- Kaiser Health News Original Stories 2
- Hepatitis C Drug’s Lower Cost Paves Way For Medicaid, Prisons To Expand Treatment
- Flat-Fee Primary Care Helps Fill Niche For Texas’ Uninsured
- Political Cartoon: 'Railroaded?'
- Public Health And Education 5
- For Hospitals Tending To Onslaught Of Shooting Victims It Was 'Worst Moment And Proudest Moment'
- Mass Shootings Are A 'Serious Public Health Issue,' Doctors Group Says
- In 2016 Election, Communities With Poor Public Health Tended To Shift Vote To Trump
- Congress Asked To Overrule Outdated Medicaid Regulation On Funding For Opioid Treatment Centers
- Big Tobacco To Begin Running Court-Mandated Mea Culpa Ads
- Administration News 1
- Chatter Over Next HHS Chief Includes A Strident Opponent Of ACA, A Pragmatist And An Obama Holdover
- Pharmaceuticals 2
- Gottlieb Says FDA Is Encouraging Production Of Complex Generic Drugs To Bring Down Prices
- Shire Files Anti-Trust Suit Against Allergan: 'There Was Not A Level Playing Field'
- Capitol Hill Watch 1
- Worried About CHIP Funding Stalled In Congress, State Officials Start Drawing Up Plan Bs
- Women’s Health 1
- Republicans Say That Planned Parenthood Clinics Are Mostly In Urban Areas. That's Not Quite True.
- Medicaid 1
- Supporters Of Medicaid Expansion In Utah File Initial Paperwork To Get It On The 2018 Ballot
- State Watch 2
- New York Governor, NYC Mayor Bicker Publicly Over Hospital Funding
- State Highlights: Md. Officials Give Customers Early Look At Exchange Plans; Infants Airlifted To Fla. Hospital After Hurricane
From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:
The drug, sold under the name Mavyret, can cure all six genetic types of the liver disease in eight weeks at a cost of $26,400, well below other options. (Michelle Andrews, 10/3)
Doctors offering this care charge a monthly fee for services that can be handled in the office. But patient advocates warn it is not insurance and offers no coverage for hospital or specialist care. (Charlotte Huff, 10/3)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Railroaded?'" by Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
MEDICARE LESSON: BUYER BEWARE
Heart devices cost
And they didn’t work!
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.
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Summaries Of The News:
Las Vegas-area hospitals are prepared and well equipped to deal with traumas, but Sunday's mass shooting was unlike any they'd seen before.
The New York Times:
Controlled Chaos At Las Vegas Hospital Trauma Center After Attack
On Sunday night, Toni Mullan drove 110 miles an hour on side streets from home to get back to University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, where she had just worked a 12-hour shift as a clinical supervisor in the trauma resuscitation department. Her car was smoking as she pulled into a three-hour parking spot close to the trauma center. Ms. Mullan, 54, left her hazard lights blinking as she shut the car door and raced inside. (Fink, 10/2)
The Wall Street Journal:
Las Vegas Hospitals Face Range Of Serious Traumas
Hospitals in Las Vegas are grappling with a range of patient injuries that reflect the chaos of Sunday evening’s mass shooting, including horrific gunshot wounds and traumas inflicted as victims tried to flee. Local hospitals called in extra staff as well as medical personnel from a nearby Air Force base to cope with the onslaught, as authorities on Monday reported at least 59 deaths and more than 527 wounded from the tragedy outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Whalen and Caldwell, 10/2)
Las Vegas Hospitals Call In Reinforcements To Care For Shooting Victims
Hospitals across the Las Vegas area were inundated Sunday evening when hundreds of people injured in the mass shooting at a country music festival on the Strip arrived at their doors by ambulances and private car. And hundreds of doctors, nurses, and support personnel were called into work to help handle the patients that were lined up in ambulance bays and hallways, officials say. (Kodjak, 10/2)
Hospitals Lean On Practice To Treat Mass Shootings
Las Vegas hospitals have likely implemented similar emergency preparedness protocols as they treat the roughly 515 people who were wounded Sunday night in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, which has left at least 58 people dead as of Monday afternoon. University Medical Center, the only Level 1 trauma center in Nevada, has treated 104 individuals who were wounded when a lone gunman opened fire on a concert crowd on the Las Vegas strip. More than 30 patients were treated in the free-standing trauma center approximately 6 miles from the country music festival's location. Four patients were pronounced dead at the facility, UMC spokeswoman Danita Cohen told the media. (Castellucci, 10/2)
Hospital Emergency Rooms Saw More Than 700,000 Shooting Victims Last Decade
As hospitals in Las Vegas deal with hundreds of shooting victims, a new study finds that gun violence sent more than 700,000 patients to emergency rooms in less than a decade. Those visits resulted in nearly $25 billion spent in healthcare over that period. Local officials reported that hospitals in Las Vegas were treating 515 casualities and that 58 people were dead after a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort Hotel late Sunday night. Firearm-related injuries accounted for 25.3 emergency department visits for every 100,000 people between 2006 and 2014, according to an analysis of government data published Monday in Health Affairs and released to the press on an embargo before Sunday's shooting. (Johnson, 10/2)
Kansas City Star:
Las Vegas Shooting Prompts Question: Is Kansas City's Health System Ready?
No individual ambulance service or hospital in the Kansas City metro area could handle the aftermath of a mass shooting on the scale of what happened in Las Vegas Sunday night, where more than 50 people were killed and more than 500 were injured. (Marso, 10/2)
The Baltimore Sun:
Shot At Las Vegas Concert, Arundel High Grad Loses Eye, Remains In Coma
When a lone gunman with automatic rifles opened fire on the crowd below, Tina Frost, a 2008 graduate of Arundel High, was among the more than 520 people wounded early Monday morning in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Fifty-nine people were killed. Late Monday, Becky Frost said her 27-year-old sister had lost her right eye and was in a Las Vegas intensive care unit after a two-hour surgery. (Cox, 10/2)
The American College of Physicians is calling on Congress to address the issue immediately. But while Democrats are calling for gun control action in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, Republicans have been quiet on the issue.
Leading Doctors Group Calls For Automatic Weapons Ban After Las Vegas Shooting
The American College of Physicians issued a statement Monday labeling mass shootings a “serious public health issue” and calling for a ban on automatic and semiautomatic weapons in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. “We must acknowledge that lack of a U.S. policy to address gun violence is the reason we have much higher rates of injuries and deaths from firearms violence than other countries,” the group said in a statement. Specifically, we call for a ban on the sale and ownership of automatic and semiautomatic weapons." (Carter, 10/2)
After Las Vegas Massacre, Democrats Urge Gun Laws; Republicans Silent
Sunday's massacre in Las Vegas spurred a ritual-like response from U.S. politicians following the mass shootings that have left a trail of victims across the country: Democrats renewed demands for tougher gun laws while Republicans offered up prayers but showed no signs of supporting such legislation. (Cowan, Cornwell, Holland and Tuppper, 10/2)
Los Angeles Times:
GOP Still Plans To Vote On NRA-Backed Legislation That Eases Gun Restrictions
Congress has been unable, or unwilling, to approve gun control legislation after recent mass shootings — including one targeting lawmakers playing baseball — and it is unlikely to consider new bills after the attack in Las Vegas. To the contrary, House Republicans are on track to advance legislation easing firearms rules, including a package of bills backed by the National Rifle Assn. that would make it easier to purchase silencers. (Mascaro, 10/2)
Some experts warn not to read too much into the study, which could be a result of too much data dredging. But the authors say it makes sense.
In Sicker Communities, Trump Got More Votes. Is That Why He Won?
The worse a community’s health the more strongly its voters backed Donald Trump in the 2016 election compared to their support for Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, researchers reported on Monday. The findings suggest that public health “might influence” how people vote, said Dr. Jason Wasfy of Massachusetts General Hospital, who led the study, which looked at factors such as death rates, diabetes prevalence, and teen pregnancy. “The communities that shifted from Romney to Trump in general have worse public health.” (Begley, 10/2)
Study Finds Poor Health Tied To Votes For Trump In 2016 Election
Everybody has a theory about how Donald Trump defied the polls and won the U.S. presidential election. The latest: health. There is a “substantial association” between measures of poor public health and shifts toward Trump in last November’s balloting, from voting patterns in the 2012 election, according to a paper from researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Political Science, published Monday in the journal PLOS ONE. (Shanker, 10/2)
Only smaller facilities qualify for Medicaid payments under a 1965 law that was intended to break up large, state-run mental asylums, but state attorneys general are asking Congress, in the midst of a crisis, to expand that. In other news, the National Institutes of Health, noting a lack of evidence on the issue, will begin to study opioids' effects on babies.
The Associated Press:
State Attorneys General Seek More Beds For Drug Treatment
A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general on Monday called on Congress to allow Medicaid funding to flow to larger drug treatment centers, potentially expanding the number of addicts who can get help as the nation grapples with an overdose crisis. The government lawyers for 38 states and Washington, D.C., sent a letter to congressional leaders requesting the change. They say it's needed to help fight the opioid abuse and overdose epidemic, which continues to claim tens of thousands of lives a year. (Mulvihill, 10/2)
NIH To Study Babies Affected By Opioids
The National Institutes of Health is funding a new study on babies born with opioid withdrawal syndrome, a side effect of the nation’s epidemic of prescription painkillers and heroin. The number of newborns with this syndrome has increased in recent years, yet there’s a lack of standard, evidence-based treatments for providers, according to an NIH press release announcing the new study on Monday. (Roubein, 10/2)
In other news from the states —
The Wall Street Journal:
New Jersey Cracks Down On Drug Dealers For Opioid Deaths
Less than four months after New Jersey resident MaryAnn McKinnon died of an overdose, police arrested the man accused of selling the opioids that killed her. Cleveland Spencer, 26, of Paterson, N.J., was charged in late September with four drug offenses, the most serious of which was a felony alleging he sold the drugs that resulted in Ms. McKinnon’s death. (King, 10/2)
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
MetroHealth Receives $1.9M Grant To Increase Naloxone Distribution By Law Enforcement
With the help of a new $1.9 million federal grant, the MetroHealth System aims to ensure that at least 95 percent of law enforcement agencies across Cuyahoga County carry and distribute the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone by January of 2019. (Zeltner, 10/2)
“Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive,” one ad will say. Another reads: “More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined.” In other public health news: the importance of body clocks, help getting sober and children with anxiety.
The Wall Street Journal:
Big Tobacco To Spend Millions On Self-Critical Ads In U.S.
Broadcast television networks and metro newspapers are about to get a boost from an unexpected but familiar source: Big Tobacco. It’s an old media buy to resolve an old fight. Starting as soon as next month, Altria Group Inc. and British American Tobacco PLC will begin running court-mandated ads to put to rest a lawsuit brought nearly two decades ago by the U.S. Department of Justice over misleading statements the industry had made about cigarettes and their health effects. (Maloney, 10/3)
Altria, Other Tobacco Companies Will Run 'Corrective Statements,' Starting In November
Starting in advertisements in late November, Henrico County-based Altria Group Inc. and other major U.S. cigarette companies will publish a series of statements about the health risks of smoking. The court-ordered “corrective statements” are set to run on television and in newspapers as part of an agreement reached in an 18-year-old federal lawsuit that accused cigarette-makers of deceiving the public. (Reid Blackwell, 10/2)
Messing With Our Body Clocks Causes Weight Gain And Diabetes
Research that helped discover the clocks running in every cell in our bodies earned three scientists a Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday. "With exquisite precision, our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day," the Nobel Prize committee wrote of the work of Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young. "The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism." (Aubrey, 10/2)
The Associated Press:
Trying To Get Sober? NIH Offers Tool To Help Find Good Care
The phone calls come — from fellow scientists and desperate strangers — with a single question for the alcohol chief at the National Institutes of Health: Where can my loved one find good care to get sober? Tuesday, the government is releasing a novel online tool to help — directories of alcohol treatment providers paired with key questions patients should ask for a better shot at high-quality care. (Neergaard, 10/3)
For Children With Severe Anxiety, Medication Plus Therapy Work Best
Teens and children struggling with anxiety are often prescribed medication or therapy to treat their symptoms. For many, either drugs or therapy is enough, but some young people can't find respite from anxious thoughts. For them, a study suggests that using both treatments at once can help. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology on Monday, analyzed data from a large clinical trial of 488 people ages 7 to 17 diagnosed with anxiety disorders. The trial compared therapy, an anti-depressant called sertraline (brand name Zoloft), the combination of both, and a placebo. Pfizer, which manufactures Zoloft, donated both the sertraline and the placebo pills to the study. (Chen, 10/2)
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Chief Seema Verma and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb are two of the top names that keep coming up. But others -- like Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal -- are also in the mix.
Price Resignation Sets Off Frenzy Of Speculation Over Replacement
The resignation of embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for using of private jets for government travel is setting off a frenzy of speculation about who will replace him. While it’s still early, health policy insiders see two current officials as perhaps the most likely candidates: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. (Sullivan, 10/3)
Conservatives Put Gottlieb, Jindal At Top Of List To Head HHS
Exactly how long Dr. Don Wright occupies the top spot at HHS is anyone's guess, but conservative policy insiders have wasted little time in compiling a wish list of candidates to become the department's next permanent secretary. Wright was temporarily anointed to the post when Dr. Tom Price abruptly resigned late last week. As Congress struggled to repeal the Affordable Care Act, hope has fallen on HHS as the avenue from which conservative healthcare reform will take place. Besides overseeing a department that accounts for nearly one-quarter of all federal spending, the secretary has tremendous latitude in shaping program under the ACA. (Dickson, 10/2)
Why Price’s Conservative Imprint On HHS Is Likely To Endure
Tom Price may be gone as HHS secretary, but his efforts to put a conservative stamp on the $1.1 trillion agency, from promoting faith groups to scrapping Obamacare implementation, are likely to move forward without him. A “draft strategic plan” for HHS, published before Price resigned last week, references “faith” or “faith-based” organizations more than 40 times in its five-year statement of priorities. (Demko, Pittman and Ehley, 10/2)
The head of the Food and Drug Administration says in a blog post that his agency will provide guidance to drugmakers on how to win approvals for these medications that are especially hard to make. In congressional testimony, he also says the agency supports "right-to-try" legislation that allows people with serious illnesses access to experimental drugs, but he would like the measure to apply only to people with terminal diseases.
The Associated Press:
FDA Acts To Encourage Generic Competition For Complex Drugs
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is opening a new front in its efforts to reduce high drug prices by encouraging development of generic versions of hard-to-make medicines. Complex drugs and drug-device combinations generally are very expensive and some are widely used. Often, they don't get generic competition right after their patent expires, as happens routinely with pills. (Johnson, 10/2)
FDA Chief Says Agency Will Take Action To Lower Drug Prices
The Food and Drug Administration will take action to deal with the rising cost of prescription drugs, the agency’s head said on Monday. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said high drug prices are “a public health concern that FDA should address.” (Weixel, 10/2)
FDA Chief Recommends Changes To 'Right To Try'
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in prepared congressional testimony for Tuesday morning notes the White House supports broadening patient access to experimental medicines via "right to try legislation," but he also suggests ways to narrow the Senate-passed bill so it would apply only to patients with terminal illness. (Karlin-Smith, 10/2)
Shire says it offered discounts to Medicare Part D plans, but the program refused due to Allergan’s “bundled discounts, exclusive dealing” and other tactics.
The Wall Street Journal:
Shire Alleges Allergan Blocked Drug From Medicare Contracts
Shire PLC filed an antitrust suit against Allergan PLC, alleging Allergan’s contracts with Medicare Part D drug plans for its Restasis eye drops effectively blocked access to Shire’s rival drug. The complaint, filed Monday in federal court in Newark, N.J., says Shire offered steep discounts in bids to secure insurance coverage of the company’s dry-eye drug Xiidra but the Part D plans refused, due to Allergan’s “bundled discounts, exclusive dealing” and other tactics. (Rockoff, 10/2)
The U.S. Would Pay An Extra $10.7 Billion Without Generic Allergan Drug
Ever since Allergan (AGN) struck an unusual deal last month to sell patents for the Restasis eye treatment to a Native American tribe, the drug maker has been accused of using a clever legal tactic to forestall low-cost generic competition to a big-selling product. Now, one organization is attempting to quantify the potential cost to the U.S. health care system, and the number is a whopper — Americans would pay an extra $10.7 billion if a generic version of Restasis is unavailable between 2018 and 2024, when the existing patents on the medicine are due to expire. (Silverman, 10/2)
Although Congress missed a deadline to renew funding for the popular program that provides health care for children, money won't run out for the states until the end of the year. Officials, however, are already concerned about the impact the uncertainty of it all will have.
States Rush To Preserve Children's Health Coverage
States are scrambling to shore up the government health insurance program that covers 9 million low-income kids after Congress failed to meet the deadline to renew its funding over the weekend. A number of state officials are looking for ways to keep their programs afloat, hoping Congress will approve money for the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program before they have to cut off coverage. (Ehley, 10/2)
The Washington Post:
House Republicans Propose Puerto Rico Funding As Part Of CHIP Bill
Republicans on a leading House health-care committee are proposing to send $1 billion in extra Medicaid funding to Puerto Rico as it deals with severe hurricane damage, as part of a five-year plan to fund the federal health insurance program for children. The proposal from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, provided Monday night to The Washington Post, would be paid for with a bucket of items, including raising Medicare rates for wealthier seniors, redirecting dollars from the Affordable Care Act’s prevention fund and shortening a grace period for enrollees who don’t pay their premiums. (Winfield Cunningham, 10/2)
The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com:
Q & A: Congress Let The Children's Health Insurance Program Expire. What Now For Pa. And N.J. Kids?
The picture varies from state to state, depending on local support. However, a New Jersey state human services agency spokeswoman said benefits for Garden State children should be covered until sometime this spring. Pennsylvania was one of 10 states national experts thought might run out of funds by end of this year. However, according to a state human services spokeswoman, coverage for Pennsylvania’s children should be secure until February 2018. (Giordano, 10/3)
Congress Doesn't Renew Federal Program, Putting Health Coverage Of 75,000 Colorado Children In Jeopardy
Congress just let expire federal funding for a program that provides low-cost health insurance to 9 million children, at least 75,000 of whom live in Colorado. Colorado officials said they still have enough unspent federal aid to continue the program through the end of January, but if the program is not renewed by then many children will not be able to see their doctor or get their immunizations. The Children’s Health Insurance Program also currently provides insurance to 800 pregnant women in Colorado, state officials said. (Osher and Matthews, 10/2)
Almost 400,000 Texans' Insurance At Risk After Congress Fails To Renew CHIP
Insurance coverage for more than 390,000 Texas children and pregnant women is in jeopardy after Congress failed to renew authorization for a federal program. Congressional authorization for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides low-cost health insurance for children from low- and middle-income families, expires Sept. 30. (Choi and Livingston, 10/2)
Roughly half of the organization’s clinics are located in areas that are rural, or are federally designated as medically underserved or health professional shortage areas. In other women's health news: a conservative group urges Congress to vote on a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, an appeals court has a change of heart about Missouri abortion restrictions, and more.
The Washington Post:
Are Most Planned Parenthood Clinics In Urban Areas Where Women Have Adequate Access To Care?
With the House planning to vote Oct. 3 on an antiabortion bill, we dug into this common talking point by opponents of abortion rights. During a recent health-care debate on CNN, a woman asked about the provision in the Senate’s most recent Affordable Care Act repeal bill that would restrict federal funding to Planned Parenthood. The woman said a Planned Parenthood cancer screening in her mid-20s found ovarian cysts and benign tumors, and criticized the bill for blocking health care for women, “especially for those who live in the many parts of this country that are not served by community health centers.” (Lee, 10/3)
Heritage To 'Key Vote' 20-Week Abortion Bill
An influential conservative group is pushing House Republicans to vote in favor of a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. Heritage Action for America said it will "key vote" the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," which comes up for a vote in the House Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), would make it a crime to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Penalties would include a fine, up to five years in prison, or both. (Hellmann, 10/2)
Federal Appeals Court Changes Mind And Blocks Missouri Abortion Restrictions
There was another twist Monday in the roller-coaster case brought by Planned Parenthood seeking to block two Missouri abortion restrictions. After a federal appeals court last month decided to lift an injunction blocking the restrictions from taking effect, the same court has now had a change of heart. In a one-sentence order Monday afternoon, five of the nine judges on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to leave the injunction in place after all. (Margolies, 10/2)
Mass. Insurers To Back Free Birth Control Legislation
Massachusetts health insurers and reproductive rights advocates have negotiated a compromise bill that would protect free birth control coverage even if the Trump administration strikes that requirement from federal law, as expected. (Ebbert, 10/3)
As Rural Counties Lose Obstetrics, Women Give Birth Far From Home
Pemiscot is part of a trend in obstetrics unit closures. According to research published this month in Health Affairs, 179 rural hospitals closed their obstetrics units between 2004 and 2014. Katy Kozhimannil, director of research at the University of Minnesota’s Rural Health Research Center, which conducted the study, says there are many reasons rural delivery units become too costly to keep around. Medicaid, for example, pays hospitals much less for child delivery than private insurance does. And Medicaid pays for moer than half of all rural births — compared to about 40 percent in urban parts of the United States. (Sable-Smith, 10/2)
If the wording for the referendum passes muster, the supporters must still hold public hearings and gather 113,000 signatures to put the measure before the voters.
Full Medicaid Expansion A Step Closer To Being Decided By Utah Voters
Supporters of full Medicaid expansion in Utah officially filed an application Monday at the state Capitol to take the issue to voters in 2018. The campaign, Utah Decides Healthcare, is pushing for Medicaid eligibility for tens of thousands of Utahns who do not qualify for all-important tax credits on health insurance plans offered on the federal exchange. (Lockhart, 10/2)
Salt Lake Tribune:
Backers File Paperwork To Put Utah Medicaid Expansion On 2018 Ballot
The measure would fully expand Medicaid to low-income individuals and family that currently earn too much to quality yet not enough to afford other coverage under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. If Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox approves the initiative’s wording, the campaign must then hold seven public hearings across the state and collect more than 113,000 signatures from registered voters to earn a spot on the November 2018 ballot. (Gifford, 10/2)
Congress let payments to Disproportionate Share Hospital expire on Sunday, which results in about a $1.1 billion loss for New York's neediest hospitals. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's office took to Twitter to air grievances over funding for the city's municipal public hospital system.
The New York Times:
With Federal Cuts To Hospitals, Cuomo Suggests New York City Step Up
After weeks of warning about its possible consequences, a federal cut to New York’s hospitals took effect on Sunday, adding stress to the state’s already overworked public health care system. The cut came as a result of a lack of action by Congress on so-called Disproportionate Share Hospital payments, known as D.S.H., which are federal funds that help hospitals cover the cost of serving poor and uninsured patients. Under the Affordable Care Act, those funds were supposed to be reduced as more patients received insurance coverage. (McKinley, 10/2)
In other hospital news —
Texas Hospitals Feeling The Long-Term Financial Strains Of Harvey
Texas hospitals canceled surgeries, evacuated patients, and closed for days because of Hurricane Harvey. They sank millions of dollars into not caring for patients as a measure of precaution. More than a month after Harvey made landfall, administrators at the roughly two dozen hospitals that evacuated in the eastern part of the state have now reopened their doors to patients. But some may feel the financial burdens of the storm for months to come — both caring for more patients who can’t afford treatment, while also seeing patients postpone the more lucrative elective surgeries that are many hospitals’ moneymakers. (Blau, 10/3)
The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com:
Why Five Philly-Area Hospitals Lost In-Network Status With IBC Plans
Independence Blue Cross’ contract offer to Tower Health on Friday, the day Tower completed its acquisition of Brandywine Hospital, Chestnut Hill Hospital, Jennersville Regional Hospital, Phoenixville Hospital, and Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, contained what was effectively a poison pill, Clint Matthews, president and chief executive of Tower Health, said Monday. “The issue that has come between us is the clause that we would not compete with a health plan” in territory served by IBC, Matthews said. (Brubaker, 10/2)
Federal Probe Found Lapses At Psychiatric Hospitals
The federal government threatened to stop Medicare payments to three Massachusetts psychiatric hospitals last month, citing safety lapses that caused two mentally ill patients to go without critical medicines for days. One of the patients had a seizure and fell, suffering a traumatic head injury, as a result. (Kowalczyk, 10/3)
Media outlets report on news from Maryland, Florida, Texas and Georgia.
The Baltimore Sun:
Maryland Health Exchange Opens Website For Browsing Plans
With consumers facing a shorter period to enroll in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Maryland health exchange officials have opened their online marketplace so residents can get an early look at the costs of plans, which are expected to be higher this year. Open enrollment starts Nov. 1 and lasts until Dec. 15 — 45 days down from three months last year. ...About 150,000 Marylanders bought private plans last year through the exchange and others bought directly from insurers, mostly people who do not get insurance through their employers. Many more enrolled in Medicaid, the federal insurance program for low-income residents, which was expanded under the health law. (Cohn and McDaniels, 10/2)
Infants From Puerto Rico Get Heart Surgery At Nicklaus Children's
Three of the smallest and most frail Puerto Ricans made it through the worst of Hurricane Maria hunkered down in a hospital where the windows shattered, the water rushed in, and the power went out. It was the aftermath that nearly killed them — and the serendipity of professional networking that rescued the three newborns from the storm-wracked island, and brought them to Miami’s Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for emergency heart surgeries within 48 hours of the hurricane’s landfall in Puerto Rico. (Chang, 10/2)
Kaiser Health News:
Flat-Fee Primary Care Helps Fill Niche For Texas’ Uninsured
Darrell Kenyon had been punting for years on various medical issues — fatigue, headaches, mood swings. The 43-year-old uninsured carpenter was particularly worried about his blood pressure, which ran high when he checked it at the grocery store. Then he heard about a different type of physician practice, one that provided regular primary care for a monthly fee. (Huff, 10/3)
Florida Medical Call Center Operator Bringing 200 Jobs To Spring Hill
A Florida-based provider of medical answering services plans this month to open a location in Spring Hill that will house roughly 200 call center agents and triage nurses. The 15,000-square-foot facility at the Workforce Development & Conference Center at Northfield will be the third business location for Delray Beach-based Call 4 Health, which also operates a cell center in Linthicum Heights, Maryland. (Ward, 10/2)
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Said He Will Review New Pot Legislation
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said late Monday he will review and sign new legislation that changes penalties on possession of small amounts of marijuana. ...The Atlanta City Council on Monday passed legislation that reduces the penalty for possessing an ounce or less of pot in the city from $1,000 to $75 and eliminates jail time under those circumstances. (Stafford, 10/2)
Medical Marijuana Grower Pushes Florida To Set Rules For Edibles
One of the state’s largest cultivators and distributors of medical marijuana is pushing the Florida Department of Health to set rules that would allow thousands of cannabis patients to eat their medicine. (Smiley, 10/2)
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
Negligence - Yes, But Also Legislative Cowardice To Blame For Nursing Home Deaths
It’s not a mere oversight that Florida nursing homes and assisted-living facilities aren’t required to have generators for air-conditioning units. That’s how the industry wanted it. Generators, as you know, are expensive. And it’s not as if lawmakers didn’t comprehend that a massive hurricane blackout might expose ailing seniors to life-threatening heat and dehydration. Everyone knew, but few had the spine to take on the Florida Health Care Association, the powerful nursing-home lobby. Some tried, though. An autopsy of their past efforts was depressingly recounted in The Herald following the tragedy in Hollywood Hills. (Carl Hiaasen, 9/29)
The Medical Bill Score: How The Public Judges Health Care
We track a lot of numbers in health care: how much we spend on health as a share of our economy; the number of uninsured; and the share of the federal budget allocated to health programs. What we don't track — and a number the Congressional Budget Office cannot score — is the statistic that means the most to the American people: the share of the public having problems paying their health care bills. (Drew Altman, 10/3)
The Washington Post:
I’m Dying Of Brain Cancer. I Prepared To End My Life. Then I Kept Living.
In April 2015, at the age of 55, I was diagnosed with one of the most lethal and aggressive brain tumors, a brainstem glioblastoma multiforme in an advanced stage. The prognosis was both grim and precise: Without treatment, I might have a few months; with treatment, I could last six months. If I beat overwhelming odds, I’d toast the new year one last time. (Jeffrey Davitz, 9/29)
Breast Cancer Is Important, But So Are Other Cancers
I won’t be wearing pink this month, or taking part in a breast cancer walk, or donating money to breast cancer research. It’s not that I don’t think beating breast cancer is a good cause. It is. I believe that to my core. Money raised by breast cancer charities has increased screening and funded important research. It has saved lives, including those of people I know and love. My issue is that the amazing job that breast cancer charities have done raising funds and awareness has exacted a heavy toll on awareness and fundraising opportunities for other types of cancer — like colorectal cancer, the one I am currently living with. (Tamlyn Oliver, 10/2)
Georgia Health News:
It’s Our Goal To Make Fresh, Healthy Food An Everyday Affair
Though summer is over, the “season” for local, farm-fresh food is still in full swing. And while affluent foodies in Georgia have an abundance of local produce options nearly year-round, these options are sometimes not feasible for those who live at or below the poverty line. (Sara Berney, 10/2)
The New York Times:
What Makes Singapore’s Health Care So Cheap?
Singapore’s health care system is distinctive, and not just because of the improbability that it’s admired by many on both the American left and the right. It spends less of its economy on health care than any country that was included in our recent tournament on best health systems in the world. (Aaron E. Carroll and Austin Frakt, 10/2)