News Headlines for October 25, 2016

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Increasing CPR Training to Save Lives
The New York Times

In August, Jeffrey Feig, a 50-year-old financial executive in Manhattan and father of three young sons, became one of the more than 350,000 Americans who each year suffer a sudden cardiac arrest. His heart went into an erratic and ineffective rhythm and he stopped breathing.

But unlike 90 percent of people similarly afflicted, Mr. Feig not only lived to tell the tale but survived his near-death experience without any damage to his heart muscle or his brain, an outcome rarely seen following an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

Mr. Feig owes his life and bright future to the forward thinking, planning and participation of fellow residents at Pine Lake Park, a bungalow colony in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., where he and his family spend the summer. The moment he collapsed, fellow vacationers who had been trained at the colony in CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator, or A.E.D., sprung into action.

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A Noninvasive Colon Cancer Test That’s FIT To Be Tried
capital public radio

Not so very long ago, colonoscopy was the gold standard for colon cancer screening. But times are a-changing. Last month when I went in for a checkup, my primary care doctor handed me a FIT test, a colon cancer test you can do at home without the unpleasantness and risk that turn people off to colonoscopy.

The FIT test, or fecal immunochemical blood test, is a newer and more accurate way to test for blood in stool, which can be a symptom of colon cancer.

In June, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an influential independent panel, endorsed the FIT test along with two other forms of fecal blood tests, as well as virtual colonoscopy and two invasive tests, colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy, as good ways to screen for colon cancer.

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Hospitals installed more sinks to stop infections. The sinks can make the problem worse

When you’re a patient in a hospital, you’d like to think the doctors, nurses, or orderlies standing at your bedside had recently washed their hands, wouldn’t you?

You’d also probably be glad to hear that hospitals in recent years have pushed for more hand-washing stations — part of an effort to cut down on the spread of bacteria that thrive in hospitals, further compromising the health of people who are already sick.

There’s a problem here, however. Those sinks have been implicated in the spread of dangerous bacteria.

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Doctors cut costs by getting to know their patients

The healthcare landscape is changing, even as Obamacare bumps along.

In the past six years, we’ve seen the rise of Accountable Care Organizations, now numbering more than 800, where doctors or hospitals work together to streamline care. For physicians that means they now get some compensation through contracts that reward improving health and controlling costs, as opposed to simply making money for every service provided regardless of the outcome or expense.

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Average premiums for popular ACA plans rising 25 percent
Washington Post

Insurers are raising the 2017 premiums for a popular and significant group of health plans sold through by an average of 25 percent, more than triple the percentage increase of this year’s plans, according to new government figures.

The steep increase in rates serves broadly to confirm what has become evident piecemeal in recent months: Prompted by a burden of unexpectedly sick Affordable Care Act customers, some insurers are dropping out while many remaining companies are struggling to cover their costs.

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Obama administration confirms double-digit premium hikes
Modern Healthcare

Premiums will go up sharply next year under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, and many consumers will be down to just one insurer, the administration confirmed Monday. That’s sure to stoke another “Obamacare” controversy days before a presidential election.Before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, according to a report from HHS. Some states will see much bigger jumps, others less.

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Rates Up 22 Percent For Obamacare Plans, But Subsidies Rise, Too
National Public Radio

The cost of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is expected to rise an average of 22 percent in 2017, according to information released by the Obama administration Monday afternoon.

Still, federal subsidies will also rise, meaning that few people are likely to have to pay the full cost after the rate increases to get insurance coverage.

“We think they will ultimately be surprised by the affordability of the premiums, because the tax credits track with the increases in premiums,” said Kevin Griffis, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Obamacare Premiums for 2017 Jumped 25% on

That’s the average rise for benchmark Obamacare insurance plans.

The average premium for benchmark 2017 Obamacare insurance plans sold on rose 25% compared with 2016, the U.S. government said on Monday, the biggest increase since the insurance first went on sale in 2013 for the following year.

The average monthly premium for the benchmark plan is rising to $302 from $242 in 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services said.  The agency attributed the large increase to insurers adjusting their premiums to reflect two years of cost data that became available.

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Obama health plan hit by double-digit premium hikes
San Francisco Chronicle

Premiums will go up sharply next year under President Barack Obama’s health care law, and many consumers will be down to just one insurer, the administration confirmed Monday. That’s sure to stoke another “Obamacare” controversy days before a presidential election. Before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. Some states will see much bigger jumps, others less.

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Making Marketplaces Work: California’s Ingredients For Success
HealthAffairs Blog

For the first time in our country’s history, more than 91 percent of Americans have health care coverage. More than nine out of every 10 people you see have access to quality health care and are protected from the high cost of medical bills if they get sick or injured. In the face of clear indications that the Affordable Care Act is making a huge difference in the lives of millions of Americans there is a drumbeat (once again) by some observers that the sky is falling and the reform embarked on six years ago is not “sustainable.”

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How California health plans fare on quality and patient experience: 9 things to know
Becker's Hospital Review

California’s Office of the Patient Advocate has released the 2016-17 edition of its healthcare quality report cards on health plans and medical groups.

The report cards rate the state’s 10 largest HMO plans and five largest preferred provider organization plans, based on quality of care and patient experience, according to California Healthline. The report cards also rate 205 physician groups.

Measures considered for quality of care include making sure patients’ blood pressure is well-managed and that children receive their immunizations.

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CMS to release report on participation in alternative payment models
Modern Healthcare

The White House’s effort to advance alternative payment models will release a report Tuesday that measures the use of APMs and the movement toward paying for the quality, not quantity, of care.

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CMS halts auto-enrollment proposals from Medicare Advantage plans
Modern Healthcare

The CMS has temporarily stopped accepting new proposals from health insurance companies seeking to automatically enroll their commercial or Medicaid patients into their Medicare Advantage plans.The federal agency also disclosed that 29 Medicare Advantage companies—including Aetna, UnitedHealth Group and several Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurers—can move consumers who had been enrolled in a regular plan into their Medicare Advantage products once the consumers turn 65 years old.

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Feds Find Doctor Listings Often Wrong In Medicare Advantage Directories
Kaiser Health News

Provider directories for private Medicare Advantage plans are riddled with errors, according to the government’s first in-depth review.

The results made public Monday, arriving amid the annual enrollment period through Dec. 7, validate gripes long made by seniors and consumer advocates. The level of errors still surprised regulators, said officials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services who disclosed their findings at an industry conference in Washington.

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‘Death with dignity’ laws and the desire to control how one’s life ends
Washington Post

Supporters of “death with dignity” have succeeded in legalizing what is also known as physician-aid-in-dying in five states by convincing voters, lawmakers and courts that terminally ill patients have the right to die without suffering intractable pain in their final days or weeks.

When Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed California’s law in 2015, he said, “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain,” and that it would be a “comfort to consider the options afforded by this bill.”

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Cutting-Edge Treatment for Mentally Ill Patients
Orange County Register

One in four individuals will experience mental illness this year, according to mental health experts. Statistically that means about 800,000 of Orange County’s 3.2 million residents will experience major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or another mental illness in 2016.

“Mental illness is a matter of fact across humankind,” notes John Leyerle, president of the National Alliance of Mental Illness’s Orange County office. “In our lifetimes, half of us will be touched by mental illness.”

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What you need to know about those new, deadly heart-surgery infections
Washington Post

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned open-heart surgery patients recently that they were at risk of a deadly infection linked to a medical device used during their operations. Now, worried consumers say they are having a hard time getting information from hospitals and doctors about what they should do.

More than a half-million patients could have been exposed to bacteria that can cause serious illness or death. That’s the estimated number of patients who had open-chest surgery involving potentially contaminated equipment in the past several years. The bacteria are a type of nontuberculous mycobacteria, or NTM. Although infections are rare, experts are worried because patients may not develop symptoms or signs of infection for months, so diagnosis may be missed or delayed.

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New Report Cards Grade California Health Plans And Medical Groups

Some health plans and medical groups received grades you wouldn’t want to bring home to your parents. The poor grades are found in this year’s edition of the annual report cards from the California Office of the Patient Advocate.

The 2016 report cards rate California’s 10 biggest HMOs and five largest PPOs in the areas of clinical performance and patient experience.

Both the Sharp Health plan and Kaiser Permanente earned high marks this year. In contrast, Aetna got the worst marks of any HMO.

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Catholic Health Initiatives, Dignity Health hospital systems explore merger
Sacramento Business Journal

Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives has signed a non-binding letter of intent to combine with Dignity Health, a merger that would bring together two of the five largest nonprofit health systems in America and create a faith-based health network that has nearly a nationwide reach. The proposed deal, which the two systems described as a potential “aligning” of their organizations, was announced Monday.

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Dignity and Catholic Health Initiatives are in merger talks
Modern Healthcare

Dignity Health and troubled Catholic Health Initiatives are in merger talks, the health systems announced Monday.The not-for-profit giants have signed a nonbinding agreement to evaluate “an alignment” between the systems, according to a release.A full merger would create the nation’s largest not-for-profit hospital company with combined revenue of $27.6 billion ahead of the $20.5 billion posted by Catholic-sponsored Ascension. A CHI-Dignity tie-up would leave it trailing only Kaiser Permanente as the largest not-for-profit health system.