News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Loan forgiveness program to recruit doctors has few takers
The Bay Citizen

When the taxpayer-funded Peninsula Health Care District established a loan program to attract new physicians in 2003, officials promoted it as a way to address doctor shortages in parts of San Mateo County.

The program was designed to help primary care physicians cover the costs of setting up private practices or relocating to the district, which includes Burlingame and Hillsborough, two cities with some of the highest real estate prices in the nation. Doctors who practiced in the district for four or five years would have their loans forgiven.

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1 in 5 ED Patients Referred By Primary Care Doctors
Health Leaders Media

One in five patients who went to the ED but were not sick enough to require an inpatient bed said they sought the emergency department because their primary care doctor told them to go there, according to a federal survey.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics queried a large sample of non-admitted patients between the ages of 18 and 64 between January and June, 2011. The intent was to determine why they went to the ER instead of another less intense or less expensive care setting.

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Kids’ access to health care a concern under Brown’s budget
California Watch

Low-income children in rural California communities are in jeopardy of losing their doctors and health care plans under Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal, state lawmakers, doctors and health advocates say.

The governor is proposing to transfer nearly 900,000 children enrolled in Healthy Families, the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, to Medi-Cal – a program aimed at serving the state’s poorest families, seniors and disabled residents.

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Most tobacco money California collects doesn’t go to prevent or stop smoking, study says
Sacramento Bee

With California voters poised to vote next week on a tobacco tax hike, a new federal study concludes that the state has used relatively little of the billions of dollars in tobacco money it already takes in to prevent kids from smoking or to help smokers quit.

Between 1998 and 2010, just 6 percent of the money collected from a massive lawsuit settlement and from cigarette taxes went to tobacco interdiction and education programs, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week, far below federal spending guidelines for effectively curbing tobacco use.

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Children suffer under dental managed care that saves California money
Sacramento Bee

When state lawmakers learned that Sacramento County’s dental program for poor children has one of the worst records in the state, they immediately scheduled hearings and demanded reform.

But a larger Medi-Cal managed care program has a poorer record and hasn’t received the same kind of legislative scrutiny.

Four hundred miles south, in Los Angeles County, just 23 percent of the children enrolled in Medi-Cal managed care saw a dentist last year. That’s compared with about 31 percent in Sacramento and about half of all Medi-Cal children statewide.

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Insurers forcing patients to pay more for costly specialty drugs
Los Angeles Times

Thousands of patients in California and across the nation who take expensive prescription drugs every month for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments are facing sticker shock at the pharmacy.

Until recently, most of these patients typically paid modest co-pays for the advanced drugs. But increasingly, Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna and other insurers are shifting more prescriptions to a new category requiring patients to shoulder a larger share of the drug’s cost.

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Experts disparage use of test for prostate cancer, but many men may reject advice
Washington Post

They’re at it again — trying to deny lifesaving cancer tests.

That was the reaction from many men last week after a top-level task force bucked two decades of medical practice and recommended against routine use of a common blood test to check for prostate cancer. The PSA test does more harm than good, the group said. It pointed to two huge, expensive studies, which involved 259,000 men in the United States and Europe, that found that routine PSA testing of healthy men saved, at best, one life per thousand.

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People with cancer, diabetes and heart disease mistakenly think exercise is unsafe
Washington Post

For people with a chronic health condition, exercise might seem like a low priority, if not something to avoid altogether. Many people with such illnesses as cancer, diabetes and heart disease mistakenly think that exercise is unsafe for them. But ongoing research is making the opposite case, showing again and again that regular activity is not only safe for most people with chronic illnesses but can actually boost vigor, increase longevity and reverse some symptoms of many conditions.

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Slideshow: Sacramento’s health care heroes
Sacramento Business Journal

These heroes don’t serve on distant battlefields. They live among us. They are physicians, nurses, researchers and other health care professionals who go beyond the call of duty. With a special publication in this week’s print edition, the Sacramento Business Journal is honoring 17 “Health Care Heroes” in the four-county region. Nominated by their peers and selected by a panel of independent judges, these practitioners have made a difference in the lives around them.

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Aetna Establishes a Beachhead at Costco
Health Leaders Media

Aetna and Costco have expanded into nine states with their cobranded health plan. Two additional states will be added pending state regulatory review.

The Costco Personal Health Insurance program offers five Aetna health plans with major medical benefits and dental coverage in Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

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Medicare fight hits House, Senate races
The Hill

The battle over Social Security and Medicare has been resurrected in House and Senate races across the country, with candidates and their allies stretching the truth as they squabble with opponents about who would inflict the most damage on the nation’s seniors.

The scrap has worked its way into candidate debates, mailers and television ads — and prompted one senator’s unsuccessful quest to have an attack ad pulled off the air.

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Tulare Regional Medical Center elections may go by-district method; voters to decide June 5
Visialia Times-Delta

Pressed by a lawsuit, the Tulare Regional Medical Center is asking voters June 5 to decide whether they want to elect board members by district or at large.

The lawsuit, filed in 2007 by seven Hispanic citizens, claims at-large elections dilute Hispanic representation and violate the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.

With by-area elections, people would be more likely to come out and vote if they are from the same area as the candidates, said Grace Calderon, one of the plaintiffs.

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Study: Getting a smoker’s lung is better than none
San Francisco Chronicle

Patients who need new lungs are better off getting donated organs from smokers than none at all, even though they probably won’t live as long as those who get a lung transplant from a nonsmoker, a new study says. Researchers say patients will survive longer if they are willing to accept lungs from anyone, including smokers. In Britain, that’s a key issue, for about 40 percent of donated lungs come from people who have previously smoked.

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Political ads stir health care horror
Sacramento Bee

They’re throwing granny off a cliff!

That’s the not-so-subtle message Republicans and Democrats appear to be converging on for political ads on health care this year, featuring heavy doses of what each party alleges the other one plans to do to wreck Medicare.

From cost controls in President Barack Obama’s health care law to GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s privatization plan for future Medicare recipients, there’s something about health care that makes it a breeding ground for the wildest allegations.

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New approach tested to treat hypertension
Los Angeles Daily News

“Maxed out on the medications,” is how Bill Ezzell describes his struggle with blood pressure. It’s dangerously high even though the North Carolina man swallows six different drugs a day.

Hypertension may be the nation’s sneakiest epidemic, a time bomb that’s a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure, and one that’s growing worse as the population rapidly grows older.

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The Age Rating Game: Will Older Americans Pay More Under Health Reform?
The Health Care Blog

The Affordable Care Act leaves it to the states to decide whether they want to let insurers charge older Americans more for coverage. If a state takes no action, a 64-year-old buying his own insurance in the individual market will pay up to three times more than an 18-year-old. In the small-group market – if a small business employs an unusually large number of older workers – the same 3:1 ratio applies. Today, in most states, there are no caps on how much insurers can charge a 60-something forced to purchase his own insurance.

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