News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Medicare Advantage plans to test value-based insurance design
Modern Healthcare

The CMS Innovation Center unveiled a new demonstration program Tuesday that will allow Medicare Advantage insurers to encourage the use of clinically valuable services by lowering out-of-pocket costs for enrollees.

The demo is part of the Affordable Care Act’s push to lower healthcare costs and improve clinical quality in the Medicare program. Policy experts also believe value-based insurance design may resolve some of the problems associated with high-deductible health plans, which are becoming more prevalent among employers and in the individual insurance market.

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Fewer Americans skipping medical care for cost reasons
Washington Post

During the first three months of the year, just 1 in 20 Americans said they did not get medical care they needed because they could not afford it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings, from the federal National Health Interview Survey, show that 4.4 percent of people interviewed from January through March said they had skipped medical care in the previous year because of its cost — the lowest percentage in 16 years. The percent skipping care for cost reasons had reached nearly 7 percent in 2009 and 2010 and has been shrinking since then.

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CDC: Your heart is probably a lot older than you are
Washington Post

As a new way of looking at our chances of having a heart attack or stroke, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a sobering nationwide statistic Tuesday on the “age” of your heart, the vital organ that we insist on abusing through smoking, rich food or other excesses.

Because of these factors and others, U.S. men’s hearts are an average of 7.8 years older than their chronological ages. Women do a little better, with hearts an average of 5.4 years older than chronological age.

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Patients much likelier to choose hospital that employs their doctor
Modern Healthcare

When patients have to go to the hospital, they’re likely to choose a facility where their doctor is employed, a new study suggests.

The study surveyed Medicare patients who are treated by hospital-employed doctors. Hospital ownership of doctors’ medical groups “dramatically increases” the probability that those patients will go to the hospitals that employ their doctors, report Stanford University’s Lawrence Baker, Daniel Kessler and Kate Bundorf in a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, a not-for-profit research organization.

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Approaching health law tax is not just a levy on luxury
The Charlotte Observer

The last major piece of President Barack Obama’s health care law could raise costs for thrifty consumers as well as large corporations and union members when it takes effect in 2018.

The so-called Cadillac tax was meant to discourage extravagant coverage. Critics say it’s a tax on essentials, not luxuries. It’s getting attention now because employers plan ahead for major costs like health care.

With time, an increasing number of companies will be exposed to the tax, according to a recent study.

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California lawmakers advance right-to-die bill on second try
Los Angeles Daily News

California lawmakers approved legislation Tuesday that would allow terminally ill patients to take life-ending medications, after an effort to pass a similar right-to-die bill stalled in the Legislature.

The Assembly Public Health and Developmental Services Committee heard from some of the same advocates and opponents before approving the new bill, ABX2-15, on a 10-2 vote Tuesday, sending it to another committee.

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Key Assembly panel approves Aid-in-Dying bill for California
Los Angeles Times

A bill allowing physicians in California to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to hasten the death of the terminally ill passed a key milestone Tuesday when it was approved by its first committee in the state Assembly.

A similar bill had previously stalled during the regular session in the Assembly Health Committee, but the proposal was revived when Gov. Jerry Brown called a special session with a different committee membership that was supportive of the bill.

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Doctors’ group opposes changes to proposed aid-in-dying bill
Los Angeles Times

A second attempt to pass an aid-in-dying bill goes before a key legislative committee Tuesday, but it already has suffered a setback as the California Medical Assn. is warning it will oppose the measure if proposed amendments are added.

The bill would allow physicians in California to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who could then hasten the end of their lives.

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Assisted-death bill passes first Assembly committee
Sacramento Bee

A contentious proposal that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday, advancing from a special Assembly health committee by a bipartisan vote of 10-2.

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Not enough votes to defund Planned Parenthood, McConnell says
Modern Healthcare

The Senate’s top Republican is conceding that his party will have to await the next president before it can cut off federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood, prompting heated rebuffs from conservatives.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says Republicans lack the votes to halt the payments. He also says that standing in the GOP’s way is President Barack Obama, who doesn’t leave office until January 2017.

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Are Statins Bad For Me? Personalized Medicine Can’t Yet Say
National Public Radio

About 25 to 30 percent of people prescribed statins dump them within a year. I flunked Lipitor after a few wretched months.

Statins are prescribed to lower cholesterol in people who show risk factors for cardiovascular disease or diabetes, or who already have them. Side effects can include muscle weakness, diabetes onset and, rarely, permanent muscle damage. These risks are higher in women, with age, and with certain heart and blood pressure drugs.

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Amgen and Novartis partnering on a drug that could prevent Alzheimer’s
Los Angeles Times

Thousand Oaks biotech firm Amgen Inc. is partnering with Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis to develop a drug that could slow or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The companies, which announced the agreement Tuesday, will combine separate efforts on drugs that attack BACE, an enzyme that produces clusters of proteins called plaques believed to cause the brain disorder. Novartis was a step ahead of Amgen on the Alzheimer’s front, conducting clinical trials of an oral drug called CNP520. Amgen said it has “a number of preclinical candidates” in the Alzheimer’s field.

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Berkeley: Health care officials hope more vaccinations stop spread of measles
Contra Costa Times

Officials in this university city were urging people to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of measles on Tuesday, a day after a UC Berkeley student was diagnosed with the highly contagious disease.

No new patients have been diagnosed since then, City of Berkeley Health Officer Janet Berreman said.

Patients sometimes develop symptoms up to four days after becoming contagious, meaning they might unwittingly spread the disease during that infectious period. Also, the virus can remain in the air for up to two hours, Berreman said.

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USD opens high-tech nursing building
San Diego Union-Tribune

The new nursing building at the University of San Diego triples the amount of space students will have for hands-on training, but the $18 million facility is not just about meeting the demand for more nurses. Instead, the Betty and Bob Beyster Institute for Nursing Research is built to help nurses earn the masters degrees and doctorates that experts say are sorely needed as medicine grows ever more complex.

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Sutter rolls out comfort on wheels
Lake County Record-Bee

Sutter Lakeside Hospital is delivering patients comfort — on wheels.

The Comfort Cart, which rolled out in early August, offers patients methods of controlling pain in place of or in addition to medication. It includes relaxing CDs, playing cards, magazines, lavender eye pillows, hot and cold packs, puzzles, coloring books and instructions on breathing for relaxation.

“A lot of hospitals affect pain with medication, which is one dimensional. Pain is very complex,” said Joe Prisco, manager of physical therapy at Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

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UCLA Health patients notified after laptop stolen
Southern California Public Radio

The hospital system of the University of California, Los Angeles, has notified more than 1,200 patients about the theft of a faculty member’s laptop containing names, medical record numbers and other health information.

UCLA Health said Tuesday there’s no evidence that any individual’s personal or medical information has been accessed.

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Cedars-Sinai buys Marina Del Rey Hospital
Los Angeles Business Journal

Cedars-Sinai Health System said it has bought Marina Del Rey Hospital and its neighboring medical office building for an undisclosed price. The 145-bed Marina Del Rey Hospital will operate as a distinct community hospital affiliate of the Cedars-Sinai Health System and will continue to provide its existing services, including a 24-hour emergency room.

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Employees go to any heights to support Upland hospital
Daily Bulletin

San Antonio Regional Hospital personnel recently took on a mountain and won.

Not just any mountain, but its namesake, in order to promote exercise and healthy lifestyles.

Decades ago when Mary Frances Paul donated money to establish a hospital in Upland, many at the time wanted to name the facility after her late husband. She politely declined, instead opting for one that reflected the community. They settled on San Antonio Community Hospital (today known as San Antonio Regional Hospital) because of its proximity to the majestic Mt.

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CaliforniaChoice small-business health exchange adds Sutter HMO
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Health got approval from state regulators Monday to offer its HMO to small employers through the private insurance exchange CaliforniaChoice. Coverage will be available Dec. 1 in the Sacramento region, Sonoma County and San Joaquin Valley. Twelve plan designs will be offered. The move offers Sutter Health Plus a new forum to expand enrollment among small-business owners.

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Universal Patient Identifiers for the 21st Century
The Health Care Blog

Healthcare is abuzz with calls for Universal Patient Identifiers. Universal people identifiers have been around for decades and experience can help us understand what, if anything, makes patients different from people. This post argues that surveillance may be a desirable side-effect of access to a health service but the use of unique patient identifiers for surveillance needs to be managed separately from the use of identifiers in a service relationship.

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Tentative State Union Contract Includes Pension Concessions
capital public radio

The tentative three year contract with Professional Engineers in California Government would require members to pay 0.5 percent of their salary beginning in July of 2017 to help reduce the unfunded liability for retiree health care.

“It’s certainly very symbolic,” says Douglas Johnson with the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College. He says the contribution is a small one, but could have significant ramifications for future contracts with other state unions.