News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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CVS Looks To Make Its Drugstores A Destination For Health Care
National Public Radio

When it comes to making changes in health care, CVS Health isn’t settling for tinkering around the edges. The company is looking to strike at the heart of how health care is delivered in the U.S.

In November, the drugstore chain completed a $70 billion acquisition of health insurance giant Aetna that CVS has said will change the company and in the process alter the way consumers experience health care.

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U.S. government joins lawsuit against Abbott companies
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Department of Justice has joined a six-year-old lawsuit against companies bought by Abbott Laboratories in which they’re accused of submitting false Medicare claims for unnecessary devices for diabetic patients and paying kickbacks to the patients.The lawsuit alleges Florida-based mail-order diabetic testing supply company Arriva Medical and parent Alere, a Massachusetts-based medical device firm that acquired Arriva in 2011, required all new customers to receive “free upgrades” of glucometers and then submitted false claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary meters.

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White House wants to hear about insurers’ challenges with grandfathered ACA plans
Modern Healthcare

The Trump administration wants to know what challenges employer and group health plans face in maintaining grandfathered status for Affordable Care Act plans.

The Treasury and Labor departments and HHS issued the request for information late Thursday. The request comes as the number of grandfathered plans fall.

The agencies want to understand “whether there are opportunities for the departments to assist such plans and issuers,” the rule said.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order when he first entered office that directed federal agencies to reduce any financial burden from the ACA, and the request for information is a result of that order.

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Alternatives to Medicare-for-all that are worth studying and debating
Washington Post

Coverage of health care in the context of the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign amounts to asking a yes-or-no question about support for Medicare-for-all and then pointing out that Democrats are “divided.” (A rift! A split in the party!). The Medicare-for-all crowd accuses the others of being incrementalists (horror!) and the Medicare-for-all critics say this is pie-in-the-sky stuff that won’t work. That’s it.

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Dignity Health will donate $1 million-plus to Sacramento-area nonprofits in 2019
Sacramento Bee

Dignity Health announced Thursday it is distributing $1.05 million this year to dozens of community-based organizations in Nevada, Sacramento and Yolo counties to help meet community health needs outside its hospital walls.

The grants are going toward assisting the most vulnerable residents of the region: at-risk children, survivors of human and labor trafficking, individuals living with mental illness and dementia, the homeless and ethnic groups with high rates of chronic disease.

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LA hides health care costs for individual employees in apparent violation of state law
Los Angeles Daily News

In 2017, the highest paid employee working for the city of Los Angeles collected a nearly $600,000 salary and $12,693 in health benefits, according to the state controller’s public pay database.

Its lowest paid employee — reportedly earning only $1 that year — had a benefits package that also cost the city $12,693. In fact, Los Angeles reported to the state that 25,331 employees — covering nearly every department except the behemoth Department of Water and Power and first responders — all received benefits costing the exact same amount.

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Big Pharma rescues flailing ‘cancer vaccine’ company with $300 million buyout
San Francisco Business Times

The deal comes four months after Immune Design Corp. halted its lead cancer vaccine trial and restructured its drug development plans.

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Health care spending in America to consume 1 in 5 U.S. dollars
CBS News

Americans already spend more on health care than the citizens of any other country. That gap is projected to widen, with health care spending expected to consume almost 20 percent of gross domestic product by 2027.

The surge in health care spending will be due to a potent mix of two trends, according to the new estimate from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which estimates that medical spending will consume 19.4 percent of GDP by 2027, up from 17.9 percent in 2017. The aging baby boomer population, which will require more medical treatment as they enter their 60s, 70s and 80s, combined with rising health care costs, are at the root of the projected growth. 

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How drug prices could derail new trade pact to replace NAFTA
USA Today

The clash over free trade in North America has long been fought over familiar issues: Low-paid Mexican workers. U.S. factories that move jobs south of the border. Canada’s high taxes on imported milk and cheese.

But as Democrats in Congress consider whether to back a revamped regional trade pact being pushed by President Donald Trump, they’re zeroing in on a new point of conflict: Drug prices. They contend that the new pact would force Americans to pay more for prescription drugs, and their argument has dimmed the outlook for one of Trump’s signature causes.

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UPMC seeks to join antitrust case against Blues plans
Modern Healthcare

UPMC is staging legal battles on several fronts against Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurers. 

The Pittsburgh-based integrated delivery system filed a motion Thursday to join a multi-state antitrust lawsuit accusing dozens of Blues plans of illegally impeding competition by refusing to compete with one another. The issue has become especially relevant to the Pittsburgh-based academic health system because it will go out of network with Highmark Health—a Blues plan—once a consent decree between the two expires in June. UPMC wants to contract with other non-Highmark Blues plans in the areas it serves, but their policies prevent it from doing so. 

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Is New App From Feds Your Answer To Navigating Medicare Coverage? Yes And No
National Public Radio

Millennials, beware: Your grandparents are about to start calling you for help downloading the new Medicare smartphone app.

The iPhone and Android app, which launched Feb. 6, is called “What’s Covered,” and true to its name, it mostly answers one simple, yes-or-no question: Is this medical procedure covered by traditional Medicare?

Milt Roney, a 71-year-old retired government worker in a well-to-do suburb of Washington, D.C., agreed to check out the app with me, though he was skeptical from the outset.

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Editorial: More doom and gloom from the CMS
Modern Healthcare

The gloomy Guses at the CMS think nothing can stop the upward march of healthcare spending. Why do they presume every strategy for controlling costs will fail?

Their pessimistic view was contained in the latest 10-year projection by the economists in the Office of the Actuary, who predicted healthcare spending will reach 19.4% of gross domestic product in 2027, up from 17.9% in 2017. Growth in actual dollars will average 5.5% over the next decade and exceed nominal economic growth by nearly a full percentage point.

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To shore up Obamacare in California, Newsom wants to try an individual mandate
Los Angeles Daily News

When Kate Green calculated her health care costs last year, it just didn’t add up for her to stay insured.

The 30-year-old worker in a real estate referral company had signed up for the lowest-cost plan possible, but it came with high out-of-pocket costs. Premiums ate up money Green had planned on spending to pay off car and college loans.

The final straw: a $1,200 doctor bill for a minor knee injury.

Green dropped her coverage in late 2018, and the tax penalty for not having insurance disappeared this year for the first time since the launch of the Affordable Care Act.

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Health Care Leadership Forum: Industry prepares for growth and change
Sacramento Business Journal

As the local health care industry looks to a period of explosive growth and regulatory change, we assembled a panel of leaders to discuss what’s ahead.

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The Measles Success Story In California Shows Signs Of Fading
Kaiser Health News

A rash of recent measles outbreaks in New York, Texas and Washington state shines a light on California’s largely successful effort in recent years to suppress the disease — though some of the shine might be fading.

A serious measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in December 2014 and carried over into 2015 contributed to a steep increase in vaccination rates among California kindergartners over the following three years. But the gains stopped last year, according to the most recent available data.

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A New Treatment Can Relieve Food Allergies, But Few Doctors Offer It
National Public Radio

Scouring ingredient lists. Carrying an EpiPen. Sitting at the special lunch table at school. These anxiety-ridden measures have become routine for families with severe food allergies, who know it takes only one wrong bite to end up in the emergency room.

Nearly 6 million U.S. children and teens — about 8 percent, or two per classroom — have food allergies. In children, allergy to peanuts, which can be life-threatening, has gone up more than 21 percent since 2010.

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