Month: April 2020

KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: SCOTUS Decides An ACA Case. No, Not THAT Case.

Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen on SoundCloud.

The Supreme Court this week rejected the efforts of a Republican-controlled Congress in 2014 to cut off funding to insurance companies under a provision of the Affordable Care Act. In an 8-1 decision, the high court ruled that insurers must be paid the roughly $12 billion they are owed under the law’s “risk corridor” program.

Meanwhile, the efforts to address the COVID-19 health and economic impact are becoming more partisan, with Democrats pushing to provide more funding to states and localities and Republicans urging liability waivers for employers whose workers get sick after being summoned back to the workplace.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Caitlin Owens of Axios and Mary Ellen McIntire of CQ Roll Call.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The Supreme Court’s 8-1 ruling in the ACA “risk corridor”
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Fear Of Coronavirus Propels Some Smokers To Quit

In 40 years of smoking, Katie Kennedy has tried four times to quit but always went back to cigarettes. Today, she is summoning a new mental image when a craving comes on: rows of COVID-19 patients hooked to ventilators.

Kennedy’s dad also smoked. He was on a ventilator before he died, and seeing how invasive the machine was and watching his discomfort and distress made Kennedy vow not to die like that.

“I just decided it’s time to protect my lungs as much as I can,” said Kennedy, 59, who started a cessation class in Sacramento, California, in March. “COVID-19 is quite a motivator.”

Early studies suggest that smokers who develop COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, are 14 times more likely to need intensive treatment compared with nonsmokers. Doctors in California are seizing this moment to highlight the connection between COVID-19 and smoking as another reason people should

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As Coronavirus Strikes, Crucial Data In Electronic Health Records Hard To Harvest

When President Donald Trump started touting hydroxychloroquine as “one of the biggest game changers” for treating COVID-19, researchers hoped electronic health records could quickly tell them if he was on the right track.

Yet pooling data from the digital records systems in thousands of hospitals has proved a technical nightmare thus far. That’s largely because software built by rival technology firms often cannot retrieve and share information to help doctors judge which coronavirus treatments are helping patients recover.

“I’m stunned at EHR vendors’ inability to consistently pull data from their systems,” said Dale Sanders, chief technology officer of Health Catalyst, a medical data analytics company. “It’s absolutely hampering our ability to understand and react to COVID.”

Over the past decade, federal officials have spent some $36 billion switching from paper to electronic health records, or EHRs, expecting, among other things, to harness volumes of medical data to reveal which

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Free Clinics Try To Fill Gaps As COVID Sweeps Away Job-Based Insurance

TUPELO, Mississippi — Joe Delbert hadn’t needed the Tree of Life Free Clinic in three years.

The 55-year-old man, who moved to Tupelo from Georgia to take care of his dying father nearly four years ago, found manufacturing work that came with health insurance. But last month, he joined 26 million other Americans who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19 in the past five weeks.

With the job went Delbert’s health coverage — and the money to pay for medications to control his diabetes and cholesterol. Insulin alone would cost him $600 a vial. Delbert said he would be sunk without the free clinic, which opens twice a month to provide health care at no charge to anyone without insurance.

“My medications are so expensive,” Delbert said. Because of the medication assistance, he added, “I can keep my head above water.”

Typically, three rows of benches outside the clinic

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