House Democrats Hold Annual Retreat

While the blizzard that hit the D.C. area last weekend forced the House to remain out of session last week, the chamber’s Democratic members still gathered in Baltimore for their annual policy retreat. During the retreat, House Democrats discussed legislative strategy for the coming year. The theme of the conference was “united for opportunity.” The Vice President gave a keynote address during the conference, and spoke to members about the cancer task force he will be leading. Earlier in the week, President Obama and Biden met with both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to discuss priorities for the remainder of the 114th Congress, including the funding of Democratic appropriations measures and an effort to curb opioid use.

CDC Quells Zika Concerns, But Warns Against Travel

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that a large outbreak of the Zika virus in the United States is unlikely, but has warned women who are or may become pregnant to avoid travelling in the affected areas. The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that can result in life-threatening birth defects in unborn babies. The disease causes only mild symptoms similar to those of dengue fever in adults who are not pregnant. More than 23 countries have reported cases of Zika, and the virus has been most prominent in Central and South America. The United States has recorded approximately a dozen cases, all stemming from people who travelled abroad. There has not yet been a case of a mosquito transmitting Zika within the continental U.S. Based on health officials’ experience with other viruses transmitted by mosquito bite, the prevalence of Zika in the U.S. is expected to be limited. This is the result of the country’s widespread use of air conditioning and window screens, as well as a less dense population when compared to the areas experiencing larger outbreaks. The White House has begun an effort to communicate the risks of the disease, looking to quell fears that Zika is a similar threat as the recent Ebola epidemic. The administration has called for more research on diagnostic testing for Zika, vaccines, and therapies. The CDC explained that it is working to investigate the link between Zika and microcephaly, brain injuries and other rare neurological disorders in newborn babies born to women infected with the virus during pregnancy. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will also be pursuing research. Some lawmakers have expressed additional concerns for the thousands of people planning to travel to Brazil this year for the summer Olympics, which begin on August 5. Brazil has reported thousands of cases of Zika, and hundreds of cases of birth defects associated with the virus. Appropriations Committee member Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) has written a letter to three cabinet secretaries asking what additional funds and legal authorities are necessary to combat the spread of Zika. The World Health Organization (WHO) called an emergency meeting to evaluate the spread of Zika. The CDC noted that it will continue to monitor the situation and remain vigilant.

Study Released on Malpractice Claims

The New England Journal of Medicine has released a new analysis of the prevalence and characteristics of physicians prone to malpractice claims. The study analyzed 66,426 claims paid against 54,099 physicians between 2005 and 2014, and found that approximately one percent of physicians accounted for 32 percent of paid claims. Among those physicians with a paid claim, 84 percent incurred only one in the time period examined, 16 percent had at least two paid claims, and four percent had at least three paid claims. The analysis found that a physician’s risk for recurrence increased with the number of previously paid claims.

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