News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Cutting the the Affordable Care Act is not based in law or the public’s interest
Sacramento Bee

Rejecting the advice of his attorney general and his secretary of Health and Human Services, President Trump decided to file a brief urging the federal court of appeals to declare unconstitutional the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This is inexcusable and inexplicable, both as a matter of health policy and as an issue of law.

By any measure, the Affordable Care Act has been a success. Declaring it unconstitutional would have disastrous consequences for our health care system. An estimated 22 million people would lose their health insurance coverage if the Trump administration succeeds in having the law struck down. Moreover, the act instituted many long overdue and highly desirable reforms of the health insurance industry.

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Opinion: Trump administration puts cancer patients at risk
The Mercury News

In 2004, I was diagnosed with lung cancer. That day, I joined the other 1.5 million people personally affected by this cancer. It would come to redefine my life in more ways than one. But thanks to a to a team of nurses and doctors, countless radiation and chemotherapy treatments, procedures and a 14-hour surgery, I became a lung cancer survivor.

My story is common. While lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer, our chances of survival are increasing.Lung cancer death rates declined 45 percent from 1990 to 2015 among men and 19 percent from 2002 to 2015 among women. A concerted focus on prevention efforts and ever-widening treatment options have helped bring hope to patients and their families.

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CMS offers transition for Part D plans for safe harbor rule
Modern Healthcare

The CMS will offer a two-year transition for Medicare Part D plans under the administration’s proposal to eliminate safe harbor protections for pharmacy benefit managers.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma made the announcement in a Friday bulletin. The guidance comes as Part D insurers warn they may hike premiums when the proposed rule is finalized. The administration set Jan. 1 of next year as its target date for implementation and the comment period ends Monday.

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CMS expands Medicare Advantage telehealth benefits
Modern Healthcare

The CMS finalized a rule on Friday that would give Medicare Advantage plans more flexibility to offer additional telehealth services to seniors as part of their basic benefits package starting in 2020.

The rule, proposed in October 2018, allows seniors to use telehealth services in their homes, rather than being required to go to a healthcare facility.

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Medicare ACOs could lose bonuses due to quality measure change
Modern Healthcare

Accountable care organizations in the Medicare Shared Savings Program claim they may lose out on some of their bonuses after the CMS made unexpected changes to a smoking cessation measure.

Medicare ACOs were recently surprised to see during 2018 quality reporting for the CMS program that substantial changes had been made to ACO-17, a preventive measure used to screen patients for tobacco use and provide a cessation intervention for those who smoke. The change caused some ACOs to see a 30% or greater drop in their performance scores on the measure compared to 2017, potentially impacting their ability to receive shared savings, according to a letter the National Association of ACOs sent to the CMS earlier this week.

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Take it from an economist, Medicare for All is the most sensible way to fix health care
USA Today

There is an instinct among political pundits to confuse caution for practicality — an assumption that those who advocate for incremental change are being reasonable, while those pushing for bold reforms aren’t. This is seen most starkly in the debate around health care reform, despite the fact that the “practical” pushers of limited reform fail to address the real problems in our health care system.

We all recognize that the status quo isn’t working. We spend more per person than any other country on health care, but we aren’t getting any bang for our buck. We have lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality rates and more preventable deaths, and too many personal bankruptcies are due at least in part to medical bills.

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California’s first surgeon general prioritizes children and addressing health disparities
Orange County Register

Addressing the adverse physical and mental repercussions of childhood trauma has been the highlight of Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’s career as a pediatrician. And it’s an issue that will take center stage during her tenure as California’s first-ever surgeon general.

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Burke Harris in January soon after he unveiled several health initiatives during his inaugural address, including expanding health care coverage and lowering prescription drug costs.

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Proposed state law would allow cannabis use in health care facilities
San Diego Union-Tribune

Former Santee Mayor Jim Bartell got a phone call on March 1 of last year from his son, Ryan, who said he had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Seven weeks later, he would die in a hospital bed in the state of Washington. It was the last few weeks of his son’s life that prompted Bartell and his wife, Elaine, to approach state Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) with the idea of submitting a bill in Sacramento.

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New health care bills before California Legislature aim for better access and affordability
Orange County Register

Eduardo Contreras thought he would finally see some financial security this year. For some time, his family had struggled on an income of about $50,000. Then Contreras got a new job as a cook at a winery, with better pay and more hours. In 2019, he and his wife, a hotel housekeeper, expect to clear $80,000. With an increase in family income of more than 50 percent, they looked forward to some relief from the pressure.

But then the 46-year-old Orange County resident took a look at his new monthly health insurance premium: $1,045, an increase of almost $700.

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Prenatal Testing Can Ease Minds Or Heighten Anxieties
National Public Radio

It wasn’t hard for Shara Watkins to get pregnant.

It was hard for her to stay pregnant. In 2016, she was devastated by two miscarriages. With the help of several medications, she successfully carried a child last year.

Shara and her husband, Robert, were elated when she reached her second trimester, the phase when the highest risk of miscarriage subsides. Unfortunately the San Mateo, Calif., couple’s struggles continued.

Shara spent four months of her pregnancy on bedrest. When their doctor offered extensive genetic testing to check the health of their fetus, the couple leaped at the opportunity. Shara had a history of rare disease in her family.

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Mourning Paradise: Collective Trauma In A Town Destroyed
Kaiser Health News

One of the final memories Carol Holcomb has of her pine-shaded neighborhood was the morning sun that reflected red and gold on her trees last Nov. 8. That day, she said, promised to be a beautiful one in the Butte County town of Paradise.

So she was surprised to hear what sounded like raindrops tapping her roof a short time later. Holcomb, 56, stepped outside to investigate and saw a chunk of pine bark floating down from the sky.

“It was about 3 inches by 2 inches,” she said. “And it was smoking.”

It was her first glimpse of the approaching wildfire that would become the deadliest and most destructive in California history — one she continues to relive in debilitating nightmares and flashbacks.

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Prescription drug abuse is on the rise. Can these San Diego Realtors help?
San Diego Union-Tribune

Vern Lovett is not a doctor — but he is licensed to sell homes. And that means the San Diego real estate professional could have more luck than a licensed physician convincing his neighbors to get rid of potentially deadly prescription drugs in their homes.

Saturday morning, Lovett put on his walking shoes, recruited his nephew for backup and took to the streets of his Mira Mesa community to knock on doors. His mission: To spread the message that medications no longer in use can easily end up in the wrong hands — and kill.

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With black babies, moms at high risk in SF, project pairs them with caregivers
San Francisco Chronicle

When Marna Armstead experienced bleeding early in her pregnancy 18 years ago, she feared she might miscarry and brought up her concerns at a prenatal appointment. Her longtime obstetrician-gynecologist gave some her unexpected advice: Get an abortion.

“She didn’t know if I was in a relationship or whether I had support,” said Armstead, who is black.

Armstead was clear. She was keeping her baby. Her doctor would be the one to go.

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Private medical school asked Elk Grove to provide financing for $750M hospital, emails show
The Sacramento Bee

In the months leading up to announcing a controversial $750 million hospital, California Northstate University frequently met with Elk Grove officials to discuss plans and at one point asked the city to provide “permanent financing through bonds” for its development, according to recently released city emails.

City economic development director Darrell Doan met with the private medical school’s president and CEO Alvin Cheung July 20, 2017, to discuss the school “developing an extensive array of medical and educational facilities in Elk Grove over the next 2 to 10 years which they are calling ‘medical city,’” according to Doan’s notes from the meeting released through a public records request.

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Where do Stanford students go if they’ve attempted suicide?
The Stanford Daily

At 3 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, a Stanford student closed his laptop in his dorm room on a half-finished philosophy paper.

He scribbled notes like “don’t come in; I don’t want you to see this” in his philosophy notebook and ripped out the pages. Quietly, he opened his door and taped the notes to the outside before locking himself in. His roommate was hanging out with a friend into the early hours of the morning, unlikely to return that evening.