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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Healthcare Reform Brings Expansion to Drug & Alcohol Treatment Industry
Insurance Journal

January 1 marked the beginning of an expansion of healthcare coverage for drug and alcohol addiction treatment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This expansion is leading to a growth in the rehabilitation facilities market but what that growth looks like has yet to be determined, according to one industry expert. “Although the recession negatively affected industry revenue and wages, rehabilitation clinics have largely recovered, despite a slight dip in 2012 resulting from a drop in federal funding of Medicare and Medicaid, due to a rise in premiums,” according to a recent report by IBISWorld titled “Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation Clinics in the U.S.: Market Research Report.”

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California ‘Death with Dignity’ Advocates Launch New Campaign
KQED Radio

A new campaign is underway to legalize physician-assisted suicide in California. Advocates launched a series of online ads last week to begin raising awareness. Still, it could take years for the effort to yield any results.

Since the early 1990s, lawmakers and activists have tried and failed several times to pass a death with dignity law in California. Under such a law doctors could prescribe lethal medications to patients who are terminally ill. Oregon and Washington permit the practice.

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UCSF doctor’s brain health registry could dramatically cut research costs
San Francisco Examiner

For more than three decades, Dr. Michael Weiner, a researcher a UC San Francisco, has been studying brain health. For much of that time, he has been trying to understand Alzheimer’s disease.

But even as the principal researcher on a $140 million Alzheimer’s study — the largest grant-funded study of the disease — Weiner said the No. 1 thing preventing scientists from finding more cures is cost.

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With late surge in enrollments, next phase of ACA begins
North Bay Business Journal

Over the past week, proponents of the Affordable Care Act have touted the sheer numbers of those enrolling in health plans offered on both the federal and statewide exchanges, which nationally reached more than 7 million and in California reached over 1.2 million — both above stated goals.

But as details of those who enroll become clearer in the coming weeks, insurance carriers and brokers will be closely watching the spread of risk, or whether or not enough younger, healthier individuals signed up to offset the older or sicker population, to keep rates down

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Proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage plans out, payments hikes in
Sacramento Bee

In a move that blunts a potent line of political attacks from Republicans, the Obama administration reversed itself on Monday, announcing that private health plans that provide Medicare benefits will see a slight increase in government payments next year, rather than the reduction that was proposed earlier.

Congressional Democrats, many facing tough re-election bids, had recently joined Republicans in asking that these private health plans, known as Medicare Advantage, be spared from payment cuts next year, even though they receive an average of six percent, or $8 billion, more this year to cover their enrollees than it would cost under the traditional Medicare program.

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CMS Forecasts Medicare Advantage Pay Rate Increase
Health Leaders Media

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services caught insurers off guard Monday by announcing that the average 2015 Medicare Advantage payment rate for insurers will increase 0.4 percent.

The net positive MA payment rate change from the current year to 2015 is at odds with the 5.9 percent payment rate cut insurers had been anticipating for weeks.

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Marc and Lynne Benioff give UCSF $100 million more
San Francisco Business Times CEO and Chairman Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne Benioff have made a second $100 million donation to UC San Francisco, which will use the money to support its children’s hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland, both of which are being named in the Benioffs’ honor.

“We have been deeply inspired by the incredible kids, doctors, researchers, and administrators at both UCSF and Children’s Hospital Oakland,” the Benioffs said in a prepared statement. “We feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to support the best children’s hospitals in the world.”

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UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital Oakland Receive $100M Gift From Lynne And Marc Benioff
UCSF Today

UC San Francisco announced today a second gift of $100 million from Lynne and Marc Benioff to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and also its affiliate, Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland.

The gift will be used to strengthen the existing talent and programs in basic and clinical research and patient care at the two premier institutions, as well as attract new expertise, in order to accelerate the development of innovative solutions for children’s health on both sides of the San Francisco Bay, as well as nationally and globally.

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California experiencing big increase in measles cases
ABC News

The push to vaccinate against measles is gaining new steam after a second UC Berkeley student in two months has been diagnosed with the disease. The state is experiencing a big increase in measles cases. ABC7 News spoke with some people in Berkeley who don’t want to vaccinate their children.

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Drugmaker buys Questcor for $5.6 billion
Orange County Register

Questcor Pharmaceuticals of Anaheim, which sells a hugely profitable drug for about $30,000 a dose and is under the scrutiny of multiple federal agencies, said Monday it has agreed to be acquired by Dublin, Ireland-based Mallinckrodt PLC for $5.6 billion. The deal, if approved, would create an international specialty pharmaceutical company with annual sales of about $3.6 billion – and rising.

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Gilead hepatitis C drug combo lands promise of quick FDA review
San Francisco Business Times

Gilead Sciences Inc. should hear within six months whether regulators approve a drug combination that can be taken orally to defeat hepatitis C. The Foster City-based drug developer (NASDAQ: GILD), whose research operations are led by Chief Scientific Officer Norbert Bischofberger, said Monday that the Food and Drug Administration has granted priority review of the company’s new drug application for a once-daily combination of already-approved Sovaldi and experimental ledipasvir.

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Palm Drive votes to close core services, files for bankruptcy
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Amid dozens of emotional pleas to keep Palm Drive Hospital open, members of the hospital board voted 4-to-1 Monday night to shut down core services at the financially strapped Sebastopol hospital.

The move could force the temporary closure of the entire hospital by April 28.

At a public meeting at Community Church of Sebastopol, the Palm Drive Hospital District board approved a resolution that would cease acute inpatient services and close the emergency department by April 28.