News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Medicare drug price arbitration gains steam in the House
Modern Healthcare

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) will broach the idea of using arbitration to give HHS leverage with drug manufacturers over prices in a hearing next Tuesday.

The committee plans to convene a hearing to discuss a bipartisan set of bills aimed at drug price transparency, the chairman said. But he said that he and the panel’s Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) have discussed arbitration “in a general way” in their regular talks. He described those talks as “fluid,” but confirmed that a policy like arbitration is possible.

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Giblib raises $2.5 million for its medical education streaming platform
Los Angeles Business Journal

Giblib, operator of a streaming media platform featuring medical education content, has closed $2.5 million in seed funding from investors including the Mayo Clinic.

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Senate passes health homes bill for chronically ill kids
Modern Healthcare

The Senate on Tuesday night passed legislation to help states establish hospital-coordinated health homes for chronically sick kids through a boost in federal Medicaid funds.

The Advancing Care for Exceptional (ACE) Kids Act has been years in the works, pushed hard by children’s hospitals and just as strongly opposed by Medicaid managed care plans wary of losing contracts for kids with complex conditions.

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FDA sends letters to 20 companies in attempt to rein in stem cell industry
The Washington Post

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday sent 20 letters to companies in the burgeoning stem cell industry, telling them they are selling an unapproved product in violation of federal laws.

It also sent a more formal letter of warning to a company that makes umbilical cord blood products that have been used by such stem cell companies, and accused it of legal violations and safety lapses.

The letters are part of an ongoing attempt by the FDA to rein in the booming industry, which critics say has injured dozens of patients and cheated thousands more. In recent years, hundreds of clinics have have popped up selling stem cell procedures — not covered by insurance, unproven by science and unauthorized by the government — that purveyors claim can treat ailments ranging from creaky knees to Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

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FDA’s Gottlieb heads back to AEI to tackle drug prices
The Washington Post

Scott Gottlieb, who will step down as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, plans to return to the American Enterprise Institute to focus on drug prices — a hotly debated area that has been peripheral to his current job, he said in an interview.

The 46-year-old physician, who has been commuting weekly to Washington from his home in Connecticut, said he plans to spend a half-dozen days a month in Washington as a resident fellow at the conservative think tank. Besides that, he said, he has no commitments for now other than taking his family to Disney World.

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Telehealth use surged in 2017
Modern Healthcare

Telehealth use jumped 53% from 2016 to 2017, outpacing all other sites of care, according to a new report.

Telehealth utilization grew nearly twice as fast in urban than rural areas over that span, according to a new white paper from Fair Health, which parsed its database of 28 billion commercial insurance claims, the largest repository in the country. National use of urgent-care centers increased 14%, followed by retail clinics at 7% and ambulatory surgery centers at 6%, while emergency department utilization declined 2%.

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Bad Diets Are Responsible For More Deaths Than Smoking, Global Study Finds
National Public Radio

About 11 million deaths a year are linked to poor diet around the globe.

What’s driving this? As a planet we don’t eat enough healthy foods including whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. At the same time, we consume too many sugary drinks, too much salt and too much processed meat.

As part of a new study published in The Lancet, researchers analyzed the diets of people in 195 countries using survey data, as well as sales data and household expenditure data. Then they estimated the impact of poor diets on the risk of death from diseases including heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes. (They also calculated the number of deaths related to other risk factors, such as smoking and drug use, at the global level.)

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How Easy Are Vaccine Exemptions? Take A Look At The Oregon Model
Kaiser Health News

As measles outbreaks continue in the Northwest and across the nation, newly revealed health records from Oregon suggest it’s surprisingly easy to opt out of required vaccinations in that state — as in several others.

In Oregon — which has the highest kindergarten vaccine exemption rate in the U.S. — about 95% of parents whose kids skip one or more vaccines use a print-your-own certificate to do so.

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Hepatitis C Not A Barrier For Organ Transplantation, Study Finds
National Public Radio

Donated organs from people who were infected with the hepatitis C virus can be safely transplanted, according to the latest in a line of studies that are building a case for using these organs.

Typically, these organs have been discarded because of concerns about spreading the viral infection. But a study of heart and lung transplants published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine finds that new antiviral drugs are so effective that the recipients can be protected from infection.

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Cigna to cap insulin cost amid federal drug pricing scrutiny
Modern Healthcare

Health insurer Cigna Corp. and its newly acquired pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts said Wednesday they plan to reduce out-of-pocket costs for life-saving insulin for some diabetic customers.

The companies said commercially-insured patients whose employers opt into the program will pay no more than $25 for a 30-day supply of insulin. Typically, Cigna and Express Scripts customers who use insulin pay about $41.50 out of pocket for a 30-day supply. The discounts could affect up to 700,000 patients, a company spokeswoman said.

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Insulin prices: Cigna, Express Scripts cap monthly cost for diabetes treatment
USA Today

Insulin is about to become more affordable for some people with diabetes. .

On Wednesday, the health insurer Cigna and pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts announced the launch of an insurance plan that caps insulin costs at $25 a month, a move that could affect more than 700,000 people, according to the company.

Called the Patient Assurance Program SM, the project seeks to address the need for greater affordability and access to insulin.

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Innovators Worth Watching: Hennepin Health ACO
The Health Care Blog

As U.S. providers continue their slow but steady march away from fee-for-service reimbursement and toward value-based payments, they’re increasingly seeking means of addressing patients’ health-related social needs. That’s because social determinants of health—life circumstances including socioeconomic status, housing, education, and employment—are estimated to have at least twice the impact on risk of premature death than health care. So addressing them is an important part of value-based strategies aiming to improve health while reducing health care costs.

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Express Scripts Takes Steps To Cut Insulin’s Price To Patients
National Public Radio

As the heat turns up on drug manufacturers who determine the price of insulin and the health insurers and middlemen who determine what patients pay, one company — Cigna’s Express Scripts — announced Wednesday it will take steps by the end of the year to help limit the drug’s cost to consumers.

Express Scripts, which manages prescription drug insurance for more than 80 million people, is launching a “patient assurance program” that Steve Miller, Cigna’s chief clinical officer, says “caps the copay for a patient at $25 a month for their insulin — no matter what.”

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Adventist discloses at least $38 million in destroyed, non-operable assets in Paradise
Sacramento Business Journal

Adventist Health reported at least $38 million in destroyed and non-operable property at its hospital in Paradise, in an annual financial disclosure by the Roseville-based health system.

Adventist’s Feather River hospital was one of 18,700 structures that were destroyed by the Camp Fire last November. The 100-bed hospital previously accounted for about 5.6 percent of Adventist’s total revenues, according to its 2017 financials. 

A report to bondholders, released Monday, discloses new details about the Paradise hospital.

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Stanford Children’s Health, UCSF team up to fund innovation in pediatric care
Silicon Valley Business Journal

At last week’s pitch competition, entrepreneurs working in the underserved pediatric market battled for grants to go toward their proposed medical devices — a concussion-monitoring smart mouth guard, VR goggles to sooth children’s fear of needles, and a neonatal incubator with synthetic amniotic fluid, to name a few.

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