News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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The Health 202: Now Trump says he meant to keep Obamacare. Say what?
The Washington Post

President Trump has a new spin on why Obamacare’s still around: He decided to keep the law instead of “kill” it.

“I had a decision to make,” Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd yesterday. “I could have politically killed Obamacare. I decided not to do it. But still it’s not good. We’re going to come up with great health care if we win the House, the Senate and the presidency.”

That’s quite the claim from the president, who has privately and publicly castigated congressional Republicans and staff for failing to help him deliver on one of his biggest promises in 2016, to replace the Affordable Care Act.

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Supreme Court to consider $12 billion lawsuit over Obamacare payments to health insurance companies

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal from health insurance companies who say the federal government owes them $12 billion from losses sustained under the Affordable Care Act.

The cases involve one of the Affordable Care Act’s three risk mitigation programs that were designed to shield insurers from losses, giving them a greater incentive to participate when the individual exchanges opened in 2014.

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Voters have big health-care worries, but not the ones Democrats are talking about
Washington Post

Medicare-for-all. Medicare for all who want it. Health care as a form of freedom. As they campaign, most of the 23 Democratic candidates for president are trumpeting bold ideas to achieve the party’s long-held dream of ushering in health coverage for every American.

The problem is that many voters are not focused on such lofty goals. They want something simpler — to pay less for their own health care.

Voters have plenty to sort out, with nearly two dozen Democrats running, each offering a raft of proposals on many issues.

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Spending on low-value services slowed from 2014 to 2016
Modern Healthcare

Spending growth on five well-known low-value healthcare services declined slightly from 2014 to 2016, according to a new report.

The analysis, published this week by consultancy Altarum and funded by the PhRMA Foundation, found spending growth on five low-value services decreased on average by 1.7% annually over the two-year period. By comparison, total commercial insurance spending increased by 6.6% on average over the same time frame.

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CMS to no longer exclude Medicare ACOs from BPCI Advanced savings
Modern Healthcare

Participants in the CMS’ advanced bundled payment model will soon be able to apply the benefits of the program to all beneficiaries part of the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

In an email on Friday, the CMS said beginning Jan. 1, healthcare providers participating in model year 3 of the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced program will take precedent over Medicare ACOs in the enhanced track, which has the most downside risk.

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FDA releases millions of adverse event reports on medical devices
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released more than 20 years of reports detailing adverse events involving medical devices, ending a program that allowed some manufacturers to keep safety issues from the public.

The agency announced on Friday it has made publicly available approximately 6 million adverse event reports dating back to 1999 that were previously not included in the federal database Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience, or MAUDE. Those reports previously were exempted under the FDA’s Alternative Summary Reporting program.

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Health insurers lend a hand to lonely patients
Modern Healthcare

Five hundred Facebook friends are no substitute for face-to-face interactions, but many people today are swapping digital connections for tangible ones. That’s partly why about a fifth of Americans struggle with feeling lonely, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Thursday.

Speaking at the AHIP Institute & Expo in Nashville, Tenn., Murthy explained that lonely people live shorter lives and are more at risk for chronic illnesses like heart disease, depression, and dementia. Moreover, public health crises like the opioid epidemic and gun violence can trace roots back to loneliness and social disconnection, he said. Tackling those crises will require healthcare companies to make fostering relationships among patients with their communities a priority.

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New Budget Boosts Health Coverage For Low-Income Californians
California Healthline

Ann Manganello survives entirely off her Social Security stipend: $1,391 a month.

That doesn’t amount to much in the pricey desert enclave of Palm Springs, Calif. — especially for someone who contends with a host of expensive medical problems, including a blood vessel disorder, complications from a recent stroke and frequent bouts of colitis.

“Right now, I don’t really have the money to do much. I just stay here and that’s it,” Manganello said with a sigh, sad at the thought of being stuck in her apartment.

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Conservative legal expert calls surprise bill proposals unconstitutional
Modern Healthcare

A prominent conservative legal expert is warning that congressional moves to regulate surprise out-of-network billing by physicians are unconstitutional and could be challenged in court.

In a new legal brief, Paul Clement, a former Republican solicitor general who led the unsuccessful effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act in 2012, said bipartisan congressional proposals to cap out-of-network rates would violate the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment as well as the First Amendment right to freely associate.

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Surgeons’ Opioid-Prescribing Habits Are Hard To Kick
Kaiser Health News

As opioid addiction and deadly overdoses escalated into an epidemic across the U.S., thousands of surgeons continued to hand out far more pills than needed for postoperative pain relief, according to a KHN-Johns Hopkins analysis of Medicare data.

Many doctors wrote prescriptions for dozens of opioid tablets after surgeries — even for operations that cause most patients relatively little pain, according to the analysis, done in collaboration with researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. It examined almost 350,000 prescriptions written for patients operated on by nearly 20,000 surgeons from 2011 to 2016 — the latest year for which data are available.

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Treatment for psychosis—and other mental illness—differs drastically by county

Last December, Brighid FitzGibbon’s son, Evan, entered a catatonic state. Acute psychosis had hit suddenly a few weeks earlier, toward the end of fall semester of his sophomore year at Bard College in upstate New York. Gripped by terrifying delusions, his body began to shut down.

FitzGibbon and her husband, Taylor, rushed their 20-year-old son to a hospital in Sonoma County, where they live. An acquaintance told them about a promising program for young people experiencing early psychosis.

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When There’s No Doctor Nearby, Volunteers Help Rural Patients Manage Chronic Illness
National Public Radio

Gary and Celeste Havener live 40 miles outside of Laramie in southeast Wyoming. They spend a lot of their time growing vegetables and riding horses across the prairie.

A few weeks ago, Celeste fell off her horse.

“[I] had a very ungraceful dismount and tweaked my knee pretty good,” Celeste says. Afterwards, she lay on the ground for a while, trying to figure out how hurt she was. But she was also wondering if a visit to the closest doctor in Laramie was worth it. “After it didn’t get better, I did go to town,” she says.

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Stem cell agency halts new grant applications
Capitol Weekly

The $3 billion California stem cell agency, which is running out of cash, has served notice that it would stop accepting applications for more research awards beginning next month.

The low key announcement on Thursday is another step towards the looming demise of the 14-year-old agency, created by voters in November 2004. Its hopes for continued life are pinned on a proposed bond measure for the November 2020 ballot.

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Uber partners with S.F. healthcare startup to get patients to appointments
Silicon Valley Business Journal

San Francisco-based Grand Rounds, a digital health company that helps large employers support their workers in navigating the complex medical system, has teamed up with Uber to ease getting members to their appointments, the company said Wednesday.

The partnership lets Grand Rounds’ care coordinators book rides for its over 4.5 million-person reach across the country. After an assessment period, the company hopes to integrate Uber’s HIPAA-compliant healthcare interface straight into the Grand Rounds platform, allowing members to begin booking their own rides directly. Currently, the rides are free to members, with the cost of the Uber ride covered by Grand Rounds.

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Big Pharma spinout on Peninsula targets childhood liver diseases, $86M IPO
San Francisco Business Times

Mike Grey four years ago sold his Lumena Pharmaceuticals Inc. — including two drugs targeting liver diseases — to Shire plc. On Friday, his new Peninsula company filed for an $86.25 million initial public offering to take those same two drugs deeper into the clinical trials.

Mirum Pharmaceuticals Inc., a 24-employee company in Foster City, said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it expects to use the money to complete a late-stage clinical trial of the drug marlixibat and start and finish a mid-stage study of volixibat.