News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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A look at healthcare coverage, trends before and after ACA implementation

Americans’ access to healthcare coverage and overall health improved after the Affordable Care Act’s first round of open enrollment in October 2013, according to a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers analyzed the 2012-2015 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index to study the differences in how many individuals reported they were uninsured, lacked a personal physician, lacked easy access to medicine and were unable to afford needed care, as well as differences in their overall health status.

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Progress For Bill To Bolster Medicare Patients’ Hospital Rights
National Public Radio

The Senate unanimously approved legislation Monday night requiring hospitals across the nation to tell Medicare patients when they receive observation care but haven’t been admitted to the hospital as inpatients.

The distinction is easy for patients to miss — until they get hit with big medical bills after a short stay.

Hospitals are placing many older patients on observation status. They may be there for days, but technically they’re still outpatients. One reason for the practice is it lowers the risk that a hospital will have to repay the government if an auditor decides afterward that someone should have been treated as an outpatient rather than an inpatient.

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How drones can improve medical care access
Washington Post

Drones seem perfect for quick and fast delivery of all sorts of cargo. So why not biomedical specimens?

Well, before the medical community goes down that road, researchers with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine wanted to know whether an actual drone flight, including a shaky takeoff and bumpy landing, would affect the specimens.

So they tested it in a proof-of-concept study. And they discovered that the process of flying in a drone didn’t significantly impact blood samples; the findings were published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

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Gov’t Finds Health Law Co-ops Awash in Red Ink
New York Times

Democrats fed up with the health insurance industry used President Barack Obama’s overhaul to create nonprofit co-ops that would compete against entrenched corporations. Taxpayers put up $2.4 billion in loans to get the co-ops going.

But a government audit out Thursday finds that co-ops are awash in red ink and many have fallen short of sign-up goals.

The inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department finds that only one out of 23 co-ops — the one in Maine — made money last year.

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Medicare and Medicaid face growing pains at age 50

Fifty years ago on Thursday, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation establishing the Medicare program to provide health coverage for seniors and the Medicaid program to cover the poor. But it was former President Harry S. Truman who, in Johnson’s words, “planted the seeds of compassion” that laid the groundwork for both federal programs. In an address to Congress on Nov. 19, 1945, Truman became the first president to propose a comprehensive health insurance program, noting that large numbers of U.S. men had failed their World War II induction physicals because of poor health.

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Medicare and Medi-Cal 50th anniversary: Programs help more than half of Valley residents
Fresno Bee

The central San Joaquin Valley is a good place for an assessment of Medicare and Medicaid on their 50th anniversary Thursday.

Nearly 58% of the people in Fresno, Kings, Madera, Merced and Tulare counties rely on the government insurance programs to pay their medical bills.

A breakdown: More than 900,000 low-income children, adults and people with disabilities are enrolled in Medi-Cal (California’s name for Medicaid); and nearly 253,000 older adults and disabled individuals are on Medicare.

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Advocates split with health plans and states over Medicaid long-term care rules
Modern Healthcare

Patient advocates are praising a section of the CMS‘ proposed Medicaid managed-care rule related to long-term care.

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Health Insurers Face Little Enforcement Of Federal Mental Health Parity Law
National Public Radio

Insurers are supposed to cover mental health treatment as they cover other illnesses but they don’t always comply. They are improving, but the U.S. does not appear to actively enforce the federal law. The federal mental health parity law was supposed to protect patients from discrimination by insurance companies. But in the seven years since it was passed, the U.S. government has not taken a single public enforcement action against an insurer or employer for violating the law.

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No Easy Feat: Promoting The PrEP Pill For HIV Prevention Among Latinos
Kaiser Health News

Late on a Friday night at The New Jalisco Bar downtown, a drag show featuring dancers dressed in sequined leotards and feathered headdresses had drawn a crowd — most of them gay Latino men.

Inside the bar and out, three health workers chatted with customers, casually asking questions: Do you know about the HIV prevention pill? Would you consider taking it? A few men said they had never heard of it. Others simply said it wasn’t for them.

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Cigna posts Street-topping earnings
San Francisco Chronicle

Cigna’s second-quarter earnings rose nearly 3 percent, beating estimates as the health insurer had predicted last week when it announced a plan to combine with bigger rival Anthem in a $48-billion deal. The Bloomfield, Connecticut, company said Thursday that it earned $588 million in the quarter that ended June 30, up from $573 million in the previous year’s quarter. Adjusted earnings totaled $2.55 per share in the most recent quarter. That easily topped Wall Street expectations .

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Gilead hepatitis C drugs build road to Japan
San Francisco Business Times

Gilead Sciences Inc. will use this year’s launches of its blockbuster hepatitis C drugs in Japan as springboards for other products in the Asian nation. Leaders of the Foster City-based company aren’t saying much more about which drugs could be next, but it is clear that Japan offers a big opportunity for Gilead’s once-a-day hepatitis C tablets Sovaldi and Harvoni.

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Evolving health programs improved access, quality of care
San Diego Union-Tribune

On July 30, 1965, President Johnson signed legislation establishing Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid (Medi-Cal) for low-income adults, children, pregnant women and people with disabilities. Though Medicare and Medicaid started as basic health coverage programs for Americans, the programs have evolved over the years to provide improved access to quality and affordable health care coverage. These programs have transformed the delivery of health care in the United States.

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San Pablo: Deal to sell shuttered Doctors Medical Center may happen by January
Contra Costa Times

A deal to sell Doctors Medical Center is expected by January, according to a financial update presented Wednesday to the board of the West Contra Costa Healthcare District.

District counsel Rick Norris said after the meeting that a sale might take until March to complete.

The district, which owns the hospital and ran it until its closure on April 21, will be down to a cash balance of about $550,000 by the end of the year, according to the update, presented by interim CEO Kathy White and financial consultant Harold Emahiser.

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Hospital helipad project challenged
The Press-Enterprise

An attorney’s letter has temporarily grounded plans for a new helipad at the Temecula Valley Hospital. The Temecula City Council was poised to consider the project Tuesday, July 28, but the item was shelved to allow city staffers to address the issues raised in the letter, which was received shortly before the start of the meeting. “Staff has not had the time to properly digest that,” said Luke Watson, interim director of the Community Development Department.