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The Daily Scan

Last Updated: 1:00 PM EST


  • A Maine court is preparing to hear the latest arguments in the state’s failure to enact voter-approved Medicaid expansion. Expansion has been held up for months because of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s opposition over funding issues and the resulting legal battles. A judge charged with addressing looming constitutional issues affecting Medicaid expansion has scheduled hearings for Sept. 27-28 in Portland. (CentralMaine.com)

  • The head of Iowa’s Department of Human Services said Thursday there has been progress in delivering services to Medicaid members through a privately managed system and he believes a soon-to-be-released audit will show the program in place since April 2016 has saved the state money. “I’m confident it’s going to show there was a savings. I think the question is not does it save money, the question is how much,” Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven told a discussion group at the Iowa Ideas Conference that focused on challenges facing Iowa’s privatized Medicaid program. The assessment was met with skepticism by the other panel member — Kirk Norris, chief executive of the Iowa Hospital Association. He said his 118 member hospitals still are having issues getting reimbursed by the two managed care organizations that now contract with the state. A third company, a subsidiary of Centene, will begin administering coverage in July 2019. (QCTimes.com)

  • With one in every 10 patients walking into state hospitals without insurance, the Alabama Hospital Association on Thursday launched a campaign to push for expansion of the state's Medicaid program. The Alabama Hospital Association is urging citizens and policy makers to think of expansion as they would any other economic development investment, arguing it would benefit communities and the entire state health care system in addition to the estimated 300,000 people who would gain health care coverage. "Health care is part of the state's infrastructure," Danne Howard, executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Alabama Hospital Association, said. Twelve Alabama hospitals have closed since 2011 and Howard said 75% of Alabama's hospitals are operating in the red. She said expanding Medicaid would be a "significant investment in the state's fragile health care infrastructure and would help maintain access to care for everyone." (USNews.com)


  • Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it has reached separate settlements with Boston Medical Center (BMC), Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) for compromising the privacy of patients’ protected health information (PHI) by inviting film crews on premises to film an ABC television network documentary series, without first obtaining authorization from patients. Collectively, the three entities paid OCR $999,000 to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. This is the second HIPAA case involving an ABC medical documentary television series, the previous being OCR’s April 16, 2016 settlement with New York-Presbyterian Hospital in association with the filming of “NY Med.” “Patients in hospitals expect to encounter doctors and nurses when getting treatment, not film crews recording them at their most private and vulnerable moments,” said Roger Severino, OCR director. “Hospitals must get authorization from patients before allowing strangers to have access to patients and their medical information.” (HHS.gov)


  • U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced bipartisan legislation this week to develop innovative ways to reduce unnecessary administrative costs in the U.S. health care system. The bill directs the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take steps toward reducing unnecessary administrative costs across the health care system by at least 50%. It also provides support for states to tackle this challenge at the local level. It's estimated that administrative costs account for 25% of hospital spending in the United States, more than twice as much as in other developed nations. “More than one out of every four dollars spent in America on health care may go toward administrative costs,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Eliminating wasteful health care spending will lower costs for patients and improve access to quality care.” (Cassidy.Senate.gov)


  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced yesterday that they will work with Opiant Pharmaceuticals of Santa Monica, California, to develop a fast-acting, long-lasting intranasal, potentially improved form of an opioid overdose drug. “The life-saving drug naloxone, while effective, often must be given multiple times to completely reverse the effects of an opioid in someone exposed to high doses. Repeat doses of the treatment may not always be feasible, especially in a large-scale terrorist attack,” said Rick Bright, Ph.D., director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. “Improved opioid exposure treatments are critical to adequately address this growing threat to public health and health security.” BARDA will partner with Opiant to develop a new formulation of the drug, called nalmefene. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its derivatives are now the most common cause of overdose deaths in the United States. The potential for weaponization of these agents is also a concern. Naloxone is the most commonly used treatment for opioid overdose in the United States. Because of the shorter half-life of naloxone compared to fentanyl derivatives, repeat dosing of naloxone often is needed to fully reverse the effects of the opioid. Longer lasting drugs can reduce the need for repeat dosing. Nalmefene acts in the same way as naloxone and studies suggest that it may work for much longer. (HHS.gov)


  • Yahoo News was the first to report yesterday that the Department of Health and Human Services is diverting millions of dollars in funding from a number of programs, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, to pay for housing for the growing population of detained immigrant children. In a letter sent to Sen. Patty Murray, D.-Wash., and obtained by Yahoo News, HHS Secretary Alex Azar outlined his plan to reallocate up to $266 million in funding for the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, to the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Nearly $80 million of that money will come from other refugee support programs within ORR, which have seen their needs significantly diminished as the Trump administration makes drastic cuts to the annual refugee numbers. The rest is being taken from other programs, including $16.7 million from Head Start, $5.7 million from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program and $13.3 million from the National Cancer Institute. Money is also being diverted from programs dedicated to mental and maternal health, women’s shelters and substance abuse. (Yahoo.com)

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