News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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California shows 2020 Democrats how to get to Medicare for All
San Francisco Chronicle

As the Democratic presidential candidates make the case for Medicare for All without scaring away voters wary of “socialism,” they might look to California for guidance.

Democrats here have created a road map for how to not just talk about health care coverage, but to provide it — all while not abandoning a long-term goal of universal, single-payer coverage.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is about to sign a budget that will make health insurance accessible to an estimated 377,000 lower-income people who don’t have it now. It will also provide help with punishing premium costs to an additional 660,000 middle-income people, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Health Access California. Couples making north of $65,000 a year could get up to $100 a month to help them pay for insurance.

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CMS approves Washington plan for hepatitis C drug subscription deals
Modern Healthcare

Washington became the fourth state to win a Medicaid state plan amendment allowing it to negotiate value-based purchasing agreements with prescription drug manufacturers.

The CMS announced Wednesday that it approved Washington’s proposal to let the state negotiate under a subscription model with makers of costly hepatitis C drugs. Under that model, the state would pay a fixed annual amount to a manufacturer to buy an unrestricted supply of hepatitis C drugs.

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House votes to overturn ban on national patient identifier
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $99.4 billion HHS appropriation bill with several amendments including reversing a longtime ban on developing a national patient identifier, money for hospital emergency departments dealing with opioid overdoses, and a nod to the anti-vaccination controversy.

For decades, Congress has prohibited HHS from funding the development or promotion of any national program where patients would receive permanent, unique identification numbers.

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New gene tests for germs quickly reveal source of infections
Modern Healthcare

Brian Jetter was on life support, a healthy 40-year-old suddenly battling pneumonia and sepsis, and a slew of tests had failed to find the cause.

Mystery illnesses like this kill thousands of people each year when germs can’t be identified fast enough to reveal the right treatment. Now genetic tests are helping to solve these cases.

One finally was used to search Jetter’s blood for bits of non-human genetic material from viruses, fungi and the like. It detected unusual bacteria that probably got into the Connecticut man’s lungs when he choked and accidentally inhaled bits of a burger weeks earlier.

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Commentary: Using health IT to combat the opioid crisis
Modern Healthcare

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently released a report that highlights the severity of the opioid crisis in the U.S. and globally. The report details an alarming increase in opioid-related deaths in 25 OECD countries that track this data. Overall, opioid-related deaths rose 20% between 2011 and 2016, and the U.S. saw a significant uptick.

The report called out overprescribing of opioids to manage chronic and acute pain as a root cause for this spike. According to the OECD, the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed in OECD countries increased 110% in one decade, although that has slowed in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted a similar decline but cautioned that today’s prescription rates still remain high compared with 1999. In 2016, the CDC released guidelines for primary-care physicians for prescribing opioids, and in its report the OECD recommended that “doctors should improve their prescribing practices.”

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Air Ambulance Costs Fly Around Fixes For Surprise Medical Bills
Kaiser Health News

In April 2018, 9-year-old Christian Bolling was hiking with his parents and sister in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, near their home in Roanoke. While climbing some boulders, he lost his footing and fell down a rocky 20-foot drop, fracturing both bones in his lower left leg, his wrist, both sides of his nose and his skull.

A rescue squad carried him out of the woods, and a helicopter flew him to a pediatric hospital trauma unit in Roanoke.

Most of Christian’s care was covered by his parents’ insurance. But one bill stood out.

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Editorial: The health dividend from meaningful work
Modern Healthcare

Work is killing us. We’ve known it for a long time. Yet we do nothing about it. I’m not talking about workplace-related injuries and illnesses, although that’s part of it. The far more important factors are the way we organize work, the benefits that come from work, and how much control we have over our work. Stanford University business school professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, in his recent book Dying for a Paycheck, estimated workplace stress causes 120,000 excess deaths a year—making it the fifth-leading cause of death, surpassing Alzheimer’s and kidney disease.

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What Medicine Can Learn From Doctors And Researchers With Disabilities
National Public Radio

Bonnielin Swenor has devoted her life to studying visual impairment in older adults. But for a long time, she didn’t often discuss the motivation fueling her work — that she herself has low vision.

Swenor, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, has myopic macular degeneration, a condition that leaves her with extremely limited vision. Basic tasks exhaust her visual processing power, so she has to manage her time with precision. This hasn’t stopped her from having a prolific career as a researcher and epidemiologist. But until recently, she rarely discussed her disability with her peers; she worried that they would judge or dismiss her.

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Medicare for All and Industry Consolidation
The Health Care Blog

Far more attention has been devoted to the ways in which industry consolidation has driven up health costs than to proposals on how to remedy the situation. But the introduction of Medicare for All and Medicare for More bills—however dim their short-term prospects are—has changed the terms of the debate.

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GlaxoSmithKline to fund $67 million of CRISPR research at UC
San Francisco Chronicle

The University of California announced a major deal Thursday with the drug company GlaxoSmithKline, in which the pharmaceutical firm will provide up to $67 million over five years to fund researchers’ work using the gene-editing tool CRISPR to develop new medicines.

The partnership will create a new lab, called the Laboratory for Genomics Research, near UCSF’s Mission Bay campus in San Francisco, and jobs for 24 university employees and up to 14 GlaxoSmithKlein employees. It is jointly led by London-based GlaxoSmithKline, CRISPR co-inventor and UC Berkeley biochemist Jennifer Doudna, and UCSF scientist Jonathan Weissman. The lab is already open and some initial hires have been made.

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Sonoma Valley Hospital turns around finances
Sonoma Index-Tribune

Through a series of cost-cutting measures – including the controversial closure of its obstetrics department – Sonoma Valley Health Care District officials announced this week that Sonoma Valley Hospital is near the break-even point. “I’m pleased to report that the hospital is likely to have its best year financially in a long time,” said Joshua Rymer, chair of the Health Care District board of the directors in a statement.

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