News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Democratic-controlled House can intervene in Obamacare lawsuit, judge says
CNN

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives will be allowed to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit that threatens to bring down the Affordable Care Act, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The move allows the House to join in the lawsuit that’s pitting Democratic- and Republican-controlled states against each other over the future of Obamacare.

A federal judge in Texas ruled in December that the ACA is unconstitutional because Congress had eliminated the individual mandate penalty by reducing it to $0, starting this year. This rendered the mandate itself unconstitutional and the rest of the law therefore cannot stand, the judge said.

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Will Republicans Start Winning on Health Care?
The Wall Street Journal

Prices of health care products and services have been rising very slowly in the Trump era. Meanwhile the President’s opponents are embracing increasingly radical plans for the sector. The issue that enabled Democrats to take the House in 2018 may present a challenge for the party in 2020. 

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Nonprofit drug developer in uphill battle against Trump administration contraception rule change
San Francisco Business Times

Medicines360 is pushing its low-cost IUD into African nations while its U.S. market faces pressure from a potential change in rules for a federal program.

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Health-Care Investors Prosper When Markets Quiver
Bloomberg Record

After six years of serenity, buying stocks turned treacherous in 2018. Growth in China, the U.K. and the rest of Europe slowed amid global trade disruptions triggered by Britain’s planned departure from the European Union along with U.S. President Donald Trump’s disdain for multilateral agreements and his embrace of tariffs. Rising interest rates made Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell Trump’s favorite whipping boy, even when he paused from tightening credit after the market plummeted on fears of a looming recession. Amazon.com Inc. more recently accelerated its tumble from a trillion-dollar market capitalization.

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HHS will test paying ambulances for trips to alternative sites, telemedicine
Modern Healthcare

HHS will test allowing ambulance suppliers and providers to transport Medicare and Medicaid patients to areas besides the emergency room, such as a doctor’s office or urgent care facility, or use telemedicine, in a bid to reduce unnecessary trips to the hospital.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation will conduct an experiment on a new payment model for Medicare to create new incentives on emergency transport and care. The model would apply to Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries.

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Shortage looms of health care professionals
Capitol Weekly

California faces a dramatic shortage of health care professionals over the next decade, and the state should take steps now to deal with the problem, according to a new report.

“In just 10 years … California is projected to face a shortfall of more than 4,100 primary care clinicians and 600,000 home care workers, and will have only two-thirds of the psychiatrists it needs,” said the study, Meeting the Demand for Health, the Final Report of the California Future Health Workforce Commission.

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This year’s flu vaccine is doing well, but deaths are still high
Washington Post

This season’s flu vaccine reduces the need to go to the doctor’s office by about half, according to figures released Thursday. But in a reminder of how deadly the respiratory virus can be, federal health officials estimate that as many as 16,000 people have died of flu this season, more than what would be expected so far in a relatively mild season.

Unlike last winter, when flu killed and hospitalized more people in the United States than any seasonal influenza in decades, this season’s flu is considered significantly less harsh, according to officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccine also works better overall than last year and is even more effective — about 61 percent — in children, who are among the groups most vulnerable to flu-related complications.

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Sanitizing regimen can reduce post-hospital MRSA infections, study shows
Modern Healthcare

Hospital patients who are carriers of the superbug MRSA can significantly reduce their risk of future infection by following a six-month sanitizing regimen, according to new research.

Patients who faithfully adhered to the regimen experienced 44% fewer MRSA infections and 40% fewer infections of any kind compared to patients who were just given education about preventing a MRSA infection upon their discharge. The plan includes taking baths or showers with antiseptic soap, using antiseptic mouthwash and nasal antibiotics.

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Breast surgeons say all breast cancer patients should be offered genetic testing
Washington Post

The nation’s breast surgeons are advising that all patients diagnosed with breast cancer be offered genetic testing to check for inherited mutations, fueling an intense debate about how such tests should be used to prevent and treat disease.

The American Society of Breast Surgeons, which sent its recommendations Thursday to its 3,400 members, said it developed the recommendation because current guidelines are too restrictive. “Too many patients develop cancers that might have been prevented or found earlier if genetic testing had been performed,” said Walton Taylor, a Texas breast surgeon who is president of the group.

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Black-white cancer disparities narrow sharply amid progress against common malignancies
Washington Post

Longtime cancer disparities between African Americans and whites — with blacks having a sharply higher mortality rate — have narrowed significantly during the past several years and disappeared nearly entirely for a few age groups, including men under 50 and women who are 70 and older, according to a new study by the American Cancer Society.

African Americans still have the highest death rate and the lowest survival rate of any racial or ethnic group for most cancers. But the report noted the overall cancer death rate has been dropping faster in blacks than in whites because of bigger declines for three of the four most common cancers — lung, prostate and colorectal.

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How an East Bay drug maker pivoted from opioids to the cusp of a seizure drug approval
Sacramento Business Journal

The company could win FDA approval later this year of a drug it bought in fall 2014.

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Gilead accused of funneling kickbacks to providers to boost sales
Modern Healthcare

The drugmaker Gilead Sciences has been hit with a whistle-blower suit accusing it of paying healthcare providers, government agencies and others organizations to boost sales of its hepatitis and HIV drugs.

In an unsealed False Claims Act case in California federal court, a whistle-blower claimed Gilead’s Frontlines of Communities in the United States program, which partners with other institutions to facilitate hepatitis and HIV screenings, resulted in billions of dollars in excess government spending.

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Blue Shield of Calif. ‘drastically’ underpaid for ER services, jury says
Modern Healthcare

A federal jury decided Tuesday that insurer Blue Shield of California underpaid a California hospital system for emergency medical services provided to Blue Shield’s members.The jury in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco determined that Blue Shield must pay out-of-network NorthBay Healthcare Group 67% of its billed charges since the end of 2016.

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California hospital system underpaid by Blue Shield for ER services, jury finds
Becker's Hospital Review

Fairfield, Calif.-based NorthBay Healthcare may recover $16 million-plus from Blue Shield of California after a federal jury in San Francisco found the health insurer underpaid the hospital system for emergency care.

On Feb. 13, after a six-day trial, the jury found Blue Shield owed NorthBay 67 percent of its billed charges, according to law firm King & Spalding, which represented NorthBay. The exact amount of damages has yet to be determined, but is currently estimated at more than $16 million.

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