From Kaiser Health News

During a Pandemic, States’ Patchwork of Crisis Plans Could Mean Uneven Care

March 5, 2020

A possible coronavirus pandemic could overwhelm the nation’s hospitals and force doctors into difficult decisions about how to allocate limited resources. Yet, experts say, only a handful of states have done the work necessary to prepare for such worst-case scenarios.

How would hospitals handle overflowing emergency rooms? What would doctors do if they ran out of medicines or ventilators? How would they decide who gets prioritized if they can’t treat everyone?

A possible coronavirus pandemic could overwhelm the nation’s hospitals and force doctors into difficult decisions about how to allocate limited resources. Yet, experts say, only a handful of states have done the work necessary to prepare for such worst-case scenarios.

How would hospitals handle overflowing emergency rooms? What would doctors do if they ran out of medicines or ventilators? How would they decide who gets prioritized if they can’t treat everyone?

Many fear the rapid spread of the virus invites a repeat of disaster scenarios like those that occurred in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, when some health care providers in New Orleans were accused of euthanizing elderly patients….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

Democrats Sharpen Health Care Attacks as Primaries Heat Up

February 26, 2020

The ideal began to get real on Tuesday, as seven of the top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination sparred over the price tag on health care reform and even revealed similarities on issues like marijuana legalization.

With Democrats in 15 states and American Samoa set to cast their primary votes in the next week, the candidates eagerly seized their chances on the debate stage in Charleston, South Carolina, to jab Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the current front-runner, during the party’s 10th debate.

The ideal began to get real on Tuesday, as seven of the top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination sparred over the price tag on health care reform and even revealed similarities on issues like marijuana legalization.

With Democrats in 15 states and American Samoa set to cast their primary votes in the next week, the candidates eagerly seized their chances on the debate stage in Charleston, South Carolina, to jab Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the current front-runner, during the party’s 10th debate.

For all of their interruptions and talking over each other, though, the candidates offered a few thoughtful answers and, seemingly in spite of themselves, agreed on at least decriminalizing marijuana and expunging past, small-scale marijuana possession charges from Americans’ criminal records….

Read the full article from Kaiser Health News

Scalpels Out: Democrats Make Slashing Attacks on Health Care Plans

February 20, 2020

Top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination torched one another’s proposals to overhaul the health care system Wednesday, as the contest to unify behind a single candidate to defeat President Donald Trump took a bitterly divisive turn.

Top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination torched one another’s proposals to overhaul the health care system Wednesday, as the contest to unify behind a single candidate to defeat President Donald Trump took a bitterly divisive turn.

Minutes after Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, warmed up the debate audience in Las Vegas by describing the party as a spirited but unified family, most of the candidates abruptly shifted into attack mode — and not just against Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman and former New York City mayor making his first, belated appearance in the ninth debate.

Fighting to regain momentum after weak performances in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts dispatched with her opponents’ plans in brutally rapid succession….

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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.

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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