December 1, 2023

Health Insurance

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Wednesday, September 27, 2023 – California Healthline

New Medicare Advantage Plans Tailor Offerings to Asian Americans, Latinos, and LGBTQ+

As more seniors opt for Medicare Advantage, a few small insurers have begun offering plans that provide culturally targeted benefits for cohorts including Asian Americans, Latinos, and LGBTQ+ people. The approach, policy researchers say, has potential and perils. (Stephanie Stephens,


What Happens to Health Programs if the Federal Government Shuts Down?

Medicare and Medicaid shouldn’t be affected, but confusion can be expected. (Julie Rovner,


What To Know About Getting Your COVID Booster In Sacramento

COVID-19 has been an unwelcome guest in many people’s plans this summer. Now, as fall — and flu season — approaches, Sacramento health officials say anyone over 6 months old should get the latest COVID vaccine to provide protection against the virus. The new formulation has been updated to handle the latest variants of the virus: EG.5, nicknamed “Eris,” and BA.2.86, nicknamed “Pirola”. The FDA approved the one-dose shot for Pfizer and Moderna on Sept. 11. (Salanga and Wolffe, 9/26)

ABC News:
Almost Half Of US Adults Plan To Get New COVID-19 Vaccine, Survey Finds

Nearly half of all adults in the United States plan to get the newly recommended COVID-19 vaccine, according to results from a survey released Wednesday. The latest poll conducted by the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor found that 23% of U.S. adults say they will “definitely” get the updated booster, 23% say they will “probably” get it, while 19% say they will “probably not” get it and 33% say they will “definitely not” get it. (Wetsman and Winsor, 9/27)

San Francisco Chronicle:
New Study Points With ‘94% Accuracy’ To Biological Signs Of Long COVID

Scientists peering at blood samples from 273 people — some with long COVID and some healthy — have discovered clear physical differences that could shed light on how to tailor individual remedies for those suffering from the complex post-viral disease. There is currently no treatment for long COVID, an insidious illness that can affect every organ system and rob people of the ability to think clearly, wake up refreshed, exercise or even breathe deeply. About 18 million people had long-term symptoms in the U.S. alone in 2022, according to Sept. 26 figures from the National Center for Health Statistics. (Asimov, 9/26)

Home Care Workers Camp Outside Sacramento County Board Chambers For Higher Pay

Caretakers for elderly and disabled people in Sacramento are calling on the county to raise their wages and extend health care benefits for more people. About a dozen caretakers with the Service Employees International Union 2015 union camped outside the county administration building in downtown Sacramento Monday night, and plan to stay there until Wednesday. (Wolffe, 9/26)

San Francisco Chronicle:
It Serves 50,000 Patients A Year. It Just Avoided A Massive Strike

A last-minute labor deal has averted a workers strike at a nonprofit health care provider that serves tens of thousands of mostly lower-income immigrant and refugee patients in Alameda County. The deal struck Friday between the employees and managers of Asian Health Services, a nonprofit organization with 14 community health care centers, is expected to relieve a staffing crisis that created massive wait lists for dental care and basic checkups, and difficult working conditions for staff, say health care workers involved in the negotiation process. (Li, 9/26)

Suicide Rates Higher For Nurses, Health Care Support Workers, Study Says

Jobs in health care are known to be challenging for workers’ mental health. But the mental health toll can be especially burdensome for registered nurses, health technicians, and health care support workers, who are at a higher risk of suicide compared to the general population, according to a study published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association that looked at a nationally representative cohort of about 1.84 million employed people (both within the health care field and outside) observed from 2008 to 2019. (Merelli, 9/26)

NBC News:
Teens Inundated With Phone Prompts Day And Night, Research Finds

New research Common Sense Media released Tuesday finds about half of 11- to 17-year-olds get at least 237 notifications on their phones every day. About 25% of them pop up during the school day, and 5% show up at night. … Dr. Benjamin Maxwell, the interim director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, said he is “immensely concerned” by the findings. (Edwards and Snow, 9/26)

The New York Times:
Former U.S. Military Bases Remain A Toxic Menace 

The cities of Seaside and Marina, Calif., where Fort Ord had been critical to the local economy, were left with a ghost town of clapboard barracks and decrepit, World War II-era concrete structures that neither of the cities could afford to tear down. Also left behind were poisonous stockpiles of unexploded ordnance, lead fragments, industrial solvents and explosives residue, a toxic legacy that in some areas of the base remains largely where the Army left it. (Vartabedian, 9/27)

Military Times:
Lawmakers Demand Accountability After VA Loses Track Of Vets’ Claims

House Republicans on Tuesday called for employee discipline and potential firings after the discovery that tens of thousands of veterans’ disability cases were lost for months or years in the Department of Veterans Affairs claims systems due to software glitches. “ has gaps, and veterans are falling into them,” said Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., who chairs the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on technology, during a hearing Tuesday. “This is a situation where the VA is badly in need of independent oversight.” (Shane III, 9/26)

Military Times:
Navy To Start Fielding New Hearing Protection Helmet This Month

The Navy has been developing a new hearing protection helmet for flight crew working under extreme noise conditions, and is expected to begin fielding the new gear this month. The HGU-99/P Hearing Protection Helmet aims to facilitate crew communication and curtail hearing loss by including additional hearing and impact protection, according to Amie Blade, a spokesperson for Naval Air Systems Command. (Correll, 9/26)

Modern Healthcare:
Senate Advances Bill To Temporarily Aid Hospitals, Health Centers

The Senate took a first step to prevent a government shutdown and extend healthcare programs due to expire within days by advancing a short-term, bipartisan measure on Tuesday. The legislation would fund the federal government and temporarily reauthorize disproportionate share hospital payments, the federally qualified health centers program, graduate medical education funding, the National Health Service Corps and other healthcare initiatives until Nov. 17. (McAuliff, 9/26)

Would Medicare Drug Price Negotiations Stall In A Shutdown?

There are a slew of government health programs and thousands of federal staff that could see work stalled by the budget deadline Friday. But is Biden’s signature drug pricing program on the outs too? HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra warned reporters Friday that “a lot” of the work negotiation staff are doing right now — compiling information, corresponding with manufacturers — “takes people who would be impacted by a shutdown.” Except … the Inflation Reduction Act provisioned $3 billion for the negotiation program to get up and running. Unless Medicare has already hoovered up that money, despite slowing staffing up the 95-person office, it seems like the funds should still be there to keep the fledgling department open. (Owermohle, 9/26)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Dianne Feinstein’s Estate Battle Raises The Question: Why Are A Senator’s Medical Bills So High?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is battling for control of her late husband’s estate in multiple lawsuits, in part to pay significant medical bills she’s incurred over the last year. The suits have prompted big questions, like whether Feinstein is mentally and physically fit enough to serve her constituents. But they’ve also spurred more practical questions: Why are the medical bills so high, and doesn’t her Senate insurance plan cover them? Feinstein’s “significant medical expenses,” according to filings in a suit over her late husband’s estate, were $160,055.15, plus an additional $9,166 for the monthly salary of her security guard and caretaker. (Stein, 9/27)

Rising Temps May Increase Hospital Visits For Drugs And Alcohol

Now, new research finds that warmer weather can increase the risk of substance-related hospitalizations. The study, published today in the journal Communications Medicine, finds that higher temperatures are associated with more hospitalizations related to the abuse of alcohol and drugs in New York state. For nonalcohol substances, hospitalizations increased until temperatures reached about 50 degrees — then tapered off. (Harvey, 9/26)

After A Drawn Out Lobbying Fight, ARPA-H Chooses Its Headquarters

Cities and states have been clamoring to play host to the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health since before the agency existed — before, in fact, anyone truly knew what ARPA-H was. But the lobbying campaign from universities, business leaders, members of Congress, and big-city mayors is finally over. (Facher and Owermohle, 9/26)

AI, Implants Form ‘Digital Bridge’ To Help Paralyzed Man Move Arms, Hands

A 46-year-old Swiss man who was paralyzed after falling on ice has regained some movement after a world-first surgery that installed an implant on his brain that uses artificial intelligence to read his thoughts, his intentions to move, and transfers them to a second implant in his abdomen that stimulates the right muscles to make parts of his body move as his brain wants them to. (Watt, 9/27)

Health Tech Startups Drop Sharply From 2021 Highs

In less than two years, digital health’s high-flying class of public debuts have landed with a resounding thud. Accelerated by the pandemic’s forced adoption of telehealth and other digital health solutions, 2021 saw more than 30 health technology startups go public, raising hundreds of millions and in some cases billions of dollars. Today, three members of the class of 2021 have gone bankrupt. Twelve companies have lost more than 90% of their initial value, including Bright Health Group, Cue Health, and Better Therapeutics. And dangerously low reserves have inspired desperate moves to slash costs, drum up liquidity, and find buyers. (Palmer, 9/27)

What Is Disease X? How Scientists Are Preparing For The Next Pandemic

It sounds like something Elon Musk might have cooked up: “Disease X.” In fact, the term was coined years ago as a way of getting scientists to work on medical countermeasures for unknown infectious threats — novel coronaviruses like the one that causes Covid-19, for example — instead of just known ones, like the Ebola virus. The idea was to encourage the development of platform technologies, including vaccines, drug therapies and diagnostic tests, that could be rapidly adapted and deployed in response to an array of future outbreaks with epidemic or pandemic potential. (Gale, 9/27)