News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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5 things to watch in the Senate’s major drug price hearing
Modern Healthcare

The Senate Finance Committee is holding a high-profile hearing on Tuesday that will feature testimony from the CEOs of seven major drug companies: Pfizer, Sanofi, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Johnson & Johnson and AbbVie.

The hearing is the latest in a series held by the committee on high drug prices. Here are five topics to watch out for:

Transparency and rebates: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley tweeted on Monday that the price people pay for prescription drugs is shrouded in secrecy, foreshadowing a likely line of questioning tomorrow at the hearing. Lawmakers in both parties have derided the lack of transparency that drug companies employ in setting list prices;

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Washington state leads challenge to Trump’s abortion policy
Modern Healthcare

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Monday the state is leading the challenge to the Trump administration’s final rule that aims to reshape the Title X family planning network.

The plaintiffs will seek a preliminary injunction to block the rule once it is published on the Federal Register, since it is due to take effect 60 days after its posting. The draft final rule was published Friday by HHS‘ Office of Population Affairs.

Other state attorney generals are expected to file additional challenges.

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Congress Squares Off With Pharma CEOs In Showdown Over High Drug Prices
Kaiser Health News

Expect sparks to fly Tuesday as senators get a rare chance to grill the heads of seven major pharmaceutical companies under oath about the budget-busting prices of prescription drugs.

Expect to hear more from this committee in the coming months, including inquiries to pharmacy benefits managers, as lawmakers seek legislation to ease health care costs. But first, here’s what you should know before the hearing.

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President Trump’s under-the-radar $1 abortion bill idea: Will it undermine Obamacare in California?
ABC News

A little-noticed Trump administration proposal aims to force California’s health exchange insurers to send all their customers a second premium bill every month, for $1 —the amount the state requires to cover unrestricted abortion benefits.

The Resistance State, unsurprisingly, is pushing back. State officials fear that many Californians insured through the Covered California exchange will be confused about receiving a second monthly bill, and may even neglect to pay it, putting their coverage at risk. And the insurers warn that the cost and labor involved in sending multiple bills for 1.5 million people could drive up the cost of their premiums.

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What ‘Medicare for All’ means, politically and practically
CNN

If you’ve been watching the Democratic presidential hopefuls gear up, you have probably heard the phrase “Medicare for All.”

What exactly does that mean?

Medicare, which has been around since 1965, is the government-run health insurance program that covers all Americans 65 and older and is funded by taxpayers. A portion taken out of our paychecks for Social Security goes toward Medicare to cover most services like hospital stays and doctors’ visits.

People on Medicare can also choose to get additional coverage from Medicare-approved private insurers to cover other services such as dental, vision and prescription drugs.

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Progressives Tout ‘Medicare-For-All’ But States Eye ‘Medicaid Buy-In’
Kaiser Health News

Laura Lucero Y Ruiz De Gutierrez has a heart condition and fibromyalgia and is in danger of developing diabetes. She has health insurance through her husband’s job. But, between the $800 monthly premium for the couple’s coverage and the $2,100 deductible she has to pay down before insurance starts picking up the tab, she doesn’t feel she can afford to go to the doctor when she needs to.

She hopes that may soon change. Identical bills proposed in recent weeks in the New Mexico House and Senate would make Gutierrez eligible to buy in to a public health plan modeled on Medicaid. She also could receive state-funded assistance that would save her hundreds of dollars a month on premiums.

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The CBO’s shifting view on the impact of the Obamacare individual mandate
Washington Post

Policymaking in Washington can live and die by “the baseline” — in particular, the baseline set by the Congressional Budget Office.

During the debate over the 2017 Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats often cited estimates that the repeal would result in 23 million fewer people having health insurance within a decade.

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Grassley revives probe of tax-exempt hospitals
Modern Healthcare

Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has revived his oversight push on not-for-profit hospitals to make sure they offer enough charity care to justify their tax-exempt status.

In a letter sent last week to Charles Rettig, the head of the Internal Revenue Service, Grassley homed in on tax-exempt hospitals’ debt-collection practices—particularly for poor patients who might qualify for financial help—and asked how many not-for-profits aren’t publicizing their financial assistance policies widely enough for the poor patients to know they can get assistance.

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Generic-drug approval growth doesn’t spark competition
Modern Healthcare

While more generic drugs are being approved, they are often versions that only marginally reduce prices, a new study found.

About 2,700 new generic drugs were approved from 2012 to 2017, up nearly 17% from 2008 to 2012, according to a new research brief from Pew Charitable Trusts. But most of those drugs are later iterations, not the second or third generics to market that most significantly lower prices. Nearly 550 off-patent brand drugs still lack competition, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

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Anti-vaxxers face backlash as measles cases surge
Washington Post

The resurgence of measles across the United States is spurring a backlash against vaccine critics, from congressional hearings probing the spread of vaccine misinformation to state measures that would make it harder for parents to opt out of immunizing their children.

In Washington state, where the worst measles outbreak in more than two decades has sickened nearly 70 people and cost over $1 million, two measures are advancing through the state legislature that would bar parents from using personal or philosophical exemptions to avoid immunizing their school-age children. Both have bipartisan support despite strong anti-vaccination sentiment in parts of the state.

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Advance Practice vs Primary Care
The Health Care Blog

In this episode of Radiology Firing Line Podcast, Danny Huges and I discuss a JAMA paper: A comparison of diagnostic imaging ordering patterns between advanced practice clinicians and primary care physicians following office-based evaluation and management visits.

Listen to our conversation on Radiology Firing Line here.

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Cat Bites The Hand That Feeds; Hospital Bills $48,512
National Public Radio

Compassion for a hungry stray kitten led to a nip on the finger — and also took a bite out of Jeannette Parker’s wallet.

In a rural area just outside Florida’s Everglades National Park, Parker spotted the cat wandering along the road. It looked skinny and sick, and when Parker, a wildlife biologist, offered up some tuna she had in her car, the cat bit her finger.

“It broke my skin with his teeth,” she recalls.

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Hospital workers, activists call for better health care practices
Redwood Times

Advocates sounded the alarm again Monday over what they call a “health care crisis” in Humboldt County, sharing their experiences with St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka and presenting statistics that indicate high profit margins for the hospitals’ executives amid a series of layoffs.

In the past year, St. Joseph has seen a number of controversies, including multiple rounds of layoffs that many blame in part on the hospital’s 2016 merger with Providence Health and Services.

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Providing health insurance can be a challenge for San Joaquin County’s small businesses
RecordNet

Providing employer-sponsored health insurance presents a conundrum for many small businesses. The expense has little to do with contributing directly to the bottom line, but it’s proven to be good for attracting and retaining skilled workers.

A recent survey of employers who use the Covered California for Small Business exchange indicated that prospective employees expect to be offered health insurance.

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Tenet’s 2018 revenue beats expectations
Modern Healthcare

Tenet Healthcare Corp. beat analysts’ revenue expectations last year, according to the company’s fourth quarter and year-end 2018 results reported Monday.

The Dallas-based hospital chain drew net revenue of $4.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018, down 7.2% from the prior-year period, when it was nearly $5 billion, but still managed to beat estimates from Zacks Investment Research which pegged revenue would fall 9.8% to $4.49 billion in the quarter.

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