News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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The Health 202: While Trump rants about Obamacare, HHS works to further its bipartisan goals
The Washington Post

You wouldn’t know it from President Trump’s recent incendiary claims about Obamacare, but his Department of Health and Human Services is working behind the scenes to advance the law’s goals of rewarding doctors for better medical care.

Starting in January 2020, primary doctors for those using Medicare will be able to participate in a new experiment in which they’ll be paid for keeping patients out of the hospital and healthy at home (and could lose some money if they don’t.) The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is also rolling out a program where larger physician practices could take on more risk but also reap bigger rewards than ever before for keeping seniors well.

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Medicare population budget model could spur major pay shift
Modern Healthcare

The CMS Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation’s planned push for a regional population-based budget in traditional fee-for-service Medicare could launch a major transformation in curbing sprawling healthcare costs for the program.

That’s the hope of the Trump administration’s top health officials. On Monday they opened the public comment period for five primary-care pay demonstrations.

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Medicare proposes higher payments for innovative cancer treatment
Washington Post

Medicare officials on Tuesday proposed increasing reimbursements for a groundbreaking but costly cancer therapy used for patients whose blood cancers don’t respond to other treatments.

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the proposed changes are necessary because “Medicare’s antiquated payment systems” have not kept up with the development of “transformative technologies.” She said she is concerned inadequate payments might be prompting hospitals to limit Medicare patients’ access to needed therapies.

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CMS proposes $4.7 billion hike to inpatient spending, change wage index
Modern Healthcare

The CMS wants to increase the wage index that sets the nation’s hospital payments to address a disparity in the system. Urban hospitals would be on the losing end of this change. The rule aims to change the formula to pay rural hospitals which have some of the lowest reimbursement rates in the country.

The agency late Tuesday released its annual proposed update for the hospital inpatient prospective payment system for federal fiscal year 2020 that starts in October. Overall, the CMS projected total Medicare spending on inpatient hospital services, including capital, to climb by $4.7 billion in fiscal 2020.

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Amid Opioid Prescriber Crackdown, Health Officials Reach Out To Pain Patients
Kaiser Health News

A pharmacist in Celina, Tenn., was one of 60 people indicted on charges of opioid-related crimes last week, in a multistate sting. John Polston was charged with 21 counts of filling medically unnecessary narcotic prescriptions.

He was also Gail Gray’s pharmacist and the person she relied on to regularly fill her opioid prescriptions.

“I take pain medicine first thing in the morning. I’m usually up most of the night with pain,” she said. “I hurt all the time.”

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For the first time, U.S. files criminal charges against an opioid distributor
Washington Post

Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against a major drug distributor and two of its former executives Tuesday, a new tactic that for the first time exposes wholesalers of legal painkillers to potential prison sentences for their roles in the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The company, Rochester Drug Cooperative, and the executives were charged with three crimes, including conspiracy to distribute controlled narcotics for nonmedical reasons. The two men could face 10 years to life in prison on that charge.

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Drug Distributor And Former Execs Face First Criminal Charges In Opioid Crisis
National Public Radio

A major pharmaceutical distribution company and two of its former executives are facing criminal charges for their roles in advancing the nation’s opioid crisis and profiting from it.

Rochester Drug Co-Operative Inc., one of the nation’s 10 largest pharmaceutical distributors in the U.S., its former CEO Laurence Doud III and former chief of compliance William Pietruszewski were charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled narcotics — oxycodone and fentanyl — for non-medical reasons and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Former CEO Laurence Doud III and former chief of compliance William Pietruszewski also were charged.

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Measles’ next target in Los Angeles: Unvaccinated college students
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles health officials warned this week that students and staff at UCLA and Cal State L.A. may be at risk of catching measles, an announcement that has raised questions about universities’ susceptibility to disease outbreaks.

Not only can cramped dorm rooms and crowded classrooms be breeding grounds for contagion, but young adults in California are less likely to be vaccinated than other age groups, experts say.

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California vaccination fight, Part 2
Capitol Weekly

Passions are high as a bill meant to tighten the state’s already strict child vaccination law heads to its first hearing before the senate health committee Wednesday.

Just four years after the state eliminated the personal beliefs exemption that allowed parents to skip vaccinations for their children, a new bill would require the state public health department to review all requests for exemptions for medical reasons.

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Two measles cases confirmed in Sacramento County – first since 2012, officials say
Sacramento Bee

Two Sacramento County children from the same family were diagnosed with measles Tuesday – the first confirmed cases in the county in seven years, according to the Sacramento County Public Health Department.

The children were not vaccinated and are at home recovering, according to county spokeswoman Brenda Bongiorno. Anyone potentially exposed to the deadly virus was notified, Bongiorno said, though she could not specify how many were notified.

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Report: Hospital M&A was strong in first quarter
Modern Healthcare

Hospital and health system merger and acquisition activity was strong in the first quarter of 2019 and generally consistent with levels seen in recent years, a new Kaufman Hall report found.

The analysis identified 27 transactions in the quarter—about half of those in January—compared with 30 in the first quarter of 2018, which the report said was a very high activity period. But the total transacted revenue was less than half in the recently ended quarter compared with the prior-year quarter, and the average sellers in those transactions had about half the annual revenue of those in 2018, according to the report.

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The Homeless Are Dying In Record Numbers On The Streets Of L.A.
Kaiser Health News

A record number of homeless people — 918 last year alone — are dying across Los Angeles County, on bus benches, hillsides, railroad tracks and sidewalks.

Deaths have jumped 76% in the past five years, outpacing the growth of the homeless population, according to a KHN analysis of the coroner’s data.

Health officials and experts have not pinpointed a single cause for the sharp increase in deaths, but they say rising substance abuse may be a major reason. The surge also reflects growth in the number of people who are chronically homeless and those who don’t typically use shelters, which means more people are living longer on the streets with serious physical and behavioral health issues, they say.

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UC Berkeley must inform, actively support students in light of disruptive SHIP changes
The Daily Californian

This month, UC Berkeley announced a change in insurance carriers for the Student Health Insurance Plan, or SHIP, effective fall 2019. In a press release, the campus told students to expect “a modest increase to premiums” and “minimal changes to specific copays.” But to the students that this change will impact, this is far from the truth.

University Health Services, or UHS, will break from Anthem Blue Cross and, instead, partner with Blue Shield of California, increasing costs and possibly limiting health care providers for students on campus.

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Why tiny Fort Bragg hospital is looking to Sacramento-area giants for lifeline
Sacramento Bee

Faced with continuing operational losses, the board of Mendocino Coast District Hospital has asked five hospital operators, including Sutter Health and Adventist Health, to take a look at buying or partnering with a facility that serves 23,500 residents along a 70-mile stretch of California’s North Coast.

“Small standalone rural hospitals across America, across California, are struggling and having difficult financial times, and that’s only going to get worse,” said Wayne Allen, the interim chief executive officer at Mendocino Coast District Hospital .

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