First Version: Nov. 29, 2022

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

An Unexplained Injury Discovered After Eye Surgery. What Should Happen Next? 

When Jerry Bilinski, a 67-year-old retired social worker, scheduled cataract surgery with Carolina Eye Associates near his home in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he expected no drama, just a future with better vision. Cataract procedures are among the most common surgeries in the U.S. — nearly 4 million take place annually — and generally take about 30 minutes under light sedation. At the same time, the surgeon scheduled the placement of a little stent inside Bilinski’s eye to relieve pressure from his diabetes-related glaucoma, also a routine procedure to preserve his eyesight. (Clasen-Kelly, 11/29)

Rural Colorado Tries To Fill Health Worker Gaps With Apprenticeships

During her 12-hour overnight shift, Brianna Shelton helps residents at BeeHive Homes Assisted Living go to the bathroom. Many of them have dementia, and some can’t get out of bed on their own. Only a few can remember her name, but that doesn’t matter to her. “They’re somebody’s mom, somebody’s grandma, somebody’s great-grandmother,” Shelton said. “I want to take care of them like I would take care of my family.” (Ruder, 11/29)

WHO To Phase Out The Name ‘Monkeypox’ For ‘Mpox’

The World Health Organization said Monday it will phase out the name of the disease monkeypox over the next year, replacing it with the term mpox. The decision follows widespread calls for changing the name since the current international outbreak of the disease was first detected last May. (Branswell, 11/28)

The Hill:
WHO Renames Monkeypox As ‘Mpox’

The two terms will be used simultaneously for one year while “monkeypox” is phased out, WHO said in a statement. The agency over the summer said it would consider suggestions for a name change.  … Assigning names to existing diseases is rare, but it is the responsibility of WHO under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Usually, the ICD updating process takes up to several years, but the WHO said the process was accelerated in this case.(Weixel, 11/28)

The Atlantic:
The Future Of Monkeypox

In the United States, the request seems to be arriving late. The outbreak here has been in slow retreat for months—and has already left many Americans’ minds. (Wu, 11/28)

Factbox: Mpox Cases And Deaths Around The World

Around 100 countries where mpox is not endemic have reported outbreaks of the viral disease, which the World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency. (11/28)

Crunch Time For Democrats Is Holding Up Bipartisan Bill To Protect Pregnant Workers 

Legislation that would give pregnant workers more job protections has all the ingredients for success in a narrowly divided Congress — robust bipartisan support, momentum in both chambers, backing from business and unions — except the most crucial one: a firm plan to pass it before Democrats’ time is up. Senate leadership has thus far declined to bring the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act — which has already passed the House — to the floor, imperiling the legislation, infuriating its supporters and illustrating just how much Democrats must juggle in their waning hours of controlling the House, Senate and White House. (Mueller, 11/28)

The 19th:
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Could Offer Relief From Extreme Heat

In Minnesota, a pregnant letter carrier said she had to use sick time to avoid working outside on hot days, draining her time off before her baby was even born. A Missouri retail worker quit her job after she said she was denied access to water, fearing that heat could impact her pregnancy. (Kutz, 11/28)

Republicans Face Thorny Path Ahead On Fertility Policy

Former Vice President Mike Pence’s recent support for fertility treatments like IVF as well as a national abortion ban surfaced what could become a dilemma for 2024 Republican hopefuls staking out reproductive health platforms. Republicans have largely insisted that fertility treatments aren’t at risk from the proliferation of new state abortion restrictions. But anti-abortion groups remain deeply concerned with the use of embryos in IVF and back tighter regulations on providers. (Owens and Gonzalez, 11/29)

HHS Moves To Overhaul Privacy Rules For Substance Abuse Patients

The federal health department is trying to harmonize privacy protections covering the records of patients being treated for substance use disorder. Syncing the landmark 1996 privacy law HIPAA with tougher standards Congress passed in the CARES Act more than two years ago could prevent instances in which providers unknowingly prescribe opioids as treatment for someone with a history of addiction. (Moreno, 11/28)

Letter: ‘Nothing To Suggest’ Alito Violated Ethics Standards 

The letter was in response to an inquiry from lawmakers following a New York Times report earlier this month. That report said that a former anti-abortion leader was told in advance the outcome of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores case involving health care coverage of contraception. In a 5-4 decision, Alito wrote that some companies with religious objections can avoid the contraceptives requirement in President Barack Obama’s health care legislation. Earlier this year, Alito’s opinion in a different case, the court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, was leaked. But while that leak was a public disclosure of the text, the new report alleged that in the 2014 case, the disclosure wasn’t as broad. (11/28)

The New York Times:
Supreme Court Defends Alito After Breach Allegation

The Supreme Court on Monday defended Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. against allegations that a former anti-abortion leader had been tipped off in 2014 to a landmark contraception ruling written by the justice. The court also sidestepped questions from lawmakers about whether the claim would be investigated further. (Kantor and Becker, 11/28)

Supreme Court Case Could Curtail Rights Of Medicaid Patients

Gorgi Talevski did not live long enough to see his case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this month. A Macedonian-born resident of Indiana, Talevski operated a crane for three decades, raised a family and loved to dance before his dementia deepened, and he died last year. (Ollove, 11/28)

The Washington Post:
Scientists Identify Biomarkers That Could Help Diagnose Lyme Disease 

Researchers say they’ve identified a set of biomarkers that could make early diagnosis of Lyme disease easier, a possible first step for more effectively treating the estimated 476,000 people diagnosed with, and treated for, the tick-borne illness every year in the United States. In a study in Cell Reports Medicine, researchers explain how they pinpointed a specific set of genes that are activated in people with long-term Lyme disease. Up to 20 percent of patients suffer long-term symptoms. (Blakemore, 11/28)

NBC News:
Common Treatment For Joint Pain May Be Linked To Faster Arthritis Progression, Research Suggests

Two small unpublished studies, to be presented Tuesday at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting, found that on average, knee arthritis advanced more quickly among patients who got corticosteroid injections than those who didn’t. By contrast, hyaluronic acid injections were associated with slower progression of the disease relative to a control group. (Yang, 11/29)

The New York Times:
Organ Donations Rise Around Motorcycle Rallies 

This summer, when half a million bikers clogged the streets of tiny Sturgis, S.D., for one of the country’s largest motorcycle rallies, there might have been a small unexpected benefit for nearby patients desperately awaiting organ transplants. Major motorcycle rallies are associated with increases in organ donors involved in motor vehicle crashes, according to a study published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine. (Alcorn, 11/28)

The Washington Post:
Nearly 9 Out Of 10 Covid Deaths Are People Over 65 

More than 300 people are still dying each day on average from covid-19, most of them 65 or older, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While that’s much lower than the 2,000 daily toll at the peak of the delta wave, it is still roughly two to three times the rate at which people die of the flu — renewing debate about what is an “acceptable loss.” And while older Americans have consistently been the worst hit during the crisis, as evident in the scores of early nursing home deaths, that trend has become more pronounced. Today, nearly 9 in 10 covid deaths are in people 65 or older — the highest rate ever, according to a Washington Post analysis of CDC data. (Cha and Keating, 11/28)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Lower Sperm Count Seen In Men Who Have Had COVID Than In Those Never Infected

Men who had been infected with COVID-19 experienced a 53% lower sperm count three or more months after testing positive for the coronavirus compared to men who had not been infected, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Virology. (Vaziri and Beamish, 11/28)

Survey: Stigma, Discrimination Add To Long-COVID Hurdles 

People experiencing long COVID often experience job or relationship repercussions due to their condition, and many feel a sense of shame, according to new survey findings published in PLOS One. The numbers of people experiencing long-term COVID complications is high and growing as high infection rates persist. For example, the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics estimated that 2.3 million residents are living with long COVID. (Schnirring, 11/28)

Fauci Says Covid Shows Endless Threat Of Infectious Disease

The worldwide Covid-19 crisis shows that infectious diseases present a “perpetual challenge,” and officials have to be better prepared for them, outgoing presidential adviser Anthony Fauci said in an opinion piece. (John Milton, 11/28)

NBC News:
Flu Continues To Spread Across The U.S., Infecting Millions, CDC Reports

Of the samples reported to the CDC this season, about 76% are the H3N2 strain of influenza A. The rest are H1N1. Both versions of the flu can result in severe illness. (Edwards, 11/28)

Flu Hospitalizations Increase Nearly 30% As U.S. Enters Holiday Season

Flu hospitalizations have increased nearly 30% in a week as the spread of respiratory illnesses remains high across most of the U.S. More than 11,200 people were hospitalized with the flu during the week ending Nov. 19, compared to about 8,700 patients admitted during the prior week, according to data from the Health and Human Services Department. (Kimball, 11/28)

Los Angeles Times:
RSV Straining Children’s Hospitals Across California

The per capita RSV hospitalization rate this month was the highest since the 2018-19 cold and flu season, Ruel said at a recent campus town hall. And while scientists are monitoring signs that RSV hospitalization rates may have peaked, it will take more time to be certain. (Lin II and Money, 11/28)

USA Today:
Experimental Flu Shot Could Target 20 Viruses With A Single Vaccine

For a half-century, scientists have been trying to develop a vaccine that would protect against the most dangerous flu viruses. Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have a new approach, based on the mRNA technology that proved so effective against COVID-19. Their idea is to target all 20 different types of influenza viruses in a single shot. (Weintraub, 11/28)

Biogen Stock Falls On Report That Patient Died In Eisai’s Alzheimer Trial

The case involved a 65-year-old woman who died of a massive brain hemorrhage after suffering a stroke and a type of brain swelling and bleeding in an Eisai trial, according to a report in Science magazine. The bleeding began after the patient received an anti-clotting drug, the report said. Brain swelling and bleeding have previously been linked to medicines that work like the Biogen-Eisai treatment. (Kresge, 11/28)

Axsome Drug Reduces Agitation In Alzheimer’s Patients, Data Show

A drug developed by Axsome Therapeutics significantly reduced a common side effect of Alzheimer’s disease — agitation — the company announced Monday. The therapy, AXS-05, met its primary goal of delaying time to relapse and preventing patients from relapsing. Patients taking the drug had a 3.6-fold lower risk of relapse overall, compared to placebo. (DeAngelis, 11/28)

How To Fund Home Health Care If You Want To ‘Age In Place’

Some 70% of people want to age at home, yet only 10% have long-term care insurance, a recent HCG Secure/Arctos Foundation study found. Furthermore, about half of respondents had no idea how much in-home care would cost. With the median annual cost of a home health aide nationally estimated at $61,776, how are folks going to fund this? (Nason, 11/28)

The Caregiver’s Lament: How To Handle The Costs Of Care

You might know P.J. Byrne from the movies, most likely as one of the fast-living brokers alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” But these days Byrne’s most important role is closer to home: that of son and caregiver. His 79-year-old father has suffered from dementia for about 10 years, which currently requires 24/7 home care from not just one but often two health aides. It adds up to about $200,000 a year in costs for the family. (Taylor, 11/29)

PhRMA, Once Invincible In Washington, Has Lost Its Edge

PhRMA has a reputation in Washington for might, for money, for scorched-earth tactics, and for fighting even the tiniest of policy changes. The pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying arm raised hell, for example, when lawmakers asked it to cover a slightly larger share of seniors’ drug costs. It spent years refusing to concede even minimal tweaks to an obscure bill related to generic competition. Over the last year, however, something changed. PhRMA, once a titanic lobbying powerhouse, lost its edge. (Cohrs, 11/29)

‘Skinny Labels’ On Biosimilars Saved Medicare $1.5 Billion In 5 Years

A hotly contested provision of a federal law designed to speed copycat drugs to market and foster competition saved Medicare $1.5 billion from 2015 to 2020 — or nearly 5% of the $30.2 billion spent by the health care program — on just five medicines during that period, according to a new analysis. (Silverman, 11/28)

Nestle May Sell Allergy Unit In Health-Strategy U-Turn

Nestle SA put its Palforzia peanut-allergy treatment up for sale only two years after buying it, as Chief Executive Officer Mark Schneider reverses course on one of his biggest acquisitions beyond the Swiss company’s traditional food and beverage operations. (Afanasieva, 11/29)

Modern Healthcare:
Blue Cross Transgender Care Lawsuit Tests ACA Anti-Discrimination Policy

A legal fight between a patient and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois could drastically increase third-party administrators’ potential liability under the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination provisions. (Tepper, 11/28)

Landmark Trial Over Arkansas Youth Gender Care Ban Resumes

A psychiatrist called to the stand by Arkansas as the state defends its ban on gender-affirming care for children said Monday he was concerned about the impact the law could have on some transgender youth who would see their treatments cut off. Dr. Stephen Levine, a psychiatrist at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio, testified as the nation’s first trial over such a ban continued before a federal judge after a five-week break. (DeMillo, 11/29)

Modern Healthcare:
Trans Care, Abortion Bans Recast Debate On Provider And Patient Rights

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) took the stage at the “Rally to End Child Mutilation” in Nashville, Tennessee, last month in front of demonstrators, including far-right Proud Boys, to endorse the message that Vanderbilt University Medical Center was maiming children and needed to be stopped. (Hartnett, 11/28)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Children’s Wisconsin Putting Therapists In All Pediatrician Offices

Matthew Duncan, 12, sat in an room at his pediatrician’s office one day in mid-October, sifting through a small heap of colorful suction toys piled up on the table in front of him. His doctor was not the reason he was there. Physically, Matthew was fine. But mentally, he’d been rattled. (Shastri, 11/28)

Houston Chronicle:
Houston Hospitals Mostly Unaffected By Boil Water Notice

The Harris Health System — which includes Ben Taub Hospital, Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, community health centers and same-day clinics — keeps a supply of bottled water for emergencies, said John Martinez, a senior public and media relations specialist for the system. The hospital currently has enough water to keep operating as normal for about one week, he said. (MacDonald, 11/28)

Houston Chronicle:
Why Is Houston Under A Boil Water Notice? Texas Rules Require It

State rules based on federal law require boil water advisories to be issued if the water drops below 20 psi for even a moment, TCEQ spokesman Ryan Vise said. A drop in the system for any length of time automatically triggers the requirement. (Foxhall, Satija and Cheng, 11/28)

Resistance To Opioid-Disposal Plan Raises Questions About CADCA

At its surface, it seems like a simple problem with a simple solution. Across the country, medicine cabinets are littered with unused, potentially addictive opioids. So the federal government wants to distribute prepaid envelopes alongside new painkiller prescriptions, allowing Americans to mail back their leftovers. (Facher, 11/29)

Here Are Some Ways To Protect Sobriety During The Holidays

The holidays can be a challenge for people in recovery from drugs or alcohol. Dr. Alta DeRoo, chief medical officer of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, says it’s important to protect sobriety this time of year. (Barbor, 11/28)

Fentanyl’s Scourge Plainly Visible On Streets Of Los Angeles 

In a filthy alley behind a Los Angeles doughnut shop, Ryan Smith convulsed in the grips of a fentanyl high — lurching from moments of slumber to bouts of violent shivering on a warm summer day. When Brandice Josey, another homeless addict, bent down and blew a puff of fentanyl smoke his way in an act of charity, Smith sat up and slowly opened his lip to inhale the vapor as if it was the cure to his problems. (Hong and Melley, 11/28)

Pensacola News Journal:
Hotel Chain Is Training Workers In Escambia To Help Reduce Veteran Suicides

Veterans are 1.5 times more likely than the general population to die by suicide, with 20 veterans on average taking their own lives each day. To help combat this crisis, Innisfree Hotels has started its own in-company initiative to train employees working with veterans or individuals experiencing mental health problems with the help of Fire Watch’s Watch Stander program in Northwest Florida. (Morgan, 11/28)

Los Angeles Times:
Los Angeles County Health Officials Issue Cold Weather Alert

“Children, the elderly, and people with disabilities or special medical needs are especially vulnerable during cold weather. Extra precaution should be taken to ensure they don’t get too cold when they are outside,” Dr. Muntu Davis, the county’s health officer, said in a statement. “There are places where people can go to stay warm, such as shelters or other public facilities.” (Newberry, 11/27)

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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