News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Big Pharma Gave Money To Patient Advocacy Groups Opposing Medicare Changes
Kaiser Health News

Dozens of patient advocacy groups, like the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, recently appeared in national advertisements objecting to a Trump administration proposal that could limit drugs covered by Medicare providers.

But a Kaiser Health News analysis found that about half of the groups representing patients have received funding from the pharmaceutical industry.

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Silver health plans set stiffer cost-sharing on drugs than employer plans
Modern Healthcare

Two new studies show how health plans are jacking up patients’ out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs.

The studies highlight some of the concerns raised during Tuesday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing featuring the CEOs of seven major pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Senators of both parties tore into the executives over their pricing practices, arguing that they have made drugs unaffordable for many Americans. But the CEOs blamed insurers and pharmacy benefit managers for some of the problems.

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Why you need an emergency fund so a single hospital visit doesn’t destroy your finances
USA Today

Medical care is a huge burden for folks of all ages, but for older Americans with limited income, it’s often a source of financial upheaval.

In fact, 48 percent of Americans ages 55 and older with less than $60,000 of annual income say that a single emergency room visit ranks first on their list of money-related concerns, according to the NHP Foundation.

Not only that, but older Americans are routinely putting off medical care because of money.

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Commentary: Four steps would help CMS fix star-rating program’s unintended flaws
Modern Healthcare

Rush University Medical Center in Chicago strives to be a national leader in healthcare quality. We also believe in the vision of the CMS‘ hospital star-rating program to provide a transparent, consumer-focused measure of quality and safety.

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CMS levies fewer fines on Medicare Advantage plans
Modern Healthcare

Five Medicare Advantage insurers were hit with fines based on 2018 audits—the lowest number of fines imposed by the CMS in four years.

In total, the agency fined the five plans $204,900 for violating Medicare Part C and Part D requirements, it said Thursday. The CMS audited 39 insurers.

The fines levied for 2018 audits pale in comparison to those imposed in prior years. In 2018, the CMS fined 18 insurers roughly $2.5 million resulting from audits the previous year. Before that, 2016 audits resulted in $6.9 million in so-called civil monetary penalties, and 2015 audits led to $8.4 million in fines. An insurer can receive a penalty for delaying or denying access to covered prescription drugs or services, leading beneficiaries to incur unnecessary out-of-pocket costs.

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Medicare trims payments to 800 hospitals, citing patient-safety incidents
Modern Healthcare

This year, 800 hospitals will be paid less by Medicare because of high rates of infections and patient injuries, federal records show.

The number is the highest since the federal government five years ago launched the Hospital Acquired Conditions (HAC) Reduction Program, created by the Affordable Care Act. Under the program, 1,756 hospitals have been penalized at least once, a Kaiser Health News analysis found.

This year, 110 hospitals are being punished for the fifth straight time.

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FDA warns drug middleman for sending unsafe drugs to U.S.
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter Thursday to CanaRx, a pharmaceutical middleman that is endangering consumers by allegedly selling unapproved, misbranded and unsafe drugs.

CanaRx acts as a broker between foreign pharmacies and employer-sponsored health insurance plans. As of 2017, the intermediary contracted with more than 150 public and private employers in about 35 states, the FDA said.

CanaRx accepts the employee’s U.S. prescription and a foreign doctor rewrites the prescription filled with drugs from an unknown source. The drugs, purportedly sourced from Canada, the United Kingdom or Australia, are then shipped directly to the employee with the standard disclaimer—”Depending on your country, our medications may appear to be different in size, shape or color.”

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FDA Tightening Regulatory Requirements For Some Medical Devices
National Public Radio

There’s no doubt that surgically implanted medical devices can improve lives.

Hip and knee replacements can help people regain their mobility. Drug pumps can deliver doses of pain-relieving medicine on demand. And metal rods can stabilize spines and broken bones.

But implanted devices can also do serious damage, as happened to Mechel Keel, who lives in Owosso, Mich.

To fix her leaky bladder, an OB-GYN stitched a flexible mesh strap inside her pelvis in 2004. But within months the mesh hardened and started cutting her insides.

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Unwise and unnecessary: Opioids for wisdom teeth extractions
Washington Post

A few days before extracting my teenager’s wisdom teeth, an oral surgeon wrote him a prescription for painkillers. My son filled it but never felt a need for anything stronger than ibuprofen. Three years later, I found an unopened bottle of Percocet — an opioid — in the back of a bathroom cabinet.

I had no idea a dentist had prescribed my then 19-year-old the highly addictive pills. Likewise, until recently, dentists seemed to have had no idea they may have been helping to feed an epidemic that resulted in a record 70,237 U.S. drug overdose deaths in 2017.

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A teen got vaccinated against his parents’ wishes. Now, he’ll testify before Congress.
The Washington Post

Ethan Lindenberger began by questioning his parents’ anti-vaccine stances and eventually got himself inoculated, a rebellion that caught the attention of the national media and Congress.

The 18-year-old from Ohio announced Saturday on YouTube that he had been invited to speak before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions at a hearing Tuesday devoted to examining outbreaks of preventable diseases. He will appear alongside experts such as John Wiesman, Washington state’s secretary of health, and Saad B. Omer, a professor at Emory University in Georgia, according to the committee’s website.

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Underdiagnosed Male Eating Disorders Are Becoming Increasingly Identified
National Public Radio

In a recent episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, journalist Soledad O’Brien introduces viewers to 24-year-old Logan Davis.

Davis sports a classic hockey helmet haircut: his brown hair is long, reaching to his ears and sticking out to the side. Viewers first see Davis in his element: on the ice, tending a goalie net in his Ohio State Buckeye’s college hockey uniform.

Playing hockey had been his passion since he was 5, and being a starter goalie for a Big Ten hockey conference team as a college freshman was nothing short of a dream come true for Davis.

Davis’ drive propelled him to hockey stardom. That same drive pushed him to develop an eating disorder.

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I’m a scientist studying brain illnesses. Now I’m a lock-in, living with one of them: Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The Washington Post

I cannot speak, walk or use my hands anymore. I am unable to move my limbs or vocalize a grunt. I communicate with my eyes, using my gaze on a specialized computer screen to write a letter at a time. I am unable to extend my neck or swallow. I drool incessantly, choking on my secretions several times a day. Deep breathing is a thing of the past. Even simple breathing is done with the help of a machine. I am a physician and a scientist and built a career studying brain diseases, and now I am living with one of the diseases that I study. I am just 40 with an amazing wife and two beautiful children.

And as miraculous as my life is — in so many ways — I welcome death.

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For cancer survivors, Walgreens offers balms, and beauty to help in the healing
USA Today

Becky Halstead says the Walgreens beautician who gently taught her to draw on the eyebrows chemotherapy stripped away, helped her to feel normal again.

“It made a big, big difference in being able to look in the mirror and see somebody I recognized,” said Halstead, 51, who lives with her family in Flagstaff, Arizona, and is battling breast cancer for a second time. “It seems silly to focus on eyelashes and eyebrows, but the way I felt after, it’s not silly at all….I could go out to dinner and not feel like a patient.

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Santa Clara County’s purchase of hospitals and health clinic finally closes
Silicon Valley Business Journal

 After repeated attempts by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to block the deal, Santa Clara County became the owner of two hospitals and a health clinic at midnight Thursday as the $235 million purchase closed.

“I am relieved that the sale has been completed and eager to move forward with integrating our healthcare system,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese. “The two hospitals and the clinic are essential to the lives of the residents who would have been left without nearby emergency care.”

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Eureka doctor hopes to expand palliative care program to Crescent City area
Del Norte Triplicate

The founder of a Eureka-based end-of-life care program has reached out to the Del Norte Healthcare District in the hopes of expanding to the Crescent City area.

Dr. Michael Fratkin, president of Resolution Care, says his program has “taken care of quite a lot of folks” in the absence of hospice care in Del Norte County. He says he spoke with Healthcare District Chairman Dr.

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