News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospitals Prep for More Patients with Dementia
HealthLeaders Media

An aging population is already expected to strain U.S. healthcare resources, and recent studies suggest that dementia represents both a major health risk and a considerable cost driver. In addition, this long-term decline in cognition takes a significant toll on patients, their families, and the providers who care for them.

Some healthcare systems and hospitals are now coordinating care for these patients so they can stay at home and also avoid unnecessary hospitalizations. Patients with dementia are at risk for falls, pneumonia, medication noncompliance, anxiety, and other comorbid conditions that could lead to long hospital stays. Not addressing the needs of what’s been called a silver tsunami now could be a prescription for readmission rates that are difficult to drive down in the future.

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Survey: 1 In 5 Uninsured Don’t Want Coverage
MedPage Today

Though millions of people gained health coverage this year as a result of the Affordable Care Act, millions more remain unaware of their options or have no interest in getting insured, a new survey has found.

Among those who were uninsured last year and remain uninsured, only 59% were familiar with the new Obamacare marketplaces and 38% were aware of federal subsidies to lower their insurance costs, according to the survey conducted in June by the nonpartisan Urban Institute.

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At $1,000 a pill, Sovaldi will bankrupt us
San Francisco Chronicle

How much can we afford to pay for one drug? How much profit does one company deserve for producing that drug? With last month’s release of record earnings for Gilead Sciences – nearly $6 billion in profits in half a year from the hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi –  these questions need to be answered.

The $1,000-a-pill price for Sovaldi makes plain that our system for pricing prescription drugs is broken. At more than $84,000 for a full course of treatment, the total cost of treating the estimated 3.2 million Americans living with chronic Hepatitis C is about $270 billion – almost as much as the United States spends annually on all other prescription drugs combined.

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Newly Insured, Many Now Face Learning Curve
New York Times

Advocates of the Affordable Care Act, focused until now on persuading people to buy health insurance, have moved to a crucial new phase: making sure the eight million Americans who did so understand their often complicated policies and use them properly.

The political stakes are high, as support for the health care law will hinge at least partly on whether people have good experiences with their new coverage. Advocates of the law also say teaching the newly insured how to be smart health care consumers could advance the law’s central goal of keeping costs down, such as by discouraging emergency room visits, while still improving care.

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Two Doctors Weigh Whether To Accept Obamacare Plans
National Public Radio

On a recent afternoon at his office in Hartford, Conn., Dr. Doug Gerard examines a patient complaining of joint pain. He checks her out, asks her a few questions about her symptoms and then orders a few tests before sending her on her way. For a typical quick visit like this, Gerard could get reimbursed $100 or more from a private insurer. For the same visit, Medicare pays less — about $80. And now, with the new private plans under the Affordable Care Act, Gerard says he would get something in between, but closer to the lower Medicare rates.

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Obamacare at center of debate over California health insurance initiative
Sacramento Bee

As state insurance commissioner, Dave Jones has the power to regulate rates for car and homeowner insurance. He can halt an insurer’s proposed increase if the company can’t justify the higher cost.

Health insurance is another matter.

The former Democratic lawmaker has spent years working to give elected commissioners regulatory authority over health insurance rates.

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Supreme Court should tackle health care reform subsidies
Business Insurance

Whether federal premium subsidies are available to individuals seeking health insurance coverage in federal exchanges is a legal controversy the U.S. Supreme Court should agree to decide. On the same day last month, two federal appeals courts ruled differently on an issue that directly affects millions and, more broadly, the entire health care delivery system.

In the first ruling on July 22, the U.S.

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What the California Rate Increases Should Tell Us
The Health Care Blog

The weighted average increase for plans being sold on the Obamacare California public exchange in 2015 will be 4%. So, that means Obamacare is working really well, right?

Well, wait a minute. Let’s consider a few things:

1. This week the California insurance commissioner reported that the average unsubsidized 2014 rate increase carriers charged going into Obamacare was between 22% and 88%. That was a pretty healthy bump (I’ll call it a bump because “Rate Shock” didn’t happen) to get everyone into Obamacare in the first place. And remember, many of these consumers are now in narrow networks in California to boot.

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Hospital Mergers Are Out. ‘Strategic Alliances’ Are In. Is Obamacare Responsible?
California Healthline

Lloyd Dean’s hospitals treat more than 5 million Californians per year. And he has a vision for how they’ll get their care in the future — whether at work, on vacation, or in another state altogether.

“Wherever you go in this country, you have Dignity with you,” Dean, the CEO of Dignity Health, said in an interview last year.

Historically, Dean’s comment might have signaled that Dignity, a California-based system of about 40 hospitals, was going to follow the approach of HCA or Ascension — two hospital organizations that grew from regional to national health systems through a series of mergers and acquisitions.

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Breast-Feeding Is Still Difficult For Many Moms
National Public Radio

When Elizabeth O’Connell was expecting her first child, she knew she wanted to breast-feed. And, she says, she sort of expected it to just happen, naturally.

That’s not quite how it panned out. “I was experiencing very tremendous pain,” she says.

At first she figured that was normal — but soon it became too much to handle. “I was devastated,” she says. “The reality is nursing is a wonderful bonding experience, but when you’re in pain, you aren’t really thinking about that.”

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California Asks: Should Doctors Face Drug Tests?
New York Times

At a time when random drug testing is part of the job for pilots, train operators, police officers and firefighters — to name a few — one high-profile line of work has managed to remain exempt: doctors.

That may be about to change. California would become the first state to require doctors to submit to random drug and alcohol tests under a measure to appear on the ballot this November.

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Doctors Who Take Medicine Into Their Own Hands
The Health Care Blog

Many doctors are frustrated by pressures to practice a faster and more impersonal brand of medicine, but some are actually doing something about it. I recently spoke with one such doctor, Tom O’Connor, MD, who practices general internal medicine in central Connecticut. He and his partner, Paul Guardino, MD, believe they were the first US physicians to begin building a fully concierge medical practice the day they completed training.

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Alzheimer’s rate higher in parts of SD
San Diego Union-Tribune

America’s growing incidence of Alzheimer’s appears to hit San Diego County harder than elsewhere, with residents in parts of East and South counties developing the devastating disease at a higher rate.

Recent data compiled by the county’s Health and Human Services Agency showed that Alzheimer’s remained the third leading cause of death in San Diego in 2012, compared to the sixth in the nation and the fifth in California.

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Kaiser pushes exchange premiums down
San Diego Union-Tribune

As a general rule, insurance premiums tend to increase every year.

That is not the case for the latest batch of Covered California health-exchange rates announced Thursday for Kaiser Permanente.

In addition to updating its “shop and compare” website with 2015 rates this week, the exchange released a comprehensive guide that lists rate increases for each insurance carrier in its 19 pricing regions statewide.

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Anthem Blue Cross announces new multi-year contract with Dignity Health
Sacramento Bee

San Francisco-based Dignity Health and Anthem Blue Cross reached an agreement Thursday on a multi-year contract, Anthem spokesman Darrel Ng said today.

“We’re happy to continue to partner with Dignity Health to provide quality care to Anthem members for years to come,” Ng said in an email. He declined to specify the length of the contract.

Dignity Health hospital officials confirmed the contract agreement, without further comment.

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Rady Hospital gets $120 million donation
San Diego Union-Tribune

Rady Children’s Hospital of San Diego will announce Monday that it’s receiving a donation of at least $120 million to create an institute capable of sequencing and analyzing the genome of every patient it receives, giving it an unusually broad ability to spot and treat disease through genetics.

Such a gift will be the second-largest non-bequest contribution to any group or institution in San Diego County history, matching or surpassing the $120 million that Irwin and Joan Jacobs gave to the San Diego Symphony in 2002.

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New surgeon kick-starts hospital collaboration
Plumas County News

Eastern Plumas Health Care and Plumas District Hospital are making good on their promise to work together to bring top-quality, broad-spectrum health care to all residents of Plumas County. Dr. Mark Williams, the new general surgeon who will be shared by both hospitals, is the first tangible proof of this new era of collaboration.

Williams is a USC Medical School trained, board-certified general surgeon with medical school honors in general surgery, urology and plastic surgery.

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