- KFF Health News Original Stories 3
- Will I Always Face The Threat Of A Peanut-Laden Kiss Of Death?
- How Helping Patients Get Good Care At Home Helps Rural Hospitals Survive
- End Of Tax Penalty Could Fall Hardest On Previously Uninsured Californians
- Political Cartoon: 'Drinking Age?'
- Capitol Watch 1
- Justice Department Says Shutdown Affects Its Ability To Respond To House Democrats' Intervention In Health Law Case
- Coverage And Access 1
- More Than 4 In 5 Democrats Want Congress To Enact A Taxpayer-Funded National Health Care Plan, Poll Finds
- Women’s Health 1
- With Roe V. Wade's Future Uncertain, Cuomo Vows To Cement Women's Right To Abortion In New York Constitution
- Marketplace 1
- Some Hospitals Frustrated With CMS Rule Requiring Them To Post Prices As Experts Say It Won't Help Cut Consumers' Costs
- Health Law 1
- Wis. Republican Lawmakers See Bumpy Road Ahead For Legislation Protecting Preexisting Conditions Coverage
- Opioid Crisis 1
- 'I Felt Death At That Moment': Puerto Rico Struggles With Growing Opioid Crisis After Hurricane Maria
- Public Health 1
- 'We Never Give Up': When Illnesses Are Mystifying, Researchers In The Undiagnosed Disease Network Look For Answers
- State Watch 1
- State Highlights: New Hampshire Hospital Group Joins Lawsuit Over Mental Health Care; Texas Judge Claims Abortion Rights Lawsuit Is Confusing
From KFF Health News - Latest Stories:
A reporter with a serious peanut allergy explains what it is like to process news reports that tout new pharmaceutical products that might minimize the danger of accidental exposure. (Shefali Luthra, )
Hospitals are now financially rewarded by insurers for safety and efficacy — which often results in patients spending less time as inpatients. (Blake Farmer, Nashville Public Radio, )
A new report shows that Hispanics, young people, the healthy and the poor — all groups with high rates of uninsurance before the Affordable Care Act — are the most likely to forgo insurance now that the tax penalty for not having it has been eliminated. (Barbara Feder Ostrov, )
KFF Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Drinking Age?'" by Steve Kelley, New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
FDA WORRIED ABOUT JUUL-ALTRIA DEAL
Juul allied with known
Supporter of truth and health
Rest easy now, kids.
- Ernest R. Smith
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if we can include your name. Haikus follow the format of 5-7-5 syllables. We give extra brownie points if you link back to an original story.
Opinions expressed in haikus and cartoons are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions of KFF Health News or KFF.
Summaries Of The News:
Last week, Democrats officially filed a motion asking the court to allow the House to intervene as a defendant in a Republican-led lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. The agency's opposition is due Jan. 24, but Justice employees can't work during the partial government shutdown.
DOJ Asks For Extension In ObamaCare Lawsuit Due To Shutdown
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking a federal judge to pause all briefings related to a motion filed by House Democrats in an ongoing ObamaCare lawsuit, saying they cannot complete their work properly due to the government shutdown. Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt said DOJ lawyers “are unable to prepare their opposition at this time due to the lapse in appropriations.” The motion was filed on Friday but appeared in the docket on Monday. (Weixel, 1/7)
And in other news on the shutdown —
Shutdown Impacts Native Americans' Ability To Get Health Care
Rachel Martin talks to Kerry Hawk-Lessard of Native American Lifelines, who explains how her group will run out of money to pay for health services, if the government shutdown persists. (Martin, 1/8)
VA Hospitals, Clinics And Services Open During Government Shutdown
Hospitals, clinics and all services provided to veterans in Oregon and southwest Washington aren’t affected by the government shutdown. We are funded on a two-year-cycle,” said Dan Herrigstad, public affairs spokesman for Portland’s VA Health Care System. “That prevents us from getting shut down because of yearly funding issues. Even when there is a complete shutdown, the VA is always open for care and all employees continue to be paid." (Hallman, 1/7)
A Harvard/Politico poll geared to take the temperature of Americans' health care views found that while support for a plan like "Medicare for All" was mostly coming from Democrats, even Republicans were receptive to allowing Americans under 65 to buy into Medicare as another option. Americans from both parties were also in overwhelming agreement that lawmakers should make sure insurance companies provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions
POLITICO/Harvard Poll: Many Democrats Back A Taxpayer-Funded Health Care Plan Like Medicare For All
More than 4 in 5 Democrats want Congress to enact a taxpayer-funded, national health care plan such as Medicare for All, according to a new Harvard/POLITICO poll gauging the public’s health and education priorities for 2019. Some 42 percent of Democratic respondents to the poll supported repealing and replacing Obamacare — mostly in the interest of building on the health law's coverage gains and creating a new system so that more Americans have health insurance. (Roubein, 1/7)
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) also said that he will try to make an executive order permanent that requires all health insurance policies in New York to cover contraception without copays, coinsurance or deductibles.
The Wall Street Journal:
Cuomo Vows To Codify Roe V. Wade Decision Into New York Constitution
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he will seek to codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizing a constitutional right to terminate pregnancy, into the state’s Constitution. The pledge, which would take years to complete and involve a ballot measure, was made during a press conference in Manhattan at Barnard College, where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Mr. Cuomo to lend support to his initiatives. (West, 1/7)
The New York Times:
As Supreme Court Shifts Under Trump, Cuomo Vows To Expand Abortion Rights
Mr. Cuomo’s vow was not exactly new. But the pageantry of the occasion seemed to reflect the circumstances that had prompted it: a Legislature newly controlled by Democrats raring to broaden reproductive rights, and a federal government increasingly looking to rein them in, all against the backdrop of a state with abortion laws that are not as liberal as many perceive them to be. “The Republican Senate said, ‘You don’t need a state law codifying Roe v. Wade. No administration would ever roll back Roe v. Wade,’” Mr. Cuomo said at the event at Barnard College, describing why previous efforts had languished for so long. “So help me God, this was the conversation.” (Wang, 1/7)
Cuomo: Kavanaugh, Gorsuch Are 'Going To Reverse Roe V. Wade'
Cuomo is also proposing the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which would improve access to birth control. Cuomo vowed not to sign a state budget this spring if the two pieces of legislation aren't first approved by state lawmakers. The governor added that he wants to "take it a step further" and pass a constitutional amendment that would write a provision into the constitution "protecting a woman's right to control her own reproductive health." (Burke, 1/7)
The New York Times:
Democrats Now Control Albany. How Will They Handle 5 Key Issues?
A bill to create a Medicare for all-styled system for New York would be one of the most expensive items the Legislature could take up this year. It has passed the Assembly several times, and Senate Democrats have pledged their support, too. The idea has high-profile backers including the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson. So it should fly through, right? Not exactly. (Wang, 1/8)
The Arizona Department of Health Services also said that it will be conducting an investigation of Hacienda HealthCare following the reports of the woman giving birth. The nursing home, which is south of downtown Phoenix, specializes in the care of people with intellectual disabilities.
The New York Times:
C.E.O. Resigns Over Case Of Woman In Vegetative State Who Gave Birth
The chief executive of the corporation that runs a private nursing home in Arizona where a woman in a vegetative state was sexually assaulted and later gave birth to a child resigned on Monday, the company said in a statement. The company, Hacienda HealthCare, said the resignation of the executive, Bill Timmons, was unanimously accepted by its board of directors. David Leibowitz, a company spokesman, said Mr. Timmons had been chief executive for 28 years. Efforts to reach Mr. Timmons on Monday night were unsuccessful. (Stack, 1/7)
The Washington Post:
Health-Care Provider CEO Resigns After Woman In Vegetative State Gives Birth
Hacienda “will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation, an unprecedented case that has devastated everyone involved, from the victim and her family to Hacienda staff at every level of our organization,” Gary Orman, a member of Hacienda’s board of directors, said in the statement. No one has been arrested in connection with the incident, and it’s unclear whether police have identified any suspects. In Arizona, sexually assaulting a vulnerable adult is a felony. (Wootson, 1/7)
Hacienda HealthCare Executive Resigns After Patient Gives Birth
The Arizona Department of Health Services on Friday confirmed that the patient who gave birth was a resident at Hacienda de Los Angeles, 1402 E. South Mountain Ave. State licensing records describe the facility as a 60-bed intermediate care facility for people with intellectual disabilities. (Innes, 1/7)
"The unfortunate thing is that for most consumers, because it's standard charges not related to their coverage, it's not that helpful," Rick Gundling, senior vice president of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, told Modern Healthcare. "It was an exercise that doesn't add a lot of value to the consumer."
Hospitals Vary In Publishing CMS Chargemaster Prices
Price transparency stumbled out of the gate last week as hospitals complied with a new CMS requirement to publish their lengthy list of retail charges for individual services and diagnosis-related groups in online spreadsheets by the first of the year. Some hospitals, such Northwestern Memorial in Chicago, posted a link to their charges right on their home pages. Most others, such as HCA's Aventura Hospital, posted the data deeper inside their websites, requiring a search and multiple clicks. One system, MedStar, said it won't post the information until next week because it's still working to ensure accuracy and clarity. (Meyer, 1/7)
In other news on health care costs —
The Baltimore Sun:
Americans Pay Top Prices For Health Care And The Bill Keeps Rising
Americans are spending more than twice as much for health care than people in other developed countries and more than double what they used to spend, a new batch of figures from the Johns Hopkins University shows. Despite efforts to curb costs, the amount spent per person in the United States was $9,892 in 2016, 117 percent more than the tally in 2000 when researchers at Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health first collected such spending data. (Cohn, 1/7)
ER Bills Are Expensive. And Secretive.
A lot of us — probably most of us — will end up in an emergency room at some point in our lives. But what's less certain is exactly how much that ER visit is going to cost us. Vox senior policy correspondent Sarah Kliff took a deep dive into ER billing, then she wrote about it on Twitter. (McHenry, 1/7)
The state's Senate and the Assembly have struggled in the past to find common ground. "I don’t want to overpromise on that right out of the gate," Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said, even as Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) announced his chamber would be taking up a bill protecting the coverage. Other health law news comes out of Connecticut and California, as well.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
GOP Legislation On Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions Faces Hurdles
Republican leaders of the state Legislature signaled Monday they could again face hurdles passing legislation aimed at protecting health coverage for pre-existing conditions. Wisconsin lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly failed to find common ground last year on legislation intended to provide assurances if a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act is ultimately successful. (Beck and Marley, 1/7)
The CT Mirror:
Unpredictable Events And Outside Trends Shaped Malloy’s Health Care Policy
The outgoing governor’s two terms nearly dovetailed with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, the federal health care law that expanded insurance coverage to millions of Americans and boosted federal funds for health care programs. Connecticut’s early decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare to more than 200,000 poor adults has had a positive effect on that population’s health, the state’s uninsured rate, and the program’s per-person costs. (Shanahan, 1/8)
End Of Tax Penalty Could Fall Hardest On Previously Uninsured Californians
The elimination of the Affordable Care Act tax penalty on people who don’t have health insurance could roll back recent coverage gains for Hispanics, young people, the healthy and the poor, according to a new study. The study, published Monday in the journal Health Affairs, stems from a 2017 survey in which researchers at Harvard University Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital asked more than 3,000 Californians who had bought individual health care plans: “Would you have purchased health insurance coverage this year if there was no penalty?” (Feder Ostrov, 1/7)
While the use of fentanyl is expanding and overdoses and deaths appear to be under-reported, the U.S. territory neglected to apply for a federal $7.8 million grant to help get people into treatment. News on the opioid epidemic comes from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, also.
The Associated Press:
Growing Opioid Crisis Adds To Puerto Rico's Problems
Jose Carlos Laviena emptied his pockets, took off his shoes and waited to die. He had just injected himself with a new type of heroin that his dealer was promoting, but the high was so strong that Laviena thought he had overdosed. The 35-year-old was preparing his body for how he wanted to be found. (Coto, 1/7)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
One Year After Declaring State Of Emergency, Pa. Officials Assess Progress On Opioid Battle
Just under a year after Gov. Tom Wolf declared an emergency over Pennsylvania’s opioid epidemic, state officials on Monday highlighted programs they say have been touted as national models, while acknowledging there’s much work to be done to address one of the worst overdose crises in the country. The state has gotten more people into treatment, they said, and lowered a key barrier that has long kept people with addiction from medication-assisted treatment, the “gold standard” of addiction treatment. (Whelan, 1/7)
Now Mandated To Offer Meds For Opioid Addiction In The ER, Mass. Hospitals Get 'How-To' Guidelines
A 2018 state law requires roughly 80 hospitals and satellite emergency rooms to offer patients addicted to opioids a medication to help treat their disease. A handful do. For most, this is a new frontier. (Bebinger, 1/7)
In a study using a condition called Noonan syndrome, the algorithm was correct 64 percent of the time, far more than the 20 percent success rate that would be expected from guesswork. “We went for this high-impact journal to prove beyond any doubt that this technology is good, it performs as we say, we can stand behind it, and now it opens a lot of doors to publish more,” said Yaron Gurovich, the company's chief technology officer. Other health and technology news looks at telemedicine for psychiatry and robots.
New Study Shows AI Can Diagnose Some Gene Mutations From A Photo
Some people’s faces — or even just a photo of them — hint at the genes they carry. And now, an algorithm can predict not only whether they carry a genetic mutation, but which genes were mutated. The study, published Monday in Nature Medicine, is the latest from a Boston-based company called FDNA, one of a few organizations creating software that can help physicians diagnose genetic syndromes based just on a face — and may serve an important validation of the company’s technology, said Yaron Gurovich, the company’s chief technology officer. (Sheridan, 1/7)
The Wall Street Journal:
The Psychiatrist Can See Your Child Now, Virtually
When Sarah Ford, 14 years old, was struggling with depression, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts last spring, her pediatrician in Springfield, Mo., was able to call in help from afar. Through a live videoconference link with Mercy Virtual, a telemedicine center three hours away, a child-psychiatry expert evaluated Sarah, prescribed a medication and set follow-up appointments. With a rising number of teens and adolescents suffering from depression and anxiety, and too few professionals to help, remote video consults are helping pediatricians fill the gap in some communities. (Landro, 1/7)
Samsung Shows Off Robots For Health Care And Retail Stores
Samsung Electronics Co. showed off robots at the CES technology conference in Las Vegas, including one for retail stores and another in the health-care space. The Bot Care can measure blood pressure and heart rate, detect falls and administer medicine, the South Korean technology giant said. It’s designed for in-home use. Bot Retail communicates with consumers in stores, while the Bot Air robot detects air quality. Samsung didn’t say when it intends to release the robots or how they would be priced. (Gurman, 1/7)
Doctors in 12 clinical centers pull out all the stops to try to find a diagnosis and treatment for thousands of patients looking for miracles. Public health news also focuses on a mosquito-borne virus worse than Zika; the Dunning-Kruger effect; the poor's smoking rates; race and Alzheimer's disease; stroke risk; the birth of a podcast; the future of newborn DNA testing; what it's like to have nut-allergies; the upside of breakups; and good news about braces.
The New York Times:
When The Illness Is A Mystery, Patients Turn To These Detectives
They are patients with diseases that mystify doctors, people whose symptoms are dismissed as psychosomatic, who have been given misdiagnosis upon misdiagnosis. They have confounded experts and have exhausted every hope save one. And so they wind up in the Undiagnosed Diseases Network, a federally funded project that now includes 12 clinical centers, including one at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. (Kolata, 1/7)
The New York Times:
A Virus Even More Dangerous Than Zika To Pregnant Woman
The mosquito-borne virus that causes Rift Valley fever may severely injure human fetuses if contracted by mothers during pregnancy, according to new research. In a study published last month in the journal Science Advances, researchers used infected rats and human fetal tissue to discover how the virus targets the placenta. Results showed that the virus may be even more damaging to fetuses than the Zika virus, which set off a global crisis in 2015 and left thousands of babies in Central America and South America with severe birth defects. (Baumgaertner, 1/7)
The Washington Post:
What’s Behind The Confidence Of The Incompetent? This Suddenly Popular Psychological Phenomenon.
You may have witnessed this scene at work, while socializing with friends or over a holiday dinner with extended family: Someone who has very little knowledge in a subject claims to know a lot. That person might even boast about being an expert. This phenomenon has a name: the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s not a disease, syndrome or mental illness; it is present in everybody to some extent, and it’s been around as long as human cognition, though only recently has it been studied and documented in social psychology. (Fritz, 1/7)
Los Angeles Times:
Smoking Is At A Record Low In The U.S., But The Benefits Aren't Shared Equally
Cigarette smoking is at an all-time low in the United States, but the benefits of this public health achievement are not being shared equally by all Americans. A new analysis of health data from the nation’s 500 largest cities shows that the people who live in neighborhoods with the highest smoking rates are more likely to be poor, less likely to be white, and more likely to have chronic heart or lung diseases. (Kaplan, 1/7)
Study Offers Clues To Racial Differences In Alzheimer's Disease
Scientists have found a biological clue that could help explain why African-Americans appear to be more vulnerable than white Americans to Alzheimer's disease. A study of 1,255 people, both black and white, found that cerebrospinal fluid from African-Americans tended to contain lower levels of a substance associated with Alzheimer's, researchers report Monday in the journal JAMA Neurology. Yet these low levels did not seem to protect black participants from the disease. (Hamilton, 1/7)
The Washington Post:
Men’s Cardiorespiratory Fitness Affects Stroke Risk, Researchers Say
Low fitness levels have long been tied to higher risk for heart problems. Now researchers say men’s cardiorespiratory fitness is tied to their risk for stroke, as well. Researchers in Norway followed 2,014 middle-aged men for more than 20 years. Those who were unfit for the whole study period, or who started out fit but became less so, were twice as likely to have a stroke as those who stayed fit or became fit, they reported in the International Journal of Stroke. (Crist, 1/7)
Parenting Podcast And New Book By Hillary Frank Started With A Difficult Delivery
Almost 10 years ago, journalist Hillary Frank was pregnant and planning to give birth without medication or surgery — but things didn't go according to her plan. Instead, Frank experienced a prolonged and difficult labor that left her with a traumatic injury — chronic pain from an episiotomy that didn't heal as expected, and had to be redone. For months she was unable to walk, sit or easily hold or nurse her newborn daughter, and didn't fully recover for three years. To make matters worse, beyond the physical injury, she felt she couldn't talk openly about what had happened to her. (Gross, 1/7)
Newborn DNA Testing: Could It Become Routine?
Every baby born in the United States is given a routine blood test to screen for dozens of inherited medical conditions. Now, the U.S. National Institutes of Health is exploring whether to use DNA sequencing to screen newborn babies for additional genetic abnormalities and disorders. Such DNA testing would likely complement, but not replace, the current routine blood tests. However, before routine genetic screening of infants even approaches reality, many questions need answers, including whether genetic sequencing can accurately identify babies who will develop a disease, according to Dr. Joseph A. Bocchini Jr., chairman of the Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children. (Scutti, 1/7)
Kaiser Health News:
Will I Always Face The Threat Of A Peanut-Laden Kiss Of Death?
Whenever I see a report touting possible new peanut allergy treatments, I devour it. I can’t help it. It’s an occupational hazard for any health journalist whose reporting specialty and medical history intertwine. I write about the business of health care, focusing on how consumers interact with the system — what we pay, what we get and why American care costs so much. But in this particular instance, I have another kind of authority: 26 years of life-threatening allergies to nuts and peanuts. (Luthra, 1/8)
The Wall Street Journal:
How A Breakup Can Lead To A Fitness Breakthrough
Paige Harley couldn’t have guessed that the path to recovery from the end of her second marriage would lead to the South Pole. The 49-year-old mother of three from Nashville, Tenn., turned to running as a form of therapy in 2016, as she had after her first divorce. “I didn’t know who I was outside a relationship. Running set me up to learn what I could do,” says Ms. Harley, a mediator who helps families going through divorce. Then she read an article about doing a marathon on all seven continents. “It was about facing my fears. Do I like to travel? Do I like to do hard things?” (Potkewitz, 1/7)
The New York Times:
No More Brace Face? Teens Increasingly Use Clear Aligners
When Carly Feinstein was in ninth grade, her dentist sent her to an orthodontist. “I cried for three hours when I heard I had to get braces,” said Carly, now 16, who lives in New York City. “I worried about how I would look. It would have been so embarrassing.” But like an increasing number of adolescents, she was delighted to learn that she did not need to get traditional metal braces after all. She was treated with clear aligners instead. (Harris, 1/8)
Media outlets report on news from New Hampshire, Texas, Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Georgia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California, Maryland, Alabama, Tennessee, Colorado and Minnesota.
Concord (N.H.) Monitor:
N.H. Hospital Association Joins ACLU Lawsuit Against State Over Psychiatric Care
The New Hampshire Hospital Association is jumping into a lawsuit against the state over the boarding crisis for psychiatric patients, arguing that state officials are failing to provide timely care to patients by keeping them in emergency rooms. In a statement Monday, Steve Ahnen, president of the association, said it would be submitting an intervention in the lawsuit, first submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union in November. (DeWitt, 1/7)
Texas Abortion Lawsuit Arguments Confuse Federal Judge
State attorneys and lawyers representing reproductive rights groups argued in federal court Monday over whether a sweeping lawsuit challenging more than 60 Texas abortion regulations should move forward. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel told state attorneys that their 73-page argument confused him. He also expressed confusion about what reproductive rights groups were arguing over. (Evans, 1/7)
Proposal Seeks To Relieve Understaffed State Hospitals With $8 Million For New Positions
State hospitals have seen a near quadrupling of individuals admitted involuntarily due to a mental or behavioral health crisis over the past five years. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services is asking the General Assembly to approve nearly $8 million to address staffing shortages. (Balch, 1/7)
The Associated Press:
Nursing Home Where 12 Died After Storm Has License Revoked
Florida has revoked the license of a nursing home where 12 elderly patients died in the heat after it lost power during a 2017 hurricane. The Agency for Health Care Administration issued its order Friday, saying an administrative law judge correctly concluded the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills "created an unsafe environment" in September 2017 after Hurricane Irma knocked out its air conditioning. (1/7)
The Associated Press:
Another Misdemeanor Deal In Flint Water Investigation
Michigan's former drinking water regulator has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor in the Flint water investigation. It's a break for Liane Shekter Smith, who was facing felony charges, including involuntary manslaughter, in an investigation of Flint's lead-tainted water and a Legionnaires' disease outbreak. (1/7)
Georgia Health News:
Kaiser, Emory Say Their Alliance Is Already Showing Good Results
Two months after launch, Emory Healthcare and Kaiser Permanente say their new collaboration is working well for both sides. Part of the evidence is in patient volume: Emory’s two “core’’ hospitals covered by the agreement are seeing many more Kaiser members. (Miller, 1/7)
Cambridge Officials Want To Add Gender-Neutral Option To Birth Certificates
A policy order introduced by Mayor Marc McGovern this month, and co-sponsored by several City Councilors, asks the City Solicitor to draft a home rule petition to send to the state legislature that would allow people to amend their birth certificates and choose “X” as a gender option. (Annear, 1/7)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Nurses Are Overworked. Staffing Limits Are The Answer.
Studies of California’s landmark nurse-to-patient ratios law, implemented since 2004, show that setting reasonable limits on the number of patients who can be safely cared for by a nurse improves nurse retention, reduces burnout, and improves patient outcomes. In Pennsylvania, we have state-mandated limits on the number of well children who can be cared for in child care facilities by a child care worker, yet there is no limit to the number of sick children who may be cared for by a nurse. (Maureen May, 1/7)
The Baltimore Sun:
CareFirst Undertakes Reorganization Five Months Into New CEO's Tenure
About six months after a new CEO took the helm of the state’s largest health insurer, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the nonprofit confirmed that it has launched a reorganization. The company would not make Brian D. Pieninck, its president and CEO as of July, or any other executive available for an interview and would not confirm the reorganization’s effect on jobs or otherwise quantify changes. (Cohn, 1/7)
Trina Founder G. Ford Gilbert Pleads Guilty In Bribery Case
G. Ford Gilbert, founder of a chain of controversial diabetes treatment clinics, pleaded guilty in federal court to one charge of conspiring to commit bribery, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Alabama. He had previously faced seven counts of federal health care fraud, bribery, and other charges in Alabama federal district court related to an alleged "pyramid scheme" with his network of diabetes insulin infusion clinics. The other six are to be dismissed as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. (Clark, 1/7)
Kaiser Health News:
How Helping Patients Get Good Care At Home Helps Rural Hospitals Survive
Rural hospitals close when they don’t have enough paying patients to care for, but they’re also dinged when the same patients show up over and over again. That puts outlying medical facilities in the precarious position of needing to avoid repeat customers. Charlotte Potts is the type of patient some hospitals try to avoid. She lives in Livingston, Tenn. — a town of 4,000, tucked between rolling hills of the Cumberland Plateau. (Farmer, 1/8)
Health Care Among Fastest-Growing Fields, CareerBuilder Says
Some of the fastest-growing jobs in Colorado the next five years will be in health care, business operations and oil and gas, according to an international online employment website. A report by CareerBuilder says in Colorado and across the country, the demand for health care jobs — registered nurses, physicians, medical and nursing assistants, physical therapists and home health aides — will grow by 6 percent or more during the next five years. Nearly half the fastest-growing jobs in Colorado are expected to be in health care. (Kohler, 1/7)
The Star Tribune:
Concussion-Detection Device Developed By Minnesota Doctor Gets FDA OK
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared a new medical device invented by a Twin Cities neurosurgeon to detect signs of concussion by tracking a patient's eye movements. The device, called the EyeBox, was invented by Minnesota neurosurgeon Dr. Uzma Samadani following the discovery that slight discrepancies in how a patient's eyes track an image on a screen can reveal a wealth of information about underlying brain dysfunction. (Carlson, 1/7)
Health News Florida:
Key Lawmaker Expects Change In Marijuana Policy
One of the architects of Florida’s medical-marijuana laws anticipates a “new day in Florida” on marijuana issues after Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis takes over Tuesday as the state’s chief executive. DeSantis, a former congressman closely tied to President Donald Trump, “is going to embrace issues of access and patient care,” according to state Senate budget chief Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island. (Kam, 1/7)
Opinion writers focus on these health care topics and others.
Health Care Can Get Better Even Under Divided Government. Here's How.
In early 2017, I offered advice to incoming Trump administration officials on how they ought to handle health care based on lessons from the Obama administration. I suggested proceeding incrementally and continuing to expand access to care and preexisting condition protections. They didn’t listen. Instead, Donald Trump consumed much of his first year as president on an ill-conceived adventure to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a plan for anything better. At the risk of being ignored a second time, I offer members of the new Congress advice as they begin their terms. (Andy Slavitt, 1/8)
Los Angeles Times:
The Boys And Girls In Washington Haven't Killed Obamacare Yet
It was a pretty good year for President Obama’s major legacy, healthcare reform, aka Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. The pace of new signups has been respectable if not miraculous, and now Republicans in Congress have decided (correctly) that perhaps total war against Obamacare is not their wisest strategy. People seem to like the ACA. They especially like the provision forbidding insurers to discriminate against those with preexisting conditions. This formerly obscure technical term of the insurance business has become the center of the healthcare discussion. You can’t call it a debate, because there’s no basic disagreement. Everyone’s for covering preexisting conditions. The question is, Who got there first? (Michael Kinsley, 1/8)
Stop Outrageous Air Ambulance Bills By Disclosing The Transport Price
We and many others have written about the dangers of surprise bills. They are now widely understood to be a problem in need of a regulatory solution. The emergence of the especially egregious charges by air ambulances is a stark indication that policymakers have not yet solved this pervasive problem. Air ambulances illustrate that the harm from surprise bills is not just high prices secretly charged to vulnerable patients. Prices are important for consumers, but they are also vitally important signals in a market, and economic harm results when charges cannot be readily compared to market prices. When market prices are absent or hidden, providers can charge whatever they want, and private equity follows the lucrative opportunity. (Kevin Schulman, Barak Richman and Arnold Milstein, 1/8)
Let's End Surprise Billing
There’s been an increase in public outrage over balance or “surprise” billing. As physicians, we agree and share in our patients’ concerns. And, we’re fighting to change the system. (Mark B. Monahan, 1/7)
No Reason To Keep Patients In Dark About Health-Care Prices
A federal requirement meant to provide patients with more information about the cost of their health care has forced hospitals to post online their prices for everything from acetaminophen tablets to zoledronic acid. It also has prompted the sort of response that is not unique to the health care industry. In a nutshell, it involves talking down to the little people. (Theodore Decker, 1/8)
Apple Watch 4 Is An Iffy Afib Detector In People Under Age 55
According to data that Apple submitted in its petition asking the Food and Drug Administration to give clearance to the heart monitoring app, the app accurately detects atrial fibrillation 99 percent of the time it gets a good reading.Related: The next Apple Watch wants to monitor your heart. Should you let it? That sounds amazing. But it leaves out an important little something: the likelihood of having atrial fibrillation is low among younger individuals and increases with age. I did some calculations to answer the question, “If my watch tells me I have atrial fibrillation, what are the odds it is correct?” The answer depends on the watch wearer’s age. (Daniel Yazdi, 1/8)
The New York Times:
How My Stillbirth Became A Crime
In the video above, Anne Bynum describes the harrowing experience of being criminalized and incarcerated after having a stillbirth.Ms. Bynum is one of several hundred women in the United States who have been prosecuted for their pregnancy outcomes. Numerous states across the country have passed laws recognizing fetuses — even fertilized eggs — as persons separate from the mother, and more are considering doing so. These laws have had the perverse consequence of not just pitting the health of a fetus against that of a pregnant woman but of also, in some cases, overriding the woman’s rights entirely. (12/28)
We Need To Make Things Easier For Doctors
Despite the need to spend more time with my patients, insurance is reimbursing for shorter visits, while the amount of time I spend documenting has increased. This is far from ideal. In fact, a recent study showed that family doctors spend almost an hour and a half of “pajama-time” nightly on documentation. This leads directly to physician burnout. According to a 2017 National Academy of Medicine paper, more than half of U.S. physicians are experiencing substantial symptoms of burnout including emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and a low sense of personal accomplishment. (Marc Siegel, 1/7)
Vaping Is An Epidemic For Teens
The vaping epidemic arose so quickly that nobody knows how to help the addicted teenagers. Existing methods to help adults quit smoking often don’t work with vaping, and most of the medications have not been tested for teenagers. Research into how to help teens could take years, so the FDA is right to try to get things started. Meanwhile, it should get tougher on marketing and sales to teenagers, and local authorities should make sure those laws are enforced. (1/4)
Public Health Initiatives Increased Life Expectancy
At the end of the day, we measure public health effectiveness through two important measures: life expectancy and infant/maternal health. While we have made significant strides in both over the last century, there remains much work to do. (Tim Ingram, 1/7)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Sensitivity Needed If City Wants Positive Results From Banning Nicotine In Drug Rehabs
City officials sparked controversy late last year, extending the tobacco ban from mental health facilities (enacted in 2016) to include city-funded inpatient substance use disorder (SUD) programs. Citing overall health concerns and the risk to sustaining abstinence-based recovery, the bold move hopes to reduce negative impacts of concurrent tobacco and substance use, which include elevated risks of cancer, to cognitive functioning, and of all-cause mortality. (Robert Ashford, 1/7)
New Governor Can Restore Ohio EPA's Effectiveness
Soon Ohio will have a new governor and a new opportunity to clean Ohio’s streams. Immediate actions are needed by Gov.--elect Mike DeWine to halt environmental degradation and to restore the EPA’s effectiveness and pride. This can be accomplished only by installing a leadership team at the Ohio EPA that eliminates the atmosphere of fear and paranoia, respects scientists and engineers and creates a work environment that makes staff members feel that they are valued. (George Elmaraghy, 1/8)