News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Scrap ‘Obamacare’? Maybe not all, Trump administration says
The Washington Post

Scrap “Obamacare”? Well, maybe not all of it.

The Trump administration is arguing in court that the entire Affordable Care Act should be struck down as unconstitutional. But at the same time, Justice Department lawyers recently suggested that federal judges could salvage its anti-fraud provisions, raising questions about keeping other parts as well.

Serving up more mixed messages, President Donald Trump last week floated to a Democratic lawmaker that he’d like to revive her legislation shoring up the health law’s insurance markets. “I was kind of stunned, but I said, look, I am willing to work with anyone,” recalled the lawmaker, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

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Democrats launch health-care law rescue in face of Trump’s threat of repeal
Washington Post

House Democrats began making good on their campaign promise to shore up the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, passing a bill that would bar the Trump administration from granting states some waivers to the landmark health-care law.

Next week, the House will vote on a package of seven health-care bills, several of which would reverse administration actions that Democrats have described as efforts to sabotage former president Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

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White House backs contract reform to end surprise medical bills
Modern Healthcare

President Donald Trump and White House officials on Thursday threw their weight behind a congressional ban on surprise medical bills based on contract reforms, such as barring hospital contracts with physicians who aren’t in the same insurance networks.

“We’re going to hold insurance companies and hospitals totally accountable,” Trump said at an event where he was flanked by congressional lawmakers, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta and patients who have been hit by surprise medical bills.

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The Health 202: Senators want surprise medical bills to be negotiated like baseball salaries
Washington Post

President Trump struck a conciliatory tone yesterday as he advocated protecting consumers from surprise medical bills. But differences between the White House and members of Congress over precisely how to do that are already emerging.

The difference is over whether to use a process known as “baseball-style arbitration” to settle billing disputes between insurers and health providers. Senators working on surprise-billing legislation said arbitration is a proven, effective approach, even as White House officials threw cold water on the idea.

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Surprise! Fixing Out-Of-Network Bills Means Someone Must Pay
Kaiser Health News

President Donald Trump called on Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation this year to end surprise medical bills, in remarks made in the White House’s Roosevelt Room on Thursday. “We’re determined to end surprise medical billing for American patients,” Trump said.

Bills like those have been featured in the NPR-Kaiser Health News series launched in February 2018. Two patients whose medical bills were part of the series attended the event.

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Many Hospitals Charge Double or Even Triple What Medicare Would Pay
New York Times

In Indiana, a local hospital system, Parkview Health, charged private insurance companies about four times what the federal Medicare program paid for the same care, according to a study of hospital prices in 25 states released on Thursday by the nonprofit RAND Corp.

Colorado employers were shocked to learn they were paying nearly eight times what the federal government did for outpatient services like an emergency room visit, an X-ray or a checkup with a specialist at Colorado Plains Medical Center, northeast of Denver.

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Employer health plans pay hospitals 241% of Medicare
Modern Healthcare

Private employer-sponsored health plans paid hospitals 241% of Medicare prices, on average, for the same services at the same hospitals in 2017, according to a RAND Health study of prices across 25 states.

That average price relative to Medicare has increased since 2015 when it was 236%. The study also found that relative prices in 2017 for outpatient care far exceeded prices for inpatient services.

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Editorial: Let’s open the books on Medicare Advantage
Modern Healthcare

The insurance industry’s counter to Medicare for All is Medicare Advantage, the privately run plans that already serve 22 million seniors or more than a third of beneficiaries.

That number will only grow in the years ahead as the next generation of seniors, already comfortable with managed care through their workplace plans, age into the program. The Congressional Budget Office projects MA plan enrollment will grow to 42% of beneficiaries by 2028.

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Newsom’s Latest Health Care Proposal Includes More Help For Covered California Consumers, Less Money For The Undocumented
capital public radio

California Gov. Gavin Newsom continued his rallying cry for universal health care Thursday with a revised budget that includes more subsidies for Covered California enrollees but doesn’t expand Medi-Cal to all undocumented adults, as some lawmakers are advocating.

On the campaign trail, Newsom came out in support of a single-payer system in which everyone is on the same government insurance. He has said that’s still the goal, but in the meantime he’s laying out smaller steps toward universal health care, the idea that everyone has coverage they can afford.

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Coming wave of seniors will strain a caregiver network already stretched thin
CALmatters

When Cristina Hernandez notices her father is withdrawn or hasn’t come out of his room for the day, she uses her cell phone to turn on Glenn Miller or blast salsa music. Almost every time, she’ll see the 91-year-old start tapping a finger on the table or hear his walker tip tap on the floor in his room before he emerges into the kitchen.

Francisco Rios has lived in Pomona with his daughter for the past 15 years. “I know music cheers him up,” said Hernandez, 52. “He used to dance tango, swing, boogie, cha-cha and that kind of music from south Mexico.”

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Report: More Doctors Are Stealing Prescription Drugs
CBS News

In the midst of an opioid crisis, a new report on the misuse and theft of drugs by healthcare workers found more doctors are stealing prescription drugs.

The report found more than 47 million prescription doses were stolen last year. CBS13 has learned there were dozens of local cases last year of inappropriate prescribing and self-abuse of drugs by doctors.

Lauren Lollini went into the hospital for a kidney surgery and left with Hepatitis-C and a liver infection — and she’s not alone.

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Commentary: We can all help increase diversity in nursing
Modern Healthcare

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to become a healthcare professional. An anesthesiologist to be exact. I had the grades and I had the drive. However, as the youngest of seven to a single mother, I couldn’t afford medical school tuition. So, my high school guidance counselor encouraged me to enroll in a licensed practical nurse course—a decision that changed my life. Six months into the program, nursing became my passion.

I am an African-American man, standing 6 feet, 6 inches tall. It’s probably safe to assume that I don’t look like what most people might consider your stereotypical nurse. While statistics on demographics in the nursing workforce vary, they do reveal that the profession is considerably lacking representation across race, ethnicity and gender.

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Drugmaker to donate HIV-prevention pills for as many as 200,000 people
Washington Post

The pharmaceutical company that makes a once-a-day pill that protects users against HIV has agreed to donate enough medication to cover as many as 200,000 people for 11 years, the Trump administration announced Thursday.

Gilead Sciences, the maker of Truvada, will donate as many as 2.4 million bottles of the costly drug each year to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will distribute the medication to uninsured people at high risk of contracting HIV. A year’s supply of the pills, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, costs more than $20,000.

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Experimental Drug For Huntington’s Disease Jams Malfunctioning Gene
National Public Radio

Scientists are gearing up a major study to find out whether a drug can silence the gene that causes a devastating illness called Huntington’s disease. This development follows the discovery that the experimental drug reduced levels of the damaged protein that causes this mind-robbing ailment. The new study will determine whether that drug can also stop progression of the disease. It is also another sign that drugs built with DNA, or its cellular collaborator RNA, can be powerful tools for tempering diseases that until now have seemed out of reach.

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Bayer to spend $150 million in Berkeley to speed development of biotech drugs
San Francisco Business Times

Bayer, which cut 400 manufacturing jobs in Berkeley last year, hopes the new cell culture technology center will accelerate development of new biotech drugs.

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UnitedHealthcare launches maternity-care bundle
Modern Healthcare

The nation’s largest insurer, UnitedHealthcare, has launched a nationwide bundled-payment model for maternity care, closely following the lead of Cigna and Humana, which have had the option since early last year.

The Minnetonka, Minn.-based payer announced Thursday that its new bundled-payment program already has two provider groups participating, and plans to add as many as 20 by year-end.

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