News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obamacare impact about to become clearer
San Francisco Chronicle

One of the people who got a presidential kiss on the cheek at the inauguration celebration on Monday was Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. An apt gesture, seeing as Sebelius is the point person implementing what will probably be the most enduring legacy of Barack Obama’s presidency – health care reform. By the end of his second term, virtually all the provisions of the Affordable Care Act will have been implemented.

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Obama sees ‘hard choices’ on health costs
Modern Healthcare

President Barack Obama used his second inaugural address to underline his promise to reduce federal healthcare costs without cutting benefits. In an address light on healthcare references, he never mentioned his signature healthcare law, which launches its major provisions next year.

Obama’s speech echoed campaign trail comments that while changes are needed to keep Medicare and Medicaid solvent, they should not impact beneficiaries.

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Health insurers crack down on preterm deliveries that are not medically necessary
Washington Post

Jenn McCorkle still regrets giving birth early. McCorkle was 37 weeks pregnant when her obstetrician scheduled her for a Caesarean section the following week, saying there was no reason to wait.

But when her son, Maverick, was born in August 2008, his lungs were not fully developed; within hours, one of them collapsed. The infant spent the next 13 days in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), most of them hooked up to a ventilator.

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HIPAA Final Rule Raises Fines for Non-Compliance
Health Leaders Media

The HIPAA omnibus final rule released by the Department of Health & Human Services January 17 will cost hospitals some time and money in regulation analysis, training, and policy revision, but shouldn’t break the bank, healthcare leaders and privacy and security experts say. The HIPAA “mega rule,” so-called by some in the industry, represents the largest set of modifications to the HIPAA privacy and security rules to date.

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Obama: We must reduce health costs, deficit
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama says the nation must make the “hard choices” to reduce the cost of health care and the size of the deficit. But the president said every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity, and he held up Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as commitments that strengthen America. Speaking in his inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol Monday, Obama said he rejected the belief that the country must choose between caring for the generation that built the country — or investing in the generation that will build the future.

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Bill draft calls for disclosure on shared app data
Modern Healthcare

A Congressman last week posted a draft version of a bill that would require mobile application developers to more clearly disclose how they collect sensitive user data. The draft, released by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), didn’t specifically mention medical data, but the bill would govern the storage and dissemination of such information. The Application Privacy, Protection and Security Act of 2013 (APPS Act), would force mobile-app developers to share how they collect personal information and detail which third parties they would allow to share that data.

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How Medicare works with other insurance

You may have wondered how Medicare works with other insurance coverage, such as a group health plan from a former employer or union. It’s an important issue because it determines whether your medical bills are paid correctly and on time. If you have Medicare and other insurance, always be sure to tell your doctor, hospital and pharmacy. When there’s more than one insurance payer, certain rules determine which one pays first. This is what’s called “coordination of benefits.”

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AMA wants docs trained for teams, safety
Modern Physician

In a major effort to revamp the nation’s medical education system, the American Medical Association will award $10 million in competitive grants to medical schools that develop innovative curricula on subjects like team-based care and patient safety.

The goal is to narrow the gap between how physicians are currently trained and the future needs of the U.S. healthcare system. “Rapid changes in healthcare require a transformation in the way we train future physicians,” Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, president of the AMA, said in a news release.

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SVMH panels tackle several items
The Californian - Salinas

The board of trustees committees of the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System will hear reports today from three different panels tackling everything from the hospital’s current financial position to ethics standards surrounding community donations.

One report will examine the efficiencies of having a consultation conducted through video or teleconferencing in the case of psychiatric emergencies.

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Procedure targets ‘irregularly irregular’ heartbeats
Napa Valley Register

Tom Ohlsson was nearly out of options to treat his irregular heart rate.

After being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in 2000, the Colorado resident tried everything — from medications to an electric shock procedure — to get his heart to normal rhythm. But each promising new therapy provided only temporary relief.

By 2011, Ohlsson was giving up hope, until his wife learned online about a clinical trial for atrial fibrillation patients at Stanford.

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Poll: Rural Californians back wide action to fight obesity

The vast majority of registered voters in rural California say obesity is a serious problem nationally and in their communities, and many say they wish business, government, community groups and individuals were doing more to fight the problem, according to a new poll released Tuesday. The survey, conducted by Field Research for the Public Health Institute, also found that rural voters from both political parties believe that government programs designed to keep peole healthy pay for themselves in the long run.

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Testing brain pacemakers to zap Alzheimer’s damage

It has the makings of a science fiction movie: Zap someone’s brain with mild jolts of electricity to try to stave off the creeping memory loss of Alzheimer’s disease.

And it’s not easy. Holes are drilled into the patient’s skull so tiny wires can be implanted into just the right spot.

A dramatic shift is beginning in the disappointing struggle to find something to slow the damage of this epidemic:

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Doctors urged to screen women for domestic abuse
Los Angeles Times

Women of childbearing age should undergo screening for domestic violence and other forms of abuse while visiting their doctor or clinic, according to a recommendation published online Monday by an influential panel of medical experts that advises the federal government.

That recommendation, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, marks a significant change from 2004 when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found insufficient evidence to support screenings for so-called intimate partner violence, or IPV.

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New privacy rule technically tricky
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare providers with electronic health-record systems will have a new wrinkle to contend with—data segmentation to protect patient privacy—thanks to the newly released omnibus federal privacy and security rule.

HHS‘ rule released last week puts regulatory flesh on the legislative bones of the more stringent privacy provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It includes a requirement restoring to patients a limited right of control over the sharing of their healthcare records.

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Groundbreaking for new hospital set for March
Tehachapi News

Anonymous donors may help with $1 million in funding

Preparations are underway for the long-awaited groundbreaking for a new Tehachapi Hospital, tentatively set for March 28.

At its Jan. 16 meeting the Board of Directors approved moving forward with an $87 million building project, awarded initial bids and considered how to deal with a funding shortall.

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Hospitals super-sizing equipment for obese patients
Visialia Times-Delta

Hospitals are getting super-sized.

Waiting room chairs are being built with wrought iron for heavy patients. Wheelchairs and beds are made to sustain extra weight. And toilets are being mounted to the floor, not the wall.

In response to America’s obesity epidemic, health-care facilities nationwide are making accommodations to make sure they can take care of their heaviest patients.

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Calif. AG seeks money for prescription database
The Mercury News

A system that tracks prescription drugs and has assisted in several celebrity death investigations is in jeopardy of ending, prompting California’s top law enforcement official to seek new funding. The state created the nation’s first prescription drug monitoring program in 1939 and shifted to a computerized database in 1997. The online system tracks prescriptions written by doctors and filled by pharmacies. It also has been used in recent years in the death investigations of Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith and actor Corey Haim, among others.

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Checklists can help in surgical crises, too: study
Modern Healthcare

By using simulation technology, researchers were able to show something previously thought impossible to prove: the benefits of using surgical checklists in an operating room emergency.

In an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality-funded study, a team of researchers observed 17 surgical teams participating in 106 staged crises. The researchers found there was stricter adherence to critical steps in “life-saving processes” when a set of crisis checklists was available.

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Is Obamacare good for state?
The Appeal-Democrat

It’s hard to find any government program that helps both the physical and financial health of many Californians and also fattens the state’s own coffers.

But a new study from UC Berkeley indicates that’s how parts of the federal Affordable Health Care Act may play out, in spite of all its vocal detractors.

The controversial law, shunned by governors and legislators in most of the 23 states where Republicans enjoy full control, already has seen more than 450,000 young adults in California gain insurance coverage and state residents on Medicare save upwards of $600 million on prescription drugs, compared to what they paid in 2009-10.