News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Trump Plan To Beat HIV Hits Rough Road In Rural America
Kaiser Health News

One of the goals President Donald Trump announced in his State of the Union address was to stop the spread of HIV in the U.S. within 10 years.

In addition to sending extra money to 48 mainly urban counties, Washington, D.C., and San Juan, Puerto Rico, Trump’s plan targets seven states where rural transmission of HIV is especially high.

Health officials and doctors treating patients with HIV in those states say any extra funding would be welcome.  But they say strategies that work in progressive cities like Seattle won’t necessarily work in rural areas of Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

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For Your Radar — Huge Implications for Healthcare in Pending Privacy Legislation
The Health Care Blog

Two years ago we wouldn’t have believed it — the U.S. Congress is considering broad privacy and data protection legislation in 2019. There is some bipartisan support and a strong possibility that legislation will be passed. Two recent articles in The Washington Post and AP News will help you get up to speed.

Federal privacy legislation would have a huge impact on all healthcare stakeholders, including patients. Here’s an overview of the ground we’ll cover in this post:

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Spending forecast offers ammunition — and some alarm — for Democrats pushing Medicare expansion
Washington Post

Aging baby boomers will consume an ever-larger share of the nation’s health-care spending over the coming decade, regardless of the success of Democrats running for president with ambitious plans to broaden Medicare.

The number of people covered through Medicare — and spending on the federal insurance program for older and disabled Americans — is expected to grow more rapidly than private insurance or Medicaid, eating up a larger chunk of health spending, according to a yearly forecast of U.S. health-care expenditures released Wednesday.

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Insurers, hospitals agree in telling CMS to keep ’silver-loading’
Modern Healthcare

The CMS should allow states to continue the practice known as “silver-loading” or risk destabilizing the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges, according to comments from insurers, state regulators, hospitals and patient groups.

The ending of silver-loading, which occurs when an insurer raises premiums on a silver-level exchange plan to make up for the 2017 loss of cost-sharing reduction payments, would cause major problems for the viability of the exchanges, they argue in comment letters.

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CMS lost $84M in two years for ineligible nursing home stays
Modern Healthcare

The CMS pays millions of dollars a year to nursing homes for taking care of older adults who don’t qualify for coverage, according to an investigation by HHS‘ inspector general.

The IG’s report, released Wednesday, includes steps the CMS should take to fix the problem; but in a written response, CMS Administrator Seema Verma rejected some key recommendations.

Based on a review of nursing home payments from 2013 through 2015, the IG found that the CMS paid nursing homes an estimated $84 million for patients whose records did not contain the required three-day hospital admission. Although that’s a relatively small amount compared to the $85.9 billion the CMS paid nursing homes during the same period, IG investigators said such improper payments are accumulating year after year. The IG discovered the problem by comparing hospital and nursing home payment data. 

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More States Say Doctors Must Offer Overdose Reversal Drug Along With Opioids
Kaiser Health News

In a growing number of states, patients who get opioids for serious pain may leave their doctors’ offices with a second prescription — for naloxone, a drug that can save their lives if they overdose on the powerful painkillers.

New state laws and regulations in California, Virginia, Arizona, Ohio, Washington, Vermont and Rhode Island require physicians to “co-prescribe” or at least offer naloxone prescriptions when prescribing opioids to patients considered at high risk of overdosing.

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A Parent-To-Parent Campaign To Get Vaccine Rates Up
National Public Radio

In 2017, Kim Nelson had just moved her family back to her hometown in South Carolina. Boxes were still scattered around the apartment, and while her two young daughters played, Nelson scrolled through a newspaper article on her phone. It said religious exemptions for vaccines had jumped nearly 70 percent in recent years in the Greenville area — the part of the state she had just moved to. 

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Eating ‘ultraprocessed’ foods linked with early death
The Washington Post

They may be tasty, but ultraprocessed foods are not what the doctor ordered. Yet these foods — which are high in salt, sugar and other additives — are an increasingly large part of people’s diets. And now, a new study suggests that these foods may increase the risk of early death.

The research showed that increased consumption of ultraprocessed foods was associated with a higher risk of death over a seven-year period.

It’s important to note that the study found only an association and does not prove that ultraprocessed food consumption causes premature death.  But the researchers hypothesized that these foods could contribute to a shorter life span in a number of ways — for example, by increasing a person’s risk of heart disease, cancer and other illnesses.

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Hey, Hey! Ho, Ho! Is Striking For School Nurses The Way To Go?
Kaiser Health News

As teachers across the country walk out of their classrooms, hit the picket lines and demand higher pay, they’re keeping school nurses in mind — asking for more of them or, at the very least, better pay for them.

Oakland, Calif., teachers plan to strike Thursday if they can’t hammer out a deal with the district that includes a “living wage” and more nurses and counselors. Last week in Denver, thousands of educators and school nurses went on strike and marched to the state Capitol asking for a significant raise — and got it.

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CVS’ bottom line sags after Aetna takeover
Modern Healthcare

Health reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2018 earnings on Wednesday—the first period with some contribution from its newly acquired health insurer Aetna.

While a federal judge previously had warned the companies to stay apart until he gave final approval to the merger, CVS’ financial report shows the two companies, which officially closed their merger on Nov. 28, are very much together.

As expected, Aetna has yet to contribute benefits to CVS’ bottom line, which plummeted in the fourth quarter and full year 2018 compared with the same periods in 2017 because of problems with its long-term care business and expenses related to the Aetna takeover.

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Local clinic operator claims victory in ACA litigation with Health Net
Sacramento Business Journal

The operator of a local chain of pediatric clinics is claiming victory in a lawsuit alleging that Health Net denied payments that it owed under the Affordable Care Act for treatment of low-income patients.

Dr. Ravinder Khaira, a pediatrician and owner of Capital Pediatrics Medical Group, launched a series of lawsuits in 2016 against Health Net, Anthem Blue Cross of California and California Health and Wellness, for allegedly mishandling Medi-Cal payments to his clinics in Sacramento, Carmichael, Roseville, and West Sacramento.

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Kaiser Permanente’s new medical school will be tuition-free for first 5 years
Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Permanente will soon be teaching its integrated health care model with an emphasis on patient care to medical students.

The Oakland-based health care giant’s Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine said Tuesday it received its preliminary accreditation and will start accepting applications this summer for the inaugural class, which will begin in 2020. Located in Pasadena, the school will be tuition-free for admitted classes during the first five years. Following that, the annual tuition of about $55,000 will be heavily subsidized by need-based financial aid, according to the New York Times.

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Dignity Health saw rocky end to 2018 as revenue and investments tumble
Modern Healthcare

Dignity Health saw its revenue and profit margin slide in the last half of 2018 as the not-for-profit system worked to close its merger with Catholic Health Initiatives, which it did Feb. 1.

Weak investment returns contributed to the not-for-profit system’s $198 million loss attributable to San Francisco-based Dignity in the six months ended Dec. 31, 2018, compared with an excess of revenue over expenses of $635 million in the 2017 period, an $833 million negative swing. The system’s overall profit margin went from 8.4% in the latter half of 2017 to a negative 3% margin in the latter half of 2018.

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New State Law Is Forcing San Diego to Grapple With Its Lack of Recovery Options for Homeless Patient
Voice of San Diego

Every year, thousands of homeless San Diegans cycle through local hospitals and emergency rooms.

Now a new state law is forcing hospitals and regional leaders to publicly grapple with where those patients can recover once they are released from the hospital.

Senate Bill 1152, signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown last fall, requires hospitals statewide to establish plans for discharging homeless patients and to get a handle on resources that might keep them from returning to the street.

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