News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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FDA approves another in a new class of cholesterol-fighting drugs
Washington Post

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the second in a new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs aimed at helping certain people lower their risk of strokes and heart attacks, the leading annual cause of death in the United States.

The agency approved Repatha, an injectable drug manufactured by California-based Amgen, for a limited set of patients unable to get their LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels under control with typical treatments. The indications include use in people with familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic disorder that can severely elevate LDL levels, as well as for patients who have had heart attacks and other serious cardiovascular problems and still cannot reach target LDL levels through the use of traditional statin drugs.

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Few Health Savings Accounts Owners Choose To Invest That Money, Study Finds
Kaiser Health News

Only a tiny fraction of the growing number of people with health savings accounts invests the money in their accounts in the financial markets, according to a recent study. The vast majority leave their contributions in savings accounts instead where the money may earn lower returns.

People who have had their health savings accounts for a longer period of time are more likely to invest their contributions, suggesting that there’s a learning curve in grasping how the accounts work and how to use them, says Paul Fronstin, director of the Health Research and Education Program at the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the study’s author.

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Poll Finds Most Women Believe Mammograms Should Be Done Annually
National Public Radio

Most women 40 and older believe they should have mammograms every year to screen for breast cancer, the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics health poll finds.

The finding is at odds with current recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that women with typical risks for breast cancer have screening mammograms every two years starting at age 50 and until they turn 75.

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Doctors, hospitals worry insurer mergers will cut provider rates, up premiums
Sacramento Business Journal

Several big national health insurance mergers are in the works — and that’s making doctors and hospitals nervous. The issue is whether decreased competition in the health insurance market will give these players leverage to cut provider rates and increase premiums.

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Can We Tame The Wild West of Health Care Pricing?
The Health Care Blog

Health care pricing is like the Wild West and it is only a matter of time before it catches up with us. In July, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) confirmed what many consumers, employers and health plans already knew: there is no cost and quality standard in the American health care system.

Improving our system starts with driving payers and consumers to high value providers. But first, we must know who is charging what. Price transparency tools offer that important information, enabling people to actually comparison shop for their health care services.

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Study Reveals Most Covered California Plans Have Narrow Provider Networks

New research finds 75 percent of Covered California health plans have narrow provider networks.

The University of Pennsylvania report reveals more than one third of all Obamacare insurance plans in California have networks that include less than 10 percent of doctors in a rating area. Insurers point out that narrow networks help keep costs down. But Carmen Balber, executive director of the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, said there’s a fine line.

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CMS boosts funding for initiative to improve care at nursing homes
Modern Healthcare

The CMS announced Thursday that it is combating the skyrocketing cost of nursing home hospitalizations by injecting funds into the Initiative to Reduce Avoidable Hospitalizations among Nursing Facility Residents.In 2013, the CMS partnered with seven Enhanced Care and Coordination Providers in 144 nursing facilities across seven states to test a model to improve care for long-term residents.The ECCPs provided training, preventive services and helped improve the assessment and management of medical conditions.

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Ruling could help providers recover money from Medicare Advantage sequestration cuts
Modern Healthcare

A recent decision by a federal judge may help bolster providers’ lawsuits against Medicare Advantage plans over those plans’ decisions to slash reimbursement rates in response to federal budget cuts.

In the case at issue, 11 Florida providers are suing Humana, saying the insurer wrongly cut payments to them in response to the 2013 federal budget cuts known as sequestration. During sequestration, the CMS reduced payments to Medicare Advantage organizations by 2%, and many of those organizations then passed those cuts on to providers in the form of lower payments.

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Are Physicians Really Dissatisfied With EHRs? Should We Be Concerned?
The Health Care Blog

Microsoft Office was first introduced by Bill Gates at COMDEX, Las Vegas, in August, 1988. Here we are almost exactly 27 years later, and if you plug the words ‘hate,’ ‘Microsoft’ and ‘Office’ into Google, you’ll get more than 4 million results. Remove ‘Office’ and Google returns more than 33 million results.

Clearly, some people don’t feel like Microsoft has perfected products to their satisfaction.

The perpetual unhappiness with a monolith like Office comes to mind as I read reports on the most recent surveys of physician satisfaction with electronic health records (EHRs). Let’s sum up, for those unfamiliar with the reports

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New drug could dramatically reduce cholesterol
USA Today

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the second in a new class of cholesterol drugs that promises to dramatically lower cholesterol, although at a very high price.

Amgen’s Repatha, also known generically as evolocumab, belongs to a new class of injectable cholesterol fighters called PCSK9 inhibitors, which are man-made antibodies. The FDA last month approved the first of these drugs, Praluent, made by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

Both drugs will cost more than $14,000 a year.

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California’s Child Care Workers May Face Required Vaccinations
KQED Radio

A bill that would require day care workers to be immunized against three major diseases that could harm children passed out of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations Wednesday.

It was the last committee stop for the bill, which passed the Senate and now will be up for an Assembly floor vote.

SB 792, by Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, would require vaccination for whooping cough, measles and influenza for all day care workers.

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Ticks more prevalent in Bay Area than previously thought
San Francisco Chronicle

Ticks, those disease-spreading little bloodsuckers, are more prevalent in Bay Area open space and redwood forests than previously thought.

A new Stanford study shows the tiny arachnids are found in more diverse habitats than suspected, and they appear to carry more strains of Lyme and Lyme-like diseases than earlier suspected. Not only that, but a single tick can be infected with more than one strain of these potentially harmful bacteria, researchers found.

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Amgen wins approval for second biotech cholesterol drug
Baltimore Sun

Amgen Inc. has won federal approval for the second medicine in a new class of pricey biotech drugs that reduce artery-clogging cholesterol more than older statin drugs that have been used for decades.

The drug Repatha could eventually help millions of Americans who face increased risks of heart disease because they cannot control their cholesterol with existing drugs and methods. But concerns about the medication’s price tag — $14,100 per year — and long-term benefits will likely limit its use in the near-term.

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Sutter Health facilities again among top health care workplaces
Sacramento Bee

Sacramento-based Sutter Health placed two facilities on Modern Healthcare magazine’s 2015 list of the top 100 “Best Places to Work in Healthcare.”

Sutter Davis Hospital was the only hospital in California to make the 2015 list, and the Sutter Center for Psychiatry in Sacramento was the only mental health facility in the nation on the list. Sutter Davis made the list for a seventh consecutive year. The Sutter Center for Psychiatry was on the list for a fourth time.

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Sutter Davis, Sutter Center for Psychiatry among best places to work in health care
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Davis is the only hospital in California and Sutter Center for Psychiatry is the only mental-health facility in the nation to make Modern Healthcare’s list of top 100 best places to work in health carer in 2015.

The award, announced Thursday, honors health care workplaces that empower workers to do their best to provide patients and customers quality care, products and services.

This is the seventh year in a row that Sutter Davis made the list. It’s the fourth time for Sutter Center for Psychiatry. The list includes providers, suppliers, payers and associations. The two Sutter facilities are the only Sacramento Area businesses on the 2015 list.

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Pat Fry: Longtime Sutter exec prepares to step out of the spotlight
Sacramento Business Journal

When Pat Fry started his career at Sutter Health in 1982, the Sutter empire consisted of just three hospitals: Sutter General, Sutter Memorial and Sutter Davis. Now Sutter Health has 24 hospitals, more than 49,300 employees and an annual budget of more than $10 billion.

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Hospital finances show improvement
Fort Bragg Advocate News

Mendocino Coast District Hospital finances stuck closely to budget in July, with higher-than-expected revenues offset by slightly higher expenses as well, ending with a smaller-than-expected loss got the month. Though the hospital finished July with a net loss of $36,872 on revenues of $4,378,121. the budgeted loss was $108,163, so MCDH closed part of an expected 2016 deficit of more than $800,000.