News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Teen Dating Violence is Widespread, but Underreported
California Health Report

After her visit at an adolescent medical clinic in Los Angeles in January, 19-year-old Serena was afraid to go home. Six days before, her boyfriend had beaten her so badly that she had to go to the emergency room. Serena’s name has been changed to protect her safety.

“She was so sad and so scared,” said Monica Sifuentes, my colleague and an adolescent medicine pediatrician at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, who treated Serena. With visible sadness, she told me Serena’s story.

Serena, who is Latina, isn’t currently in school or working.

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Facebook Vows To Quash Anti-Vaccine Misinformation
National Public Radio

Facebook announced on Thursday it is taking steps to combat the spread of anti-vaccine information across the social media platform by reducing the distribution of misleading medical advice and relying on vetting from leading global health organizations that “have publicly identified verifiable vaccine hoaxes.”

The company intends to provide users with authoritative information on the controversial topic, Monika Bickert, vice president of global policy management said in a statement.

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An Antibody-Inspired Small Molecule Could Make For A Better Flu Treatment
National Public Radio

Compared to most disease-causing viruses, influenza is a particularly hard nut to crack. A two-dose vaccine in childhood protects you from measles for life. Smallpox is similarly preventable with a single vaccine. But to evade the flu virus, we need a different vaccine each year which, even at its most effective, can fail to protect against all strains of the virus. Why? While the measles virus of your childhood is essentially identical to the strains circulating today, influenza is constantly changing.

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Some ‘Cheaper’ Health Plans Have Surprising Costs
National Public Radio

One health plan from a well-known insurer promises lower premiums — but warns that consumers may need to file their own claims and negotiate over charges from hospitals and doctors. Another does away with annual deductibles — but requires policyholders to pay extra if they need certain surgeries and procedures.

Both are among the latest efforts in a seemingly endless quest by employers, consumers and insurers for an elusive goal: less expensive coverage.

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Always Connected With Thousands Of ‘Friends’ — Yet Feeling All Alone
Kaiser Health News

Connor Wilton moved here for the music scene. The 24-year-old singer-guitarist “knew zero people in Austin” and felt pretty lonely at first.

While this capital city is one of the nation’s buzziest places and ranks at the top of many “best” lists, Wilton wasn’t feeling it. He lived near the University of Texas at Austin but wasn’t a student; he said walking through “the social megaplex that’s UT-Austin” was intimidating, with its almost 52,000 students all seemingly having fun.

“You definitely feel like you’re on the outside, and it’s hard to penetrate that bubble,” Wilton said.

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I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a dire prognosis. I survived.
Washington Post

When my husband told me Alex Trebek was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, I felt as if he had told me one of our close friends was in mortal danger. We often watched “Jeopardy!” after dinner when our daughters were young, and now my teenager revels in the opportunity to beat me. His announcement devastated me, not only because I admire him but because it brought back all the feelings from my own diagnosis five years ago.

One November day in 2013, I locked myself in my bathroom and started to sob, hoping my husband and daughters would not hear me.

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What is pancreatic cancer? Alex Trebek’s difficult diagnosis.
Washington Post

Alex Trebek ended his announcement Wednesday that he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer with a somber vow.

“I’m going to fight this,” said the beloved “Jeopardy!” game show host. “I plan to beat the low survival-rate statistics for this disease.”

But exactly how hard is it to beat pancreatic cancer? The answer: very. Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers.

The National Cancer Institute tracked patients’ survival rates from the time of diagnosis and found that by the five-year mark, only 9 percent of pancreatic cancer patients remained alive.

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Health advocates worry about an FDA without Scott Gottlieb
Washington Post

Scott Gottlieb, one of the most activist Food and Drug Administration commissioners in recent years, pushed ideas such as banning menthol in cigarettes and packaging opioids in small blister packs to prevent overuse.

Those ideas seemed more startling because he was part of an anti-regulatory, pro-business administration. Now, with his surprise resignation, public health advocates are anxious about the fate of some of his more ambitious initiatives, whether his successor will embrace them — and whether the agency will get a permanent successor at all.

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MedPAC to call for national Medicare ED coding approach
Modern Healthcare

A key Medicare advisory panel is expected to formally call on the CMS to revisit creating a national guideline for coding emergency department visits.

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) reached a consensus during its Thursday meeting in Washington to put together a recommendation to HHS to revisit national coding by 2022, citing rampant coding problems under the Outpatient Prospective Payment System. The panel will likely vote on the recommendation during its April meeting.

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Patients Experiment With Prescription Drugs To Fight Aging
Kaiser Health News

Dr. Alan Green’s patients travel from around the country to his tiny practice in Queens, N.Y., lured by the prospect of longer lives.

Over the past two years, more than 200 patients have flocked to see Green after learning that two drugs he prescribes could possibly stave off aging. One 95-year-old was so intent on keeping her appointment that she asked her son to drive her from Maryland after a snowstorm had closed the schools.

Green is among a small but growing number of doctors who prescribe drugs “off-label” for their possible anti-aging effects. Metformin is typically prescribed for diabetes, and rapamycin prevents organ rejection after a transplant, but doctors can prescribe drugs off-label for other purposes — in this case, for “aging.”

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Medicare advisers eye binding arbitration to control drug prices
Modern Healthcare

A key panel of advisers is considering recommending that Congress adopt binding arbitration for Medicare Part B drugs that have extremely high launch prices.

Several members of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) on Thursday favored suggesting a system where a neutral agent would decide on a price for drugs purchased under Medicare Part B if they meet certain criteria.

“We have to do something to slow these launch prices, so I think binding arbitration is a way to get that done so I want to push forward,” said Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health System,

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In biggest advance for depression in years, FDA approves novel treatment for hardest cases
The Washington Post

The Food and Drug Administration approved a novel antidepressant late Tuesday for people with depression that does not respond to other treatments — the first in decades to work in a completely new way in the brain.

The drug, a nasal spray called esketamine, has been eagerly anticipated by psychiatrists and patient groups as a powerful new tool to fight intractable depression. The spray acts within hours, rather than weeks or months as is typical for current antidepressants, and could offer a lifeline to about 5 million people in the United States with major depressive disorder who haven’t been helped by current treatments. That accounts for about 1 in 3 people with depression.

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Democrats’ promise of Medicare for All is remarkably misguided and unrealistic
USA Today

“We have got to figure out how we pay for it. It’s unrealistic in how we pay for it today.” That was how former Virginia governor and potential presidential candidate Terry McAuliffe characterized Medicare for All, even as he was announcing his support for it.

McAuliffe is certainly right about the unrealistic part, although otherworldly would be a more appropriate description.

Put simply, there is nothing like Medicare for All anywhere in the industrialized world.

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Cities and Counties Unlikely To Heed FDA Warning On Importing Foreign Drugs
Kaiser Health News

Cities and local governments in several states said they will continue to use a Canadian company to offer employees prescription drugs at a highly reduced price, even though federal officials raised safety concerns about the practice last week.

The municipalities use CanaRx, which connects their employees with brick-and-mortar pharmacies in Canada, Great Britain and Australia to fill prescriptions.

In a letter Thursday to CanaRx, the Food and Drug Administration said the company has sent “unapproved” and “misbranded” drugs to U.S. consumers, jeopardizing their safety.

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Rich kids like me get great mental health care. With Medicare for All, others can, too.
USA Today

I’ve been in therapy since I was 9 years old. You should be so lucky.

Let me explain: For my whole life I’ve struggled with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition that can make even the simplest decisions and actions debilitating. Anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions are not uncommon in children, especially those who come from a family with a history of mental illness, like mine.

Children and teenagers with a psychiatric disorder have six times higher odds of having health, legal, financial and social problems as adults.

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Adventist Health hopes to save $100 million with GE Healthcare
Sacramento Business Journal

GE Healthcare plans on optimizing how Adventist Health deploys medical devices.

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Paradise doctors, Blue Shield connect after the Camp Fire
Chico Enterprise Record

Insurance giant Blue Shield of California is donating nearly $2 million to get Paradise Medical Group back on its feet following the Camp Fire.

The medical group’s staff were among those who fled from the wildfire that destroyed most of Paradise and other ridge communities on Nov. 8, 2018. It destroyed one of three Paradise Medical buildings and took houses from staff and physicians.

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As Hospitals Post Price Lists, Consumers Are Asked To Check Up On Them
Kaiser Health News

With much fanfare, federal officials required hospitals nationwide this year to post their “list” prices online.

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Setting the bar for hospital prices
Modern Healthcare

North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell, who oversees the health plan serving the state’s teachers, lawmakers and other workers, is facing a problem all too familiar among the nation’s employers. Employee healthcare costs are climbing at a rate the state can’t sustain, while workers’ premiums are eating up more and more of their paychecks.

Spending on medical and pharmacy services for the nearly 730,000 employees and their families is increasing by about 7% each year.

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