News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Courts hammer Trump for sabotaging Obamacare, in rulings that could cost the Treasury billions
Los Angeles Times

Legal experts thought that one of President Trump’s cruder attacks on the Affordable Care Act would come back to bite him once the courts took a crack at it.

Court rulings have flooded in over the last few weeks, and the experts are right. The cost to the government could be $12 billion a year, payable to health insurers who were cheated by Trump’s action. That’s not chump change. As Nicholas Bagley of the University of Michigan wrote this week, “Insurers could buy us a damn border wall every year with that money.”

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Build up the Affordable Care Act for America’s workers and their families
Seattle Times

As a union ironworker, I’ve spent my whole adult life building lasting structures. One of the things I am most proud of is helping to build and strengthen the labor movement. Until the end of last year, I served as the executive secretary of the Washington State Building Trades, which capped my 35 years of work in the labor movement.

I focused on ensuring that our economy worked for the people who build it. Every day, the women and men of the Building Trades use their labor and skills to create the infrastructure that drives economic growth and opportunity.  Fighting on their behalf for fair wages that would support their families, for safety provisions in jobs that are inherently dangerous and for access to the best benefits, including health care, was a privilege.

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Dems grapple with ‘socialism’ label on health care
Boston Herald

Democratic presidential hopefuls continue to move leftward on health care — and will have to figure out how to fend off GOP attempts to brand them as “socialism” if they want to get anywhere with it.

Most of the 2020 candidates have embraced the loosely defined concept of “Medicare-for-all,” as some advocate for buy-ins to Medicare or Medicaid or even an approach in which the government runs a single-payer system. “We’ve gone from Obamacare to Che Guevara-care,” GOP strategist Patrick Griffin said, referring to the Latin American Marxist revolutionary.

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Insurers Hand Out Cash and Gifts To Sway Brokers Who Sell Employer Health Plans
National Public Radio

The pitches to the health insurance brokers are tantalizing.

“Set sail for Bermuda,” says insurance giant Cigna, offering top-selling brokers five days at one of the island’s luxury resorts.

Health Net of California’s pitch is not subtle: A smiling woman in a business suit rides a giant $100 bill like it’s a surfboard. “Sell more, enroll more, get paid more!” In some cases, its ad says, a broker can “power up” the bonus to $150,000 per employer group.

Not to be outdone, New York’s EmblemHealth promises top-selling brokers “the chance of a lifetime:”

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Failing Healthcare’s ‘Free Market’ Experiment in US: Single Payer to the Rescue?
The Health Care Blog

In the industrialized world and especially in United States, health care expenditures per capita has has significantly outgrown per capita income in the last few decades. The projected national expenditures growth at 6.2%/year from 2015 onwards with an estimated in 20% of entire national spending in 2022 on healthcare, has resulted in passionate deliberation on the enormous consequences in US political and policy circles.

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Medicaid expansion and funding face threats in several states
Modern Healthcare

Medicaid expansion and funding face serious political challenges in several Western and Great Plains states, following expansion ballot initiatives and legislative and gubernatorial elections in those states.In two states, Republican elected officials have pushed to limit and delay expansions to low-income adults that were approved by voters in November. A third state where voters passed an expansion ballot initiative is moving to implement it.

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Californians could be required to have health insurance starting in 2020
The Desert Sun

Identical bills have been introduced in the California Senate and Assembly that would reinstate the individual mandate, requiring all Californians to have health insurance starting in 2020 or pay a tax penalty.

The bills, introduced in late January and mid-February by the two chambers, are an attempt to reverse the revocation by Congress of the federal mandate that was part of the Affordable Care Act.

Opponents of the mandate, including President Donald Trump, argued it was not fair to penalize someone for not having insurance.

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We don’t need government-run health care to get to affordable, universal coverage
The Washington Post

America can insure everyone without changing anyone’s existing health coverage. It won’t require replacing Obamacare with a single-payer, government-run system. Instead, we can build upon Obamacare with two simple, game-changing features: a universal cap on premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, and an automatic coverage system that places the uninsured in a plan they can depend on and afford.

These two transformational changes align the interests of those who have coverage and those who don’t against the medical-industrial complex, which for too long has delivered high-cost care instead of high-quality care at reasonable prices.  For the 156 million Americans with employer-provided coverage, this proposal answers their top concern: the price they pay. For the 29 million Americans without coverage and millions of others who fear they could lose it, this answers their prayers for stable and secure insurance.

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Silver-loading complicates CSR lawsuits
Modern Healthcare

Insurers are so far undefeated in a string of lawsuits to recover billions in unpaid cost-sharing reduction payments cut off by President Donald Trump in 2017, following two federal court decisions late last week.

But with a winding legal path ahead and a policy mess no matter the outcome, it’s unclear whether any involved party—the government, the insurers or the people who pay full freight on the exchanges—will win.

At immediate issue is whether these accumulating insurer victories will tamp down on silver-loading, a practice widespread across nearly all states since Trump halted cost-sharing reduction payments, or CSRs. Silver-loading, what happens when exchange insurers pile the costs into the silver benchmark plans and pass them on to unsubsidized silver plan enrollees and the federal government, has proven extremely expensive for the government.

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Nearly 100 Insurers Have Won Challenges Over Halted Csr Payments
Health Leaders Media

If these decisions hold up through a potential appeals process, they could result in the federal government owing billions of dollars annually until Congress makes an explicit appropriation or otherwise changes the law.

Federal judges issued four new rulings late last week in favor of insurers who argue the government owes them cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments under the Affordable Care Act despite the Trump administration’s 2017 decision to halt them abruptly.

Since one of the cases is a class action involving 91 insurers, the total number of insurers that have won their CSR cases is nearly 100. These cases could represent billions of dollars annually.

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Hospital lobbying in 2018 — by the numbers

Hospitals and health systems doled out more cash currying support for favorable Medicare and 340B prescription drug payments last year than they did fighting efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017. Hospitals and nursing homes spent nearly $99.7 million lobbying in 2018, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, slightly more than the $99.63 million the industry spent the year prior. That’s still $8 million away from the $107.5 million the industry spent lobbying in 2009 during the run up to the ACA.

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Anti-vaccine talk is an ‘attack on our nation’s health’ and must end, California lawmaker says
The Sacramento Bee

A California lawmaker and vaccine-advocate has written a letter to the U.S. surgeon general, Vice Adm. Jerome Adams, urging him to make vaccination a public health priority.

Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who also is a pediatrician, has been a champion of vaccination laws, including the 2015 California law mandating that parents vaccinate their school-age children.

“Our nation requires your leadership to stop this attack on our nation’s health by addressing the spread of vaccine misinformation causing unwarranted vaccine hesitancy and recommending policies that restore community immunity which protects our children and the most vulnerable among us,” Pan wrote.

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FDA, drug companies, doctors mishandled use of powerful fentanyl painkiller
Washington Post

The Food and Drug Administration, drug companies and doctors mishandled distribution of a powerful fentanyl painkiller, allowing widespread prescribing to ineligible patients despite special measures designed to safeguard its use, according to a report released Tuesday.

The unusual paper in the medical journal JAMA relies on nearly 5,000 pages of documents that researchers obtained from the government via the Freedom of Information Act, rather than a more typical controlled scientific study.

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FDA warns consumers against ‘young blood’ plasma infusions for dementia, PTSD and other conditions
Washington Post

Federal health regulators on Tuesday warned consumers against controversial “young blood” treatments — plasma infusions from young donors marketed for conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There is no proven clinical benefit of infusion of plasma from young donors to cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent these conditions, and there are risks associated with the use of any plasma product,” Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Peter Marks, director of the agency’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

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‘Young blood’ Alzheimer’s treatments slapped with warning by FDA commissioner
San Francisco Business Times

Treatments offering to combat dementia and other Alzheimer’s Disease-related conditions with infusions of blood from young donors were slapped Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration, prompting at least one company to cease treatments.

The statement by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb shines a light on the work of a handful of companies operating in the Bay Area — including at least one in human clinical trials — but focuses on “establishments in several states” that offer plasma infusions from young donors to treat normal aging and memory loss from dementia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

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Blue Shield, AltaMed Patient Data Breached in Business Associate Hack
Health IT Security

Sharecare Health Data Services (SHDS) recently notified AltaMed Health Services and California Physicians Service (dba Blue Shield of California) of a network hack that potentially breached the data of thousands of their patients.

Sharecare provides the two covered entities with medical records management services.

On December 31, Sharecare notified AltaMed of a network hack that officials first discovered on June 22, 2018. An investigation determined the hack began a month earlier on May 21, 2018.

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Sutter’s focus goes beyond the doctor’s office with new chief of population health
Sacramento Business Journal

The new executive is set to tackle issues that go beyond prescriptions or the doctor’s office.