News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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The Health 202: Republicans want to look like pioneers on preexisting conditions protections
Washington Post

Republicans who say they hate Obamacare are scrambling to introduce legislation protecting Americans with preexisting conditions. But it’s precisely because of the health-care law that they embraced such protections in the first place.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans in 2020, reintroduced a bill this week banning health insurers from refusing coverage to such patients, charging them more or denying coverage for their specific treatment — protections already extended in the Affordable Care Act.

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Medicare for All is a distant dream. Here’s how to start fixing health care right now.
USA Today

What do Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and a 70% marginal tax rate all have in common? They’re dramatic shifts in public policy and none of them are remotely possible, at least right now.

That doesn’t mean they’re bad ideas. Quite the contrary: there are strong arguments to make for each of these proposals. Health coverage for all, reducing pollution and increasing taxes on the very wealthy represent basic ideas (ignore the current labels) that are attractive to many Americans.

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22 ways California could make health care more affordable and accessible
The Sacramento Bee

Eduardo Contreras thought he would finally see some financial security this year.

For some time, his family had struggled on an income of about $50,000. Then Contreras got a new job as a cook at a winery, with better pay and more hours. In 2019, he and his wife, a hotel housekeeper, expect to clear $80,000. With an increase in family income of more than 50 percent, they looked forward to some relief from the pressure.

But then the 46-year-old Orange County resident took a look at his new monthly health insurance premium: $1,045, an increase of almost $700.  That’s partly because his wife, who hasn’t been covered before, has been ill and needs insurance. They’ve been able to appeal to Covered California, the state’s insurance exchange for those without employer-sponsored coverage, to get the premium down to about $951 after a subsidy. So far they have been paying the monthly bill, but Contreras fears it may become unaffordable for his family.

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CMS may start cracking down on dual-eligible ‘look-alike’ plans
Modern Healthcare

As the federal government sets about promoting more integrated care for patients eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, it is also considering cracking down on a type of health plan that could complicate that goal.

These plans, referred to as dual-eligible special needs (D-SNP) plan “look-alikes,” are designed and marketed to attract dual-eligible patients, who may enroll thinking they will receive integrated Medicare and Medicaid benefits and extra care coordination.

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Editorial: Make healthcare local again
Modern Healthcare

When I first started at Modern Healthcare, the phrase “healthcare is local” was ubiquitous. But the past four years have given us record dealmaking. In an effort to save money, leverage scale or, for some, simply survive, hospitals across the country have merged.

That consolidation often begets regional leadership models, which begets fewer local funding decisions. These changes have occurred coincident with population health efforts that require hyperlocal information to target social determinants of health.

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MACPAC wants to change how DSH payments are calculated
Modern Healthcare

A Medicaid advisory panel doesn’t want to count third-party costs and payments in the calculation of the Medicaid shortfall for disproportionate-share hospitals, a move that could increase DSH payments to hospitals that serve a high share of Medicaid-only patients.

Medicaid and CHIP Payment Advisory Commission members cast 15 votes in favor with one abstention to approve a recommendation to Congress to change the definition of a Medicaid shortfall, or the difference between the cost for providing care to Medicaid patients and the payments for the services.

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MACPAC recommends giving states more power on drug prices
Modern Healthcare

A Medicaid advisory panel wants Congress to remove a cap on rebates paid for drugs under the program and create a grace period for states to restrict coverage of a drug for 180 days to determine whether it is effective. The Medicaid and CHIP Payment Advisory Commission adopted both policies unanimously during its Thursday meeting in Washington.

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How to Fight ‘Scary’ Superbugs? Cooperation — And A Special Soap
California Healthline

Hospitals and nursing homes in California and Illinois are testing a surprisingly simple strategy against the dangerous, antibiotic-resistant superbugs that kill thousands of people each year: washing patients with a special soap.

The efforts — funded with roughly $8 million from the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — are taking place at 50 facilities in those two states.

This novel approach recognizes that superbugs don’t remain isolated in one hospital or nursing home but move quickly through a community, said Dr. John Jernigan, who directs the CDC’s office on health care-acquired infection research.

“No health care facility is an island,” Jernigan said. “We all are in this complicated network.”

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Health Systems Get Into Specialty Pharmacies In Effort To Lower Costs Of Priciest Drugs
capital public radio

Medications for autoimmune disease, cancer and hepatitis are some of the biggest drivers of high pharmaceutical costs in the U.S. They’re called specialty drugs, and there’s some debate around the best way to get them to patients.

Dignity Health is the latest hospital system to set up a “specialty pharmacy” — businesses dispensing complex medications that basic pharmacies generally can’t give out. Patients often get the drugs now through their hospital pharmacies, but additional steps and approvals can be a challenge even for them.

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Antiabortion ‘heartbeat’ bills are illegal. Why do Republicans keep passing them?
Washington Post

North Dakota state lawmakers passed the first “heartbeat” bill in 2013 — a law that banned abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can happen as early as six weeks, before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

Lower courts ruled it unconstitutional, based on the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, and the high court refused to hear the appeal.

Iowa passed a similar bill, and a state judge declared it unconstitutional, too.

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As a new mom, postpartum depression made the most wonderful time of my life also the worst
USA Today

I became a mother for the first time in January 1999. I often call the months that followed the most wonderful, awful time of my life. It was emotionally and physically overwhelming. The love I felt for my baby was unsurpassed, but equally strong were the feelings of sadness and isolation. I struggled to breastfeed to the point that my nipples actually bled. Everything was so hard, breastfeeding, lack of sleep, communication and connecting with my husband, saying goodbye to life as I knew it.

I cried and my baby cried endlessly.

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Very Low Cholesterol May Increase Stroke Risk
New York Times

Having extremely low cholesterol may increase the risk for stroke, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that very low LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and very low triglycerides are associated with an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke, the type caused by a ruptured blood vessel in the brain.

For the report, in Neurology, researchers reviewed data on total cholesterol, LDL, HDL (“good” cholesterol) and triglycerides for 27,937 women. During an average follow-up of 19 years, there were 137 hemorrhagic strokes.

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New Rady clinic to fight chronic pain without opioids
San Diego Union-Tribune

A heel fracture suffered while running on the beach eventually left Jasper Neale with such chronic pain that even putting on a shirt was agony.

But an innovative program at a New Jersey hospital showed the 17-year-old how he could get his life back without the use of opioid painkillers, and now Rady Children’s Hospital is planning to follow the same route to help patients on the West Coast.

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