News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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FDA efforts take aim at drug shortages
Modern Healthcare

The Food and Drug Administration is addressing potentially life-threatening drug shortages with two new initiatives announced Thursday. The agency released a proposed rule requiring all manufacturers of certain medically important prescription drugs to notify the agency of manufacturing interruptions that could lead to a scarcity of the product. The rule includes manufacturers of biologic products.

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‘Out of pocket’ privacy rule still a thorny issue, AHIMA panelists say
Modern Healthcare

It’s a quirky new patient privacy rule, and it’s already perplexing healthcare providers. Of all the many provisions of the omnibus electronic health information privacy and security rule that went into effect Sept. 23, the one restoring a narrow right for patients to control the sharing of information from their medical records prompted the longest discussion at a forum on privacy and security policy at the American Health Information Management Association’s convention in Atlanta on Wednesday.

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When Insurers Drop Policies: Three Stories
New York Times

Charles Nance, Dean Wright and Julie Tyrrell are getting dropped — forced out of their existing health insurance plans — and landing smack in the middle of the uproar over President Obama’s health care law. One expects to pay more. One expects to pay less. And one is just trying to figure it all out.

Each, in a different way, represents the relatively small part of America that the Obama administration did not talk about while campaigning for the Affordable Care Act: people who have health insurance that they like, but who will be unable to keep it under the law.

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Affordable Care Act ends rocky 1st month
San Francisco Chronicle

First, there was the futility felt by millions of Americans looking to buy new health policies on the federal government’s enrollment websites. Then millions of consumers – including up to 900,000 in California alone – were caught off guard when they learned their existing policies would be canceled Jan. 1 and they may have to pay more for new ones.

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Google, Oracle ride to Obamacare’s rescue; more Silicon Valley firms offer aid
Silicon Valley Business Journal

Engineers and programmers from tech companies including Silicon Valley’s Google Inc. and Oracle Corp. have been recruited to help the federal government fix the troubled HealthCare.gov website. The government site was launched Oct. 1 to help enroll qualified individuals and small businesses in new healthcare exchanges created by the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

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Obama gets more tech help to fix healthcare site
Sacramento Bee

The Obama administration has recruited engineers from several prominent technology companies to help fix the problems preventing people from signing up for government-mandated health insurance.

Oracle and Red Hat are pitching in as well as Michael Dickerson, an engineer on leave from Google, according to a blog post Thursday by Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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Memos show slow start for health care plans
USA Today

The federal government’s new health care program got off to such a slow start that only six people successfully enrolled on its website the first day and only a few hundred had done so by the second day, documents released by Congress late Thursday show.

The documents, released by the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee, state that just 248 people had succeeded in enrolling on the HealthCare.Gov site by the end of the second day, Oct. 2.

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Few Obamacare insurance sign-ups on opening day, documents show
Los Angeles Times

Just six enrollments occurred on the opening day for www.healthcare.gov, the troubled Obamacare website, according to documents released late Thursday by a House oversight committee. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, obtained the tally from meeting notes compiled by officials inside the “war room” at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which was overseeing the rollout of the insurance marketplace.

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Delay in individual mandate could prove costly for insurance firms
Modern Healthcare

More lawmakers are pushing for a delay of the healthcare reform law’s individual mandate, which could prove extremely problematic for the insurance industry. That’s because the entire framework of the law hinges on enticing enough young, healthy consumers to purchase coverage and counterbalance older, sicker customers.

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New faces of health overhaul: Still all smiles
San Francisco Chronicle

It didn’t take long for the friendly-looking young woman whose face was splashed across HealthCare.gov to spiral from smiling stock photo to laughingstock. As it scrambles to correct problems with the website, the Obama administration is now asking people who have successfully purchased health insurance to let their pictures be used instead.

Two of them told The Associated Press they found the site easy to navigate, were happy with the plans they purchased and were eager to share their stories in any format, including becoming the new face of the health care overhaul.

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Why the Medicare Part D-Obamacare Comparison Is Making Less and Less Sense
The Health Care Blog

With the possible exception of one phrase — “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” — defenders of Obamacare have repeatedly invoked the same warning. Don’t be too critical of the Affordable Care Act’s new marketplaces. Medicare Part D had a rocky rollout, too. “In terms of confusion, lack of knowledge, and misinformation, the current situation with exchanges resembles the situation that prevailed when Part D enrollment opened,” Daniel McFadden, a UC-Berkeley economist and Nobel laureate, told the Wall Street Journal‘s David Wessel earlier this month.

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Obamacare laid bare
Sacramento Bee

Every disaster has its moment of clarity. Physicist Richard Feynman dunks an O-ring into ice water and everyone understands instantly why the shuttle Challenger exploded. This week, the Obamacare O-ring froze for all the world to see: Hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters went out to people who had been assured a dozen times by the president that “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan. Period.”

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Can Everybody Please Just Calm Down?
The Health Care Blog

This week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized to Americans for the issues with the launch of the Obama Administration’s website, HealthCare.gov. In her testimony, Ms. Sebelius told Congress that we “deserve better.” And with that, the social media world was set on fire with a rage of backlash aimed at the Administration – something that has been growing feverishly for months now. Yes, we agree that the American public deserves better – but not just from the Administration.

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Does Obama’s health-care law make men pay for maternity care? Breaking down the facts.
Washington Post

It was one of the lighter moments in a House hearing Wednesday in which Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified about the government’s problem-ridden health insurance exchange. Rep. Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.) said the health-care law was forcing many Americans to pay for benefits they would never need, such as maternity coverage.

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Dems may have to admit Obamacare tax increase: Column
USA Today

Delaying Obamacare — the once unthinkable — has now become a potential reality. And it’s not just a Republican idea any longer. Ten Senate Democrats, all in vulnerable seats, have proposed extending the healthcare law’s enrollment period because people still can’t sign up at Healthcare.gov. More precisely, they seek to delay collecting the tax penalty for failing to buy insurance under Obamacare’s individual mandate.

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Which Plans Cover Abortion? No Answers On HealthCare.gov
capital public radio

As if the rollout of the federal health law didn’t have enough problems, abortion is back in the spotlight. How the various health plans in the exchanges would or would not pay for abortion was one of the very last issues settled before the bill was passed in 2010. Now abortion’s invisibility on the federal HealthCare.gov website has some people pretty upset. The issue came up Wednesday when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified on Capitol Hill.

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Plenty of time to fix Obamacare
Fresno Bee

It takes chutzpah, or perhaps just an extraordinary lack of self-awareness, to argue vehemently that a program should never be implemented — and then complain it isn’t being implemented well enough. But that seems to be the new Republican position: We want the Affordable Care Act, and we want it now. Given that House Republicans have voted dozens of times to repeal Obamacare, you’d think more of them would be cheering the “debacle” of a barely functioning website that keeps people from signing up. Instead, they demand to know who is responsible and insist that heads should roll.

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Readmission Rates Stubborn, Even Among Best Hospitals
Health Leaders Media

A study from researchers at Yale University found that hospitals taking part in a national program to reduce preventable 30-day readmissions for cardiac patients are taking a more pro-active approach to following protocols designed to reduce readmissions.

And though the results of the follow-up study showed “statistically significant changes of substantial magnitude in several specific strategies,” it also showed there was “no significant change” in a number of key areas including collaboration with a patient’s primary care physician after they’ve been discharged.

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F.D.A. Lays Out Rule to Avoid Drug Shortages
New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration detailed a plan on Thursday to prevent drug shortages. It fleshes out changes in a 2012 law that requires makers of important prescription drugs to notify the agency of interruptions in production that might disrupt supply. The rule, which is open to public comment for 60 days, applies for the first time to makers of “biological medicines,” which are produced in microorganisms, animal or plant cells.

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Bipartisan proposal calls for SGR repeal, fee-for-service fix
Modern Healthcare

Physicians, who have been dealing with a decade of uncertainty surrounding what Medicare pays them, appeared guardedly optimistic about a bipartisan proposal to scrap the sustainable growth-rate formula and replace it with a new payment model, even though there’s no accompanying plan to pay for it. The leaders of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees outlined a proposal to permanently repeal the SGR formula and reform the fee-for-service system with a model that focuses on value over volume.

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Patients pour into L.A. Sports Arena for free medical, dental care
Los Angeles Times

An army of doctors, nurses, dentists and other health workers on Thursday began providing free care to a steady stream of patients at the annual Care Harbor clinic at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

Care Harbor founder Don Manelli estimated that 700 to 800 people would receive free care by the end of the day Thursday. In all, the clinic expects to serve about 4,000 Angelenos–many of whom don’t have insurance, or don’t have coverage for services like dentistry or vision care.

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Consultant could get $25.9M to fix hospital
The Press-Enterprise

Riverside County officials are willing to spend more than $20 million on a consultant they’re confident will heal the county’s financially stressed hospital. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Nov. 5, will be asked to approve a $22.3 million contract with consulting firm Huron Healthcare to improve Riverside County Regional Medical Center’s bottom line and develop a long-term strategy to deliver health care.

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To promote breastfeeding, top-tier LA hospitals stop handing out free formula
Southern California Public Radio

Cedars Sinai and UCLA Medical Center have joined a growing list of hospitals across the country to stop distributing free infant formula take-home-bags to new mothers in an effort to promote breastfeeding. A new report by Public Citizen shows that the majority of facilities on U.S. News and World Report’s 2013-14 “Best Hospitals” have either completely ended or substantially reduced distribution of free infant formula.

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UC Irvine hospital workers to protest Friday
Orange County Register

Thousands of hospital workers are expected to gather for an informational picket on Friday in front of UC Medical Centers across the state including hundreds of employees at UC Irvine Medical Center. As part of a statewide campaign, union leaders from the University Professional and Technical Employees and California Nurses Association will announce the results of a strike authorization ballot their members recently completed.

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Walnut Creek hospital is the go-to destination for trauma care in Contra Costa County
The Mercury News

When emergency responders found a hardware store employee bleeding in a parking lot from multiple stab wounds Aug. 4, there was no question where they would take the man to try to save his life.

Although a fully staffed emergency room was two miles away in San Pablo, Daniel Stone was rushed halfway across the county to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, the site of Contra Costa County’s lone trauma center. He was pronounced dead 104 minutes after arrival.

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French journalists film Sutter hospital’s maternity ward
The Mercury News

French filmmakers said au revoir to Sutter Delta Medical Center this week after spending countless hours with those on its maternity ward.

A three-person team from France has been shooting footage of women and their caregivers at the Antioch facility for a documentary on the societal attitudes and practices surrounding childbirth on four continents.

Titled “Born Around the World,” a film that’s scheduled to air next year on French television, will explore these similarities and differences in the United States, France, India and Africa.

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California Pacific to start Cathedral Hill demolition, launch EMR
San Francisco Business Times

California Pacific Medical Center celebrates two big events this week: a Tuesday press event to officially start the demolition process at the site of its new Cathedral Hill hospital, and the planned Nov. 2 launch of a $50 million Epic Systems Corp. electronic medical records system at all of its campuses.

The Oct. 29 event wasn’t exactly the Gettysburg address: Sutter Health’s West Bay President Mike Cohill, Mayor Ed Lee and California Pacific CEO Warren Browner, M.D., gave largely forgettable and blessedly short speeches, although Browner won plaudits for keeping his succinct, sweet and humorous.

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Comparing Contra Costa and Alameda County trauma care
Contra Costa Times

The California Emergency Medical Services Authority allows local EMS agencies, such as Contra Costa’s and Alameda County’s, to implement and manage their local trauma systems based on state regulations.

Alameda County has two adult trauma centers, Highland General Hospital in Oakland and Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, as well as a pediatric trauma center, Children’s Hospital Oakland, which also serves Contra Costa County.

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