Trending News Today: Disagreements Persist in Proposed Health Insurer Merger

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

The potential loss of access to free contraceptives should the Affordable Care Act be repealed or replaced has caused an influx of women obtaining IUDs or stockpiling birth control pills, according to Kaiser Health News. However, advocates say that birth control is just the “tip of the iceberg,” and there are several other women’s health benefits that are at risk. One of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act is guaranteed coverage of maternity services on the individual insurance market, which the legislation requires in all individual plans. Furthermore, women were generally charged higher rates for health insurance on the individual market before the law was passed, Kaiser reported. “Our concern is going back to a world where insurance companies are writing their own rules again, and returning women to those bad old days in health care and losing all the progress we’ve made,” said Gretchen Borchelt, VP for reproductive rights and health at the law center, in the report.

Although federal regulators have acknowledged the link between a potentially deadly mycobacterial infection and a heart-surgery device by the summer of 2014, they waited 14 months before issuing a public alert about the risks, according to California Healthline. Furthermore, regulators waited until last month before issuing detailed recommendations to patients and hospitals on what to do. Critics have stated that a more prompt response could have prevented thousands of patients from being exposed to the bacteria, and that some patients fell ill or died without knowing the real cause, Healthline reported. The heater-cooler machines are considered crucial in open-heart surgery, and now, hospitals are scrambling to find ways to protect patients. According to Healthline, authorities have urged hospitals to notify individuals who have undergone surgery in recent years that they may be harboring a dangerous infection. Both patient advocates and experts state that these cases are only the latest to expose holes in the FDA monitoring process.

A highly unusual rift has been revealed between health insurers Anthem Inc and Cigna Corp regarding their proposed merger, The Wall Street Journal reported. The trial on the proposed merger began last week, and newly unsealed court testimony shows significant disagreements between the insurance giants. The trial comes after the Justice Department decided to challenge the merger on antitrust grounds, the Journal reported.