Health Care
Khorri Atkinson 6 hours ago
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3M settles with Minnesota for $850M over contaminated water
3M headquarters in Woodbury, Minnesota. Photo: KAREN BLEIER / AFP / Getty Images

Industrial group 3M has agreed to pay Minnesota $850 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that its disposed chemicals have contaminated groundwater in the state, Bloomberg reports.

The details: Settlement funds will be used to finance drinking water and sustainability projects, per Bloomberg. The suit, reportedly filed in 2010, sought punitive damages of $5 billion after the state linked the contaminated water to cancer and premature births. The company had denied the state's claims and said the chemicals posed no health risk to its employees who were exposed to higher levels, per Bloomberg.

Bob Herman 11 hours ago
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Mayo Clinic CEO is retiring
Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy speaks at an event.
Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy speaks at an event in 2013. Photo: Karen Bleier / AFP via Getty Images

Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy will retire from his position at the end of 2018.

Why it matters: This opens up one of the most prestigious executive positions in health care, given Mayo Clinic's clinical reputation. Mayo Clinic's board — which includes big names such as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, former Ford CEO Alan Mulally and President Obama's former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — hopes to pick Noseworthy's successor by the fall.

Go deeper: Noseworthy raised eyebrows last year after he said the medical center would prioritize patients who have private health insurance over those who have Medicare and Medicaid.

Bob Herman 14 hours ago
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MiMedx stock craters on internal probe
Data: Money.net; Chart: Axios Visuals

The stock price of MiMedx plummeted 35% Tuesday morning after the company, which sells products for burns and wound care, said it was postponing the release of its 2017 financial results due to an internal investigation of its sales practices.

Why it matters: Short sellers like Marc Cohodes have long alleged MiMedx fraudulently inflated its sales numbers. Delaying the financials, at a minimum, is a public-relations disaster and could indicate deeper trouble from government auditors.

Go deeper: MiMedx CEO Pete Petit is a big backer of President Trump and former health secretary Tom Price, and Petit's feud with short sellers reached a boiling point this past January.

Sam Baker 17 hours ago
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When AI will start to disrupt health care
Several intelligent guide robots standing in the outpatient lobby of Beijing 301 hospital.
Several intelligent guide robots standing in the outpatient lobby of Beijing 301 hospital. Photo: TPG / Getty Images

Artificial intelligence is all the rage in Silicon Valley, but it has so far not made much of a dent in health care. That’s largely because the technology just isn’t good enough yet, according to a report in VentureBeat.

  • The most interesting applications so far have focused on diagnostics — using algorithms to process and distill published medical research at a volume humans simply couldn’t handle, or having them read patient data and look for abnormalities, the report says.

Key quote: “I have no doubt that sophisticated learning and AI algorithms will find a place in health care over the coming years,” data scientist Andy Schuetz tells VentureBeat. “I don’t know if it’s two years or 10 — but it’s coming.”

Sam Baker 17 hours ago
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HHS expands health plans that don’t comply with the ACA
HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

The Trump administration is expanding access to short-term health care plans that don’t comply with many of the Affordable Care Act’s requirements. Critics fear the move could weaken the ACA’s insurance markets, but federal officials said today they expect the effects on the ACA to be relatively modest.

Why it matters: These new regulations stem from President Trump's executive order on health care and will, to at least some extent, widen the market for non-ACA coverage — a prominent goal for the administration, even if it’s one that will move incrementally.

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Merck CEO: Trump's Charlottesville remarks challenge "basic values of the country"
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Kenneth Frazier, CEO of the pharmaceuticals company Merck, was the first CEO to leave one of President Trump's business advisory councils last August after the president made divisive remarks following the white nationalist Charlottesville protests. Now, he's explaining why he abandoned Trump's council in a new interview with the New York Times:

“In this case, we were not talking about politics. We were talking about the basic values of the country. ... I think words have consequences and I think actions have consequences. I just felt that as a matter of my own personal conscience, I could not remain.”
Bob Herman Feb 16
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Wellmark met with Trump officials about short-term health plans
A person fills out a health insurance form.
Health insurer Wellmark met with federal officials last month regarding a pending rule. Photo: Tetra Images via Getty Images

John Clendenin and Scott Sundstrom, the top lawyers at Wellmark, last month held a teleconference with Trump administration health policy officials and an assistant to Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to discuss pending rules on short-term health plans, according to lobbying meeting records. Wellmark and Rounds' office did not immediately answer questions about what was discussed.

Between the lines: New regulations on short-term health plans are expected to be released any day now. Large insurers like Wellmark have advocated for easing restrictions on short-term plans — and could be getting their wish.

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84 kids have died from flu this season so far
Data: Centers for Disease Control; Chart: Axios Visuals

The latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates the U.S. flu season remains "elevated" and deaths continue to rise. There were 84 flu-related pediatric deaths recorded between Oct. 1 and Feb. 10 — up from 63 announced the prior week.

Reminder: On Thursday, federal health officials urged people to get a flu shot, which is estimated to be 36% effective overall and 59% effective for children younger than 9. They say roughly three-fourths of children who died did not receive a vaccination.

Axios Feb 16
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Why you should get a flu shot
Woman getting this year's flu shot at Walgreens. Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

It’s true that this year’s flu vaccine isn’t quite as helpful as it could have been — it’s about 36% effective overall, according to new estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But it’s as high as 59% effective for children younger than 9, health officials said yesterday.

Why it matters: This is an especially deadly flu season, and it’s not over.

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D.C. doesn't know what to do about the opioid crisis
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Washington is still falling behind in helping to address the country's opioid crisis, some lawmakers and policy experts say, even as the epidemic rages on across the country. Congress recently provided $6 billion for the effort, and it's getting the ball rolling on another legislative push as well. But lawmakers aren't yet sure what that push will entail.

Why it matters: Roughly 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016; the overwhelming majority of those cases involved some combination of prescription painkillers, synthetic opioids or heroin. Yet because the problem is so sweeping, the push for a policy response is being pulled in several directions — from immediate treatment to law enforcement to community rebuilding to new medical practices.