News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Employers applaud ‘Cadillac’ tax delay but still seek repeal
Washington Post

Congress delivered an early holiday present to employers this week when it proposed a two-year delay for a health benefits tax many would have had to pay starting in 2018. But businesses hope Santa will eventually leave something better under the tree.

The delay, which was reached as part of a budget deal, means companies that offer employees expensive health insurance will not have to pay the so-called Cadillac tax for those plans until 2020.

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Prices for many generic drugs rising faster than inflation
Modern Healthcare

Prices rose faster than inflation for 22% of top generic drugs reviewed between 2005 and 2014, according to a report released Thursday by HHS‘ Office of Inspector General. Had those generic drugs been subject to the same requirement that branded drugs face — where manufacturers pay additional rebates to Medicaid when the price of a drug increases faster than inflation — Medicaid would have pulled in $1.4 billion in rebates for the top 200 generic drugs, according to the report.

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Study: Up to 90 percent of cancers not ‘bad luck,’ but due to lifestyle choices, environment
Washington Post

Scientists have long agreed that a person’s risk of getting cancer comes down to a mix of genes, lifestyle, environment thrown in with some measure of chance. But the relative importance of each factor has never been settled.

In early January, a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine caused a stir when they published a study in the journal Science detailing their “bad luck” hypothesis for how normal cells turn bad. Their work involved trying to figure out why tissue in certain parts of our bodies are more vulnerable to developing cancer than others and they concluded it had to do with how many times they divide — a process that occurs somewhat at random.

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Kaiser Permanente Plans to Open a Medical School
New York Times

Kaiser Permanente, the health system based in California that combines a nonprofit insurance plan with its own hospitals and clinics, announced Thursday that it would open its own medical school in the state in 2019.

The system’s leaders said their central goal was to teach Kaiser’s model of integrated care to a new generation of doctors who will be under pressure to improve health outcomes and control costs by working in teams and using technology.

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Congress Moves to Pause Obamacare Taxes, Causing Barely a Ripple

A set of delays on Obamacare-related taxes in the new federal spending bill will give corporate earnings a modest boost but are unlikely to undo the law or produce significant changes in the health-care industry. Medical-device companies such as Medtronic Plc, health insurers like UnitedHealth Group Inc., and big employers across the U.S. have been preparing for years for a slate of new taxes under the Affordable Care Act.

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The Magical World of ACA Funding
The Health Care Blog

Congressional leaders just agreed to a budget that would keep the government open through September 2016. I was happy to hear the government was not going to shut down. I was much less happy to hear about the fate of provisions supposed to fund the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA – costing $1.2 trillion over 10 years – was supposed to ‘mostly’ pay for itself. Revenue was to be generated (in large part) by a series of taxes on a variety of different sources. These taxes did not fare so well in the current budget.

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What the biggest changes to the ACA so far mean

Congress is nearing a vote on a $1.1 trillion spending bill that will fund the government into next fall.

It includes the biggest changes so far to one of Congressional Republicans’ top legislative targets over the last half-dozen years: Obamacare.

The omnibus package includes provisions that would delay or suspend three taxes that help finance the Affordable Care Act, undercutting something of a grand bargain struck with the healthcare industry to get the ACA passed.

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Why everyone wants to kill Obamacare’s Cadillac tax

Companies want to kill it. Unions hate it. Republicans want to eliminate it. Some Democrats agree.

We’re talking about the much-reviled Obamacare Cadillac tax, which is set to levy a hefty 40% excise tax on employer health plans that are considered generous.

The tax suffered its first body blow this week, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreeing to delay its implementation until 2020, instead of 2018, as part of Wednesday’s budget deal.  President Obama has even said he’ll sign it, which would make it the first significant change to Obamacare that Congress would get past his desk.

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Lax Auditing Encouraged Overcharging By Medicare Advantage Plans
National Public Radio

Despite facing mounting evidence federal officials were overpaying some Medicare health plans by tens of millions of dollars a year, the government dialed back efforts to recover as much of the money as possible, newly released records show.

The privately run Medicare Advantage plans offer seniors an alternative to traditional Medicare and in recent years have signed up more than 17 million members, about a third of people eligible for Medicare.

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Medical Bills: Emergency Room Legislation to be Heard in January
San Clemente Times

Key figures in the effort to keep a hospital, or at least an emergency room, in San Clemente met Wednesday to update the public on the progress of keeping the city’s only hospital, Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, operational.

Since fall of 2014, when the prospect of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center’s closure came to light, community organization Save San Clemente Hospital, state legislators and City Council members have been adamant about trying to keep the hospital open.

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California stem cell agency adopts spending plan aimed at bringing cures to market
Sacramento Bee

California’s stem cell agency on Thursday charted a fresh, $890 million course that aims to make good on its unfulfilled promise to voters that it would produce stem cell treatments ready for wide-scale use on patients. The agency proposes to help fund 50 new clinical trials for stem cell therapies on top of the 15 it already has underway. Next year, it plans to crank up a $150 million partnership with private investors to turn research into cures.

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Stem cell agency steps up pace
San Diego Union-Tribune

California’s stem cell agency adopted a sweeping new plan Thursday to chart its course for the next five years and possibly beyond.

In an unusually crowded agenda, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine also heard a report about its recent move from San Francisco to Oakland, and progress with a treatment for curing “bubble baby disease.”

The plan is meant to make the best possible use of the approximately $900 million left from the $3 billion California voters gave it in 2004, said Randy Mills, CIRM president.

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Growing cancer drug developer snags first lease at massive Cove project
San Francisco Business Times

Cancer drug developer CytomX Therapeutics Inc. is claiming some of the first space at the The Cove at Oyster Point, HCP Inc.’s signature Peninsula development. The 76,153-square-foot, 10-year office and laboratory lease is significant because the high-profile Cove project at Highway 101 and Oyster Point Boulevard in South San Francisco is the first spec development of life sciences space on the Peninsula during the current biotech boom.

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Push On To Make Transparent Medical Records The National Standard Of Care
Kaiser Health News

Perched on an exam table at the doctor’s office watching the clinician type details about their medical problems into their file, what patient hasn’t wondered exactly what the doctor is writing? As many as 50 million patients may have a chance to find out in the next few years, following the announcement this week of $10 million in new grants to expand the OpenNotes project, which works with medical providers to expand patient access to clinician notes.

OpenNotes started in 2010 as a research project to examine what would happen if patients had easy access to their doctor’s visit notes, which may include a summary of their conversation, the symptoms patients describe and their doctor’s findings from a physical exam. Although patients have a legal right to their medical records, getting those documents is often difficult and expensive. In that experiment, 100 primary care doctors volunteered to open up their notes to 20,000 of their patients at three medical institutions: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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Kaiser’s bid to start a medical school: ‘A game changer’
Sacramento Business Journal

News that Kaiser Permanente plans to launch its own medical school is drawing cheers from local sources familiar with medical education and the changing health care industry. “A healthcare system like Kaiser is on the cutting edge of health care delivery and will change the future of medical education with a focus toward good practice, patient focus, and high outcomes with high quality,“ said Dr. Michael Wilkes, a professor at the UC Davis School of Medicine.

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Kaiser aims to recruit more minority medical students
Los Angeles Times

When Kaiser Permanente announced Thursday that it plans to open a medical school in Southern California by 2019, executives also said they wanted to address one of medical education’s biggest issues: diversity.

The company wants to recruit more minority students and teach doctors how to care for a diverse patient population, two goals medical schools throughout the country have been trying to achieve with mixed results.

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HMO giant Kaiser Permanente plans to open a medical school in Southern California
Los Angeles Times

HMO giant Kaiser Permanente plans to launch a medical school in Southern California, bucking the healthcare establishment and promoting a new generation of physicians that looks more like the community it serves.

The nonprofit health system said Thursday that it hasn’t selected a site for the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, which would enroll its first class in 2019. Many aspects of the plan, including its price tag and campus size, haven’t been finalized.

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Kaiser Permanente plans to open its own medical school in Southern California
Los Angeles Business Journal

In a surprise move, Kaiser Permanente says it plans to open its own “national school of medicine” in 2019. The planned Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine is part of the Oakland-based health care giant’s efforts to take the lead in meeting 21st century health care needs nationwide, officials said early Thursday morning. Details are scarce, but Kaiser said it will move in coming months to “establish the legal entity and organizational structure” for the new school, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019 at an undisclosed location in Southern California.

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Kaiser Permanente donates $14 million to support health access in Hayward
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente, one of the region’s largest and richest health systems, is donating funds to help support St. Rose Hospital and Alameda County’s Health Care Services Agency in efforts to help poor residents of south Hayward.

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UCSF Medical Center suspends kidney donor program

UCSF Medical Center is suspending its living-donor program for kidney transplants after a donor died.

A statement released by UCSF said it voluntarily suspended the program when a donor died in November. Other transplant programs are not impacted.

“The safety and well-being of our patients is our top priority, and every effort is being made to understand what happened. We are deeply saddened by this tragic event,” the hospital’s statement said.

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New hospital telemedicine techology helps save child
Tehachapi News

Getting medical help as soon as possible can mean the difference between life and death.

Recently, Tehachapi Hospital was able to get that help to a critically ill child with the use of its new Children’s Tele-Medicine capabilities.

“The ambulance services gave us a heads up that they were bringing in a very ill child,” said registered nurse Juliana Kirby, chief of the nursing staff at the hospital.

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Marks resigns as head of Mark Twain Medical Center
Calaveras Enterprise

Craig Marks has resigned as president of Mark Twain Medical Center.

Nicki Stevens, a spokeswoman for the hospital, confirmed the resignation on Thursday afternoon but said she was not authorized to offer any further details because it is a “personnel matter.”

Stevens referred questions to interim President Larry Philipp. Philipp did not respond immediately to a telephone message left Thursday afternoon.