News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Good News, Bad News In Medicare Trustees Report
Kaiser Health News

As Medicare approaches its 50th anniversary next week, the federal program got some welcome financial news Wednesday: Its giant hospital trust fund will be solvent until 2030, and its long-term outlook has improved, according to a report from the program’s trustees.

But the report warned that several million Medicare beneficiaries could see their Medicare Part B monthly premiums skyrocket by 52 percent in January — from $104.90 to $159.30. Medicare Part B, which is paid for by a combination of federal funds and beneficiary premiums, generally covers physician and outpatient costs.

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Drug Prices Soar, Prompting Calls for Justification
New York Times

As complaints grow about exorbitant drug prices, pharmaceutical companies are coming under pressure to disclose the development costs and profits of those medicines and the rationale for charging what they do.

So-called pharmaceutical cost transparency bills have been introduced in at least six state legislatures in the last year, aiming to make drug companies justify their prices, which are often attributed to high research and development costs.

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Eli Lilly: Alzheimer’s drug may slow disease’s progress
USA Today

Eli Lilly and Co. hoped to salvage its Alzheimer’s drug solanezumab with new studies. Those hopes are still alive.

Results from the first of the studies Lilly is using to try to breathe new life into solanezumab suggest that the drug seems to delay the progress of Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages by 34%.

Lilly is releasing the much-anticipated study results Wednesday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington, D.C. The study results come with caveats. The drug didn’t reverse or stop the ravages of Alzheimer’s. And its disease-slowing impact applied only to patients with mild symptoms of Alzheimer’s, an incurable disease that destroys brain function.

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Intensive End-Of-Life Care On The Rise For Cancer Patients
National Public Radio

Conversations about end-of-life care are difficult. But even though most people now take some steps to communicate their wishes, many may still receive more intensive care than they would have wished, a study published in July found.

The findings, published online in JAMA Oncology, came from an analysis of the Health and Retirement Study, a national survey of U.S. residents older than age 50. Researchers looked through the responses from the next of kin, usually a spouse or child, of 1,985 participants with cancer who died between 2000 and 2012.

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Some public hospitals win, others lose with Obamacare
Yahoo! News

A year and a half after the Affordable Care Act brought widespread reforms to the U.S. healthcare system, Chicago’s Cook County Health & Hospitals System has made its first profit in 180 years.

Seven hundred miles south, the fortunes of Atlanta’s primary public hospital, Grady Health System, haven’t improved, and it remains as dependent as ever on philanthropy and county funding to stay afloat.

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Bill Pushes Health Coverage For All Undocumented Residents
ABC News

Health care coverage for all California residents, regardless of immigration status, is a controversial proposal working its way through the state.

The biggest force of local undocumented workers sweats away in the Central Valley’s fields. A hard working group that would be eligible to buy health care under the state exchange, if Senate Bill 4 passes.

The bill’s author, Ricardo Lara of Southern California, stopped in Fresno to rally support Wednesday. He’s getting it from Efrain Botello, whose family works in the fields.

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HHS Pushes States To Negotiate Lower Obamacare Rates
Kaiser Health News

Some analysts who have looked at health insurers’ proposed premiums for next year predict major increases for policies sold on state and federal health exchanges. Others say it’s too soon to tell. One thing is clear: There’s a battle brewing behind the scenes to keep plans affordable for consumers.

Now the Obama administration is weighing in, asking state insurance regulators to take a closer look at rate requests before granting them. Under the Affordable Care Act, state agencies largely retain the right to regulate premiums in their states.

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Medicare Trustees Project Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Coverage Will Remain Solvent Until 2030
Sierra Sun Times

Today, the Medicare Trustees projected that the trust fund that finances Medicare’s hospital insurance coverage will remain solvent until 2030, unchanged from last year, but with an improved long-term outlook from last year’s report. Under this year’s projection, the trust fund will remain solvent 13 years longer than the Trustees projected in 2009, before the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

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Why The Bundled Payments Story Is a Way Bigger Deal Than You Realize
The Health Care Blog

The Obama administration proposed this month that the federal Medicare program make one bundled payment for each joint replacement surgery performed in Indianapolis, Evansville, South Bend and 72 other metro areas.

This is the most significant thing that’s happened in health care all year.

It’s a bigger deal than Anthem’s trying to buy Cigna. It’s bigger than nurses trying to unionize at Indiana University Health.

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Cancer experts call for curbs on rising drug prices
Washington Post

Top cancer experts called Thursday for steps to curb the rapidly escalating price of oncology drugs, warning that the current trajectory “will affect millions of Americans and their immediate families, often repeatedly.”

The commentary in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, signed by 118 physicians from cancer centers across the country, cited startling, if now familiar, evidence of the dramatic rise in cancer-drug prices.

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Advocate For Alzheimer’s Research Says Aging Baby Boomers Face Big Threat From Disease
Kaiser Health News

As the baby boomers age, the increasing number of patients with Alzheimer’s disease will take a serious toll on caregivers and families, and the costs associated with that care are expected to weigh heavily on the nation’s health care system. A new study projects that the disease will be responsible for 25 percent of all Medicare spending by 2040.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and the number of cases is expected to balloon as people live longer: Today 5.1 million people 65 and older have it. By 2025, the number will rise to 7.1 million, a nearly 40 percent increase, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates. The projections have sounded an alarm amid a tightening federal budget and concerns that there won’t be enough nursing facilities to take care of patients. Researchers and health policy experts are meeting in Washington this week at a major conference looking at the impact of the disease and efforts to combat it.

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Parents of grown children with developmental disabilities worry about future
Los Angeles Daily News

The doctors told Elizabeth Criss that a child with her daughter’s disorder would only live until she was 8.

She would suffer from seizures, the doctors said. She would likely be unable to communicate and would have problems with her vision.

Almost all of that was true, except Emily Criss is now 29.

“We never expected she would age out of the school system,” Elizabeth Criss said. “It feels good when the doctors are wrong.”

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House calls return with on-demand doctor apps
The Mercury News

It was 8 o’clock on a weeknight and Brooklyn resident Sarah Sheehan was reeling from a painful earache.

She wouldn’t be able to see her doctor until the next morning, and that would require a 45-minute subway ride uptown. That’s when Sheehan, co-founder of an education technology business, remembered receiving a promotional code for a new company called Pager, an Uber-like service that sends doctors to patients’ homes.

Pager and similar companies like Heal and Medicast aim to streamline medical care — cutting out waiting rooms, receptionists and trips to the doctor’s office.

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Medical Residents Are Indebted But Reasonably Happy
National Public Radio

Medical residents are the tweeners of health care.

They’ve got their medical degrees but still haven’t finished the training they need to go forth and practice their chosen specialties.

Talking to residents is one way to get a bead on where medicine may be headed. Medscape, an online news source for health professionals, just released a survey of more than 1,700 medical residents that asked a slew of questions about their hopes, everyday experience on the job and finances.

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Younger Adults With Alzheimer’s Are Key To Drug Search
National Public Radio

The face of Alzheimer’s isn’t always old. Sometimes it belongs to someone like Giedre Cohen, who is 37, yet struggles to remember her own name.

Until about a year ago, Giedre was a “young, healthy, beautiful” woman just starting her life, says her husband, Tal Cohen, a real estate developer in Los Angeles. Now, he says, “her mind is slowly wasting away.”

People like Giedre have a rare gene mutation that causes symptoms of Alzheimer’s to appear before they turn 60.

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Health Effects Of Transitioning In Teen Years Remain Unknown
National Public Radio

Most transgender adolescents go through the same steps during the medical transition from one gender to another. They’re given a drug that blocks or pauses puberty. Then, if they and their doctors are sure they want to continue, they are given sex hormones that will resume puberty and give them more male or more female bodies.

This has been going on for just under a decade. “But what are the benefits and adverse effects of starting young kids on these powerful [puberty blockers] and then hormones?

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Why health-care lawyers in Sacramento are swamped with work
Sacramento Business Journal

Sacramento’s health-care law business is booming as the Affordable Care Act continues to transform the landscape for providers and insurers. Consider: Iain Mickle, a corporate securities lawyer at Boutin Jones Inc., completed financing transactions for Molina Healthcare last month worth a total of $623 million — most of it to fuel growth in the Medicaid program. Mike Polis at Wilke, Fleury, Hoffelt, Gould & Birney LLP is busy with licensing and other regulatory work for Molina as it expands to more states outside California.

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Sutter Health reports stronger margins, discloses $3M settlement
Modern Healthcare

Sutter Health, a 25-hospital system in Sacramento, Calif., is on stronger financial ground this year as it continues to diversify its revenue streams and treats additional paying patients.The system reported this week that it nearly doubled its operating margin in the first quarter of the year as admissions increased and more patients had insurance.Like all hospitals in California, Sutter also benefited from the return of the state’s provider fee program.

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Superbug outbreak: UCLA will test new scope-cleaning machine
Los Angeles Times

Following a superbug outbreak involving three deaths, UCLA officials are planning to test a new scope-cleaning machine designed by a small Arizona company.

The experiment could attract considerable attention since many hospitals across the country continue to grapple with how to prevent lethal patient infections from contaminated endoscopes.

A number of U.S. hospitals have experienced outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant superbugs from tainted duodenoscopes, which are put down a patient’s throat to treat gallstones, blockages and cancers in the digestive tract.

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Salinas hospital recognized in U.S. News & World Report
The Californian - Salinas

Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System has once again been recognized in U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best Hospitals issue. The 2015-2016 publication ranks SVMHS as a Best Regional Hospital and additionally rated SVMHS “high performing” in four key adult procedures, hospital officials announced Wednesday.

“We are immensely proud of our team of dedicated physicians, nurses and entire staff,” said Pete Delgado, president/CEO of SVMHS. “Achieving high performance rankings in a national publication such as U.S.

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Hi-Desert Medical Center is still our hospital
Hi-Desert Star

While operation of Hi-Desert Medical Center has passed from the Hi-Desert Memorial Healthcare District to Tenet Corporation the medical center remains a valued community asset as a provider of healthcare and employment for the people of the Morongo Basin. No matter who is making the day-to-day decisions at the medical center it remains a place on which the community depends for its economic and physical well-being, therefore its continued economic and professional health remains of utmost importance to us.

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Local political consultant joins El Camino Hospital board
Mountain View VOICE

After rapid-fire interviews and a handful of questions, the El Camino Healthcare District board chose a Stanford lecturer, longtime political consultant and vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act to join El Camino Hospital’s governing board.

The district board voted 3-2 in a secret ballot to add Lanhee Chen of Mountain View to the nine-member hospital board at a June 16 meeting.