News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obamacare in Jeopardy as Appeals Court Hears Case Backed by Trump
New York Times

A federal appeals court panel will hear arguments Tuesday on whether a federal judge in Texas was correct in striking down the Affordable Care Act, a case with enormous stakes not only for millions of people who gained health insurance through the law but for the political futures of President Trump and other candidates in the 2020 elections.

The case, which could make its way to the Supreme Court ahead of those elections, threatens insurance protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and many other sweeping changes the 2010 law has made throughout the health care s

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There’s little chance appeals court will strike down ACA, legal experts say
Modern Healthcare

Seven months after a federal judge struck down the Affordable Care Act, a coalition of 21 Democratic attorneys general will once again defend the landmark healthcare law in New Orleans on Tuesday. The challenge, if upheld, would have far-reaching consequences for millions of Americans and the healthcare companies that serve them.

Left-leaning and conservative legal experts alike say there’s little chance the three-judge panel in New Orleans agrees with the lower court and declare the ACA unconstitutional. The arguments used by the Republican states that sued to wipe out the ACA are “frivolous,” the experts say.

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Trump officials tell one court Obamacare is failing and another it’s thriving
Los Angeles Times

As they push a federal court to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump administration lawyers are arguing the law is no longer workable because Congress eliminated a penalty on people who don’t have health insurance.

But for months, senior administration officials and lawyers have been making the exact opposite case in other settings, a review of government reports, court filings and public statements made by Trump appointees shows.

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5th Circuit decision on ACA could create political havoc for GOP
Washington Post

The judges of the marbled appellate courthouse in the heart of New Orleans once upended civil rights law, issuing rulings that propelled desegregation. This summer, they could upend health-care law and with it, the roiling politics of health care in Congress, the White House and the 2020 campaigns.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration and 18 Republican-led states will face off against a score of Democratic-led states over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — the sprawling law the Supreme Court has upheld twice but a federal district judge in Texas ruled invalid late last year.

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The Affordable Care Act Is Back In Court: 5 Facts You Need To Know
National Public Radio

The fate of the Affordable Care Act is again on the line Tuesday, as a federal appeals court in New Orleans takes up a case in which a lower court judge has already ruled the massive health law unconstitutional.

If the lower court ruling is ultimately upheld, the case, Texas v. United States, has the potential to shake the nation’s entire health care system to its core. First, such a decision would immediately affect the estimated 20 million people who get their health coverage through programs created under the law. But ending the ACA would also create chaos in other parts of the health care system that were directly or indirectly changed under the law’s multitude of provisions — including calorie counts on menus, a pathway for approval of generic copies of expensive biologic drugs and, perhaps most important politically, protections for people who have preexisting conditions.

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Is “Medicare For All (Who Want it)” Enough?
The Health Care Blog

In the 2nd night of the Democratic Primary debate on June 27, 2019, Pete Buttigieg was asked whether he supported Medicare-For-All. He responded, “I support Medicare for all who want it.”

In doing so, he side-stepped the controversial debate over shifts of power from states to the federal government, and trusted that logic would eventually prevail over a collusive Medical-Industrial Complex with an iron lock grip on a system that deals everyone imaginable in on the sickness profitability curve – except the patient.

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Medi-Cal Enrollment Among Immigrant Kids Stalls, Then Falls. Is Fear To Blame?
Kaiser Health News

As California prepares to expand Medicaid coverage to young adults living in the state illegally, the number of undocumented immigrant children in the program is slowly declining, new state data show.

Unauthorized immigrant children have been eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income residents, since May 2016, and their enrollment peaked nearly a year later at 134,374, according to data from the state Department of Health Care Services.

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Federal judge blocks Trump rule requiring drug prices in TV ads
Washington Post

A federal judge Monday thwarted one of the Trump administration’s key efforts to address rising drug prices by blocking a rule that would have required drugmakers to include the list prices of their medicines in television ads.

Three drug manufacturers — Merck, Eli Lilly and Amgen — sued the administration after the Department of Health and Human Services finalized the rule in May, arguing that HHS overstepped its authority because it did not have permission from Congress to impose the requirement.

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Judge Blocks Trump Rule Requiring Pharma Companies To Say Price Of Drugs In TV Ads
National Public Radio

A federal judge on Monday stopped a Trump administration initiative that would have required drugmakers to reveal the sticker price of their drugs in television ads.

Under the rule, if a medicine’s list price was more than $35 a month, it would have to be stated during the commercial. The challenge, opponents say, is that a drug’s list price and estimates of what people can expect to pay vary widely depending on coverage.

The rule was blocked hours before it was set to take effect, the latest setback for the White House as Trump administration officials continue to search for ways to pressure pharmaceutical companies into lowering their prices — a proposal made by the Trump administration in the runup to last November’s midterm election.

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HHS Inspector General Finds Serious Flaws In 20% Of U.S. Hospice Programs
National Public Radio

We all hope for some peace and comfort at the end of life. Hospices are designed to make that possible, relieving pain and providing emotional and spiritual support. But two new government studies released Tuesday morning find that the vast majority of hospices have sometimes failed to do that.

And there’s no easy way for consumers to distinguish the good hospices from the bad.

The reports are the government’s first to look at hospice deficiencies nationwide. The Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services found that from 2012 through 2016, health inspectors cited 87% of hospices for deficiencies. And 20% of hospices had lapses serious enough to endanger patients.

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Drug Prices Can Take A Surprising Turn When A Poor Country Gets Richer
National Public Radio

When a poor country becomes wealthier, it’s a good thing, right?

Not if the country is trying to buy essential medicines.

A new report, published by the Center for Global Development in June, finds that as countries move up the ladder of economic development, it becomes harder for government agencies, hospitals and health care companies to buy drugs at reasonable prices.

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Healthcare hiring recovered in June after spring slump
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare hiring ticked back up in June after taking a dive in April and May.

The sector added 34,900 jobs last month, up significantly from 15,700 in May, the weakest month since September 2017, according to theU.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest jobs report, released Friday.

The U.S. unemployment rate grew slightly to 3.7% in June, compared with 3.6% in both May and April. Total nonfarm employment increased by 224,000 in June, according to the report.

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Insurance commissioner will return funds from companies with ties to industry he regulates
San Diego Union-Tribune

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said Monday that he would return tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions he accepted from insurance industry executives.

The turnaround came hours after The San Diego Union-Tribune disclosed the political donations and a Los Angeles consumer group publicly called on the insurance commissioner to return the donations.

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To Reduce Hospital Noise, Researchers Create Alarms That Whistle and Sing
New York Times

In 2012, Yoko Sen was in an emergency room, tethered to a machine bleating relentlessly in her ear.

She was “freaked out,” she said, and felt helpless.

When a nurse returned to the room, Ms. Sen asked if it was O.K. the device was screaming.

“Yeah, this thing just beeps,” she recalled the nurse saying.

Ms. Sen, an electronic musician, was stunned. How could something “so loud and so jarring” be considered normal?

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How To Get A Cheaper Prescription Before Leaving The Doctor’s Office
California Healthline

When Mary Kay Gilbert saw her doctor in May for a skin infection on her leg, she wasn’t surprised to receive a prescription for an antibiotic cream.

But Gilbert, 54, a nurse and health consultant, was shocked when her physician clicked on the desktop computer and told Gilbert the medicine would cost $30 on her Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan.

“I was like, ‘Wow — that’s pretty cool that you know that information,’” she recalled telling the doctor in Edina, Minn.

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‘Early warning sign’ of West Nile virus: First bird tests positive in Sacramento County
Sacramento Bee

The first bird of the season has tested positive for West Nile virus in Sacramento County, and officials said they are on alert for the mosquito-borne disease that killed 11 people and infected more than 200 in California last year.

A yellow-billed magpie found dead last week near Elverta in north Sacramento County tested positive for the virus, the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District confirmed Monday in a news release.

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Health Care Digest: Berkeley’s biotech welcome mat, virus hunter’s new target and more
San Francisco Business Times

After years of taxing government research grants — a main source of revenue for biotech startups — the Berkeley City Council voted in late May to exempt small businesses from the tax on up to $1 million in grants. The rationale? Eliminating the tax could help biotech (as well as tech and cleantech) startups thrive.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin wasn’t available to talk about the measure, but a report from the mayor to the City Council noted that the “slight loss” in tax revenue for the city “will likely be recouped through more businesses remaining in Berkeley.”

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Aurora Santa Rosa Hospital adding 49 new beds for mental health facility, says 100 more needed
North Bay Business Journal

Aurora Santa Rosa Hospital, a freestanding acute psychiatric hospital in Santa Rosa, is growing in a health care segment that historically has been shrinking.

Aurora, which currently has 95 licensed beds, is adding another 49. And construction is underway on a building expansion that will double the size of Aurora’s outpatient program, adding 3,500 square feet.

The hospital will begin filling the additional 49 beds in January, according to CEO Susan Rose. Even with the expansion, the hospital still will be short 100 beds based on need, she added.