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This Week In Public Health: When The Chips Are Down...Who Gets Care?

Komen Tissue Bank

When health care costs so much, who decides who receives treatment? Earlier this summer, a huge insurer refused to reimburse emergency visits it deems "unnecessary" in an effort to cut spending. In one Indiana county, a sheriff orders his deputies to stop using its dwindling naloxone supply on OD victims in case they need it themselves (but later reverses course.) Plus, a new Senate bill could mean private insurers could end up charging sicker patients a whole lot more.

This week from Side Effects:

A Visit To The World's Only Healthy Breast Tissue BankOf course scientists can learn a lot from studying cancerous tissue. But researchers need healthy tissue to study, too. WFYI's Jill Sheridan visits the Komen Tissue Bank at Indiana University on its tenth anniversary to learn how thousands of healthy tissue donors have helped researchers understand the disease.

Maybe Think Twice In a handful of states, the country's second-largest insurer, Anthem, has decided it won't cover emergency room visits it deems unnecessary. Amid skyrocketing health care costs, the measure is an attempt for insurance companies to reign in unwarranted spending. But doctors say asking patients to make the call on whether they're having an "emergency" or not is an incredibly risky move. Side Effects' Durrie Bouscaren reports. 

Credit James Vavrek / WTIU

Save Yourselves? With its supply of the anti-overdose drug naloxone quickly running out, the sheriff in Monroe County, Indiana told his deputies to quit using it on emergency overdose calls and instead save it to protect themselves. The directive was reversed almost immediately after the health department and a local advocacy quickly donated dozens of boxes of the drug.

Credit Gage Skidmore /

Who Wins, Who Loses With Latest Health Care Bill Once again, theGOP has revamped its Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill with hopes of bringing vital votes to the table. The Senate's newest offering allows private insurers the ability to offer skimpier plans and leaves Affordable Care Act's taxes on the wealthy intact. What does the newest version mean for the elderly? For the poor? For the middle class? NPR's health team's got it covered a this nifty chart.

What our reporters are reading elsewhere around the web:

Leaders of the Plaque Some of the most powerful people in Washington are the ones you might not expect. Dentists have a wholesome appeal, writes the Washington Post's Mary Jordan, but they're "so unified, so relentless and so thoroughly woven into American communities [their] clout rivals that of the gun lobby."

RAT LUNGWORM No, it's not the name of your kid brother's crustpunk band. It's a terrifying parasite that burrows tunnels in a host's brain (!) ...and Hawaii is seeing a spike in cases. (The New Yorker)

More Than A Drop In The Bucket Remember 2014? Taylor Swift had just released 1989, Uber was a fresh, new curiosity...and scads of people were dropping pails of ice-cold water on their heads to raise money for ALS research. STAT News wonders: Where did the millions raised from the Ice Bucket Challenge go?

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