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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning, everyone. Here's what you need to know to get ahead of the day's health news. 

Congress turns to lapsed CHIP funding

This morning, committees in both the Senate and the House meet to discuss the urgent need to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expired over the weekend. Here's what you need to know:

  • Nine million children rely on the program for health insurance. They haven’t lost that coverage yet, but the Kaiser Family Foundation expects 10 states to run out of funding by the end of 2017.
  • The GOP proposal in the House would extend funding for five years. The measure being considered by the Energy and Commerce committee today would provide nearly $120 billion CHIP funding for states over the next five years. The bill would phase out extra federal funding introduced as part of the ACA that covered an additional 23 percent of each state's CHIP costs. It would also provide an additional $1 billion in Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico.
  • But there's a fight over how to pay for it. It would cut Obamacare's public health fund by $6.4 billion over a decade, raise Medicare premiums for people earning more than $500,000, and potentially cut some federal payments to hospitals.
  • The Senate has its own bipartisan deal to extend the program, but hasn't said how it'll pay for it. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who chairs the Senate Finance committee, says the group will work “to advance this bill in a fiscally responsible manner so it may be signed into law as quickly as possible to ensure coverage for kids is maintained.” Watch the Senate hearing here starting at 9:30 a.m. ET.

House passes 20-week abortion ban

The House has passed a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks, a threshold the bill’s Republican authors say is the point at which fetuses become capable of experiencing pain, though that claim is far from scientifically settled. A 2005 review paper in JAMA concluded "evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester." Nearly 99 percent of abortions in the U.S. occur before 21 weeks of gestation. President Trump said he'll sign the bill — which would make it a crime to perform abortions after 20 weeks — if it comes to his desk. It includes an exception for rape, incest, or to save a pregnant woman’s life. The bill is unlikely to garner the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. 

Here's how far women have to travel for abortions

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(guttmacher institute)

Meanwhile, women in parts of the U.S. seeking an abortion have to travel hundreds of miles — and in some states, those distances are growing longer. A new analysis finds average distances vary by state — from 3 miles in New York to 169 miles in Wyoming — with women in some rural areas forced to travel more than 330 miles to reach an abortion provider.

In Texas, Montana, Missouri, and Iowa, the average distance to the nearest abortion provider increased more than 30 miles between 2011 and 2014. Except for Iowa, those states introduced more restrictive laws during that time frame. Iowa has since introduced more restrictions on abortion services. Just this week, a county judge ruled against Planned Parenthood, which sued the state over part of a new abortion law that requires a woman to wait three days before an abortion. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are appealing to the state’s Supreme Court.

Sponsor content by Nationwide children's Hospital

Advancing gene and cellular therapy… at a children’s hospital

Nationwide Children’s Hospital is home to a current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) Clinical Manufacturing Facility, operating according to FDA cGMP Guidelines to ensure the safety of its manufactured biologic products. It’s a rarity among pediatric hospitals.

Producing first-in-human trial materials, the facility focuses on rare diseases with no current treatment options — a situation most pharma companies choose not to pursue. See more here.

Study takes on harassment in science and medicine

Sexual harassment in academia can take significant toll on women in science and medicine — so much so that the National Academies are delving into its impact in a new study. Today, the committee working to study the issue is convening graduate students, postdocs, researchers, and educators to hear about what sexual harassment in academia looks like and what policies might be used to prevent or stop harassment. Also on the agenda: a closer look at data from two universities that surveyed science, medicine, and engineering students about sexual harassment on campus. You can sign up to watch the session live here starting at 10:30 a.m. ET.

Celebrities join push to boost ACA enrollment after funding cuts

After the Trump administration slashed the advertising budget for HealthCare.gov, a pair of Obama administration staffers who used to oversee that outreach are stepping up to fill the gap — or at least, some of it. Joshua Peck and Lori Lodes, who worked for CMS under Obama, are launching "Get America Covered" to raise awareness about open enrollment for Obamacare. They'll partner with co-chairs that include screen celebs like Alyssa Milano as well as health-policy celebs like Andy Slavitt and Dr. Mario Molina to raise money to support paid digital advertisements — the kind HHS likely won't be able to run after the Trump administration slashed its advertising budget from $100 million to $10 million.

"Even if we are wildly successful, the chasm this administration has created between what is and what should be happening with open enrollment — we're not going to come even close to closing the gap," Peck told STAT. "But HHS has effectively set the bar so low that we think even a relatively small organization with a small budget may be able to have an impact."

Inside STAT: Clinical trials for pets could help people too

Radiation oncologist Michael Kent is testing high-tech treatments to extend the lives of his patients — patients like Moo, the black and white terrier mix the veterinarian is treating for a recurrent tumor in her paw. Kent is searching for new treatment options for dogs with certain tumors and metastatic cancers, but because dogs and humans have such a similar biology, his research could help treat human cancers, too. At many of the nation's top veterinary schools, veterinarians like Kent are working closely with medical doctors and PhDs to advance clinical research on a wide range of diseases that impact both humans and animals. STAT's Usha Lee McFarling has more — read here

Cholera vaccines sent to aid refugees in Bangladesh

Global health officials are sending 900,000 doses of the cholera vaccine to Bangladesh to immunize Rohingya Muslim refugees pouring into the country. There’s been concern about the potential for a cholera outbreak among the more than 400,000 refugees who’ve fled violent persecution in Myanmar. The news comes as the World Health Organization and its partners rolled out an ambitious new plan to cut the number of cholera deaths each year by 90 percent by 2030.  

What to read around the web today

  • Texas official after Harvey: The 'Red Cross was not there.' ProPublica
  • Are essential oils medicine or marketing? The New Yorker
  • FDA hints it may look into medical marijuana health claims. Bloomberg

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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