News Headlines for March 31, 2015

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Obama wants $1.2 billion to battle bacteria
USA Today

President Obama says he has a plan to combat the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections responsible for an estimated 23,000 deaths and two million illnesses in the United States every year.

His administration is proposing a series of measures to crack down on over-prescribing, develop new alternative medicines and track infection outbreaks in real time.

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HHS to fund more naloxone programs to halt opioid deaths
USA Today

With death from heroin and prescription narcotics at epidemic levels, Health and Human Services officials said the department would put more federal money and effort behind programs to distribute naloxone, an overdose-reversal medicine to first responders and family members.

The push for naloxone, which includes an expanded grants program for states to purchase the drug, is part of a new initiative to be announced Thursday by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to reduce deaths from prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, and heroin. Heroin-related overdose deaths increased 39% from 2012 to 2013, and prescription opioids accounted for more than a third of all overdose deaths in 2013.

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Telehealth helps providers reach children with ADHD
FierceHealthcare

Telehealth services can be used to help children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder who live in areas where there isn’t easy access to care, according to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Telemedicine is improving access for people in underserved areas for many different psychiatric disorders, which includes ADHD, lead study author Kathleen Myers, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine tells Medscape Medical News.

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In Pursuit Of Patient Satisfaction, Hospitals Update The Hated Hospital Gown
Kaiser Health News

Whether a patient is in the hospital for an organ transplant, an appendectomy or to have a baby, one complaint is common: the gown.

You know the one. It might as well have been stitched together with paper towels and duct tape, and it usually leaves the wearer’s behind hanging out.

“You’re at the hospital because something’s wrong with you – you’re vulnerable – then you get to wear the most vulnerable garment ever invented to make the whole experience that much worse,” said Ted Streuli, who lives in Edmond, Okla., and has had to wear hospital gowns on multiple occasions.

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Supreme Court declines to hear Coons case challenging ACA
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear a second case challenging the Affordable Care Act, the court announced Monday. But those behind the case say the refusal won’t mark the end of their fight.The court on Monday announced that it would not hear Coons v. Lew, a case taking issue with the new healthcare law’s independent payment advisory board (IPAB) – a body critics have denounced as a “death panel.”

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Two-Midnight Rule Enforcement Freeze Extension Pending
HealthLeaders Media

After a year-long enforcement freeze, hospitals want to keep two-midnight Rule audits on ice.

“The two midnight rule is an arbitrary, time-based benchmark,” Priya Bathija, says senior associate director of policy at the Chicago-based American Hospital Association. “Before two midnights, [admission to the hospital] was always the physician’s decision based on medical judgment: a patient’s medical history, the facilities available, the risk of an adverse event, diagnostic testing, and consultation with the patient.”

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Providers can’t sue state Medicaid agencies over rates, Supreme Court rules
Modern Healthcare

Private healthcare providers cannot sue state Medicaid agencies over low reimbursement rates, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Tuesday in a 5-4 decision, reversing a lower court’s ruling.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion that the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says federal laws reign supreme over state ones, does not allow providers to sue state Medicaid agencies over rates. Scalia also wrote that the Medicaid Act implicitly does not allow private parties to enforce a part of the law that requires state plans to “assure that payments are consistent with efficiency, economy, and quality of care” while “safeguard(ing) against unnecessary utilization of . . .care and services.” Congress, he concluded, did not mean for the court to be able to get around that part of the law.

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SGR: Medicare Processing Will Forestall Cuts
HealthLeaders Media

The 21% “negative update” in Medicare reimbursement for physicians mandated by the Sustainable Growth Rate funding formula goes into effect on Wednesday, but physicians will have another two weeks of lag time to account for processing before the cuts take place, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“The Administration urges Congress to take action to ensure these cuts do not take effect,” CMS said this week in an advisory to physicians. “However, until that happens, CMS must take steps to implement the negative update. Under current law, electronic claims are not paid sooner than 14 calendar days (29 days for paper claims) after the date of receipt. CMS will notify you on or before April 11, 2015, with more information about the status of Congressional action to avert the negative update and next steps.”

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An apple a day does not keep the doctor away – really
USA Today

Sorry, apple lovers (and doctor haters). An apple a day does not keep the doctor away, at least according to a new study.

The study, published Monday in an April Fools edition of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, was done for fun and “is very tongue in cheek,” says lead researcher Matthew A. Davis, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s school of nursing.

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Early death rates dropping, but not in many poor areas
USA Today

The rate of early death is dropping in most parts of the country, according to county-by-county health rankings out today.

However, people in many poverty-stricken areas still die young — that is, before age 75 — at a stubbornly high rate, and the percentage of children in poverty is up. One in four children lived in poverty in 2013, up from one in five in 2007, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says in its sixth annual county health rankings.

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Rare diseases become focus of drug development
The Mercury News

The global pharmaceutical industry is pouring billions of dollars into developing treatments for rare diseases, which once drew little interest from major drugmakers but now point the way toward a new era of innovative therapies and big profits.

The investments come as researchers harness recent scientific advances, including the mapping of the human genome, sophisticated and affordable genetic tests and laboratory robots that can screen thousands of compounds per hour in search of the most potent ones.

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Ken Burns tackles history of cancer
USA Today

Ken Burns’ new documentary, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, marks a contrast to the historical documentaries for which he’s best known. Unlike the Civil War or the Roosevelt presidencies, the story of cancer doesn’t yet have an ending.

Burns, the film’s executive producer, says his approach changed as he learned more about the history of cancer research, and the challenges facing doctors and patients today.

“When we first started talking about it, we had this unbelievable optimism that we were on this cusp” of a new era, Burns says.

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Teaming up to beat diabetes
Mountain View VOICE

Dozens of people showed up at the doors of Community Services Agency on Tuesday, some arriving an hour early, to get screened for diabetes. It may not sound like an occasion to get excited about, but needy residents of Mountain View appeared eager to take advantage of a new program that takes on diabetes and fights the root causes of the disease.

The program, called Challenge Diabetes, is a four month-long pilot program where people, free of charge, can come in and get their blood sugar tested for diabetes and pre-diabetes.

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South L.A.’s MLK hospital will reopen with a new healthcare outlook
Los Angeles Times

The new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital doesn’t open until June, but that’s hard to tell with all the people darting in and out of buildings at the South Los Angeles medical facility.

On a recent morning, a doctor crosses the 42-acre campus with a briefcase slung over his shoulder. A patient with a cane hobbles down a path. People in scrubs grab food from a taco truck.

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