News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Assembly vote lets terminally ill request experimental drugs
Sacramento Bee

Terminally ill patients would be able to use experimental drugs under a bill approved by the California Assembly.

The so-called “right-to-try” legislation would let patients who have exhausted other treatment options request medication that hasn’t been approved by state or federal regulators.

Drug makers would decide whether to provide the medication. Some medical groups say the legislation could hurt the development of new drugs.

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Antibiotics Resurface as Alternative to Removing Appendix
New York Times

Every year, 300,000 Americans with appendicitis are rushed into emergency surgery. Most think that if the appendix is not immediately removed, it will burst — with potentially fatal consequences.

But now some doctors say there may another option: antibiotics. Five small studies from Europe, involving a total of 1,000 patients, indicate that antibiotics can cure some patients with appendicitis; about 70 percent of those who took the pills did not require surgery.

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Next Up for Vaccines: Required for California’s Child Care Workers?
KQED Radio

While a move to abolish the vaccine “personal belief exemption” has dominated headlines in the last weeks across California, two other vaccine-related bills are making their way through the Legislature a bit more quietly. One would require preschool and child care workers to have certain vaccinations; another seeks to improve vaccination rates for 2-year-olds.

If SB 792 becomes law, California will be the first state in the country to require that all preschool and child care workers be immunized against measles, pertussis and the flu.

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Change To Mammogram Guidelines Could Lead To Coverage Shift
National Public Radio

Millions of women could lose access to free mammograms under changes to breast cancer screening guidelines that influence insurers, the consulting firm Avalere estimates.

The Avalere analysis is based on an update to breast cancer screening recommendations proposed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a group of medical experts whose work guides health care standards and policy. The public comment period on the proposal expires Monday.

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FDA panel recommends sterilization of scopes linked to superbugs
Los Angeles Business Journal

A panel of medical experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration has recommended more intensified cleaning of medical scopes linked to deadly outbreaks of “superbugs” at several U.S. hospitals, including two in Los Angeles.

The 16-member panel concluded Friday that the duodenoscopes in question should not be removed from the market because they help perform life-saving procedures, but should be sterilized before reuse, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Congress Takes Up RAC Reform Bill
HealthLeaders Media

Legislation before Congress would rein in what many providers view as costly, overly burdensome, and outright abusive practices by Recovery Audit Contractors.

The Medicare Audit Improvement Act of 2015 has generated bipartisan support in the U.S. House, with 14 Republicans and nine Democrats signing on as co-sponsors, since the bill was introduced last month.

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California reforms to cut use of foster care psych meds will cost millions
Los Angeles Daily News

California will have to invest millions of dollars to better protect its 63,000 foster children from the excessive use of powerful psychiatric medications in a state where prescribing physicians, caregivers and the courts have long supported the drugging of as many as 1 in 4 foster teens.

Cost estimates for a package of bills moving swiftly through the state Senate vary, but spending could reach $8 million a year — and possibly more than $22 million — to curb the child welfare system’s heavy reliance on mind-altering medicine for behavior management.

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Property tax sought to finish hospital’s expansion tower
Visialia Times-Delta

Tulare Regional Medical Center Board of Directors’ member Laura Gadke said hospital district residents have a decision to make about the under-construction expansion tower and the proposed $55 million parcel tax sought to pay for its completion.

“The community needs to decide: Do you want a hospital?” she said. “Do you want a hospital, or don’t you?”

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California attorney general approves Adventist Health affiliation with Lodi Memorial Hospital
Lodi News-Sentinel

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has approved allowing Adventist Health to take control and govern Lodi Memorial Hospital Association, Inc., so long as a number of conditions are met.

Among those are maintaining at least 24 emergency treatment stations, eight acute rehabilitation beds, the cardiac unit, as well as obstetric and adult day care services for the next five years, according to the decision issued Monday.

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Doctor group seeks to clear confusion in cancer screening
Yahoo! News

Mammograms at 40 or 50? Every year or every other year? What’s the best colon check?

Screening for cancer has gotten more complicated in recent years with evolving guidelines that sometimes conflict. Now a doctors’ group aims to ease some confusion — and encourage more discussion of testing’s pros and cons — with what it calls advice on “high-value screening” for five types of tumors.

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Hospital bills too high? One benefits firm has a new strategy: Don’t pay.
Washington Post

In the late 1990s, you could have taken what hospitals charged to administer inpatient chemotherapy and bought a Ford Escort econobox. Today, average chemo charges (not even counting the price of the anti-cancer drugs) are enough to pay for a Lexus GX sport-utility vehicle, government data show.

Hospital prices have risen nearly three times as much as overall inflation since Ronald Reagan was president.

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Woman sues Anthem Blue Cross for refusing to cover hepatitis C drug
Los Angeles Times

A West Hollywood woman sued insurer Anthem Blue Cross for refusing to cover the cost of an expensive drug that she says would cure her hepatitis C infection.

Shima Andre said in the lawsuit that Anthem has refused to pay the estimated $99,000 it would cost to be treated with the controversial drug Harvoni, which has been shown to destroy the deadly virus in most patients.

In a denial letter, Anthem explained that the drug was “not medically necessary” because Andre does not have advanced liver damage, the lawsuit said.

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Kaiser unveils new San Rafael emergency department
Marin Independent Journal

Early Wednesday morning, staff at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael will begin moving patients from the hospital’s existing emergency department to a new, much larger area that opens for business Wednesday.

Three years ago, doctors and nurses at the San Rafael medical center implemented new procedures aimed at cutting the waiting time of visitors to the emergency department.

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Dave Pier to take SVH Foundation reins
Sonoma Index-Tribune

The Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation has named Dave Pier as executive director.

Pier formerly served as CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, and had recently stepped in to serve as the Foundation’s executive director on an interim basis.

“We are extremely fortunate to have someone with Dave’s experience, talents and deep understanding of our community assume this position,” said Marcia Levy, Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation board chair.

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ACP Issues ‘High-Value Cancer Screening’ Guidelines
HealthLeaders Media

Doctors and patients must stop thinking of cancer screening as an annual ritual that should find all cancers in the breast, colon, prostate, cervix, or ovaries. Instead, they should rethink whether certain types of screening in certain age groups is beneficial at all, or whether it will cause more harm and cost than it will help.

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Study links antibiotic overuse to diagnostic mistakes
Modern Healthcare

Diagnostic errors may be one overlooked factor in the battle to drive down the unnecessary use of antibiotics, according to a study released Monday by the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. An analysis found that in nearly every case where a patient’s initial diagnosis was undetermined — listed as a symptom rather than a disease — or was later found to be totally incorrect, the patient was given a course of antibiotics they didn’t need.