From Kaiser Health News

To Fight Chinese Outbreak, Doctors Deploy Drugs Targeting HIV, Malaria and Ebola

February 13, 2020

As the scientific community scrambles to find a drug that can effectively treat tens of thousands of patients sickened by a new respiratory virus, they are trying some surprising remedies: medicines targeting known killers like HIV, Ebola and malaria.

As the scientific community scrambles to find a drug that can effectively treat tens of thousands of patients sickened by a new respiratory virus, they are trying some surprising remedies: medicines targeting known killers like HIV, Ebola and malaria.

American drugmakers have shipped two antiviral medications to China as doctors and public health officials there seek an effective treatment for patients sickened by the novel coronavirus, which has recently been named COVID19. The virus has afflicted tens of thousands of people worldwide and killed more than 1,300. Most of the cases and deaths occurred in Hubei province, China, where the outbreak began.

Among potential remedies is an HIV medication that may work to block an enzyme needed by the virus to mature. An unapproved medicine used to fight the Ebola virus is being tested in Chinese patients to see whether it can disrupt the new virus’s genetic material.

A third drug, widely used around the globe to fight the parasite that causes malaria, is also being tried in China to see if it can slow infection by preventing the virus from infiltrating cells.

Read the full article from Kaiser Health News

Patients Caught in Crossfire Between Giant Hospital Chain, Large Insurer

February 6, 2020

After Zoe Friedland became pregnant with her first child, she was picky about choosing a doctor to guide her through delivery. “With so many unpredictable things that can happen with a pregnancy, I wanted someone I could trust,” Friedland said. That person also had to be in the health insurance network of Cigna, the insurer that covers Friedland through her husband’s employer.

After Zoe Friedland became pregnant with her first child, she was picky about choosing a doctor to guide her through delivery.

“With so many unpredictable things that can happen with a pregnancy, I wanted someone I could trust,” Friedland said. That person also had to be in the health insurance network of Cigna, the insurer that covers Friedland through her husband’s employer.

Friedland found an OB-GYN she liked, who told her that she delivered only at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California, a part of San Francisco-based Dignity Health. Friedland and her husband, Bert Kaufman, live in Menlo Park, about 5 miles from the hospital, so that was not a problem for them — until Dec. 12.

That’s the day Friedland and Kaufman received a letter from Cigna informing them their care at Sequoia might not be covered after Jan. 1. The insurance company had not signed a contract for 2020 with the hospital operator, which meant Sequoia and many other Dignity medical facilities around the state would no longer be in Cigna’s network in the new year.

Suddenly, it looked as if having their first baby at Sequoia could cost Friedland and Kaufman tens of thousands of dollars.

“I was honestly shocked that this could even happen because it hadn’t entered my mind as a possibility,” Friedland said.

She and her husband are among an estimated 16,600 people caught in a financial dispute between two gigantic health care companies. Cigna is one of the largest health insurance companies in the nation, and Dignity Health has 31 hospitals in California, as well as seven in Arizona and three in Nevada. The contract fight affects Dignity’s California and Nevada hospitals, but not the ones in Arizona.

Read the full article from Kaiser Health News

Electronic Health Records Creating A ‘New Era’ Of Health Care Fraud

December 23, 2019

Derek Lewis was working as an electronic health records specialist for the nation’s largest hospital chain when he heard about software defects that might even “kill a patient.”

The doctors at Midwest (City) Regional Medical Center in Oklahoma worried that the software failed to track some drug prescriptions or dosages properly, posing a “huge safety concern,” Lewis said. Lewis cited the alleged safety hazards in a whistleblower lawsuit that he and another former employee of Community Health Systems (CHS) filed against the Tennessee-based hospital chain in 2018.

Derek Lewis was working as an electronic health records specialist for the nation’s largest hospital chain when he heard about software defects that might even “kill a patient.”

The doctors at Midwest (City) Regional Medical Center in Oklahoma worried that the software failed to track some drug prescriptions or dosages properly, posing a “huge safety concern,” Lewis said. Lewis cited the alleged safety hazards in a whistleblower lawsuit that he and another former employee of Community Health Systems (CHS) filed against the Tennessee-based hospital chain in 2018.

The suit alleges that the company, which had $14 billion in annual revenue in 2018, obtained millions of dollars in federal subsidies fraudulently by covering up dangerous flaws in these systems at the Oklahoma hospital and more than 120 others it owned or operated at the time….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Portion Of Obamacare

December 18, 2019

A federal appeals court panel in New Orleans dealt another blow to the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday, agreeing with a lower-court judge that the portion of the health law requiring most people to have coverage is unconstitutional now that Congress has eliminated the tax penalty that was intended to enforce it.

But it is sending the case back to the lower court to decide how much of the rest of the law can stand in light of that ruling.

A federal appeals court panel in New Orleans dealt another blow to the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday, agreeing with a lower-court judge that the portion of the health law requiring most people to have coverage is unconstitutional now that Congress has eliminated the tax penalty that was intended to enforce it.

But it is sending the case back to the lower court to decide how much of the rest of the law can stand in light of that ruling.

That most likely means the fate of the law will not be settled before the 2020 election….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

Health Care Stayed Front and Center at Democratic Debate

October 16, 2019

This time, it wasn’t just about “Medicare for All.”

Voters got a better look at Democrats’ health care priorities on Tuesday, as 12 of the leading candidates vowed to codify abortion access, threatened to jail opioid company executives and added a few more details to their health plans during the fourth Democratic debate.

This time, it wasn’t just about “Medicare for All.”

Voters got a better look at Democrats’ health care priorities on Tuesday, as 12 of the leading candidates vowed to codify abortion access, threatened to jail opioid company executives and added a few more details to their health plans during the fourth Democratic debate.

While the debate began on the topic of impeaching President Donald Trump, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont soon steered the discussion back to kitchen-table issues.

“I think what would be a disaster, if the American people believe that all we were doing is taking on Trump,” he said. “We’re forgetting that 87 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured….”

Read the full Kaiser Health News article