Congressional investigators are demanding answers from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner after she reportedly instructed a subordinate to “delete” an Obamacare-related email conversation involving key White House officials.
In a August 15 letter to Tavenner, leaders of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce bring to light an October 5, 2013, email discussion involving White House representatives. The email was then forwarded to the CMS communications director with the following message: “Please delete this email-but please see if we can work on call script.”
According to veteran journalist Sharyl Attiksson, this revelation is “significant” for a number of reasons:
First, the email to be deleted included an exchange between key White House officials and CMS officials. Second, the email was dated October 5, 2013, five days into the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov. Third, federal law requires federal officials to retain copies of –not delete– email exchanges. And fourth, the document to be deleted is covered under Congressional subpoena as well as longstanding Freedom of Information requests made by members of the media (including me).
Members of Congress are now requesting answers from Tavenner, including why she instructed a subordinate, CMS Director of Communications Julie Bataille, to delete the email exchange rather than telling her to retain it as she claimed was the official policy.
As Attkisson notes, those copied on the email exchange included Jeanne Lambrew, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, White House health care advisor Christopher Jennings, as well as other HHS and CMS officials.
In the 2013 email exchange, Tavenner reportedly explained how CMS staff were dealing with the high volume of Obamacare applications as Healthcare.gov failed. She noted officials were accepting PDF files that “look and act like a paper application” while also trying to accept some information online. Eventually, another official asked for more details on the process.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently informed Congress that they would not be able to produce some of Tavenner’s emails requested under a subpoena as they were deleted. Lawmakers, who are investigating the “processes and procedures” that led to the disastrous rollout of Healthcare.gov, were told “most but not all” of the emails would likely be provided.
Tavenner blamed the email loss on the “extremely high volume of emails” that she receives on a daily basis.
The Friday letter from lawmakers asks Tavenner if any other emails were purposefully deleted and how CMS intends on attempting to recover them. Lawmakers also requested an explanation regarding several redactions made in some documents already provided to Congress.
“[N]ow we know that when HealthCare.gov was crashing, those in charge were hitting the delete button behind the scenes,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said in a statement.
Despite the “delete” request, CMS spokesman Aaron Albright told FoxNews.com that the email exchange was saved anyway.
Scientists have created a technique which can cause cancer cells to self-destruct by injecting them with salt.
Researchers from the University of Southampton are part of an international team that has helped to create a molecule that can cause cancer cells to die by carrying sodium and chloride ions into the cells.
Synthetic ion transporters have been created before but this is the first time researchers have demonstrated how an influx of salt into a cell triggers cell death.
These synthetic ion transporters, described this week in the journal Nature Chemistry, could point the way to new anti-cancer drugs while also benefiting patients with cystic fibrosis.
“This work shows how chloride transporters can work with sodium channels in cell membranes to cause an influx of salt into a cell. We found we can trigger cell death with salt,” said study co-author Professor Philip Gale, of the University of Southampton.
Cells in the human body work hard to maintain a stable concentration of ions inside their cell membranes. Disruption of this delicate balance can trigger cells to go through apoptosis, known as programmed cell death, a mechanism the body uses to rid itself of damaged or dangerous cells.
One way of destroying cancer cells is to trigger this self-destruct sequence by changing the ion balance in cells.
Unfortunately, when a cell becomes cancerous, it changes the way it transports ions across its cell membrane in a way that blocks apoptosis.
The researchers have overcome this by developing the synthetic way for transporting the ions but unfortunately this also destroys healthy cells which would have to be overcome for it to be useful in treating cancer.
Prof Jonathan Sessler, at Austin’s College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas, said: “We have thus closed the loop and shown that this mechanism of chloride influx into the cell by a synthetic transporter does indeed trigger apoptosis.
“This is exciting because it points the way towards a new approach to anti-cancer drug development.”
A patient at a New York hospital remains in isolation Tuesday as doctors await test results to determine if the man has contracted the Ebola Virus, which has killed more than 800 people in Africa.
That patient walked into the emergency room at Mount Sinai Hospital on the Upper East Side unannounced Monday afternoon showing signs consistent with the illness, namely high fever and gastrointestinal problems.
He apparently had just returned from a trip to West Africa.
Health officials say its highly unlikely the patient has the Ebola Virus, but by later Tuesday, doctors should know for sure.
The response in the ER was immediate, and doctors assure the patient will receive the best care possible.
“We believe the care that can be provided here would be sufficient for any patient with that disease,” hospital president and COO Dr. David Reich said. “We are hopeful there will be a rapid recovery and this turns out not to be Ebola.”
Officials instituted special measures last weekend to deal with such cases.
Up to this point, the Centers for Disease Control says three other people have been tested in the United States, and all tested negative.
Only about 40 percent of people who contract the Ebola Virus survive.
At the hospital, officials say they are more than prepared to deal with situations like this one.
“All necessary steps are being taken to ensure the safety of all patients, visitors and staff,” the hospital said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with federal, state and city health officials to address and monitor this case, keep the community informed and provide the best quality care to all of our patients.”
Testing for Ebola is done at the CDC. According to a CDC spokesperson, testing for Ebola takes one to two days after they receive the samples.
“Many things cause fever and gastrointestinal symptoms,” ABC News’ Dr. Richard Besser cautions. “The steps they are taking are wise given the travel history, but nothing about the symptoms is specific to Ebola.”
The Ebola virus causes a hemorrhagic fever that has sickened more than 1,300 people in Africa, killing more than 700 mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. It is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or urine, unlike an airborne virus like influenza or the common cold. A person exposed to the virus can take up to 21 days to exhibit any symptoms, making it possible for infected travelers to enter the U.S. without knowing they have it.
Federal agents at U.S. airports are watching travelers from Africa for flu-like symptoms that could be tied to the recent Ebola outbreak, as delegations from some 50 countries arrive in the nation’s capital for a leadership summit this week. Border patrol agents at Washington’s Dulles International and New York’s JFK airport in particular have been told to ask travelers about possible exposure to the virus and to be on the lookout for anyone with a fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash or red eyes.
“There is a screening process that individuals have to go through when they board aircraft departing the countries where this outbreak has been reported. There is additional screening that occurs when individuals who started in that region of the world arrive in this country,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
If a passenger is suspected of carrying the deadly virus, they would be quarantined immediately and evaluated by medical personnel, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provided the additional training to local airports.
“There is always the possibility that someone with an infectious disease can enter the United States,” CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said Monday. “The public health concern is whether it would spread, and, if so, how quickly.'”
While the CDC says it is not screening passengers boarding planes at African airports – the job of local authorities there – the center said it has encouraged vulnerable countries to follow certain precautions. Outbound passengers in the countries experiencing Ebola are being screened for fevers and with health questionnaires, Reynolds said.
Health officials say the threat to Americans remains relatively small, even with the uptick in travel this week between Africa and the United States. In the past decade, five people have entered the U.S. known to have a viral hemorrhagic fever, including a case last March of a Minnesota man diagnosed with Lassa Fever after traveling to West Africa.
A local woman is being tested for the Ebola virus after a recent trip to a foreign country.
According to the Columbus Public Health Department, the 46-year-old woman is currently in isolation in a local hospital with a potential case of the Ebola virus.
The woman had recently returned from a trip to a foreign country that is affected by the Ebola virus outbreak.
She is reportedly “doing well” in her recovery.
A sample has been sent to the CDC for examination.