News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Trump Administration Proposes Sweeping Changes To Federal Family Planning Program
National Public Radio

The Trump administration has issued its final draft of a rule that makes sweeping changes to Title X, the federal program that provides birth control and other reproductive health services to millions of low-income Americans.

Under the new rule, posted Friday by the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs, any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions is ineligible for Title X funding to cover STD prevention, cancer screenings and contraception. Federal funding for abortion already is illegal in most cases.

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Boost Obamacare or push for single-payer? Democrats face tough decisions on the road to 2020
Modern Healthcare

The act of defending the Affordable Care Act helped Democrats wrest back control of the House of Representatives in November. But in the run-up to the 2020 elections, holding steady may not be enough to prevent intraparty dissension over Medicare for All.

But proponents of Medicare for All, the slogan for a single-payer approach brought to the mainstream by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), expect the status quo to fuel their policy as healthcare industry profits soar and public disgust over high costs mounts.

“I think there’s already intense pressure for” Medicare for All, said Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, the California progressive who is pushing hard for a single-payer program. “Premiums are already rising, people aren’t happy with the coverage in many cases. There’s already this cry for a dramatic fix.”

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Providers push back against conflict of interest concerns for Joint Commission, other accreditors
Modern Healthcare

Most provider stakeholders oppose the CMS banning accreditors like the Joint Commission from providing consultancy services, arguing the firewalls currently in place to prevent conflict of interest work.

The CMS in late December issued a request for information asking for feedback from the public and stakeholders if they perceive a conflict of interest when accrediting organizations sell consulting services to providers they also accredit. The CMS received 127 comments, many of which are from those who work in healthcare. Agency officials didn’t immediately respond to a request regarding what they plan to do now that the comment period has closed.

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Senate Inquiry On Drug Prices Echoes Landmark Hearings Held 60 Years Ago
National Public Radio

On Tuesday, Kenneth Frazier, CEO of pharmaceutical giant Merck, is set to face senators who say drug costs are “sky-high” and “out of control.”

But Frazier doesn’t need new talking points. Sixty years ago, a different panel of senators grilled a different Merck boss about the same problem.

To a striking degree, the subjects likely to surface Tuesday — high drug prices and profits, limited price transparency, aggressive marketing, alleged patent abuse and mediocre “me too” drugs — are identical to the issues senators investigated decades ago, historical transcripts show.

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Week Ahead: Senate committee to grill Big Pharma on drug prices
Modern Healthcare

Feb. 25: Wall Street watchers predict a dip in revenue when Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. releases its fourth-quarter earnings. Zacks Investment Research anticipates the for-profit hospital chain’s revenue to be down 9.8% from the same period in 2017. The company is also expected to report that it paid off close to $30 million of debt.

Feb. 26: Who’s bringing the popcorn? Executives from seven Big Pharma companies will line up for questioning from the Senate Finance Committee in a hearing dubbed “Drug Pricing in America: A Prescription for Change, Part II.” Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) started the inquiry into drug prices last month. Grassley has supported efforts to crack down on manufacturer pay-to-delay tactics that stall generics from entering the market, as well as legislation to expedite generic drugs and biosimilars to market, which faces opposition from drug companies.

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Video: High Drama No Stranger At Congressional Health Care Hearings
Kaiser Health News

This week the CEOs of major pharmaceutical firms will come to Capitol Hill to defend their products’ prices. The hearing before the Senate Finance Committee is expected to produce rhetorical fireworks, particularly given the national furor over rising drug prices.

This video features five dramatic moments from past congressional showdowns over health care.

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As value-based efforts lag, push for price regulation gains momentum
Modern Healthcare

For many years, the battle cry of healthcare cost warriors was, “Eliminate all those wasteful services.” More recently that evolved to, “Pay providers based on value rather than volume.” But there were always those who insisted the real problem was, “It’s the high prices, stupid.”Now policymakers and experts who favor attacking price increases have gained momentum, with both congressional Democrats and the Trump administration pushing price-setting proposals.

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Fewer independent hospitals can weather operating headwinds
Modern Healthcare

When Nanticoke Memorial Hospital first lost its Medicare-dependent hospital status in 2014, it checked the first of several criteria that would chart the independent Seaford, Del.-based hospital’s future. The CMS declared that Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island no longer had areas that qualified as rural under its new rules, which meant that hospitals in those states would have to earn a rural reclassification to qualify for the higher reimbursement rate. Nanticoke went without Medicare-dependent hospital funding for periods of time, which made it harder to operate independently.

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Hospitals test ways to address social needs
Modern Healthcare

For years the South Dallas neighborhood, located near the Texas city’s downtown, has ranked as one of the leaders in Dallas County in all the wrong categories.

The predominantly African-American population has consistently experienced one of the county’s highest rates of unemployment, poverty and lack of health insurance.

The area also has had one the county’s highest rates of death from breast cancer. Nearly 40% of area women with breast cancer received their diagnosis in a late-stage of their disease, according to a 2015 Susan G. Komen study.

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Sorry, ER patients. People with elective procedures get the hospital beds first.
The Washington Post

In a medical emergency, you may have a surprisingly difficult time finding a bed in a hospital. This is because elective admissions — that is, patients whose hospital stays have been scheduled in advance — take priority over emergencies.

Such a preference for elective admissions might be unexpected, as emergency patients are, by definition, emergencies. But elective patients have attributes that make them financially attractive. They arrive promptly in the morning; they are well-insured; and they undergo invasive procedures that represent a significant revenue stream for hospitals.

An analysis of more than 1 million Medicare cases indicates that hospitals earn about $700 more on each elective admission than on each patient admitted through the emergency department (ED).

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This doctor makes house calls to the terminal ill
Los Angeles Times

When it comes to writing about the one last trip every one of us will take, I’ve got some stiff competition in Southern California. That’s fine, of course. The more information we all have about negotiating end-of-life healthcare options, the better. But the guy I’m talking about has an unfair advantage. He’s a doctor, he makes house calls, and his specialty is geriatrics. Gene Dorio of Santa Clarita handles a pen as well as he handles a stethoscope. He writes what he calls “Doctor’s Diary: Snippets from the frontline,” and, lately, Dorio and I have both been writing about hospice.

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Why crying over a terminal patient made me a better doctor
The Washington Post

Mr. C’s brain tumor seemed to be reaching its endgame. His wife had called frantically to report new confusion, word-finding difficulties and visual deficits that suddenly developed despite ongoing treatment. We hastily arranged for an MRI scan to confirm what we now collectively came to suspect: Cancer cells from his tumor had invaded previously unaffected parts of the brain.

Much of what is seen as a medical trainee continues to haunt you because it can never be unseen. In my 10 years as a doctor and medical student, I have been witness to inordinate human suffering and unexpected tragedies. And the emotions associated with these experiences went largely unexplored because I had constructed a mental dam over the years to contain them and to prevent their flow into my daily work as a doctor.

But Mr. C changed me. Though the long-standing medical ethos emphasized impassivity to be a virtue for physicians, I could no longer deny my emotions as I cared for him and learned his story.

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‘Every 30 seconds another alarm is going off’: Neonatal ICUs can take their toll on parents
The Washington Post

For the casual visitor, the most striking thing about a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit is the noise. An orchestra of alarms beeps incessantly. The lights are dim, the shades are drawn and the air inside the NICU’s sterile environment is thick with parental anxiety.

When babies are born prematurely or sick, they are separated from parents, hooked up to tubes and wires, and cared for in transparent incubators. To understand what is happening to their children, family members must learn a strange new medical vernacular while they await discharge. It is frequently an emotionally exhausting roller-coaster ride and it can have a lasting toll on the families.

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Big Number: Diet drinks linked to 23 percent increase in stroke risk in women
Washington Post

Swapping regular sodas for diet drinks might seem like a smart way to cut calories. But new research suggests that women who drink a lot of artificially sweetened beverages increase their risk of having a stroke by 23 percent. What’s a lot? At least two diet beverages a day for this study. Those women are 31 percent more likely to have the most common type of stroke — an ischemic stroke, which is caused by a clot. The findings came from the analysis of about 12 years of health data on 81,714 women 50 and older. The researchers compared women who drank two daily diet sodas or fruit drinks with those who drank such beverages less than once a week or not at all. The study did not identify the specific artificial sweeteners that the drinks contained.

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How to stay up-to-date on medical scams, quackery, deadly treatments
The Washington Post

A “cure” that seems too good to be true. A doctor who profits from ineffective or dangerous “treatments.” A product that doesn’t do what it says. All three are health-care frauds — and they can cheat you out of more than money.

But how can you arm yourself against these hucksters and scams? The Food and Drug Administrations’s Health Fraud Scams website is a good start.

The site offers information on all sorts of medical scams, from unlawful sales of medication to new products and common consumer boondoggles.  It collects news bites and news releases from the agency, including statements on the FDA’s newest product warning letters and updates on criminal investigations.

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Sutter Health’s online symptom checker aims to provide care at the right time, place
Modern Healthcare

Health systems are well aware of the plethora of apps that invite users to share their symptoms in return for lists of probable conditions and suggested action plans. In fact, some are worried such tools could draw their patients to rival providers.Several systems have responded by putting symptom checkers on their websites—which, after taking users through a line of questioning, lead them to a list of the system’s facilities. Often that means partnering with the very technology companies whose tools they worry could drive patients to seek care elsewhere.“

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