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Key EpiPen competitor out in 2017 at ‘very very low’ cost
USA Today

Allergy sufferers will have at least one more option to treat life-threatening.allergic reactions in the first half of 2017, but it’s unclear how the price will compare to the EpiPen or its upcoming generic version.

Kaleo, which makes the Auvi-Q, will reintroduce the epinephrine auto-injector at a “very, very low” cost to patients, said Kaleo CEO Spencer Williamson. Mylan Specialty, the maker of EpiPen, came under fire from members of Congress and parents beginning in August for its large price increases.

It’s been a long road to EpiPen competition.

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Ambitious experiment plans to release bacteria-bearing mosquitoes at large scale

Two major philanthropic organizations, along with the United States and Britain, announced on Wednesday an ambitious experiment to combat mosquito-borne diseases in cities by infecting the insects with crafty bacteria.

Researchers have used the bacteria, known as Wolbachia, in trials in places including Australia and Brazil in recent years. But those efforts were small, reaching areas with tens of thousands of residents.

The new trials will cover urban areas with millions of people. The goal: to see if the promising results from the early field trials can be replicated, and, possibly, to demonstrate that the approach can halt viruses like Zika and yellow fever.

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A new kind of drug is working better than chemotherapy in some lung cancer patients
Business Insider

For people with advanced forms of lung cancer, chemotherapy might not be the only — or even the best — option.

The drug, marketed as Keytruda, is one of a new set of drugs called immunotherapy. The drug targets the programmed cell death 1 (or PD-1) receptor and allows the body’s own immune system go after the cancer cells.

Merck, the maker of Keytruda, just finished a new trial on the drug, for patients who haven’t yet been treated for advanced non-small cell lung cancer. The results are published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and were presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology conference.

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Biden talks Cancer Moonshot at innovation summit
Modern Healthcare

When Beau Biden needed an MRI scan transferred from one health system to another, his father, Vice President Joe Biden, said the systems had to resort to a cell phone to take and send a picture in lieu of electronic records that could talk to one another. “Can you imagine any other company in the world working that way?” Biden said in a speech Monday, Oct. 24. “You badly need an innovation conference here.” Biden, who delivered the keynote address at the Cleveland Clinic 2016 Medical Innovation Summit, lost his son to cancer in 2015. During his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama put Biden in charge of the Cancer Moonshot, a national effort to end cancer.

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Double-digit premium hikes unlikely to affect most ACA shoppers
Modern Healthcare

Health insurance premiums for the benchmark exchange plans are set to rise 25% on average in 2017—an eye-popping figure that has fueled another wave of finger-pointing among Republicans seeking to dismantle the healthcare law. But policy experts say the projected double-digit hikes are unlikely to affect the majority of people who enroll in health plans through the federal exchange.The fourth open enrollment kicks off Nov. 1 and will run for three months.

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Copycat enrollment websites hamper ACA sign-up efforts
Modern Healthcare

With the Affordable Care Act’s three-month enrollment starting next week, ACA navigators around the country are girding to help consumers with a wide range of challenges in selecting and signing up for an individual-market health plan. Even in optimal circumstances, many consumers find it hard to understand their choices and pick a plan that best meets their needs on price, out-of-pocket costs, and provider network.

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Health-Coverage Confusion as Trump Attacks ‘Horrible’ Obamacare
The Wall Street Journal

With his fellow Republicans using the 2017 Affordable Care Act premium increases a cudgel to hammer Democrats, Donald Trump on Tuesday suggested his resort employees are being harmed by the 2010 health care law — before reversing himself later in the morning.

With about 200 employees from three of Mr. Trump’s south Florida properties standing behind him, the Republican presidential nominee asserted the health-care law has harmed his workers’ health care.

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Health care costs rise slowly for those who get insurance at work
San Francisco Chronicle

Health insurance costs for Americans who get their coverage through their jobs have seen only small annual increases since the federal Affordable Care Act went into effect, despite soaring premiums in the new marketplaces.

Employee contributions to their health expenses rose more slowly between 2010 and 2015 in most states, including California, than they did in the previous five years, according to a report released Wednesday by the Commonwealth Fund. Still, employee salaries haven’t kept pace with health costs.

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What Would A Public Insurance Option Look Like?
Kaiser Health News

The “public option,” which stoked fierce debate in the run-up to the Affordable Care Act, is making a comeback — at least among Democratic politicians.

The proposal to create a government-funded health plan, one that might look like Medicare or Medicaid but would be open to everyone, is being advocated by some federal officials, and gaining traction here in California too.

Amid news that two major insurers were pulling out of Affordable Care Act exchanges, 33 senators recently renewed the call for a public option. The idea was first floated, then rejected, during the drafting of the federal health law, which took effect in 2010.

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Why employees feel so pinched by health-care costs
Washington Post

The growth in employees’ share of health-care premiums and deductibles has slowed over the past decade, but their incomes have lagged behind, according to a new study.

The slower increase in premiums reflects a nationwide trend in health expenses. But the shift hasn’t felt like a reprieve to many people because the growth of deductibles hasn’t abated as much and their incomes haven’t kept up.

Families that receive insurance through their employer spent, on average, 6.5 percent of their income on premiums and deductibles in 2006, according to the study by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund. By 2015, those expenditures grew to 10.1 percent of income.

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CMS gives providers more ways to enroll in alternative payment models
Modern Healthcare

The Obama administration is touting continued progress in achieving its goal of tying half of all healthcare spending to alternative payment models by the end of 2018. HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell also said the CMS would give providers more opportunities to become involved in Medicare’s alternative models.“That’s incredible progress. It’s historic,” she said. “But it’s just a start. We have a long road ahead.”Burwell said the CMS will re-open the Next Generation ACO and Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) models to applicants for the 2018 performance year.

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Access to health services would shrink without Medi-Cal, so vote ‘yes’ on Prop. 52
San Luis Obispo Tribune

When a program works as it should — providing billions of dollars in federal funds at no extra cost to state taxpayers to protect access to health care for millions of Californians — it only makes sense to keep that program going.

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An Alternative To The EpiPen Is Coming Back To Drugstores
National Public Radio

The EpiPen, the anti-allergy device that’s been under investigation because of huge price increases, is soon going to have some competition. Kaleo Pharmaceuticals, a small privately held drugmaker, says it plans to bring the Auvi-Q epinephrine auto-injector back onto the market in 2017. Both the Auvi-Q and EpiPen devices inject a dose of epinephrine into the thigh of a person experiencing a severe allergic reaction. Auvi-Q, one of the only direct competitors to the EpiPen, was pulled from the market by the pharmaceutical giant Sanofi last year.

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Terminally Ill Patients Don’t Use Aid-In-Dying Laws To Relieve Pain
Kaiser Health News

Supporters of “death with dignity” have succeeded in legalizing medical aid-in-dying in five states by convincing voters, lawmakers and courts that terminally ill patients have the right to die without suffering intractable pain in their final days or weeks.

When Gov. Jerry Brown signed California’s law in 2015, he said: “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain” and that it would be a “comfort to consider the options afforded by this bill.”

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St. John’s hospital parent considers merger
Ventura County Star

The Dignity Health organization that operates two Ventura County hospitals is considering merging with Catholic Health Initiatives, which operates 103 hospitals in 18 states.

Officials of the two systems announced in a statement that they’ve signed a nonbinding letter expressing their plan to enter merger talks.

“Health care is at a turning point in our nation,” said Lloyd H. Dean, president/chief executive officer of Dignity Health. “Through a stronger strategic and financial foundation, an aligned ministry would accelerate our ability to advance our healing mission into the future.”