WisBusiness, WisPolitics Health Care Report for Nov. 11

WisBusiness, WisPolitics Health Care Report for Nov. 11

UW Health announced today that organ transplant recipients as well as patients on its waiting list will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Dr. Dixon Kaufman, medical director for UW Health’s Transplant Center, says transplant recipients are at “far greater risk” of severe illness or death from COVID-19 than most people because of anti-rejection drugs they take.

UW Health points to results of a study that found among 482 unvaccinated transplant recipients who got COVID-19, 78 percent had to be hospitalized and over 20 percent of those patients died.

“We believe that requiring vaccination for COVID-19, just as vaccinations are required for other infectious diseases, gives our recipients the best odds for surviving and thriving once they receive their transplant,” Kaufman said in a release.

Once the policy goes into effect Monday, candidates currently on the center’s waiting list will have 30 days to get the first dose of a vaccine series and another 30 days to get the second injection if needed to complete the series. If UW Health doesn’t receive documentation of vaccination by Jan. 14, the patient in question will be deemed inactive and won’t be eligible for a transplant.

Patients on the waitlist that are deemed ineligible due to the new rule can be granted active status by completing the vaccine series once 14 days have passed since their final shot.

Meanwhile, patients that are being evaluated for transplant or expect to be soon will be required to be vaccinated before being added to the waitlist. Although eligible patients are being encouraged to get booster shots, that won’t factor into their transplant or waitlist eligibility, UW Health says.

See more in the release below.  

The state is set to receive $10 million for efforts to combat the opioid epidemic after joining the multi-state Bloomberg Opioids Overdose Prevention Initiative. 

The initiative recently expanded to include Wisconsin, Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, and North Carolina after initially launching in Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2018. The funds coming to Wisconsin are part of a $120 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies in the effort.

In a release, Gov. Tony Evers notes the COVID-19 pandemic has “only underscored” the impact of the opioid crisis, as related deaths in the state exceeded 1,000 per year last year for the first time.

“It’s more critical than ever that we get folks support and access substance use treatment and mental health services,” Evers said. “Wisconsin is thrilled to be joining this partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies as we work tirelessly together to save lives, expand treatment and services, and build a healthier state.”

The release shows funding will go toward expanding existing efforts and new programs, as well as advocacy for further federal policies aimed at reducing opioid deaths. In Wisconsin, funding will support technical assistance and services for related efforts, including government agency staff and other groups working at the state and local level.

Partners in the initiative include the CDC Foundation, Global Health Advocacy Incubator, Johns Hopkins University, The Pew Charitable Trusts and Vital Strategies.

See the release below.

A biotech startup called Geno.Me has landed $400,000 in seed funding from Gateway Capital, an early-stage investment firm based in Milwaukee.

The company’s platform connects electronic health record data with genomic information from services like 23andMe, MyChart and Anscestry.com in hopes of furthering medical research. Individuals who share their data with the platform are compensated on a monthly basis, while the business promises them total privacy and anonymity.

These linked datasets are encrypted and sold to companies conducting precision health research and developing pharmaceuticals.

Geno.Me was founded by Britt Gottschalk, a management consultant who has worked in health care, insurance and business communications. The business is currently based in Madison but plans to relocate to Milwaukee after this latest investment, the release shows. Funding will be used to hire new staff and for product development.

“We as individual patients have the power to choose whether to share our own data because it belongs to us, and it should be that simple,” Gottschalk said. “Geno.Me aims to incentivize its users to share their de-identified health profile while providing the blueprint for the future of precision medicine.”

HealthX Ventures Managing Partner Mark Bakken, who has personally invested in the company, says researchers need access to “far more data tying DNA to health history” than is currently available.

“Taking individual health histories and mapping that information to the genome will help researchers explore genetic links to a multitude of health conditions,” he said in the release.

See more on the company here, and see the release below.

Sen. Chris Larson has proposed a bill he says would eliminate a “death tax for the poor” by eliminating the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program.

Larson in a virtual news conference yesterday proposed the Fairer Inheritance Act, which would reduce to bare federal requirements the amount the government can recover from families of deceased long-term care recipients. He slammed past lawmakers for getting rid of Wisconsin’s estate tax, adding MERP only increases racial disparities and wealth gaps.

“The state effectively eliminated the state inheritance tax for the wealthy, but yet we have this death tax for the poor,” the Milwaukee Dem said.

See the release below.

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Press Releases

– UW Health: To require COVID-19 vaccination for patients awaiting organ transplant

– Gov. Evers: Announces Wisconsin to join the Bloomberg Opioids Overdose Prevention Initiative

– Geno.Me: Raises $400k to accelerate medical research & bring data transparency to patients

– Sen. Larson, Rep. Brostoff: Introduce bill to repeal punitive “death tax” on poor Wisconsinites