News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Azar touts funding HSAs with Obamacare subsidies
Washington Post

The Trump administration is considering action two fronts that could loosen up the reins on health savings accounts.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday pushed the idea of funneling Affordable Care Act subsidies into HSAs for people in the individual market to pay for premiums and other out-of-pocket health spending. At the same time, the administration is exploring a proposal that would allow high-deductible plans with HSAs to cover preventive services such as providing free insulin.

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White House exploring HSAs to cover more preventive services
Modern Healthcare

The Trump administration is exploring a proposal that would allow high-deductible plans with health savings accounts to cover preventive services such as providing free insulin, a White House advisor said.

The proposal, outlined by White House healthcare advisor Brian Blase, would redefine what a preventive service is in a health savings account eligible high-deductible plan.

“We should figure out a way that insulin for diabetics is considered a preventive service that people should use their HSA for,” Blase said during an event sponsored by Roll Call in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.

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House Democrats introduce ‘Medicare for All’ bill
Modern Healthcare

House Democrats on Wednesday rolled out an ambitious proposal to extend Medicare to all Americans, eliminate private insurance and drastically overhaul reimbursement for doctors and hospitals.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D- Wash.) told reporters that the goal of the Medicare for All Act of 2019, which has more than 100 co-sponsors, is to completely overhaul the U.S. healthcare system and convert it to a government-run entity.

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Senate bill wants to sweeten deal for states to expand Medicaid
Modern Healthcare

A trio of Democratic senators introduced a bill on Wednesday that would give states that recently expanded Medicaid the same federal funding as those that previously expanded. The legislation from Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama comes as more red states are considering expansion.

“It’s crazy that for so many years, Virginia taxpayers were footing the bill for states that had already expanded Medicaid,” Warner said in a statement.

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Despite 1991 Ruling, Foes Of New Family Planning Rules See Law On Their Side
Kaiser Health News

State attorneys generals and women’s health advocates hoping to block in court new Trump administration rules for the federal family planning program face one major obstacle: The Supreme Court upheld very similar rules in 1991.

Those rules were summarily canceled after a change in administrations. But the court is arguably more conservative than it was 28 years ago.

Still, those who oppose the rules say that the ground has shifted enough to help them succeed this time.

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FDA takes fresh look at whether opioids are effective for chronic pain
The Washington Post

The Food and Drug Administration will require drug companies to study whether prescription opioids are effective in quelling chronic pain — another step in the government’s efforts to rein in use of the narcotics that spawned the drug epidemic.

Some studies already indicate that opioids are ineffective for pain beyond 12 weeks and many experts say long-term use can cause addiction, by prompting patients to build up tolerance to the drugs and seek higher doses. But conclusive, controlled research is scarce.

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Lawmaker promoting anti-vaxx bill suggests measles can be treated with antibiotics. (It can’t.)
Washington Post

Amid a relentless anti-vaccine movement and measles outbreaks across the United States, a Texas lawmaker has falsely suggested that antibiotics can be used to treat the deadly childhood disease.

Texas state Rep. Bill Zedler (R), an anti-vaxxer who is promoting legislation to allow parents to more easily opt out of vaccinations for their children, said he had measles when he was a child.

“When I grew up, I had a lot of these illnesses,” Zedler recalled, according to the Texas Observer. “They wanted me to stay at home. But as far as being sick in bed, it wasn’t anything like that.”

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Storing Health Records On Your Phone: Can Apple Live Up To Its Privacy Values?
National Public Radio

Sam Cavaliere, a San Diego tech worker, considers himself in average health, though the 47-year-old admits, “I can always stand to lose a little weight.” Like a lot of iPhone owners, he uses Apple’s Health app to keep track of his weight, his exercise routines and how many steps he takes in a day.

Now the app is also storing his health records.

Since last March, Apple has been rolling out a feature that allows people to store their medical records in its Health app. UC San Diego Health, where Cavaliere sees his doctors, is one of more than 200 health care providers around the United States using the health records feature.

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What Happens To Homeless Patients When They Are Discharged From The Hospital?
Pacific Standard

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-Governor 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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Black women are facing a childbirth mortality crisis. These doulas are trying to help.
Washington Post

“A few seconds in I said, ‘I can feel this.’

“The doctor said, ‘No, you don’t, that’s just pressure.’

“’No, I can feel you cutting me,’ I told her.

“She didn’t believe me. She kept going,” says Ayana Moore, 43, a mother of two in Durham, N.C. She is a scientist with several advanced educational degrees, including a master’s in science and a PhD in physiology and biophysics. She is a by-choice mom with a solid health insurance plan that covered her insemination. She could afford the fertility medications and regular doctor’s appointments.

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Listening To Older Patients Who Want To Stop Dialysis
Kaiser Health News

Dr. Susan Wong sat down with an 84-year-old patient in the hospital, where he’d been admitted with a flare-up of a serious autoimmune condition and deteriorating kidney function.

The older man told her he wanted to go home; he’d had a good life and was ready for its end. He didn’t want aggressive care — including dialysis — having witnessed his wife and son die painfully in intensive care years ago.

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‘Miraculous’ stem cell therapy has sickened people in five states
Washington Post

After years of back pain, Timothy Lunceford decided in July to try an injection of umbilical cord blood, an unproven treatment increasingly touted by chiropractors and pain doctors as a cure for achy joints. A day after he got the shots, Lunceford’s back began throbbing. After two days, he was feverish and could hardly move.

“It felt like someone stuck a knife into the middle of my back and just left it there,” said Lunceford, a 52-year-old wildlife biologist from Athens, Tex.

Lunceford said his wife rushed him to a hospital, where doctors found E.

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