News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Appellate court raises potential new threat to ACA
Washington Post

A federal appeals court on Wednesday questioned whether more than a dozen Democratic states and the U.S. House of Representatives have the right to appeal a lower-court decision that struck down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, throwing the law’s future into question.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which is scheduled to begin hearing oral arguments about the constitutionality of the law on July 9, said it needed more information as to whether the House and Democratic states had standing to intervene in the lawsuit and whether their interventions were timely.

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Senate health committee may change surprise billing proposals ahead of floor vote
Modern Healthcare

The Senate health committee approved its major healthcare package on Wednesday, but with one change to the proposed ban on surprise medical billing and potentially more to come ahead of a full Senate vote expected later this month.

As it stands, the provision on surprise medical bills would cap out-of-network physician or hospital charges at a rate already negotiated by insurers. An amendment to that provision came from Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and would make insurers post all the physician and hospital options in their networks so patients could see their choices of doctor before deciding on a plan.

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‘Medicare For All’ Emerges As Early Divide In First Democratic Debate
Kaiser Health News

During Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate — the first in a two-night event viewed as the de facto launch of the primary season — health policies, ranging from “Medicare for All” to efforts to curb skyrocketing drug prices, were among the key issues the 10 hopeful candidates onstage used to help differentiate themselves from the pack.

Health care dominated early, with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) using questions about the economy to take aim at pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

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Blood pressure drug recall: 32 lots of losartan recalled over small amounts of carcinogen
USA Today

Macleods Pharmaceuticals Limited is recalling 32 lots of the popular blood pressure drug losartan after discovering trace amounts of a probable carcinogen.

The recalled losartan and potassium/hydrochlorothiazide combination tablets contained small amounts of N-nitrosodiethylamine, or NDEA, according to a company notice posted to the Food and Drug Administration’s website Wednesday.

“Based on the available information, the risk of developing cancer in a few patients following long-term use of the product cannot be ruled out,” the recall notice states.

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Federal effort to align quality measures won’t be easy
Modern Healthcare

While much of the attention this week from the Trump administration’s executive order on transparency focused on prices, there’s also a section of it that calls for alignment of quality measures across all federal healthcare programs.

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There’s a push to slow down required EHR-PDMP integration
Modern Healthcare

Health IT groups were generally supportive of revised information technology provisions proposed in the CMS‘ annual update to the inpatient prospective payment system, but urged the agency to slow potential requirements related to integrating outside programs with electronic health record systems. The public comment period for the CMS’ IPPS proposal, which the agency released in April, closed Monday.

Now the CMS is tasked with sifting through more than 2,000 comments from providers, vendors and trade groups offering feedback on the agency’s plan to update inpatient hospital reimbursements for federal fiscal 2020.

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Drug shortages drain at least $359M from health systems
Modern Healthcare

Drug shortages cost providers nearly $360 million a year in labor expenses, a new survey has found.

Hospitals and affiliated facilities dedicate more than 8.6 million hours per year working around persistent drug shortages, according to a new Vizient survey of 365 health system employees polled from July to December 2018. The distraction resulted in at least one medication error for 38% of the organizations surveyed by the group purchasing and consulting organization.

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How Black Pharmacists Are Closing The Cultural Gap In Health Care
Kaiser Health News

After a health insurance change forced Bernard Macon to cut ties with his black doctor, he struggled to find another African American physician online. Then, he realized two health advocates were hiding in plain sight.

At a nearby drugstore here in the suburbs outside of St. Louis, a pair of pharmacists became the unexpected allies of Macon and his wife, Brandy. Much like the Macons, the pharmacists were energetic young parents who were married — and unapologetically black.

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HPV vaccine now recommended through age 45 in some cases
Washington Post

A federal public health advisory panel said Wednesday that some people through age 45 could benefit from getting an HPV vaccine and should discuss the possibility with their doctors.

The recommendation, which came during a two-day meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, could expand the pool of people whose insurance providers may cover the HPV vaccine.

The vaccine was developed to prevent cancer caused by the human papillomavirus, which is typically transmitted through oral, anal or vaginal sex.

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Vaccine panel gives nod to HPV shots for men up to age 26
Modern Healthcare

A vaccine against cervical and other cancers should be recommended for both men and women up to age 26, a U.S. government advisory panel decided Wednesday.

The vaccine protects against HPV, a virus that is commonly spread through sex and can cause certain cancers and genital warts.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ vote in Atlanta raises the recommended vaccination age for men from 21 to 26, making it the same as the existing recommendation for women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention almost always accepts the panel’s recommendations and uses them as guidance for U.S. doctors.

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Microbiome startup for diabetes eyes U.S. growth with new funding
San Francisco Business Times

DayTwo has snagged $31 million as it looks to provide nutritional support to the 30 million people living with type 2 diabetes across the United States.

“It’s a huge market that’s very underserved with regard to food and nutrition that’s effective in helping them,” said DayTwo president Josh Stevens. “That’s why we’re really spending our effort there.”

The San Francisco and Tel Aviv, Israel-based microbiome testing company offers glycemic control support for people with type 2 diabetes by tailoring their nutritional recommendations on an individual basis.

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Livongo Health connects to Apple, Samsung, Fitbit in wearable expansion
San Francisco Business Times

Mountain View-based Livongo Health has added a new integration to its platform and mobile app serving people with chronic conditions, such as pre-diabetes, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Now, users will get notifications, behavior health “nudges” and other health information straight to their smartwatches thanks to a new partnership with wearable heavyweights Apple, Fitbit and Samsung. Steps data from the smartwatches can also be synced to the Livongo app, letting the platform’s algorithm provide more personalized insights related to exercise and general activity, the company said. The smartphone integration also sends notifications for Livongo’s “health challenges” straight to the wearable. These five-day habit building programs provide members with daily educational information on nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management.

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Armed with $73 million, Omada Health looks to widen beyond diabetes management
San Francisco Business Times

San Francisco-based digital therapeutics company Omada Health has raised $73 million as it looks to enlarge its arsenal for managing chronic diseases, the company said Wednesday.

“From a broad standpoint, the way we address the most vexing health issues we’re up against — the way we can do good clinical work remotely — is not up to the level that it can be,” said Omada Health CEO and co-founder Sean Duffy.

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A health plan that pays for Weight Watchers, gyms? Why this California insurer has it covered
Sacramento Bee

Blue Shield of California is getting rid of the one-size-fits-all wellness program and offering choices to help members who want to tackle their health challenges through lifestyle changes rather than prescription medicines.

Would you like to try Weight Watchers to help improve your diabetes? Well, Blue Shield and Weight Watchers have worked out a deal that covers the cost of that.

Would you like to try one of several digital applications clinically proven to help lower blood pressure? Blue Shield’s medical team has vetted a number of them that have done so, and the insurer has arranged a pay-for-performance agreement with them that allows the insurer to cover the cost of members’ participation.

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Blue Shield launches digital therapeutics marketplace
San Francisco Business Times

San Francisco-based Blue Shield has created a new marketplace for burgeoning digital health companies looking to help people manage their health and chronic diseases through a variety of diet, lifestyle and other wellness interventions. 

The extensive platform, dubbed “Wellvolution,” went live two weeks ago and houses north of 40 digital health apps — including San Francisco-based Virta Health and Better Therapeutics — as well as partnerships with about 30,000 local brick-and-mortar options nationwide, such as YMCAs, Planet Fitness and weight loss clinics.

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Blue Shield of California offers members access to digital health apps
Becker's Hospital Review

Blue Shield of California is launching a new web and mobile application that can connect its employer customers and Medicare and Medicaid members to various digital health services and in-person resources, CNBC reports.

The digital health initiative aims to replace traditional workplace wellness programs as they fail to decrease the amount of health-related spending by large employers, said Bryce Williams, Blue Shield of California vice president of lifestyle medicine, according to CNBC.

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Dignity Health and Ooda Health expand revenue-cycle pilot
Modern Healthcare

Dignity Health and Ooda Health are growing their partnership that aims to streamline the payment process.

The health system and the healthcare billing-focused startup are expanding their revenue-cycle pilot program to two hospitals and a physician practice in Sacramento, Calif., building off its current pilot at two Arizona hospitals. They aim to launch in September, with the ultimate goal of scaling the program across Dignity’s network. Dignity merged with Catholic Health Initiatives in February to form CommonSpirit Health.

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