News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hackers break into HealthCare.gov
San Francisco Chronicle

Hackers successfully breached HealthCare.gov, but no consumer information was taken from the health insurance website that serves more than 5 million Americans, the Obama administration disclosed Thursday. Instead, the hackers installed malicious software that could have been used to launch an attack on other websites from the federal insurance portal. Health and Human Services spokesman Aaron Albright said the website component that was breached had been used for testing and did not contain consumer information, such as names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and income details.

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Health Law Gets Reprieve As Appeals Court Agrees To Rehear Key Case
National Public Radio

The controversial federal court decision that threatened the future of the Affordable Care Act is no more.

The full District of Columbia Court of Appeals Thursday agreed to rehear Halbig v. Burwell, a case charging that the federal government lacks the authority to provide consumers tax credits in health insurance exchanges not run by states.

The order technically cancels the three-judge ruling from July that found for the plaintiffs. That ruling, if upheld, could jeopardize the entire structure of the Affordable Care Act by making insurance unaffordable for millions of consumers in the 36 states where the federal government operates the exchange.

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Court grants Obama plea to re-hear health case
San Francisco Chronicle

The federal appeals court in Washington threw out a ruling Thursday that called into question the subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their premiums under the president’s health care law.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted an Obama administration request to have its full complement of judges re-hear a challenge to regulations that allow health insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for consumers in all 50 states.

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Democrats borrow a GOP idea on health care costs
San Francisco Chronicle

Borrowing a Republican idea, a group including former senior Obama and Clinton advisers is unveiling a novel proposal to let states take the lead in controlling health costs.

Individual states would set their own targets to curb the growth of health care spending. If they succeed, they’d pocket a share of federal Medicare and Medicaid savings, ranging from tens of millions to $1 billion or more, depending on the state.

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Healthcare Reform and Overpaying for Care
Forbes

Americans have long known that our healthcare system is rigged against the consumer. The horror stories of people living in debt for the rest of their lives because of an accident or illness have become so commonplace that many have become numb to them.

In large measure, the frequency with which Americans have to choose between medical care and being able to put food on the table or keep their homes was the impetus behind President Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act.

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Insurance exchange premium increases look modest for 2015
Modern Healthcare

Consumers in certain silver health insurance exchange plans can expect to see a drop in their premium costs for 2015, while some in bronze plans will see increases, a new analysis finds.

“There is variation, but so far, premium increases in year two of the Affordable Care Act are generally modest,” Drew Altman, CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation said in a statement. “Double-digit premium increases in this market were not uncommon in the past.”

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Reform Update: Automatic ACA re-enrollment carries caveats
Modern Healthcare

HHS is moving forward with a policy that will allow consumers who got health insurance through the state and federal exchanges to be automatically re-enrolled for 2015, even though some have warned that enrollees could be unwittingly shifted to other plans if their insurers decide to cancel their current coverage. Consumer advocates with Families USA have generally praised the Obama administration’s decision to facilitate re-enrollment, which they say should mitigate problems that arise when patients’ benefits and provider networks fluctuate as they shift from one plan to another.

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Covered CA: 98K face losing coverage
San Diego Union-Tribune

About 98,000 California families must verify their immigration status by Sept. 30 or lose their health coverage, the state’s insurance exchange announced Thursday.

In a statement, Covered California, which sold nearly 1.4 million policies in late 2013 and early 2014, said that nearly 100,000 families provided inconsistent documentation during the application process and “will need to submit documents showing they are lawfully present in the United States as U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals or individuals with eligible immigration status.”

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California insurers hope $38M can block rate review proposal
FierceHealthPayer

Insurers in California are spending $38 million to lobby against a state ballot initiative that would allow the state’s insurance chief to review and potentially reject their premium rate proposals, reported the Center for Public Integrity.

The strategies the insurers are employing in California–including carefully targeted ads and establishing front groups–are proven tactics that have helped companies successfully campaign in the past.

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Collaboration trumps competition in new health care market
Sacramento Business Journal

A decision by Darryl Cardoza and Steve McDermott to bring health plans into the mix when they cashed in their shares of the management company that runs Hill Physicians Medical Group suggests nasty fights between providers and insurance companies may be over. It makes more sense in today’s market to face the same direction, say observers who mostly applauded the sale. Consolidation of all sectors of the health-care industry and changes under federal health reform make it important to work together, they said.

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FDA OKs Merck drug, first in new cancer drug class
Modern Healthcare

Merck & Co. on Thursday won the first U.S. approval for a new kind of cancer drug with big advantages over chemotherapy and other older cancer treatments.

The Food and Drug Administration said it has granted accelerated approval to Merck’s Keytruda, for treating melanoma that’s spread or can’t be surgically removed, in patients previously treated with another melanoma drug called Yervoy.

Experts called the news “game-changing” for patients with the deadly skin cancer, which is becoming more common and kills nearly 10,000 Americans each year.

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Cancer survivor fights for education, research
San Diego Union-Tribune

When San Marcos retiree Jeannine Holt was diagnosed 4 1/2 years ago with Stage IV lung cancer, she was touched when she receive an outpouring of sympathy and support from friends and family. What she didn’t expect was the backlash.

“The automatic question people get when they have lung cancer is ‘did you smoke?’ It comes across like you caused it to happen. That doesn’t happen with other cancers. You know, this is a disease that people shouldn’t be blamed for,” said Holt, a retired teacher and bookstore owner.

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FDA OKs insomnia, cancer drugs
San Diego Union-Tribune

The FDA recently approved drugs to treat insomnia, late-stage cervical cancer, skin infections and Gaucher disease.

Belsomra (suvorexant) will be prescribed for people who have trouble falling and staying asleep, a health issue that affects about 30 percent of the general population. Drugs.com says that Belsomra, the first in a new class of sleep medications, will become available to patients late this year or in early 2015.

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When your surgeon accidentally leaves something inside you
Washington Post

Other than removing the wrong kidney or something like that, one of the more harmful things a surgeon can do is leave material inside you that doesn’t belong there. While rare, “retained surgical items” can cause quite a bit of harm, beyond pain and suffering: readmission, additional surgeries, abscesses, intestinal fistulas, obstructions, visceral perforations and even death.

Studies estimate that this happens once in every 5,500 to 7,000 surgeries; there were 51.4 million in-patient procedures performed in 2010, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The authors of a new study estimate that a typical hospital has two of these incidents each year.

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Older women can reduce stroke risk with potassium-rich diets, study shows
Washington Post

A new study shows that aging women whose diets are rich in potassium are less likely to suffer strokes and die than women who have less of the mineral in their diets.

For more than a decade, research has shown that potassium can lower blood pressure. But Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, who is the senior author of the new potassium study by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said her team’s findings offer clear evidence that potassium also cuts the risk of stroke in older women.

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More Homes Go Smoke-Free, But Exposure Remains A Health Threat
National Public Radio

These days you’re pretty much guaranteed a smoke-free experience in stores, restaurants and on the job. But those laws usually don’t reach inside the home. Though more than three-quarters of homes are now smoke-free, millions of children and other relatives of smokers are still exposed to secondhand smoke, a study finds.

The number of smoke-free homes rose from 43 percent in 1992-1993 to 83 percent in 2010-2011, according to a study of Census Bureau data published Thursday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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Competing health plans invest in Hill Physicians group
Sacramento Business Journal

It’s odd enough to see two rival health plans come together in a business venture. It’s even stranger to see them come together in a deal with doctors and hospitals. Yet this week cofounders of the management company that runs Hill Physicians Medical Group Inc. announced they’ve sold shares to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California.

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Edison Pharmaceuticals sees hope despite failed rare-disease drug trial
San Francisco Business Times

An Edison Pharmaceuticals Inc. drug focused on a neurological disorder in young girls failed a mid-stage trial, but the Mountain View company still sees promise. EPI-743 failed to lessen the severity of Rett Syndrome, as judged by a subjective score, but the company said girls who received the drug showed a statistically significant increase in head circumference, a key objective measure of the drug’s effectiveness.

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