News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Editorial: The latest attack on Obamacare
Modern Healthcare

The Trump administration’s project to undermine the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges is now complete. Its latest rule will allow employers to funnel tax-exempt cash to employees to buy health plans.

Workers could use the cash—comparable to the vouchers once proposed for Medicare—to buy plans that meet ACA standards. Or, they could use a separate account to buy short-term or limited-benefit plans, which include ones that discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.

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Struggle for Americans to get health care is a national disgrace
San Francisco Chronicle

The terrain darkened as I drove the rural back roads of Georgia, red clay lining the sandy soil, deep-green kudzu choking trees and climbing telephone poles; the highway transformed into bumpy roads wearing worn-out street signs. It was summer 1985, and I was driving to see Mamie, a part-time nanny who’d helped raise me as a child. I barely knew about her own life back then, only that she lived across town, a single mom with a teenage son. I hadn’t seen her for decades.

I was now a 30-something TV reporter in Atlanta.

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Amended California vaccine bill clears major hurdle on its way to Gavin Newsom
Sacramento Bee

A bill to restrict vaccine medical exemptions and increase oversight of the doctors who issue them to California school children is one step closer to becoming law.

Senate Bill 276, which passed a major legislative hurdle on Thursday, would require exemptions to meet federal guidelines and would task state officials and appointed physicians with monitoring them.

After facing bipartisan scrutiny in a nearly six-hour hearing, the bill passed through the Assembly Health Committee on a 9-2 vote, with four members abstaining.

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California vaccine bill clears Assembly panel despite emotional backlash from parents
Los Angeles Times

Following a five-hour hearing in which hundreds of parents spoke in opposition to tightening California’s school immunization requirements, the Assembly Health Committee easily passed a contentious bill Thursday to do just that.

Sobbing parents cradling infants hugged in the hearing room after the 9-2 vote, with a handful of opponents yelling at lawmakers for approving Senate Bill 276. “I expected this is how they would vote,” said Ciara Mumford of San Diego as tears ran down her cheeks.

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Rising prices drive estimated 6% medical cost inflation in 2020
Modern Healthcare

Medical costs are projected to rise 6% in 2020 as prices continue to swell and utilization stagnates, according to a new report.

Despite employers’ efforts to stem unnecessary care through high-deductible health plans, medical cost growth still outpaces general inflation, PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute’s analysis of employer-sponsored healthcare spending found. The 2020 projection aligns with the average medical cost inflation over the past five years and is down from double-digit spikes in the 2000s. That estimate lowers to a 5% net growth rate after figuring in health plan changes such as increased employee cost-sharing and network and benefit changes, HRI notes.

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Joint Commission unveils antibiotic stewardship programs for outpatient settings
Modern Healthcare

The Joint Commission will now require ambulatory care centers to have antimicrobial stewardship programs to maintain accreditation.

The new standards, which will go into effect Jan. 1, will impact outpatient facilities that “routinely prescribe antimicrobial medications,” according to a commission report. The requirements are in line with similar standards the Joint Commission has for hospitals and nursing homes. Antimicrobial stewardship programs are used to mitigate antibiotic misuse which leads to antibiotic resistance. The CMS requires hospitals and nursing homes to have such programs for Medicare participation.

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Why You Should Take A Peek At Your Doctor’s Notes On Your Health
Kaiser Health News

When Pamela DeSalvo read the clinical note from her doctor’s visit, the words on the page hit her hard: “clinically morbidly obese.” She knew she was overweight, but seeing those three words together shocked her. It also inspired her to start losing weight.

“I needed to see it in black and white, what I actually in my heart already knew. It forced me to get honest with myself,” DeSalvo said.

“Reading that note saved my life.” Studies show that, indeed, reading your doctor’s notes can improve your health.

DeSalvo lives in Metuchen, N.J., and works in health information technology. In the years after reading her doctor’s notes, DeSalvo kept that experience in mind as she helped Atrium Health implement a system that allows doctors to share clinical notes.  

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When Surgeons Are Abrasive To Co-Workers, Patients’ Health May Suffer
National Public Radio

As a group, surgeons are not well known for their bedside manner. “The stereotype of the abrasive, technically gifted … surgeon is ubiquitous among members of the public and the medical profession,” write the authors of a 2018 article in the AMA Journal of Ethics. While poor manners aren’t commonly accepted in most professional circles, representations of surgeons in popular culture often link technical prowess with rude behavior, and some surgeons have even argued that insensitivity can be helpful in such an emotionally strenuous profession.

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Pulling Back The Curtain On Alzheimer’s, Through Its Lighter And Darker Moments
National Public Radio

On a warm early summer day, Bella Doolittle sits on the doorstep of her house feeding biscuits to her dog Pepper. Bella was in her mid-50s when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. That was two years ago and the symptoms are advancing, with more memory loss and a new painful anxiety.

“Have you ever watched a really terrible horror movie where you know any moment now someone’s going to get torn to pieces in a very evil, painful way?” she says, describing the tension she often feels.

These are the struggles and setbacks that Bella and Will Doolittle, her husband, talk about in their podcast, the Alzheimer’s Chronicles. They say they decided to share their experiences because they know many couples and families are struggling with the same challenges.

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There’s a drug that prevents HIV. Insurers discriminate against people who use it, investigation finds
The Sacramento Bee

Insurance companies discriminated against Californians who take an HIV-prevention drug by denying or limiting coverage, or charging higher premiums, according to a state investigation. 

Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced Thursday that some life, disability income and long-term care insurance companies were targeting HIV-negative users of pre-exposure prophylaxis, also called PrEP, a medication that prevents the spread of that disease.

“PrEP prevents HIV, pure and simple, and I will not tolerate insurers violating California law by discriminating against people taking proactive steps to be healthy,” Lara said in a statement.

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AHIP launches social determinants initiative
Modern Healthcare

Insurance lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans launched an initiative on Thursday to spark collaboration among health insurers to address the social factors that affect patients’ health.

The initiative—called Project Link—represents the health insurance industry’s “commitment to addressing social determinants of health and how we can make a really important difference,” AHIP CEO Matt Eyles told reporters at the annual AHIP Institute & Expo in Nashville, Tenn.

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Would you let a robot operate on your heart? It’s now an option at Modesto hospital
Modesto Bee

Coronary artery bypass operations, using a surgical robot, can result in less pain and faster healing for the patient. But the advanced service is offered in few communities across the country.

Dr. Goya Raikar performed three surgeries last week to launch a robotic heart program at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. Two patients underwent coronary bypass operations and a third had a heart valve repair to relieve troubling symptoms.

Doctors is now one of the few hospitals in California, where a robot can play a crucial role in operations on the heart.

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Inside UCSF’s new $275 million cancer center, opening next week
San Francisco Business Times

On Monday, University of California, San Francisco, will open its latest state-of-the-art new medical building focused on cancer care.

The Bakar Precision Cancer Medicine Building (PCMB) will be the home base for about 300 faculty and staff, mostly moving from Mount Zion and Parnassus medical centers, treating an estimated 700 patients daily once it’s fully up and running this fall. About four years in the making, the six-story building — located on 16th Street between Third and Fourth streets — cost $275 million for the construction, equipment and furnishings.

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What’s on the mind of El Camino Health’s CEO? (Video)
Silicon Valley Business Journal

El Camino Health CEO Dan Woods presides over an expanding healthcare portfolio.

With two new facilities on El Camino’s Mountain View campus set to open this year, as well as the absorption of local clinics that had been operated by the now-bankrupt Verity Health Systems, Woods told me recently that he’s looking at several big-picture trends — transportation challenges for El Camino’s workers, the expansion of El Camino’s services beyond its hospitals, and how industry consolidations can affect healthcare delivery.