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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Most Doctors Unsure How To Discuss End-of-Life Care, Survey Says
Kaiser Health News

Doctors know it’s important to talk with their patients about end-of-life care.

But they’re finding it tough to start those conversations — and when they do, they’re not sure what to say, according to a national poll released Thursday.

Such discussions are becoming more important as baby boomers reach their golden years. By 2030, an estimated 72 million Americans will be 65 or over, nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population.

Medicare now reimburses doctors $86 to discuss end-of-life care in an office visit that covers topics such as hospice, living wills and do-not-resuscitate orders.  Known as “advance care planning,” the conversations can also be held in a hospital.

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Tainted Scope Infections Far Exceed Earlier Estimates
Kaiser Health News

The number of potentially deadly infections from contaminated medical scopes is far higher than what federal officials previously estimated, a new congressional investigation shows.

As many as 350 patients at 41 medical facilities in the U.S. and worldwide were infected or exposed to tainted gastrointestinal scopes from Jan. 1, 2010, to Oct. 31, 2015, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

A separate Senate investigation released in January found 250 scope-related infections at 25 hospitals and clinics in the U.S. and Europe. That probe looked at a narrower period, from 2012 to 2015.

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Nurses Say Stress Interferes With Caring For Their Patients
KPBS

Jordin Purcell-Riess has worked as a registered nurse at the emergency department at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Conn., for three years. She describes her workplace as phones going off, voices everywhere, every room full. “You look around and the hallways are full of patients on stretchers, you walk out to the waiting room and you can see on our board that there’s 15 people signing in,” she says. “The second you can get your ICU patient upstairs, there’s another one waiting for you.”

She typically doesn’t get a chance to eat or drink or go to the bathroom during her 12-hour shift, Purcell-Riess says.  And she’s not alone. Her nursing manager points out that a 2007 study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that 24 percent of ICU nurses and 14 percent of general nurses tested positive for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Insurers warn losses from ObamaCare are unsustainable
The Hill

Health insurance companies are amplifying their warnings about the financial sustainability of the ObamaCare marketplaces as they seek approval for premium increases next year.

Insurers say they are losing money on their ObamaCare plans at a rapid rate, and some have begun to talk about dropping out of the marketplaces altogether. “Something has to give,” said Larry Levitt, an expert on the health law at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Either insurers will drop out or insurers will raise premiums.”

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Clinton and Sanders Spar on Health Care At the Democratic Debate
TIME Online Edition

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders say they both want universal health care. But they have different ideas about how to get there that cut to the core of their governing philosophies.

Vermont Sen. Sanders promises free health care for all, which some estimates say will add trillions of dollars to the national debt. “I disagree with that study,” Sanders said when confronted with numbers from the debate moderators Thursday night.

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The most unexpected hospital billing development ever: Refunds
Washington Post

At Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, hospital officials want to keep their customers happy. So when patients are upset about a long wait in the emergency department, or a doctor’s brusque manner, or a meal that never arrived in a room, Geisinger is doing more than apologizing.

It’s offering money back on their care, no questions asked.

The hospital system is the first in the country to adopt what has long been a basic tenet of retail business: customer refunds. This focus on customer satisfaction is a relatively new concept for health care, in which doctors have typically called the shots. And it’s one that Geisinger’s staff questioned when president and chief executive David Feinberg came up with the refund idea last fall.

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Caught Between the Cracks of Health Care for the Undocumented
KCET

Before businesses open their doors and morning commuters flood the streets, Fresno County’s farm workers have already harvested hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, peaches and grapes on the nearly 1.9 million acres of the county’s farmland.

The produce is loaded onto trucks to be shipped throughout the country, but bringing that produce to the nation’s table tops is not an easy task.

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Covered California takes novel step to reduce C-section rate
Southern California Public Radio

California’s health insurance exchange will use the threat of exclusion from its approved provider networks as a way to motivate hospitals and doctors to reduce the number of medically unnecessary Cesarean sections.

Beginning in 2019, insurance companies that contract with Covered California must either exclude from their networks any hospitals that don’t meet the federal government’s 2020 target C-section rate or explain why they aren’t, according to the new contract approved by the exchange’s board last week.

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Report confirms gradual growth in hospital-owned health plans
Modern Healthcare

More hospitals and health systems have started or expanded their own health insurance plans since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, according to a report released Thursday.

Although reasons vary from market to market, it’s clear hospitals view owning a health plan as a way to build their population health programs by combining medical claims and clinical data. A health plan also allows hospitals to control more of the premium dollar.

Approximately 15.3 million people received their health coverage through a provider-owned health plan in 2014 compared with 12.4 million in 2010, an average 6% annual increase in enrollment over that time span, according to a report from consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Most of that growth came in Medicaid plans. Many safety net systems have their own Medicaid plans since low-income people are their primary patients.

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Avoiding Unnecessary C-Sections
NBC SanDiego.com

Consumer Reports’ latest study finds that the number of cesarean deliveries remains very high in the U.S., despite the desire of many women to have a nonsurgical birth.

Women who have C-sections can find that it takes longer to recover and that it’s more likely that any children that follow will also be delivered by C-section.

Consumer Reports looked into why so many women with low-risk first pregnancies end up having C-sections. Its Health Rating Center analyzed hospital data from across the country and found that the likelihood of having a C-section often comes down to the hospital where a woman delivers.

The report includes a section titled, Having a Baby in California, where Consumer Reports rates hospitals on C-sections, infections, breastfeeding and more.

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Rise In Oncologists Working For Hospitals Spurs Higher Chemo Costs: Study
Kaiser Health News

If you have cancer, chances are your outpatient chemotherapy treatment costs are higher if your oncologist works for a health care system than if she has her own practice, a recent study found.

The study by the Health Care Cost Institute, a nonprofit research organization, analyzed private health insurance claims and national data about consolidation among doctors and hospitals between 2008 and 2013. It found significant consolidation between outpatient oncology practices and health care systems in the decade leading up to 2013.

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Stand Up To Cancer launches new industry-supported research program
Los Angeles Business Journal

The nonprofit Stand Up To Cancer is launching a program aimed at bringing new treatments to cancer patients that will supported by funds and materials from companies in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, diagnostic and medical devices industries. Collaborators for the new charitable initiative, SU2C Catalyst, include Merck & Co. Inc.(NYSE: MRK), Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.(NYSE: BMY) and Genentech, which is owned by Roche Group.

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New tests for choosing right hep C drug could save money
Washington Post

New tests designed to help doctors pick the right hepatitis C medicine for patients could mean faster cures and lower costs.

Quest Diagnostics Inc.’s latest two tests can predict whether two recently approved medicines — Zepatier and Daklinza —will fight a patient’s specific type of hepatitis C or whether the liver-destroying virus likely would “resist” them.

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Stanford Health Care names new president and CEO
Palo Alto Online

David Entwistle has been name the new president and CEO of Stanford Health Care, the organization announced Wednesday.

Entwistle, who is currently the chief executive officer at University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics, will start his new job on July 5. Mariann Byerwalter has been serving as interim president and CEO of Stanford Health Care since January. “David Entwistle has a distinguished record of accomplishment and dedication to the critically important role of academic medical centers in advancing human health,” Stanford Health Care Board Chair John Levin said in a statement.

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