates. If Congress opts not to follow the recommendations, CMS has to make payment updates according to current law — setting up another year of providers running to lawmakers for relief from Medicare cuts after the fact. (Goldman, 12/12)
In other news about Medicare and Medicaid —
KHN: KHN Investigation: The System Feds Rely On To Stop Repeat Health Fraud Is Broken 
The federal system meant to stop health care business owners and executives from repeatedly bilking government health programs fails to do so, a KHN investigation has found. That means people are once again tapping into Medicaid, Medicare, and other taxpayer-funded federal health programs after being legally banned because of fraudulent or illegal behavior. In large part that’s because the government relies on those who are banned to self-report their infractions or criminal histories on federal and state applications when they move into new jobs or launch companies that access federal health care dollars. (Tribble and Weber, 12/12)
KHN: Journalists Explain Medicaid Work Requirements And Hospital Price Transparency 
KHN senior editor Andy Miller discussed Georgia’s Medicaid work requirements on WUGA’s “The Georgia Health Report” on Dec. 5. … KHN senior correspondent Julie Appleby discussed hospital price transparency on Newsy on Dec. 1. (12/10)
In other health care industry news —
The Washington Post: Emory Hospital Has Disciplined Nurses Who Posted TikTok ‘Icks’ Video
In a TikTok video last week, four employees wearing nurse scrubs at an Atlanta hospital revealed their “icks” regarding labor and delivery patients. “My ick is when you come in for your induction,” a nurse began the video, “talking about, ‘Can I take a shower and eat?’” “My ick is when you ask me how much the baby weighs,” another nurse followed, “and it’s still … in your hands.” … In a statement posted online Thursday, after the video received much online backlash, Emory Healthcare wrote that it had “taken appropriate action with the former employees responsible for the video.” (Melnick, 12/12)
The Baltimore Sun: University Of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center Opens New Intensive Care Unit Wing 
University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center opened a new wing of its critical care unit Tuesday. The renovation, which will include 22 new intensive care beds, will allow the Glen Burnie hospital to potentially more than double its capacity if it can hire additional workers to staff the unit, hospital officials said. (Munro, 12/12)
The Boston Globe: ‘Deplorable Condition’ In Unit At R.I. State-Run Hospital, Advocacy Group Finds
A patient advocacy organization in late November found part of an Eleanor Slater Hospital building in “deplorable condition,” according to a report the organization sent to the state-run hospital’s leadership Tuesday. (Amaral, 12/9)
The Wall Street Journal: GE Healthcare Plans To Reduce Debt And Costs, Pursue Tuck-In Acquisitions 
General Electric Co.’s healthcare division plans to cut debt, bring down costs and pursue tuck-in acquisitions after its spinoff in early January, finance chief Helmut Zodl said Thursday at an investor event in New York. (Trentmann, 12/8)
Modern Healthcare: Bright Health, Clover Health CEOs Led Insurance Compensation In 2021 
CEOs at some of the nation’s largest insurance companies raked in tens of millions of dollars apiece last year, with insurtech leaders easily topping the list in terms of total compensation, according to data AIS Health published this month. (Hudson, 12/9)
Also —
WFSU: Filling Out Medical Forms Can Be Difficult. A Tallahassee Startup Has An App To Help. 
A Tallahassee startup wants to make visits to the doctor a little easier. WellConnector is an app that replaces the paperwork patients have to fill out before visits with new doctors. (McCarthy, 12/9)
Stat: How Dentistry's Diversity Problem Is Bad For Health Equity
Dentistry has a diversity problem, and medical and dental experts say the best way to fix it is to start the pipeline early in Black and brown communities. (Castillo, 12/9)
Stat: Revenge Of The Gaslit Patients: Now They’re Ehlers-Danlos Scientists
Type “Ehlers-Danlos syndromes” into a search engine, and multiple suggestions pop up. Is Ehlers-Danlos an autoimmune disease? Is EDS hereditary? Rare? Then, the algorithm might suggest: Is Ehlers-Danlos syndrome a disease? “Is EDS real?” The latter is a question that really annoyed Cortney Gensemer, a postdoctoral researcher who studies and has EDS. (Cueto, 12/12)
Cancer Research
Study: Smaller Surgeries Are An Option For More Breast Cancer Patients
AP reports on a study showing lumpectomies, compared with mastectomies, are an effective option for many women with two or three breast tumors, challenging usual dogma. Other news includes genetically targeted drugs for treating leukemia, a multiple myeloma treatment, and more.
AP: More Breast Cancer Patients Can Choose Smaller Surgery 
Many women with two or three breast tumors can get by with lumpectomy surgery instead of having their whole breast removed, a new study suggests. In recent years, more patients with multiple tumors have been identified, a result of more sensitive imaging techniques that can reveal tiny, once-hidden cancers. That means more patients are being diagnosed with multiple cancer sites in the same breast. In the past, doctors would say these women needed mastectomies. Researchers wanted to know: Was this dogma still true? (Johnson, 12/9)
In other cancer research —
Stat: Genetically Targeted Drugs Induce Remissions In Leukemia Patients
An emerging class of genetically targeted drugs is inducing remissions in about one-third of patients with advanced leukemia, according to updates Saturday from separate clinical trials. (Feuerstein, 12/10)
Stat: Adicet's 'Gamma-Delta' T Cell Therapy Shows Mixed Results On Durability
Adicet Bio generated a good deal of buzz last June with a unique, off-the-shelf therapy made from a special type of T cell that induced complete remissions in patients with advanced and aggressive B cell lymphomas. But an update reported Saturday showed patients starting to relapse, which may raise questions about the so-called gamma-delta T cell therapy’s durability. (Feuerstein, 12/10)
Stat: Bispecific Antibody For Multiple Myeloma Succeeds In Mid-Stage Trial
Researchers had hoped in recent years that a protein called GPRC5D might offer a new way to get the immune system to hunt down and destroy multiple myeloma cells. Now, the results of a Phase 2 study on a bispecific antibody targeting this protein offers confirmation. (Chen, 12/10)
Stat: Novartis Develops A Rapidly Manufactured CAR-T Therapy 
For some patients suffering with certain blood cancers, CAR-T therapy can offer the tantalizing chance to end their disease with a single treatment. But the immunotherapy takes time to manufacture, and patients often have to wait weeks to actually receive an infusion once they’re eligible. (Chen, 12/11)
Also —
The Boston Globe: How A Dog’s Life May Change The Course Of Cancer In People 
Don’t let her old-soul brown eyes and prematurely gray fur fool you. Jellybean is a spirited 4-year-old Labrador Retriever mix who is considered a rock star among the dozens of dogs enrolled in cutting-edge cancer research at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. The research, part of President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, aims to improve treatments for dogs, as well as people, diagnosed with the disease. (Lazar, 12/9)
Stat: Bone Marrow Transplant Patients Could Be Spared From ‘Bland’ Diet
Whenever a hematopoietic cell transplant patient tries to get a family member to sneak food in past the nurses, Federico Stella, a resident hematologist at the University of Milan, remembers. One was a girl who tried to get her sister to bring her a panettone, a Milanese sweet bread usually eaten around the holidays. (Chen, 12/10)
Juul To Pay $1.7 Billion To Settle More Than 5,000 Vaping Lawsuits
Reports say Juul Labs has agreed to pay $1.7 billion to settle suits, which include a consolidation of cases from Northern California. Separately, Walgreens is said to sell off AmerisourceBergen stock to cover its purchase of Summit Health; Amgen is trying to buy Horizon Therapeutics; and more.
The New York Times: Vaping Settlement By Juul Is Said To Total $1.7 Billion
Juul Labs has agreed to pay $1.7 billion to settle more than 5,000 lawsuits by school districts, local governments and individuals who claimed that its e-cigarettes were more addictive than advertised, according to people with knowledge of the deal. The amount for the deal, which involves a consolidation of cases centered in Northern California, is more than three times the sum reported for other Juul settlements in other state and local cases thus far. The settlement amount was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal. (Jewett, 12/10)
Crain's Chicago Business: Walgreens Sells Off AmerisourceBergen Stock To Pay For Summit Health
For the second time in as many months, Walgreens Boots Alliance has sold off shares in Pennsylvania-based AmerisourceBergen, this time getting $1 billion that it says it will use, in part, to fund the VillageMD purchase of Summit Health-CityMD. (Asplund, 12/9)
The Wall Street Journal: Amgen In Advanced Talks To Buy Horizon Therapeutics 
Amgen Inc. is in advanced talks to buy drug company Horizon Therapeutics PLC, according to people familiar with the matter, in a takeover likely to be valued at well over $20 billion and mark the largest healthcare merger of the year. (Dummett, Cimilluca and Cooper, 12/11)
In pharmaceutical research —
Stat: Argenx Antibody Drug Benefits Patients With Autoimmune Disorder
An antibody treatment developed by the Belgian drugmaker Argenx raised platelet counts and stopped bleeding episodes in patients with a rare autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack and destroy its own blood-clotting platelets. (Feuerstein, 12/11)
The Washington Post: AI And Robots Could Help Detect Urinary Tract Infections Earlier 
British researchers are working on a new way to recognize urinary tract infections (UTIs) using artificial intelligence and robots. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University have teamed up with Scotland’s National Robotarium and two Scottish nursing home providers for the collaborative project, known as FEATHER (Facilitating health and well-being by developing systems for early recognition of urinary tract infections). The collaborative project was recently awarded about $1.3 million in British government grants. (Blakemore, 12/11)
Oakland Calculates The Real Cost Of Homelessness: 6% Of Its Budget
The "true" cost of homelessness, from direct to indirect, was estimated by Oakland officials to be $122 million out of their $2 billion annual budget. Also: how homelessness worsens in older populations; deaths of unhoused people in Anchorage, Alaska; and more.
San Francisco Chronicle: One Bay Area City Tried To Figure Out The True Cost Of Homelessness. Here’s What It Found
What are the costs of homelessness for Bay Area cities? In addition to the tragic human toll of the crisis, large cities in the region are pouring millions of dollars into housing, shelter, food security, mental health and addiction services. But there are costs to cities that go beyond direct services to the thousands of unhoused people in the region. (Ravani, 12/10)
More on housing and health —
Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Report: State Hospital Discharge Practice Sets Homeless Patients Up For Failure
The Montana State Hospital has long discharged some patients to homeless shelters even when there are no beds available, an approach that sets people up for readmission or worse, according an advocacy and protection group’s report released Thursday. Disability Rights Montana, a federally mandated advocacy group, released “The Yellow Bags,” a nod to the drawstring sack that often signals someone who has been discharged from the state hospital directly to a homeless shelter. (Larson, 12/9)
The Wall Street Journal: Homelessness Worsens In Older Populations As Housing Costs Take Toll 
Debbie Sholley always imagined she would be living comfortably by the time she reached her golden years. Instead, the 62-year-old former social worker worries she will soon be living on the streets of this growing city, after her landlord raised the rent more than she can afford. (Frosch, 12/11)
The New York Times: How A Hotel Was Converted Into Housing For Formerly Homeless People 
George Karatzidis stood in his new high-rise studio apartment overlooking the city skyline and spread his arms wide. “This is why I’m alive,” he said, pointing to a spartan metal bed frame with a mattress wrapped in a gray sheet. Mr. Karatzidis, 41, is one of the first residents of the 30-story renovated tower in Dumbo, Brooklyn, one of the richest neighborhoods in the city. Before November, he was homeless. (Chen, 12/11)
AP: With NYC Plan For Mentally Ill, Hospitals Face Complex Task
New York City’s latest plan to keep mentally ill people from languishing in public is billed as a common-sense strategy to get them help. By encouraging police officers and city medics to take more psychologically disturbed people to hospitals, even if they refuse care, Mayor Eric Adams says he’s humanely tackling a problem instead of looking away. But his policy will have to navigate a legal challenge and a cool reception from some city lawmakers. In emergency rooms, psychiatrists must determine whether such patients need hospitalization, perhaps against their will. It’s no simple decision. (Peltz and Calvan, 12/11)
Anchorage Daily News: 24 People Believed To Be Homeless Have Died Outdoors In Anchorage This Year
Twenty-four people believed to be homeless have died outdoors in Anchorage so far this year, according to Anchorage Police Department data. The deceased were found all over: In city parks. Tucked behind office buildings. In an encampment alongside one of the busiest roads in Alaska. The youngest was 30. The oldest was 74. A mother of seven. A former chef. (Theriault Boots, 12/11)
The Guardian: Skid Row’s Toilet Crisis: How A Basic Necessity Became A Political Battle 
The sun is rising over Skid Row as a crane slowly lifts a shiny, two-unit toilet from the back of a truck and on to the sidewalk. The new bathroom – rectangular and off-white with a ventilated roof – is replacing another unit that has stood on this corner for over 15 years. The upgrade is a hopeful moment. But for the more than 4,400 unhoused people who call Skid Row home, finding a bathroom remains a daily trial. (Tu, 12/12)
State Watch
'What Took You So Long?': San Francisco Has 'Scary' Shortage Of 911 Dispatchers, First Responders
Chronic understaffing has led to employee burnout and lower-quality services for residents because the city is failing to meet standards for 911 call response times, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Other news is from Missouri, Massachusetts, Texas, Connecticut, and Colorado.
San Francisco Chronicle: S.F.’s 911 Dispatch Struggling Amid Staff Shortage: ‘We Are Bleeding’
The 911 call came in the day before Thanksgiving. A person had been found in a bathroom, unconscious — maybe dead. It looked like a drug overdose, and 911 dispatcher Valerie Tucker was trying to figure out how to save the person’s life, if it wasn’t too late. (Moench, 12/9)
St. Louis Public Radio: New Law Expands VA Benefits For Toxic Exposure 
Many St. Louis area veterans may qualify for toxic exposure-related health care and benefits under the PACT Act. The new law, which Congress passed this summer, expands benefits and health care for veterans who have been exposed to hazardous toxins like radiation, smoke, toxic air, Agent Orange and burn pits. (Lewis-Thompson, 12/12)
The Boston Globe: Lawmakers, Citing New Momentum, Plan To Reintroduce Right-To-Die Bill In January
Will Massachusetts become a right-to-die state in 2023?Though polls show a growing majority of residents favor it, legislation that would give the terminally ill the option to obtain lethal drugs has never been brought to a vote in the full state House or Senate. (Weisman, 12/11)
The Texas Tribune: Texas Abortion Law Likely Won’t End Up At The Ballot Box
Despite the state’s near-total ban on abortion, just 12% of Texans think abortion should be illegal in all cases, according to an August poll from The Texas Politics Project. One Texas Democrat hopes to give voters more of a say in abortion policy. (Williams, 12/12)
Connecticut Public: Violence Intervention Specialists Hired At Hartford Hospitals Hope To Break Cycles Of Violence
Three Hartford-area hospitals have hired violence intervention specialists through federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding this year. Nationally, firearm related deaths among children and young people rose 28% during the pandemic from 2019-2020, latest data show. (Srinivasan, 12/11)
The Colorado Sun: Why Colorado Is A National Hot Spot For West Nile Virus
The Mosquito Man enters his lab with the energy of a kid bounding into a Chuck E. Cheese. All his friends are inside. There in one small screen-and-plexiglass enclosure is Sabethes cyaneus, a mosquito with an iridescent blue body and feathery paddles — what one researcher has called the “Hollywood showgirls of the mosquito world.” They float inside the box like dandelion seeds in the breeze. (Ingold, 12/11)
Lifestyle and Health
Mpox Infection Led To Myocarditis In 3 Men, Study Finds
The men had no history of heart problems, and all of them recovered. Other news is on mental health in the military, the opioid crisis, fibroids, menopause, and more.
CIDRAP: Report Describes 3 Cases Of Myocarditis Following Mpox Infections 
A new case study from France described three men who contracted mpox and then developed myocarditis a few days after initial symptom development. The study is published in Clinical Microbiology and Infection. … The men had no history of heart problems, and all were hospitalized and subsequently recovered. Only one patient was treated with the antiviral tecovirimat (Tpoxx). (Soucheray, 12/9)
On mental health —
American Homefront Project: Military Suicides Have Become Slightly Less Common, But Are Still A 'Massive Problem'
Though military suicide has been a problem for decades, critics say the Pentagon hasn’t come to terms with the fact that anyone can potentially be at risk. (Walsh, 12/9)
If you are in need of help —
Dial 9-8-8 for 24/7 support from the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. It’s free and confidential.
CNN: Survivors Of Mass Shootings Are Left With Lifelong Wounds — And Mounting Bills
There were a million things running through James Slaugh’s mind as an ambulance rushed him to a nearby hospital after the deadly rampage in Club Q, in Colorado Springs, last month. Among them: what kind of bills he would be facing. (Maxouris, 12/11)
In other health and wellness news —
Stateline: As Overdose Deaths Rise, Few Emergency Rooms Offer Addiction Help
Even in this easygoing, subtropical city, the onset of winter and the stress of the holidays can test the mettle of anyone trying to quit opioids.  “As soon as temperatures start to drop and it gets chilly in the mornings, we see more people coming into the emergency department looking for help,” said Dinah Collins, a peer support specialist at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. (Vestal, 12/9)
KHN: In Rural America, Deadly Costs Of Opioids Outweigh The Dollars Tagged To Address Them 
Tim Buck knows by heart how many people died from drug overdoses in his North Carolina county last year: 10. The year before it was 12 — an all-time high. Those losses reverberate deeply in rural Pamlico County, a tightknit community of 12,000 on the state’s eastern shore. Over the past decade, it’s had the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in North Carolina. (Pattani and Bichell, 12/12)
Stat: Ideas For Getting Ahead Of A ‘Tsunami’ Of Chronic Disease
Chronic disease is omnipresent in the United States. Trillions of dollars are devoted to and hundreds of thousands of lives are taken by chronic conditions each year. So why does it feel like we are going backward, with falling life expectancy, and higher prevalence of chronic diseases? (Cueto, 12/10)
The Washington Post: Fibroids Are Serious. Surgery Isn’t The Only Way To Stop Them
When Jennifer Medina of Queens learned she had uterine fibroids, benign tumors that grow in and around the walls of the uterus, her gynecologist suggested two treatments known to work — getting a hysterectomy, the surgical removal of her uterus that would make it impossible for her to get pregnant, or waiting until menopause when fibroids usually shrink or disappear. Neither option was appealing. (Cimons, 12/11)
The Washington Post: Menopause Can Mean Brain Fog, Memory Trouble 
Several years ago at age 51, Jeanne Chung’s memory started to slip. “I noticed recall issues like forgetting certain words on the spot,” says Chung, CEO of a health company. So to give her brain a workout, she started playing word games. Her spotty memory wasn’t caused by a head injury or an illness; it was clearly triggered, said Chung, now 54, by the changes accompanying her transition to menopause, a common experience for many women, experts agree. (Fraga, 12/11)
Fox News: Toilet Time: Is Your Mobile Device Affecting How Long You're In The Bathroom? Experts Reveal Health Risks
Medical experts are sounding the alarm on the unfavorable effects that long bathroom visits have on the body, and it appears that mobile devices might be causing prolonged rest stops. Two separate cell phone habit surveys suggest that seven in 10 Americans use the bathroom while using their phones. (Moore, 12/9)
Special Report: Chronic Pain Hits Kids, Adults And Wallets, But Can Be Tackled
A special report in USA Today looks at different aspects of chronic pain, including how expensive it is to manage the condition. The report also looks into which treatments work for children, how drug alternatives can make a difference, whether cannabis helps, and the future of treatment.
USA Today: Pain In America: The Expensive, Complicated Problem Of Managing Pain
Every morning, even before opening her eyes, Pamela Bobb begins to scan her body. She pays attention to how each foot feels, then each leg, working her way up. By the time she gets to her neck and shoulders, where people hold most of their tension, she's breathing deeply and relaxing. (Weintraub, 12/11)
USA Today: Kids Face Chronic Pain. What Treatments Work For Them?
Dr. Roger Saldana hates the term "no pain, no gain." Instead, the pediatric orthopedic surgeon teaches his young patients to pay attention to their bodies and rest when they hurt instead of trying to push through. (Weintraub, 12/11)
USA Today: Pain Relief Beyond Pills: Drug Alternatives Are Making A Difference
The Rev. James Mitchell was skeptical the first time he watched a yoga class. "Initially, I thought it was a joke. That's for women and old people."But then Mitchell saw a fellow veteran in his 80s making movements he wasn't sure he could do himself. (Weintraub, 12/11)
USA Today: Marijuana For Pain Relief? Experts' Take On Cannabis For Pain Control
Rob Sims grew up hearing stories about what opioid addiction could do. The former Detroit Lions guard, whose father, Mickey, also played in the NFL, watched a number of his dad's friends get hooked. Some died. He vowed his own story would be different. (Weintraub, 12/11)
USA Today: Is There An End To Chronic Pain? Future Of Pain Relief Looks Different
Steven Pete knows what it feels like for a knife to slice through his skin. He can tell from the sensation how deep the cut is and how badly he has been hurt. He believes he can identify such things better than other people, because he's not distracted by pain. He doesn't feel any. (Weintraub, 12/11)
Editorials And Opinions
Viewpoints: We Can See The Negative Impact Of Covid Misinformation; Is Influenza Overtaking Covid?
Editorial writers delve into these public health topics.
Bloomberg: It’s Still Worth Fighting Anti-Covid Vaccine Misinformation
Medical misinformation has never contributed to as many deaths as in the last 18 months. Recently released statistics show thousands of “excess” deaths concentrated among the US states and counties with the lowest uptake of Covid-19 vaccines — though the vaccines were free and available to everyone. (Sarah Green Carmichael and Faye Flam, 12/11)
Bloomberg: This Flu Season Is So Bad It Is Crowding Out Covid 
There are three types of people in the world right now: those who were sick with the flu this season, those who are sick with it right now and those who are dreading getting sick with it. (Brooke Sample, 12/11)
Houston Chronicle: Will The Coughing Ever End? How To Stop Getting Sick
With flu season in full swing, another COVID surge in the works and a particularly bad bout of RSV going around, we imagine we’re not the only ones who have lost the public health messaging thread that seemed so much clearer this time last year. (12/9)
Chicago Tribune: We Heard From The Nation’s Top Doctor On Loneliness, Isolation And What To Do If You Catch COVID 
What do young people most often say to the U.S. surgeon general when he asks them about their health? They say that they are anxious and lonely, Vice Adm. Vivek Murthy told us during a Thursday visit to the Tribune’s Editorial Board. (12/9)
Dallas Morning News: Gov. Abbott’s Reversal On Fentanyl Testing Strips Is Good Public Policy
Fentanyl testing strips work like pregnancy tests. A paper strip is dipped in water that contains drug residue to detect whether fentanyl is mixed into the drug. (12/11)
Marietta Daily Journal: Home Care’s Critical Role In The Wake Of Atlanta Medical Center’s Death 
Philanthropy is not a sustainable business model for the long-term. CMS’ reimbursement cuts, coupled with higher labor costs and inflation-fueled hikes in operating expenses, simply make it harder for mission-driven nonprofits like us and other small businesses to survive. There’s got to be an understanding that care costs money. Workforce is priority number one. Because without clinical staff, there is no patient home health care – in Atlanta or anywhere. (Katie Smith Sloan and Dorothy Davis, 12/9)
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Hospital Investigated for Allegedly Denying an Emergency Abortion After Patient's Water Broke
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This Open Enrollment Season, Look Out for Health Insurance That Seems Too Good to Be True
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