News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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House floats repeal of medical device tax as compromise to end government shutdown
Modern Healthcare

A bipartisan House measure to repeal the 2.3% medical device excise tax that helps fund the healthcare reform law has been floated as a compromise to end the federal government shutdown.

Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) were leading a coalition of 11 Republicans and eight Democrats late this week seeking an end to the stalemate. The proposal reportedly would fund the government at the sequester cut levels for six months, repeal the device tax and offset the nearly $30 billion revenue loss over 10 years by changing employer pension rules.

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Doctors ignore advice on sore throats, bronchitis
Modern Healthcare

Repeated warnings that antibiotics don’t work for most sore throats and bronchitis have failed to stop overuse: U.S. doctors prescribed these drugs for most adults seeking treatment at a rate that remained high over more than a decade, researchers found. The results are in two analyses of U.S. health surveys from the late 1990s to 2010, representing more than 2 million annual visits to doctors’ offices or emergency rooms.

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Unvaccinated children helped fuel whooping cough outbreak, data show
Los Angeles Times

Children who did not get vaccinated against whooping cough contributed to the 2010 outbreak of the illness, when more cases were reported than in any year since 1947, researchers say.

Researchers who looked at the geography of the cases suggest that clusters of “nonmedical exemptions” to immunizations were one of several factors in the California outbreak. They reported their findings Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

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Covered California Had 514K Unique Visitors on Launch Day
California Healthline

Covered California’s website had about 514,000 unique visitors and more than five million pages views on Tuesday — the first day of open enrollment — the Sacramento Bee’s “Capitol Alert” reports (Cadelago, “Capitol Alert,” Sacramento Bee, 10/2). The online health insurance exchange opened for enrollment at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. However, the exchange’s home page took several minutes to load later in the day, and continued delays were reported throughout the enrollment process.

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Shutdown Din Obscures Health Exchange Flaws
New York Times

The shutdown of many federal operations and activities this week has obscured widespread problems in the opening of insurance exchanges under President Obama’s health care law, giving the administration time to work out the kinks, members of both parties say.

In a stark contrast, the exchanges — online markets where consumers can shop for insurance — opened on Tuesday as much of the government was closing because of an impasse between Mr. Obama and Congressional Republicans over federal spending.

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Obama: Don’t give up on healthcare sign-ups
Modern Healthcare

Defending the shaky rollout of his healthcare law, President Barack Obama said frustrated Americans “definitely shouldn’t give up” on the problem-plagued program at the heart of his dispute with Republicans over reopening the federal government.

Obama said public interest far exceeded the government’s expectations, causing technology glitches that thwarted millions of Americans when trying to use government-run health care websites.

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Hospital website allows check-ins
RecordNet

People headed to the emergency room at Mark Twain Medical Center will have the option of waiting at home until medical staff are able to see them.

A service called InQuicker allows patients to check-in for a projected treatment time at marktwainmedicalcenter.org.

Hospital officials say those arriving at that treatment time will be seen based on what’s happening at the facility.

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Flood of consumer inquiries could make – or break – Obama health law
Los Angeles Times

Kentucky health officials thought they might get a handful of serious shoppers when they flipped the switch Tuesday on Kynect, the new online insurance marketplace the state created under President Obama’s healthcare law.

“We weren’t even hopeful that a couple hundred people would apply,” said Carrie Banahan, Kynect’s executive director.

By the end the week, more than 16,000 Kentucky individuals and families had begun online applications to get health coverage next year.

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Healthcare website gets down time for repairs
Modern Healthcare

It’s not the sign that the Obama administration wants people to see on its health overhaul website: down for repairs.

Using overnight hours this weekend to debug the system, HHS hoped to fix the technological problems that overwhelmed the launch of new health insurance markets. Glitches have frustrated millions of consumers unable to complete their applications.

Enrollment functions of the healthcare.gov site will be unavailable during off-peak hours this weekend, HHS said Friday.

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For some shoppers, buying Obamacare is turning into a marathon
Washington Post

Carl Bidleman made his first attempt at buying insurance under the health law at midnight on Tuesday, the moment the marketplaces opened. He couldn’t get the site to load and the representative at a call center suggested trying again in the morning. So he did, at 8 a.m., after walking his dog and brewing a cup of coffee. And again that afternoon. And that evening. Twenty-one attempts tries and 36 hours later, Bidleman had found the holy grail: Successfully purchasing a health insurance policy.

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Urging Patience, Obama Says Problems With Health Care Sites Reflect Demand
New York Times

President Obama urged Americans who have flocked to the new government-run Web marketplaces for health insurance policies not to give up because of the technical problems attributed to greater-than-anticipated demand. Fixes are under way, he said. Mr. Obama, in an interview with The Associated Press released on Saturday, said he did not have any figures to counter scattered reports that just a very small number of people have succeeded in signing up for insurance coverage since state and federal Web sites began enrollment on Tuesday for the so-called insurance exchanges.

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How Identity Verification Caused Chaos on the State and Federal Exchanges
The Health Care Blog

We may be getting a better idea why the federal exchange and so many state exchanges aren’t working. An article in Saturday’s Baltimore Sun, regarding Maryland’s problems, provides insight I have not seen elsewhere: Problems began immediately after the exchange launched Tuesday, as people tried to create accounts and log onto the site.

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Pro: If health care reform falters, insurers may pay a high price
DeseretNews.com

America’s health insurance companies sold out for higher profits when they fought for the Affordable Care Act rather than a patient-driven system that would best serve the sick.

Big insurers were omnipresent during the health-care negotiations. Their most effective negotiator was Karen Ignagni, CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s leading lobby.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Obamacare
The Health Care Blog

There is an ancient Arabic proverb: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” With this in mind, I can’t help but think that whatever Senator and leading Tea Party blowhard Ted Cruz opposes must be good. When Cruz decided to try to shut down America because he opposes Obamacare , well that sealed the deal for me. I say “Obamacare forever.” Readers know that I think Obamacare has too many rules that create problems for payers and providers alike, and relies on some questionable practices for funding.

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Newly Enrolled in Covered California — One San Franciscan’s Story
KQED Radio

Covered California will not be releasing any enrollment figures until mid-November, but San Franciscan Paul Cello says he’s already in — and reports his new insurance will have better benefits, at lower monthly cost than the plan he’s on now. Cello originally hails from Florida and says he has friends there who are not fans of the Affordable Care Act. So he didn’t delay.

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Successful US healthcare reform must consider human nature
MedCity News

Reform of healthcare in the United States is infinitely complex. Millions of words have been written. The noise drowns out the signal. It’s rare therefore that one paragraph could sum up the problem so concisely. It came from Edward Davies, an editor at the British Medical Journal. He was quoting journalist Owen Dwyer who was writing on the challenge of doing less.

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Healthcare officials warn illegal immigrants of ACA scams
KTVU.com

As uninsured Americans begin signing up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, there’s a growing concern about scam artists trying to take advantage of the program. One advocacy group was warning undocumented immigrants Sunday not to give money to anyone offering health insurance as those living in the United State illegally are not eligible for coverage under the President’s health care overhaul.

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Obamacare’s winners and losers in Bay Area
The Mercury News

Cindy Vinson and Tom Waschura are big believers in the Affordable Care Act. They vote independent and are proud to say they helped elect and re-elect President Barack Obama.

Yet, like many other Bay Area residents who pay for their own medical insurance, they were floored last week when they opened their bills: Their policies were being replaced with pricier plans that conform to all the requirements of the new health care law.

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Public employees consider health plan options
Capitol Weekly

Members of California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) will find new options available to them when the System’s Health Plan Open Enrollment period begins September 16. The retirement system will provide four additional Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans to members, bringing its total HMO offerings to six. Members may enroll in CalPERS Health Program, add eligible family members, or make changes to their existing health plan during the Open Enrollment Period, which ends Oct. 11. The coverage becomes effective Jan. 1, 2014.

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Defense Department’s EHR plan may cost taxpayers billions
Modern Healthcare

The Defense Department’s on-again, off-again flirtation with the Veterans Affairs Department’s VistA electronic health-record system appears to be on again. But this time, a lot of other suitors will compete for the military’s affection and what likely will be billions of taxpayers’ dollars. The Defense Department plans to host “demonstrations” of possible replacements of the vast Military Health System’s multiple EHR systems during the week of Oct. 21 “to assess the current state and capabilities of electronic health-record (EHR) products,” according to an announcement posted on the FebBizOpps.gov website.  The Department of Defense is contemplating replacing its legacy EHR systems with an “off-the-shelf” enterprise Electronic Health Record System, according to the federal solicitation.

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Weight loss brings new lease on life
Santa Maria Times

When AJ Rice graduated from high school last year, he was asked to fill out a card asking him where he wanted to be in five, 10 and 20 years.

He never filled it out — he didn’t expect to be alive much longer anyway. His grandparents, who had raised him, had both died in the last few years. As a result, he started eating more and had become overweight. Eventually, it got to the point that he had severe sleep apnea and high blood pressure and was most likely diabetic.

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Gladstone lab uncovers a potential HIV cure — and it’s already a drug
San Francisco Chronicle

Monkeys’ evolutionary protection against a virus similar to HIV may be mimicked by a drug sitting on a biotech company’s shelf, says a Gladstone Institutes researcher who wants to take the drug into clinical trials. The drug proved safe in a Phase II trial looking at chronic inflammation as the cause of seizures but did not reduce seizure activity to the point the unidentified company thought it would be commercially successful.

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Nursing program draws student complaints
Napa Valley Register

A group of nursing students at Napa Valley College claims that unethical behavior and harassment are rampant in the college’s nursing department, and that students’ complaints to college administrators are being ignored.

At the end of this past spring semester, 11 nursing students put their names on a letter to college officials stating how disappointed they were in the management of the program.

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Breast cancer screenings for uninsured women offered
Daily Democrat

Sutter Davis Imaging is giving pre-registered, uninsured women 40 years or older opportunity to receive a free digital screening mammogram. The imaging service is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 19, at Sutter Davis Imaging, 2020 Sutter Place, Suite 102, Davis. To qualify for the free screening, women must be uninsured, 40 years or older and call in advance. Space is limited.

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SCAN Health Plan to expand into Marin
North Bay Business Journal

Long Beach-based SCAN Health Plan, a not-for-profit Medicare Advantage carrier, announced it will expand into Marin County, where it will partner with Marin General Hospital and the Meritage Medical Network. Starting Jan. 1, 2014, SCAN — short for Senior Care Action Network — will offer three different Medicare Advantage plans for Marin County seniors. It already operates in San Francisco, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Joaquin counties along with eight counties in Southern California and Arizona.

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San Joaquin Community Hospital neonatal ICU celebrates life
Bakersfield Californian

Charley Elliott weighs 15 pounds now, and is 2 feet tall. The wonder of it is that the 8-month-old girl is here at all.

Her delivery in late January came after a gestation of just 23 weeks and five days, and at less than 11 inches long she weighed only 1 pound, 5 ounces. She spent 97 days in San Joaquin Community Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU….

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Ukiah Valley hospital starts $41 million upgrade
North Bay Business Journal

Ukiah Valley Medical Center last week broke ground on a $41 million upgrade that will significantly expand its emergency department, improve its intensive care unit and add a separate hospital support building, officials said. The 68-bed hospital, operated by Roseville-based Adventist Health, will expand its emergency room from 12 current beds to 19 private beds, including two trauma bays and a rooftop helipad that will help the facility’s efforts to advance its trauma designation from level 4 to level 3.

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Vote on S.F. retiree health care shortfall solution
San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco voters will be asked next month to approve a measure that seeks to eliminate a projected $4.4 billion shortfall in the city’s retiree health care fund over the coming decades, all without increasing employee or taxpayer contributions.

That lack of cost has resulted in widespread support from both labor and business groups for Proposition A, which was authored by Supervisor Mark Farrell, was placed on the ballot by the entire Board of Supervisors and is supported by Mayor Ed Lee.

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