News Headlines for June 28, 2016

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4 Stolen Health Databases Reportedly for Sale on Dark Web
Data Breach Today

A hacker is reportedly selling on the dark web copies of databases stolen from three unidentified U.S. healthcare organizations and one unnamed health insurer containing data on nearly 10 million individuals for prices ranging from about $96,000 to $490,000 in bitcoin for each database.

The hacker taking credit, who calls himself “thedarkoverlord,” is operating on the TheRealDeal dark web marketplace and is offering to sell “a unique one-off copy” of each of the databases, according to dark net news reporting website DeepDotWeb and other news sites. Some of the data being offered for sale appears to be old, according to news reports.

The hacked data being sold, according to DeepDotWeb, and other media sites, includes:

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FDA approves first pill to treat all forms of hepatitis C

Federal health officials have approved the first pill to treat all major forms of hepatitis C, the latest in a series of drug approvals that have reshaped treatment of the liver-destroying virus.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the combination pill from Gilead Sciences for patients with and without liver damage. The agency has approved a number of hepatitis C drugs in the last three years but all were targeted to specific strains of the virus or patients with various stages of liver disease.

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Biden holding cancer summit to pump up support for ‘moonshot’ effort
Washington Post

Vice President Biden will convene an all-day cancer summit in Washington on Wednesday that will be part pep rally, part Ted talk, part wonk-a-thon — designed to garner support for the Obama administration’s yearlong initiative to advance cancer research.

The summit, which is expected to draw as many as 300 people from academia, industry and advocacy groups to Howard University, is billed as a way to generate new ideas to beat a disease that kills almost 600,000 Americans a year. Dozens of regional summits will take place at the same time.

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We Can Improve At-Home Lab Tests
Op/Ed: U.S. News & World Report

Lately, there’s been an increasing trend of patients ordering testing like cholesterol and vitamin D without a doctor’s visit. The direct-to-consumer testing market is expected to exceed $350 million by 2020, which is significant projected growth, considering it was worth $15 million in 2010.

Much of the related news has centered on genetic tests marketed directly to consumers and the resultant actions by the Food and Drug Administration. However, there are other companies, such as LabCorp and InsideTracker, which offer nongenetic tests to individuals without a doctor’s order.

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Out-of-Pocket Hospital Costs Were Rising 6.5% a Year… Before Obamacare
Insurance Journal

If you have private health insurance, the good news is you may be helping your employer keep its health care spending down.

The bad news is it’s coming out of your pocket. The amount that people with private insurance still had to pay for hospital visits grew 37 percent from 2009 to 2013, a study finds. And it’s probably still going up.

The study, conducted by the University of Michigan and published today in JAMA Internal Medicine, adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests employers are using high-deductible plans to keep premium costs down.

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Paul Ryan’s flimsy health plan
Washington Post

It has been more than six years since the Affordable Care Act passed and nearly three years since its major provisions began phasing in. During that time, the rate of uninsured Americans has plummeted to a historic low.  Also during that time, Republicans have blamed the law for practically every problem with the health-care system, the economy and more. But they have infamously not united behind a credible alternative.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) seemed to promise better when he announced that he would roll out an ambitious policy agenda this summer. Instead, last week he released an Obamacare alternative that is less detailed in a variety of crucial ways than previous conservative health reform proposals. The outlines that the speaker did provide suggest that it would be hard on the poor, old and sick.

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Medicare’s Long-Term Fiscal Peril Deserves More Attention
The Health Care Blog

This year’s release of the annual Medicare Trustee’s report on June 22—261 pages of mind-numbing healthcare and budget minutiae—coincided with the release of the House Republican’s long-awaited alternative to Obamacare.

Coincided, but not coincidence. Republicans’ sought to leverage the annual report’s hand-wringing about Medicare’s fiscal unsustainability—to draw attention to their proposals.

Indeed, the GOP plan garnered the news spotlight. But it’s the Trustee’s report that deserves closer attention and has more long-term import.

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CMS proposes $180 million pay cut for home health
Modern Healthcare

Home healthcare agencies may see a 1% drop in Medicare reimbursement in 2017, the final year of cuts meant to recoup previous overpayments.

The proposed rates—which would mean Medicare would pay home health agencies $180 million less next year than in 2016—were published the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear a case challenging a federal labor rule that home health providers say is harming their businesses.

The Affordable Care Act mandated the reduction to address Medicare overpayments for home health services dating back to 2000. The CMS cut payments by $260 million for 2016, $60 million for 2015 and $200 million for 2014.

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Gov. Brown signs bill that limits seizure of assets of many Medi-Cal recipients
East Bay Times

After three years of sleepless nights for hundreds of thousands of Medi-Cal recipients, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed into law a bill that limits the state’s seizure of assets from the estates of low-income residents ages 55 to 64.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, California will join many other states in the country that only recover the costs of enrollees’ long-term care and related costs after they die.

Medi-Cal recipients like Chris Darling are breathing easier.

“They can still come after me if I end up in a nursing home or need home care,” said the 64-year-old Richmond resident.

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Expand scope of care for nurse practitioners
Capitol Weekly

Kern County residents are afflicted by the highest rate of diabetes in the state, according to recent data from the California Department of Public Health.[1] As a nurse practitioner at the Kern Medical and a certified diabetes educator, I see the faces of the people behind that startling statistic every day. They are our parents, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and advocating for their health is my passion.

So when I see our Kern county residents – a population that is more than half Latino and where more than one in five live in poverty – disadvantaged by an outdated state law, I’m obligated to speak up. I am calling on state legislators to support SB 323 by Senator Ed Hernandez to remove an outdated law that prevents nurse practitioners like me from providing the full scope of care to meet my patients’ language and cultural needs.  Passing this bill will save lives.

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Even with good healthcare, social factors affect death risk

Even in Sweden, a country with universal healthcare, disadvantaged people with diabetes are still more likely to die compared to diabetics with social and economic advantages, a new study finds. The risk of death was affected by marital status, education, immigration history and wealth, even though these factors don’t stand in the way of receiving healthcare for the people in the study. “Sweden is arguably one of the most equitable countries in the world when it comes to use and access to healthcare,” said lead author Dr.

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States Offer Privacy Protections To Young Adults On Their Parents’ Health Plan
Kaiser Health News

The health law opened the door for millions of young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26. But there’s a downside to remaining on the family plan. Chances are that mom or dad, as policyholder, will get a notice from the insurer every time the grown-up kid gets medical care, a breach of privacy that many young people may find unwelcome.

With this in mind, in recent years a handful of states have adopted laws or regulations that make it easier for dependents to keep medical communications confidential.

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Does Your Body Really Refresh Itself Every 7 Years?
National Public Radio

The latest episode of the podcast Invisibilia explores the idea that personality — something a lot of us think of as immutable — can change over time.

That got Invisibilia co-host Lulu Miller wondering if anything about us stays the same. Do all the cells in our body turn over every seven years as is sometimes claimed, with new cells replacing old ones? Or is there something that we hang on to for life?

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Hospital eyes expanding services, parcel tax renewal
Sonoma Index-Tribune

Sonoma Valley Hospital has released the annual update to its three-year rolling strategic plan revealing a near-term focus on maintaining quality of care, expanding services and on renewing the parcel tax upon which it relies for around 5 percent of its funding.

The 2017-19 plan was developed by a committee of board members, physicians and hospital leaders.

“We have done a great job in executing the strategies in prior years, but a lesson I’ve learned is that improvement is a process and not a destination,” said hospital CEO Kelly Mather in a blog post about the plan.

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Americans who confronted ‘surprise’ medical bills share their stories

When Andrew Heymann helped his friend move two years ago, a glass table shattered and cut open Heymann’s left ankle. An ambulance rushed him to a nearby hospital, which he knew was in-network. But after a plastic surgeon stitched up the wound, Heymann was surprised to receive a bill for nearly $6,000. His insurance initially covered just $860 of the charges. Heymann learned that although the facility was in-network, the doctor who assisted him was not covered by his insurance.

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Doctors Wrestle With Mixed Messages When Deciding Whether To Prescribe Painkillers
Kaiser Health News

Steve Diaz, an emergency medicine doctor at Augusta’s MaineGeneral Health, says he knows what patients want when they come to him in pain. Drugs. And preferably strong ones.

“The only thing they think of is, ‘Do I get a pill?’” he said.

And with abuse of prescription painkillers like OxyContin, methadone and Percocet soaring, the instinct, public health experts say, should be to say no. Or at least, not necessarily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a new guideline this spring, advising doctors to prescribe the highly addictive drugs, known as opioids, in smaller doses and only when truly needed.

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California Drug Price Measure Fiercely Opposed By Pharmaceutical Industry
Kaiser Health News

Drugmakers are waging a fierce campaign against a proposed California law that would require them to justify the costs of their treatments and disclose major price hikes.

The bill has widespread support of health care providers, insurers, patients, labor and business groups. But the pharmaceutical industry is behind scathing social media messaging, warning that passage of the bill could lead to shortages of crucial drugs in some parts of the state. The industry is also applying other pressure to change the language of the bill.

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Under $48B Anthem-Cigna deal, healthcare costs could rise for employers
Becker's Hospital Review

As insurance giants Anthem and Cigna await U.S. antitrust approval, an analysis from Aon Hewitt suggests the $48 billion acquisition could result in higher costs for large companies offering employer-sponsored medical benefits, according to Reuters.

With more than 154 million people receiving healthcare coverage from their employers, the large employer market is a primary concern for the U.S. Department of Justice regulators reviewing the transaction. If the department finds the acquisition would significantly drive up the cost of coverage, it could block the deal, according to the report.

Anthem purports employers would benefit from the deal, not suffer. It argues a bigger Anthem could negotiate more favorable deals from physicians and hospitals, from which customers would save. Additionally, the insurer said there would still be plenty of competition with local insurers following the acquisition.

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Sonoma West Medical Center CEO resigns
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Sonoma West Medical Center CEO Ray Hino has resigned from the Sebastopol hospital, claiming he can no longer sustain the energy and long hours required of him for the past 20 months. In a June 26 letter to his colleagues, Hino said he’s often worked 12- to 13-hour days and 6- to 7-day weeks, including every weekend for 85 straight weeks. “When I came to SWMC, I had hopes of spending more time with my family in Northern California,” he wrote.