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What We're Reading: Walmart Removes E-Cigs; Sutter Health Antitrust Case; Sanders Proposes Medical Debt Elimination

AJMC Staff
Walmart announces it will stop selling e-cigarettes; Sutter Health antitrust case begins its jury selection today; Bernie Sanders proposes plan to eliminate $81 billion in medical debt. 

Walmart to Remove E-Cigarettes From Stores

Walmart announced it will stop selling electronic cigarettes at its namesake stores, as well as Sam’s Club locations, according to NPR. Walmart, which earlier this year told regulators its stores would halt the sale of fruit and dessert-flavored e-cigarettes, made this decision amid reports of mysterious lung illnesses related to vaping that have become a nationwide concern primarily among younger people. E-cigarette use has grown dramatically among high school students, doubling from 11% to 25% in 12th graders. This rise has been linked to tempting e-cigarette vapor flavors and the perception that products are safer than traditional tobacco, which was additionally marketed by manufacturers such as Juul. US health officials said this past Thursday that there are now 530 confirmed or probable cases of vaping-related lung injuries, with 8 reported deaths. The FDA announced its intention to crack down on vaping manufacturers by imposing necessary regulations on marketing practices and vapor components.



California Healthcare Antitrust Case Begins Today

A lawsuit against Sutter Health, a healthcare system that includes 24 hospitals across Northern California, will begin proceedings after nearly 5 years, with jury selection occurring today. The Associated Press reports that since 2014, 1500 self-funded health plans have sued Sutter Health. After California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a similar lawsuit last year, the case began to accelerate and now the cases have been combined. The lawsuit alleged that Sutter Health impeded competition by monopolizing healthcare practices throughout Northern California and used its market dominance to set higher prices for insurance plans. Sutter Health’s assets have grown exponentially from $6.4 billion to $15.4 billion between 2005 and 2016. Health plans are asking for $900 million in damages, which can possibly total to nearly $3 billion for Sutter Health since antitrust laws allow for triple damages.



Sanders Proposes Elimination of Americans’ Medical Debt

US Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, proposed a plan to eliminate an estimated $81 billion in existing medical debt and require credit bureaus to ignore this debt in credit scores, according to The New York Times. Sanders, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, released his plan on Saturday with an additional focus on replacing giant credit reporting agencies with a public credit registry to tackle medical debt–related credit scores. Sanders continues his pursuit to reform healthcare standards by adding to his “Medicare for all” plan which has gained support from other politicians. The plan calls for the US government to negotiate and cancel medical debts, although specific mechanisms to complete this process are still unknown.

 
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