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Preview: Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Health Health News From the Associated Press


Pressure on GOP to revamp health law grows, along with rifts

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 23:48:27 UT

With the GOP-controlled Congress starting its third month of work on one of its marquee priorities, unresolved difficulties include how their substitute would handle Medicaid, whether millions of voters might lose coverage, how their proposed tax credits would work and how to pay for the costly exercise. Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., objected that the draft would not immediately end the expansion of Medicaid under Obama's health care overhaul and would create new tax credits to be paid to people, even if they owed little or no federal taxes. Trump spoke about health care's complexities on a day he held White House talks with dozens of governors worried Republicans could shift a huge financial burden to the states by curbing Medicaid, the federal-state program that helps low-income people and those in nursing homes pay bills. Governors meeting in Washington received a consultants' report warning that planned Republican cuts in Medicaid and federal subsidies for consumers buying private insurance would risk coverage for many people and serious funding gaps for states. The plan House Republicans are considering includes helping people pay doctors' bills with tax credits based on age, not income, and expanding tax-advantaged health savings accounts. According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, 16 states with GOP governors have expanded Medicaid.

Sessions: More violence around pot than 'one would think'

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 23:45:22 UT

In a meeting with reporters, Sessions said the department was reviewing an Obama administration Justice Department memo that gave states flexibility in passing marijuana laws. The Justice Department has several options available should it decide to enforce the law, including filing lawsuits on the grounds that state laws regulating pot are unconstitutional because they are pre-empted by federal law. [...] law enforcement officials in states such as Colorado say drug traffickers have taken advantage of lax marijuana laws to hide in plain sight, illegally growing and shipping the drug across state lines, where it can sell for much higher.

New Mexico tribe puts up land for $160M medicinal greenhouse

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 23:27:55 UT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — On a patch of tribal land in western New Mexico, a company plans to build a $160 million state-of-the-art greenhouse for researching and growing medicinal plants, including marijuana. Plans call for Bright Green's greenhouse and its associated research facility to eventually cover nearly 6 million square feet, or about 100 football fields. While marijuana is expected to make up a significant portion of the operation, supporters of the project say the business plan was originally designed to sustain itself by producing oils used for various remedies already popular in the homeopathic world. The multibillion-dollar industry is expected to continue its upward trajectory as voters in more states embrace the idea of legalizing marijuana, market researchers say. Kris Krane, president of Boston-based 4Front Ventures , an investment and consulting firm focused on the medical marijuana industry, said it's too early to tell how the administration's comments will affect the marijuana business but that those on the medical side are feeling somewhat reassured. [...] a large greenhouse has the potential to produce four times the annual volume of medical marijuana used in the state, with no opportunity for shipping beyond New Mexico's borders because of current federal laws.

Drugmakers pledge restraint, but prices will still soar

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 22:12:17 UT

Sky-high prices for new drugs, enormous increases for many existing drugs, and changes in insurance coverage that make patients pay a bigger portion of the drug bill. Medical breakthroughs that improve or save patients' lives are very difficult — and expensive — and high prices are needed to fund research into new treatments. Erik Gordon, a professor and pharmaceuticals analyst at University of Michigan's Ross School of Business said those drugmakers promising to hold future price hikes below 10 percent will be able to lock in substantial increases but still say they kept their pledge. Frustration over high drug prices isn't new, but the latest uproar, the result of a series of extraordinary price hikes at a time when patients are paying substantially more for health care, has lasted far longer than in the past. Like the industry trade groups, it blames the furor on a handful of "irresponsible" companies that raised prices many times over for older products, the way Turing Pharmaceuticals, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and EpiPen maker Mylan NV have done. Earlier this month Marathon Pharmaceuticals LLC triggered a huge backlash by announcing it would charge $89,000 a year for its muscular dystrophy drug Emflaza, an old steroid that some patients had been importing from other countries for roughly $1,000 per year.

Attorney: VA should have diagnosed client's cancer sooner

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 22:12:07 UT

PHOENIX (AP) — A lawyer for a military veteran opened a medical-negligence trial Monday by saying his client's now-terminal prostate cancer would have been curable had the Veterans Administration hospital in Phoenix diagnosed it sooner. Attorneys defending the Veterans Administration countered that a nurse practitioner involved in the case of Steven Harold Cooper complied with the applicable standard of care and the then-40-year-old Cooper was not considered to be at risk from prostate cancer at the time of his first appointment. The lawsuit is being heard on the heels of a scandal at Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix in which whistleblowers revealed that veterans on secret waiting lists faced scheduling delays of up to a year. Lawyers defending the VA say the nurse practitioner didn't turn up any indications of cancer during the initial examination and noted that Cooper didn't complain of urinary symptoms during the appointment.

Trump warns health care system will "implode" unless fixed

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 19:57:28 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump warned Monday that the nation's health care system was in danger of imploding and said Congress must make fundamental changes to the sweeping health law passed by his predecessor. The Affordable Care Act has subsidized private health insurance available in all 50 states while an optional Medicaid expansion has been accepted by 31 states and the District of Columbia. A report by the consulting firms Avalere Health and McKinsey & Company presented to the governors during a weekend of meetings with the National Governors Association concluded that the changes under consideration by the GOP-led House would reduce significantly federal funding for Medicaid and subsidize private insurance, creating funding gaps for states and threatening a loss of coverage for many participants. Without offering specific details about what he wants in a replacement package, Trump said the current health insurance market is "going to absolutely implode" and called on the executives to work with the government on a way forward.

Doctors warn against teen pot use amid looser marijuana laws

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 16:24:59 UT

CHICAGO (AP) — An influential doctors group is beefing up warnings about marijuana's potential harms for teens amid increasingly lax laws and attitudes on pot use. Frequent use starting in the early teen years may lower IQ scores, and some studies have shown that starting marijuana use at a young age is more likely to lead to addiction than starting in adulthood. Solid research on medical marijuana's effects in children and teens is lacking, although some studies have suggested it may benefit kids with hard-to-treat seizures. Some young children who accidentally swallowed their parents' pot-containing cookies or drinks have landed in the emergency room for mostly minor symptoms although some developed breathing problems. Government data show that almost 40 percent of U.S. high school students have tried marijuana, about 20 percent are current users and close to 10 percent first tried it before age 13. Dr. Sheryl Ryan, a Yale University pediatrics professor and lead author of the academy report, said marijuana "is the drug of choice" for many of her teen patients in New Haven, Connecticut.

The dirty dozen: UN issues list of 12 most worrying bacteria

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 15:54:56 UT

In a press briefing on Monday, the U.N. health agency said its list is meant to promote the development of medicines for the most worrying drug-resistant bacteria, including salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus. The agency said the dozen listed resistant bacteria are increasingly untreatable and can cause fatal infections; most typically strike people with weakened immune systems. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 23,000 people die each year in the U.S. from infections caused by resistant bacteria.

Doctor-to-doctor donation: Kidney saves sick colleague

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 00:10:08 UT

[...] Dr. Colleen Coleman did so by going under the knife to help an ailing colleague who desperately needed a kidney. Coleman donated to Dr. Brian Dunn, an anesthesiologist she works with at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach whose kidneys failed from chemotherapy he received as a teenager to treat a stomach tumor. Coleman came through after one donor withdrew her offer and Dunn's doctor advised him against accepting a kidney from a patient with Lou Gehrig's disease. In late 2015, his health was failing and he could hardly keep pace with his young daughter. Coleman, 51, who returned to work to find flowers, a cake and people hailing her as a hero, said she was moved by the note from Dunn. In addition to the scars they both bear in their midsections from the surgeries, they also share other reminders of their bond.

Lake created by coal waste landslide floods Bosnian highway

Sat, 25 Feb 2017 17:39:32 UT

The lake overflowed Saturday morning following heavy rain overnight, forcing the closure of a busy highway connecting the capital of Sarajevo with the central town of Zenica. Fahrudin Solak, a Civil Protection official, said emergency crews have redirected drivers to alternative roads and were struggling to defuse the lake's flooding threat by channeling its water into drainage ducts.