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Thursday, Jan 23rd

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Trump administration finalizing Medicaid block grant plan targeting Obamacare

Seema Verma

The Trump administration is finalizing a plan to let states convert a chunk of Medicaid funding to block grants, even as officials remain divided over how to sell the controversial change to the safety net health program.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma plans to issue a letter soon explaining how states could seek waivers to receive defined payments for adults covered by Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, according to seven people with knowledge of the closely guarded effort. An announcement is tentatively slated for the end of next week, more than one year after Verma and her team began developing the plan.

Coronavirus: Here's what airlines and airports are doing to screen, safeguard passengers

Corona virusAfter  the first case of the new coronavirus from China was discovered in the United States, airlines, airports and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. have responded to try to mitigate the spread of the deadly respiratory virus.

The new coronavirus, which originated in the central city of Wuhan, China, has so far infected more than 540 and killed at least 17, according to Chinese authorities. Wuhan officials have halted air and train travel from the city and closed public transportation. The virus has spread to Beijing, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

Here's what we know about coronavirus cases in the U.S. and how the airline industry is trying to stop the spread of the virus.

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Newly identified virus spreads from China to US

CDCA Washington state man has become the first American to fall victim to a newly identified coronavirus that has infected more than 300 people in China and several other Asian nations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Tuesday.

Global public health officials are growing increasingly alarmed about the virus, initially called 2019-nCov and first identified in December in Wuhan, China.

Dozens of cases have been identified in other major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Five cases have been identified outside the country, in Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States. At least six people have died.

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Trump to roll back Michelle Obama's school lunch rules on vegetables, fruits

Michele Obama school lunch programThe Trump administration on Friday announced plans to roll back school lunch standards on vegetables and fruits originally promoted by Michelle Obama, unveiling the proposal on the former first lady's birthday.

The new standards will allow schools more flexibility "because they know their children best," the Agriculture Department said in a press release.

“Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals. We listened and now we’re getting to work,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

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Supreme Court will again review Obamacare birth control mandate

SCOTUS to review Obama care birth control mandate

The Supreme Court on Friday said it will revisit whether employers must guarantee free birth control coverage for their workers.

It marks the third high court review of the contraception mandate stemming from Obamacare — and the first since Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined the court. The provision requires employer-sponsored health plans to provide their enrollees with contraceptive coverage at no extra personal cost.

Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh considered similar cases while appellate court judges, and both showed sympathy for religious groups seeking exemptions from the requirement on moral grounds.

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More drugmakers hike U.S. prices as new year begins

Pharmacy prices to go upDrugmakers including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (BMY.N), Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O), and Biogen Inc (BIIB.O) hiked U.S. list prices on more than 50 drugs on Wednesday, bringing total New Year’s Day drug price increases to more than 250, according to data analyzed by healthcare research firm 3 Axis Advisors.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that drugmakers including Pfizer Inc (PFE.N), GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK.L) and Sanofi SA (SASY.PA) were planning to increase prices on more than 200 drugs in the United States on Jan. 1.

Nearly all of the price increases are below 10% and the median price increase is around 5%, according to 3 Axis.

More early year price increases could still be announced.

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Flu, widespread in 30 states, blamed for nearly 2,000 deaths this season, CDC reports

CDC reports 1,900 flu deaths

The flu is widespread in 30 states and has claimed almost 2,000 deaths this season, including 19 children, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly every state reports elevated activity, the CDC said in its weekly update Friday.

The CDC estimated there have been at least 3.7 million flu cases so far this season, 32,000 requiring hospitalization. It reported 1,900 deaths, including 19 children.

Most patients are infected with a strain called B/Victoria that normally doesn't appear until the end of flu season. The virus tends to strike children and young adults more often, but that anyone can be affected, according to the CDC.

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