Trending News Today: Feds Boost Medicare Payments to Insurers

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

Federal regulators expect to provide insurers who offer private Medicare plans with higher payment increases than what was initially estimated, according to The Wall Street Journal. The rates will be bumped up 0.45% on average next year, which is higher than the 0.25% that regulators previously proposed. The increase is designed to aid companies that offer health plans under Medicare Advantage, a program in which beneficiaries can get Medicare policies from private companies who are then paid by the federal government, the WSJ reported.

As Republicans sought to revive plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), shares of US hospital operators fell, reported The New York Times. Shares of HCA Holdings, which is the largest publicly traded hospital operators, dropped by 3.2%. Tenet Healthcare fell 4.8% and Community Health Systems dropped 6.3%. Late last month, hospital stocks surged after House Republicans pulled their proposed health bill after not gaining enough support. Investors have raised concerns that a health care overhaul could curtail benefits the hospitals have gained from expanded insurance coverage under the ACA.

An analysis by the CDC reveals that the Zika virus poses an even greater risk for birth detects than previously known. According to the NY Times, data showed that the risk of birth defects was greater for women when they are infected in the first trimester of pregnancy. Fifteen percent of women with confirmed Zika infection in the first trimester had babies with birth defects, according to the report. Babies with birth defects were about as likely to be born to infected women who had no symptoms of Zika as they were to women with symptoms, such as fever or rash. In general, 80% of Zika infections do not produce symptoms. The report analyzed 1297 pregnancies reported between January 15, 2016 and December 27, 2016, in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. Of the 1297 pregnancies, 972 with laboratory evidence of possible Zika infection were considered “completed,” which resulted in 895 live births and 77 losses.