News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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The Health 202: There’s just one female physician in Congress. We talked to her.
Washington Post

Rep. Kim Schrier – one of the 40 freshmen House Democrats who flipped GOP-held seats – is the only female doctor in Congress. The Washington state pediatrician also manages a chronic illness after having been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a teenager. She narrowly captured her seat last November, defeating Republican Dino Rossi in the most expensive House race in the state’s history.

When I sat down with Schrier last week, she told me how unsurprising the measles outbreak is, shared thoughts on the Rep. Alexadria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) mania and said members of Congress sometimes act like “proud roosters.” And much more. Read on:

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Lawmakers Push To Stop Surprise ER Billing
Kaiser Health News

California has some of the nation’s strongest protections against surprise medical bills. But many Californians still get slammed with huge out-of-network charges.

State lawmakers are now trying to close gaps in the law with a bill that would limit how much hospitals outside of a patient’s insurance network can charge for emergency care.

“We thought the practice of balance billing had been addressed,” said state Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), author of the bill. “Turns out there are major holes in the law potentially impacting millions of Californians with different types of insurance.”

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A violation of ‘privacy, liberty, dignity’: Civil rights groups sue HHS over religious exemption rule
The Washington Post

Lambda Legal and other civil rights groups are asking a federal court to strike down a Health and Human Services Department “conscience” rule that is set to dramatically expand the situations in which health providers, insurers and others could refuse to provide or pay for services they say violate their religious or moral beliefs.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claims the policy, which was published May 21, is unconstitutional and exceeds HHS’s statutory authority.

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Healthcare executives call for Stark law reform
Modern Healthcare

Beth Hughes’ job involves closely partnering with physicians to sync Sioux City, Iowa-based MercyOne’s operations and move the health system forward. But one regulation continues to stand in her way—the Stark law, the president of MercyOne’s Western Iowa region said.

The anti-kickback statute is meant to curb Medicare and Medicaid spending by prohibiting financial compensation for referrals. But it has impeded new payment models by limiting incentives used to reward progress, providers said, noting that they can incur significant financial penalties even if they didn’t intend to violate the Stark law.

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How the anti-vaccine movement crept into the GOP mainstream
POLITICO

The anti-vaccine movement, which swelled with discredited theories that blamed vaccines for autism and other ills, has morphed and grown into a libertarian political rebellion that is drawing in state Republican officials who distrust government medical mandates.

Anti-vaccine sentiments are as old as vaccines themselves — and it’s been nearly 300 years since smallpox immunization began in what is now the United States. Liberal enclaves from Boulder, Colo., to Marin County, Calif., have long been pockets of vaccine skepticism. But the current measles epidemic, with more than 880 cases reported across 25 states of a disease declared eradicated in the U.S. 19 years ago, shows it gaining power within the GOP mainstream.

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Mired In Medical Debt? Federal Rule Changes Proposed For Bill Collectors
National Public Radio

Elham Mirshafiei was at the library cramming for final exams during her senior year at California State University, Long Beach when she grew nauseated and started vomiting. After the 10th episode in an hour, a friend took her to the nearest emergency room. Diagnosis: an intestinal bug and severe dehydration. In a few hours, she was home again, with instructions to eat a bland diet and drink plenty of fluids.

That was in 2010. But the $4,000 bill for the brief emergency department visit at an out-of-network hospital has trailed her ever since. Mirshafiei, 31, has a good job now as a licensed insurance adviser in Palo Alto, Calif. But money is still tight, and her priority is paying off her $67,000 student loan debt rather than that old hospital bill.

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Not Funny: Midwife Slapped With $4,836 Bill For Laughing Gas During Her Labor
Kaiser Health News

 Nurse-midwife Karli-Rae Kerrschneider wanted the same supportive birth experience she promises her own patients — and that included the use of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, to dull her discomfort.

The delivery of the gas during labor has come back in vogue in the U.S. in the past few years as a less invasive alternative to an epidural administered by an anesthesiologist.

Do you have an exorbitant or baffling medical bill? Join the KHN and NPR’s Bill-of-the-Month Club and tell us about your experience. We’ll feature a new one each month.

With a tank in the hospital room, a woman in labor can take breaths of the gas as she needs it. 

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Hospitals and patients’ attorneys spar over lien practices
Modern Healthcare

Out on a leisurely Fourth of July motorcycle ride in rural Minnesota almost four years ago, Marlyn Bootsma put on his turn signal and slowed to pull into a cemetery. That’s when he was hit from behind. The impact threw both him and his wife, Kathlene Bootsma, off of their motorcycle. The motorcyclist that hit them ran Marlyn over, crushing his shoulder.

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Nurse Suicides: Under The Radar
KPBS

In late November 2018, a nurse in Southern California took her own life.

“Dana” arrived by ambulance, unresponsive, at the emergency department where she had worked for nearly 20 years, and was cared for by her own colleagues before a transfer to a nearby hospital’s critical care unit.

Three days later, Dana was declared brain-dead. She was 47.

“She would walk by and give you a big smack on the butt, like ‘Good morning. I’m here,’” said Naomi Kelley, a nurse colleague.

Despite sometimes seeming frazzled when she arrived for work — wet hair, coffee in hand — Dana was able to make people smile, feel listened to and feel validated, remembered Kelley.

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Two-sided risk may pose too hefty a financial price for some oncology practices
Modern Healthcare

Some oncology practices may be forced to drop out of a CMS bundled-payment program to avoid being hit with a financial loss.

The agency’s Oncology Care Model beginning in July will push practices to move from one-sided to two-sided risk where they would be responsible for paying the difference if they did not meet a target price for services. Approximately 70% of oncology practices participating in the program would owe the CMS money, according to new research released last week by Avalere Health.

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Transformation Summit stresses being smart about innovation
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare seemingly has a huge appetite for transformation. But in an industry that changes direction at glacial speed, the most sustainable innovations may in fact come from more targeted—dare we say, incremental—approaches.

That’s not to say the industry should shy away from experimentation—being willing to “fail fast, fail forward” as Loren Brink, CEO of HealthPointe Solutions, suggested during a panel discussion at Modern Healthcare’s Transformation Summit, May 16-17, in Austin.

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A hemophilia patient hero at zero, BioMarin to seek FDA OK for gene therapy. But will the effect last?
San Francisco Business Times

A potential one-shot-and-you’re-done hemophilia A treatment from BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. will target regulatory approval in the United States and Europe after showing dramatic decreases in bleeding during clinical trials.

But in a competitive market to find the next big and expensive treatment to help — or even cure — hemophilia A patients, questions linger around how long the treatment sticks with patients. BioMarin (NASDAQ: BMRN) apparently didn’t allay those concerns Tuesday: The San Rafael-based company said its treatment appeared to plateau in restoring the amount of a clotting protein, known as Factor VIII.

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Supervisors Propose Universal Mental Health Care in San Francisco
KQED Radio

San Francisco Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Matt Haney want the city to offer free mental health care and substance abuse treatment to any city resident in need.

The supervisors, along with state Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), on Tuesday are announcing a push for a November ballot measure to create what they say would be the first universal mental health care system in the nation. “We have a crisis of people who are severely addicted to drugs and that have severe mental health illnesses that are wandering the street and that desperately need help,” Ronen said in an intervi

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Warriors, Kaiser Permanente build ‘destination’ in Mission Bay centered on healthy living
San Francisco Business Times

Welcome to “Thrive City.” Population: Golden State Warriors.

As the NBA team readies for its cross-bay move — and yet another championship series — it’s bringing a longstanding Oakland teammate along for its new future in San Francisco. The Warriors have partnered with Oakland-based health giant Kaiser Permanente to turn its Mission Bay arena site into a hub for both community health and sports medicine.

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