Baby Health in Winter First Edition: January 3, 2020

Baby Health in Winter

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

Kaiser Health News:
‘Grade A’ All-American Pot: The Next Big Export?

In a large warehouse, LivWell Enlightened Health feeds its cloned cannabis plants a custom blend of nutrients, sprays them with filtered water and pumps extra carbon dioxide into the air. LivWell releases three types of insects to clear the plants of unwanted pests without the use of toxic pesticides. Every part of the growing process is meticulously documented and evaluated to constantly refine the process. (Hawryluk, 1/3)

Kaiser Health News:
One-On-One With Trump’s Medicare And Medicaid Chief: Seema Verma

Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, sat down for a rare one-on-one interview with Kaiser Health News senior correspondent Sarah Varney. They discussed her views on President Donald Trump’s plan for sustaining public health insurance programs, how the administration would respond if Obamacare is struck down by the courts in the future and her thoughts on how the latest “Medicare for All” proposals would affect innovation and access to care. (Varney, 1/3)

Kaiser Health News:
KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: How Do Other Countries Pay For Health Care?

Many proponents of creating a “Medicare for All” system in the United States say it would make this country more like other industrialized nations. But, in fact, other countries structure their systems in a wide variety of ways. Some have a Medicare for All-type system, with private providers and public payment. But some systems are closer to government-run, while others include large roles for private insurance. (1/2)

Kaiser Health News:
Watch: Woman Hit With $28K Bill For A Throat Swab

A routine doctor’s visit for a sore throat brought more than $28,000 in charges for one New York City woman in our latest “Bill of the Month” installment. David Begnaud of “CBS This Morning,” in partnership with NPR and Kaiser Health News, discussed the case with KHN Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Rosenthal in the Dec. 31 broadcast. (1/2)

The Washington Post:
Sales Of Mint- And Fruit-Flavored E-Cigarette Pods To End By Early February 

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday ordered companies to stop manufacturing, distributing and selling most cartridge-based e-cigarette flavors — including mint and fruity flavors — by early February, saying the crackdown is urgently needed to stem a surge in teen vaping. The deadline was announced as the Trump administration officially unveiled its long-debated vaping policy. (McGinley, 1/2)

Los Angeles Times:
Softer Trump Vaping Ban Replaces Strict Ban On All Flavors

The new ban does not extend to refillable, tank-based vaping systems purchased in most vape shops, which users can fill with flavored e-liquid. It also excludes menthol-flavored cartridges. Together, the two exemptions represent a major retreat from an earlier White House plan to bar all flavors other than tobacco. The new policy will also leave Juul, the leading e-cigarette among teens, largely untouched. The company suspended nationwide sales of sweet flavors like mango and cucumber in October, then added mint to the list in November. It still sells menthol pods. (Baumgaertner, 1/2)

Trump’s Dialed-Back Vaping Ban Angers Anti-Tobacco Groups

The plan delivers relief to free-market advocates and thousands of small vape shops and vape-makers who protested that a sweeping favor ban would shutter their businesses. The measure will largely affect big tobacco companies that make popular vaping pods, though Juul has already pulled many of its products off the shelf. The larger firms can weather the challenge as well as a costly application process with the Food and Drug Administration that is likely to thin out small players from the market over the next few years. (Owermohle, 1/2)

Trump Administration Cracks Down On Some Flavored Vaping Products

“We’re striking a balance,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during a news conference, explaining that e-cigarettes need to remain an “off-ramp” for adults to transition away from combustible cigarettes, but they can’t become an “on-ramp” for children to become addicted to nicotine. Azar stressed that all vape products are currently “illegal” because they are on the market despite not being cleared by the FDA. (Lupkin, 1/2)

The Wall Street Journal:
FDA Bars Fruit, Mint Flavors In Vaping Cartridges But Makes Exemption For Vape Shops

E-cigarettes, most of them cartridge based, generate $6.4 billion in annual U.S. sales while tank vaping systems generate $2.6 billion, according to Wells Fargo. Cartridge-based vaporizers such as those made by Juul Labs Inc. are sold in gas stations and convenience stores as well as tobacco and vape shops. Tank-based systems and their accompanying nicotine liquids are sold primarily in vape shops, but are also available online and in some convenience stores. Major retail chains such as Walmart and Walgreens stopped selling all vaping products last year. (Maloney and Burton, 1/2)

The New York Times:
With Partial Flavor Ban, Trump Splits The Difference On Vaping

Around the West Wing, polling data was circulated that had the imprimatur of one of Mr. Trump’s pollsters, John McLaughlin, showing that in battleground states, the president’s supporters opposed regulations against vaping. But the poll was commissioned by a vaping industry group, and ultimately, those resisting any crackdown, such as the president’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, lost to the advisers who wanted to keep flavored e-cigarettes away from young people. (Goodnough, Haberman and Kaplan, 1/2)

Trump Administration Restricts Some E-Cigarette Flavors

Representative Frank Pallone, the Democratic chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, which has launched probes into e-cigarette manufacturers, dismissed the impact of the ban. “A flavor ban that exempts menthol and vape shops is no ban at all,” Pallone tweeted. (Kirkham, 1/2)

The Associated Press:
Trump’s Plan To Curb Teen Vaping Exempts Some Flavors

Anti-tobacco advocates immediately condemned the decision to permit menthol and exempt tank-based vapes, accusing the administration of caving to industry pressure. “It’s disturbing to see the results of industry lobbying to undermine public health protections, especially the lives and health of our youth,” said American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer. The association and other health groups argue that teenagers who vape will simply shift to using menthol if it remains on the market. (Perrone, 1/2)

The Washington Post:
D.C. Council Weighs Banning Flavored E-Cigarettes And Menthol Cigarettes

Anti-tobacco advocates on Thursday urged the D.C. Council to add menthol cigarettes to its list of banned items as lawmakers consider prohibiting all flavored vaping products in the nation’s capital. The testimony came during a five-hour hearing on bills meant to rein in youth vaping and the rise of electronic cigarettes. But advocates also revived a decades-old fight over menthol cigarettes, a minty flavor disproportionately marketed to and used by African Americans. (Nirappil, 1/2)

The Washington Post:
More Than 200 Republican Members Of Congress Urge Supreme Court To Reconsider Roe V. Wade Abortion Rights Decision

More than 200 members of Congress — nearly all of them Republicans — on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to reconsider the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision, prompting a wave of protests from Democrats and reproductive rights groups. The 207 lawmakers signaled their position in an amicus brief supporting a restrictive Louisiana abortion law that is expected to be reviewed by the Supreme Court on March 4. The 2014 law, which was stayed by the Supreme Court in February, would require doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. (Sonmez, 1/2)

The New York Times:
More Than 200 Republicans Urge Supreme Court To Weigh Overturning Roe V. Wade

Roughly 80 percent of the Republicans in Congress — 39 senators and 166 House members — and two centrist House Democrats signed the amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief in the case of June Medical Services L.L.C. v. Gee. They also asked the justices to consider overturning another landmark abortion ruling in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. “The court has exercised that judgment to overrule precedent in over 230 cases throughout its history,” the lawmakers wrote. “Forty-six years after Roe was decided, it remains a radically unsettled precedent: Two of the seven justices who originally joined the majority subsequently repudiated it in whole or in part, and virtually every abortion decision since has been closely divided.” (Stolberg, 1/2)

Abortion: Lawmakers Ask Supreme Court To ‘Reconsider’ Roe V. Wade

The Republican brief comes on the heels of nearly 200 congressional Democrats filing a brief last month defending Roe and Louisiana abortion providers. The Louisiana challenge is the first abortion-related case that will be heard since Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch took the bench. Supporters of reproductive freedom fear that the case will present the justices with a chance to chip away at abortion rights. (De Vogue and Kelly, 1/2)

CBS News:
Republican Senators And Congressmen Ask Supreme Court To Consider Overturning Roe V. Wade

June Medical Services challenged a Louisiana law, passed in 2014 and currently not in effect, which required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital within 30 miles of the facility where the abortion is performed. If the law is allowed to be implemented, all of Louisiana’s abortion clinics would close, as first reported in October by CBS News. (Segers, 1/2)

NBC News:
Over 200 Members Of Congress Ask Supreme Court To ‘Reconsider’ Roe V. Wade

A federal district judge blocked the law in 2017. But in 2018, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it, arguing that the law would not impose an “undue burden,” which has been the high court’s key legal test for challenges to abortion restrictions. The Supreme Court reimposed the stay in February to weigh its constitutionality, and it said Tuesday that it would hear the case on March 4. (Clark, 1/2)

To Get An Abortion, Teens In 26 States Must Ask Parent Or Judge

The teenager was just 15, and recovering from a rape, when she realized she was pregnant. This young woman, whom NPR has agreed not to name, says she knew right away that she wanted to terminate the pregnancy. But like a lot of states, Massachusetts required — and still requires — minors to get a parent’s consent before obtaining an abortion. (Bebinger, 1/2)

The Washington Post:
Poll: White Evangelicals Distinct On Abortion, LGBT Policy

White evangelical Protestants stand noticeably apart from other religious people on abortion restrictions and LGBT discrimination protections, two of the most politically divisive issues at play in the 2020 presidential election, according to a new poll. The findings point to an evangelical Protestant constituency that’s more firmly aligned with President Donald Trump’s agenda than other Americans of faith. White evangelicals were also more likely than members of other faiths to say religion should have at least some influence on policymaking. (Schor and Swanson, 1/2)

The Wall Street Journal:
Drug Prices Climb By 5.8% On Average, Less Than Last Year

Pharmaceutical companies started 2020 by raising the prices of hundreds of drugs an average of 5.8%, according to a new analysis, a smaller increase than a year prior as the industry faces growing scrutiny from patients, lawmakers and health plans. Pfizer Inc. led the way, including increasing prices by over 9% on more than 40 products. The drug industry traditionally sets prices for its therapies at the start of the year and again in the middle of the year. (Hopkins, 1/2)

Drugmakers Hike 2020 Medicine Prices Despite Lawmakers’ Ire

Some key drugs, such as Merck & Co.’s top-selling cancer drug Keytruda, have yet to see higher prices, according to data compiled by Evercore ISI’s Umer Raffat. But last year’s price increases didn’t occur until a few days into the new year, the analyst said. Companies may be delaying some of those increases to later this month to escape early January scrutiny, Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal said in an email. While it’s too soon to tell, Gal expects price hikes may go up modestly from last year. So far, 85 drugmakers have reported with price increases on over 300 unique drugs, according to 3 Axis analysis. (Flanagan, 1/2)

It’s ‘Business As Usual’ As Many Drug Makers Boost Prices For The New Year 

For instance, Gilead Sciences (GILD) increased prices for several HIV pills by 4.8%, Biogen (BIIB) boosted its Tecfidera multiple sclerosis treatment by 6%, Eli Lilly (LLY) raised the cost of two diabetes medicines by 6%, and Pfizer (PFE) increased the list price of its Prevnar vaccine for pneumococcal disease by 7.3%. Notably, AbbVie (ABBV) boosted the price of its Humira rheumatoid arthritis treatment by 7.4%, and this comes after the company reached deals with several other drug makers to delay competition in the U.S. until 2023. (Silverman, 1/2)

Best And Worst Diets For 2020, Ranked By Experts

Who won the 2020 battle of the diets? For the third year in a row, the well-researched Mediterranean diet KO’d the competition to win gold in US News and World Report’s 2020 ranking of best diets. The report, released Thursday, is now in its 10th year. (LaMotte, 1/2)

Intermittent Fasting: Benefits And Limitations

Abstaining from food for 16 to 18 hours a day could be key to treating a variety of health conditions — even if you’ve got to train yourself to push past the hunger. A review of past animal and human studies in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that intermittent fasting can reduce blood pressure, aid in weight loss and improve longevity. (Andrew, 1/2)

The Associated Press:
Parents Of Adult Children With Disabilities Fill Housing Gap

For caretakers, the inevitable question of where to place their children with disabilities when they are no longer around can be scary and overwhelming. But some are literally breaking new ground in finding an answer. Parents in Arizona, Wisconsin, Maryland and other states have become the architects of their children’s futures. One reason: Social media and online resources are inspiring parents to look beyond the status quo, said Desiree Kameka, director of the nonprofit Autism Housing Network, which maintains a list of U.S. residential opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It shows nearly 50 communities are being developed or are in the planning phase nationwide, including several that are parent-driven. (Tang, 1/3)

Effort To Control Opioids In An ER Leaves Some Sickle Cell Patients In Pain

India Hardy has lived with pain since she was a toddler — from dull persistent aches to acute flare-ups that interrupt the flow of her normal life. The pain is from sickle cell disease, a group of genetic conditions that affect about 100,000 people in the U.S., many of them of African or Hispanic descent. Sitting in the afternoon heat on her mom’s porch in Athens, Ga., Hardy remembers how a recent “crisis” derailed her normal morning routine. (Whitehead, 1/2)

These Women’s Health Taboos Are Overdue To Be Busted

As the decade changes and we consider the state of women’s health in America, who better to turn to than the authors of five taboo-busting books from 2019 that took on issues that generations of women haven’t been talking about, but need to. We asked these outspoken doctors and health advocates to give us their Top 7 messages to women for 2020. Here’s what they said. (Vaughn, 1/2)

The Associated Press:
Backlog Of Toxic Superfund Clean-Ups Grows Under Trump

The Trump administration has built up the biggest backlog of unfunded toxic Superfund clean-up projects in at least 15 years, nearly triple the number that were stalled for lack of money in the Obama era, according to 2019 figures quietly released by the Environmental Protection Agency over the winter holidays. The accumulation of Superfund projects that are ready to go except for money comes as the Trump administration routinely proposes funding cuts for Superfund and for the EPA in general. (Knickmeyer, Brown and White, 1/3)

The New York Times:
Texas Judge Rules That Hospital Can Take Baby Off Life Support

A Texas judge ruled on Thursday that a hospital’s plan to remove an 11-month-old girl from life support over her family’s objections could proceed, the latest twist in a case that has drawn notice from conservatives around the state. The child, Tinslee Lewis, was born prematurely and suffers from a rare heart defect and other health issues, according to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, where she had been treated for 11 months. Doctors there had done everything possible to save Tinslee’s life, but ultimately concluded that they could not do so, the hospital said in a statement. (Zraick, 1/2)

The Wall Street Journal:
One-Year-Old Girl Can Be Removed From Life Support, Texas Court Rules

Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth told the family of 11-month-old Tinslee Lewis in October that it wouldn’t continue treating her because doctors believe she has no chance of recovery and is only suffering, according to a timeline provided by the hospital. Twenty other hospitals and pediatric cardiac specialists also agreed with Cook Children’s assessment and declined to treat Tinslee, according to the hospital. Tinslee’s family has fought to keep the baby alive with the help of Texas Right to Life, an antiabortion group, and said they plan to appeal Thursday’s ruling to another state court. (Findell, 1/2)

The Associated Press:
Texas Judge: Hospital Can Remove Baby From Life Support

Doctors at the Fort Worth hospital had planned to remove Tinslee from life support Nov. 10 after invoking Texas’ “10-day rule,” which can be employed when a family disagrees with doctors who say life-sustaining treatment should be stopped. The law stipulates that if the hospital’s ethics committee agrees with doctors, treatment can be withdrawn after 10 days if a new provider can’t be found to take the patient. (1/2)

The Wall Street Journal:
Transit Systems Take On Role As Homeless Advocates

Jeffrey Knueppel’s skills include running trains, buses and subways, and helping people who are homeless find jobs and housing. The retired general manager of the Philadelphia region’s transit authority, like a growing number of transit officials around the country, increasingly assumed a social-welfare role in recent years as his agency struggled to cope with rising homelessness. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority spent more than $1 million partnering with the city of Philadelphia to build an 11,000-square-foot homeless drop-in center at a busy subway station. (Berger, 1/2)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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