First Edition: June 6, 2022

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

KHN:
AARP’s Billion-Dollar Bounty 

In September, AARP, the giant organization for older Americans, agreed to promote a burgeoning chain of medical clinics called Oak Street Health, which has opened more than 100 primary care outlets in nearly two dozen states. The deal gave Oak Street exclusive rights to use the trusted AARP brand in its marketing — for which the company pays AARP an undisclosed fee. AARP doesn’t detail how this business relationship works or how companies are vetted to determine they are worthy of the group’s coveted seal of approval. But its financial reports to the IRS show that AARP collects a total of about $1 billion annually in these fees — mostly from health care-related businesses, which are eager to sell their wares to the group’s nearly 38 million dues-paying members. (Schulte, 6/6)

KHN:
She’s 31, Has Stage 4 Kidney Cancer — And Talked Openly About It In A Job Interview

Katie Coleman stood face-to-face with a choice no job seeker should ever have to make. She could tell her prospective employer she had stage 4 kidney cancer, the most life-threatening stage of all. Or she could stay mum. She knew she risked losing any shot at the job by being honest about her diagnosis — or risked losing her self-respect by keeping quiet about it. This may sound like the plot of an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” It’s not. It’s the decision that confronted the 31-year-old resident of Austin, Texas, who has been battling the deadly disease for nearly three years. (Horovitz, 6/6)

KHN:
Immigration Bureaucracy Threatens 11-Year-Old’s Spot On Transplant Lists 

Nicolas Espinosa’s hopes for his 11-year-old daughter, Julia, are basic and profound: He wants her to stay alive and perhaps be able to eat normally someday. And she might, if she can get three organs transplanted — and if the U.S. immigration system doesn’t get in the way. (McAuliff, 6/6)

KHN:
Addressing The ‘Trust Factor’: South Carolina Researchers Tackle Health Disparities Using Genetics

Quenton Tompkins’ family tree is deeply rooted in rural McCormick County, South Carolina. His grandfather was a sharecropper in McCormick. His mother, who turns 88 this month, grew up as the youngest of 24 children. Branches of aunts, uncles, and cousins now stretch from Florida to Chicago. And although 48-year-old Tompkins has heard plenty of stories, his family holds its secrets, too. He didn’t know until he was an adult that his grandfather died of leukemia. And he’s still unsure if his father’s bout with prostate cancer runs in the family. Tompkins’ mother and her siblings have dealt with a range of health issues, including diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes, but he still doesn’t know what killed his grandmother more than 70 years ago. (Sausser, 6/6)


CNBC:
Abbott Nutrition Restarts Baby Formula Production In Reopened Michigan Plant


Abbott Nutrition on Saturday resumed baby formula production at its Sturgis, Michigan, plant, a move toward addressing a nationwide shortage. The company has been given the green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after meeting “initial requirements” as part of a May 16 consent decree. The company said it will restart the production of EleCare, a formula for children who struggle to digest other products, along with other specialty and metabolic formulas. (Dore, 6/4)


AP:
Abbott Restarts Baby Formula Plant Linked To Contamination


Abbott said it initially will prioritize production of its EleCare specialty formulas for infants with severe food allergies and digestive problems who have few other options for nutrition. The company said it will take about three weeks before new formula from the plant begins getting to consumers. “We will ramp production as quickly as we can while meeting all requirements,” Abbott said in a statement. (Perrone, 6/4)


Fox News:
US To Import Baby Formula From Mexico, But Parents Must Wait Until July To Buy It


In a Friday update, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that about 1.3 million cans of Gerber Good Start Gentle infant formula would be imported from Mexico to the U.S. The shipment of nearly 33 million full-size, 8-ounce bottles – or 2.2 million pounds – is expected to be available from Nestlé on Gerber’s website and at key retailers starting in July and extending through October. “The FDA is exercising enforcement discretion for the importation of Gerber Good Start Gentle from Nestlé (Mexico) following the review of info provided pertaining to nutritional adequacy and safety including testing, labeling and facility production [and] inspection history,” the agency tweeted. (Musto, 6/3)


The Hill:
Commerce Secretary Says She ‘Probably’ Didn’t Learn Of Baby Formula Shortage Until April 


Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Sunday that the Biden administration has taken “extraordinary” measures to combat the ongoing baby formula shortage, but when pressed said she “probably” didn’t learn about the crisis until April. “I first learned about it a couple of months ago,” Raimondo told CNN “State of the Union” co-anchor Jake Tapper. But when Tapper followed up by asking if she had first learned about it in April — the same time President Biden recently revealed he learned about the severity of the crisis — Raimondo said, “probably.” (Schonfeld, 6/5)


AP:
2 Monkeypox Strains In US Suggest Possible Undetected Spread


Analysis from many more patients will be needed to determine how long monkeypox has been circulating in the U.S. and elsewhere, said Jennifer McQuiston of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I think it’s certainly possible that there could have been monkeypox cases in the United States that went under the radar previously, but not to any great degree,” she told reporters Friday. However, she added, “there could be community level transmission that is happening” in parts of U.S. where the virus has not yet been identified. (Stobbe, 6/3)


The Washington Post:
Possible Monkeypox Case Found In The District, Officials Say 


The first infection with a virus from the family that includes monkeypox has been reported in the District of Columbia, city officials said. The resident is isolating and “does not pose a risk to the public,” the D.C. Department of Health said. The case of orthopox, the family of viruses that includes monkeypox, was reported Saturday in someone who said they had recently traveled to Europe, according to the department. (Weil, 6/5)


San Francisco Chronicle:
Here Is What To Look Out For As Monkeypox Cases Crop Up In California And The World


As the still-rare monkeypox crops up around the world, including a San Francisco case now among five in California, people on the alert for the symptoms may not always see the typical patterns and blisters. The rash is there, but experts say it may be subtle, even unnoticed, and it doesn’t always start on the face. As well, the more recent disease may present with or without the flu-like symptoms of traditional monkeypox. “The rash is similar in some senses, and different in others, to what we know about ‘textbook’ monkeypox,” UCSF infectious disease expert Peter Chin-Hong said Sunday. “The major difference in this current outbreak is that the rash appears to start in the genital area and the anus rather than the face or trunk. From the genitals, it can move to the arms and palms of the hands, and sometimes the face, including the mouth.” (Hwang, 6/5)


NPR:
Here’s What Monkeypox Looks Like In 2022 — And Why Doctors May Be Missing Cases


For the first time in history, the world is facing an international outbreak of monkeypox. Doctors have detected nearly 800 cases across the globe, from Argentina to the United Arab Emirates. The U.K. and Portugal have detected the most cases, with about 200 and 100 cases in each country, respectively. The U.S. has recorded 21 cases and Canada has 58. Such a broad geographic spread suggests “widespread human-to-human transmission is currently underway,” said Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, with the World Health Organization, on Thursday. This transmission has “likely been ongoing for several weeks, if not months,” she noted. (Doucleff, 6/3)


The New York Times:
A Cancer Trial’s Unexpected Result: Remission in Every Patient


It was a small trial, just 18 rectal cancer patients, every one of whom took the same drug. But the results were astonishing. The cancer vanished in every single patient, undetectable by physical exam, endoscopy, PET scans or M.R.I. scans. Dr. Luis A. Diaz Jr. of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, an author of a paper published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine describing the results, which were sponsored by the drug company GlaxoSmithKline, said he knew of no other study in which a treatment completely obliterated a cancer in every patient. “I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer,” Dr. Diaz said. (Kolata, 6/5)


Stat:
With The Right Molecular Signal, A Cancer Drug Works In Every Patient


Sascha Roth was in her late 30s and feeling great. Then she noticed some bleeding when she used the bathroom. She went to see a gastroenterologist, who diagnosed her with rectal cancer. Her doctor, she recalled, “was as shocked as I was.” A friend who had had colon cancer insisted Roth see her surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. That led to her becoming patient no. 1 in a study that is a striking example of the importance of efforts to test cancer drugs in earlier stages of disease. (Herper, 6/5)


Stat:
Enhertu Dramatically Extends Survival In Breast Cancer Patients


The cancer drug Enhertu cut the rate of death in a group of women with advanced breast cancer by a third in a new clinical trial, a result that oncologists said could shift the way they think about treating the disease. The makers of the medicine, Daiichi Sankyo and AstraZeneca, said that, if regulators clear the way, the number of patients eligible to receive the drug could be tripled, meaning that thousands of women in the U.S. alone could be offered a new life-extending option. (Herper, 6/5)


AP:
Researchers: Breast Cancer Drug Could Help More Patients


For the first time, a drug targeting a protein that drives breast cancer growth has been shown to work against tumors with very low levels of the protein. It’s not a cure. But this latest gain for targeted cancer therapy could open new treatment possibilities to thousands of patients with advanced breast cancer. Until now, breast cancers have been categorized as either HER2-positive — the cancer cells have more of the protein than normal — or HER2-negative. Doctors reporting the advance Sunday said it will make “HER2-low” a new category for guiding breast cancer treatment. (Johnson, 6/5)


Stat:
In Study, Gilead’s Trodelvy Shows Modest Benefit In Breast Cancer Patients


The cancer drug Trodelvy reduced the risk of tumors progressing by 34% compared to chemotherapy in patients with the most common form of metastatic breast cancer — an outcome reported Saturday that met the goals of a large clinical trial conducted by its maker, Gilead Sciences. Despite the positive results, the future of Trodelvy as a new treatment for women with HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer remains unclear. Patients in the trial had advanced disease, but the drug only provided a relatively small benefit. And there’s no definitive evidence yet that Trodelvy will help this group of breast cancer patients live longer. (Feuerstein, 6/4)


NBC News:
At Least 12 Dead In Another Weekend Of Mass Shootings Across America


The first weekend of June marked a greater number of mass shooting deaths in the United States than the previous three-day weekend, which ended with Memorial Day. The tally for weekend violence through Sunday night was at least 12 killed, and at least 38 injured in mass shootings, defined by the Gun Violence Archive as an incident in which “four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter.” During the holiday weekend nine were killed and more than 60 were injured in attacks fitting that definition. As Americans debate the possibility of new gun regulations in the wake of the horrific Uvalde school attack, gun violence seemed to continue unabated with the official start of summer, June 21, and its hottest nights still ahead. (Romero, 6/6)


Bloomberg:
Mass Shootings: US Senators Say Gun Talks Inching Forward But Outcome Unclear


A bipartisan group of US senators continues to move forward on negotiating limited measures to help prevent mass shootings, though a deal is far from assured, senators involved in the talks from both parties said on Sunday. “There are intensive discussions underway,” Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It includes people who have not been engaged on this issue in the past. I certainly can’t guarantee any outcome but it feels to me like we are closer than we’ve been since I’ve been in the Senate.” (Dorning, 6/5)


The Hill:
Murphy: Gun Reform Talks Won’t Include Assault Weapons Ban, ‘Comprehensive’ Background Checks


Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who is helping lead bipartisan gun reform talks in the Senate, said on Sunday that any potential deal on legislation would not include an assault weapons ban or “comprehensive” background checks. Murphy told CNN “State of the Union” co-anchor Jake Tapper that the bipartisan group of senators leading the talks following a recent string of high-profile mass shootings met again Saturday night, adding that negotiations are focused on mental health funding, school safety measures and “modest but impactful” gun control proposals. (Schonfeld, 6/5)


The Hill:
Beyer To Propose 1,000 Percent Tax On Assault-Style Weapons 


Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is drafting legislation to impose a hefty tax on assault-style weapons in the wake of recent mass shootings across the United States.  … Instead of completely banning assault weapons, Beyer’s proposal would impose a 1,000 percent tax on the weapons for manufacturers, producers, and importers. The bill would exempt government entities like law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels, as well as the military. The price for new AR-15-style guns range $500 to more than $2,000, according to NBC News. As such, a 1,000 percent tax on the would increase the price of those weapons to anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. (Beals, 6/5)


The Hill:
Buttigieg: Blaming Gun Violence On School Doorways Is ‘Definition Of Insanity’ 


Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Sunday that blaming the design of school doorways for gun violence in the U.S. is the “definition of insanity.”  … “The idea that us being the only developed country where this happens routinely, especially in terms of the mass shootings, is somehow a result of the design of the doorways on our school buildings, is the definition of insanity if not the definition of denial,” he said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”


Houston Chronicle:
Despite Texas GOP Support, Mental Health Funding Has Been Sparse


There is little evidence that mental illnesses cause mass shootings or that people diagnosed with them are more likely to commit violent crimes. Advocates also warn that scapegoating mental illness can stigmatize the wide spectrum of people living with psychological disorders. “It’s absolutely something that should be addressed — but it’s not a panacea,” said Greg Hansch, executive director for the Texas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “It’s more of a secondary or tertiary factor.” Gov. Greg Abbott and other top Republicans have pointed to the shortage of mental health resources, especially in rural Texas, as a key factor in the Uvalde shooting, while rejecting calls for stricter gun laws. (Blackman and Scherer, 6/6)


Oklahoman:
Tulsa Shooting Renews Calls To Address Violence In Health Care, Raises Security Questions


The shooting is part of a rise in active-shooter events across the U.S. and an extreme example of violence against health care workers. The violence in Tulsa has left doctors, nurses and other medical professionals across the state on edge. In 2021, there were 61 total active-shooter incidents across the U.S., up from 40 in 2020, according to an FBI report. One of the 61 attacks occurred at a health care facility. That shooting bears a resemblance to the shooting in Tulsa: a patient unhappy with his medical care opened fire on a clinic in Buffalo, Minnesota, killing one person and wounding four others, according to authorities. (Branham, 6/5)


The Hill:
Five Biggest Issues To Watch At Supreme Court As High-Profile Term Ends


As the most controversial Supreme Court term in recent memory winds down, the justices have yet to decide a whopping 33 cases, including blockbuster disputes over abortion, religion and guns. The justices are expected to wrap up their work by late June or early July, which means the coming weeks will see the Supreme Court make headlines with a slate of opinions that have the potential to dramatically reshape American life. (Kruzel, 6/5)


AP:
Doctor Named In Abortion Case Has Nothing To Do With Lawsuit


Dr. Thomas Dobbs has never gotten involved in political fights over reproductive health, but his name has become shorthand for a legal case that could end abortion rights in the United States. If he has feelings about the situation, he pretty much keeps those to himself. Mississippi’s top public health official is named in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a dispute over a state law that would ban most abortions after the 15th week but that could be used to overturn Roe v. Wade. (Pettus and Stobbe, 6/6)


Stat:
How Overturning Roe Could Affect Testing Of Embryos In IVF Clinics 


Through their foundation, Allie LaForce and Joe Smith have so far helped families have 17 healthy babies. The group works with would-be parents who have the fatal neurodegenerative condition Huntington’s disease in their families. If someone has the mutation that causes HD, a child has a 50% chance of inheriting it. The foundation, HelpCureHD, helps couples pay for a type of screening that lets them have kids without the mutation. Called preimplantation genetic testing, or PGT, the process involves making embryos through IVF and peering into the embryos’ DNA, then selecting only those without the mutation for transfer into a womb. … If the Supreme Court, as seems likely, overturns the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade, some states could impose abortion restrictions that could impinge on other aspects of reproductive medicine — including IVF and PGT. (Joseph, 6/6)


NBC News:
How Adoption Agencies Are Responding To Potential Overturning Of Roe V. Wade


With a staff of three, the Choice Network adoption agency in Columbus, Ohio, has diligently been working to raise money over the last few months to boost its visibility and fortify its services in anticipation of Ohio’s immediate ban on abortion if Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling guaranteeing reproductive freedom, gets overturned. The agency, which also offers all-options counseling — including on abortion and parenting — anticipates an influx of women once that happens. (Ali, 6/4)


AP:
Abortion Rights Advocates Say They Need More Men’s Voices


If Donovan Atterberry thought about abortion at all as a young man, it was perhaps with some vague discomfort, or a memory of the anti-abortion protesters outside the clinic that he would pass on his way to the park as a child. It became real to him in 2013, when his girlfriend, now his wife, became pregnant with their first child together. She’d had a healthy pregnancy before, his stepdaughter, but this time genetic testing found a lethal chromosomal disorder in the developing fetus, one that would likely result in a stillbirth and also possibly put her life at risk during a delivery. (Hajela, 6/5)


Fortune:
Abortion Benefits Are A Big Corporate Trend, But Most Companies Are Still Figuring Out How They Would Work 


Following the memo leak that indicated the U.S. Supreme Court may be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, several major companies were quick to pledge their commitment to abortion rights, promising to cover employees’ travel expenses for abortion care.  But much of the logistics remain in the works, and companies were tight-lipped about their plans to roll those offerings out in the coming months. HR experts say there will be plenty of pitfalls to consider as companies intending to do good by their employees have to navigate privacy concerns and limitations of overall health coverage in the process. (Gill, 6/4)


Politico:
The Doctor Prescribing Abortions From Overseas 


Within a few weeks, if Roe v. Wade is overturned as expected, a Dutch doctor named Rebecca Gomperts may quickly become the most controversial abortion provider in America — even though she isn’t in America. Gomperts and her organization, Aid Access, is already the only provider openly providing telehealth abortion in the 19 states that currently restrict access to such services; if you go [to] the website of Plan C, a group providing information about abortion pills by mail, Aid Access is the sole provider listed for many of them. (Conaboy, 6/3)


San Francisco Chronicle:
Two Women Were Charged With Murder After Having Stillbirths. The Cases Are Rocking This California County


In early 2018, a 29-year-old Central Valley woman became the first person in decades to be jailed in California for the death of her stillborn infant. In late 2019, it happened again. Another pregnant woman who struggled with addiction delivered a stillborn baby who tested positive for methamphetamine at Adventist Health hospital in the Kings County seat of Hanford. She was also flagged by doctors, investigated by local law enforcement and charged with murder by District Attorney Keith Fagundes. The cases sparked national backlash from civil rights groups, which successfully fought to overturn the convictions. But now, as Gov. Gavin Newsom positions California as a reproductive rights sanctuary ahead of the Supreme Court’s anticipated reversal of Roe v. Wade, the cases are once again dividing residents in a bitter district attorney’s race in this corner of California’s heartland. (Hepler, 6/4)


The Hill:
COVID-19 Cases Are On The Rise. Does It Matter Anymore?


COVID-19 cases have risen in the U.S. to around 100,000 per day, and the real number could be as much as five times that, given many go unreported.  But the situation is far different from the early months of the pandemic. There are now vaccines and booster shots, and new treatments that dramatically cut the risk of the virus. So how much do cases alone still matter? (Sullivan, 6/5)


USA Today:
Another Summer COVID Wave? Experts Explain What’s New This Time Around


Shortly before the start of the third summer of the pandemic, the USA is undergoing a sixth wave of COVID-19 cases.Compared with previous surges, this one looks more like a swell, health experts said. The rise in cases reported in the Northeast in recent weeks appears to have peaked, but upward trends continue in at least 21 states, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Health experts said cases are likely higher because of underreported home tests. (Rodriguez, 6/5)


San Francisco Chronicle:
Bay Area COVID Cases Fall, Offering Hope The Surge Has Peaked


Coronavirus cases have fallen in the Bay Area over the past week — the first glimpse of the latest surge having hit its peak, though health experts cautioned Friday that the virus remains widespread in the region and it may be too soon to say the worst is over for all counties. State data released Friday shows cases leveling off or dropping in most of the region for the first time in more than two months. Daily average cases have declined every day for the past week, and are down about 20% from two weeks ago; in San Francisco, average daily cases have fallen under 500 as of Friday, from about 600 two weeks ago. (Allday, 6/3)


San Francisco Chronicle:
Long COVID In Kids: 10-Year-Old’s Case Shows What We Know — And Don’t Know


Shyne Staples leaps up and executes a flawless forward roll across a gym mat. She flips into a cartwheel, stands on her hands, then climbs a rope before spinning around a high bar in her San Mateo gymnastics class. Like many 10-year-old girls, Shyne likes flying around the gym, Simone Biles-style. But unlike most of them, Shyne begins class already in pain, and the exertion puts her to sleep 90 minutes after it’s over. Shyne has long COVID. (Asimov, 6/4)


New Hampshire Bulletin:
Long COVID Patients Struggle With Insurance, Job Accommodations 


With so much still unknown about long COVID, Wendy Thomas has accepted that managing her myriad of debilitating symptoms will require trial and error. So, when her doctor prescribed Adderall for her struggle to focus, even to understand a paragraph, she agreed to give it a try. Thomas’ insurance company was less agreeable. She was told her prescription would be covered only if she had a diagnosis. That’s an impossible ask for those suffering with long COVID because there’s no way to confirm the illness. It cannot be diagnosed through a test, exam, x-ray or any other tool. Nor is it possible to make a diagnosis based on symptoms. (Timmins, 6/4)


NBC News:
The U.S. Has Wasted Over 82 Million Covid Vaccine Doses


Pharmacies, states, U.S. territories and federal agencies discarded 82.1 million Covid vaccine doses from December 2020 through mid-May — just over 11 percent of the doses the federal government distributed, according to data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared with NBC News. That’s an increase from the 65 million doses the CDC told the Associated Press had been wasted as of late February. Two retail pharmacy chains, CVS and Walmart, were responsible for over a quarter of the doses thrown away in the United States in that time period, in part due to the sheer volume of vaccine they handled. (Eaton, 6/6)


ABC News:
Florida Threatens To Fine Special Olympics $27 Million Over Vaccination Requirement


The State of Florida threatened the Special Olympics with a fine of $27 million because of the organization’s requirement that all athletes competing in the games in Orlando this weekend be vaccinated for COVID-19.In a letter sent to Special Olympics International, the Florida Department of Health informed the organization that its vaccine requirement conflicted with existing Florida law, which prohibits any business from asking for proof of vaccination. (Jay O’brien, 6/3)


CIDRAP:
FDA: Novavax COVID Vaccine Effective, But Cardiac Questions Remain 


In a detailed review ahead of next week’s advisory committee meeting, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff today said the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine will likely provide meaningful protection against the Omicron variant, but they raised concerns about the potential for rare cardiac conditions after vaccination. (Schnirring, 6/3)


CIDRAP:
COVID Booster In NBA Cut Infection Risk 57% Amid Omicron 


Booster COVID-19 vaccination was tied to a 57% reduction in cases among 2,613 National Basketball Association (NBA) players and staff who were regularly screened for infection during the Omicron variant surge, according to a research letter published yesterday in JAMA. (Van Beusekom, 6/3)


USA Today:
Dogs May Detect COVID Better Than Nasal PCR Tests, Study Finds


Prefer an adorable dog licking your face over an invasive swab up the nose? That’s a research-driven option now in testing for the coronavirus. Trained dogs have shown signs of being more effective at detecting COVID-19 than the nasal swab PCR tests, a new study discovered. The peer-reviewed study, published Wednesday in the journal, Plos One, determined that adequately trained canines are so equipped to detect COVID-19 that PCR tests come in second place behind them. That’s largely as a result of dogs’ ability to sense COVID-19 in symptomatic and asymptomatic people. (Gleeson, 6/3)


CIDRAP:
In US, Millions Missed Cancer Screenings Amid Pandemic Disruptions


A US survey study published today in JAMA Network Open reveals that screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer fell 6% and 11%, respectively, in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers from the American Cancer Society (ACS) and Emory University analyzed responses to the 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) from women eligible for screening for breast cancer (ages 50 to 74 years) and cervical cancer (ages 25 to 64), and men and women eligible for colorectal cancer screening (ages 50 to 75). Data were analyzed from September 2021 to February 2022. (Van Beusekom, 6/3)


The Washington Post:
Child Vision Screening Fell Off During The Pandemic


Eye exams for children are required under federal law to be covered by most private health plans and Medicaid. Vision screenings are mandated for school-age children in 40 states and the District, and 26 states require them for preschoolers, according to the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness, a nonprofit advocacy organization. Still, many children who are struggling to see clearly are being overlooked. The pandemic has only exacerbated the issue since in many places classes moved online, and for many students in-school vision screenings are the only time they get their eyes checked. (DeGuzman, 6/5)


Crain’s Detroit Business:
More Companies Invest In Mental Health Services For Employees During Work Hours


Mental health is the newest arms race for companies looking to retain and attract talent. Roughly 90 percent of employers surveyed in Wellable Labs’ 2022 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report released in January reported increasing investment in mental health programs. Another 76 percent said they were boosting investment in stress management and resilience programs and 71 percent were increasing investment with mindfulness and mediation programs. (Walsh, 6/3)


The Washington Post:
Medicare Advantage Insurance Firms Accused Of Data-Mining Patient Records And Submitting False Bills 


Kathy Ormsby’s work auditing medical case files uncovered an alleged scheme to defraud the federal government: The California health system that employed her was scouring health histories of thousands of elderly Medicare patients, then pressuring doctors to add false diagnoses it found to their current medical records. The point of larding the medical records with outdated and irrelevant diagnoses such as cancer and stroke — often without the knowledge of the patients themselves — was not providing better care, according to a lawsuit from the Justice Department, which investigated a whistleblower complaint Ormsby filed. It was to make patients appear sicker than they were. (Rowland, 6/5)


USA Today:
Medicare Seeks To Hide Reports Of Medical Complications At Hospitals


Consumer groups and employers are pushing back against a Medicare proposal to limit public reports of medical complications such as bedsores and falls that occur during hospital stays. The proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, now open for public comment through June 17, would suppress reporting next year for 10 types of medical harm at hospitals that are often preventable. The agency also would halt a program to dock the pay of the worst performers on a list of safety measures, pausing a years-long effort that links hospitals’ skill in preventing such  complications to reimbursement. (Alltucker, 6/6)


Modern Healthcare:
CMS Offers Extra Year To Spend Enhanced Medicaid Home Care Funding


States will get an extra year to use enhanced Medicaid home- and community-based services funding, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Friday. The dollars will now be available through March 31, 2025, for states that want the additional time, CMS wrote in a letter to Medicaid directors. Congress provided states with a 10-percentage-point increase in federal Medicaid matching funds for home- and community-based services spending as part of COVID-19 relief legislation last year. States were originally required to spend the money by March 31, 2024. (Goldman, 6/3)


Modern Healthcare:
Healthcare Hiring Strong In May, Jobs Report Shows


Healthcare hiring remained strong in in May despite a slight dip from the previous month as employers anticipate an eventual lack of COVID-19 funding and as cases and hospitalizations slowly stabilize, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data published Friday. Employers in the sector added an estimated 28,300 jobs last month, down from 36,800 positions in April, preliminary data show. The industry contributed to 390,000 hires across the economy in May. Hospitals, physicians offices and nursing and residential care facilities saw the largest gains among healthcare employers. (Devereaux, 6/3)


Modern Healthcare:
Layoffs Hit Cerebral, Carbon Health And Other Digital Health Companies


Layoffs have begun to hit the digital health industry as two digital health unicorns said they were cutting staff this week. Cerebral, the embattled mental health startup, confirmed layoffs will occur by July 1.  The company said it was restructuring its operations and eliminating a number of positions, although it did not specify how many. According to an internal memo obtained by Digital Health Business & Technology, the affected areas will include support and operations teams within the company’s headquarters. (Perna and Turner, 6/3)


Stat:
Health Tech Companies Try To Make A Case For Virtual Diabetes Care


For all the time and money health tech companies have poured into developing virtual care for type 2 diabetes, the field doesn’t have much of a track record just yet. There’s relatively little rigorous data on how well virtual lifestyle coaching combined with medical care can make a dent in type 2 diabetes rates or outcomes, or how easy it is for patients to stick to the plans over time. But virtual care companies are working to fill that evidence void. On Sunday, Virta Health presented outcomes from a five-year study — one of the longest yet on digital diabetes care. People who stuck with the program, which aims to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes with a virtual nutrition program supported by health coaches and clinicians, on average saw meaningful weight loss while reducing blood sugar and diabetes medications, with 20% achieving diabetes remission. (Palmer, 6/6)


Kansas City Star:
Cancer Patient Sues CPAP Maker Philips Over Recalled Devices 


A Johnson County man blames his sleep apnea machine for giving him lung cancer and is suing the manufacturer, which last year recalled the machine and several other breathing-aid devices. Philips Respironics issued a voluntary worldwide recall for the machines last June because of possible health risks related to noise-abatement foam inside them. The foam can break down and release possible cancer-causing particles that a user might inhale or swallow, the Food and Drug Administration said last year. Last month the FDA announced it had received more than 100 reports of deaths associated with the recalled devices, though no connection has been made between the deaths and the machines. (Gutierrez, 6/6)


Kansas City Star:
What To Do If Your Philips Sleep Apnea Machine Was Recalled 


A year after a massive recall affecting millions of Philips sleep apnea machines, people are still waiting for replacements or repairs. Some are using the machines in spite of the health risks that got them recalled in the first place. Philips Respironics issued a voluntary worldwide recall for millions of machines last June because of possible health risks related to noise-abatement foam inside them. The foam can degrade and release possible cancer-causing particles, the Food and Drug Administration says. The company recommended that people stop using the CPAP and BiPAP machines on the recall list, register them on a website so they can be either repaired or replaced, and consult their doctors or sleep specialists. (Gutierrez, 6/6)


NPR:
Paris Brothers Recalls Some Cheeses Due To Potential Listeria Contamination


Paris Brothers, a specialty foods company based in Kansas City, Mo., is recalling several cheese products because they could have been contaminated with listeria. No illnesses have been reported, but listeria can cause serious, even fatal infections, among frail people and young children. The voluntary recall covers eight products that were produced May 4-6. The affected products carry these lot codes: 05042022, 05052022 and 05062022. (Torchinsky, 6/4)


Reuters:
GSK Measles Vaccine Gets U.S. FDA Approval


British drugmaker GSK said on Monday its vaccine, Priorix, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the prevention of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) in those aged one year and above. The vaccine can be given as two doses, and may also be administered as a second shot to individuals who were previously vaccinated with a first dose of another MMR-containing vaccine, GSK said. (6/6)


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