News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obama administration drops fight to keep age restrictions on Plan B sales
Washington Post

The Obama administration on Monday abandoned its fight to keep age restrictions on sales of a widely used morning-after contraceptive pill, a stark legal reversal that ended years of court battles but did little to extinguish political passions on both sides of the issue. In a letter Monday to U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman in New York, who has called the age restrictions “politically motivated” and “scientifically unjustified,” the administration said it would drop its appeal in the case and abide by Korman’s order to make Plan B One-Step contraceptive pills available to women and girls of any age without a prescription.

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Obama administration reverses course on Plan B pill
Los Angeles Times

The Obama administration dropped its long-standing opposition to over-the-counter sales of a controversial morning-after pill Monday and decided to permit consumers of any age to buy Plan B One-Step without a prescription.

In papers filed in federal court in New York, government attorneys announced that the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services would remove age and point of sale restrictions on the emergency contraceptive, pending approval by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman.

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U.S. Drops Bid to Limit Sales of Morning-After Pill
New York Times

The Obama administration has decided to stop trying to block over-the-counter availability of the best-known morning-after contraceptive pill for all women and girls, a move fraught with political repercussions for President Obama.

The government’s decision means that any woman or girl will soon be able to walk into a drugstore and buy the pill, Plan B One-Step, without a prescription.

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Feds now back morning-after pills for all girls
Modern Healthcare

After setting off a storm of criticism from abortion rights groups upset that a Democratic president had sided with social conservatives, the Obama administration said it will comply with a judge’s order to allow girls of any age to buy emergency contraception without prescriptions.

But in doing so, at least one opponent of easy access to the contraception thinks the president is buckling to political pressure, rather than making the health of girls a priority.

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Medicare Advantage enrollment rose, despite ACA, Kaiser report shows
Modern Healthcare

Despite concern that the healthcare reform law would dampen Medicare Advantage enrollment, the opposite has happened so far, according the Kaiser Family Foundation. Between the beginning of 2012 and March 2013, 1 million more beneficiaries enrolled in the program, a nearly 10% year-over-year increase, bringing total Medicare Advantage enrollment to 14.4 million this year, according to a new report by Kaiser and Mathematica Policy Research. Since 2009, enrollment in MA had grown 30%.

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Doctors brace for pain as 10% cut to Medi-Cal rates looms
Los Angeles Times

In a office decorated with Chinese art and diagrams of body parts, Dr. George Ma cares for more than 4,000 patients. Nearly three-quarters are covered by Medi-Cal, the state’s public insurance program for low-income Californians, and Ma said he receives $10 a month to treat most of them. This summer, when California makes a controversial 10% cut to Medi-Cal rates, he could get paid less.

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Experts seek better health outcomes for homeless
Los Angeles Times

Years after facing patient dumping allegations and hefty legal settlements, Southern California hospital executives have begun working with advocates for the homeless to improve the health of homeless patients and to reduce their use of area hospitals.

Hospital administrators are driven by the national healthcare law, which offers incentives to provide better care at lower cost and imposes penalties when patients are unnecessarily readmitted to hospitals.

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SGR Ripe for Repeal
Health Leaders Media

The cost of repealing the sustainable growth rate formula is practically at fire sale prices. The Congressional Budget Office put a $138 billion price tag on its most recent 10-year score for repealing the SGR. That’s $106 billion less than its 2012 score and just the kind of savings that will resonate with the constituents back home.

Around Capitol Hill there’s a lot of talk about seizing what Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, likes to call “this window of opportunity.”

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Top health insurance bosses earn millions
San Francisco Chronicle

Health care reform, new Wall Street regulations and outrage over large pay packages are likely to put pressure on compensation for health insurance executives. But it doesn’t seem to have happened yet. The highest-paid executive at each of the “Big Five” health insurers — UnitedHealth Group, Aetna Inc., WellPoint Inc., Humana Inc. and Cigna Corp. — made more than $8 million each in 2012, according to filings this spring with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Latin American doctors fill U.S. physician shortages
HealthyCal.org

Dr. Ana Solis, who was born in rural Mexico, felt helpless when her mother was bedridden during a high-risk pregnancy. Seeing her mother’s agony prompted her to pursue a career in medicine. “With all my soul, I wanted to alleviate that pain,” she recalls. In 2004, she earned her medical degree from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California. Dr. Solis, who has since relocated to California and become a legal permanent resident, now seeks to improve healthcare of U.S. military men and women.

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Lawmakers want audit of some UC medical centers
Sacramento Business Journal

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee has voted to launch an audit of finances and staffing levels at University of California medical centers in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Requested by committee chair Assemblyman Adam Gray, the audit was approved by a unanimous, bipartisan vote June 5. Expected to take six months, the review will focus on finances from 2009 through 2012 at the university health system’s most profitable medical centers.

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Increased CT scan use in children may boost cancer risk, JAMA study says
Modern Healthcare

Increased use of computed tomography scans in children younger than 14 years old may mean that those children are at an increased risk for radiation-induced cancer, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics. The study looked at CT scans performed at seven hospitals systems in the U.S. and found that CT scans of the head, abdomen and pelvis, chest or spine doubled in children younger than 5 years old from 1996 to 2005.

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With nurses at risk of compassion fatigue, hospitals try to ease their stress
Washington Post

Jan Powers, a clinical nurse manager in the pediatric oncology unit at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, remembers how hard it was for her team after the death of a child. They met with an art therapist, who brought clay.

“There was a lot of pounding and kneading, and while we made our pots and whatever, people started to talk,” she said of the session last summer.

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Why Putting Capital Into EMR is a Smart Move
Health Leaders Media

Despite concerns over the sluggish economy and changing payment models, hospitals and health systems are making big investments in electronic medical records, earmarking significant portions of their capital spending dollars to implement these expensive systems in the hope of improving their ability to manage population health. The irony is not lost on providers, who are well aware that they are investing vast amounts of money in an IT project that will allow them to provide better coordinated care for which the government and commercial payers intend to pay less.

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Nurse Next Door delivers home care in Sacramento region
Sacramento Business Journal

A Canadian home-care franchise company called Nurse Next Door entered the Sacramento market last month. The company offers a range of services, from two hours of companionship to around-the-clock care. Most of the caregivers are certified nurse assistants who help with feeding, dressing and other activities of daily living. Attracted by estimates that the population of Sacramento seniors will double by 2036, franchisee Dave Moeller says the goal is to make life more fun and help seniors age in their own homes.

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Disparity in generic drug prices is a bitter pill to swallow
Los Angeles Times

Generic prescription drugs have to meet exacting standards for ingredients and quality, which you’d think would make them uniformly priced at pharmacies.

But that, of course, isn’t the case. Generic drug prices can be all over the map, depending on where and how you buy them.

Bruce Lowther, 45, takes five generic prescription meds daily for a heart condition. He had a heart attack a few years ago.

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