News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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CMS to allow states to define essential health benefits
Modern Healthcare

The CMS proposed a rule late Friday aimed at giving states more flexibility in stabilizing the Affordable Care Act exchanges and in interpreting the law’s essential health benefits as a way to lower the cost of individual and small group health plans. In the 365-page proposed rule issued late Friday, the agency said the purpose is to give states more flexibility and reduce burdens on stakeholders in order to stabilize the individual and small-group insurance markets and improve healthcare affordability.

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Healthcare industry to create 4 million jobs by 2026
Modern Healthcare

The healthcare industry will continue to drive the nation’s employment growth through 2026 by adding around 4 million new jobs, accounting for about a third of total job growth, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released earlier this week. The fastest-growing sectors include healthcare support occupations (23.2% increase from 2016-2026) and healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (15.2%), which entail home health aides, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, among other positions.

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With Federal Funds Cut, Others Must Lead Health Insurance Sign-Up Efforts
National Public Radio

Starting next week, Americans will again be able to shop for health plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. Open enrollment in most states runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15. But a lot of people don’t know that because the Trump administration slashed the marketing budget for Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. So states, municipalities, community groups, insurers and others are strengthening their outreach efforts.

In Texas, some cities and local governments are doing their best to get the word out, but it will be hard to reach the more rural communities.

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Republicans’ failure on health care is unacceptable
The Hill

This year, Washington has wasted months in an often-misguided debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And, while this debate has raged within one political party, two important programs have been forgotten: the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has expired and the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) program was left to be slashed at the beginning of this month.

Both programs have traditionally enjoyed very broad bipartisan support. I partnered with a Republican colleague in our legislature to fund Pennsylvania’s first-in-the-nation CHIP program. And, in 2015, the CHIP program was reauthorized with language that prevented cuts to DSH payments by a decisive margin of 92-8 in the Senate and 392-37 in the House

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Is Obamacare Dead?
The Health Care Blog

“It’s dead. It’s gone. There’s no such thing as Obamacare anymore. It’s no longer – you shouldn’t even mention.”
— President Donald J. Trump  October 17, 2017

Not so fast, President Great-Again. First off, this is an obviously and flatly false statement. But also, don’t look now but Congress and the Trump administration itself are haltingly and chaotically moving to enact bipartisan legislation to stabilize the ACA exchange marketplaces for 2018 and 2019.

Importantly, passage of such a measure would get the ACA through the 2018 mid-term elections, although it’s unlikely that any legislation will tamp down the long-running and fierce debate about the fate and future of the law.

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Money For Health Law Navigators Slashed — Except Where It’s Not
Kaiser Health News

Despite all the efforts in Congress to repeal the health law this summer and fall, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land. People can start signing up for health insurance for 2018 starting Nov. 1. But the landscape for that law has changed a lot.

Take navigators. Those are specially trained people who help consumers sign up for coverage. The federal government cut navigator funding by 41 percent. But that’s not an across-the-board cut. Some groups and states are dealing with far deeper cuts, while others will have dollars close to what they had last year.

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Big Gains In Latino Coverage Poised To Slip During Chaotic Enrollment Season
Kaiser Health News

Latinos, who just a year ago were highly sought customers for the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace plans may not get the same hard sell this year.

The Trump administration’s laissez-faire approach toward the upcoming enrollment period for the health law’s insurance marketplaces could reverse advances made in the number of Latinos with coverage, fear navigators and community activists.

Enrollment outreach efforts during the Obama administration targeted Latinos, both because they have a high uninsured rate and because a large proportion of the community is young and fairly healthy, criteria prized by insurers to help balance older, sicker customers, who are more likely to sign up.

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The cost of cutting care for our nation’s poor is far too high
The Hill

For months, we’ve watched Congress try to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the most significant expansion of health-care coverage in the U.S. since the 1965 passage of Medicare and Medicaid. While Congress has thus far failed to pass a bill undoing the ACA, there remain efforts in Washington to weaken the law and to make it harder for citizens who need coverage under the ACA to access it.

The fate of “repeal and replace” ultimately rested with a few Republican senators concerned about how their neediest constituents would fare under the proposals put forth by their GOP colleagues.  They had reason to worry, because a common feature of those proposals was the gutting of federal spending on Medicaid, which now covers 40 percent of the country’s low-income adults and 76 percent of children in poverty. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that spending reductions in the more draconian proposals would have forced about 15 million poor Americans off the Medicaid rolls by 2026.

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Covered California addresses 2018 open enrollment confusion
The Mercury News

The calls from Bay Area consumers worried about their 2018 Obamacare health care plans keep filling up Kelley Filice Jensen’s voicemail.

“People are very confused,’’ the San Jose health insurance agent said. “They want to know if their plans are being canceled, or if their coverage will go away any minute and they’ll be stuck without any insurance.’’

In Oakland, insurance agent Jonathan Greer also is hearing from bewildered clients, including enrollees in Obamacare plans who stand to lose their Anthem Blue Cross policies next year.

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California confronts opioid addiction, an ‘epidemic of despair’
CALmatters

Michael Steelman perches at the edge of the Sacramento River, skipping rocks across the clear water. His dad’s Harley Davidson, borrowed for the excursion, is parked nearby. In this popular Shasta County park, Steelman finds solace nearly every day, sitting, walking, skateboarding, thinking. The California native left his wife and two children in Georgia nearly four months ago, taking shelter with his parents to face an addiction to painkillers after 11 years of taking the opioid drugs for a neck injury.

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Flurry Of Federal And State Probes Target Insulin Drugmakers And Pharma Middlemen
Kaiser Health News

With the price of a crucial diabetes drug skyrocketing, at least five states and a federal prosecutor are demanding information from insulin manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry’s financial middlemen, seeking answers about their business relationships and the soaring price of diabetes drugs.

Attorneys general in Washington, Minnesota and New Mexico issued civil investigative demands this year and are sharing information with Florida and California, according to various corporate financial filings.

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Breast cancer patients regularly choose costlier, more aggressive treatment
Modern Healthcare

Breast cancer patients routinely opt for longer and more costly treatments even when they are eligible for less aggressive options, according to a new study. The report, published by consulting firm Oliver Wyman Health, found that 75% of radiation oncologists administered conventional treatment courses that last more than five weeks to breast cancer patients even though they were eligible for treatments that last between three to four weeks.

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Stem cell: Arthritic knee research in $33 million award
Capitol Weekly

The California stem cell agency has awarded $33 million for clinical trial research, but not before some governing board members questioned the appropriateness of backing an effort to treat osteoarthritis of the knee.

The awards on Thursday bring to 43 the number of clinical trials funded by the stem cell agency, formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). The agency is pushing hard to fulfill the promise of the 2004 ballot campaign that created the $3 billion effort. Clinical trials are the last stage before a treatment can win federal approval.

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Anthem’s decision to pull out of insurance market fuels angst in Conejo Valley
Ventura County Star

The decision by insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross to pull out of the individual insurance market is driving worries that some Conejo Valley residents could be forced to use a different hospital and possibly new doctors.

“I cried when I heard the news,” said Kathleen MacAller, a Moorpark insurance agent. “I knew how bad it’s going to be.”

Anthem announced earlier this year that the financial instability in the market for plans offered through the Affordable Care Act was causing it to yank its plans in Ventura County and much of California beginning Jan.

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UC Davis researchers test drug that may reverse symptoms of autism
Sacramento Bee

Researchers at UC Davis MIND Institute may have found a drug that can reverse symptoms of a rare genetic condition associated with autism.

The 16p11.2 deletion syndrome – caused by the deletion of a small piece of chromosome 16 – is present in one-third of people with autism. People who have this condition are missing certain genes, resulting in impaired communication and social skills and delayed intellectual development, said Jacqueline Crawley, the lead researcher in the study.

The drug that may help is called R-baclofen.

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