News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation


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Week ahead: Mental healthcare reform comes into focus
The Hill

The bipartisan duo of Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is seeing some momentum in an effort to reform the mental healthcare system, giving hope to House members who have long failed to advance a similar bill.

After a series of speeches in recent weeks, the senators will take part in a hearing on the issue Thursday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Witnesses include Kana Enomoto, acting administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and National Institute of Mental Health Director Thomas Insel.

The senators have been gathering co-sponsors from both parties for their mental health legislation, which they’ve described as a companion effort to the House bill, but one that steers clear of some of its more controversial provisions such as involuntary treatment and the elimination of SAMHSA.

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There Were Fewer Black Men In Medical School In 2014 Than In 1978
National Public Radio

Oviea Akpotaire and Jeffrey Okonye put in long days working with patients at the veterans’ hospital in south Dallas as fourth-year medical students at the University of Texas Southwestern.

They’re in a class of 237 people and they’re two of only five black men in their class. “I knew the ones above us, below us,” Okonye says. “We all kind of know each other. It’s comforting to see another person that looks like you.”

While more black men graduated from college over the past few decades, the number of black men applying to medical school has dropped. In 1978, 1,410 black men applied to medical school and 542 ended up enrolling. In 2014, both those numbers were down — 1,337 applied and 515 enrolled.

News Headlines Article to open on Nov. 1 with upgrades and one delay
Washington Post

When opens on Nov. 1 for a third open-enrollment season, the online insurance marketplace will be easier for consumers to use, Obama administration officials predict. But one main new tool to help consumers decide on health plans will not be finished.

In preparation for the next sign-up period for private insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the government has fine-tuned the enrollment Web site so it will be speedier and will more clearly show all the expenses that someone considering a given health plan would have to pay.

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Obama administration unveils health care premiums for 2016
San Francisco Chronicle

When consumers turn on their laptops and tablets Monday morning, they should be able to check premiums for 2016 under President Barack Obama’s health care law. Rates are going up in many parts of the country as a new sign-up season starts Nov. 1. But people have options if they shop around, and an upgraded government website will help them compare costs and benefits. and state-run insurance markets are entering their third year, offering taxpayer-subsidized private coverage.

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Obamacare repeal hits resistance from conservatives

Senate Republicans’ carefully-laid plans to use a powerful fast-track tool to send an Obamacare repeal to President Barack Obama is running into fresh resistance, with new opposition from high-profile conservatives and bubbling concerns from moderates. For months, the GOP-led Congress has planned to use the procedural maneuver known as “reconciliation” to finally shepherd a major Obamacare repeal bill to the president’s desk.

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Obamacare: 36% of California’s uninsured don’t know the feds can help pay their premiums
Los Angeles Times

Heading into Obamacare’s third open enrollment starting Nov. 1, uninsured Californians know more about the stick of federal tax penalties than the carrot of premium subsidies.

Officials at the Covered California exchange say that’s a problem because consumers regularly cite high costs as the reason they don’t sign up. Survey data released Thursday show that 36% of uninsured Californians are unaware of the premium subsidies available under the Affordable Care Act. In contrast, only 16% didn’t know about the tax penalty for lacking health coverage.

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New plea to high court by ACA opponents unlikely to get hearing
Modern Healthcare

The conservative Pacific Legal Foundation plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to overturn the Affordable Care Act based on the claim that the Constitution requires all tax-raising bills to originate in the House of Representatives. The lower courts have rejected the argument.

The court has twice turned back major challenges to the healthcare law, in opinions written by Chief Justice John Roberts in 2012 and in June.  The court also has allowed family-owned businesses with religious objections to opt out of paying for contraceptives for women covered under their health plans. A related case involving faith-oriented colleges, hospitals and charities is pending.

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Mitt Romney Finally Takes Credit For Obamacare
National Public Radio

It’s a good thing for him that Mitt Romney isn’t running for president again.

The 2012 GOP presidential nominee — who has still been bandied about as a potential candidate — just embraced everything that made many conservatives skeptical of him. He admitted that the health care plan he instituted as governor of Massachusetts was the precursor to Obamacare.

In a quote in a Boston Globe obituary for Staples founder Thomas Stemberg, Romney praised the businessman who opened his first store in the Boston suburbs with backing from Romney’s Bain Capital.

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New mammogram guidelines invite risks: Our view
USA Today

Over the past three decades, more and more women have opted to get mammograms, which, despite some discomfort and anxiety, provide the best way to detect breast cancer early.

The system has worked: In the same period, the rate of breast cancer deaths has been cut by one-third. That can’t be coincidence, and most everyone, including the influential American Cancer Society, agrees that early detection saves lives.

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Why Health Care Providers Should Publish Physician Ratings
The Health Care Blog

Early efforts to publish performance data about doctors and hospitals usually required a strong external force, such as pressure from a state department of health. But that’s changing. Some leading health care systems are now publishing ratings of their physicians on their own websites, not just ceding that activity to consumer outlets. This development may seem small, but if the trend grows, it will drive improvements in the quality of care.

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Got enough nurses? Nurse groups cite Kentucky case to support push for staffing ratio laws
Modern Healthcare

Last March, a nursing assistant noticed a large pressure ulcer on the backside of a patient needing intensive care at the Hazard (Ky.) ARH Regional Medical Center. It was about 10 days after the patient had been admitted for leg ulcers and complications related to diabetes and renal disease.Those conditions are known to increase the risk of pressure sores, which develop quickly.

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On death bed, MS foundation revived (sort of) by donors
San Francisco Business Times

Myelin Repair Foundation 2.0 is in business. A couple donors pledged cash over the past few months to maintain a slimmed-down version of the Saratoga foundation, which is focused on funding and discovering new approaches for battling multiple sclerosis. That will allow the MRF to stay alive at least until April, push forward with an important clinical trial collaboration and continue hosting a well-regarded annual meeting of top MS researchers.

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New mammogram guideline balances risks: Opposing view
USA Today

Cancer screening is like searching for needles in a haystack. The needles are the women with breast cancer. The hay is the healthy population.

We don’t have a magnet to magically detect the needles. Instead, we sift through each piece of hay: The fewer the needles, the harder they are to find. That’s why we don’t screen women in their 30s. Even though cases of fatal breast cancer exist in this group, they’re very rare. Meanwhile, for women 50 and over, there’s broad consensus about recommended screening.

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Hepatitis C drugs Sovaldi and Harvoni out of reach for most, except inmates
Los Angeles Daily News

Sometimes Jane Blumenfeld feels like if she were in prison, she would have a better chance at getting life-saving drugs to treat her liver disease.

Blumenfeld is one of 33,160 in California who have chronic hepatitis C infection, a liver disease caused by a virus most commonly spread through an exchange of blood.

Up until 2013, it was considered incurable. But then came Sovaldi and Harvoni, the only two drugs that can cure hepatitis C, preventing liver transplants.

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Pricey generic drugs to get competition from Imprimis
Los Angeles Times

Turing Pharmaceuticals sparked nationwide outrage and government investigations by raising the cost of Daraprim, a drug for treating AIDS and cancer, from $13.50 a capsule to $750 last month.

This week, the biomedical company Imprimis Pharmaceuticals of San Diego introduced a competitor to the medication — for $1 a capsule.

Imprimis plans to take the same strategy to undercut other generic drugs sold at far more than their manufacturing cost.

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Infant whooping cough less severe if mom gets Tdap shot during pregnancy
Southern California Public Radio

Vaccinating pregnant women against pertussis (whooping cough) )provides greater protection to the small percentage of their infants who contract the disease, according to a study released Friday by the California Department of Public Health.

In recent years, public health experts have been recommending that pregnant women get vaccinated against pertussis in the third trimester as a way to protect their infants from getting the disease when they are too young to be fully vaccinated.

A small percentage of babies will still contract pertussis, which can lead to hospitalization and in rare cases death, the Department said. But its study of 382 infants with pertussis found those whose mothers were vaccinated in the third trimester of pregnancy were much less likely to be hospitalized. Of those who were hospitalized, a far smaller percentage ended up in intensive care, none needed intubation, had seizures or died.

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Blue Shield of California still in hot seat over executive pay

Blue Shield of California raised executive pay by $24 million in 2012, amounting to a 64% increase from the previous year, The Los Angeles Times previously reported. What concerns regulators is whether the company excluded some of its pay data from public filings in order to cloak massive sums paid to outgoing execs, including former CEO Bruce Bodaken.

Markovich says the company still won’t reveal how the money was distributed as the California insurance department continues to investigate.

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In L.A., Community Health Workers Are Part Of The Medical Team
Kaiser Health News

Month after month, Natalia Pedroza showed up at the doctor’s office with uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure. Her medications never seemed to work, and she kept returning to the emergency room in crisis.

Walfred Lopez, a Los Angeles County community health worker, was determined to figure out why.

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No emergency room? Some O.C. paramedics now can take patients to urgent care, clinics instead
Orange County Register

An 18-year-old football player hits the ground wrong during a game, wrenching his arm. Someone calls 911, and Fountain Valley paramedic Dan Lancaster arrives on the fire engine from Fire Station 1.

He suspects a simple break, without any deformity or open wound.

Normally, the football player would be transported to the emergency room of a hospital.

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Top O.C. hospitals battle infections among patients
Orange County Register

Every year, millions of Americans check into hospitals to get healthier only to end up sicker because of infections.

Patients come into constant contact with surfaces – from bed linens to surgical tools to caregivers’ hands – that, in hospitals, are particularly prone to contamination by harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi.

For people already sick enough to be hospitalized, that exposure can be lethal.

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Local children’s hospitals get $17.7 million grant
Orange County Register

Rady Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Orange County will share a $17.7 million federal grant to improve care in Southern California for health problems like asthma and acne, the medical organizations has announced.

The money from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will be used to engage around 1,450 primary care physicians and specialists to enhance the quality of care and lower costs.