News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Keeping Kids Healthy And Sane In A Digital World
Kaiser Health News

Smartphones, tablets and video consoles can be addictive. They interfere with sleep. They draw kids into an alternate universe, often distracting them from more productive — and healthier — real-world activities. And they are linked to anxiety and depressionlearning disabilities and obesity.

That’s according to a growing body of research emphasizing the physical and psychological dangers of heavy screen use.

“Nobody should spend eight or nine hours doing anything except sleeping and working,” says Dr. Sina Safahieh, medical director of ASPIRE, the teen mental health program run by Hoag Hospital in Orange County, Calif.

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Trump halts fetal tissue research by government scientists
Associated Press

The Trump administration said Wednesday that it is ending medical research by government scientists that uses human fetal tissue,.

The Health and Human Services Department said in a statement that government-funded research by universities that involves fetal tissue can continue for now, subject to additional scrutiny — although it also ended one major university project that used the tissue to test HIV treatments. That school — University of California, San Francisco — called the decision “politically motivated.”

Administration officials said the federal policy changes will not affect privately funded research.

Ending the use of fetal tissue by the National Institutes of Health has been a priority for anti-abortion activists, a core element of President Donald Trump’s political base. A senior administration official said it was the president’s call. The official wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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UCSF loses contract as Trump administration restricts fetal tissue research
San Francisco Chronicle

The Trump administration on Wednesday announced major new restrictions in funding of research involving human fetal tissue — a product that many scientists say is irreplaceable in studying certain diseases — in a move that immediately ended a decades-long partnership with UCSF involving HIV research.

The National Institutes of Health, the country’s largest single provider of medical research funding, will no longer support new research by its in-house scientists that uses human fetal tissue obtained from abortions. Scientists with NIH grants who do not work for the agency will be allowed to continue applying for funding, but their applications will be subject to approval from a newly created review board.

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New restriction on fetal tissue research ‘was the president’s decision’
The Washington Post

The Trump administration on Wednesday ended funding of medical research by government scientists using fetal tissue and canceled a multimillion-dollar contract for a university laboratory that relies on the material to test new HIV therapies.

The determination to tighten federal support for an ideologically polarizing aspect of medical research was made by President Trump himself, a White House spokesman confirmed.

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The Health 202: Senators are pushing forward on measures to lower health-care costs
Washington Post

Expanding health insurance to many more Americans isn’t happening anytime soon. That’s obvious from the endless clashes between Democrats and Republicans over Obamacare and Medicare-for-all.

But there might be an opening for legislation to help people afford the care they receive — a problem so common that more than 1 in 4 Americans say they skipped needed health-care services in the past two years because they felt they couldn’t afford them.

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AHA among groups opposing price transparency in info-blocking rule
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare groups including the American Hospital Association came out strong against a suggestion that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology require providers to disclose price information as part of its proposed rule.

The ONC in February released its long-awaited information-blocking proposal as a companion to the CMS’ interoperability proposed rule. The ONC’s rule outlines how regulators will require providers to share health data with patients, as well as steps to discourage healthcare organizations from creating barriers to data exchange.

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What healthcare executives really think about healthcare regulation
Becker's Hospital Review

Healthcare stakeholders have heard it before: Regulation overload is public enemy No. 1 for hospital executives. However, the story is more nuanced than that.

A survey from healthcare consulting firm Advis seeks to better understand which regulations executives find most onerous and which they find beneficial. Advis surveyed 162 healthcare CEOs and other C-level executives. Here are five interesting findings:

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Putting the Glam in Mammogram
New York Times

When Shawna Peters, a cybersecurity recruiter in St. Paul, Minn., heard about a V.I.P. night including chair massages and goody bags with mints, lip balms and pedicure accessories, she signed right up. Nevermind that she’d have to get a mammogram to earn those perks.

Mammograms are such a literal pain — unless you are the kind of person who likes having her breast smashed against squeezing plates — that Ms. Peters, 44, said she always puts off getting one.

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Maker of addictive fentanyl spray agrees to pay $225 million for prescriptions-for-cash scheme
The Washington Post

The opioid manufacturer Insys Therapeutics has agreed to pay some $225 million to end criminal and civil investigations into allegations that it used a system of bribes to get doctors to illegally prescribe its highly addictive product, federal officials announced Wednesday.

As part of the resolution, the company will plead guilty to five counts of mail fraud, admitting that a speaker program it used to increase its brand awareness was actually a “vehicle to pay bribes and kickbacks to targeted practitioners,” who were willing to increase prescriptions for Subsys, the company’s powerful fentanyl spray, according to a news release from the Justice Department.

The spray had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating the severe pain of terminal cancer patients. But the company came up with ways to get doctors to write prescriptions for patients who didn’t need the drug, prosecutors have charged.

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Opioid Maker Insys Admits To Bribing Doctors, Agrees To Pay $225 Million Settlement
National Public Radio

Insys Therapeutics, an opioid manufacturer, has agreed to pay $225 million to settle the federal government’s criminal and civil investigations into the company’s marketing practices. As part of the settlement, Insys Therapeutics admitted to bribing doctors to prescribe their opioid painkiller.

Last month, a federal jury in Boston found five top Insys Therapeutics executives guilty of racketeering conspiracy for these same practices. Now, the federal government is holding the company accountable.

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UC Davis to increase physician workforce with $1.8 million partnership from AMA
Sacramento Business Journal

UC Davis Health is entering into a $1.8 million partnership with the American Medical Association to boost the number of physicians in rural Northern California.

The program plans to send hundreds of medical students and resident physicians to train in Northern California and Oregon rural hospitals. UC Davis will run the program with Oregon Health and Science University, which is a public university in Portland.

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SF, state seek to block federal rule allowing health workers to deny care
San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a court order Monday to halt the enforcement of a new Trump administration rule that would allow health care staff to refuse to give medical treatment based on their religious beliefs. The rule could cost San Francisco $1 billion in federal health care funding if it refuses to implement it.

The rule, announced by the Trump administration last month, could allow health care staff to deny treatment to patients who are gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender. It would also allow medical professionals to turn away anyone seeking an abortion. The rule is set to take effect on July 22.

Herrera filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services when the rule was first announced May 2. Now he is seeking a preliminary injunction to halt the rule from going forward while the U.S. District Court decides the merits of the case.

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Serota retiring as Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association CEO
Modern Healthcare

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association announced Wednesday its longtime CEO will retire at the end of 2020.

The Blues board of directors is working to identify Scott Serota’s replacement to ensure a smooth transition, according to the release. For the time being, Serota will continue to focus on the organization’s business and policy priorities.

Serota joined the federation of 36 independent Blues companies, in 1996 and assumed his current role in 2000.

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Meals on Wheels expands innovative health program that started in San Diego
San Diego Union-Tribune

An innovative program that leverages Meals on Wheels’ massive network of observant and tireless volunteers is getting a nationwide expansion after starting as a pilot program in San Diego County.

The national nonprofit that serves more than 900,000 free meals to needy seniors every day announced Wednesday that it is expanding a health and safety alert program co-developed by San Diego’s West Health Institute and Brown University that uses mobile technology to trigger rapid assistance for home-bound seniors when drivers detect signs of medical, social or environmental distress.