News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Partisan bickering distracts from real healthcare policy issues

Ah, Capitol Hill. Just when you start to have high hopes that our elected representatives are taking on the important issues–in this case, a hearing about consolidation in the healthcare industry–you get a reminder of why Congress’ approval rating is abysmally low.

“I’ve got a parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman: Who controls the time during my questioning of my witnesses? “

You didn’t give him the opportunity to answer the question–you kept cutting him off.”

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A Medicare tourniquet: How hospitals try to heal cuts that bleed away profits
Modern Healthcare

Up until 2012, before the Affordable Care Act began cutting revenue, a majority of tax-exempt hospitals in Southeast Michigan made profits on their Medicare business, according to a Crain’s analysis of selected IRS Form 990s from 2011 to 2013.

Since then, those profits — or surplus over expenses, as measured by the Internal Revenue Service — have been slowly evaporating for some of the 15 hospitals and multihospital systems in metro Detroit. The primary reasons: reimbursement cuts, readmission penalties and overpayment recoveries.

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Surge In Statin Use Among Very Elderly Without Heart Trouble Raises Doubts
Kaiser Health News

Many doctors are choosing a better-safe-than-sorry approach to heading off heart trouble in very elderly patients.

Inexpensive statin drugs are given to millions of people to reduce cholesterol, even many who do not show signs of heart disease. But a recent study has found that seniors with no history of heart trouble are now nearly four times more likely – from 9 percent to 34 percent – to get those drugs than they were in 1999.

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Bipartisan Effort Fights Health Law Rule That Could Raise Premiums
New York Times

Members of Congress from both parties, as well as some employers, insurers and state insurance commissioners, are calling for changes in the Affordable Care Act to prevent premium increases that are expected to affect workers at many small and midsize companies next year.

Lawmakers see the potential for a rare bipartisan agreement on the issue, after five years in which Republicans have repeatedly tried to repeal the law and Democrats have blocked their efforts.

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FDA Revisits Safety Of The Essure Contraceptive Device
National Public Radio

After their third son was born, Tisha Scott and her husband decided they were done having kids. So Scott, 34, of Drakesville, Iowa, decided to get her tubes tied.

“As old married people, neither of us was really interested in using condoms for the rest of our life,” Scott says. “So that was the decision that we made because we knew that our family was complete.”

But instead of undergoing surgical sterilization, Scott’s doctor urged her to try something called Essure — the only available, nonsurgical permanent birth control option approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

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Health and Human Services move is back on track
Napa Valley Register

Napa County’s 146-year history of offering health services at its Old Sonoma Road property is to end next spring and a new chapter will begin at a business park across town.

The South Napa Earthquake delayed the massive move of the county’s $90 million-a-year Health and Human Services Agency operation. But the move is back on track, with all of the preparations this entails.

Workers are readying space in the county’s South Campus at Napa Valley Commons at a cost of nearly $10 million.

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New prescription drugs can help patients, but their high prices elicit ire
Los Angeles Times

They sounded like three deadly strikes.

The patient had a dangerously high level of LDL cholesterol, a high risk for heart disease and an intolerance for the most common cholesterol-fighting medication.

Dr. William Averill, a Torrance cardiologist, thought he had a solution: Praluent, a cholesterol-lowering drug from pharmaceutical companies Regeneron and Sanofi that had just been approved by the FDA as a treatment for people who didn’t benefit from the standard cholesterol treatment.

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Medical device maker Penumbra’s $120M IPO soars
San Francisco Business Times

Penumbra is the latest Bay Area health sector company to blast past its IPO marks, with its stock up 33 percent when it opened trading Friday after raising $120 million in an offering that sold more shares and priced higher than expected. It then trimmed those gains to settle into a $39.71 share price in mid-afternoon trade, and closed at $41.35. The Alameda medical device maker’s stock opened at $40 a share. It sold 4 million shares at $30 each on Thursday. It was expected to sell 3.8 million shares for between $25 and $28.

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Blue Shield Sued Over Spinal Surgery
Courthouse News Service

Blue Shield of California refuses to cover artificial cervical disc replacement, calling it “investigational,” though the surgery has been done thousands of times, a patient claims in a federal class action. Cervical discs are the six spinal vertebrae in the neck. Filled with a shock-absorbent gel-like substance, they help stabilize the neck and enable it to turn and bend smoothly.

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L.A. Rolls Out Complex Care Teams for Chronically Ill Patients

Los Angeles County’s Department of Health Services is betting it can save money while radically improving the health of some of its sickest and most challenging patients. Last March, county health officials began targeting individuals in South and East Los Angeles who rely on emergency departments or hospitalizations for care and who struggle with more than one chronic disease.

“They suffer from the whole gamut of issues,” said Clemens Hong, a family physician who is medical director of the pilot program, Care Connections, which aims to reach about a thousand patients.

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Santa Rosa trauma surgeons use new life-saving tech
North Bay Business Journal

On Sept. 10, a cyclist veered off a steep, winding road in the hills near Salt Point State Park in northwest Sonoma County then fell nearly 50 feet down an embankment, landing in a creek. Timber Cove firefighters responded to the crash. A REACH helicopter whisked the cyclist to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital’s Level II trauma center, designated in year 2000. Trauma cases like this one happen every day in the five counties served by the trauma center: Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, Napa and northern Marin.

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$150,000 awarded to focus on opioid prescribing, substance abuse, treatment in Santa Cruz County
Santa Cruz Sentinel

The Health Improvement Partnership of Santa Cruz County has been awarded $150,000 for collaboration focusing on mental health, substance abuse and opioid prescribing guidelines.

“Opioids” include prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, hydrocodone, and sedatives as well as heroin, a highly addictive illegal drug.

Last year, of 58 overdose deaths in Santa Cruz County, 47 were related to opioids, according to Cecilia Krebs of Janus, a local treatment center for addiction.