News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Trump fixates on drug prices as campaign looms
Washington Post

President Trump was apoplectic about drug prices once again. A Wall Street Journal story in early January, picked up by Fox News, reported that prices on hundreds of drugs were going up — a slap in the face to a president who had campaigned on lowering costs and accused the pharmaceutical industry of “getting away with murder.”

At a Jan. 6 Camp David meeting, Trump fumed about Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whom he had charged with lowering drug prices, according to three people with knowledge of the conversation. Two days later in the Oval Office, a nervous Azar, who had just returned from vacation, detailed the intricacies of what he was doing to lower prices, leaving the president bored and impatient, according to people close to the situation.

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Federal appeals court refuses to postpone Obamacare appeal
Modern Healthcare

A federal appeals court on Tuesday refused to delay oral arguments in a high-profile lawsuit seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to give the Republican state attorneys general more time to file requested supplemental briefs, but will still consider the case on July 9.

The Republican states said they need more time to file a supplemental brief on whether the U.S. House of Representatives and the Democratic states that are defending the landmark healthcare law have standing to intervene in the case and if not, what that means for the appeal. The Republican attorneys general asked to extend the July 3 deadline to file the brief by 20 days and reschedule oral arguments for after that date.

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Nursing homes with majority black, Latino patients more likely to get CMS penalty
Modern Healthcare

Nursing homes that serve largely black and Latino patients are more likely to receive a penalty from the CMS’ Value-Based Purchasing Program than their peers, according to a new analysis.

The study, published Monday in Health Affairs, is the first to look at how nursing homes that serve minority populations were impacted after the first year of the program, which went into effect in October 2018.

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American Medical Association Wades Into Abortion Debate With Lawsuit
National Public Radio

The American Medical Association is suing North Dakota to block two abortion-related laws, the latest signal the doctors’ group is shifting to a more aggressive stance as the Trump administration and state conservatives ratchet up efforts to eliminate legal abortion.

The group, which represents all types of physicians, has tended to stay on the sidelines of many controversial political issues, and until recently has done so concerning abortion and contraception. Instead, it has focused on legislation that affects the practice and finances of large swaths of its membership.

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Medication abortions can’t be ‘reversed.’ A law forcing doctors to say they can be is headed to court.
The Washington Post

One of America’s leading medical organizations has filed a lawsuit to block a North Dakota abortion law requiring doctors to tell women that a medication-induced abortion can be “reversed,” an assertion medical experts say is scientifically unsound.

The American Medical Association has joined the Red River Women’s Clinic, the last abortion facility in the state, and its medical director, Kathryn Eggleston, to argue that the law violates doctors’ constitutional right to free speech by forcing them to lie to patients. The plaintiffs also contest an existing provision in North Dakota law that requires a doctor to tell a woman that the abortion will “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being,” a statement they argue is ideologically biased and “forces physicians to act as the mouthpiece of the state.”

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American Medical Students Less Likely To Choose To Become Primary Care Doctors
Kaiser Health News

Despite hospital systems and health officials calling out the need for more primary care doctors, graduates of U.S. medical schools are becoming less likely to choose to specialize in one of those fields.

A record-high number of primary care positions was offered in the 2019 National Resident Matching Program — known to doctors as “the Match.” It determines where a medical student will study in their chosen specialty after graduation. But this year, the percentage of primary care positions filled by fourth-year medical students was the lowest on record.

“I think part of it has to do with income,” said Mona Signer, the CEO of the Match. “Primary care specialties are not the highest paying.” She suggested that where a student gets a degree also influences the choice. “Many medical schools are part of academic medical centers where research and specialization is a priority,” she said.

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Hospital admissions show glimmers of stability amid long-term decline
Modern Healthcare

Although inpatient admissions have ticked up over the last few months, they remain on a long-term downward trend, which has dented U.S. hospitals’ profitability.

Adjusted patient days were up 3.6% in May compared with the prior-year period, which helped boost operating margins 9.2% along with ongoing cost-cutting efforts, according to Kaufman Hall’s National Hospital Flash Report, which is based on data from more than 600 not-for-profit and for-profit hospitals. But on a rolling 12-month basis, inpatient volumes and emergency department admissions have been declining, said Erik Swanson, a vice president of Kaufman Hall.

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The Gap Between Rich And Poor Americans’ Health Is Widening
National Public Radio

Income inequality in the U.S. has grown over the past several decades. And as the gap between rich and poor yawns, so does the gap in their health, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open Friday.

The study drew from annual health survey data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1993 to 2017, including around 5.5 million Americans ages 18-64. The researchers focused on two questions from the survey recommended by the CDC as reliable indicators of health: 1. Over the last 30 days, how many healthy days have you had? 2. On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your overall health?

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Glaucoma can lead to blindness. Researchers foresee changing that.
The Washington Post

When Sylvia Groth steps through the doors of the Vanderbilt Eye Institute in Nashville, she knows she has a tough day ahead. Before she goes home, she’ll likely have at least one hard talk with a person whose sight has been ravaged by glaucoma.

“When I make a diagnosis of advanced glaucoma, I do it with a heavy heart,” the ophthalmologist says. “It’s such an empty feeling to not be able to do anything.”

An incurable eye disease that kills vital nerve cells at the back of the retina, glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. More than 70 million people have it, and 3 million of them already are blind. Nothing can be done to restore vision once it’s lost, and even the best treatments can’t always slow disease progression. But researchers foresee a time when they can offer therapies to protect nerve cells in the eye and perhaps even restore lost sight.

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Gut Bacteria Help May Boost Obese People’s Health

Supplements of a type of gut bacteria may benefit people at heightened risk of diabetes and heart disease, a preliminary study suggests.

Researchers found that the supplements, containing bacteria called Akkermansia muciniphila, appear safe and potentially effective.

Over three months, volunteers who used a pasteurized version of the supplement lost an average of 5 pounds. Meanwhile, their cholesterol levels dipped and the progression of their “pre-diabetes” slowed.

The study was small, and designed as a “proof-of-principle” – aimed at showing the bacteria can be packaged into a supplement and taken safely.

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Why the Health Care System Is Incapable of Reducing Its Own Costs: A Brief Structural System Analysi
The Health Care Blog

Leading lights of the health insurance industry are crying that Medicare For All or any kind of universal health reform would “crash the system” and “destroy healthcare as we know it.”

They say that like it’s a bad thing.

They say we should trust them and their cost-cutting efforts to bring all Americans more affordable health care.

We should not trust them, because the system as it is currently structured economically is incapable of reducing costs.

Why? Let’s do a quick structural analysis. This is how health care actually works.

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Health Care Digest: Gilead’s big plan for rheumatoid arthritis, Gladstone’s new heart chief, Chan Zuckerberg’s cell atlas and more
San Francisco Business Times

One of brain research’s longtime bugaboos, especially in trying to find treatments for mental illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease and the like, is the ability to figure out just how drugs are behaving in and around our gray matter.

Kunal Ghosh thinks his company, Inscopix Inc., has an answer: The Palo Alto company’s miniature microscope creates a real-time map to see how brain activity changes among healthy and unhealthy tissue. At least in mice.

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Blue Shield of California targets wellness goals through personalized health platform
Healthcare Finance News

Insurer Blue Shield of California is revamping its wellness program by introducing a personalized, curated approach to help members improve and maintain their health through lifestyle choices.

Called Wellvolution, the program is not new, but a new platform has been designed to match members enrolled in Blue Shield’s fully-insured employer-sponsored plans and its individual and family plans with specific, recommended digital therapeutic providers and mobile health apps.

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HCA buys two dozen urgent-care centers from Fresenius Medical Care
Modern Healthcare

HCA Healthcare purchased 24 MedSpring urgent-care centers from Fresenius Medical Care, the investor-owned hospital chain announced Tuesday.

The urgent-care centers will operate under HCA’s Medical City Healthcare division and be rebranded as CareNow Urgent Care. The acquisition adds eight centers to CareNow’s 37 North Texas locations. In 2018, CareNow and Medical City Children’s Urgent Care clinics served about 10% of the Dallas-Fort Worth population, with more than 770,000 patient visits, HCA said.