The Weekly Insight: November 27

27th Nov 2017

Texas Insight Reports: November 20-24
  • Deaths of Despair in Texas: Texas Mortality Rates: This is the second posting in TI’s series exploring whether and how deaths of despair are affecting Texas. This week’s posting will give a more in-depth look at mortality rates and how they might be changing in Texas. Note that the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is the source for state mortality data by educational attainment level and they were unable to fulfill our data request (submitted Monday the 13th of November) due to staffing shortages.
  • HHSC: Texas Drug Utilization Review (DUR) Board: The DUR met in their quarterly meeting to address class and specific products that will be included in the Preferred Drug List, and to engage in discussion on prior authorization criteria for selected products. One section was not available due to a problem at HHSC in broadcasting the meeting.
  • HHSC: Policy Council for Children and Families: Policy Council for Children and Families works to improve the coordination, quality, efficiency, and outcomes of services provided to children with disabilities and their families through the state’s health, education, and human services systems. They met to develop recommendations for their biennial report.
Federal Healthcare Policy
  • Abortion Providers Brace for New Trump Funding Fight: The Trump administration has a new opportunity to target the funding of Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions. The Department of Health and Human Services Department (HHS) will soon set the terms for obtaining grants under Title X, a federally funded family planning program long reviled by conservatives.
  • Obamacare Sign-Ups Are Surging, but There’s a Twist: Despite the Trump administration’s efforts to scale back the health law, about 300,000 more people have signed up for health insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces in the first weeks of this enrollment period than last year.
  • Senators Seek Info on US Efforts to Block Opioid Shipments: The leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are seeking details on federal efforts to prevent shipments of powerful synthetic opioids from entering the United States.
  • Miles from Flint, Residents Turn Off Taps in New Water Crisis: They found pollutants in the water at the National Guard armory in June. Then contractors showed up to test nearby residents’ wells, many of which were also tainted. Soon, people from several miles around were turning off their taps and even brushing their teeth with bottled water. Panic over the water in this part of western Michigan seems to grow by the day. The Rogue River, which runs through, tested high for contaminants this month. Days later, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan announced an “action team” to address the substances. Health officials say they are studying a possible cancer cluster.
  • Skin Cancers Rise, Along with Questionable Treatments: The once sleepy field of dermatology is bustling these days, as baby boomers, who spent their youth largely unaware of the sun’s risk, hit old age. The number of skin cancer diagnoses in people over 65, along with corresponding biopsies and treatment, is soaring. But some in the specialty, as well as other medical experts, are beginning to question the necessity of aggressive screening and treatment, especially in frail, elderly patients, given that the majority of skin cancers are unlikely to be fatal.
  • New Gene Treatment Effective for Some Leukemia Patients: A new way of genetically altering a patient’s cells to fight cancer has helped desperately ill people with leukemia when every other treatment had failed, researchers reported on Monday in the journal Nature Medicine.
  • Texas Abortion Law is Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules: The ruling against a restriction on a second-trimester procedure was “a complete victory” for abortion rights advocates, a lawyer said. Texas plans to appeal.