News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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For Jerry Brown, end-of-life bill forces personal reflection
Los Angeles Times

As someone deep into his eighth decade of life, and with multiple brushes with cancer under his belt, death is not an uncommon topic for Gov. Jerry Brown.

Often it’s a source of humor, such as in May when he ruminated on the pointlessness of pursuing perfect solutions in an imperfect world.

“It’s messy, there’s suffering, and in the end we all die,” Brown said in a speech to a business group. “When you’re 77, by the way, that’s something that’s a little more imminent.”

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Hospitals still lead in healthcare job growth
Modern Healthcare

The healthcare sector added 34,400 jobs in September, making up almost a quarter of new jobs in the U.S. for the month. Hospital hires led the healthcare sector, adding 15,500 for the month. Hospitals have created over 117,000 jobs in the first nine months of this year alone. Industry predictions earlier this year pointed to a stagnant hospital employment market. But other industries, like construction and transportation and warehousing are being left in the dust. The Affordable Care Act is boosting the strong numbers, experts say.

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Chronically Ill Pay More in Obamacare Plans Than Employer Coverage
Kaiser Health News

Chronically ill people enrolled in individual health plans sold on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges pay on average twice as much out-of-pocket for prescription drugs each year than people covered through their workplace, according to a study published Monday in the Health Affairs journal.

Patients with at least one chronic condition such as diabetes or asthma pay on average $621 out–of-pocket for prescription costs on the popular, mid-priced silver exchange plans compared to $304 for those with employer coverage, researchers at Emory University in Atlanta found.

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Congress and Obama Administration Seek Ways to Limit Increase in Medicare Premiums
New York Times

Congress and the Obama administration are frantically seeking ways to hold down Medicare premiums that could rise by roughly 50 percent for some beneficiaries next year, according to lawmakers and Medicare officials.

The administration has criticized commercial insurance companies for seeking rate increases much smaller than that.

Aides to Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, and Speaker John A. Boehner are quietly exploring a possible deal that would limit the expected increase in Medicare premiums.

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First law of its kind in U.S. protects California health-insurance brokers
Sacramento Business Journal

California this week becomes the first state to protect insurance brokers from last-minute changes in health plan contracts. Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed Assembly Bill 1163, which requires insurance companies to provide 45-day notice before making major changes to agent contracts. The restriction does not apply to changes that are mutually agreed upon or are necessary due to changes in state or federal law.

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California Governor Signs Physician-Assisted-Suicide Bill Into Law
National Public Radio

With the stroke of a pen, California Gov. Jerry Brown made it legal for physicians in the state to prescribe lethal doses of medications if their terminally ill patients wish to end their lives.

Brown signed the “End of Life Act” into law on Monday, and in doing so California joins four other states — Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana — where patients’ right to choose doctor-assisted death is protected either by law or court order.

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For geriatrics, mental and physical health come full circle
San Diego Union-Tribune

As a geriatric psychologist, Dara Bliss Schwartz knows growing old can be one of life’s great ironies.

While aging “should be” a breeze, many people find it can be difficult and takes fortitude, resilience and humor.

“The good news is, for most older adults, if they made it to older adulthood, they probably have those skills in abundance,” Bliss Schwartz said. “They may just need a reminder that they are there.”

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Overtesting Of Employees Can Be A Side Effect Of Workplace Wellness
National Public Radio

As health insurance open season heats up for businesses, many employees will discover that participating in their company’s wellness program includes rolling up their sleeves for blood tests.

Across the country, half of large employers offering health benefits have wellness programs that ask workers to submit to medical tests, often dubbed “biometrics,” that can involve a trip to a doctor’s office, lab or workplace health fair.

While aimed at uncovering potential health risks early to head off serious and costly problems, the programs that involve those biometrics are also controversial. Will the screening exams actually improve health, or merely add to a culture of overtesting that is helping drive up the cost of health care?

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How Long Do You Wait to See the Doctor? Who Waits the Longest?

“Have you ever sat in your doctor’s waiting room, thinking about everything else you could be doing?”

That question opens a short video prepared by researchers of a new study that found people spend an average of 123 minutes to obtain medical care, including clinic and travel time.

Researchers found patients spend about 38 minutes traveling on average and about 86 minutes in their health facility.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also found that both clinic and travel time was significantly longer for racial and ethnic minorities.

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Health plan tiers raise drug costs for hepatitis patients
Modern Healthcare

A new report says that health insurance companies discriminate against people with hepatitis B and C by charging high out-of-pocket costs for drugs, but the industry lobby has called the analysis “very one-sided” and limited in scope.The Affordable Care Act prohibits health insurers from discriminating against people on the basis of age, gender or health conditions, and the federal government has already made it clear it will monitor health plans sold on the public exchanges to ensure they meet ACA standards.

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Website assesses hospital pricing, quality
Ventura County Star

A new website funded by a federal grant is designed to help consumers assess hospital prices and quality.

Called California Healthcare Compare, the project was coordinated by the state Department of Insurance in partnership with Consumer Reports and researchers from UC San Francisco.

The site provides data to help patients understand what they will pay out of pocket in different regions of California and what insurers will pay for 100 medical procedures and conditions.

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Drug maker scratches employees, shakes up C-suite after psoriasis drug troubles
San Francisco Business Times

Drug developer XenoPort Inc. lost its CEO, will lay off about 25 employees and will seek a partner for a questionable mid-stage treatment for the the patchy skin disease known as psoriasis. The layoffs were practically footnoted in a press release Thursday in which the Santa Clara company (NASDAQ: XNPT) announced the immediate retirement of founder and CEO Ronald Barrett and a new strategy that focuses on its restless legs syndrome treatment Horizant.

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CalPERS open enrollment down to the wire: $7.74B at stake
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente is sitting pretty in the final week of open enrollment at the California Public Employee’ Retirement System. The annual window for workers to pick health care benefits for next year ends Friday. The stakes are huge: The pension fund’s health care purchasing program spent more than $7.74 billion on coverage for 1.4 million people last year.

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Fresno Doctors Using 4D Technology To Diagnose Heart Problems
ABC News

Dorothy Juskalian suffered a small stroke. At first, doctors couldn’t find an obvious cause but then a revolutionary imaging system revealed a hidden problem that likely led to the stroke: a hole in her heart.

“The doctors felt that I probably was born with it but never had any symptoms and never knew until this happened.”

Dorothy’s condition was detected by a new 4D imaging system that gives doctors the most advanced look inside the body to date.