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Baby boomers, drugs pushing up federal healthcare spending
Modern Healthcare

The aging population and higher per-person health spending driven by high prescription drug costs will contribute to increased federal spending over the next decade, according to an economic outlook update from the Congressional Budget Office.

The update released Tuesday predicts this year will mark the first increase in the budget shortfall since 2009, as the federal budget deficit will rise to 3.2% of the gross domestic product from 2.5% in 2015.

Medicare accounts for 21% of the $2.4 trillion total projected increase in outlays between 2016 and 2026, while other major healthcare programs account for 13%.

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Hidden Stroke Victims: The Young
Kaiser Health News

The headaches were excruciating and wouldn’t go away. Her doctor said they were migraines. Then, one morning a few weeks later, Jamie Hancock stood up from the couch and discovered she couldn’t move the right side of her body. When she spoke, her speech was slurred.

At the hospital, doctors told her she was having a stroke. The 32-year-old Hancock, whose children were just 1 and 3, had a sobering epiphany: “My whole life is changed forever.”

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Jump starting the brain: Experimental device suggests new path to rousing coma patients
STAT

A team of physicians and neuroscientists on Wednesday reported the successful use of ultrasound waves to “jump start” the brain of a 25-year-old man recovering from coma — and plan to launch a much broader test of the technique, in hopes of finding a way to help at least some of the tens of thousands of patients in vegetative states.

The team, based at the University of California, Los Angeles, cautions that the evidence so far is thin: They have no way to know for sure whether the ultrasound stimulation made the difference for their young patient, or whether he spontaneously recovered by coincidence shortly after the therapy.

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Could Medicare’s new doctor payment system endanger small and rural practices?
Washington Post

Lee Gross is worried. He has practiced family medicine in North Port, Fla., near Sarasota, for 14 years. But he and two partners are the last small, independent medical group in the town of 62,000. Everyone else has moved away, joined larger organizations or become salaried employees of hospitals or health companies.

“We’re struggling to survive,” Gross said. “Our kind of practice is dying in this country, and medicine itself is changing so rapidly that doctors everywhere seem to be burning out.”

The latest challenge — a target of growing physician anger and frustration nationwide — is a 2015 federal law that changes the way Medicare pays doctors. Many fear it will sharply increase the financial pressures that physicians in rural, solo and small practices face.

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act was Congress’s boldest step since the 2010 Affordable Care Act to push the health-care system to reward quality over quantity. The law, which passed with bipartisan support, seeks to use monetary incentives and performance measures to promote better care. It replaced a widely derided reimbursement formula that Congress regularly ignored because it would have cut payments to doctors.

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One-third of ACA exchanges will lack competition in 2017
Modern Healthcare

Nearly 36% of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges will have only one participating health insurer in 2017, up significantly from 4% reported this year, according to a recent analysis.

The report, conducted by consulting firm Avalere, compared insurers in ACA exchanges in 2016 to companies that expect to offer plans in 2017, accounting for companies that have publicly announced their intentions to scale back or exit the exchanges including Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealth Group.

The report also found that about 19% of the ACA’s exchanges may have two carriers in 2017, compared with 29% this year. Approximately 45% of markets will have more than three insurers in 2017, compared with 67% in 2016.

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Here’s More Bad News for Obamacare
Fortune.com

Obamacare was supposed to save the American economy.

Back in 2009, when President Obama decided to push for healthcare reform in the midst of a financial crisis, he justified the decision by arguing that healthcare reform was economic reform, stating that the Affordable Care Act would “build a new foundation for lasting and sustained growth.”

One of the ways that healthcare reform was supposed to boost the economy was ending the phenomenon of “job lock,” whereby workers are scared of leaving a job for a potentially better opportunity out of fear of losing their health insurance. But according to a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Obamacare isn’t actually solving that problem.

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Even a company specifically designed for Obamacare is struggling to figure out Obamacare
San Francisco Chronicle

Oscar, the $2.8 billion health-insurance startup, is pulling out of some Obamacare exchanges.

According to a release from the company on Tuesday, the firm will no longer offer individual market plans through the Affordable Care Act in Dallas, Texas, and New Jersey.

The release said there were “uncertainties in those two markets that will make it challenging for us to operate effectively and continue to deliver access to quality healthcare to all of our members across the country.”

“We hope to return to these markets as we carry on with our mission to change healthcare in the US,” it added.

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States, hospitals challenge HHS gender transition care rule in court
Modern Healthcare

A slew of states, hospitals and thousands of medical professionals sued HHS on Tuesday to challenge its controversial gender transition care rule for violating religious and states’ rights.

Texas and four other states joined forces with the Franciscan Alliance, a Roman Catholic hospital system headquartered in Mishawaka, Ind., and 17,000 medical professionals to allege HHS is forcing them to ignore their medical judgment and sovereign rights to determine medical care coverage. A May rule from HHS prohibited the denial of health services or coverage based on sex or gender identity.

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U.S. lawmakers demand investigation of $100 price hike of lifesaving EpiPens
Washington Post

EpiPen maker Mylan has become the new boogeyman of the pharmaceutical industry.

Following complaints from consumers that the company had hiked the price of the emergency auto-injector by $100 in recent months for no obvious reason, members of Congress are calling for an investigation. The price has increased 450 percent since 2004, when a dose cost $100 in today’s dollars, to its current price of more than $600. Many consumers hadn’t noticed the gradual rise in price, however, because the company often only added in 9 to 15 percent each time and insurance companies had made up the difference. But with recent changes in the deductible structure and co-pays for some health plans that have put more of the cost for drugs on consumers, many families have been hit with sticker shock.

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Busting the Billion-Dollar Myth: How to Slash the Cost of Drug Development
Scientific American

First, there was the pitching and rolling in an old Jeep for eight hours. Next came the river crossing in a slender canoe. When Nathalie Strub Wourgaft finally reached her destination, a clinic in the heart of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she was exhausted. But the real work, she discovered, had just begun.

It was July 2010 and the clinic was soon to launch trials of a treatment for sleeping sickness, a deadly tropical disease. Yet it was woefully unprepared. Refrigerators, computers, generators and fuel would all have to be shipped in. Local health workers would have to be trained to collect data using unfamiliar instruments. And contingency plans would be needed in case armed conflict scattered study participants—a very real possibility in this war-weary region.

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As The For-Profit World Moves Into An Elder Care Program, Some Worry
Kaiser Health News

Inside a senior center here, nestled along a bustling commercial strip, Vivian Malveaux scans her bingo card for a winning number. Her 81-year-old eyes are warm, lively and occasionally set adrift by the dementia plundering her mind.

Dozens of elderly men and women — some in wheelchairs, others whose hands tremble involuntarily — gather excitedly around the game tables. After bingo, there is more entertainment and activities: Yahtzee, tile-painting, beading.

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New program to match Sac State interns with medical startups
Sacramento Business Journal

MedStart, a local not-for-profit medical technology advocacy program, has announced a partnership with California State University Sacramento to place interns with medical startups. The program will funnel talent from the university to startup companies, and it will provide education for the students, said Matt Phillips, program director of MedStart. Organizers hope the program will also create jobs in new companies in the Sacramento region for university graduates.

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Supervisors recommend sale of hospital to Specialty
The Appeal-Democrat

The Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to endorse the assignment of Colusa Regional Medical Center’s lease to American Specialty Healthcare at its Tuesday meeting. The hospital’s bankruptcy trustee requested the board’s approval of the proposal. With that approval, a federal Bankruptcy Court judge has the authority to approve the deal. Before bankruptcy was filed on June 3, CRMC had a lease agreement with the county for the property where the hospital was located.

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Mayers hospital to close its obstetrics ward
Redding Record Searchlight

Pregnant mothers in eastern Shasta County will have to make birthing arrangements elsewhere once the Mayers Memorial Hospital District ceases delivery of newborns in mid-September.

The decision to discontinue birth services comes after hospital officials were faced with declining newborn deliveries, and challenges staffing the unit with trained obstetrics nurses.

“It’s been a constant conversation for the past five years,” said Louis Ward, the hospital’s chief executive officer. “We never wanted to see this day come.”

 

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