News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Judge: Calif. Must Explain Backlog of Inmates With Mental Illnesses
California Healthline

On Friday, a federal judge gave California officials 30 days to explain why state prisons have a backlog of inmates with mental health issues waiting for care despite hundreds of available beds, the AP/Washington Times reports (AP/Washington Times, 8/21).

In 2010, there were hundreds of inmates with mental health issues waiting for inpatient care, and the state was ordered to transfer many of them to two psychiatric facilities, including Atascadero State Hospital.

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Second cancers are on the rise; 1 in 5 US cases is a repeat
Modesto Bee

Second cancers are on the rise. Nearly 1 in 5 new cases in the U.S. now involves someone who has had the disease before.

When doctors talk about second cancers, they mean a different tissue type or a different site, not a recurrence or spread of the original tumor.

Judith Bernstein of suburban Philadelphia is an extreme example. She has had eight types over the last two decades, all treated successfully.

“There was a while when I was getting one cancer diagnosis after another,” including breast, lung, esophageal, and the latest — a rare tumor of her eyelids, she said. “At one point I thought I had cancer in my little finger.”

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Pain By The Numbers
Kaiser Health News

In one of the largest population studies on pain to date, researchers with the National Institutes of Health estimate that nearly 40 million Americans experience severe pain and more than 25 million have pain every day. Those with severe pain were more likely to have worse health status, use more health care and suffer from more disability than those with less severe pain.

“There are so many people in the severe pain category that something has to be done,” said Richard Nahin, the lead author of the analysis and lead epidemiologist for the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the arm of the NIH that funded the study.

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Small Business Dilemma: Paying For Health Care

Under the new health care law, sometimes called Obamacare, the “employer mandate” kicks in for businesses with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (FTE). For purposes of the mandate, FTE includes full-time employees plus each 30 hour period worked by non-full-time workers.

With Obamacare, employers must provide health insurance to at least 95% of their full-time employees and dependents up to age 26.

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Will Private Exchanges Move Us Closer to Socialized Medicine?
The Health Care Blog

Private exchanges have become the next big thing in healthcare, the newest approach to controlling employers’ healthcare costs and maybe even a way of moving healthcare from a defined benefit to a defined contribution. But they are unlikely to control healthcare costs and the only thing they will move us towards is socialized medicine.

An increasing number of employers are having employees use online “private exchanges” to make their annual healthcare plan selections. According to an Accenture study, one in four employers is considering a private exchange and an estimated 30 million employees will select their employer-provided healthcare plan through a private exchange by 2017.

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Walker’s health plan hinges on a tricky subsidy rollback
Yahoo! News

Republican Scott Walker’s plan for repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s health care law hinges on what many see as a nearly insurmountable obstacle — getting 60 votes in the Senate.

Walker’s solution for winning over enough lawmakers? In a nutshell, he would first strip away the federal health insurance subsidies that they and their staff get as government employees. That, he says, would expose them to the same premium increases that many Americans have to pay and prompt Congress to act on his plan.

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California’s Obamacare exchange criticized for not fixing enrollment, tax errors
Los Angeles Times

In response to blistering criticism from a consumer group, California’s Obamacare exchange vowed to fix longstanding enrollment and tax-related errors that have blocked consumers from getting coverage for months and left some with unforeseen bills.

Peter Lee, executive director of the Covered California exchange, addressed the complaints at a Thursday board meeting and said more staff and resources have been assigned to resolve these lingering glitches.

“We take this very seriously. We are committed to handling appeals well and effectively,” Lee said. “We still have work to do.”

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Data Tracker: Crafting a new health plan tax not an easy exercise
Sacramento Bee

The main goal of the Legislature’s special session on health care involves crafting a replacement for the current tax on managed-care organizations to help pay for health care for the poor.

How to do that, exactly, is causing plenty of headaches at the Capitol.

Since January, experts in state government and the health care industry have crunched the numbers to try to create a new tax. They want to pull in the same amount of matching federal money for Medi-Cal. They want to minimize the cost to millions of people who buy commercial health insurance.  They also don’t want to put any of California’s roughly three-dozen managed-care plans at a competitive disadvantage that could cause them to leave the market.

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Snooze Alert: A Sleep Disorder May Be Harming Your Body And Brain
National Public Radio

It’s time for consumers to wake up to the risks of sleep disorders, scientists say.

More than 50 million adults in the U.S. have a disorder such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea, according to an Institute of Medicine report. And it’s now clear that a lack of sleep “not only increases the risk of errors and accidents, it also has adverse effects on the body and brain,” according to Charles Czeisler, chief of the division of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

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Doctors Will Be More Diverse In the Future
Pacific Standard

When it comes to diversity among doctors, things are getting better, but there’s still a long way to go.

That’s according to a new analysis published today in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Among practicing doctors in the United States, fewer than one in three is a woman, while five percent or fewer are black or Hispanic, the analysis finds. But among medical students and doctors in post-graduate training, those numbers creep closer to representative, especially for women. This trend suggests that we’ll see a more diverse doctor workforce in the future, so long as women and underrepresented minorities stay in the profession at the same rates men, whites, and Asians do. Here’s the breakdown:

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Why Your Doctor Won’t Friend You On Facebook
Kaiser Health News

Doctors’ practices are increasingly trying to reach their patients online. But don’t expect your doctor to “friend” you on Facebook – at least, not just yet.

Physicians generally draw a line: Public professional pages – focused on medicine, similar to those other businesses offer – are catching on. Some might email with patients. But doctors aren’t ready to share vacation photos and other more intimate details with patients, or even to advise them on medication or treatment options via private chats.

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Plan administrators may be sued over mental health parity law, court decides
Modern Healthcare

Third-party administrators of insurance plans can be sued over allegedly failing to follow a federal law that requires insurers to offer mental health coverage equal to that provided for physical problems, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday. It’s a decision that could lead to more patients and providers challenging plan administrators who try to limit access to mental health services, some say.

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Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital celebrates 40th Anniversary
The Signal

Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital celebrated its 40th Anniversary Gala at the Hyatt Regency Valencia Saturday.

The hospital was dedicated in May 1975 with much fanfare. On Saturday, many hospital officials hit the red carpet.

During the past six years, the hospital has added many new services and facilities to its Valencia campus, answering needs as pressing as a new emergency room to those as necessary but mundane as expanded parking.

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Marin Community Clinics adds X-rays to list of in-house services
Marin Independent Journal

Low-income Marin residents who receive medical care at Marin Community Clinics’ San Rafael office can now also get X-rays performed there.

“We’re doing it to try to prevent patients from trooping around not only the county but outside the county to get care,” said Linda Tavaszi, chief executive of Marin Community Clinics.

Marin Community Clinics, which is a federally qualified health center, saw the number of patients it treats rise 10 percent in 2014, to 35,000.