News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Pressure to Settle Medicare Appeals Mounting
HealthLeaders Media

The heat is on. In the weeks approaching the Oct. 31 deadline for hospitals to cut settlement deals on Medicare claim appeals estimated to total more than a billion dollars, there has been a burst of activity among providers.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services were peppered with questions after a conference call presentation Oct. 9 on the proposed settlement deal, which offers hospitals 68 cents on the dollar to resolve disputed claims. It was the second of two presentations on the topic.

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New breast cancer treatment can reduce radiation to a single day for some
Sacramento Bee

When Karen Abbott was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2013, she thought she’d be off her feet for a while. She imagined weeks of pain, discomfort and fatigue from radiation. She planned to ditch her training plan for an upcoming marathon.

What she didn’t know then was that Sutter Cancer Center had recently begun using a new radiation device called Intrabeam. Or that she was eligible for it, and would ultimately undergo just a single day of radiation before moving on to a cancer-free life.

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New Hepatitis C Pill Promises Faster Treatment, At A Higher Cost
National Public Radio

The FDA has approved a once-a-day pill that combines two drugs to treat hepatitis C, the deadly virus that attacks the liver and is believed to infect 3.2 million Americans.

The new product brings several advances, but it also has a steep price tag, reported at $1,125 per tablet. NPR’s Michaeleen Doucleff reports: “The treatment, made by Gilead Sciences, bypasses the need for any injections or older drugs that have serious side effects. “The therapy is called Harvoni, and it combines two new drugs into a single pill that’s taken once a day.

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The doctor will see you now — through Google

Google seems to be getting smarter all the time. It’s already a sort of virtual encyclopedia. Now, for at least some users, it’s behaving like a wise, caring parent that will not only tell you to see a doctor but will actually make it happen.

Developer Jason Houle noticed an interesting feature when he googled “knee pain” on an Android device recently: Google was offering him to “talk with a doctor now” through a video chat. He posted a screenshot to Reddit on Friday, and Engadget confirmed yesterday that Google was indeed testing the feature.

The extraordinary aspect of the feature is that it suggests Google does actually harbor major ambitions for its expert-chatting feature, Helpouts, specifically in the domain of health care.

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Obama orders CDC probe in 2nd Dallas Ebola case to move ‘as expeditiously as possible’
Washington Post

President Obama received two briefings on the diagnosis of a second Ebola case in Dallas, according to White House officials, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) urged the president to appoint a “czar” to coordinate the administration’s response to the disease.

Obama was briefed Sunday morning by Lisa Monaco, who serves as assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism and is overseeing the interagency response to the disease.

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Dallas health worker tests positive for Ebola
The Mercury News

A “breach of protocol” at a Dallas hospital where Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan was treated before he died led to the infection of a health care worker with the deadly virus.

And there are worries now that other caregivers could potentially be exposed, federal health officials said Sunday.

Those concerns are shared by health officials in the Bay Area.

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Ebola: Despite ‘Full CDC Precautions,’ Hospital Worker Infected
HealthLeaders Media

Federal, state, and hospital health officials are under pressure to find out why and how a Texas healthcare worker who was part of the care team for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient who died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas last week, has tested positive for the deadly virus despite wearing CDC-recommended protective gear.

Dan Varga, MD, chief clinical officer for Arlington, Texas-based Texas Health Resources, said at a news conference Sunday that the healthcare worker, an unidentified female nurse, was considered low-risk, but had been self-monitoring for Ebola symptoms by checking for a temperature twice daily.

The nurse noted a fever on Friday night, called the hospital, and was in isolation from other patients within 90-minutes. A second person who was in close contact with her is also in isolation, according to Varga.

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Both parties are keeping Americans in the dark about healthcare reform
The Hill

Substantial majorities of Americans say they want specific health insurance reforms. According to pollsters, most Americans want rules to keep insurance companies from refusing to cover sick people or charging them more. They want government to help make insurance accessible and affordable for small businesses and families. Most applaud free preventive care — including contraception — as well as improvements in Medicare prescription drug coverage and rules that allow young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plans.

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Health coverage revoked for 1,000 airmen leaving service
USA Today

The Air Force said it mistakenly issued medical benefits to more than 1,000 voluntarily separating airmen earlier this year and now is revoking those benefits.

Airmen separating under the Voluntary Separation Pay program — a major component of the cash-strapped Air Force’s massive force management downsizing program — never have been eligible for Transition Assistance Management Program benefits, the service said.

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California coverage plan for undocumented echoes earlier call by Schwarzenegger
Yahoo! News

Unlike former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, Democrats in Congress decided as they worked on health care reform that providing coverage to the estimated 11.5 million undocumented residents in the U.S. would not be a good idea.

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that many of them were unwilling to vote for a reform bill enabling undocumented residents to buy coverage on the state health insurance exchanges out of fear that doing so might jeopardize their re-election chances.

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Poll: Many insured struggle with medical bills
San Francisco Chronicle

Having health insurance is no panacea for high medical costs. Overall, 1 in 4 privately insured U.S. adults say they don’t have much confidence in their ability to pay for a major, unexpected medical expense.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research may help explain why President Barack Obama faces such strong headwinds in trying to persuade the public that his health care law is working to hold costs down. The poll found the biggest financial concerns were among people with so-called high-deductible plans that require patients to pay a significant share of their medical bills each year before insurance kicks in.

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California gives no-bid health pacts
San Diego Union-Tribune

California’s health insurance exchange has awarded $184 million in contracts without the competitive bidding and oversight that is standard practice across state government, including deals that sent millions of dollars to a firm whose employees have long-standing ties to the agency’s executive director.

Covered California’s no-bid contracts were for a variety of services, ranging from public relations to paying for ergonomic adjustments to work stations, according to an Associated Press review of contracting records obtained through the state Public Records Act.

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Emotions Linger After Forgotten Events In Alzheimer’s Patients
National Public Radio

A new study suggests people with Alzheimer’s may keep feeling happy or sad even after they’ve forgotten why they feel that way. Researchers played movies for patients, like “When Harry Met Sally” or “Sophie’s Choice.” Five minutes later, many people forgot that they had seen the movie, but their feelings remained.

Edmarie Guzman-Velez is one of the study’s authors. She’s at the University of Iowa and joins us from Iowa Public Radio.

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Gilead’s pricier, next-generation hepatitis C pill wins FDA approval
San Francisco Business Times

Regulators approved Gilead Sciences Inc.’s next-generation hepatitis C drug Friday as the company’s controversial breakthrough treatment continues to rack up sales. Harvoni — combining Sovaldi, the hep C drug that won Food and Drug Administration approval in December, with the drug ledipasvir — will cost $94,500 for a 12-week course of treatments for patients with genotype 1 infection or about $63,000 for an eight-week course, according to reports.

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Is $1,125 hepatitis pill from Bay Area drugmaker worth it?
San Francisco Chronicle

After shaking up the health care industry with a $1,000 hepatitis C pill, Gilead Sciences of Foster City won approval Friday for a new version of that treatment that works faster, drops the usual injections and boasts an already-controversial $1,125 price tag. The new daily pill Harvoni costs $94,500 for 12 weeks and $63,000 for eight weeks — both cheaper than some existing hepatitis C treatments, according to the drugmaker.

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Slippery When Coated: Helping Medical Devices Prevent Blood Clots
National Public Radio

A carnivorous plant has inspired an invention that may turn out to be a medical lifesaver. Nepenthes, also known as tropical pitcher plants or monkey cups, produce a superslippery surface that causes unfortunate insects that climb into the plant to slide to their doom.

Scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering wondered if they could find a way to mimic that surface to solve a problem in medicine.