News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Trump Administration Files Formal Request to Strike Down All of Obamacare
New York Times

The Trump administration formally declared its opposition to the entire Affordable Care Act on Wednesday, arguing in a federal appeals court filing that the signature Obama-era legislation was unconstitutional and should be struck down.

Such a decision could end health insurance for some 21 million Americans and affect many millions more who benefit from the law’s protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and required coverage for pregnancy, prescription drugs and mental health.

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Health insurance deductibles soar, leaving Americans with unaffordable bills
Los Angeles Times

Soaring deductibles and medical bills are pushing millions of American families to the breaking point, fueling an affordability crisis that is pulling in middle-class households with health insurance as well as the poor and uninsured.

In the last 12 years, annual deductibles in job-based health plans have nearly quadrupled and now average more than $1,300.

Yet Americans’ savings are not keeping pace, data show. And more than four in 10 workers enrolled in a high-deductible plan report they don’t have enough savings to cover the deductible.

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The Health 202: CBO analysis shows single-payer health system would be messy
The Washington Post

The highly anticipated analysis released yesterday by a nonpartisan organization on Medicare-for-all told us this much: Transitioning the United States to such a single-payer health-care system would be messy. Very messy.

In a 30-page report that laid out more questions than answers, the Congressional Budget Office detailed the pros and cons of moving the country’s health-insurance system — currently a patchwork of government programs, employer-sponsored coverage and subsidized private plans for individuals — into a unified single-payer system.

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CBO warns of complexities, disruption of a single-payer system
Modern Healthcare

The Congressional Budget Office’s highly anticipated report released Wednesday largely put a damper on the idea of a U.S. single payer healthcare system.

While the office didn’t present a formal cost estimate, the analysis laid out ideas policymakers should consider as they design a potential single payer universe.

Specifically, the CBO issued familiar warnings that a single payer system could increase demand and overtax hospitals and clinicians while imposing hefty new costs. The report also echoed hospital arguments that adoption of universal Medicare fee for service rates for hospitals would “probably reduce the amount of care supplied and could also reduce the quality of care.”

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Medicare-for-all plans get a reality check
The Washington Post

Liberal Democrats’ goal of transforming the U.S. health-care system into a single, government-financed model would be “complicated, challenging and potentially disruptive,” Congress’s budget analysts caution in a report.

The analysis, issued Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office, offers a reality check on the campaign slogans that have characterized a growing crop of Democratic presidential aspirants who champion the idea of Medicare-for-all.

The report lays out “opportunities and risks” of moving every American into a single government plan that covers all or most medical services. On the plus side, it says, such a plan would produce universal coverage and probably a more efficient health system. Among the negatives: higher government spending and taxes — and potentially longer waits for some treatments and technologies.

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Humana CEO spurns Medicare for All proposals
Modern Healthcare

Louisville, Ky.-based insurer Humana reported higher revenue and profit in the first quarter of 2019 as it experienced explosive growth in its individual Medicare Advantage plans during the latest annual open-enrollment period.

So it’s no surprise that Humana CEO Bruce Broussard talked up the privatized Medicare Advantage program during the company’s Wednesday conference call with investment analysts, just a day after U.S. House of Representatives members held a first-ever congressional hearing on Medicare for All. Some single-payer proposals would eliminate private insurance for almost all medical care.

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Diabetic Amputations A ‘Shameful Metric’ Of Inadequate Care
Kaiser Health News

On his regular rounds at the University of Southern California’s Keck Hospital, Dr. David Armstrong lives a brutal injustice of American health care.

Each week, dozens of patients with diabetes come to him with deep wounds, severe infections and poor circulation — debilitating complications of a disease that has spiraled out of control. He works to save their limbs, but sometimes Armstrong and his team must resort to amputation to save the patient, a painful and life-altering measure he knows is nearly always preventable.

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How Drug Companies Helped Shape A Shifting, Biological View Of Mental Illness
National Public Radio

Historian and Harvard professor Anne Harrington believes that pharmaceutical companies have played an oversized role in determining how mental illness is treated in the United States — leading to a rise in the use of antidepressant drugs.

Harrington’s new book, Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness, chronicles the history of psycho-pharmaceuticals, such as Prozac and Xanax, which have been used to treat depression and anxiety, as well as lithium, the first drug to treat what is now called bipolar disorder.

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As Artificial Intelligence Moves Into Medicine, The Human Touch Could Be A Casualty
National Public Radio

When Kim Hilliard shows up at the clinic at the New Orleans University Medical Center, she’s not there simply for an eye exam. The human touches she gets along the way help her navigate her complicated medical conditions.

In addition to diabetes, the 56-year-old has high blood pressure. She has also had back surgery and has undergone bariatric surgery to help her control her weight.

Hilliard is also at risk of blindness, which can result from a condition called diabetic retinopathy. And on this day in February, her vision will be evaluated by a new practitioner: a piece of software.

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Could Alzheimer’s Spread Like Infection Throughout the Brain?
U.S. News & World Report

With findings that might alter the path of Alzheimer’s research, scientists say misfolded forms of two proteins appear to spread through patients’ brains similar to an infection.

The findings suggest that Alzheimer’s is a “double-prion” disorder. This discovery could help lead to new treatments that focus directly on prions, according to researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.

A prion is a misshapen protein that can force other copies of that protein into the same misfolded shape and spread in the brain. It’s best known for its role in bovine spongiform encephalopathy — “mad cow” disease — and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a degenerative brain disorder.

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Why it’s so expensive to deliver a baby in San Francisco
San Francisco Business Times

In 2016, the price of a C-section ranged from about $15,000 to over $39,000 in the Bay Area. For comparison, the same procedure in Knoxville, Tenn. cost as little as $3,000.

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Gilead’s CFO to step down early next year
San Francisco Business Times

Foster City-based Gilead Sciences’ longtime chief financial officer is planning her exit.

Robin Washington, the biopharmaceutical giant’s executive vice president and CFO, intends to retire from her role by March 1, 2020, the company said.

“During my short time here, I have been impressed with the strategic expertise that Robin brings to her role and the dedication she has for our mission and the patients we serve,” said Daniel O’Day, who started at Gilead as chairman and CEO earlier this year, in a statement. “It is equally clear that she has built a strong team across the organizations she leads.”

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