News Headlines for November 24, 2015

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How Obamacare helped millennials chill out
Washington Post

If you’re a young person right out of college, you might not be quite sure what to do with your life yet. You might want to spend more time figuring that out, but you can’t afford to take a break from work to do so, because you need health insurance — and having a job is the only way to get it.

That was the situation for Americans between the ages of 19 and 26, 30 percent of whom didn’t have health insurance before 2010, when the Affordable Care Act went into effect. Although young people have been slow to sign up on their own, insurance plans have to cover dependent children through age 26, resulting in increased coverage— and a lot more young people who don’t necessarily have to work in order to have access to health care. New research suggests that some of those young people are taking advantage of the newfound freedom, and are feeling pretty good about it.

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Obamacare is failing? Not so fast.
The Health Care Blog

What is the hue and cry about this time? United Healthcare is saying it has lost large bales and wads of money on Obamacare exchange plans, and just may give up on them entirely. Anthem and Aetna allow that they are not making very much either. Some new not-for-profit market entrants have gone belly up, and the others are having a hard time.

Before we perform the Last Rites over Obamacare, perhsp we should think for a moment about the hit ratio of the first 711 Wolf Reports from Boy W. Cried and ask a few questions.

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Blue Shield got millions in excess 2014 Obamacare profits but has an explanation
San Francisco Business Times

Blue Shield of California accounted for nearly 30 percent of what some call “excess profits” nationally from Obamacare exchanges, according to Nov.19 report by the federal government. It reported nearly $107 million in excess profits, out of a national total of $362 million. Those figures relate to individual coverage on Covered California and other Affordable Care Act exchanges nationwide.

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As insurance companies threaten to leave the Affordable Care Act, a look at its viability
Southern California Public Radio

UnitedHealth, the largest health insurer in the United States, warned Thursday that it may pull out of Obamacare exchanges after 2016.

The company says that this would be due to the high usage costs and the low-enrollment numbers in the Affordable Care Act. Should the health insurance group leave, it would force more than a half-million people to find other coverage providers to satisfy their need for health care.

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End Of Medicare Bonus Program Will Cut Pay To Primary Care Doctors
Kaiser Health News

Many primary care practitioners will be a little poorer next year because of the expiration of a health law program that has been paying them a 10 percent bonus for caring for Medicare patients. Some say the loss may trickle down to the patients, who could have a harder time finding a doctor or have to wait longer for appointments. But others say the program has had little impact on their practices, if they were aware of it at all.

The incentive program began in 2011 and was designed to address disparities in Medicare reimbursements between primary care physicians and specialists. It distributed $664 million in bonuses in 2012, the most recent year that figures are available, to roughly 170,000 primary care practitioners, awarding each an average of $3,938, according to a 2014 report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

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As Medicare pushes for better post-acute care, CMS preps new patient survey
Modern Healthcare

The CMS wants more information about the quality of care Medicare beneficiaries get in long-term-care hospitals, so the agency is preparing a new patient-satisfaction survey tailored to the facilities. If the agency adopts a survey, the findings may be published on the CMS website to help consumers make more informed decisions about long-term-care settings and drive improvements in the quality of care.

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What Medicare covers for diabetes
San Diego Union-Tribune

Diabetes is a serious disease. It can lead to kidney problems, glaucoma and other eye disorders, foot ulcers, amputation of feet or legs, stroke, diabetic coma and even death.

If your doctor thinks you’re at risk for diabetes, Medicare covers screening tests for it. And, if you develop the disease, Medicare covers a wide variety of medications, home testing equipment, supplies and self-management training to help you cope with it.

Screening tests are used to detect diabetes early. Some of the conditions that may qualify you as being at risk for diabetes include:

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In chilling accounts, Paris doctors tell of war-like effort to save hundreds of wounded after attacks
The Washington Post

The scene at Lariboisière Hospital in Paris was one of eerie order as patients began pouring in after terrorists attacked the city in a series of brutal coordinated attacks on Nov. 13.

Doctors and nurses at makeshift triage centers in mobile medical units as well as inside the main building directed patients to the right teams. Six different surgery teams were operating simultaneously: two for abdominal injuries, two for orthopedic injuries, one for ear, nose and throat, and the last for neurosurgery. At the same time medical personnel were working to repair the victims’ bodies, psychiatrists were trying to help them through the mental anguish of what they had just gone through.

The 29 patients sent to this hospital had all been shot, and doctors noticed that they were young. All, but one, were younger than 40. Some had bullet injuries in their arms and extensive bone loss. Two victims who had been shot in the legs had to be treated with plates. Many had nerve damage and were likely to face reconstructive surgery. The surgeons operated continuously on Friday and all day Saturday.

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Many cancer drugs are put in highest-cost tier by insurance companies
Washington Post

Cancer patients shopping on federal and state insurance marketplaces often find it difficult to determine whether their drugs are covered and how much they will pay for them, the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society says in a report that also calls on regulators to restrict how much insurers can charge patients for medications.

While the report found fairly broad coverage for prescription cancer medications, most insurance plans in the six states that were examined placed all or nearly all of the 22 medications studied into payment tiers that require the biggest out-of-pocket

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A Doctor Wrestles With Whether To Keep Wearing His White Coat
National Public Radio

I remember being handed a white coat during my first year of medical school. It came crisply folded in a cellophane bag. I was told to wear it anytime we were in the hospital or with patients as a sign of respect.

There was no pomp about it. I took it home and tried it on. It was like putting on a costume and pretending to play doctor. The white coat continued to feel that way to me for a long time.

Over the years, the costume has become second nature and part of my clinical identity. I slip it on when I’m seeing patients, because when I’ve asked, most of them tell me they prefer it. The coat provides a mutual comfort to us both.

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Strapped for doctors: California’s rural clinics backlogged with Medi-Cal influx
Sacramento Bee

Once a month, a sleek white bus outfitted with supplies from Western Sierra Medical Clinic rolls into Camptonville, a former miners’ town on the outskirts of Plumas National Forest. It passes a cluster of red barns that house every school classroom in town, as well as Burgee Dave’s at the Mayo, the only restaurant.

The bus pulls into the driveway of the Camptonville Community Center, a squat concrete building where typically several people already are waiting. For many, the bus is their only chance to receive prescriptions, have a nagging cough checked or receive other medical care. The next closest option is a small clinic in North San Juan, a town 13 miles down slow and windy Highway 49.

The rapid expansion since 2013 of Medi-Cal, the state’s insurance plan for low-income residents, has ushered in a bittersweet new reality for rural areas such as Camptonville, where many residents are older and sicker than their urban counterparts. The changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act mean thousands of rural residents who never had insurance are connecting with health care for the first time. But that newfound demand has only added to the wait times for urgent and routine care in rural communities that already were short of physicians and clinics.

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Medical Devices That Are Vulnerable to Life-Threatening Hacks
Wired News

When you think about the Internet of Things, you probably think of smart refrigerators and smart electric meters, not smart pacemakers, insulin pumps, and x-ray machines. But medical devices and equipment have become increasingly software-based and network-connected, which means they’re now just as vulnerable to the hacks that threaten other digital devices. What’s more, security issues with medical devices can have more direct life-threatening consequences—just ask former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose doctors disabled the wireless capability in his pacemaker because they were concerned that a hacker could hijack it to deliver a fatal shock to his heart.

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Mendocino coast fights to keep its lone hospital afloat
Southern California Public Radio

Board meetings for the Mendocino Coast District Hospital are usually pretty dismal affairs. The facility in remote Fort Bragg, Calif., has been running at a deficit for a decade and barely survived a recent bankruptcy.

But finally, in September, the report from the finance committee wasn’t terrible. “This is probably the first good news that I’ve experienced since I’ve been here,” said Dr. Bill Rohr, an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital for 11 years. “This is the first black ink that I’ve seen.”

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Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital takes over the former Spectrum Club
The Signal

Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital is taking over the former Spectrum Club on Town Center Drive to serve as a stand-alone fitness and health center, the hospital announced on Monday.

The hospital plans to use the former 53,515-square-foot fitness club for physical therapy and rehabilitation programs, as well as offer a full-service gym center that would be open to the general public.

“Pricing will be competitive to other facilities,” Henry Mayo spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer said Monday. “We’ll have more information out shortly.”

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Petaluma Health Center nurse explores home birth in new film
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Color correction and sound mixing are not on the normal to-do lists of medical professionals, but in the past two years, Jessicca Moore, a family nurse practitioner at the Petaluma Health Center, has expanded her skill set. After giving birth at home twice, surrounded by family, friends and the smell of banana bread baking in the kitchen, Moore was inspired to make a documentary film called “Why Not Home?” to tell people about her experience.