News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Flu shots still available in California despite sporadic shortages at some pharmacies
The Mercury News

An unusually high demand for flu shots at this time of year is causing sporadic shortages at some Bay Area pharmacies, but many are restocking and people who want to get protection should still be able to do so. In general, “there is no shortage of vaccine in California and it is not too late to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, the state health officer, in a statement released Friday.

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HHS Unveils Proposed HIE Rules
Health Leaders Media

Federal officials on Monday rolled out a table-rattling 474-page proposed rule designed to clarify and promote consistency around eligibility, benefits, and appeals for people enrolling in health insurance exchanges in 2014, and to provide more flexibility for states’ Medicaid programs. “Today, we are proposing a rule to provide Americans with access to affordable, high quality health coverage and give states more flexibility to implement the law in a way that works for them,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a media release.

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Readmissions May be Triggered by ‘Post-Hospital Syndrome’
Health Leaders Media

As hospital teams zealously work to prevent 30-day readmissions, they may not realize that sometimes what brings patients back into their hospitals is not what brought them there in the first place. Something else is going on. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Harlan Krumholz, MD, calls it “post-hospital syndrome, an acquired transient condition of generalized risk.”

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Rules would let states hike Medicaid cost-sharing
Modern Healthcare

The CMS issued proposed operational rules Monday for health insurance exchanges and Medicaid programs, which included an increase in allowable beneficiary cost-sharing in the latter. Notably, the rule would change Medicaid premiums and cost-sharing requirements to allow states to establish higher cost-sharing for nonpreferred drugs, and to impose higher cost-sharing for nonemergency use of emergency departments. Specifically, the rule would allow states to change their Medicaid programs without a waiver to require an $8 cost share for non-emergency ED use for Medicaid enrollees with incomes of 100% to 150% of the federal poverty level.

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AMA calls for outside evaluation of EHR incentives
Modern Healthcare

The American Medical Association has asked the CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS to hire an outside evaluator to take a look at the federally funded electronic health-record incentive payment program.

Meanwhile, the AMA has called on the feds to stop raising the bar on payment qualification criteria until any issues raised in the evaluation are identified and publicly aired.

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More reforms needed in health care system
Capitol Weekly

The great health care reform countdown has begun, with nearly every American required to have some level of health insurance by the end of this year. That much we know for certain. What remains to be seen, however, is whether simply adding more people to the insurance pool will translate into better health for policyholders. Increased access to quality, affordable care – even if compelled by government mandate – has long been a goal of health care reform advocates. But is this what our current system provides?

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Health-care law requires additional dental benefits for children
Washington Post

Tooth decay is the most common chronic health problem in children. By the time they enter kindergarten, more than a quarter of kids have decay in their baby teeth. The problem worsens with age, and nearly 68 percent of people age 16 to 19 have decay in their permanent teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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When hospitals make mistakes with medications, they rarely tell the patient
Washington Post

Patients and their families are rarely told when hospitals make mistakes with their medicines, according to a new study.

Most medication mistakes did not harm patients, the researchers found, but those that did were more likely to happen in intensive care units. And ICU patients and families were less likely to be told about errors than patients in other hospital units.

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Hospitals Face Challenges Amid Rollout of Obamacare
KCOY

Central Coast hospitals are scrambling to stay ahead of the changes that are coming with the impending roll out of the Affordable Care Act, or as many refer to it, Obamacare.

Local hospital administrators and consultants are taking a cold, hard look at changing a decades-old business model to improve efficiencies in staffing, services, facilities and other hospital operations.

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For health’s sake, share data, Clinton urges
Orange County Register

Former President Bill Clinton challenged health care executives Monday to work together to save more hospital patients from needless deaths – even if it means sharing proprietary information that companies guard closely. Speaking to a room full of CEOs, physicians and other medical professionals, Clinton said cooperation and “creative networks” were the keys to improving health and lowering costs in a system that too often amounts to a “zero-sum game” of winners and losers.

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Some docs screen for prostate cancer without asking
Yahoo! News

One in four family doctors doesn’t ask male patients before screening them for prostate cancer, according to a new survey. So-called prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing has been controversial in recent years because of uncertainty about whether it actually saves lives and concern about side effects from potentially unnecessary and invasive follow-up tests and treatments. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government-backed panel, recommended against PSA tests for normal-risk men in 2012, saying there is no evidence that screening has more benefits than harms.

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Herrera takes on restaurants that use bogus healthcare surcharges
SFBG

City Attorney Dennis Herrera fired a warning shot across the bow of San Francisco restaurants that use a customer surcharge ostensibly to pay for employee health care – while in reality, many restaurateurs simply pocket the money and offer substandard health care options to employees – over the weekend when his office announced a settlement with Patxi’s Chicago Pizza.

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Kaiser buys in North San Jose, plans medical office building
Silicon Valley Business Journal

Kaiser Permanente has found a new place to thrive: North San Jose. The giant health maintenance organization just purchased a 9.7-acre site at 1717 Technology Drive from Equity Office Properties, spokesman Karl Sonkin confirmed. The company is looking to build a medical office building on the site where a warehouse now stands, he said, adding that the project is in very early stages.

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Mining Electronic Records for Revealing Health Data
New York Times

Over the past decade, nudged by new federal regulations, hospitals and medical offices around the country have been converting scribbled doctors’ notes to electronic records. Although the chief goal has been to improve efficiency and cut costs, a disappointing report published last week by the RAND Corp. found that electronic health records actually may be raising the nation’s medical bills.

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San Diego Lawsuit Says Blue Cross Illegally Targeting HIV/AIDS Patients
KPBS

A class-action lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court alleges Blue Cross of California is illegally targeting HIV/AIDS patients and other seriously ill consumers with a new program that bars them from using local pharmacies to get their medications.

Under the new program, HIV/AIDS patients’ insurance policies will no longer cover medications at local pharmacies, according to the suit filed Friday by Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C., and Santa Monica.

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Some Cancers Linked to HPV on the Rise
New York Times

A consortium of research institutions reports that while cancer death rates have continued to decline since the 1990s, the incidence of some cancers associated with human papillomavirus, or HPV, has increased. A survey, published last week in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that incidences or death rates of lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers have decreased. But oropharyngeal, anal and vulvar cancers, all associated with HPV infection, have increased.

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UCSF nabs $16M from Gates Foundation to tackle illness in developing world
San Francisco Business Times

The University of California, San Francisco, has won two grants totaling $16 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to study ways to reduce childhood mortality and disease in developing nations. Two different research teams at UCSF received the funding. One team, led by Thomas Lietman, M.D., associate director of the university’s Francis I. Proctor Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology, won $12 million.

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First the cat, now the health system puts the bite on me
Los Angeles Times

Call it the $55,000 cat bite.

That’s the rough total in medical costs (so far) for a cat bite on my hand that turned into an infection that turned into surgery that turned into a week in the hospital. Cruddy cat.

When I first wrote about the episode in November, I observed that it opened my eyes about various aspects of the healthcare system, not the least of which was the extraordinary care provided by nurses and the state-of-the-art resources available to doctors.

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Wealthy, but not so healthy
Los Angeles Times

For all of our sophisticated medical care, Americans can expect shorter lives and more health troubles than the people of other well-off nations, according to a new report. And that’s not just true of infants and poor people, the groups usually pinpointed as particularly vulnerable to health issues; it is also the case for the affluent, teenagers and middle-aged people. Some of this can be traced to a lack of preventive and primary care, some to car accidents and violence, some to obesity and poor health habits.

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