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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Trump wants to drop a neutron bomb on the Affordable Care Act. Over to you, 2020 voters.
USA Today

Only 24 hours after what he sees as a vindication of his presidency by Attorney General William Barr, President Donald Trump took the most radical, aggressive and harmful move of his presidency when he filed papers to ask the courts to support the complete elimination of the Affordable Care Act.

And in doing so, Trump just framed the stakes of the 2020 election.

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Trump Administration Says Entire Affordable Care Act Should Be Repealed
National Public Radio

In a significant shift, the Trump administration says the entirety of the Affordable Care Act should be struck down in the courts. Previously, the administration had pushed to remove the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions but had not argued in court that the whole law should be struck down.

The change was announced in a two-sentence letter from the Department of Justice to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that the ruling made in December by a district court judge in Texas “should be affirmed.”

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Power Up: Trump seeks pivot to health care ahead of 2020
Washington Post

TRUMP’S PIVOT TO HEALTHCARE: President Trump on Capitol Hill thanked Republican senators for standing by him during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — and then insisted they should focus on health care going into 2020.

“The Republican Party will become ‘The Party of Healthcare!’” he tweeted yesterday.

The timing: The Justice Department on Monday night argued in a new court filing that the entire Affordable Care Act should be thrown out, instead of just its individual mandate to buy coverage

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Trump surprises Republicans — and pleases Democrats — with push to revive health-care battle
Washington Post

A surprise move by the Trump administration aimed at striking down the Affordable Care Act thrust the partisan battle over health care into the middle of the 2020 campaign on Tuesday, handing Democrats a potential political gift on an issue that damaged Republicans badly in last year’s midterm elections.

In a new court filing, the Justice Department argued that the ACA, also known as Obamacare, should be thrown out in its entirety, including provisions protecting millions of Americans with preexisting health conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health-care

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Trump claims GOP will be the ‘party of health care,’ after urging judge to toss out Obamacare
USA Today

Endorsing the idea that the courts should strike down all of former president Barack Obama’s health care law, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he and the Republicans will embrace the issue ahead of next year’s elections.

“The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care – you watch,” Trump told reporters after the Justice Department asked an appeals court to uphold a Texas judge’s decision to invalidate the entire law known as “Obamacare.”

Trump tweeted a similar sentiment just minutes before a meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill.

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White House Obamacare reversal made over Cabinet objections
POLITICO

The Trump administration’s surprising move to invalidate Obamacare on Monday came despite the opposition of two key cabinet secretaries: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General Bill Barr.

Driving the dramatic action were the administration’s domestic policy chief, Joe Grogan, and the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russ Vought, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the decision. Both are close allies of White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who helped to engineer the move.

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HHS’ Hargan: Medicare cuts will shore up program
Modern Healthcare

HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan assured U.S. House of Representatives lawmakers on Tuesday that the $845 billion Medicare spending cut over the next decade won’t amount to slashing care.

A large portion of the seeming cuts stems from a change in how hospitals are paid for uncompensated care and graduate medical education. Instead of taking those dollars from the Medicare trust fund, they will come from the general fund, shrinking the gap to around $500 billion, Hargan said during a House Budget Committee hearing.

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Medicaid Expansion Boosts Hospital Bottom Lines — And Prices
Kaiser Health News

The Medicaid expansion promoted by the Affordable Care Act was a boon for St. Mary’s Medical Center, the largest hospital in western Colorado. Since 2014, the number of uninsured patients it served dropped by more than half, saving the nonprofit hospital more than $3 million a year.

But the Grand Junction hospital’s prices did not go down.

“St. Mary’s is still way too costly,” said Mike Stahl, CEO of Hilltop Community Resources, which provides insurance to about half of its nearly 600 employees and their families in western Colorado. “We are not seeing the decreases in our overall health bills that I believe the community overall should be feeling.”

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Verma says CMS is working to fix inappropriate lab test billing
Modern Healthcare

CMS Administrator Seema Verma told Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) the agency is scrutinizing lab test bills submitted to Medicare to make sure the government hasn’t been overpaying laboratories because of inappropriate coding.

In a letter to Grassley, Verma noted that Medicare is required to pay a separate amount for each clinical diagnostic test under law. That rate has to be equal to the “weighted median of the private payer rates” for each test, based on the data reported by the labs that administer to the test.

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Fitch: Not-for-profit hospital margins will stabilize in 2019
Modern Healthcare

Like it or not, healthcare providers have had to become a resilient bunch.

They’ve come back from all-encompassing changes like the introduction of the prospective payment system in 1983, the Balanced Budget Act in 1997 and 2013’s federal budget sequestration. Fast-forward to today’s challenges, and providers are once again struggling to regain their footing.

A new report from Fitch Ratings predicts they will.

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California may toughen immunization rules to block measles
Associated Press

California would give state public health officials instead of local doctors the power to decide which children can skip vaccinations before attending school under legislation proposed Tuesday to counter what advocates call bogus exemptions.

The measure would also let state and county health officials revoke medical exemptions granted by doctors if they are found to be fraudulent or contradict federal immunization standards.

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Childhood vaccine exemptions in California would need state OK under new bill
San Francisco Chronicle

As a surging number of California parents forgo required vaccines for their children because of health concerns, the lawmaker behind the state’s mandatory vaccination law wants to remove the power to grant those exemptions from individual doctors.

State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, announced legislation Tuesday that would require the state Department of Public Health to approve every request for a medical exemption to the children’s immunization schedule.

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California bill could ban anti-vaccine parents from doctor-shopping for medical exemptions
The Sacramento Bee

A California lawmaker has introduced a bill to crack down on doctors issuing medical exemptions to anti-vaccine parents, a practice he says has escalated since the state adopted more stringent standards on mandatory vaccination.

“Some schools are reporting that more than 20 percent of their students have a medical exemption,” Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, said in a statement introducing the bill. “It is clear that a small number of physicians are monetizing their exemption-granting authority and profiting from the sale of medical exemptions.”

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Lawmakers hope to crack down on bogus medical vaccination exemptions
Southern California Public Radio

SB 276 would require the state Department of Public Health to approve all medical exemptions. The department would also set up a database to track exemptions. The number of medical exemptions has jumped since a state law banned exemptions for personal or religious reasons. Public health officials say some unethical doctors have sold medical exemptions or signed off on them when they weren’t necessary.

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With Fentanyl Deaths On the Rise Nationally, California Is Taking Precautions
capital public radio

Deaths from a synthetic opioid called fentanyl have been on the rise nationally, and last week’s findings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show this could be the third wave of the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Though the spike in death rates has largely affected the Northeast, the trend is starting to worry health experts in California, who are already taking precautions to reduce overdoses.

“We should be worried,” said Kelly Pfeifer, an opioid policy expert with the nonprofit California Health Care Foundation. “We may experience the type of fentanyl epidemic that the East Coast has experienced. But we have some real advantages in California.”

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Analysis: Why Americans Shouldn’t Feel Grateful For $137 Insulin
Kaiser Health News

This month, Eli Lilly and Co. announced with some fanfare that it was manufacturing a generic version of its own best-selling insulin brand, Humalog, which it would sell for half off — $137.35 versus about $275.

David Ricks, the chief executive of Lilly, said the company was making this seemingly beneficent gesture because “many patients are struggling to afford their insulin.”

But they’re struggling, in large part, because since 2001 Lilly has raised the price of a vial of Humalog to about $275, from $35. Other insulin makers have raised prices similarly.

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10 things to know about total joint replacement in ASCs for 2019
Becker's Hospital Review

Total joint replacements in ASCs are increasing in popularity and becoming more common. The shift to value-based care, insurance coverage expansion and studies showing good patient outcomes in the outpatient setting are just some of the trends driving total joints to the outpatient setting.

Ten key details to know about total joint replacement in ASCs:

1. Over 250 ASCs offer total joint replacements in the U.S. You can find a list of the number of ASCs per state here.

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Women need better information on breast implants, panel says
The Washington Post

Members of a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee scrutinizing the safety of breast implants urged the agency on Tuesday to take steps to ensure that patients have a clearer understanding of the risks — which includes a rare cancer that is linked to several deaths around the world — posed by the devices.

The members, speaking at the conclusion of a two-day FDA hearing, signaled support for a standardized, easily understood consent form that would lay out the major risks of the devices and be reviewed by patients and their doctors before a woman underwent surgery.

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Oxycontin maker reaches $270M settlement with Oklahoma for painkiller’s role in opioid crisis
USA Today

The maker of OxyContin and the family that owns the company have reached a $270 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma over the prescription painkiller’s role in the nation’s deadly opioid crisis, a person familiar with the agreement said Tuesday.

The person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Oklahoma’s attorney general scheduled an afternoon news conference to announce the settlement with Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma and its controlling Sackler family.

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Amid talk of buyout, Peninsula biotech zeroes in on its blood-thinner antidote
San Francisco Business Times

The company is focusing on its antidote to a class of blood-thinning drugs, its new CEO said.

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Dignity launches its own specialty pharmacy
Modern Healthcare

Dignity Health is the latest health system to enter the specialty pharmacy market.

The not-for-profit provider launched its own program to distribute medications for more than 20 complex diseases, and it plans to expand services to its broader national network of CommonSpirit Health.

Peggy Sanborn, vice president of strategic growth, mergers and acquisitions, and partnership integration at Dignity Health, said the health system began its specialty pharmacy program at the end of last year in its Phoenix market and has since expanded into Sacramento, Calif. It will enter six more of its service markets over the next few months.

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Sutter Health teams up with Redwood City AI health care startup
San Francisco Business Times

Sutter is collaborating with Suki to streamline electronic health records.

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