• Medicine

    Bird Flu Lands as the Next Public Health Challenge

    The Host Public health officials are watching with concern since a strain of bird flu spread to dairy cows in at least nine states, and to at least one dairy worker. But in the wake of covid-19, many farmers are loath to let in health authorities for testing. Meanwhile, another large health company — the Catholic hospital chain Ascension — has been targeted by a cyberattack, leading to serious problems at some facilities. This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Rachel Cohrs Zhang of Stat, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, and Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call.…

  • Medicine

    Newly Minted Doctors Are Avoiding Abortion Ban States

    The Host A new analysis finds that graduating medical students were less likely to apply this year for residency training in states that ban or restrict abortion. That was true not only for aspiring OB-GYNs and others who regularly treat pregnant patients, but for all specialties. Meanwhile, another study has found that more than 4 million children have been terminated from Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program since the federal government ended a covid-related provision barring such disenrollments. The study estimates about three-quarters of those children were still eligible and were kicked off for procedural reasons. This week’s panelists…

  • Medicine

    Abortion — Again — At the Supreme Court

    The Host Some justices suggested the Supreme Court had said its piece on abortion law when it overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. This term, however, the court has agreed to review another abortion case. At issue is whether a federal law requiring emergency care in hospitals overrides Idaho’s near-total abortion ban. A decision is expected by summer. Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid finalized the first-ever minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes participating in the programs. But the industry argues that there are not enough workers to hire to meet the standards. This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner…

  • Medicine

    Medicare Stumbles Managing a Costly Problem — Chronic Illness

    Nearly a decade ago, Medicare launched a program to help the two-thirds of beneficiaries with chronic conditions by paying their doctors an additional monthly fee to coordinate their care. The strategy has largely failed to live up to its potential; only about 4 percent of potentially eligible beneficiaries in the traditional Medicare program are enrolled, according to a Mathematica analysis. But thousands of physicians have boosted their pay by participating, and auxiliary for-profit businesses have sprung up to help doctors take advantage of the program. An analysis of federal data by my KFF Health News colleague Holly K. Hacker shows…

  • Medicine

    Medical Providers Still Grappling With UnitedHealth Cyberattack: ‘More Devastating Than Covid’

    Two months after a cyberattack on a UnitedHealth Group subsidiary halted payments to some doctors, medical providers say they’re still grappling with the fallout, even though UnitedHealth told shareholders on Tuesday that business is largely back to normal. “We are still desperately struggling,” said Emily Benson, a therapist in Edina, Minnesota, who runs her own practice, Beginnings & Beyond. “This was way more devastating than covid ever was.” Change Healthcare, a business unit of the Minnesota-based insurance giant UnitedHealth Group, controls a digital network so vast it processes nearly 1 in 3 U.S. patient records each year. The network is…

  • Medicine

    Medicare’s Push To Improve Chronic Care Attracts Businesses, but Not Many Doctors

    Carrie Lester looks forward to the phone call every Thursday from her doctors’ medical assistant, who asks how she’s doing and if she needs prescription refills. The assistant counsels her on dealing with anxiety and her other health issues. Lester credits the chats for keeping her out of the hospital and reducing the need for clinic visits to manage chronic conditions including depression, fibromyalgia, and hypertension. “Just knowing someone is going to check on me is comforting,” said Lester, 73, who lives with her dogs, Sophie and Dolly, in Independence, Kansas. At least two-thirds of Medicare enrollees have two or…

  • Medicine

    Attack of the Medicare Machines

    Dan Weissmann Covering the American health care system means we tell some scary stories. This episode of “An Arm and a Leg” sounds like a real horror movie.  It uses one of Hollywood’s favorite tropes: machines taking over. And the machines belong to the private health insurance company UnitedHealth Group.  Host Dan Weissmann talks to Stat News reporter Bob Herman about his investigation into Medicare Advantage plans that use an algorithm to make decisions about patient care. The algorithm is owned by a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. Herman tells Weissmann that some of UnitedHealth’s own employees say the algorithm creates…

  • Medicine

    Rising Complaints of Unauthorized Obamacare Plan-Switching and Sign-Ups Trigger Concern

    Federal and state regulators aren’t doing enough to stop the growing problem of rogue health insurance brokers making unauthorized policy switches for Affordable Care Act policyholders, say consumers, agents, nonprofit enrollee assistance groups, and other insurance experts. “We think it’s urgent and it requires a lot more attention and resources,” said Jennifer Sullivan, director of health coverage access for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the ACA, “has acknowledged the issue,” said former Oklahoma insurance commissioner John Doak. “But it appears their response is inadequate.” The reactions follow a KFF…

  • Medicine

    Biden Is Right About $35 Insulin Cap but Exaggerates Prior Costs for Medicare Enrollees

    Samantha Putterman, PolitiFact Insulin for Medicare beneficiaries “was costing 400 bucks a month on average. It now costs $35 a month.” President Joe Biden, in a March 22 speech The cost of insulin in the United States has risen considerably in recent years, with some estimates finding that Americans have paid around 10 times as much for the drug as people in other developed countries. But recent changes by the federal government and drug manufacturers have started to drive insulin prices down, something President Joe Biden often mentions at campaign events. Biden told the crowd at a March 19 campaign…

  • Medicine

    Florida Limits Abortion — For Now

    The Host Florida this week became a major focus for advocates on both main sides of the abortion debate. The Florida Supreme Court simultaneously ruled that the state’s 15-week ban, passed in 2022, can take effect immediately before a more sweeping, six-week ban replaces it in May and that voters can decide in November whether to create a state right to abortion. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden, gearing up for the general election campaign, is highlighting his administration’s health accomplishments, including drug price negotiations for Medicare. This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Joanne Kenen of the Johns…