News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obamacare’s Big Gamble on Hospital Productivity
New York Times

Can hospitals provide better care for less money? The assumption that they can is baked into the Affordable Care Act.

Historically, hospital productivity has grown much more slowly than the overall economy, if at all. That’s true of health care in general. Productivity — in this case the provision of care per dollar and the improvements in health to which it leads — has never grown as quickly as would be required for hospitals to keep pace with scheduled cuts to reimbursements from Medicare.

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Automated Sedation Knocks Minutes off Recovery Time
HealthLeaders Media

Early adopters of computer-assisted anesthesia delivery for endoscopic procedures are reporting reduced recovery times for patients undergoing colonoscopies and upper endoscopy procedures.

The recovery room data comes from the first of numerous studies expected as part of the initial rollout of the SEDASYS system. The device, the subject of a lengthy FDA review process, introduces automation to anesthesia delivery. It also allows gastroenterologists and their clinical teams to deliver propofol, a drug many prefer to use but which was previously available only to anesthesiologists.

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CFOs Seek to Avoid Bite of Health Law’s ‘Cadillac Tax’
The Wall Street Journal

Finance chiefs grappling with rising health-care costs face a new dilemma: how to avoid paying hefty taxes on generous employee health-care plans.

The Affordable Care Act calls for an excise tax on high-cost health plans, starting in 2018. The tax is meant to help fund insurance for previously uncovered Americans through the new health law.

The levy, often called the “Cadillac tax,” is 40% a year on the amount by which employer-sponsored plans exceed government-set thresholds.

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GOP likely to feel the heat if court decision guts Obamacare
San Francisco Chronicle

A Supreme Court ruling due in a few weeks could wipe out health insurance for millions of people covered by President Barack Obama’s health care law. But it’s Republicans — not White House officials — who have been talking about damage control. A likely reason: Twenty-six of the 34 states that would be most affected by the ruling have Republican governors, and 22 of the 24 GOP Senate seats up in 2016 are in those states. Obama’s law offers subsidized private insurance to people without access to it on the job.

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‘Ugly’ potential fallout from Supreme Court healthcare case
Modern Healthcare

A Supreme Court ruling due in a few weeks could wipe out health insurance for millions of people covered by President Barack Obama’s healthcare law. But it’s Republicans—not White House officials—who have been talking about damage control.

A likely reason: Twenty-six of the 34 states that would be most affected by the ruling have Republican governors, and 22 of the 24 GOP Senate seats up in 2016 are in those states.

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Another Case Before Supreme Court Could Influence Health Care Reform
California Healthline

King v. Burwell, the case challenging federal subsidies for health insurance, isn’t the only health care case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court with potential for national repercussions.

A Vermont case involving claims data reporting could play a significant role in government efforts to collect and analyze health care data, a process many believe will lead to policies that can improve care and reduce the cost of delivering it.

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The Case for Strategic Partnerships
HealthLeaders Media

As payers, patients, and the federal government raise standards of reimbursement beyond the provision of services and toward accountability for outcomes, many healthcare organizations are realizing they’re too small. Or they’re too focused on the hospital business. Or they don’t have the proper geographic coverage.

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You may not have to drink that nasty liquid before your colonoscopy
Washington Post

There is general agreement that colonoscopies save lives. About 140,000 people will come down with colon or rectal cancers this year, according to the American Cancer Society, and about 50,000 people will die from those diseases.

Yet an estimated 25 million people who should be screened don’t have the procedure done. That’s about 40 percent of the people who should.

Why? Well there’s a lot of fear, both of what they might learn and the preparation itself, according to this 2011 survey, and squeamishness about the procedure, which involves insertion of a thin, flexible instrument that allows a doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine. Cost used to be a big issue, but the Affordable Care Act now requires that many colonoscopies be covered without costs to the patient.

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Study peeks into healthy brains to hunt Alzheimer’s culprit
San Francisco Chronicle

Sticky plaque gets the most attention, but now healthy seniors at risk of Alzheimer’s are letting scientists peek into their brains to see if another culprit is lurking.

No one knows what actually causes Alzheimer’s, but the suspects are its two hallmarks — the gunky amyloid in those brain plaques or tangles of a protein named tau that clog dying brain cells. New imaging can spot those tangles in living brains, providing a chance to finally better understand what triggers dementia.

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Second Opinions Often Sought But Value Is Not Yet Proven
Kaiser Health News

Actress Rita Wilson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy recently, told People magazine last month that she expects to make a full recovery “because I caught this early, have excellent doctors and because I got a second opinion.”

When confronted with the diagnosis of a serious illness or confusing treatment options, everyone agrees it can be useful to seek out another perspective. Even if the second physician agrees with the first one, knowing that can provide clarity and peace of mind.

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Doctors Going the Distance (In Education)
The Health Care Blog

We need more doctors.

Between older care providers retiring, and the general population shift that is the aging of the Baby Boomers, we are running into a massive demographic of more, older patients, living longer and managing more chronic conditions. This puts incredible pressure not just on the remaining doctors and nurses to make up the gap, but strains the capacity of schools to recruit, train, and produce competent medical professionals.

So how can schools do more to reach students and empower them to enter the healthcare field?

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What Genentech’s new building says about biotech’s hefty Bay Area economic impact
San Francisco Business Times

Opening its newest building Thursday, Genentech Inc. rolled out a bunch of facts and figures that underscore the structure’s environmental sustainability. What’s not so evident, though, is what the biotech giant’s second new structure since its 2009 takeover by Roche says about the Bay Area biotech industry. A healthy and growing Genentech injects the region’s biotech sector with an economic drug, which has positive side effects.

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Sutter Health nabs another drug company research deal
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Health is teaming up with drug company giant Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. on a five-year research partnership to collect data on patients with chronic lung disease, identify gaps in care and improve communication among providers about treatment options. The Connecticut-based U.S. subsidiary of the German drug company will work with Sutter doctors and researchers to test digital health programs and mobile technology — and analyze the data to learn how to improve care. No financial details were disclosed.

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Students with dependents watch sinking SHIP
The Daily Californian

UC Berkeley’s plan to terminate health insurance for dependents of students will cut off a valuable option for a population that is already marginalized on our campus and faces a greater degree of responsibility than most.

Beginning in the fall, UC Berkeley’s Student Health Insurance Plan will no longer cover dependents, forcing some 200 spouses, partners and children of students on SHIP to find alternate health-care coverage outside the campus provider.