Trending News Today: Congress May Permit Insurers to Charge Older People Higher Premiums

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

A new study questions whether opioids are the most effective remedy for the treatment of chronic pain, according to Kaiser Health News. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association evaluated 240 veterans with chronic back pain, osteoarthritis of the knee or hip with persistent and intense pain, according to KHN. The patients were either treated with opioids or non-opioid medications, including OTC drugs such as acetaminophen or naproxen, or prescription medications such as lidocaine or meloxicam. Within 6 months, the non-opioid group reported slightly less severe pain than the opioid group. Within a year, the researchers found “no difference between the groups in terms of pain interference with activities. And over time, the non-opioid group had less pain intensity and the opioid group had more side effects,” KHN reported. The study authors hypothesized that opioid tolerance may be an underlying reason for the findings, according to KHN.

Lost in the headlines of the flu epidemic has been the impact the outbreak has had on the homeless population, according to KHN. Due to overcrowding in homeless shelters and poor hygiene, the flu continues to spread in some communities despite showing signs of slowing down overall nationwide, according to KHN. The ongoing epidemic is ongoing in 45 states and Washington, DC, and has left thousands hospitalized and caused the deaths of 114 children, KHN reported. “The gravity of the flu for people who are homeless is enormous. And I think we often underestimate that,” Eowyn Rieke, board member of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, told KHN. Concerns persist that multiple factors associated with homelessness could cause the flu epidemic to worsen within this population. “You’ve got very vulnerable people, who’ve got underlying health problems, poor access to health care, poor environmental conditions, crowded together,” Dr. Margot Kushel, a professor of medicine at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, told KHN. “And then, you throw in a particularly nasty flu and then you really got a recipe for disaster.”

The White House is pushing congressional leaders to include conservative goals in any legislation that seeks to fix problems with the Affordable Care Act, according to The Wall Street Journal. A memo obtained by the Journal encourages lawmakers to allow insurers to charge older people with premiums up to 5 times higher than younger people. The Journal reports the Trump administration is also asking Congress to expand access to health savings accounts and increase the amount of money individuals are allowed to contribute to it, and to support a permanent congressional appropriation that grants subsidies to insurers that decrease deductibles and co-pays for low-income consumers in exchange for exclusions on abortion coverage. “Although congressional efforts to provide taxpayer money to prop up the exchanges is understandable, any such efforts must also provide relief to middle-class families harmed by the law and protect life,” the memo stated, as reported by the Journal. “In order to support such efforts, the administration believes these three policies to provide greater choice and control for middle-class families must be included.”

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