News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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New GOP healthcare bill targets costs, hospital consolidation
Modern Healthcare

A new, 200-page healthcare proposal by a GOP House lawmaker goes after hospital consolidation and pricing as part of a sweeping attempt to cut costs and increase coverage.

The legislation from Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), who has been working on it for more than a year and a half even though he doesn’t sit on any House health committee, signals the mounting unrest among individual members of Congress over high healthcare costs. This is feeding into the momentum from both sides to address hospital consolidation.

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New California lawmaker puts his face on Medicare for all – and a target on his back
McClatchy

Rep. Josh Harder is the only Democrat from a moderate district who will be front and center as House progressives roll out their plan on Medicare for all Wednesday.

He’ll also be the only California Democrat and freshman Democrat to speak at the announcement, putting his face on a plan fraught with pitfalls for moderates. The move will put an even larger target on his back as Republicans move to unseat him. It will be a test of whether districts outside of the solidly Democratic will support the bold effort at health care overhaul as it takes steps towards becoming law — which Republican groups have painted as a socialist dream.

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Saying no to the nurses: California Democrats aren’t pushing government-run health care this year
Sacramento Bee

Many California Democrats say they support single-payer health care, but none introduced a new version of the state’s landmark single-payer bill before a key deadline last week.

Stephanie Roberson, a lobbyist for the California Nurses Association, said the union was in talks with Sen. Mike McGuire about running a bill this year, but those discussions fell through.

“Senator McGuire’s admission that he could not get enough political consensus to move a bill around this issue is troubling,” Roberson said in a statement. “To not have a comprehensive solution on the table in the first year of a two-year session in the most progressive legislature in the country is baffling.”

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Pharma CEOs survive Senate grilling with few concessions
Modern Healthcare

Senate Finance Committee lawmakers exacted minimal policy concessions from seven top pharmaceutical CEOs Tuesday over hours of grilling. And they aren’t likely to relieve tension with hospitals and insurers over drug prices.

Following the hearing, stocks for most of the companies represented there rose slightly or held steady, while share prices for pharmacy benefit managers declined slightly.

The CEOs broadly supported HHS recent proposal to remove Medicare Part D safe harbor protections for pharmacy benefit manager rebates—but they were less vocal about promising to lower their prices should it be finalized. Some indicated they would want the commercial sector to follow suit, raising the specter of congressional action that insurers would oppose.

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Big Pharma trims projects — and a potential $1 billion in payments — from collaboration with small Peninsula biotech
San Francisco Business Times

Days after saying it would buy Celgene Corp. for $74 billion, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. thinned its portfolio and shed a potential $1.3 billion in potential milestone payments to a small Peninsula biotech company.

CytomX Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: CTMX) disclosed Tuesday that Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) told it in January that the Big Pharma company would terminate three “collaboration discovery targets” as it shifts research priorities. Each of the three targets, according to a 2017 extension of a deal signed three years earlier, would have brought in as much as $448 million through various development, regulatory and commercial milestones to 150-employee CytomX.

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Pharma Execs Dig In For A Fight Against Outraged Senators
Kaiser Health News

Senators got their first opportunity Tuesday to prod drugmakers about the wallet-emptying prices they charge for prescription drugs.

Almost in unison, the executives expressed support for eliminating rebates that flow to industry middlemen instead of patients; for increasing transparency about how they set prices; for shifting to a more value-based pricing system, in which outcomes are rewarded. Together they demurred when asked to commit to lowering list prices on drugs like insulin and the blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira.

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Pharmaceutical Company CEOs Face Grilling In Senate Over High Drug Prices
National Public Radio

The leaders of seven drug industry giants were forced to defend their industry’s prices and business practices on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, as lawmakers criticized them for failing to put patients before profits.

“Prescription drugs did not become outrageously expensive by accident,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. “Drug prices are astronomically high because that’s where pharmaceutical companies and their investors want them.”

The pharmaceutical company leaders, testifying at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, acknowledged that their prices are high for many patients, but they deflected blame onto the insurance industry, government and middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers.

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State Lawmakers Push to End Surprise Emergency Room Bills
KQED Radio

Assemblyman David Chiu and state Sen. Scott Wiener, both of San Francisco, announced a bill Monday that would prevent public hospitals from charging emergency room patients whose insurance won’t cover their medical bills. This practice is called “balance billing,” and according to Chiu, it’s costing Californians thousands of dollars.

Even if a patient has private insurance, an ambulance might transport them to an out-of-network hospital that doesn’t accept it — like Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

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Double-Booked Surgeons: Study Raises Safety Questions For High-Risk Patients
National Public Radio

Surgeons are known for their busy schedules — so busy that they don’t just book surgeries back to back. Sometimes they’ll double-book, so one operation overlaps the next. A lead surgeon will perform the key elements, then move to the next room — leaving other, often junior, surgeons to finish up the first procedure.

A large study published Tuesday in JAMA suggests that this practice of overlapping surgeries is safe for most patients, with those undergoing overlapping surgeries faring the same as those who are the sole object of their surgeon’s attention.

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Anthem/Cigna damages trial reveals infighting
Modern Healthcare

Anthem officials told a judge on Monday that their counterparts at Cigna sabotaged the $48.9 billion merger deal, even refusing to divest business lines that would have won them approval by regulators.

Thomas Zielinski, Anthem’s top lawyer, testified that Cigna CEO David Cordani was unhappy with his role in the combined company. Then-Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish had made an offer that placed him as the sole CEO post-merger.

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Justice Department asks judge to approve CVS/Aetna deal
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Justice Department asked a judge on Monday to formally approve the merger between CVS Health and insurer Aetna.

Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in December delayed the closing of the $70 billion deal which the Justice Department signed off on in November. Leon had requested stronger oversight of merger to make sure CVS and Aetna follow self-imposed measures to keep certain key business operations separate until Leon is finished weighing in.

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S.F.-based telemedicine company dives into primary care with new healthcare offering
San Francisco Business Times

Delving deeper into the primary care arena, Doctor On Demand is looking to become the digital “front door” for health care patients.

The San Francisco-based telemedicine company was founded as an urgent care-focused provider, but its new focus on virtual primary, preventative and chronic care will fuel more growth.

Doctor on Demand delivers services through health plans, directly to consumers and through employers — its hundreds of corporate clients include Walmart, American Airlines and NBC

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‘Alexa, call my nurse’: Cedars-Sinai puts Amazon’s voice assistant in hospital rooms
Los Angeles Business Journal

The pilot allows patients in more than 100 rooms to use an Alexa-powered platform by Aiva Health to interact hands-free with nurses and control their entertainment.

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