News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Fentanyl drug overdose deaths rising most sharply among African Americans
Washington Post

The synthetic opioid fentanyl has been driving up the rate of fatal drug overdoses across racial and social lines in the United States, with the sharpest increase among African Americans, according to a new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The death rate among African Americans from fentanyl-involved drug overdoses rose 141 percent each year, on average, from 2011 to 2016, the study showed, with a particularly dramatic spike starting in 2014.

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Fentanyl overdose deaths in the U.S. have been doubling every year
Los Angeles Times

If you want to know what it means for something to grow exponentially, consider the death toll of fentanyl.

This powerful synthetic opioid seemingly came out of nowhere and is now killing tens of thousands of Americans each year.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details the meteoric rise of a drug that was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration back in 1968. It shows that fentanyl’s role as a driver of the opioid epidemic can be traced to late 2013.

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Fentanyl-Linked Deaths: The U.S. Opioid Epidemic’s Third Wave
Kaiser Health News

Men are dying after opioid overdoses at nearly three times the rate of women in the United States. Overdose deaths are increasing faster among black and Latino Americans than among whites. And there’s an especially steep rise in the number of young adults ages 25 to 34 whose death certificates include some version of the drug fentanyl.

These findings, published Thursday in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, highlight the start of the third wave of the nation’s opioid epidemic. The first was prescription pain medications, such as OxyContin; then heroin, which replaced pills when they became too expensive; and now fentanyl.

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Health Plans For State Employees Use Medicare’s Hammer On Hospital Bills
Kaiser Health News

States. They’re just as perplexed as the rest of us over the ever-rising cost of health care premiums.

Now some states are moving to control costs of state employee health plans. And it’s triggering alarm from the hospital industry. The strategy: Use Medicare reimbursement rates to recalibrate how they pay hospitals. If the gamble pays off, more private-sector employers could start doing the same thing.

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Gov. Newsom targets behavioral health czar
Capitol Weekly

We are excited, encouraged, and grateful to see Gov. Gavin Newsom’s early focus on the need to fund and transform behavioral health care in California.

In his recent budget presentation, Newsom made it clear he intends to create a statewide mental health “czar” who will focus on securing and implementing resources to address one of the most fundamental health care needs of our time.

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California revives bill to cap dialysis pay
Modern Healthcare

The California Legislature has revived an insurer-backed bill to cap dialysis pay at Medicare rates if industry-backed third parties have helped a patient pay for the insurance to fund treatment and don’t give certain disclosures.

The new momentum has picked up less than a year after then-Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar measure amid intense opposition from the dialysis industry.

Late Tuesday, the Assembly Health Committee approved the proposal to prevent industry-sourced money from funding private insurance premiums for dialysis patients. Committee Chair Jim Wood, a Democrat, sponsored the bill and it was expected to pass. It heads next to the body’s Appropriations Committee, signaling that this year’s legislative session will mean more expensive lobbying for the dialysis industry.

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Does It Make Sense To Delay Children’s Vaccines?
Kaiser Health News

When Elyse Imamura’s son was an infant, she and her husband, Robert, chose to spread out his vaccinations at a more gradual pace than the official schedule recommended.

“I was thinking, ‘OK, we’re going to do this,’” says Imamura, 39, of Torrance, Calif. “‘But we’re going to do it slower so your body gets acclimated and doesn’t face six different things all of a sudden.’”

Seven years later, Imamura says her son, Amaru, is a “very healthy,” active boy who loves to play sports.

But delaying vaccines is risky. Many pediatricians will tell you a more gradual approach to vaccinations is better than no vaccinations at all, but they offer some hard advice to parents who are considering it.

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Blue Shield of California Reduces Member Opioid Use by 56%
HealthPayer Intelligence

Blue Shield of California’s Narcotic Safety Initiative has achieved a 56 percent reduction in opioid use among members with chronic pain, surpassing its 2018 year-end goal by six percentage points.

While opioid prescriptions have steadily decreased in recent years, deaths involving opioid use were six times higher in 2017 than they were in 1999, the CDC reports. Blue Shield of California has made a significant effort to reduce prescription opioid use and overdose deaths.

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Sutter, Anthem Blue Cross reach Medi-Cal agreement after months of contract dispute
Sacramento Bee

Sutter Health and Anthem Blue Cross have reached an agreement that will allow Blue Cross Medi-Cal, HMO and PPO users to continue receiving care via Sutter Health facilities and doctors, Sutter announced Wednesday. The agreement will remain in place through Dec. 31, 2022, Sutter said in a news release. “Sutter Health is pleased that we have reached a multiyear agreement with Anthem Blue Cross that provides patients with access to Sutter Health’s high quality integrated network while keeping care affordable,” Sutter Health CEO Sarah Krevans said in a statement.