Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of Jan. 27, 2020 – Jan. 31, 2020.

U.S. now has five confirmed cases of Wuhan coronavirus with more suspected cases under investigation

USA Today (1/26, Bacon) reports there are now five confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in the U.S. and more suspected cases under investigation. The five confirmed cases have been reported in Washington, Chicago, Arizona, and two in southern California.

CNN (1/26, Karimi) reports that all five cases “had recently traveled to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.”

Meanwhile, STAT (1/24, Begley) reports scientists around the world are analyzing the Wuhan coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV, and have already sequenced the DNA extracted from almost two dozen samples taken from different patients. The scientists hope to better understand the virus in order to contain the virus and potentially develop a vaccine.

Number of Americans who say they cannot afford physician visits has increased over past two decades, study suggests

Reuters (1/27, Rapaport) reports a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that “a growing number of Americans find it too expensive to see doctors even though more people have health insurance.” Researchers found that while “the proportion of adults without insurance” decreased from 16.9% to 14.8% over the past two decades, “the proportion of adults unable to afford doctor visits climbed from 11.4% to 15.7%.”

White House considering ban on flights between U.S., China amid coronavirus outbreak

USA Today (1/28, Thompson, Tate) reports, “The White House is considering a ban on flights between the United States and China as the new coronavirus outbreak continues to spread...administration officials said late Tuesday.” The article adds, “The administration has discussed the prospect of suspending flights to China, but has not made a decision, officials said, denying some media reports that it had.”

Meanwhile, the AP (1/28, Neergaard, Alonso) reports the U.S. is expanding coronavirus screening to 15 more locations beyond the five airports where it was already implemented. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the expanded screening should not impact the “day-to-day life” of most Americans.

Older adults who consume foods rich in flavonols may have lower Alzheimer’s risk, study suggests

Reuters (1/29, Rapaport) reports a study of 921 adults over 80 followed for six years found that participants who consumed the most “flavonols were about half as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who consumed the least.” The researchers focused on “four flavonols in particular: kaempferol, which is found in kale, beans, tea, spinach and broccoli; quercetin, in tomatoes, kale, apples and tea; myricetin, also in tea, as well as wine, kale, oranges and tomatoes; and isorhamnetin, in pears, olive oil, wine and tomato sauce.” The findings were published in Neurology.

MedPage Today (1/29, George) reports participants “with the highest intake of total flavonols had higher levels of education and more participation in physical and cognitive activities,” and “a 48% lower rate of developing Alzheimer’s dementia,” compared to the lowest quintile of total flavonols intake. Of the four flavonols studied, kaempferol intake demonstrated the greatest reduction in Alzheimer’s risk, while “quercetin was not associated with Alzheimer’s dementia.”

HealthDay (1/29, Norton) reports the quintile “with the highest intake consumed 15 milligrams (mg) a day, on average – three times more than people with the lowest flavonol intake.”

Administration announces Medicaid block grant policy impacting Medicaid expansion beneficiaries

The New York Times (1/30, Goodnough) reports that the administration announced on Thursday its Medicaid block grant program, “Healthy Adult Opportunity.” Under the policy, states would be allowed “to cap Medicaid spending for many poor adults, a major shift long sought by conservatives that gives states the option of reducing health benefits for millions who gained coverage through the program under the Affordable Care Act.”

The Wall Street Journal (1/30, Armour, Subscription Publication) reports that under the new policy, states would be able to convert their current Medicaid funding from the federal government into block grants. The policy enables states to impose prescription drug limits and eligibility requirements.

Reuters (1/30, Humer, Erman) reports states who implement block grants “would align their coverage with that of many private health plans and Medicare prescription drug plans that typically use the threat of excluding a drug from coverage to seek lower prices from manufacturers.” The policy “would require states to commit in advance to either a total Medicaid spending figure or a per capita spending amount in order to receive federal money, a change from the current method in which the federal government reimburses states for a percentage of actual spending.”

The AP (1/30, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports, “the American Medical Association and a professional society representing cancer doctors warned against limits on Medicaid financing, and advocates for low-income people said the administration wants to weaken the social safety net.”

FierceHealthcare (1/30, King) reports “the American Medical Association charged in a statement that any cap on Medicaid funding will ‘increase the number of uninsured and undermine Medicaid’s role as an indispensable safety net program.’”

Editor’s note: Read the full statement from AMA President Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA.

AMA Morning Rounds news coverage is developed in affiliation with Bulletin Healthcare LLC. Subscribe to Morning Rounds Daily.

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