News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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On The Border, Volunteer Doctors Struggle To Provide Stopgap Care To Immigrants
Kaiser Health News

It wasn’t the rash covering Meliza’s feet and legs that worried Dr. José Manuel de la Rosa. What concerned him were the deep bruises beneath. They were a sign she could be experiencing something far more serious than an allergic reaction.

Meliza’s mom, Magdalena, told the doctor it started with one little bump. Then two. In no time, the 5-year-old’s legs were swollen and red from the knees down.

De la Rosa noticed a bandage-covered cotton ball in the crook of Meliza’s elbow, a remnant of having blood drawn. During their time at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility, Meliza had been sent to a hospital, Magdalena explained, cradling the child with her 5-foot frame. They had run tests, but she had no way to get the results. Through tears, she begged for help. “My daughter is my life,” she told him in Spanish.

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Editorial: Ban balance billing
Modern Healthcare

If you are among the 1 in 5 hospital patients who’ve been slammed with a surprise out-of-network medical bill, the old African proverb applies: When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

The elephants in this case are the physician staffing firms, the hospitals that hire them, and the insurers that refuse to pay their usurious rates. Congress, in a rare display of bipartisanship, is considering legislation that would rein in a system that benefits everyone but patients.

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Health insurers migrating to Medicare, Medicaid
Modern Healthcare

Flash back a few decades and health insurers looked a lot different. Once viewed as mere claims processors for employer-sponsored plans, health insurance companies in recent years have picked up a growing number of patients who receive benefits from public health programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. For some insurance companies, these taxpayer-funded programs have become their bread and butter. 

The company that would form if Centene Corp. and WellCare Health Plans are combined as planned in a deal announced last week is just one example of how the health insurance business continues to change. Much of the attraction of buying WellCare is its Medicare Advantage experience. 

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Survey: Medicaid vital factor in improving performance of community health centers
Modern Healthcare

Community health centers in Medicaid-expansion states report they have more resources to provide behavioral health and social services, are more financially stable and more likely to adopt innovative payment policies than those in non-expansion states, according to a new survey released Thursday.

The Commonwealth Fund found 76% of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in Medicaid-expansion states had improved financial capability to provide affordable care to patients since the ACA has taken effect, compared to 52% of providers in non-expansion states.

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Platform engages Medi-Cal members through culturally relevant texts
State of Reform

Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan is finding success with Medi-Cal member engagement through the use of culturally relevant text messaging.

The health plan is working in collaboration with health care engagement platform ConsejoSano to offer a messaging service — offered in 22 different languages — designed to engage Medi-Cal beneficiaries who might otherwise feel disconnected from the health care system.

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Senators want to intervene in organ allocation policy
Modern Healthcare

Two senators are eying Congress’ appropriations authority to influence a contentious debate over a change to national organ distribution policy.

The issue was raised Thursday in a Senate health appropriations panel hearing with HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Panel Chair Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are trying to intervene against a sweeping new policy that changes the geography-based system of liver allocation to one that prioritizes the sickest patients.

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Exemptions Surge As Parents And Doctors Do ‘Hail Mary’ Around Vaccine Laws
Kaiser Health News

At two public charter schools in the Sonoma wine country town of Sebastopol, more than half the kindergartners received medical exemptions from state-required vaccines last school year. The cities of Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Nevada City, Arcata and Sausalito all had schools in which more than 30% of the kindergartners had been granted such medical exemptions.

Nearly three years ago, with infectious disease rates ticking up, California enacted a fiercely contested law barring parents from citing personal or religious beliefs to avoid vaccinating their children. Children could be exempted only on medical grounds, if the shots were harmful to health.

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How Can Doctors Be Sure A Self-Taught Computer Is Making The Right Diagnosis?
National Public Radio

Some computer scientists are enthralled by programs that can teach themselves how to perform tasks, such as reading X-rays.

Many of these programs are called “black box” models because the scientists themselves don’t know how they make their decisions. Already these black boxes are moving from the lab toward doctors’ offices.

The technology has great allure, because computers could take over routine tasks and perform them as well as doctors do, possibly better. But as scientists work to develop these black boxes, they are also mindful of the pitfalls.

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Opinion: Direct-To-Consumer Medicine Can Be Quick And Discreet, But What’s Lost?
National Public Radio

If you’re on Instagram or if you’ve taken the New York City subway lately, chances are you’ve heard of Hims, the men’s health and wellness company with a penchant for advertisements featuring suggestive cacti and eggplants against pastel backgrounds. The Web-based startup targets the young male demographic with skin care products, multivitamins and erectile dysfunction medications.

In January, just a few months after its first birthday, the company joined Silicon Valley’s vaunted “unicorn” club: It received a venture-capital investment that put its valuation at $1 billion.

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Maker of Botox alternative turns toxin on crippling muscle disorder
San Francisco Business Times

Revance’s Botox-like therapy could be used for a broad number of therapeutic as well as aesthetic uses, its leaders say. Regulators will have the final say.

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Bay Area medical company raises $120M in upsized IPO
San Francisco Business Times

Silk Road Medical Inc. is ready for its Wall Street debut Thursday after raising $120 million in an upsized IPO.

The Sunnyvale-based medical device business sold 6 million shares at $20 each, instead of the 4.7 million shares it originally planned to sell for between $15 and $17 apiece. It could get another $18 million if underwriters buy up the shares allotted to them.

Silk Road, which will trade on the Nasdaq with the symbol of “SILK,” is the fourth life sciences IPO from the Bay Area so far this year. The sector has accounted for 45 percent of the IPOs in the past 12 months, by far the most of any industry sector, according to Renaissance Capital.

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UC Berkeley’s Insurance Plan Change Will Limit Mental Health Care for Students, Therapists Say
KQED Radio

Psychotherapist Orit Weksler operates out of a bright office in Berkeley outfitted with a big, yellow couch, a box filled with sand and shelves stocked with small plastic figurines for patients to play with.

“Take whatever speaks to you, put it in the sand, and it creates a kind of picture, kind of like a dream scene,” Weksler said. “It’s just a way to start a conversation.”

UC Berkeley students make up about a third of Weksler’s practice.

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