health care

Cancer survivor running as Democrat against Kelsey in Senate District 31

Gabriela Salinas, a native of Bolivia who gained media attention as a childhood cancer survivor treated at St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, is seeking the Democratic nomination to the state Senate seat now held by Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown. WMC-TV says her life story “has plot twists worthy of a Steven Spielberg film.”

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Trump encourages Alexander to keep trying on Obamacare deal

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander says President Donald Trump called him in late December to urge that the Tennessee Republican continue efforts to shore up health insurance markets, reports Politico in an article updating the Obamacare situation in Washington.

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Alexander gives up on Obamacare premium fix — until February or so

Joint press release from Sens. Lamar Alexander and  Susan Collins

WASHINGTON, December 20, 2017—United States Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) today jointly released the following statement:

“Rather than considering a broad year-end funding agreement as we expected, it has become clear that Congress will only be able to pass another short-term extension to prevent a government shutdown and to continue a few essential programs,” said the Senators.  “For this reason, we have asked Senator McConnell not to offer this week our legislation which independent analysts Avalere and Oliver-Wyman say would reduce premiums by about 20 percent for the 9 million Americans who have no government subsidies to help them buy insurance in the individual market. Instead, we will offer it after the first of the year when the Senate will consider the omnibus spending bill, the Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization, funding for Community Health Centers, and other legislation that was to have been enacted this week.

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Comptroller finds fault with TennCare paperwork pile

The state Comptroller’s Office says TennCare’s 98-page renewal form is making it harder than necessary for low-income Tennesseans to maintain their subsidized government health coverage, reports WPLN.

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Fed funding of health insurance for 74,000 TN children threatened; TN Democrats see ‘political games’

Absent action soon by Congress, funding for a federal program that provides health insurance coverage to 74,000 Tennessee children and pregnant mothers could soon run dry, reports the Times Free Press. State officials, including Gov. Bill Haslam, are worried about the possibility.

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Feds restore Medicare billing privileges to West TN doctor who had bipartisan backing

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has restored Medicare billing privileges to  Dr. Bryan Merrick, who was cut off last year over what appeared to be very minor paperwork errors. Tennessee Star has quotes from some political figures who got involved – notably including Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who had called for Senate hearings on the regulation used in cutting off Merrick, and former state Democratic Chairman Roy Herron, who was acting as the physician’s attorney.

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TNDP backs ‘Medicare for all,’ $15 minimum wage and medical marijuana

News release from Tennessee Democratic Party

On Saturday, October 28, 2017, the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Democratic Party passed three resolutions supporting progressive policies. First they weighed in on health care, voicing their support for ‘Medicare for All.’

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Alexander seeks Senate hearings on fed rule that stopped payments to West TN physician

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is asking that Sen. Orrin Hatch hold Senate Finance Committee hearings on whether an a federal regulation used to block Medicare payments to West Tennessee’s Dr. Bryan Merrick should be revoked, reports Tennessee Star.

Alexander chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which he says does not have jurisdiction over the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) regulation. Senator Hatch chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which does have jurisdiction over the CMS regulation.

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On a rural West TN doctor’s fight with feds, backed by area politicians appealing to Alexander, Kustoff

The federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has shut off payments to Dr. Bryan Merrick after finding clerical errors in billings through McKenzie Medical Center for a handful of Medicare patients. The move threatens to shut down the center – which serves around 4,000 patients in a rural area with few medical providers — and has brought a bipartisan outpouring of pleas to help Merrick from West Tennessee political leaders to members of the Tennessee congressional delegation, so far without results.

The latest plea was a letter last week from McKenzie Mayor Jill Holland to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander as chairman of the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee, asking him to convene a hearing with the goal of “revocation or modification of a particularly egregious Obama-era regulation” that CMS used in stopping Medicare payments to Merrick that is now “jeopardizing health care to hundreds and eventually thousands of citizens” in Carroll, Weakley and Henry counties. As of this weekend, Alexander had not responded to the letter or a reporter’s email inquiry seeking comment.

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VA hospitals in Memphis, Nashville and Murfreesboro rated among worst in nation

Three of Tennessee’s four Veterans Administration hospitals — those in Memphis, Nashville and Murfreesboro — are rated among the worst in the entire VA network of nearly 150 hospitals in a new report, reports The Tennessean. That contrasts to northeast Tennessee’s Mountain Home VA hospital, which again was given 4 out of 5 stars.

The ratings show that each of the three poorly rated hospitals made improvements, and at two of them — Murfreesboro and Nashville — significant improvements. But even that upward trend didn’t change the overall rating.

In response to the ratings, the three hospitals issued almost the exact same response, each statement replacing only the name of the hospital.

“Secretary (David) Shulkin has been clear that transparency is a crucial component of our efforts to reform the department. That’s why we’re posting these important end-of-year ratings, which document improvements at 64 percent of rated VA medical centers,” the statement read (using the Memphis example). “Regionally, the Memphis Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center rates well above local area hospitals in almost every facet of outpatient care. It is most important to note the facility improved overall against its own baseline.”

…In some data sets generated by the VA itself, the hospitals do compare favorably to others. But other data sets that are included in the overall rating show mortality rates at Memphis three times higher than benchmarks, longer lengths of stays and higher readmission rates at all three.