News Headlines for July 31, 2014

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Senators Hear How Two-Midnight Rule Harms Patients, Hospitals
HealthLeaders Media

On Medicare’s 49th anniversary Wednesday, a Senate panel heard testimony from caregivers and hospital administrators about the costly consequences of the federal program’s unclear definitions of “inpatient” and “outpatient.”

A Massachusetts resident described how her 92-year-old husband’s nursing home stay wasn’t covered by Medicare because, though he’d been in the hospital during the prior 10 days, the hospital didn’t consider him an inpatient for the minimum period two midnights.

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CDC: California Inmates Should Be Tested for Valley Fever Immunity
KQED Radio

Federal health officials say the state must take steps to reduce the outbreaks of Valley fever at its prisons. Their recommendations come after 30 inmates in California died from the illness.

The fungal infection is caused by spores in the soil and can cause fever, chest pain and swelling. Two Central Valley prisons, Avenal and Pleasant Valley, have had especially high rates of the disease. Last year, California officials agreed to transfer high-risk inmates from the two prisons.

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California Pilot Program Could Allow Paramedics To Evaluate Patients At Home
capital public radio

Under a proposed pilot project, paramedics in California could be making non-emergency visits to check on people who have been recently discharged from hospitals.

The “Community Paramedicine” program would allow paramedics to use their experience working in the field to make follow up visits with people at home and provide medical care and advice.

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5 drugs to watch: What Bay Area biotechs are testing on patients right now
San Francisco Business Times

A new batch of human studies that started in July could be promising for Bay Area drug-development companies and the patients who may benefit from the experimental treatments. The three-stage clinical trial hurdle to win Food and Drug Administration approval for a drug, however, is high. By some measures, only one in three drugs that make their way into Phase II trials advance to the final phase.

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Poor planning and oversight led to HealthCare.gov flaws, GAO finds
Washington Post

Federal health officials were responsible for the problem-pocked start of HealthCare.gov last year because of poor planning and lax oversight of outside contractors, according to government investigators who warned that “significant risks remain” that some Americans could again have trouble buying coverage in the federal health insurance marketplace this fall.

Such management failures are the central conclusion of the first report issued by the Government Accountability Office as part of a wide-ranging appraisal of the reasons the computer system was not ready when the marketplace opened in October.

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Probe exposes flaws behind HealthCare.gov rollout
Modern Healthcare

Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president’s new healthcare program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.

While the administration was publicly assuring consumers that they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.

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Time to update health exchange data to avoid tax surprises
San Francisco Chronicle

If you are getting subsidized health insurance through Covered California or another state exchange, it’s time for a midyear tax checkup, the Internal Revenue Service says.

If your income, family size or job status has changed, you should report it to your exchange to avoid a potentially nasty surprise.

The health insurance subsidy, which takes the form of a tax credit, is available to people whose income falls between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level for their family size. The smaller their income, the bigger the credit.

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House Republicans vote to sue Obama over healthcare law
Reuters

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday cleared the way for the launch of a lawsuit accusing President Barack Obama of overstepping his authority in carrying out his signature healthcare law.

The 225-201 vote, along party lines, to authorize the suit will allow House lawyers to draft legal documents over a five-week summer recess starting on Friday.

The planned lawsuit is expected to generate months of bitter campaign rhetoric from both Republicans and Democrats ahead of November elections that will determine the political control of Congress next year.

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Improve health care by building on Medicare’s success
Sacramento Bee

Lately, I have been diagnosing a lot of high blood pressure and diabetes. Patients who have never received medical care are now pouring into the county-funded Sacramento Primary Care Clinic, which provides care to low-income and other underserved patients.

The Affordable Care Act has expanded access to 8 million more Americans. Although Sacramento County has always tried to ensure high-quality care to indigent patients, Obamacare has opened our doors even wider.

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Hospitals Likely to Outsource ICD-10 at Launch
Health Leaders Media

Nearly half of the 650 hospitals in a recent survey said they will outsource ICD-10 services when the new diagnostic and coding system goes online in October 2015, market research firm Black Book Rankings says.

The Black Book survey found that 19% of hospitals are outsourcing coding already, but that the number is anticipated to grow to 47% of hospitals by the providers polled.

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Nurses, others rally for single-payer system of Medicare
Los Angeles Business Journal

Registered nurses and other supporters of a single-payer health care system took to the streets in 15 cities Wednesday in support of Medicare for all. The Campaign for a Healthy California, a coalition of more than 80 organizations that organized the event, is committed to finishing the job of health care reform in California by promoting the expansion of Medicare. The goal is to transform the current system — where quality of care and access to services are dependent on the ability to pay — to one that provides a single standard of care for all.

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Boom in high-tech hospitals in Oakland
San Francisco Chronicle

Oakland is experiencing a high-tech hospital-bed boom.

Alta Bates Summit’s new medical center, a $350 million, 238-bed acute-care hospital, opens Sunday, just a month after Kaiser Permanente opened its flagship 349-bed hospital a few blocks away.

Called Merritt Pavilion, at 350 Hawthorne Ave., the new 250,000-square-foot center will house patients from the old Summit hospital, plus certain units from Alta Bates and Herrick hospitals in Berkeley, which are all part of the same Sutter Health medical system.

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Elk Grove medical school puts off opening until 2015
Sacramento Business Journal

California Northstate University College of Medicine has delayed its opening in Elk Grove by a year as it continues through the accreditation process.

While the university hoped to kick off classes this month, backers now say that timing was ambitious.

Staff at the new, for-profit medical school filed an application for accreditation in August 2013, but the timing is up to the accreditation body, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. The organization does not talk about specific projects, but the website lists the proposed local school among applicants for accreditation.

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Virtual doctor: Marian Regional Medical Center unveils telemedicine program
Lompoc Record

There’s a new face of of stroke care at Marian Regional Medical Center and his name is Sheldon.

He’s a little under 6 feet tall, his white lab coat is hard-shell plastic and his face is about the size of a small flat-screen television. Built by iRobot, the same company that makes the Roomba automated vacuum, Sheldon can help diagnose patients who are suffering neurological maladies including strokes.

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EMS director: Natividad ahead of schedule for trauma center
Monterey Herald

Despite public concerns expressed by a trio of Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital physicians, Monterey County’s emergency medical services agency director says Natividad Medical Center is ahead of schedule for earning formal designation as the area’s first Level II trauma center.

On Tuesday, Salinas Valley Memorial chief of staff Dr. Christina Hinz joined Drs. Orlando Rodriguez and David Ramos to speak out on Natividad’s pursuit of the trauma center designation during public comment at the Board of Supervisors meeting.

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