News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Administrators applaud delay of ‘conscience’ health care rule
San Francisco Chronicle

The Justice Department signaled Friday that the Trump administration would delay implementing a controversial rule that protects health care workers who refuse to provide services they object to on religious or moral grounds.

The decision by federal officials marks a win for San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who sued the administration over the proposed rule in May, saying it would be discriminatory and endanger people seeking access to services such as reproductive care, HIV treatment or contraception.

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Bernie Sanders Says U.s. Must Guarantee Healthcare For All Americans, Touts Medicare-for-all

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said the U.S. healthcare system should no longer be an embarrassment around the world and that it should guarantee medical coverage as a right for every American.

Appearing on ABC News’ This Week Sunday morning, Sanders reiterated his calls for Medicare-for-all and told host George Stephanopoulos the time is now to remove private insurance from the Medicare system and replace it with a single-payer program.

Sanders said his Medicare-for-all plan would dismantle former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — which sought to expand Medicaid and keep premiums affordable by requiring that everyone obtain coverage — by creating a government-run, single-payer system that does not include out-of-pocket costs or deductibles for patients.

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Democratic presidential debates slightly dampen insurer stocks
Modern Healthcare

Stock prices of major insurers dipped slightly after two nights of debates by the 20 Democratic presidential candidates where despite the buzz around Medicare for All the rhetoric about health insurance remained mostly benign.

UnitedHealth Group, which also just announced some leadership changes, saw a decline of about 2.4% Friday morning. Anthem was down nearly 2%. Humana fell by about 1%, and Centene, WellCare Health Plans, Molina Healthcare and Cigna saw small dips of less than 1%. The broader market and hospital stocks were trading slightly up on Friday.

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Democrat vs. Democrat: How Health Care Is Dividing the Party
New York Times

It was a command as much as a question, intended to put an end to months of equivocating and obfuscating on the issue: Which of the Democratic presidential candidates on the debate stage supported abolishing private health insurance in favor of a single government-run plan? Show of hands, please.

Just four arms went up over the two nights — Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York on Wednesday, and Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kamala Harris of California on Thursday — even though five candidates who kept their hands at their sides have signed onto bills in Congress that would do exactly that.

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Quarter of hospitals fail to comply with Leapfrog’s never-event policy
Modern Healthcare

About a quarter of hospitals fail to meet the Leapfrog Group’s standards in addressing serious patient harm events should they occur, according to a new report.

The analysis, published Thursday, found 74.5% of the more than 2,000 hospitals that participated in the 2018 Leapfrog Hospital Survey complied with all nine aspects of the group’s never-event policy. Hospital compliance with the standard has hovered at or slightly below 80% since 2014.

“These are fundamental principles in any other industry, but in healthcare it’s not fundamental or else we would have 100% compliance,” said Leah Binder, CEO of the Leapfrog Group. “We have 75% (compliance), so clearly there is a great effort in hospital leadership, but at the same time it’s not enough. We need 100%. That is the goal.”

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State Lawmakers Eye Federal Dollars To Boost Mental Health Counseling By Peers
Kaiser Health News

It’s 1 p.m. on a balmy Oakland afternoon as residents of Great Expectations Residential Care, a home for people with mental illness, gather in an activity room for a game of bingo.

Lee Frierson, an unpaid volunteer, introduces himself as he and his team leader, Charlie Jones, unpack chips, soda, batteries and shampoo that they will hand out as prizes.

“I’m Lee with Reach Out,” Frierson says. “I’m a peer. I suffer from depression. It helps me to help you guys.”

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More than 160 patients sue doctors and hospitals as $1 billion medical-fraud investigation continues
The Press-Enterprise

There’s just a whisper of bone, ghostly and gray, in the X-ray image of Joshua Lash’s spine.

The vertebrae spiral down, diffuse as smoke, until they reach a brutal and jagged conclusion: six stark-white images of screws embedded deep into bone, lashed together by metal rods. Dimly visible near the spinal cord are metal cages, meant to encourage bone to grow and fuse, thus restoring stability and reducing pain.

That’s not how things have worked out for Lash, a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, or for dozens of others who say they’re collateral damage in Operation Spinal Cap, the $1 billion medical-fraud investigation that has led to federal charges against more than a dozen Southern California doctors, chiropractors, hospital administrators and others — but to no relief for them.

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AMA Abortion Lawsuit Puts Doctors In The Thick Of Debate
Kaiser Health News

The American Medical Association is suing North Dakota to block two abortion-related laws, the latest signal the doctors’ group is shifting to a more aggressive stance as the Trump administration and state conservatives ratchet up efforts to eliminate legal abortion.

The group, which represents all types of physicians, has tended to stay on the sidelines of many controversial political issues, and until recently has done so concerning abortion and contraception. Instead, it has focused on legislation that affects the practice and finances of large swaths of its membership.

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More Seniors Are Dying In Falls. Doctors Could Do More To Reduce The Risk.
Kaiser Health News

Older adults worried about falling typically receive general advice: Take an exercise class. Get your vision checked. Stop taking medications for sleep. Install grab bars in the bathroom.

A new study suggests that sort of advice hasn’t proved to be very effective: Nearly three times more adults age 75 and older died from falls in 2016 than in 2000, according to a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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‘I’ve gained my life back’: New tests may help those with persistent urinary tract infections
Washington Post

In 2015, Jessica Price, a 29-year-old Air Force veteran in Illinois, started experiencing urinary tract infection symptoms, including an unrelenting urge to urinate and bladder pain. But standard dipstick testing, where a doctor dips a plastic stick into a urine sample to check it for signs of bacteria, kept coming back negative. Based on her symptoms and the negative tests, doctors told Price she had interstitial cystitis (IC), an incurable syndrome of unknown cause and suggested several invasive procedures that only worsened her pain.

“I was on more medications than I can remember, none of which helped and some which made the symptoms worse,” she remembers. “The urologists told me things such as, ‘This is just like having blue or brown eyes; you were destined to have it.’ ”

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UnitedHealthcare names Optum exec McMahon as CEO
Modern Healthcare

UnitedHealth Group is switching up the roles of its top executives.

The Minnetonka, Minn.-based insurer on Friday said that Dirk McMahon, the current president and chief operating officer of fast-growing business unit Optum, will become CEO of UnitedHealthcare, the company’s insurance arm.

Steve Nelson, who was named UnitedHealthcare CEO just two years ago, is retiring immediately. He has been with the company for 15 years.

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Bay Area healthcare device maker latest to join the IPO stampede
San Francisco Business Times

Livongo Health filed for an IPO on Friday, marking the latest healthcare tech company to head to the public markets this year after a three-year industry lapse.

Mountain View-based Livongo develops devices and services for chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, as well as for weight management and behavioral health. The company markets cellular-connected meters and scales that use artificial intelligence for its diabetes, hypertension and weight management customers.

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Have Cancer, Must Travel: Patients Left In Lurch After Hospital Closes
Kaiser Health News

One Monday in February, 65-year-old Karen Endicott-Coyan gripped the wheel of her black 2014 Ford Taurus with both hands as she made the hour-long drive from her farm near Fort Scott to Chanute. With a rare form of multiple myeloma, she requires weekly chemotherapy injections to keep the cancer at bay.

She made the trip in pain, having skipped her morphine for the day to be able to drive safely. Since she sometimes “gets the pukes” after treatment, she had her neighbor and friend Shirley Palmer, 76, come along to drive her back.