News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Federal appeals court appears skeptical of Obamacare, putting future of law in doubt
Los Angeles Times

A panel of federal judges in New Orleans sharply questioned attorneys defending the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, signaling that the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals may throw out at least part of the 2010 law.

That would set the stage for another showdown before the Supreme Court, which has twice in the last decade been called upon to rule on the landmark law, often called Obamacare.

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Appeals court shows signs it will invalidate ACA individual mandate
Modern Healthcare

A panel of federal appellate judges on Tuesday hinted they will rule that the Affordable Care Act’s so-called individual mandate is unconstitutional, but seemed skeptical that the entire healthcare law should fall because of that provision.

Although a coalition of Democratic state attorneys general defended Obamacare before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, two Republican-appointed judges on the three-judge panel ripped into their argument that the individual mandate is now a choice rather than a command since Congress zeroed-out its penalty for not buying insurance in 2017.

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Appeals judges question whether the ACA can stand without insurance penalty
The Washington Post

Federal appeals court judges expressed skepticism Tuesday that the nearly decade-old law that refashioned the nation’s health-care system should remain intact after Congress eliminated a tax penalty for Americans who fail to carry health insurance.

During oral arguments in a case with momentous stakes for consumers and politicians ahead of the 2020 elections, two members of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit grilled lawyers representing Democratic-led states and the U.S. House to explain why the Affordable Care Act remains valid.

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Validity of Obama health care law at issue in appeal hearing
Associated Press

With health insurance availability, cost and coverage on the line for millions of Americans, a federal appeals court seemed inclined Tuesday to rule that the core provision of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law is unconstitutional.

Two Republican-appointed judges on a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals peppered lawyers defending the law with skeptical questions, appearing to suggest they might hold that when Congress zeroed out a tax imposed by the law in 2017 it rendered unconstitutional the mandate to purchase health insurance.

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California Is 1st State To Offer Health Benefits To Adult Undocumented Immigrants
National Public Radio

California has become the first state in the country to offer government-subsidized health benefits to young adults living in the U.S. illegally.

The measure signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday extends coverage to low-income, undocumented adults age 25 and younger for the state’s Medicaid program.

Since 2016, California has allowed children under 18 to receive taxpayer-backed health care despite immigration status. And state officials expect that the plan will cover roughly 90,000 people.

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Covered California premiums to rise by smallest-ever amount
San Francisco Chronicle

Health insurance premiums for the roughly 2.2 million Californians who buy health plans on the individual market — either through the state insurance exchange Covered California or directly from insurers — will go up less than 1% in 2020, Covered California officials said Tuesday.

The average statewide premium increase will be 0.8% — the smallest annual average premium increase in Covered California’s six-year history. In 2019, premiums increased nearly 9%.

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Covered California says consumers will see lowest-ever premium hike for individual policies
The Sacramento Bee

Covered California announced Tuesday morning that it expects an average premium increase of 0.8 percent for 2020 in the state’s individual marketplace, the lowest such rate change since the health insurance exchange started business in 2013.

Peter V. Lee, the executive director of Covered California, attributed the low rate change to bills passed by the California Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom over the past six months.

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Trump to order overhaul of organ transplant and kidney dialysis systems
The Washington Post

The Trump administration pledged Wednesday to reduce end stage kidney disease by 25 percent by 2030, proposing to provide better care earlier in the disease’s progression and double the number of kidney transplants performed in the United States.

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday morning that is also designed to move many of the more than 500,000 people receiving kidney dialysis away from commercial centers to less expensive in-home care.

Trump said the order delivers “ground-breaking action to millions of Americans suffering from kidney disease. It’s a big deal.”

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Judge axes price disclosure rule for drug ads
Modern Healthcare

The Trump administration cannot force drug manufacturers to disclose prices in their pharmaceutical ads to consumers, a federal judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said HHS didn’t have the authority to require drugmakers to publish list prices, a blow to the administration’s strategy to curb pharmaceutical costs. The agency hoped the final rule would boost pharmaceutical price transparency.

But Congress didn’t give HHS the power to issue such a rule, according to the decision.

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HHS launches summit to overhaul federal quality programs
Modern Healthcare

HHS on Tuesday created a summit that will enlist federal and private healthcare leaders to determine how to streamline and improve the agency’s quality programs.

The group, which will be called the Quality Summit, is in response to a recent executive order from President Donald Trump calling on federal health agencies to develop a strategy within six months that will align quality measures across Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the health insurance marketplace, the Military Health System and the Veterans Affairs health system.

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CMS policy change improved addiction treatment access
Modern Healthcare

The CMS‘ push for Medicare plans to reduce preauthorization barriers to medication-assisted treatment for patients with opioid use disorders has worked very well, according to a new study.

Now the agency should apply similar pressure on Medicaid and private health plans, which cover a far larger number of Americans with addiction treatment needs, the researchers recommend in a study published in JAMA.

The CMS announced in April 2018 that it would not approve Medicare Part D formularies that required prior authorization for buprenorphine products more frequently than once a year.

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‘An Arm And A Leg’: The Full Story Of Insulin And Its Cost ― No Sugarcoating It
Kaiser Health News

One out of every 4 people with Type 1 and 2 diabetes rations insulin. Adeline Umubyeyi is among them. She’s a college grad with a professional job and health insurance who still sometimes goes to bed without dinner — because skipping a meal allows her to skip a dose of her costly insulin.

On Episode 5 of “An Arm and a Leg,” meet Umubyeyi and take a 98-year journey with host Dan Weissmann as he traces insulin’s origins. It begins with a couple of scrappy researchers, toiling in a sweltering attic, who left a trail of dead dogs in their wake. And the trip includes a visit to an unconventional lab space in present-day Oakland, Calif., where amateur researchers are working on a 21st-century recipe for affordable insulin.

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Watch: High Cost Of Insulin Sends Americans To Canada To Stock Up
Kaiser Health News

Insulin is a vital drug that some 7.4 million Americans must take daily to manage their diabetes. But its price nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016, leaving some patients with no choice but to turn to black-market drugs or traveling to Canada, where insulin can be 90% cheaper. KHN senior correspondent Sarah Varney reports in collaboration with PBS NewsHour about the skyrocketing cost of insulin — and the trend’s deadly consequences.

This is a transcript of the story:

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Years After Sexual Assault, Survivors Hounded To Pay Bills For The Rape Kit Exam
National Public Radio

Six years ago, a newly minted graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was working three part-time jobs and adjusting to life not as a student. She stopped in for a drink one night at a restaurant in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, where she got into a conversation with a guy. The next thing she remembers clearly was awakening at home the next morning, aching, covered in bruises, with a swollen lip.

She believed she had been raped and went to the local police station to file a report. The police sent her to a hospital emergency room nearby where, with her permission, a doctor did a medical forensic exam, checking her for injuries and taking evidence from her body and clothes to potentially use in a prosecution case. The exam took hours and made her even more miserable.

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With Obamacare in peril, California reins in rising health insurance premiums
Los Angeles Times

Premiums on California’s health insurance exchange will rise by an average of 0.8% next year, the lowest increase in the agency’s history, state officials announced Tuesday.

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee credited two new statewide initiatives for keeping the proposed rate hikes low: Next year, California will be the first state in the country to offer state-funded tax credits to middle-class enrollees, which will be paid for in part by a new tax penalty on Californians who don’t have health insurance.

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California Becomes First In Nation To Expand Medicaid To Undocumented Young Adults
capital public radio

For years, Beatriz Basurto’s family has had to make hard choices about when to pay for medical care, and who should get treatment.

“To me, it was always the doctor would be the last resort,” she says. ”But for my parents, the doctor was never a choice. No matter how sick they got, they had to suck it up.”

Basurto, 19, says her parents always put the kids’ medical needs before their own. The family moved to California from Mexico more than 15 years ago.

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Gilead pays startup $123M to develop longer-lasting HIV pill
San Francisco Business Times

HIV patients could one day replace a daily pill for one that would last a week or more, should a new drug development deal struck this week prove successful.

Foster City-based Gilead Sciences Inc. (Nasdaq: GILD) is enlisting Massachusetts startup Lyndra Therapeutics to develop one or more HIV drugs that could last a week, allowing patients to take fewer pills. Gilead will pay Lyndra up to $122.5 million in R&D milestones, as well as commercial royalties on any products produced through the deal.

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Berkeley Research Group closes on Prism Healthcare Partners purchase
Modern Healthcare

Berkeley Research Group announced Tuesday it has closed on its acquisition of fellow healthcare consultancy Prism Healthcare Partners, just two months after the deal was first announced.

The combined company, BRG | Prism Healthcare, will retain BRG’s Emeryville, Calif., headquarters and will have annual revenue exceeding $225 million.

“We are thrilled to complete this deal and look forward to being better and stronger together,” Tri MacDonald, BRG’s president, said in a statement. “We now have the scale to serve any size client, providing complete solutions across all areas of operations, strategy and business analytics.”

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S.F. digital wellness company snags ex-Walgreens medical chief
San Francisco Business Times

Hims Inc. is bolstering up its C-suite, scooping up former Walgreens executive Patrick Carroll as its first chief medical officer.

The San Francisco-based health company, known broadly as Hims/Hers, sports two brands: Hims, a direct-to-consumer wellness website for men, and its newer sister option, Hers, which focuses on women’s telehealth. Hims launched in 2017, offering a variety of medical-grade hair loss, penis pills, hygiene and other general wellness care; Hers hosts care products like skin treatment, hair strengthening and birth control, and made its debut last year.

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Mental health crisis center coming to Sacramento County. Mercy San Juan gives an early look.
Sacramento Bee

Sacramento County and Dignity Health are undertaking an $18.7 million effort to relieve pressure on the region’s psychiatric hospitals by opening a facility at Mercy San Juan Medical Center that will treat patients in behavioral health crisis for up to 23 hours.

Roughly 4,000 patients a year come to the emergency room at Carmichael’s Mercy San Juan with a behavioral health crisis, said Rosemary Younts, senior director of behavioral health for Dignity Health, and that kind of volume is tough to match or beat in Sacramento County.

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