News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Study: More blacks got timely cancer care after ‘Obamacare’
Modern Healthcare

New research suggests that states that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act eliminated racial differences in being able to quickly start on treatment after a diagnosis of advanced cancer.

The law that is often called “Obamacare” let states expand Medicaid eligibility and offer subsidies to help people buy health insurance.

Yale University researchers used electronic health records on 36,000 patients across the United States to gauge its impact.

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Supreme Court rejects HHS’ Medicare DSH changes
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that HHS improperly changed its Medicare disproportionate-share hospital payments when it made billions of dollars in cuts.

In a 7-1 decision, the justices said HHS needed a notice-and-comment period for the Medicare DSH calculation change. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the decision that HHS’ position for not following the procedure was “ambiguous at best.”

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House committee eyes expanding Medigap long-term care benefit
Modern Healthcare

The Democratic chair of the House Ways and Means Committee is looking for ideas to expand long-term care through Medicare supplemental plans.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) on Monday asked the head of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for specific ideas about how Congress could design a long-term care benefit for supplemental Medicare plans known as Medigap.

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California Gov. Newsom Proposes Penalty To Fund Health Insurance Subsidies
Kaiser Health News

Claire Haas and her husband are at a health insurance crossroads.

If they were single, each would qualify for a federal tax credit to help reduce the cost of their health insurance premiums. As a married couple, they get zip.

“We talk about getting divorced every time we get our health care bills,” said Haas, 34, of Oakland, Calif. She has been married to her husband, Andrew Snyder, 33, for two years.

“We kind of feel like we messed up. We shouldn’t have gotten married.”

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New budget omits an important piece of California’s disaster preparedness
CALmatters

California’s 70 emergency air ambulance helicopters and airplanes cover nearly 164,000 square miles and serve more than 37 million Californians in their time of need.

To protect newborns and their mothers, air ambulances evacuated an entire neonatal unit at a Redding Hospital and transported the patients to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento during devastating Carr Fire in 2018. Air ambulances fly injured firefighters and residents to burn centers to receive the urgent, life-saving care they needed.

Inexplicably, the state budget process has left out support for air ambulance. The emergency services provided by air ambulances could disappear if a funding stream that expires at the end of this year is not replaced in the pending state budget.

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FDA to make it easier for doctors to get unapproved cancer drugs for patients
Washington Post

The Food and Drug Administration plans to provide “concierge service” to doctors seeking access to unapproved drugs for cancer patients who have no other treatment options, the agency announced Monday. The goal is to remove any “perceived hurdles” for physicians who want to use the agency’s “expanded access” program, said Richard Pazdur, director of the agency’s Oncology Center for Excellence. The pilot program will include Project Facilitate, a new call center run by the agency’s oncology staff to provide a single point of contact for doctors submitting requests to the program.

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Drugs make headway against lung, breast, prostate cancers
Modern Healthcare

Newer drugs are substantially improving the chances of survival for some people with hard-to-treat forms of lung, breast and prostate cancer, doctors reported at the world’s largest cancer conference.

Among those who have benefited is Roszell Mack Jr., who at age 87 is still able to work at a Lexington, Kentucky, horse farm, nine years after being diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to his bones and lymph nodes.

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Why does California’s public health department treat CBD like poison?
Los Angeles Times

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — the nation’s second most powerful Republican — and California’s Democratic state legislators completely agree on one thing: Marijuana’s cousin hemp should be fully legalized.

As the late U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill famously said: “All politics is local.”

In McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, tobacco farming is dying out. Farmers are desperate for a replacement crop. And hemp is their choice for the future.

In California, farmers also need a new crop that doesn’t use much water. That’s hemp.

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Abortion restrictions spark concern over access to maternal health services
Modern Healthcare

The push by lawmakers in several states to restrict or ban abortions has reignited debate over the future of guaranteed access to reproductive health services for women. And public health experts are cautioning that there could be a ripple effect on overall maternal care services, especially in states that already struggle with higher than average mortality rates.

So far this year, 10 states have enacted laws that would either narrow the number of weeks a woman is legally allowed to get an abortion or ban access completely, such as in Alabama. None of the new laws have gone into effect and all face legal challenges, with many supporters saying the ultimate goals is overturning Roe v. Wade. In total, more than 370 abortion restrictions have been introduced nationwide since Jan. 1, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

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Running out of time to weigh in on data-sharing
Modern Healthcare

June 3: It’s deadline day to file comments with the CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on their proposed rules promoting data-sharing. The companion proposals aim to increase patient control of their medical information and put an end to unsanctioned data-blocking by providers and vendors.

June 4: Speaking of health IT, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will take a look at the VA’s efforts to modernize its electronic health record system.

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Protecting Sleep in the Hospital, for Both Patients and Doctors
New York Times

It was 11 p.m. and my 5-year-old patient was sleeping peacefully in her hospital bed, snuggled up with her mother and several stuffed animals. Her breathing was quiet and soft. Her bedside heart rate monitor, which glowed a faint yellow in the dark hospital room, was turned to “silent.”

“Sorry, I have to take a listen to her heart,” I whispered to her mother, tapping her shoulder lightly. Her mother and I had a good relationship: I had served as an advocate for her daughter several times during her seven-week stay in the ward.

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Calculating the cost of waste
Modern Healthcare

The first step on the journey to eliminating low-value care is measuring it.

Several initiatives, from Choosing Wisely to the Task Force on Low-Value Care to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, have created lists of tests and procedures considered to have little to no clinical benefit.

But turning those lists into measures that can be identified in claims data is no easy feat. An inappropriate test for one patient may be necessary for another, and insurance claims often lack details needed to tell the difference.

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Analysis: Why Alexa’s Bedside Manner Is Bad For Health Care
Kaiser Health News

Amazon has opened a new health care frontier: Now Alexa can be used to transmit patient data. Using this new feature — which Amazon labeled as a “skill” — a company named Livongo will allow diabetes patients — which it calls “members” — to use the device to “query their last blood sugar reading, blood sugar measurement trends, and receive insights and Health Nudges that are personalized to them.”

Private equity and venture capital firms are in love with a legion of companies and startups touting the benefits of virtual doctors’ visits and telemedicine to revolutionize health care, investing almost $10 billion in 2018, a record for the sector. Without stepping into a gym or a clinic, a startup called Kinetxx will provide patients with virtual physical therapy, along with messaging and exercise logging. And Maven Clinic (which is not actually a physical place) offers online medical guidance and personal advice focusing on women’s health needs.

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Are vaccines safe? What you need to know about mercury, aluminum and other ‘toxins’
USA Today

There is a concept in toxicology that originated from Paracelsus and is paraphrased as “The dose makes the poison.”

It reminds us that all chemicals can be toxic to humans, depending on the dose. Water can kill you if you drink more than your body can handle. Even table salt is deadly if the dose ingested is high enough.

It is also important to understand that the ability to produce toxicity has nothing to do with whether a chemical is natural or synthetic (man-made).

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Report: Hospital profitability improved in April
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals were more profitable in April compared with the same month last year, as some facilities finally see the fruits of their cost-cutting efforts, a new Kaufman Hall report shows.

Operating margins grew more than 20% and operating earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization grew by 8.6% in April compared with the prior-year period, the consultancy wrote in its National Hospital Flash Report, which is based on data from more than 600 not-for-profit and for-profit hospitals. Increased volumes and decreased lengths of stay also contributed to the better performance.

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The Health 202: States pile on Purdue Pharma for alleged role in opioids crisis
Washington Post

If there was a “most wanted” when it comes to the country’s opioid addiction crisis, it might be the Sackler family and its company Purdue Pharma. The maker of OxyContin, now at the brink of bankruptcy, is increasingly viewed as a top culprit for its alleged central role in getting hundreds of thousands of Americans hooked on opioids.

California, Maine, Hawaii and the District of Columbia announced lawsuits yesterday against Purdue for how it marketed, distributed and sold its popular prescription painkiller. They’re just the latest group of states to go after the company, which is also facing a crush of lawsuits from New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin.

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