News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Blue Shield of California Breaks Off Contracts with Sutter Health
KFBK

Blue Shield of California has broken off contract talks with Sacramento-based Sutter Health, and that could affect almost 145,000 members who get their benefits from the health care provider. Negotiations broke down on New Year’s Eve with demands from both that keep the two far apart. If the stalemate holds, all affected Blue Shield members will be assigned to a new provider group by April 1.

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Insurer stocks poised for a strong 2015 despite potential bumps
Modern Healthcare

Stocks at publicly traded health insurers, which skyrocketed in 2014, should remain strong market performers this year, despite the overall market’s early setbacks this week, analysts predict.

Insurers with large volumes of government business should lead the pack, analysts add.

“The ACA did not present as many problems for the industry as some investors had assumed,” explained Steve Halper, a managed-care analyst at FBR Capital Markets & Co.

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Teaching Nurses How To Speak Up — And Speak Gently
National Public Radio

Teach someone to fish, the saying goes, and they’ll eat for a lifetime. Teach a nurse to become more involved in helping people heal, and patients could enjoy a longer life. That’s the philosophy behind training nurses to mentor other nurses, says Sheila Davis, chief nursing officer and chief of Ebola response for Partners in Health, the worldwide nonprofit organization.

PIH introduced nurse mentorship programs in Rwanda in 2010 and Haiti in 2012 — and plans to expand to Ebola-stricken Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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Improving Obamacare faces mounting threats: Our view
USA Today

Obamacare health exchanges that were a laughingstock a year ago are working more smoothly this enrollment period. Millions of people who could never get coverage, or faced bankrupting medical costs if they lost their jobs, now have real protection for the first time.

So, after years of controversy, is the Affordable Care Act out of the woods? Hardly. Consider this the calm before the storm. Despite the recent progress, the 5-year-old law continues to face mortal danger from Congress, public opinion and the courts.

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Rep. Paul Ryan: Obamacare is beyond repair
USA Today

You can’t fix a fundamentally broken law; you’ve got to replace it. That’s why Congress can’t save Obamacare with a few tweaks, despite what its defenders say. No quick fix can correct the main flaw: The law takes power away from patients and hands it to bureaucrats. As millions of Americans have learned from their cancellation notices, Obamacare lets bureaucrats decide what insurance plans must cover. It buries doctors and hospitals in red tape.

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Medicaid’s Western Push Hits Montana
National Public Radio

The Affordable Care Act is on the move in Western states, with the governors of Utah, Wyoming and Montana all working on deals with the Obama administration to expand Medicaid in ways tailored to each state.

But getting the federal stamp of approval is just the first hurdle. The governors also have to sell the change to their state legislators, who have their own ideas of how expansion should go.

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Many Insurers Don’t Cover Drugs For Weight Loss
National Public Radio

In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new obesity drug, Saxenda, the fourth prescription medicine the agency has given the green light to fight obesity since 2012. But even though two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, there’s a good chance their insurer won’t cover Saxenda or other anti-obesity drugs.

The health benefits of using obesity drugs to lose weight — improvements in blood sugar and risk factors for heart disease, among other things — may not be immediately apparent.

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Bariatric Surgery Cuts The Risk Of Death Years Later
National Public Radio

Bariatric surgery is being widely promoted as the solution for people who are extremely obese, but so far most of the studies haven’t followed enough people for enough time to really know if surgery helps improve health long term.

A study of patients who had the surgery through the Veterans Affairs medical system could help. It followed 2,500 patients who had the surgery between 2000 and 2011 until December 2013.

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Kids May Not Benefit From Extended Isolation After Concussions
National Public Radio

New research suggests isolating children with concussions for more than two days may do more harm than good compared to adults. So what’s the best approach to treating concussed children? Melissa Block talks with lead researcher Dr. Danny G. Thomas of the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

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Tight Control Of Type 1 Diabetes Saves Lives, But It’s Tough
National Public Radio

Here’s more evidence that for people with Type 1 diabetes, strict blood sugar control matters – in this case, it actually reduces the risk of early death. But another study reveals the grim reality: Those with the condition still die about a decade sooner than those without.

As someone who has lived with Type 1 myself for over 40 years – I was diagnosed in 1973, at age 9 – I can tell you that keeping my blood sugars in control 24/7 is incredibly difficult.

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Why for-profit hospitals are poised for a strong 2015 (and not-for-profits aren’t)
Modern Healthcare

Investor-owned hospital chains are enjoying momentum under healthcare reform that isn’t sweeping along their not-for-profit counterparts. Analysts expect another strong year from the for-profit operators because they’ve cut costs and adopted new initiatives to bring in more patients.

Companies like HCA and LifePoint Hospitals have shown that they’re well-positioned to weather operational challenges and have benefited from increased patient volume under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to a report from Fitch Ratings. The report contrasts with the negative outlook Fitch and other credit-rating agencies have placed on not-for-profit hospitals.

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