News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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The Health 202: Trump needs help from Pelosi to notch a big drug pricing win
Washington Post

It seems fitting that President Trump — who describes himself as a master negotiator — wants a big, bold move to lower prescription drug prices by allowing the government to directly negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.

If a deal emerged between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on allowing such negotiations by Medicare — long anathema to Republicans, who view such a move as price fixing — it would be because the president wasn’t satisfied with a set of smaller-bore ideas being pursued on Capitol Hill and by his Department of Health and Human Services.

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CMS to use mandatory models ‘very judiciously,’ official says
Modern Healthcare

The CMS will only use mandatory payment models when the agency feels it can’t get enough participation or have adverse selection for voluntary models, a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation official said on Friday.

The remarks from deputy director Amy Bossano during the National Association of ACOs spring conference in Baltimore comes a day after CMS Administrator Seema Verma hinted that some upcoming models will be mandatory.

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Hospitals, patients sue to block new liver transplant rules
Washington Post

A group of patients waiting for liver transplants and hospitals have filed suit to block new rules they contend will reduce their access to the life-sustaining organs by transferring hundreds to medical centers in large cities, where the demand is higher.

The plaintiffs — which include transplant centers in Georgia, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri and elsewhere, as well as people on the waiting list for livers — say the rules will leave patients in those places with about 20 percent fewer organs than the current policy, resulting in an increase in deaths.

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Operating margins stabilize, but not-for-profit hospitals still vulnerable
Modern Healthcare

Not-for-profit and public hospitals’ revenue growth has edged ahead of expense inflation for the first time since 2015, according to a new report.

Median annual revenue growth rose to 5.1% while expense growth dropped to 5% in 2018, new preliminary data on 150 hospitals from Moody’s Investors Service show. Although hospitals were able to meaningfully reduce their expense growth rate from 7.1% in 2016 to 5.7% in 2017, that didn’t keep up with revenue growth’s decline from 6.1% to 4.6%.

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HHS to cap HIPAA fines based on ‘culpability’
Modern Healthcare

HHS updated the maximum it will penalize providers, health plans and their business associates in the wake of HIPAA violations, in some cases dropping the upper limit by more than $1 million.

The new system sets annual limits for these fines based on the organization’s “level of culpability” associated with the HIPAA violation, according to the department’s notice of enforcement discretion released late Friday. That means organizations that have taken measures to meet HIPAA’s requirements will face a much smaller maximum penalty than those who are found neglectful.

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Chiu, Wiener’s attempt to stop suffering from unfair hospital billing moving forward
San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco General Hospital’s recent announcement that it will no longer stick patients with huge, unfair bills if their insurance companies don’t pay the hospital’s crazy prices was great news. But it’s not the end of the story — not even close.

While the hospital did the right thing after months of media scrutiny, the practice of “balance billing” is a problem nationwide, and frankly, it’s one big reason single-payer health care makes sense.

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Getting all Californians health care coverage will be gradual process, Influencers say
Sacramento Bee

There’s an old saying in politics: “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”

Gavin Newsom’s approach to health care policy reflects this thinking. Newsom’s most ambitious campaign promise last year was to provide health care to all Californians through a government-run, single-payer system. But as the election drew closer, qualifiers like “inevitably” and “ultimately” began to creep into his conversation, suggesting a longer-term effort would be necessary.

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This $1,650 pill will tell your doctors whether you’ve taken it. Is it the future of medicine?
Washington Post

When the Food and Drug Administration approved in late 2017 a schizophrenia pill that sends a signal to a patient’s doctor when ingested, it was seen not only as a major step forward for the disease but as a new frontier of Internet-connected medicine.

Patients who have schizophrenia often stop taking their medicine, triggering psychotic episodes that can have severe consequences. So the pill, a 16-year-old medication combined with a tiny microchip, would help doctors intervene before a patient went dangerously off course.

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Does Taking Time For Compassion Make Doctors Better At Their Jobs?
National Public Radio

For most of his career, Dr. Stephen Trzeciak was not a big believer in the “touchy-feely” side of medicine. As a specialist in intensive care and chief of medicine at Cooper University Health Care in Camden, N.J., Trzeciak felt most at home in the hard sciences.

Then his new boss, Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli, came to him with a problem: Recent studies had shown an epidemic of burnout among health care providers. As co-president of Cooper, Mazzarelli was in charge of a major medical system and needed to find ways to improve patient care.

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With a stroke, your best chance is going to the best hospital. But the ambulance might not take you there.
The Washington Post

More than 140,000 Americans die from stroke every year. But getting to the best hospital as quickly as possible after a stroke improves your chances of survival. And where an ambulance takes you could depend on state law.

Unlike state rules for accident victims, which uniformly require first responders to take severely injured patients to the most advanced trauma unit available, state policies for stroke patients vary widely.

Most state rules direct paramedics to the closest hospital with a stroke unit, regardless of the attack’s severity. And some states limit paramedics to taking stroke patients to hospitals within state borders.

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Race-Based Medicine Can Blind Doctors from Social Injustice
The Health Care Blog

Fifteen years ago, as a medical student, I learned a terrifying lesson about blindly using race-based medicine. I was taking care of Mr. Smith, a thin man in his late 60s, who entered the hospital with severe back pain and a fever. As the student on the hospital team, I spent over an hour interviewing him, asking relevant questions about his medical and social history, the medications he took, and the details of his symptoms. I learned Mr. Smith was a veteran who ran into tough times that left him chronically homeless, uninsured, and suffering from hypertension and diabetes.

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Will Ties To A Catholic Hospital System Tie Doctors’ Hands?
Kaiser Health News

As Catholic health care systems across the country expand, the University of California’s flagship San Francisco hospital has become the latest arena for an emotional debate: Should the famously progressive medical center increase its treatment space by joining forces with a Catholic-run system that restricts care according to religious doctrine?

At issue is a proposal that UCSF Medical Center affiliate with Dignity Health, a massive Catholic health care system that, like other Catholic chains, is bound by ethical and religious directives from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Among other prohibitions on services, Dignity hospitals ban abortions unless the mother’s life is at risk, in vitro fertilization and physician-assisted death. Twenty-four of Dignity’s 39 hospitals prohibit contraception services and gender-confirming care for transgender people, such as hormone therapy and surgical procedures.

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When It’s Time For A Mammogram, Should You Ask For 3D?
National Public Radio

When women get a mammogram they may be offered one of two types. The older type of mammogram takes a single straightforward X-ray image of the breast. The newer 3D takes pictures from many angles. Now, more evidence shows that 3D mammography offers a more thorough picture of breast tissue and is more accurate.

When Mary Hu, an administrator in communications with Yale School of Medicine, went to get a mammogram two years ago, she didn’t even know she was getting 3D mammography, also called digital breast tomosynthesis. But she’s glad that’s what she got.

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Measles Shots Aren’t Just For Kids: Many Adults Could Use A Booster Too
National Public Radio

Measles is on the rise again, all around the globe.

Though the number of people affected in the U.S. is still relatively low compared with the countries hardest hit, there are a record number of U.S. measles cases — the highest since the disease was eliminated in the U.S. back in 2000.

Measles has been documented in more than a third of states, with large outbreaks in New York and Washington.

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Beto O’Rourke calls for health care for all, wealth equality in SF stop
San Francisco Chronicle

When Beto O’Rourke arrived on a small square stage raised in the middle of San Francisco’s Irish Cultural Center on Sunday, he apologized for being a bit late.

“Our plane out on the tarmac for 30 or 40 minutes — all I could think of,” O’Rourke said, “was high-speed rail.” Halfway through his four-day tour of the Golden State, Texas presidential hopeful O’Rourke stopped in San Francisco to make his 2020 pitch: He will be the candidate who makes the United States great, for everybody.

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UCSF’s proposal to expand partnership with Dignity Health faces new critique
San Francisco Chronicle

As UCSF seeks to expand its partnership with a Catholic hospital chain, a national civil rights group says the affiliation violates the First Amendment’s prohibition against government endorsement of religion.

The admonition from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, sent to UCSF and the University of California regents Monday, comes three weeks after 1,500 doctors and hospital employees signed a petition demanding that UC sever ties with Dignity Health, which operates religious hospitals around the state.

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