News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Democracy matters for health care. Here’s how we measured this.
The Washington Post

When Rwandan President Paul Kagame took the stage as the keynote speaker at last year’s annual assembly of the World Health Organization, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus greeted him a warm handshake.

Kagame, reelected in 2017 with 98.7 percent of the vote after 18 years in office, is one of a new group of autocrats to find accolades for improving health. For decades, China and Cuba stood out for providing good health coverage at low cost.

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The Health 202: Hospitals lean into virtual health care even as Medicare won’t cover it
The Washington Post

From a glassy four-story building in the St. Louis suburbs, doctors and nurses at Mercy Virtual Care Center give checkups and monitor vital signs for patients located miles away — even, sometimes, in other states.

Yet much of its long-distance treatment isn’t yet compensated by Medicare, the largest insurance payer in the United States.

Mercy Virtual — often referred to as the country’s first hospital without beds — is part of a new frontier in medical care.Virtual care, or telehealth, is increasingly adopted by hospitals and clinics not only to fill in shortages in rural areas but also to care for patients more proactively than many hospitals have resources for. 

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FDA Chief Calls For Stricter Scrutiny Of Electronic Health Records
Kaiser Health News

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Wednesday called for tighter scrutiny of electronic health records systems, which have prompted thousands of reports of patient injuries and other safety problems over the past decade.

“What we really need is a much more tailored approach, so that we have appropriate oversight of EHRs when they’re doing things that could create risk for patients,” Gottlieb said in an interview with Kaiser Health News.

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State Laws Ban Surprise Medical Bills. She Got One for $227K And Fought Back.
Kaiser Health News

The first surprise was the massive heart attack, which struck as Debbie Moehnke waited in a Vancouver, Wash., medical clinic last summer.

“She had an appointment because her feet were swollen real bad,” said Larry Moehnke, her husband. “But she got in there and it was like, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!’”

Her life suddenly at risk, the 59-year-old was rushed by ambulance, first to a local hospital, where she was stabilized, and then, the next day, to Oregon Health & Science University across the river in Portland for urgent cardiac care.

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It Will Take More Than Transparency To Reduce Drug Prices, Economists Say
National Public Radio

A new drug to treat postpartum depression is likely to reach the U.S. market in June, with a $34,000 price tag. The approval of the drug by the Food and Drug Administration comes on the heels of another approval, just two weeks ago, of a different antidepressant, whose retail price will be as much as $6,700 a month.

Those giant list prices send shivers through the insurance industry and across the federal government and state governments, which pay for about 40 percent of prescription drugs sold in the United States.

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Struggling to stay alive: Rising insulin prices cause diabetics to go to extremes
USA Today

Meaghan Carter died alone on the sofa of her suburban Dayton, Ohio, apartment last Christmas.

Like most people with Type 1 diabetes, the 47-year-old nurse had a kit of essential supplies within reach. It contained two empty vials of her preferred insulin, a partial vial of inexpensive Walmart insulin and a half-filled container of testing strips to measure blood glucose levels.

Uninsured, between jobs and with $50 in a bank account, Carter probably had attempted to stretch a limited supply of insulin until she got a final paycheck from her last job, family members say.

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Opinion: Don’t Make Healthcare A Purity Test
Health Leaders Media

We’re now in the silly season of the Democratic primary — a season that, I worry, may last all the way to the nomination. There are many honorable exceptions, but an awful lot of reporting seems to be third order — not about the candidates, let alone their policy proposals, but about pundits’ views about voters’ views of candidates’ electability.

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In the age of machines, doctors must remember to care
San Diego Union-Tribune

As medical science proliferates with technologies, what is left for the doctor to do?

For medical humanist Dr. Abraham Verghese, the answer is simple: Spend more time getting to know your patients as people. Take the time to read a poem and other literature. Do your part to bridge the gap between the two cultures of science and the humanities.

Verghese delivered the closing speech at last week’s Future of Individualized Medicine conference in La Jolla. His talk was meant to put into perspective the meaning of the technologies that otherwise dominated the conference, like genomics, microbiomics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

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GAO: Emergency air transport firms hiked prices 60% while adding bases
Modern Healthcare

Air ambulance companies have continued to add air bases, particularly in the Southern and Western United States, even as they hiked their average charges by more than 60%.

The findings by the Government Accountability Office show how costs for patients and insurers have continued to jump despite state efforts to control balance billing for emergency flights. Regulation of emergency air transport falls to the Federal Aviation Administration, so the courts have so far largely struck down states’ attempts to rein in the cost burden on patients.

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Anti-vaxxers trolled a doctors’ office. Here’s what scientists learned from the attack.
The Washington Post

Just before school started in the summer of 2017, Kids Plus Pediatrics of Pittsburgh posted a video on its Facebook page urging parents to vaccinate their children against human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause a variety of cancers. Three weeks later, communications director Chad Hermann noticed “something new happening” online.

First, someone posted the claim that “the vaccine kills.” Within minutes, more anti-vaccine comments came pouring in. The next day, someone inside a closed Facebook group started sending private messages with “screen shots so we could see them coordinating the attacks,” Hermann recalled.

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Editorial: We’re not addressing the root causes of poor health
Modern Healthcare

Over the past few decades, healthcare economists have offered four distinct ways to reduce system costs: eliminate unnecessary use; lower prices; reduce administrative overhead; and foster a healthier society.

The latter approach—addressing the root causes of ill health or what healthcare wonks call the social determinants of health—draws the least attention for a simple reason. It’s hard to do.

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Aspiring Doctors Seek Advanced Training In Addiction Medicine
Kaiser Health News

The U.S. Surgeon General’s office estimates that more than 20 million people have a substance use disorder. Meanwhile, the nation’s drug overdose crisis shows no sign of slowing.

Yet, by all accounts, there aren’t nearly enough physicians who specialize in treating addiction — doctors with extensive clinical training who are board-certified in addiction medicine.

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Advance offers new hope for fertility preservation in young boys with cancer
Washington Post

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists announced a milestone Thursday in their efforts to preserve the fertility of young boys undergoing cancer treatments. The advance involves using cryopreserved testicular tissue to produce sperm for in vitro fertilization.

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers announced the birth of a monkey born using this technique and said the success paves the way for human trials.

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BPCI Advanced participation dips 16% in first five months
Modern Healthcare

The number of healthcare providers participating in the CMS‘ advanced bundled payment model has declined by 16% since the program started five months ago, as providers choose to get out now to avoid financial risk.

The CMS announced Thursday that 1,086 healthcare providers are participating in the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced model, the first alternative payment model unveiled during the Trump administration. The model was initially rolled out by the CMS in October with 1,299 participants.

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