News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Ruling against subsidies could hit hospital stocks harder than earnings
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals and investors are banking on the Supreme Court or the states to save premium subsidies that have made health insurance affordable for 6.4 million people in 34 states. But the stocks of publicly traded hospital companies could take a big hit if that doesn’t happen.

Hospital executives are nervously anticipating the high court’s imminent ruling in King v. Burwell, which could invalidate premium tax credits in up to 37 states using the federal exchange. Their preparations have varied widely, with some saying their strategy is watchful waiting. The American Hospital Association has hired consultants Manatt Health Solutions to work with state hospital associations to develop contingency plans.

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Medicare Drug Plans Favor Generic Opioids Over Those Designed To Avoid Abuse, Study Finds
Kaiser Health News

The abuse of prescription painkillers is a growing problem for seniors, as it is for other age groups. But Medicare drug plans are cutting back on coverage for a specially designated type of painkiller that deters abuse in favor of cheaper generics that don’t have the same deterrent qualities, a new study found.

Overall, Medicare coverage for long-acting prescription opioids declined from an average 46 percent of plans in 2012 to 36 percent of plans in 2015, the study by Avalere Health found.

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Hospital sector pushes healthcare spending growth over 7%
Modern Healthcare

The amount of money pumped into the healthcare system is growing at a much more rapid rate than estimated, according to first-quarter U.S. Census Bureau data.

The Census Bureau’s Quarterly Services Survey, considered one of the more accurate depictions of the U.S. economy, showed healthcare spending went up 7.2% in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period of 2014. Hospitals spurred much of the growth—hospital spending grew 9.2% year over year.

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HIV resistance clue found
San Diego Union-Tribune

A small number of HIV-positive people mysteriously control the infection without getting drugs. They don’t progress to AIDS, they remain outwardly healthy.

A new study has located what may be a crucial part of how these “elite controllers” keep HIV in check. They have a stronger response to HIV-1 infection from dendritic cells, a class of immune system cells that sense DNA from the virus. This stimulates production of T cells that target HIV, according to the study.

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If Obamacare Subsidies Disappear, States And Congress Will Bear Burden For Fix
National Public Radio

It will be up to state officials and Congress to help consumers who can’t afford health insurance if the Supreme Court strikes down health law subsidies for millions of Americans, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

“The critical decisions will sit with the Congress and states and governors to determine if those subsidies are available,” Burwell told the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.

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Too Soon To Deride High Obamacare Rate Hikes
Kaiser Health News

Some health insurance companies are asking for big price increases next year and that has again riled critics of the federal health care law.

The numbers released last week came out of an Affordable Care Act requirement that insurance companies tell government regulators by June 1 if they’re requesting price hikes of more than 10 percent. But not all of the story is yet reported. Take, for example, Montana.

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California official: Supreme Court risks ‘horrible moral precedent’ on Obamacare
Los Angeles Times

The head of California’s Obamacare exchange says the U.S. Supreme Court risks setting a “horrible moral precedent” if it strikes down health-law subsidies across much of the country. Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California and a former Obama administration official, said a court ruling against the Affordable Care Act “signals that subsidies don’t matter.” “I think it would set a horrible moral precedent if the Supreme Court was to find that we can leave Americans without that financial leg up,” Lee said in an interview.

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Health Insurance Premiums Will Go Up In 2016, But By How Much?
National Public Radio

Some health insurance companies are asking for big price increases next year, and that has again riled critics of the federal health care law. But early analysis shows those steep hikes may not affect the majority of consumers.

The numbers released last week came out of a June 1 deadline, under the Affordable Care Act, that requires insurance companies to tell government regulators when they’re requesting price hikes of more than 10 percent. Some officials opposed to the law, like Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, decried the increases.

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The Land of Milk, Honey and Low-Priced Health Insurance
The Health Care Blog

Not long ago we received our first signs that all may not be well in the land of milk, honey, and low priced insurance, i.e. the ACA insurance exchanges. Many insurers, including some of the largest in each state, have requested double digit rate increases, with some asking for raises that exceed 30 percent. A casual review of these requests suggests that the increases are largest in areas where the premiums were initially lowest. If these increases are approved, it will mean dramatically higher payments for enrollees, and escalating tax bills for the rest of us.

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Expansion of urgent care clinics part of an effort to reduce emergency room visits
GlendaleNewsPress.com

A new urgent care clinic and an expanded one have opened within a month of each other in Glendale, and it’s no coincidence. They are part of a push to cut down on the number of costly trips to local emergency rooms.

Glendale Adventist Center recently started operating its fourth urgent care site in the community at 1975 Verdugo Blvd. in Montrose.

The under-served foothills were first targeted for a site specially designed for primary care and treatment of non-life threatening injuries in mind about two years ago, according to hospital officials.

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No doctor needed for birth control? New California law will allow pharmacists to prescribe ‘the pill’
Orange County Register

Soon, getting a prescription for birth control will be as hassle-free as asking a pharmacist.

When a new state law approved in 2013 is implemented later this year, pharmacists will be able to write scrips for hormonal contraceptives – no doctor required. Circumventing the physician will save women time and eliminate the co-pay tied to first visiting a doctor’s office.

“The traditional method just doesn’t hold up very well. It requires women to take time off work or school in order to make an appointment that might not be easy to get,” said Don Downing, a University of Washington School of Pharmacy professor who has researched and advocated for better access to birth control for nearly two decades.

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Bridging the Gap between MUS2 and Patient Engagement Through Appointment Reminders
The Health Care Blog

Medical technology has undergone dramatic changes in the last 10 years. Right now, I make and cancel appointments, get prescriptions filled, look at test results, pay bills and email my doctor—all from my computer. I track multiple health markers on my cellphone, and am proactive about my preventive screenings. I am the definition of an engaged patient.

But, I know how the system works from the inside out. The question for most doctors is how to teach patients to be more engaged with the convoluted, fragmented, and confusing healthcare system. They are asking this because they are struggling to meet Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements.

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843 Blue Shield members affected by data breach
The Desert Sun

A total of 843 Blue Shield of California members had their personal information compromised during a data breach in May, officials said Thursday.

The personal information that was accessible during the breach included first and last name, Blue Shield identification number, date of birth, home address, and in some cases, Social Security number.

Coachella Valley residents were unaffected by the breach, said Sean Barry, corporate communications manager. However residents in other areas of Southern California were affected.

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Mendocino County urges state to eliminate Medi-Cal rate cuts
Ukiah Daily Journal

Mendocino County announced Tuesday it was joining the rural county representatives of California, the California Hospital Association, and a broad-based coalition of Medi-Cal providers known as We Care for California, in urging the state Legislature and administration to reverse Assembly Bill 97 of 2011, or Medi-Cal rate cuts, and increase Medi-Cal payments to healthcare providers and health plans during the upcoming state budget negotiations.

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Inland-owned group renames four O.C. hospitals
The Press-Enterprise

Four Orange County hospitals with a troubled financial past are changing their names as part of a strategy to upgrade their facilities and deepen their ties to the community, the parent company said Thursday. The parent company, KPC Health, is owned by a Hemet orthopedist and entrepreneur, Kali P. Chaudhuri. Western Medical Center Santa Ana will now be known as Orange County Global Medical Center.

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Western Medical Center Santa Ana and three others in the same group change their names
Orange County Register

Four Orange County hospitals with a troubled financial past are changing their names as part of a strategy to upgrade their facilities and deepen their ties to the community, the parent company said Thursday.

Western Medical Center Santa Ana, which has one of only three trauma centers here, will now be known as Orange County Global Medical Center.

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Palomar may close downtown Escondido hospital
San Diego Union-Tribune

Palomar Health’s presence in downtown Escondido is on life support.

The inland North County health system announced Thursday afternoon that its board is considering closing the 65-year-old hospital building between Grand Avenue and Valley Parkway within the next few months because it is losing about $20 million per year.

Now called the Palomar Health Downtown Campus, the large white structure houses Palomar’s labor and delivery, rehabilitation and behavioral health departments, and a standby emergency room.

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