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

A Needle Exchange Project Modeled On Urban Efforts Aims To Save Lives In Rural Nevada

Richard Cusolito believes he’s saving lives by distributing clean syringes and needles to people who use drugs in this rural area of northeastern Nevada — but he knows some residents disagree. “I’m hated in this town because of it,” said Cusolito, 60. “I’m accused of ‘enabling the junkies,’ pretty much is the standard term. People don’t get the impact of this whole thing.” (Orozco Rodriguez, 8/24)

Timely Mental Health Care Is A Key Factor In Strike By Kaiser Permanente Workers 

A California law that took effect in July requires health plans to offer timely follow-up appointments for mental health and addiction patients. Whether that’s happening is a point of contention in an open-ended strike by Kaiser Permanente clinicians in Northern California who say staffing shortages saddle them with stifling workloads that make providing adequate care impossible. KP says it is making every effort to staff up but has been hampered by a labor shortage. The therapists — and the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents them — counter that the managed-care giant has difficulty attracting clinicians because its mental health services have a poor reputation. (Wolfson and Finn, 8/24)

‘An Arm And A Leg’: How To Negotiate For Lower Medical Bills

Negotiating medical bills is often possible. It sounds hard — and it can be — but what if we got it down to a science? Mapped out all the moves ahead of time? Jared Walker and his team at the nonprofit Dollar For are running a big experiment to see whether they can do just that.  The folks at Dollar For went superviral on TikTok in early 2021 with a 60-second recipe for crushing medical debt by accessing charity care, financial assistance that most U.S. hospitals are legally required to offer. (Weissmann, 8/24)

Democratic Win In New York Signals Power Of Abortion Issue In Midterm Vote

A New York Democrat who campaigned on abortion rights and the future of U.S. democracy won a special congressional election in a swing district on Tuesday, a victory that Democrats hope could signal a fundamental shift in national voter sentiment ahead of the November midterm elections. Democrat Pat Ryan defeated Republican Marc Molinaro 51.3% to 48.7%, with 99% of the vote counted, Edison Research said, after a hard-fought contest for an open seat in New York’s 19th Congressional District, which spans part of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains region and is known as a bellwether. The district voted for Barack Obama in 2012, Donald Trump in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. (Beech and Warburton, 8/24)

Democrats Gain Momentum: 5 Takeaways From The Last Big Primary Night Of 2022 

A New York special election seen as the last, best test of the electorate’s midterm leanings confirmed what Democrats hoped and Republicans feared: Predictions of a red wave may be overblown. … Everything we know about the overturning of Roe v. Wade is that it will likely be a major motivator for Democrats in the fall. What abortion does not appear to be — given Nikki Fried’s wipeout in the Florida gubernatorial primary on Tuesday night — is singularly determinative. (Siders, Fineout and Dixon, 8/24)

Florida Democrats Choose Rep. Crist To Challenge DeSantis 

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist won the Democratic nomination for governor in Florida on Tuesday, setting him up to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis this fall in a campaign that the Republican incumbent sees as the first step toward a potential White House run. … Crist vowed Tuesday night to make abortion rights a priority. “On Day One of my administration, I will sign an executive order protecting a woman’s right to choose,” he said. (Licon, Peoples and Farrington, 8/24)

Fired Florida COVID Data Scientist To Challenge Gaetz For U.S. House Seat

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) will face Democratic challenger Rebekah Jones, a fired Florida Health Department data scientist who rose to national prominence early in the pandemic, in the state’s 1st Congressional District race in November, per AP. (Falconer, 8/24)

Pew Research Center:
Democrats Drive Abortion’s Rise As Important Voting Issue In Midterms

A majority of registered voters (56%) say the issue of abortion will be very important in their midterm vote, up from 43% in March. Virtually all of the increase has come among Democrats: 71% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters rate abortion as very important; fewer than half (46%) said this in March. By contrast, views among Republicans and GOP leaners have shown almost no change since then (41% now, 40% then).The two parties are essentially tied on midterm voting intentions: 44% say that if the election were held today, they would vote for the Democratic candidate in their district or lean toward the Democrat, while 42% would vote for the Republican or lean Republican. (8/23)

GOP Asks Judge To Toss Lawsuit Challenging Abortion Ban

Republicans who control the state Legislature asked a judge Tuesday to dismiss Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul’s lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s 173-year-old abortion ban. Kaul filed the lawsuit in June after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, the landmark decision that essentially legalized abortion across the country. The ruling gave states the authority to regulate abortion on their own, putting Wisconsin’s ban back into play. The ban prohibits abortions in every instance except to save the mother’s life. (8/23)

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The Washington Post:
After Roe, Teens Are Teaching Themselves Sex Ed, Because The Adults Won’t

Some teens are part of a burgeoning movement of high-schoolers nationwide who, after Roe’s fall, are stepping up to demand more comprehensive lessons on reproduction, contraception and abortion — and who, if the adults refuse, are teaching each other instead. (Natanson, 8/23)

The Wall Street Journal:
Moderna Asks FDA To OK Updated Covid-19 Shot

Moderna Inc. has asked U.S. regulators to authorize a new version of its Covid-19 vaccine that targets the latest coronavirus strains. Moderna said on Tuesday that it is ready to ship doses of the new shot in September if it is cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. … Moderna’s new shot is designed to protect against the original coronavirus strain that emerged in China in late 2019, as well as the Omicron subvariants BA. 4 and BA. 5 that are currently dominant in the U.S. (Walker, 8/23)

The Hill:
Moderna Seeks FDA OK For Updated COVID-19 Booster 

Moderna’s vaccine is intended for adults aged 18 and older. Pfizer’s vaccine will be for adults and adolescents aged 12 and older. … Like Pfizer, Moderna said it does not have clinical trial data for the vaccine. Instead, the request is based on data from a booster targeting an earlier version of omicron, as well as preclinical data from mice. (Weixel, 8/23)

NBC News:
FDA Plans To Authorize Covid Omicron Boosters Around Labor Day

The Food and Drug Administration plans to authorize updated versions of Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s Covid boosters around Labor Day, said two people familiar with the discussions. The Biden administration is preparing to distribute the updated booster shots to teenagers and adults as part of its fall booster campaign. (Lovelace Jr., 8/24)

The Wall Street Journal:
Covid-19 Booster Campaign Is Expected To Launch Next Month

The Biden administration has completed plans for a fall Covid-19 booster campaign that would launch in September with 175 million updated vaccine doses provided to states, pharmacies and other vaccination sites. The administration is procuring the doses, which drugmakers are updating to target the newest versions of the virus. The administration has also informed states, pharmacies and other entities they can begin preordering now through the end of August, according to the administration’s fall vaccination planning guide. (Armour, 8/23)

The Washington Post:
Your First Brush With Coronavirus Could Affect How A Fall Booster Works 

When it comes to viral infections, past is prologue: The version of a virus to which we’re first exposed can dictate how we respond to later variants and, maybe, how well vaccines work. It’s a phenomenon known by the forbidding name of original antigenic sin, and, in the case of the coronavirus, it prompts a constellation of questions. Are our immune systems stuck still revving up defenses against a version of the virus that has vanished? Will updated booster shots that are designed to thwart variants be much better than the original vaccine? How often will we be reinfected? Is there a better way to broaden immunity? (Johnson, 8/23)

Pfizer COVID Shots Appear 73% Effective In Children Under 5 

Vaccinations for babies, toddlers and preschoolers opened in the U.S. in June after months of delay. Only about 6% of youngsters ages 6 months through 4 years had gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-August, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. (8/23)

BA.5, BA.4.6 COVID Variants Continue US Expansion 

Two Omicron subvariants continued to slowly spread in the United States, almost completely edging out BA.2, which became dominant in the spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today in its latest update. … BA.5 now accounts for 88.9% of sequenced samples, up slightly from 88% the previous week. Also, BA.4.6, which first gained traction in the central Midwest, gained more ground and now accounts for 6.3% of sequenced samples, up from 5.3% the week before. (Schnirring, 8/23)

Medicare Recipients Receive Fake Offer For Free COVID-19 Tests

A warning from the Federal Trade Commission said scammers have revived their fake offer for Medicare recipients to get free COVID-19 tests. Con artists are calling people and running websites and television ads to try to convince people to give their Medicare information to get the tests. But if you give them your information, they’ll bill fraudulent charges to Medicare. (Roche, 8/23)

The Washington Post:
Marijuana Use Among Young People In U.S. At Record High, Study Says 

Young people used marijuana and some hallucinogens at record levels last year, according to a new report funded by the National Institutes of Health, as recreational cannabis became legal in more states and as attitudes toward other drugs continue to shift. Nearly 43 percent of young people said they had used marijuana in the past 12 months, up from 29 percent in 2011 and nearly 34 percent in 2016, according to the Monitoring the Future study by the University of Michigan, which surveyed nearly 5,000 young adults between 19 and 30 years old. (Pietsch, 8/24)

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The New York Times:
Marijuana And Psychedelics Use Soars Among Young Adults, Study Finds 

The findings, part of the government’s annual survey of drug use among young Americans, also found that nicotine vaping and excessive alcohol consumption continued to climb in 2021 after a brief pause. Another worrying trend among young people, ages 19 to 30: mounting consumption of alcoholic beverages suffused with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. But there were some bright spots in the survey. Cigarette smoking and opioid abuse among young adults dropped last year, a continuing trend that has heartened public health experts. (Jacobs, 8/23)

Marijuana, Hallucinogen Use At An All-Time High Among Young Adults, Study Shows

The amount of young adults who said in 2021 that they used marijuana in the past year (43%), the past month (29%) or daily (11%) were at the highest levels ever recorded. Daily use — defined in the study as 20 or more times in 30 days — was up from 8% in 2016. (Archie, 8/24)

British Scientists Behind Key COVID Trial Launch Study To Test Monkeypox Treatment 

The British scientists behind one of the major therapeutic COVID-19 trials have turned their focus to treatments for monkeypox, a viral disease that has been labeled a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO). The team from Oxford University behind the so-called RECOVERY trial – which honed in on four effective COVID treatments – on Tuesday unveiled a new trial, dubbed PLATINUM, to confirm whether SIGA Technologies’ tecovirimat is an effective treatment for monkeypox. (Grover, 8/24)

Siga Monkeypox Antiviral To Undergo First Human Tests In UK

Siga Technologies Inc.’s antiviral Tpoxx, which has mainly been shown to fight monkeypox in animal studies, will undergo human testing by University of Oxford researchers as countries look for ways to tackle a growing outbreak with limited vaccine supply. (Lyu, 8/23)

USA Today:
Monkeypox Vaccine Side Effects: What’s That Lump And Should You Worry?

If you’ve gotten vaccinated for monkeypox, you may be familiar with “the lump.” Ever since the viral outbreak reached the U.S. this summer, many people have taken to social media to report side effects of the Jynneos vaccine, which can be injected intradermally (into the skin) or through the more traditional subcutaneous method (below the skin). (Ryan, 8/23)

CBS News:
What Should Schools Do About Monkeypox? New CDC Guidelines Weigh In

Schools and child care centers generally do not need to take extra steps to curb the spread of monkeypox, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. It advises that they can rely on “their everyday operational guidance” to do things like ensure handwashing and clean surfaces, which help reduce the risk of potential cases from the outbreak this fall. (Tin, 8/23)

The Hill:
Fauci Says Threat Of GOP Investigations Did Not Affect Decision To Step Down: ‘Doesn’t Faze Me’ 

CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins asked Fauci Tuesday how much those threats of investigations played a role in his decision to end his decades-long tenure in government. “None at all, Kaitlan. Really none at all, not even a slight amount,” Fauci said. “I have nothing to hide and I could defend everything I’ve done. So that doesn’t faze me or bother me. My decisions of stepping down go back well over a year.” (Choi, 8/23)

Biden Administration Likely To Extend Baby Formula Help For Low-Income Moms 

Biden administration officials are considering further steps to avoid a steep drop in infant formula access for low-income Americans as shortages linger in pockets across the country. Administration officials in the coming days are likely to again extend federal flexibilities for low-income moms and infants to access formula through the federal WIC nutrition program, with current waivers set to expire Sept. 30, according to two people, including a Biden administration official. (Lee, 8/23)

The FDA Stands By As The Vaping Industry Flouts Its Orders

A STAT investigation found that vape companies are regularly flouting the FDA’s orders. They’re making, stocking, and selling illicit goods. And the agency is just letting it happen. (Florko and Welle, 8/24)

Roll Call:
Advocates Urge FDA Action To Ease Policing Fears In Menthol Ban 

Experts and advocates are calling on the Biden administration to do more to avoid potential confrontations between police and racial minorities if the Food and Drug Administration finalizes a ban on menthol cigarettes. (Clason, 8/23)

Kemp Allots $125M In Federal Money For School Health Centers 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Tuesday he would allot $125 million in federal COVID-19 relief money to expand school-based health centers. It’s the latest move by Kemp to spend federal money as he runs for reelection against Democrat Stacey Abrams. (Amy, 8/23)

Nebraska Lawmaker Plans Bill To Legalize Medical Marijuana 

A Nebraska lawmaker from Omaha is promising to introduce a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state after similar measures failed to collect enough valid signatures to appear on the November ballot. Sen. Jen Day said in a news release Tuesday that she will introduce legislation in the upcoming legislative session slated to begin Jan. 4. (8/23)

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South Carolina’s Mental Health Director To Resign Nov. 1

The director of South Carolina’s Department of Mental Health is giving up the post he’s held for two years, officials said. Dr. Kenneth Rogers, a psychiatrist hired to run the agency in April 2020, announced last Thursday at an executive session of a meeting of the Mental health Commission that he would be leaving the department effective Nov. 1, The State reported. (8/23)

The Texas Tribune:
Texas Prisons Without A/C “Living Hell” For Inmates During Hot Summer

Every summer, Texas prisoners and officers live and work in temperatures that regularly soar well into triple digits. More than two-thirds of the state’s 100 prisons don’t have air conditioning in most living areas, putting tens of thousands of men and women under the state’s care in increasingly dangerous conditions. Climate change is expected to bring even hotter summers. The heat has killed prisoners and cost millions of taxpayer dollars in wrongful death and civil rights lawsuits, with a recent fatal heat stroke reported in 2018. (McCullough, 8/24)

Kansas City Star:
People In MO, KS Prisons With No AC Endure Scorching Summers

At the Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City, without air conditioning, the best a prisoner can hope for on intensely hot days is some ice. (Moore and Nozicka, 8/24)

Storm Center:
Humid Heat Could Be A Better Indicator Of Heat-Related Health Risks

High heat combined with high humidity can be a recipe for multiple heat-related health risks. A recent analysis shows that equivalent temperatures, a metric of humid heat, has been increasing since the 1950s, and could contribute to dangerous living conditions now and in the future. (Feito and Ballard, 8/23)

Scientific American:
Some Sugar Substitutes Affect Blood Glucose And Gut Bacteria 

In a new study of four sugar substitutes, researchers found that these nonnutritive sweeteners don’t just travel through the body unnoticed. The study results, published on August 19 in Cell, link two of the sweeteners—saccharin and sucralose—to spikes in glucose levels and suggest all four are tied to a shift in gut microbe profiles. Whether these findings translate into trouble, benefit or neither remains to be seen, and aficionados of diet drinks don’t need to trash the diet soda can just yet. (Willingham, 8/19)

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U. Michigan Study To Help Those With Autism Improve Driving 

University of Michigan researchers are studying how well people with autism spectrum disorder can detect road hazards, and plan to assist the young motorists in sharpening their driving skills. The upcoming effort will be the second phase of a project funded by Ford Motor Co. that teams the Ann Arbor university with a local driving school. (Householder, 8/23)

Chronic Conditions Linked To Financial Hardships

Individuals with a higher number of chronic conditions have a higher chance of encountering financial hardship like medical debt, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. It further cements the connection between well-being and financial stability. (Reed, 8/23)

Modern Healthcare:
Insured Patients Become Top Reason For Bad Debt At Providers

Almost 58% of patient bad debt in 2021 came from self-pay accounts after insurance, compared with about 11% in 2018, according to a recent study from professional services firm Crowe. Self-pay accounts after insurance include the deductible and amount due after the insurance payment. (Hudson, 8/23)

Modern Healthcare:
ChristianaCare-Crozer Health Deal Canceled

ChristianaCare, a Wilmington, Delaware-based not-for-profit health system, signed a letter of intent in February to purchase Springfield, Pennsylvania-based Crozer Health from Prospect Medical and revert the hospital system to not-for-profit profit status. Prospect Medical, health system based in Orange, California, acquired Crozer Health in 2016 and converted it to for-profit. (Berryman, 8/23)

X-Ray Company Carestream, Once Owned By Kodak, Goes Bankrupt

Carestream Health, the century-old medical imaging company founded by photography pioneer Eastman Kodak Co., filed for bankruptcy with a lender-backed proposal to cut its debt by $470 million. (Church, 8/23)

Columbus Dispatch:
Nationwide Children’s Hospital Receives $10 Million Donation

The Steve and Cindy Rasmussen Institute for Genomic Medicine that focuses on genomics as the root cause of many childhood diseases will be among the areas to benefit from the donation. Since its inception in 2016, the institute has provided more than 59,000 clinical genomics-based tests for more than 16,000 patients with a variety of conditions. (Williams, 8/23)

Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Las Vegas ‘Medical Hub’ Moves Closer To Reality

The vision for the growing 684-acre Las Vegas Medical District — which comprises University Medical Center and the soon-to-be completed Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV — was laid out Tuesday at Las Vegas City Hall, in an event that appeared to be aimed at medical professionals and prospective developers. Gov. Steve Sisolak was among those in attendance. (Torres-Cortez, 8/23)

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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