News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Wal-Mart to end healthcare coverage for 30,000 part-timers
Los Angeles Times

Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is cutting healthcare benefits for roughly 30,000 part-time employees, citing rising costs. Wal-Mart said Tuesday that it will end coverage for employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week. The decision affects 2% of the retailer’s U.S. workforce of 1.4 million. For those losing coverage come Jan. 1, the Bentonville, Ark., firm said it will work with an outside company to help workers find “the right, affordable health care.”

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CDC: Half of US Hospital Patients Taking Antibiotics; 25 Percent on Two or More
Healthline

A new study by researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows just how often some hospital patients are given multiple antibiotics.

According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, half of all hospitalized patients receive at least one antimicrobial drug on a given day, most for treating a variety of infections. Half of those patients receive more than one antimicrobial drug, and more than 5 percent take four or more antimicrobial drugs.

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More parents turning to online reviews for doctors
San Francisco Chronicle

Americans turn to online reviews to decide which gadget to buy, which restaurant to dine in and — increasingly — which doctor to visit. A new study in the journal Pediatrics reveals that almost three-quarters of parents are aware of physician-rating websites, but just more than one-quarter have used the sites to choose their children’s pediatrician. Researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed more than 1,600 parents nationwide and found that mothers are more likely than fathers to value physician-review sites, which include Healthgrades, Vitals.com and Angie’s List.

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Wal-Mart’s ACA-approved path to cut costs: end part-timers’ coverage
Los Angeles Times

Wal-Mart gave lawmakers a concise lesson in economics Tuesday when it disclosed that it would no longer offer health insurance to yet more of its part-time employees.

According to the Associated Press, the retail giant has decided not to provide coverage in 2015 for any employee who works less than 30 hours a week on average. The company had stopped offering coverage in 2012 to new employees working less than 30 hours (and in 2011 to new workers putting in less than 24 hours), but the restriction hadn’t applied to workers already on the payroll.

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Second Obamacare Enrollment Likely to Be Even Tougher Than First
KQED Radio

As states gear up for round two of Obamacare enrollment next month, they have their sights set on people like Miles Alva. Alva, 28, works part-time at a video store and is about to graduate from Cal State Northridge. Getting insured is about the last thing on his mind.

“It’s not a priority,” the television and cinema arts student said. “I am not interested in paying for health insurance right now.” The second round of enrollment under the nation’s Affordable Care Act promises to be tougher than the first.

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L.A. County is ready to handle Ebola cases, health official says
Los Angeles Times

As U.S. officials continue to ramp up their response to history’s worst outbreak of Ebola, Los Angeles County public health officials said Tuesday they have no doubt that they are ready to handle any potential cases.

“I have very high confidence that we are prepared to respond to a case of Ebola should it occur … and that our collective efforts would prevent spread to others,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer.

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Ebola prevention in L.A. County: Officials will outline what’s being done
Los Angeles Times

As U.S. officials continue to ramp up their response to history’s worst outbreak of Ebola, Los Angeles County public health officials today are expected to be asked to explain what local measures are in place to guard against the threat.

“It is vital that we have the information available to the public on preventive measures being taken by county departments to protect our residents from a potential outbreak,” Supervisor Michael Antonovich said in a statement.

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Walmart to End Health Coverage for 30,000 Part-Time Workers
New York Times

Walmart Stores, the world’s largest retailer and the nation’s largest private employer, said on Tuesday that it would terminate health insurance coverage for about 30,000 part-time workers, joining a string of retailers that have rolled back benefits in response to the Affordable Care Act.

Starting on Jan. 1, Walmart will no longer offer insurance to employees working less than an average of 30 hours a week, a move the retailer said was in response to an unexpected rise in health care costs.

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Screening, though flawed, a useful tool in fighting lung cancer
San Francisco Chronicle

As I review a lung scan that shows a lung nodule, I think about the anxiety and fear that my patient is experiencing while waiting for my diagnosis. I schedule him for a biopsy, and within 24 hours I call to tell him:

“Mr. Smith, I am so very sorry. The biopsy confirms our suspicion that you have lung cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer is too advanced for us to cure.”

Lung cancer is the No.1 cause of cancer-related death in the United States.

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An Open Letter to the FTC on Hospitals and Providers
The Health Care Blog

The role of the United States’ antitrust laws are to ensure competition, not to prescribe or favor any particular organizational structure. Yet recent Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) enforcement actions in the health care provider merger arena have done just that – dictated that if provider groups want to integrate, they can only do so through contractual means, not by merging their businesses.

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Fighting the threat of breast cancer
Orange County Register

If oncologist Larry Wickerham ruled the world, every woman would know her chances of getting breast cancer, and those at high risk would be offered a drug to prevent the disease. This is not a pipe dream, says Wickerham, deputy chairman of NRG Oncology, a Philadelphia-based cooperative research group. The drugs exist; they have been used to treat breast cancer for decades. But only a fraction of eligible women take them for prevention.

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Squaring Your Taxes And Your Health Insurance Subsidies
National Public Radio

Although April 15 seems a long way off, decisions people make about health coverage can have have big tax implications.

I understand that different members of a family can buy different marketplace plans. How does that work with premium tax credits for a husband and wife? How do they get divvied up, and how do we report that to the IRS?

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Americans living longer as most death rates fall
Sacramento Bee

Americans are living longer than ever before, according to a new government report filled mostly with good news. U.S. life expectancy inched up again and death rates fell.

Rates also dropped or held steady for nearly all the leading causes of death. The one exception: The suicide rate reached its highest point in 25 years. That figure has been increasing since 2000 and “it’s really hard to say why,” said Robert Anderson, who oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention branch that issued the report Wednesday.

The yearly report looked at deaths in 2012. It found:

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Opponents of medical malpractice initiative hold money advantage
Los Angeles Times

Opponents of a ballot measure that would raise the limit on certain medical malpractice damages have far outpaced the initiative’s supporters in fundraising and spending, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday night.

The “no” campaign on Proposition 46 brought in $20.6 million between July 1 and Sept. 30 of this year, mostly from doctors and insurance companies. Proponents, meanwhile, raised $3.2 million, primarily from attorneys.

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Health law waivers: Too complicated to claim?
San Francisco Chronicle

Millions of Americans may qualify for waivers from the most unpopular part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. But getting that exemption could be an ordeal.

Community groups are concerned about a convoluted process for waivers from the law’s tax penalty on people who remain uninsured. Not everyone is complaining, however: Tax preparation companies are flagging it as a business opportunity.

The law’s requirement that Americans carry health insurance remains contentious. Waivers were designed to ease the impact.

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Children’s Hospital remodeling for speech, hearing services
The Business Journal

The services, an extension of the hospital’s Rehabilitation Center, have been housed at 6159 N. Fresno St. for around 15 years.

A new project at the main hospital in Madera County is now ongoing to remodel vacant space in the medical office building for speech language pathology services, which will help children improve language and oral motor skills for better communication and feeding.

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