The Rundown | Week of 9.3.2018

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Twenty Republican State Attorneys General Challenge the ACA

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading a charge to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Twenty Republican state attorneys general seek to halt the law beginning on January 1, 2019. The case, Texas vs. Azar, challenges the ACA’s justification by Chief Justice John Roberts, who stated the law is protected by congressional taxing authority. The Texas injunction follows a Department of Justice brief that stated the elimination of the tax penalty, which goes into effect on January 1, does not disqualify the entirety of the ACA, but advocated for the removal of the pre-existing conditions provision. The Republican attorneys general hope to take it a step further by removing the entire law. While a negation of the law may not affect the federal healthcare marketplace for 2019, it would seed uncertainty among insurance companies. The litigation coincides with the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who, if confirmed, would likely preside over the consequent federal case. Kavanaugh’s voting record includes two dissenting opinions regarding the constitutionality of the individual mandate.
>>Read More: What’s At Stake In The Latest Affordable Care Act Court Battle

Controversy Surrounds Health Effects of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is coming under fire as one Harvard professor argues the popular “health” food amounts to “pure poison.” For years coconut oil has been regarded as a healthy cooking and beauty product. Although it has a high concentration of saturated fat, 70 percent of Americans consider the oil a healthy choice. This could in part be due to a set of papers published in 2003 that showed medium chain fatty acids, like those in coconut oil, can help people lose weight. Another study accelerated the popularity of the oil as a healthy food when it showed medium chain triglycerides helped people lose more weight than olive oil, although researchers warned that the data was heavily extrapolated and they had never done a study exclusively focused on coconut oil. Seeking to clear up some of the confusion, the American Heart Association issued an advisory statement warning that the oil thickens arteries due to its role in increasing “bad” LDL cholesterol. While results remain inconclusive, experts agree that whether or not coconut oil is healthy, consumers are advised to include less oil in their diet.
>>Read More: Is coconut oil ‘pure poison?’ Probably not—but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy

Big Tobacco Accused of Targeting Youth

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) and Netnografica claim four tobacco companies used social media platforms to target a young demographic, shortcutting strict regulations on advertising. The allegation follows a two-year investigation that analyzed “influencers” — social media personalities with a large following — on major platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Researchers believe these influencers were paid to model with cigarettes without disclosing that the post was paid or promotional. Netnografica, CTFK, the American Heart Association, and other public health groups have petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to look into the hidden endorsements, which by law must be explicitly stated. The four Big Tobacco companies are thought to have deployed these advertisements in 40 different countries and creating 25 billion impressions, with 8.8 billion impressions made in the United States alone.
>>Read More: Big Tobacco Accused of Using Social Media ‘Influencers’ to Target Youth

High Cost of Insulin Leads to Death

The high cost of insulin led to the death of 26-year-old Alec Raeshawn Smith. Smith, a restaurant manager with an annual salary of $35,000, had rationed his supply of the drug until he could afford more. His salary was too high to qualify for Medicaid or for subsidies in the health insurance marketplace. He decided to go uninsured as his options were limited. Diabetic ketoacidosis took his life less than a month after going off his mother’s insurance. Smith is one of approximately 1.25 million Americans with Type 1 diabetes, and among that group, he was among the 25 percent who ration their insulin due to cost. When insulin injections were discovered in the 1920s, the patent was sold to the University of Toronto for just one dollar, allowing the life-saving drug to be available to anybody who needed it. Today a single vial of insulin costs a hefty $250. Costs are inflated by incremental changes made to the formula, which result in new patents.  Patents on incremental changes to insulin formulas contribute to rising costs while one in four people with diabetes continue to ration their lifeline as Smith did.
>>Read More: Insulin’s High Cost Leads To Lethal Rationing

Theranos Dissolves

Theranos, a startup in Silicon Valley, is ending operations following years of fraud accusations. The blood-testing brainchild of Elizabeth Holmes was hailed as a pioneer for its promise to deliver accurate diagnostics using less than 1 percent as much blood as a standard sample currently requires. Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 when she was 19 years old and accumulated $700 million from venture capitalists and private investors, resulting in a $9 billion valuation. Hailed as a medical breakthrough at first, opinions changed following a critical assessment from investigative reporter John Carreyrou. In June, Holmes was replaced as CEO by David Taylor, who made the announcement that the company was dissolving. Holmes has been indicted on federal wire fraud charges and misleading investors. The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Holmes and Theranos for $700 million in March for making exaggerated claims to investors regarding the medical technology’s accuracy.
>>Read More: Theranos is shutting down for good

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