News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

 

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Justices appear split on lawsuits over low Medicaid rates
Modern Healthcare

Some U.S. Supreme Court justices are skeptical, based on questions they posed Tuesday, that healthcare providers should be allowed to sue state Medicaid agencies over low reimbursement rates. Other justices, though, asked where providers can challenge rates if not in court.

The split made the outcome hard to gauge from the oral arguments in Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center Inc. Providers argue that the courts are an important avenue for challenging low rates — which they say lead to less access to care for Medicaid patients because too few providers are willing to participate.

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Parents Who Shun Vaccines Tend To Cluster, Boosting Children’s Risk
National Public Radio

Although vaccines are among the safest, most effective ways to protect children from major communicable diseases, some parents still doubt this. As a result, some choose immunization schedules that defy science or refuse to vaccinate altogether.

If these parents were distributed randomly, their decisions would be less likely to harm others, especially babies too young for vaccination. But parents who use personal belief exemptions to avoid school vaccination requirements often live in the same communities, studies have found.

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War Over Obamacare Heats Up In States
National Public Radio

Oklahoma state Rep. Mike Ritze is a foot soldier — one of hundreds — in a passionate war over the Affordable Care Act that is reigniting as state legislatures convene across the country.

The Republican lawmaker, a family doctor, has stood behind three anti-Obamacare bills supported by conservative groups in Oklahoma and other states. None has made it into law, but Ritze plans to pick up the fight in the 2015 legislative session that convenes in the Sooner State next month.

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Tax Preparers Get Ready To Be Bearers Of Bad News About Health Law
National Public Radio

Are you thinking about tax day yet? Your friendly neighborhood tax preparer is. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen declared this tax season one of the most complicated ever, partly because this is the first year that the Affordable Care Act will show up on your tax form.

Tax preparers from coast to coast are trying to get ready. Sue Ellen Smith manages an H&R Block office in San Francisco, and she is expecting things to get busy soon.

“This year taxes and health care intersect in a brand-new way,” Smith says.

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Government health care website quietly sharing personal data
San Francisco Chronicle

The government’s health insurance website quietly is sending consumers’ personal data to private companies that specialize in advertising and analyzing Internet data for performance and marketing, the Associated Press has learned. The scope of what is disclosed or how it might be used was not immediately clear, but it can include age, income, ZIP code, whether a person smokes and if a person is pregnant.

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Supreme Court ruling carries implications for future drug patent cases
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday vacated a lower court’s ruling that had ended patent protection for Teva Pharmaceuticals’ popular multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone. The decision could have broader implications for how courts decide future pharmaceutical patent disputes.The justices decided 7-2 to vacate a lower court’s ruling that the Jerusalem-based pharmaceutical company’s key patent on the drug was invalid.

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Blue Shield to 280k customers: Start looking for providers outside of Sutter
Becker's Hospital Review

Weeks into a tense contract dispute, Blue Shield of California has started notifying customers to be prepared to find healthcare providers outside of Sacramento-based Sutter Health System, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report.

The payer notified more than 139,000 customers last week and plans to alert another 140,500 later this month, according to the report. Depending on the type of plan they hold, some people would have to find new physicians and hospitals by April, whereas others have until the end of June.

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Brittany Maynard family pushing California right-to-die bill
Fresno Bee

Three California lawmakers are promoting right-to-die legislation with the family of a terminally ill woman who moved to Oregon to legally end her life.

Brittany Maynard’s mother and husband will be at the state Capitol on Wednesday to support a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives in California.

The 29-year-old Northern California woman had brain cancer. She argued in online videos that patients facing imminent death should be able to die on their own terms.

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Death with dignity movement is alive and well in California
Los Angeles Times

Palm Springs residents Bill Bentinck and his wife, Lynda, were not afraid of having the big talk no one really wants to have.

“We both told each other that we didn’t want to live through a painful dying process,” Bentinck said, “and when the time comes we’ll just do it and get it over with. No fear.”

Lynda became seriously ill in 2012, and they thought about moving to Oregon, where the Death With Dignity law has enabled terminally ill people to legally end their lives with a doctor’s prescription.

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Governor’s decision to allocate millions to hepatitis C drugs is good news for Fresno-area patients
Fresno Bee

Just weeks into a new drug treatment for hepatitis C, Travis Poole felt like getting out of bed and going back to work as a painting contractor.

“I had new energy; I didn’t tire as easily,” he said. “My whole world did a 180, from knowing I was dying to knowing I had a new chance on life.”

Poole, 51, of Clovis, is one of the beneficiaries of a new — but expensive — drug for hepatitis C. Sovaldi, one of two pills that he took daily for 24 weeks, cost $1,000 apiece. The second cost $100 a tablet.

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Malpractice Changes In Massachusetts Offer Injured Patients New Options
National Public Radio

When a woman had gallbladder surgery at a Massachusetts hospital in 2013, doctors noticed something suspicious on a CT scan that they thought could be ovarian cancer. But the recommendation that she get a pelvic ultrasound fell through the cracks. Months later, she was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer.

Normally, this type of medical mistake could mark the start of a protracted malpractice lawsuit.

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UnitedHealth Group shares climb to all-time high
USA Today

UnitedHealth Group shares are hitting all-time highs Wednesday after the health insurer posted solid gains in fourth-quarter revenue and earnings and forecast better-than-expected prospects for 2015.

Shares are up 2.3% to $108.07 in morning trading.

For the quarter, revenue rose 7.4% to $33.4 billion from $31.1 billion in the year-ago quarter, while net earnings climbed 6% to $1.5 billion, or $1.55 a share, from $1.4 billion, or $1.41 a share. Analysts expected EPS of $1.50.

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