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Forbes Health Stories: The Medical Value Of Marijuana And The Food You’re Throwing Away

In this Thursday, April 20, 2017 photo caretakers oversee a grow room for medical marijuana at ShowGrow, a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Good morning, Forbes Health readers! Here are the great stories we published yesterday:

Getting Struck Twice: Acquisitions And Spinouts In Biotech

Biotech MA deals are often driven by the buyer’s interest in the lead asset in the biotech’s portfolio. In order to capture the full value, spinouts of the secondary assets following an acquisition can be solution. Here are several recent examples.

Marijuana Extract Cuts Seizure Rate In Half For Rare Epilepsy Type

At last, researchers have found evidence of the benefits of a cannabis extract for seizures in a certain type of epilepsy.

Blue Cross Plan Puts 23% Obamacare Rate Hike On GOP Congress

BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina submitted a 2018 rate increase of 23% for individuals policies under the Affordable Care Act, saying it could be much lower if Congress funds cost-sharing reductions.

This Is Garbage, And It’s Quite Nutritious

A recent study shows a trashy way to overcome nutritional deficiencies.

Blood-Based Breast Cancer Detection Test May Help Avoid Biopsy

From mammogram to biopsy, the path of care might have just gotten a little bit more clear thanks to a simple blood test.

Mission Possible: How Healthcare Can Achieve Both Higher Quality And Lower Cost

For years, healthcare reform has pursued the holy grail of higher quality at lower cost. I’ve always believed it’s achievable, and now it’s needed more than ever.

Cannabis Compound Reduces Seizures In Some Children

Cannabidiol, one of the active compounds in cannabis, reduces monthly convulsive seizure rates in children and young adults with Dravet syndrome by half.

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Get Married, Get Healthy? Maybe Not

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Exposing the Obvious About the GOP Health-Care Bill

The gory details of the Congressional Budget Office’s report on the House legislation to “repeal and replace” Obamacare are, in many ways, superfluous. The bill’s flaws, substantive and otherwise, have long been evident. Less clearly understood, though equally disturbing, is the larger political context.

That’s not to say the particulars of the CBO report, released Wednesday, are irrelevant: far from it. The report says the Republican effort would increase the number of uninsured by 14 million in 2018, rising to 23 million in a decade. Millions would lose coverage due to the bill’s cuts to Medicaid. Others would lose it because people who are older, sicker or both would find they are priced out of useful insurance. People with pre-existing health conditions would, once again, be at the actuarial mercy of insurance companies that were never organized to be charities.

These numbers fill in the big picture, which looks something like this: Health care, which depends on highly skilled labor and sophisticated technology, is expensive. Insurance to pay for that care, therefore, is also expensive. It is especially expensive for people who are, due to misfortune or advancing age, prone to costly illnesses.

Providing health insurance to more people, then, requires more money. A lot more. The Affordable Care Act imposed a range of taxes, including a special Medicare surcharge on high earners, to pay for these costs.

The Republican plan, the American Health Care Act, repeals those and other taxes, totaling some $662 billion over 10 years. It also cuts Medicaid funding by $834 billion over a decade.

The bill would provide some funding for tax credits and high-risk pools. But mostly it transfers money currently used to pay for care for the sick and poor to the nation’s wealthiest taxpayers. (According to one estimate, the bottom 80 percent of income earners would see little or no benefit from the plan’s tax cuts.)

Because that upward redistribution of money is politically unpopular, and literally deadly, House Republicans sought to camouflage the basic trade in which they are engaged — reducing access to health care in exchange for tax cuts for the wealthy. The CBO report merely exposed what was obvious all along.

    –Editors: Francis Wilkinson, Michael Newman

    To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at

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Cheese IS good for you – just don’t eat it on its own

Eating plenty of cheese is healthier than you think and does not necessarily increase your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, according to new research.

Researchers looked into the ‘French paradox’ where a high cheese consumption is not linked to increased heart disease.

They discovered that some foods are healthier than you think because of the different chemical reactions that occur within them and any other product they are eaten with.

The benefits of a particular food cannot be calculated on the basis of its individual protein, fat and fibre content, the researchers said.

Cheese, for instance, has a lesser effect on blood cholesterol than would be expected from its saturated fat.

Eating plenty of cheese is healthier than you think and may not increase your risk of disease

Eating plenty of cheese is healthier than you think and may not increase your risk of disease


Eating dairy does not raise the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, a team of international experts found last month.

Even full-fat cheese, milk and yoghurt do not increase the danger, a review of 29 studies revealed.

The findings contradict warnings that dairy can be harmful because of its high saturated fat content.

Dairy only has a ‘neutral’ impact on health, the study found, which included the University of Reading. 

Ian Givens, professor of food chain nutrition at Reading University, said: ‘There’s quite a widespread but mistaken belief among the public that dairy products in general can be bad for you, but that’s a misconception.

‘While it is a widely held belief, our research shows that that’s wrong.’

Dr Givens said public health warnings have seen people shun full-fat versions of cheese, milk or yoghurt, in the mistaken belief that they could harm their health.

Young people, especially young women, risk bone damage and osteoporosis by drinking too little milk, which can also deprive them of calcium. 

The findings follow a controversial report last year suggesting avoiding butter, cream, cheese and other fatty foods is actually fuelling the obesity epidemic.

Now an international panel of doctors – including epidemiologists and nutritionists – have added weight to the idea by saying it’s time to rethink food labelling.

They focused on dairy products and their complex mixture of nutrients.

These different substances can affect digestion, which ultimately changes the overall nutritional properties of a particular food, the researchers found.

Yoghurt and cheese were more beneficial to bone health, body weight and the risk of developing heart disease than would be expected from their saturated fat content, they revealed.

Professor Arne Astrup, head of nutrition, exercise and sports at Copenhagen University, who chaired the workshop of scientists, said cheese is a good example of how a food’s effect on health cannot be judged by its single nutrients.

She said: ‘In contrast to current recommendations that essentially ban full-fat cheese, current research clearly demonstrates important health benefits of cheese for prevention of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers.

‘All the positive effects are due to a complex interaction between beneficial bacteria, minerals and bioactive cheese ingredients.’

Another example is almonds which have been described as a ‘superfood’ despite containing a lot of fat.

This is because they release less fat during digestion than would be expected.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, said food must be evaluated as a whole, not by its individual nutrients. 

Certain nutrients  react with others during digestion to cancel out any potential health effects

Certain nutrients react with others during digestion to cancel out any potential health effects

Lead researcher Dr Tanja Kongerslev Thorning, of Copenhagen University, said we consume foods and meals, not nutrients. 

She said: ‘Researchers have become more skillful over the years, and we have acquired more methods for exploring what specific nutrients mean for digestion and health.

‘But when we eat, we do not consume individual nutrients. We eat the whole food. Either alone or together with other foods in a meal. 

‘It therefore seems obvious that we should assess food products in context.’ 

‘Another example is almonds, which contain a lot of fat, but which release less fat than expected during digestion, even when chewed really well.

She said: ‘The effects on health of a food item are probably a combination of the relationship between its nutrients and also of the methods used in its preparation or production.

‘This means some foods may be better for us, or less healthy, than is currently believed.’

Professor Ian Givens, a nutritionist at Reading University who co-chaired the group said the findings shed fresh light on the ‘French paradox’ of high cheese consumption failing to fuel a hike in heart disease.

He said the team pooled data from studies mainly carried out in Denmark which suggested hard cheese – in particular – has protective effects.

Professor Givens said: ‘Hard cheese is more than 30 per cent fat but we think because of its combination of nutrients a higher proportion passes straight through the gut – meaning it’s not stored by the body.

‘More studies are needed, but ultimately it seems some areas of nutrition science need to be rethought.

‘We cannot focus on a nutrient without looking at how it is consumed – and what else is eaten at the same time.’

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Initial coin offerings risk damaging your financial health

Initial coin offerings risk damaging your financial health

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GOP health bill would raise deductibles, lessen coverage and leave 23 million more uninsured, analysis finds

The Republican healthcare bill that passed the House earlier this month would nearly double the number of people in the U.S. without health insurance over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The much-anticipated report cast a new shadow over the controversial legislation and is expected to complicate Republican efforts to get the bill through the Senate, where it already faces difficult prospects.

According to the budget office, which both parties in Congress look to for estimates on the impact of complex legislation, the bill would cause 23 million fewer people to have health insurance by 2026. Many additional consumers would see skimpier health coverage and higher deductibles, the budget office projected.

Obamacare vs. Trumpcare: A side-by-side comparison of the Affordable Care Act and the GOP’s replacement plan »

President Trump and House Republicans that their campaign to repeal and replace the current healthcare law — often called Obamacare — will protect all Americans’ access to healthcare.

The House bill would be particularly harmful to older, sicker residents of states that waive key consumer protections in the current law, including the ban on insurers charging sick consumers more. The budget office estimates that about one-sixth of the U.S. population live in states that would seek such waivers, which would be allowed under the House bill.

“Over time, it would become more difficult for less healthy people (including people with preexisting medical conditions) in those states to purchase insurance,” the report notes.

Insurance markets in states that dropped Obamacare’s protections would become unstable after 2020, the budget office warned.

Older and poorer Americans would also see higher premiums or lose coverage altogether.

For example, under the House bill, a 64-year-old single American with an income of $26,500 a year would see his or her annual insurance bill jump from $1,700 to $13,600 in states that waive protections now mandated by Obamacare, according to the budget office.

By contrast, a similar consumer who is 21 would see his or her premiums decrease from $1,700 to $1,250, budget analysts projected.

The changes made to get the bill through the House also include additional aid to states to soften some of the blows to low-income consumers. But that means the bill would reduce the deficit by slightly less than the earlier version.

It is now projected to generate $119 billion in budget savings over the next decade.

Meanwhile, wealthy Americans and the medical device and insurance industries still fare best in the House bill.

They stand to benefit from $663 billion in tax cuts over the next decade as the House legislation gradually eliminates taxes that were included in the Affordable Care Act to pay for the law’s coverage expansion.

In the first nine months of 2016, just 8.8% of U.S. residents lacked health coverage, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. That was down from 16% in 2010, when President Obama signed the healthcare law.

Obamacare 101: A primer on key issues in the debate over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. »

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Budget office set to release report on House GOP health bill

Keeping former President Barack Obama’s health care law is “completely unacceptable and totally unsustainable,” the Senate’s top Republican said Wednesday as the two parties braced for a Congressional Budget Office report on a House-passed bill overhauling that statute.

The budget office, lawmakers’ nonpartisan fiscal analyst, planned to release an analysis Wednesday of the impact the GOP-written House bill would have on coverage, consumers’ costs and the federal budget. Its two March reports on earlier versions of the bill projected it would leave 24 million additional people uninsured in a decade, a mammoth number that pushed Republicans onto the defensive.

The new estimates could give talking points to House Republicans, or to Democrats, who voted unanimously against that bill. For GOP senators holding private meetings to sketch out their own legislation, its figures will be a starting point as they consider changing the House’s Medicaid cuts, tax credits and other policies.

Wednesday’s report will be the first time the budget office has gauged the impact of eleventh-hour changes House Republicans made to gain enough votes to pass the bill.

Those provisions included waivers states could get for insurers to raise premiums on some people with pre-existing conditions, and to ignore health benefits that must be covered under Obama’s law. States could also gain permission for insurers to charge older customers far higher premiums.

In addition, the new report could say whether the bill achieved enough budget savings to retain special protections the legislation would have to shield it from a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

Though it’s considered unlikely, if the bill lacks sufficient savings, the House might have to revise the bill and vote again, which could be an ordeal for GOP leaders. The House approved the bill May 4 by a narrow 217-213 with only GOP votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., downplayed the report Wednesday as “a technical procedural step.”

He added, “Whatever CBO says about the House bill today, this much is absolutely clear: the status quo under Obamacare is completely unacceptable and totally unsustainable. Prices are skyrocketing, choice is plummeting.”

Democrats have defended Obama’s law for expanding coverage and requiring insurers to provide stronger benefits.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday that the GOP bill would “gut Medicaid” and force higher out-of-pocket costs on older people and others.

“We can expect today’s CBO analysis will likely show many of the same grave consequences,” he said.

In March, the budget office said the House legislation would increase premiums by an average 15 percent to 20 percent over the next two years, but push premiums 10 percent lower than they’d otherwise be by 2026. Many Republicans say their chief goal is to reduce premiums.

Besides premiums, other critical components of the value of health insurance are out-of-pocket costs and benefits.

Obama’s law included subsidies to help people with modest incomes cover their deductibles and copayments, and spelled out standard benefits like maternity services that insurers must provide. The House bill would eliminate the subsidies for deductibles and copayments, and let states greatly loosen Obama’s coverage requirements.

The House bill would reduce taxes by around $1 trillion over the coming decade, the budget office said, largely on higher-income people and health care industry firms. It would replace Obama’s tax subsidies for health insurance consumers, based mostly on income and premiums, with GOP tax credits geared more to people’s ages.

Most of those losing coverage would be beneficiaries of Medicaid, the health care program for poor and disabled people, though people buying individual policies or getting coverage at work would also become uninsured. The last budget office report said the House bill would cut Medicaid by $839 billion over 10 years.

Erasing Obama’s health care law was a top promise of Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, and by congressional GOP candidates since its 2010 enactment.

But writing legislation that can pass with only Republican votes has proven agonizing. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., canceled a March vote after opposition from party conservatives and moderates would have sealed its defeat, and the two wings of the GOP spent weeks blaming each other for the bill’s demise.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration released a report that found a doubling of average premiums for individually purchased coverage from 2013, just before Obama’s statute took effect, to this year.

The report from Health and Human Services looked at premiums in the 39 states served by, the online exchange for buying coverage. It found the average monthly premium increased from $224 in 2013 to $476 in 2017.

Before 2013, insurers were allowed to turn away people with health problems, and there was no federal requirement for a standard benefits package. Those two “Obamacare” changes made coverage more robust, but also increased the cost.

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Trump’s budget cuts children’s health insurance program

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How Trump’s Budget Cheapens Value-Based Care

The move away from fee-for-service medicine works to reduce health spending by getting patients the right care, in the right place and at the right time.

But the fiscal 2018 budget unveiled by the Donald Trump White House throws up roadblocks to value-based care and population health models on top of its $600 billion cut to the Medicaid health insurance program for poor Americans over 10 years.

“The budget doesn’t stop there,” Bruce Siegel, CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals said of the Medicaid cuts. “It also would strip more than $190 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The loss almost certainly would contribute to hunger and food insecurity, putting children and others at risk and increasing healthcare costs for conditions linked to poor diet.”

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney holds up a copy of President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget as he speaks to the media in the Press Briefing Room of the White House, May 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

By cutting funds to nutrition that helps prevent people from getting sick in the first place, Trump is moving in the opposite direction of the private sector’s speedy move to value-based care. Most large insurers like , , and Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans are moving most of what they pay toward value-based and population health models.

The value-based model means doctors and hospitals are paid based on the quality of the care they provide rather than being reimbursed for the volume of care they deliver no matter how it turns out for the patient. And those picking up the tab for care think it’s more important to make sure people get good-quality care out in the community where it’s less expensive.

This means investments out in the community are more important than they have been in the past. Hospitals and insurers are establishing nutrition programs in inner city food deserts and paying to have social workers enter the homes of poor people to make sure they are getting better treatment upfront before they end up in a hospital where it’s more expensive.

Take the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association’s announcement earlier this month that it was partnering with ride-sharing company Lyft to provide health plan enrollees “no-cost” transportation to the doctor’s office in an effort to improve compliance with healthcare appointments.

Transportation barriers result in “missed or delayed medical appointments” for more than 3.5 million Americans, the association said. Paying for Lyft rides for people who can’t get to the doctor will avoid a poor health outcome and more costs down the road.

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Ethiopian leads race to be next leader of UN health agency

Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former minister of health, was leading the race to become the World Health Organization’s next leader after two rounds of voting Tuesday.

Delegates, health ministers and other high-level envoys were deciding Tuesday between Tedros and Britain’s Dr. David Nabarro, a U.N. veteran. The third candidate, Pakistan’s Dr. Sania Nishtar, was eliminated in the first round of voting.

Ethiopian delegates could be seen hugging and high-fiving each other after their countryman made it to the second round, which Tedros went on to win with 121 votes versus Nabarro’s 62.

The election now moves to a third round of voting; Tedros must win two-thirds of the votes to be named to succeed China’s Dr. Margaret Chan, who is ending a 10-year tenure at the U.N. health agency.

The director-general of WHO wields considerable power in setting medical priorities that affect billions of people and declaring when crises like disease outbreaks evolve into global emergencies.

The agency has stumbled in recent years, most notably in its error-prone response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and all three candidates vowed to overhaul its organization to restore credibility.

Of the U.N. health agency’s 194 member states, 185 were eligible to cast ballots; nine others were either in arrears on their dues or not represented at the gathering.

Before voting started, Tedros, the only non-medical doctor among the three finalists, said it was almost “pure luck” that he was competing to lead WHO.

He noted that when he was growing up in Ethiopia, his 7-year-old brother was killed by a common childhood disease, and it easily could have been him. Among other pledges, Tedros said he would work “tirelessly to fulfill WHO’s promise of universal health care.”

The former health minister has been dogged by allegations that he covered up cholera outbreaks in Ethiopia, and protesters have occasionally interrupted proceedings at the meeting in Geneva this week.

But Tedros received a boost from Dr. Thomas Frieden, an ex-director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frieden wrote a letter published in the New York Times last week that commended Tedros for his creation of a network of 40,000 female health workers that implemented programs to save people from dying of diarrhea and other causes.

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