News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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U.S. lawmakers reach accord on paying doctors for Medicare
Los Angeles Times

In a rare bipartisan agreement, congressional leaders have settled on a plan to fix Medicare’s system for paying physicians, potentially ending years of uncertainty that often held up fees for doctors who care for the nation’s senior citizens. The proposed fix still must be paid for, requiring lawmakers to come up with as much as $150 billion in savings from elsewhere in the budget.

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Pharmacies Braced for Cuts to Their Medi-Cal Payments
KQED Radio

Pharmacies across the state are bracing for a blow to their revenues. Starting Friday, Medi-Cal – the state’s health coverage for low-income patients — will start paying 10 percent less for filling certain prescriptions. Though the number of drugs affected is less than originally outlined, pharmacists are still worried.

Many of them say there is a misconception that they make loads of money selling drugs. But after they pay pharmaceutical companies for the medications they stock, there’s little profit left, they say. An additional cut could put them in the red on some drugs.

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As ICD-10 Deadline Looms, Healthcare Providers Fret
Health Leaders Media

The looming Oct. 1 implementation for ICD-10 has healthcare providers antsy about a potentially rocky transition to the new code set used to report medical diagnoses and inpatient procedures in the midst of other fundamental and profound changes to the healthcare sector.

A Medical Group Management Association survey of more than 570 practices representing more than 21,000 physicians finds that less than 10% of them had made significant progress when ranking their overall readiness for Oct. 1, up from 4.7% in June, 2013.

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Uterine Surgical Technique Is Linked to Abnormal Growths and Cancer Spread
New York Times

Concerns are increasing among doctors about the safety of a procedure performed on tens of thousands of women a year in the United States who undergo surgery to remove fibroid tumors from the uterus, or to remove the entire uterus.

The procedure, morcellation, cuts tissue into pieces that can be pulled out through tiny incisions. The technique is part of minimally invasive surgery, which avoids big incisions, shortens recovery time and reduces the risks of blood loss, infection and other complications.

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Too Many American Physicians Or Too Few?
The Health Care Blog

The goal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” is to make affordable, quality health care coverage available to more Americans. But how many physicians will America need to satisfy this new demand? The debate over doctor supply rages on with very little conclusive evidence to prove one case or the other. Those experts who see a shortage point to America’s aging population – and their growing medical needs – as evidence of a looming dearth in doctors.

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Obamacare is not true universal health care while under corporate control
Daily Sundial

It’s great that millions of Americans will now have health care with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (popularly known as Obamacare). People with pre-existing health conditions do not need to be afraid of health insurance providers denying them coverage. However, millions will still remain uncovered and private healthcare corporations will continue to take advantage of consumers who are forced to get health care.

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Race to enroll young and healthy for new insurance
San Francisco Chronicle

“Do you guys have health insurance?” David Bransfield asks each time a group of backpack-toting college students passes by. Some nod yes. A few promise to stop back after class. Others don’t bother removing their headphones. Nearly every day, Bransfield comes to a satellite campus of the University of the District of Columbia in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, sitting for hours behind a table in the lobby of a classroom building.

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Obamacare attacks American Dream: Column
USA Today

Can I really afford that paycheck?

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, two and a half million Americans will ask that question over the next decade and say “no.” The Congressional Budget Office — the federal government’s official number cruncher — now estimates that the ACA will cause these people to voluntarily leave the workforce or prevent them from entering it by 2024. They’ll do so because it would actually be more expensive for them to draw that extra paycheck.

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Obamacare cures ‘job lock’: Column
USA Today

On February 4, the Congressional Budget Office released new long-term economic projections. Over the next ten years, they envision millions of new jobs in a growing economy – but up to 2.5 million fewer full-time equivalent workers by 2024 compared with what would have been the case without the Affordable Care Act. This was decried by opponents of health reform as evidence that the law is a “job killer.”

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To help rein in healthcare costs, give ‘narrow networks’ a try
Los Angeles Times

In an effort to cut costs, many insurers in the new state health insurance exchanges are offering plans with “narrow networks” that include fewer doctors and hospitals — particularly the costlier ones with famous names, such as Cedars-Sinai. The trade-off has sparked complaints from some policyholders who’ve had trouble seeing their favorite doctor or, in some cases, any doctor in the right specialty. Although regulators have to address those issues, narrow networks can actually be a good thing for patients if done the right way.

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With new health coverage, people can be more mobile
Sacramento Bee

The Congressional Budget Office, usually the source of staid nonpartisan analyses studied only by experts, stirred up a hot debate this week.

Will the Affordable Care Act have a good impact on our labor market, or not?

The partisans were out in force, and you wonder if they read the same report.

The Obamacare haters in the Republican camp read the report as “pushing” 2 million Americans out of the workforce by 2017 and 2.5 million by 2024.

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Lawmakers Reach Deal on Doctor Payments
The Wall Street Journal

House and Senate lawmakers have agreed on a five-year plan to change how physicians are paid for treating Medicare patients, an issue that has created a recurring scramble in Congress for over a decade.

Under the deal announced Thursday, Medicare would increase the amount it pays physicians by 0.5% each year for the next five years. The agreement was the result of talks that included the top members of the Senate Finance, House Energy and Commerce, and House Ways and Means committees.

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SGR Deal Would Fix Perennial Physician Pay Problem
Health Leaders Media

After a decade of squabbling and annual renewals, the federal Medicare guidelines for physician reimbursement known as the Sustainable Growth Rate appear destined for repeal and replacement.

A bipartisan deal announced Thursday in both houses of Congress includes an annual 0.5 percent reimbursement rate increase for doctors over five years, but the pact does not spell out a mechanism to pay for the new reimbursement system.

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SGR Replacement Bill Announced
Health Leaders Media

A bipartisan, bicameral bill that would replace the Sustainable Growth Formula used to calculate how Medicare pays medical doctors, was introduced Thursday. The ‘doc fix’ bill, which would permanently repeal the SGR, was announced jointly by Senate and House leaders.

“This legislation today provides stability for physicians so they will no longer face the uncertainty of massive cuts, but also begins the process of improving how we pay for medical care to focus on positive results for [patients].”

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Why the SGR Fix Won’t Work and Could Actually Make Things Worse
The Health Care Blog

Partisan gridlock in Washington regarding health policy has been so pervasive and bitter that any bipartisan co-operation on any important health issue should be applauded by a frustrated public. That is why the emerging bipartisan compromise regarding the fifteen-year long policy embarrassment known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) problem needs to be taken seriously.

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Medi-Cal Expansion Opens Doors to Care for Transgender Patients
KQED Radio

Among those estimated to enroll in the expansion of Medi-Cal, some of those most likely to benefit are among the most stigmatized in health care — transgender patients. Darryl Avery, 48, is one of them. Avery was born female, but identifies as a man. Several years ago, he began his transition. He moved to San Francisco where he sought medical care, stable housing, culinary schooling, and eventually, sex reassignment surgery.

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Flu virus sleuths race to ward off worst
The Mercury News

Far from hospitals and morgues, disease sleuths are racing to understand the pace and pattern of California’s deadly influenza season.

Sample 14603? This tiny vial of mucus — one of thousands tested this winter by the state Department of Public Health lab — is found to be infected with the virus known as influenza A, subtype H1N1.

Soon the patient recovers, or is buried.

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Aging research could help us live healthier longer. But then what?
San Francisco Business Times

The San Francisco Business Times’ stories on the strides made by Bay Area aging researchers and the entry of Calico, backed by Google Inc. and led by former Genentech Inc. CEO Art Levinson, left an open question: If we are able to live healthier longer, what would you do with that time? Thanks to Storify, we culled some of the responses from Twitter below.

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Guidelines urge women to monitor stroke risks more closely than men
Washington Post

Women of all ages should pay more attention to the risk of stroke than the average man, watching their blood pressure carefully before they think about taking birth-control pills or getting pregnant, according to a new set of prevention guidelines released Thursday. Women are also more likely to have risk factors associated with stroke, such as migraines, depression, diabetes and the abnormal heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation.

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Diabetes patch deal helps Zosano Pharma stick it to needles
San Francisco Business Times

Zosano Pharma Inc. is taking the shot out of the needle. The Fremont company struck a deal this week to turn Danish pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk’s experimental injectable type 2 diabetes drug into a patient-friendly patch. The deal could bring privately held Zosano upwards of $60 million in milestone payments, on top of undisclosed upfront cash, and another $55 million for follow-on programs.

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UCR’s residency program has been issued accreditation
The Desert Sun

The recently founded UC Riverside School of Medicine has been accredited for its first residency program that will bring eight medical residents to the Coachella Valley by July 2015, the university announced Thursday.

The new program was accredited by the national Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in late January.

In partnership with Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, the three-year medical residency program will bring residents to train at Desert Regional and the UCR Health Family Medicine Center just beside the hospital.

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