News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Trump’s Talk On Preexisting Conditions Doesn’t Match His Administration’s Actions
Kaiser Health News

Delivering remarks on surprise medical billing, which is a concern that has drawn bipartisan interest, President Donald Trump waded into another high-profile health issue: making sure insurance protects people who have preexisting health conditions.

“We will always protect patients with preexisting conditions, very importantly,” Trump said on May 9.

It’s natural Trump would want to make this claim.

Polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that such protections, which prohibit individual insurance plans from charging people more based on their medical history, are a top priority for Americans and among the most popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

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Democrats are trying to save Obamacare as Trump chips away at the landmark health care bill
USA Today

The ongoing thrust and parry between Democrats and the Trump administration over Obamacare may leave the average person wondering what health care coverage created by the 2010 landmark law is still available and what’s changed.

House Democrats will continue their vigorous defense of the Affordable Care Act Thursday when they bring to the floor measures to roll back some of President Donald Trump’s alterations to the law. Democrats’ package includes provisions that would block Trump’s expansion of short-term plans that don’t meet all the ACA’s requirements and would restore outreach funding that helps people enroll in Obamacare plans.

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Commentary: Medicaid DSH policy falls short of promise to the safety net
Modern Healthcare

Once again, the nation’s safety net is staring down a severe cut to Medicaid disproportionate-share hospital funding, as it has almost every year since 2014. This time, hospitals and their vulnerable patients face a $4 billion reduction Oct. 1 that would slash one-third of the program’s funding in one year.

So Congress again must consider an action it has taken four times already since the cuts were scheduled to start: delay them. Previous delays enjoyed strong bipartisan support, and that’s clearly the case again this year—even as some question whether another delay just kicks the can down the road.

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CMS seeks to limit ’spread pricing’ by PBMs in managed care
Modern Healthcare

The CMS is concerned that some Medicaid managed care plans are not accurately reporting “spread pricing,” a tactic where pharmacy benefit managers charge a plan more for a drug than it reimburses a pharmacy. The agency released a regulatory guidance on Wednesday intended to help states monitor and audit Medicaid and CHIP managed care plans to identify spread pricing when calculating their medical loss ratio (MLR). The guidance clarified that plans must include a PBM rebate in calculating an MLR if the PBM used a subcontractor.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom pushes individual mandate for health insurance
San Francisco Chronicle

Hoping to persuade lawmakers to support a state individual mandate for health coverage, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that California needs to stabilize a health insurance market that has suffered a “kneecapping” by the Trump administration.

“Without the mandate, everybody’s premiums go up,” Newsom said. The Affordable Care Act “has been vandalized,” he added. “We’re here to get it back on firmer footing.”

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Federal judge blocks new U.S. policy for distributing livers for transplant
Washington Post

A federal judge temporarily blocked a new policy for distributing scarce livers for transplant Wednesday, deciding that patients and hospitals in less-populated areas will suffer if the new rules remain in effect.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg in Atlanta came just a day after the policy was implemented. On Monday, she had declined to intervene but had asked the government to voluntarily delay it until the Supreme Court decided a case on relevant issues in coming weeks.

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161,000 avoidable deaths occur in hospitals annually, Leapfrog Group finds
Modern Healthcare

An estimated 161,250 preventable deaths occur each year in U.S. hospitals, a decline from three years ago, according to a new analysis from the Leapfrog Group.

The study, published Wednesday and conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality through a contract with the Leapfrog Group, found that poor hospital performance on 16 patient safety measures used by Leapfrog Group to assign hospital grades caused more than 161,000 deaths annually. The findings actually represent a decline in deaths from 2016 when Johns Hopkins conducted a similar analysis for Leapfrog Group in which 206,000 preventable deaths occurred each year.

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U.S. Births Fell To A 32-Year Low In 2018; CDC Says Birthrate Is In Record Slump
National Public Radio

The U.S. birthrate fell again in 2018, to 3,788,235 births — representing a 2% drop from 2017. It’s the lowest number of births in 32 years, according to a new federal report. The numbers also sank the U.S. fertility rate to a record low.

Not since 1986 has the U.S. seen so few babies born. And it’s an ongoing slump: 2018 was the fourth consecutive year of birth declines, according to the provisional birthrate report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Birthrates fell for nearly all racial and age groups, with only slight gains for women in their late 30s and early 40s, the CDC says.

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Nurse practitioners can improve Californians’ access to healthcare
Los Angeles Times

Thanks to the state’s embrace of Obamacare, California has expanded health insurance to millions of uninsured residents over the last five years. But as the number of people covered has grown, so has the strain on the doctors, clinics and hospitals that must respond to the increasing demand for care.

The problem is especially acute when it comes to primary care doctors and other front-line care providers, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners. A study by UC San Francisco estimated that the state will have a shortfall of 4,700 of these clinicians by 2025. And the California Future Health Workforce Commission warned earlier this year: “Seven million Californians, the vast majority of them Latino, black and Native American, live in Health Professional Shortage Areas — a federal designation for counties experiencing shortfalls of primary care, dental care or mental health care providers.”

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Where Should a Child Die? Hospice Homes Help Families With the Unimaginable
New York Times

Children dressed as superheroes skidded over the hardwood floors of a toy-filled living room. Local police officers and firefighters pretended to give chase. The birthday boy, a month shy of 1, wore a Superman T-shirt and a red cape with a yellow lightning bolt. His 3-year-old sister, in a Batgirl costume, was cheering in the open kitchen as she heaped sprinkles onto cookies straight from the oven. Parents and grandparents laid out green-and-blue-frosted slices of cake on the communal dining tables.

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Who should pay for hospitals’ disaster preparedness?
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals’ ability to withstand natural disasters while keeping their patients safe came under scrutiny by the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday.

But lawmakers mostly avoided talking about new hospital regulations as they convened the panel’s first hearing on climate change in 12 years.

When the issue came up, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) immediately signaled concern about where the money should come from, as she doesn’t want the government to add costs to rural hospitals. She asked whether the federal government should start funding hospital preparations.

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A Smartphone App And A Paper Funnel Could Help Parents Diagnose Kids’ Ear Infections
National Public Radio

Researchers are developing a smartphone app that, with the help of a simple paper funnel, might help parents detect fluid buildup in a child’s ear — one symptom of an ear infection.

The app is still experimental and would require clearance by the Food and Drug Administration before it could hit the market. But early data, published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, suggest that the smartphone can perform as well as an expensive test in a doctor’s office.

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How To Find And Use New Federal Ratings For Rehab Services At Nursing Homes
Kaiser Health News

For the first time, the federal government is shining a spotlight on the quality of rehabilitation care at nursing homes — services used by nearly 2 million older adults each year. Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website now includes a “star rating” (a composite measure of quality) for rehab services — skilled nursing care and physical, occupational or speech therapy for people recovering from a hospitalization. The site also breaks out 13 measures of the quality of rehab care, offering a more robust view of facilities’ performance.

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Lower-fat diet reduces women’s risk of dying from breast cancer, study says
Washington Post

Women who followed a lower-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables and grains had a lower risk of dying of breast cancer than those on a higher-fat diet, according to the results of major study released Wednesday.

The conclusions, from the latest analysis of the federally funded Women’s Health Initiative, provide the first randomized clinical-trial evidence that diet can reduce postmenopausal women’s risk of dying of breast cancer, the researchers said. Past observational studies, which do not measure cause and effect, have had inconsistent findings.

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