News Headlines for November 16, 2018

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Insurance Insights: Fire evacuees get help from insurers
Redding Record Searchlight

Once again our neighbors and friends may be suffering the effects of wildfires and may need help. Medical issues are particularly difficult for those who have evacuated and may not have their medications or only a small supply. Respiratory illnesses are exacerbated by smoke and poor air quality are common issues during these times.

There are a couple of resources that may be helpful.

Teledoc is offering residents of the evacuation zones in California access to their services free of charge.

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Local Hospital Sending Medical Response Team To The Camp Fire
KPBS

Scripps Health is sending a medical response team to Chico made up of five nurses. They’re going to help victims of the Camp Fire which has killed at least 56 people. “There’s a whole lot of survivors that don’t need to be in the hospital — don’t need to go to the emergency room — but have medical issues,” said Scripps Health President and CEO Chris Van Gorder. Cal Fire said there are over 5,000 firefighters trying to put out the Camp Fire. Now California’s Emergency Medical Services Authority, which is in charge of coordinating disaster medical response, is asking for some help.

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Should You Keep Taking Those Fish Oil And Vitamin D Pills?
National Public Radio

Nearly 19 million Americans take fish oil supplements and some 37 percent of us take vitamin D. Many may be motivated by research that has suggested these pills can protect heart health and prevent cancer. On Saturday, NPR published a story on long-awaited research on both supplements that called those claims into question.

The findings of the trial, called VITAL, were complex. When researchers looked at cancer and overall cardiovascular events, they found no protective benefit from taking vitamin D or fish oil supplements.

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How Doctors And Nurses Cope With The Human Toll Of Gun Violence
National Public Radio

Gun violence has become a part of everyday life in America and of the work lives of doctors, nurses and first responders, too. After the National Rifle Association told doctors to “stay in their lane” in response to a policy proposal from the American College of Physicians for reducing gun-related injuries and deaths, there was a backlash. Health care professionals shared heart-wrenching stories about treating people harmed by firearms. How do doctors and nurses cope with their regular encounters with the human toll of gun violence? How does exposure to trauma affect them?

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Not-for-profit hospital industry may have peaked financially, Fitch Ratings says
Modern Healthcare

A new report from Fitch Ratings raises a question that’s likely been on the minds of many who follow the not-for-profit hospitals and health systems: Has acute-care profitability begun a permanent decline?Yet, even as those providers’ margins have slid steadily downward in the past three years, their balance sheets are at an “all-time high,” said Kevin Holloran, a senior director with Fitch Ratings. “So it’s like, ‘Are we coming or are we going?’ We’re actually doing a little bit of both right now,” said Kevin Holloran, a senior director with Fitch Ratings.

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Women Applaud Michelle Obama’s Decision To Share Her Trauma Of Miscarriage
Kaiser Health News

Miscarriage is “lonely, painful, and demoralizing,” Michelle Obama writes in her new memoirs.

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CMS tells Congress federal law inhibits use of telehealth for seniors
Modern Healthcare

Laws around the use of telehealth actually limit it as a healthcare option, the CMS told Congress in a report on Thursday.Under the 21st Century Cures Act, Congress mandated that the CMS compile a report on the number of Medicare enrollees using telehealth services. It also asked about barriers to expanded use. It did not, however, ask for any suggestions on how to fix those legislative barriers.Medicare currently pays for telehealth services only if the beneficiary is in a rural area with a shortage of health professionals or in a county outside of a metropolitan area.

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CVS-Aetna merger OK’d by California regulators
Modern Healthcare

California regulators approved the $69 billion CVS-Aetna merger with conditions on Thursday, bringing the deal another step closer to the finish line.The state’s Department of Managed Health Care said CVS and Aetna agreed to keep premium increases “to a minimum” after the merger, though the agency didn’t define a threshold in its announcement. Like other commercial health insurers, Aetna will still be subject to rate reviews by the department.Among other conditions, CVS and Aetna also agreed to not raise insurance premiums as a direct result of acquisition costs.

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Primary-care visits dropped 18% from 2012 to 2016
Modern Healthcare

Office visits to primary-care physicians have plummeted despite the expectation that frequent checkups with primary-care doctors improve a person’s health and lower costs, new research shows. Primary-care physicians saw 18% fewer patients from 2012 to 2016, according to new analysis from the Health Care Cost Institute that compiled data from Aetna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealthcare. There has been a relatively steady decline in primary-care visits for adults under 65 years old with employer-sponsored insurance since 2009.

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ACA marketplace participation is on the upswing in 2019. But rural areas are still struggling
FierceHealthcare

After years of high-profile insurer exits, the ACA marketplaces are finally set to increase participation again.

But not all counties will share that benefit.

The marketplaces will average four insurance companies per state, according to a projection from Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), up from an average of 3.5 this year. That equates to 58% of enrollees having access to three or more insurers in 2019, up from 48% this year.

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An Underused Strategy For Surge In STDs: Treat Patients’ Partners Without A Doctor Visit
Kaiser Health News

If patients return to Dr. Crystal Bowe soon after taking medication for a sexually transmitted infection, she usually knows the reason: Their partners have re-infected them.

“While you tell people not to have sex until both folks are treated, they just don’t wait,” she said. “So they are passing the infection back and forth.”

That’s when Bowe, who practices on both sides of the North and South Carolina border, does something doctors are often reluctant to do: She prescribes the partners antibiotics without meeting them.

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Editorial: Physicians are right to speak out on reducing gun violence
Modern Healthcare

So the National Rifle Association wants to stifle free speech in order to protect the right to bear arms. Did the gun lobby not notice the First Amendment precedes the Second Amendment in the U.S. Constitution?

After the American College of Physicians late last month updated its position paper on reducing firearm injuries and deaths in the U.S., an anonymous tweeter at the NRA warned the ACP’s 154,000 members to “stay in their lane.”

They are in their lane. It’s the lane that leads to a well-constructed public health approach to curbing unnecessary gun violence in America.

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HHS Secretary Alex Azar declares wildfires a public health emergency; CMS issues program waivers
Healthcare Finance News

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is giving providers and the California Hospital Association technical assistance on Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP program flexibilities as they deal with the public health emergency caused by wildfires in the state.

It has issued a blanked skilled nursing waiver so these facilities can provide continued access to care.

In addition, CMS is reminding Medicare Advantage organizations in affected areas that they are required to waive prior authorization and other gatekeeping requirements to allow care to be pro

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Scripps nurses head north to aid Camp Fire response
San Diego Union-Tribune

Five Scripps Health nurses headed for Northern California Thursday to help with the Camp Fire recovery effort.

Scripps received word from the California Emergency Medical Services Authority Wednesday that its medical response team has been activated for a one-week deployment at a Chico evacuation center. The team is led by Debra McQuillen from Scripps Mercy Hospital with Steve Miller from Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, Anna Coons from Scripps Mercy, Scott Parish from company headquarters and Debra Wood from Scripps Coastal Medical Group.

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