Healthcare Roundup—Veterans Choice reform bill heads to Senate; Advocate, NorthShore partner on pediatric care

Trump applauds House's passage of Veterans Choice reform bill 

The VA MISSION Act, which includes provisions to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans Choice program, has passed the House and will move on to the Senate. 

The bipartisan bill was unveiled in the lower chamber earlier this month and would allow veterans to seek care outside of the VA health system if their physicians agree it's best or if it would be hard for them to reach a VA facility. 

President Donald Trump urged the Senate to pass the legislation and to "put the needs of our veterans over partisan politics." (Announcement

Advocate, NorthShore to partner on pediatric care following failed merger 

Though Advocate Health Care and NorthShore University HealthSystem abandoned their plans to merge a year ago, the two systems have announced they will form a "strategic partnership" to expand pediatric care in Illinois. 

The two health systems ended merger plans after the Federal Trade Commission challenged the deal on antitrust grounds. In the new partnership, Advocate Children's Hospital and NorthShore said they are planning to improve coordination between physicians and push for new care innovations. 

The two systems will share pediatric specialists and will work under a shared governance and financial structure. The partnership is expected to formally launch in July. (Announcement

CDC: U.S. birth rate hit 30-year low in 2017

More than 3.8 million babies were born in the U.S. last year, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The birth rate dipped by 2% from 2016 and has a hit a 30-year low. 

The fertility rate for women between the ages of 15 and 44 dropped to 60.2 births per 1,000 women, a decreased of 3% from 2016 and also a record low, according to the report compiled by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. 

Birth rates declined for all age groups of women under 40, according to the report, but climbed for women in their early 40s. Cesarean section rates increased to 32% in 2017, and the rate of preterm births increased for the third year in a row. (Report

Few heavy smokers undergo testing for early signs of cancer, study finds 

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and the American Society of Clinical Oncology suggest heavy smokers over the age of 55 get tested for early signs of lung cancer. However, just 2% of those people do, according to a new study from ASCO. 

By comparison, between 60% and 80% of eligible patients undergo routine screenings for breast or colon cancer. Danh Pham, M.D., chief fellow of hematology/oncology at the University of Louisville's cancer center and one of the study's authors, said patients may be afraid to talk about smoking with their doctors. 

"It's very difficult to get patients to have this conversation with their doctors because of the stigma," Pham said. "People may not want to know if they have lung cancer because it could confirm they've made bad lifestyle choices." (Bloomberg