News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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ACA linked to reduced racial disparities, earlier diagnosis and treatment in cancer care
Washington Post

Proponents of the embattled Affordable Care Act got additional ammunition Sunday: New research links the law to a reduction in racial disparities in the care of cancer patients and to earlier diagnoses and treatment of ovarian cancer, one of the most dangerous malignancies.

The findings, coming as health care emerges as an increasingly important issue in the 2020 presidential campaign, were released Sunday as abstracts at the annual meeting in Chicago of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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250,000 CalPERS members at risk of ‘surprise’ medical bills
The Sacramento Bee

About 250,000 people with CalPERS health insurance are at risk of receiving “surprise” medical bills that many other policyholders are shielded from.

Their PPO plans leave them subject to an insurance company practice known as balance billing, which is the subject of a state proposal meant to protect consumers that passed the Assembly this week.

At risk are CalPERS members with PERS Choice, PERS Select and PERS Care PPO plans. About 1.25 million other people with HMO and Medicare supplement plans from CalPERS aren’t exposed.

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I had a good job and insurance — but high health care costs still drove me to bankruptcy
USA Today

Many Americans assume that if they have a good job, they’ll have a good health care plan. And if they have insurance, they assume that they are immune from the health care debate. In reality, many of us are just one major illness away from financial devastation. I know, I’ve been there.

About a decade ago, I was severely injured after I was run off the road by a vehicle while riding my bicycle. The injury caused a series of health issues resulting in more than $50,000 worth of medical bills that I was responsible for paying, despite having good health insurance and financial security. That was $50,000 beyond my premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums that I already paid. In my case, my injury slowed my ability to work, generate income for my business, and keep up with prescription medications, follow-up procedures and large deductibles.

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The Health 202: The Supreme Court banned patenting genes. But Congress might change that.
Washington Post

The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that genes can’t be patented. But a bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to change that with legislation pushed by biopharmaceutical companies and patent lawyers.

Three hearings are scheduled this week and next before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s intellectual property subcommittee, where its members will consider draft legislation from Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) loosening rules around what types of things can and can’t be patented.

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Why are so many doctors burning out? Tons of real and electronic paperwork.
Washington Post

Last year, a friend took her dream oncology job in a big academic medical center on the East Coast. After a decade of medical school, residency and specialized fellowship training, she was treating and conducting high-level research on rare and complex adrenal cancers.

She was living in her perfect city and loved her patients and the other physicians in the department. But when I called recently, she told me she was quitting in two weeks. She’d decided to start over in a different practice halfway across the country.

Why was she walking away from something she enjoyed so much? Because the work that she loved was only a fraction of her job — glimpses of patient care were lost in a sea of administrative tasks. She told me about hours spent on the phone waiting for patients’ tests to be approved by insurance companies and falling asleep in front of her laptop trying to finish the day’s clinic notes.

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What’s Doctor Burnout Costing America?
National Public Radio

Doctor burnout is costing the U.S. health care system a lot — roughly $4.6 billion a year, according to a study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Everybody who goes into medicine knows that it’s a stressful career and that it’s a lot of hard work,” says Lotte Dyrbye, a physician and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who co-authored the study.

She says the medical profession now carries an increasing load of paperwork and bureaucracy, adding stress to doctor’s lives. ”We want to be able to deliver good quality care to our patients, and our systems get in the way,” Dyrbye says.

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A Wake-Up Call On Data-Collecting Smart Beds And Sleep Apps
Kaiser Health News

Your bed could be watching you.

OK, so not with a camera.

But if you have any of a variety of “smart beds,” mattress pads or sleep apps, it knows when you go to sleep. It knows when you toss and turn. It may even be able to tell when you’re having sex.

Sleep Number, one company that makes beds that can track heart rate, respiration and movement, said it collects more than 8 billion biometric data points every night, gathered each second and sent via an app through the internet to the company’s servers.

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Lack of diversity, succession planning revealed in AHA survey
Modern Healthcare

Nearly half of hospital boards lack a formal CEO succession plan, according to an American Hospital Association’s governance survey, a finding that shocked governance experts.

Developing a CEO succession plan is considered a core function of boards. Yet 24% of hospital system boards, 50% of free-standing hospital boards, and 59% of subsidiary boards had no succession plan, according to the comprehensive survey of 1,316 hospital CEOs who responded in the spring of 2018, the AHA’s first such survey in five years.

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Churches Wipe Out Millions In Medical Debt For Others
Kaiser Health News

The leaders of Pathway Church on the outskirts of Wichita, Kan., had no clue that the $22,000 they already had on hand for Easter would have such impact.

The nondenominational suburban congregation of about 3,800 had set out only to help people nearby pay off some medical debt, recalled Larry Wren, Pathway’s executive pastor. After all, the core membership at Pathway’s three sites consists of middle-income families with school-age kids, not high-dollar philanthropists.

But then they learned that, like a modern-day loaves-and-fishes story, that smaller amount could wipe out $2.2 million in debt not only for the Wichita area but all available debt for every Kansan facing imminent insolvency because of medical expenses they couldn’t afford to pay — 1,600 people in all.

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Robin Hood To Rescue Of Rural Hospitals? New Math Promised On Medicare Payments
Kaiser Health News

As rural hospital closures roil the country, some states are banking on a Trump administration proposal to change the way hospital payments are calculated to rescue them.

The goal of the proposal, unveiled by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma last month, is to bump up Medicare’s reimbursements to rural hospitals, some of which receive the lowest rates in the nation.

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Price of top prescription drugs rises 76% over 6 years, Scripps Research study finds
San Diego Union-Tribune

Not only do prescription drug prices keep soaring, but rebates may be actually contributing to the increases, according to a study from a unit of Scripps Research.

The median price of 49 top-selling brand name drugs rose 76 percent over six years, according to the study, published Friday. It examined the actual price of drugs — the combined payments of patients and health insurers — instead of the list price.

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Johnson & Johnson, Under Fire, Has Track Record Of Weathering Trouble
National Public Radio

In the health care industry, there are few brands more well known than Johnson & Johnson. The maker of consumer staples ranging from Band-Aids to baby shampoo has faced a number of controversies in its 133-year history. Now it is contesting charges that it contributed to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Stock in Johnson & Johnson took a beating last week, as a trial got underway in Oklahoma. State officials there allege the giant company sparked a deadly public health crisis. The company’s shares fell 4% last Wednesday and regained less than 1% the following day.

The state of Oklahoma has accused the company of creating a “public nuisance” by oversupplying prescription painkillers.

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Rebuilding Paradise: Finding health care after wildfire destruction

This Northern California town, decimated by wildfires, is trying to rebuild a health care system in a place that no longer exists for a future that’s impossible to predict.

Paradise is little more than a large charred debris removal site — and it lost its hospital, several clinics, its nursing homes, its doctors in the fire last year. Without health care, Paradise, a remote town 90 miles from Sacramento nestled into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, has no chance of coming back.

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Sneak peek: Inside Sutter Health’s new S.F. medical building opening next week
San Francisco Business Times

On Monday at 8:30 a.m., the first patient of Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation’s Van Ness and Geary medical office building will stroll through the sliding front doors for an ultrasound appointment.

The expecting mother is one of 11,000 appointments scheduled for the next three weeks alone in the almost $150 million undertaking located across the street from the new $2 billion California Pacific Medical Center Van Ness Campus hospital, which opened in March. The two buildings are connected by a 125-foot-long, underground tunnel for staff, as well as digitally by Sutter Health’s electronic medical records. Almost two decades in the making, the newly minted campus joins the ranks of CPMC’s Mission Bernal, Davies and California campuses.