News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Is Our Health Care Spending Worth It?
New York Times

Many people know by now that the United States spends much more on health care than any other country, and that health outcomes are not a lot better (and in many instances worse). That raises the question: Is our health care spending actually worth it?

It’s tricky to figure out the extent of the roles that the environment, genetics and social support play in improving health. Nevertheless, the best evidence tells us that health care is still very valuable, even at U.S. prices.

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Health insurance inflation hits highest point in five years
Modern Healthcare

The health insurance inflation rate hit a five-year peak in April, possibly because managed care is rising.

The Consumer Price Index for health insurance in April spiked 10.7% over the previous 12 months—the largest increase since at least April 2014, according to a Modern Healthcare analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ unadjusted monthly Consumer Price Index data.

In contrast, the other categories that make up the medical care services index—professional services and hospital and related services—rose 0.4% and 1.4% in April, respectively. The CPI for medical care services in April rose 2.3%, while overall inflation increased 2% year over year.

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The Health 202: Large employers don’t want Medicare-for-all
Washington Post

Medicare-for-all advocates argue enacting their plan would lift a heavy burden off employers to provide their workers with health-care coverage, which is the way 180 million Americans get their insurance.

But large employers are just fine with being the suppliers of insurance and don’t want to give up that role, according to an association that represents them.

“Overwhelmingly they would like to continue doing it,” Jim Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, told me. “They think they’re doing a good job.”

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Medicaid and CHIP director to leave at end of May
Modern Healthcare

Chris Traylor, the director of Medicaid and CHIP services, announced on Friday he will depart the CMS on May 31, leaving a position he was appointed to in January.

Traylor said in an email to the CMS staff that he is leaving because of family issues that require him to return to his home state of Texas.

“The opportunity to work with the caliber of professionals at CMS and specifically at CMCS is a privilege which few are able to experience,” Traylor wrote to his colleagues in an email.

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Medicaid waiver loophole sparks transparency concerns
Modern Healthcare

The CMS is doing a poor job in ensuring the public knows about major changes to Medicaid, including the installation of work requirements, a federal watchdog said Friday.

The Government Accountability Office’s report found that the CMS has limited transparency for amendments to existing Section 1115 waivers. That has allowed some states to score approval for their work requirements while skirting some rules, such as projecting how the changes will impact Medicaid enrollment.

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CMS holds off on CAR-T cancer treatment coverage decision
Modern Healthcare

The CMS on Friday postponed its decision on whether to cover a pricey, breakthrough cancer treatment.

Although Friday marked the agency’s deadline for its national coverage determination decision, the CMS did not elaborate on why it decided to hold off. Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, or CAR-T, is an immunotherapy cancer treatment.

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but said in the announcement that a decision would be forthcoming.

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Judge warns government to delay new liver policy or risk sanctions
Modern Healthcare

The federal judge tasked with the immediate fate of the nation’s new liver-matching system warned she might hold the government in contempt if it doesn’t immediately halt implementation of the revised policy.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg threatened the federal government with sanctions if it moves forward with matching livers to transplant candidates in order to prioritize the sickest transplant candidates.

Totenberg scheduled another hearing of the case for May 21, as the bitter legal battle escalates.

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Opioid Prescriptions Drop Sharply Among State Workers
Kaiser Health News

The agency that manages health care for California’s massive state workforce is reporting a major reduction in opioid prescriptions, reflecting a national trend of physicians cutting back on the addictive drugs.

Insurance claims for opioids, which are prescribed to help people manage pain, decreased almost 19% in a single year among the 1.5 million Californians served by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. CalPERS manages health benefits for employees and retirees of state and local agencies and public schools, and their families.

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Millions Take Gabapentin for Pain. But There’s Scant Evidence It Works.
New York Times

One of the most widely prescribed prescription drugs, gabapentin, is being taken by millions of patients despite little or no evidence that it can relieve their pain.

In 2006, I wrote about gabapentin after discovering accidentally that it could counter hot flashes.

The drug was initially approved 25 years ago to treat seizure disorders, but it is now commonly prescribed off-label to treat all kinds of pain, acute and chronic, in addition to hot flashes, chronic cough and a host of other medical problems.

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It’s time to rethink a daily aspirin for heart health. Here’s why many doctors won’t.
Washington Post

For decades, millions of patients have been taking a daily aspirin in an attempt to prevent hearts attacks and strokes. But in March 2019, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released guidelines declaring healthy adults with an average risk for heart disease receive no overall benefit from a daily aspirin.

In simple terms, aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, is now “low-value medical care.”

The term has been coined to classify tests and medications that are ineffective and provide no benefit to a patient’s medical care. Instead, low-value care can actually expose patients to harm, shift the focus away from beneficial care and result in unnecessary costs to the patient and the health-care system.

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‘This terrible disease’: Ovarian cancer is deadly, but new tests, treatments start to emerge
Washington Post

For the past few years, as part of the University of Chicago Pritzker medical school obstetrics-gynecology rotation, med students at an optional lunchtime seminar hear from ovarian cancer survivors who share stories about the shock of diagnosis, painful treatments and constant worries about whether their cancer will come back.

Last year, listening to the women’s experiences became a mandatory part of their medical education.

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Calories, Carbs, Fat, Fiber: Unraveling The Links Between Breast Cancer And Diet
National Public Radio

“A Low-Fat Diet Helps Reduce The Risk of Death From Breast Cancer.” Did a headline like this catch your eye this week?

Dozens of news organizations, including NPR, reported on a new study that found that a low-fat diet helped women reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer.

The findings stem from the federally funded Women’s Health Initiative, a huge, long-term, national health study launched back in 1993. At the time the study began, women who enrolled were in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

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How data, a new health care model, and fresh partnerships are changing Blue Shield
San Francisco Business Times

CEO Paul Markovich told the Business Times how working with companies like OODA Health and Gemini Health could improve the patient experience.

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