News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Exchange, carriers struggle to serve newly insured
San Diego Union-Tribune

California’s new health insurance exchange has gotten kudos in recent months for enrolling the most people in the nation, and generally has had fewer paralyzing glitches than the federal government’s, but that doesn’t mean Obamacare has arrived in the state without its share of problems.

Many people who purchased policies through exchange operator Covered California are complaining about missing insurance cards, inaccurate doctor directories, inundated call centers and double or triple billing.

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Covered California Health Plans to Include Children’s Dental Next Year
KQED Radio

It was a big debate last summer. While children’s dental coverage is one of the Affordable Care Act’s 10 essential health benefits, the ACA gives states the flexibility to offer the coverage in a stand alone plan. Covered California first required insurers to include children’s dental, then told them to strip out the benefit, in favor of offering stand alone plans at an additional cost. Now the data is in. Less than one-third of enrolled children on Covered California through 2013 also has dental coverage.

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California flu death toll rises to 95
Sacramento Business Journal

The number of flu deaths in California since the start of the season is up to 95. That’s up by 50 since last week, state health officials say. An additional 51 deaths are under investigation. Three of the 95 deaths so far are children. “The increasing number of influenza-related deaths points to the severity of this flu season,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a news release.

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UC Davis wins award for nursing at the Medical Center
Sacramento Bee

Higher patient satisfaction and better work environments for nurses may seem like two different topics, but they are linked, according to the Magnet Recognition Program developed by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

If nurses are happy, everyone’s more likely to be happy and healthy. Makes sense.

UC Davis Medical Center joined the ranks of annointed clinical-care institutions in the nation with its new designation as a Magnet Recognition Program, doled out last week as a benchmark for the quality of care patients receive — and for nursing excellence.

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Healthcare “Formularies”: The REAL Obstacle to Reasonable Care
The Huffington Post

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has gone into effect as of January 1, 2014. It is a private/public sector alternative to publicly funded Single Payer Universal Healthcare, and it was passed into law amidst a fury of debate and partisanship. The United States is one of the few western democracies that does not have a healthcare system that is funded in majority by public funding. The assessment of the availability of services does not bode well for people living in the United States, as the system lacks the base level of service standardization that exists in most of the other nations where “universal healthcare” is the law.

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Health IT Chief DeSalvo Says EHR Use Key to Health Reform

Yesterday, National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo said the effective use of electronic health records by health care providers will be critical to reforming payment and delivery systems, MedPage Today reports. Speaking at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s annual meeting, DeSalvo — who took over as the country’s health IT chief last week — added that federal EHR regulations must address usability.

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The Next Health Care Reform

A Gallup survey released Thursday showed a large and sudden decline in the share of Americans lacking health insurance. It’s a potent reminder that despite the problematic launch of and continued discontent around many aspects of the Affordable Care Act, it is fundamentally succeeding in providing health insurance to people who previously lacked it. And that progress is likely to continue.

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Prices Drop When Health Consumers Shop Around For Healthcare
The Health Care Blog

Here’s a point most of us can agree on. Tackling ballooning health care costs requires more than insurance reform because the charge and cost structure for health services in the U.S. is inconsistent and irrational. The same quality CT scan that costs $500 at one outpatient facility costs $2,000 at a nearby teaching hospital. Obamacare’s typical high-deductible insurance plans encourage many cost-conscious consumers to shop around for low-ticket items below their deductible — and that is good.

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Affordable Care Act: Patients begin using new medical coverage
The Desert Sun

A stream of valley residents have been entering hospitals and clinics in the Coachella Valley with insurance coverage offered through the Affordable Care Act now that the central core of the legislation has been activated.

Just how many is unclear.

Nor is the impact certain, as a new study suggests expanding insurance coverage might not lead to fewer emergency room visits and more preventative care.

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Covered California adopts pediatric dental policy
Sacramento Business Journal

After months of debate, the board at Covered California adopted a pediatric dental benefit policy Thursday that takes the middle ground. Effective in 2015, all 10 health plans will be required to offer pediatric dental coverage embedded with medical care as an essential health benefit, but it will be offered side-by-side with a stand-alone dental plan that allows patients a another choice. The policy affects the individual marketplace only.

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Forum offers update on Affordable Care Act, explains how to apply
Lake County News

Local and federal officials offered an update on new health care coverage options for community members under the Affordable Care Act and explained how to apply at a Saturday forum. Close to 100 people attended the forum – titled, “The Affordable Care Act: What’s happened so far, what’s happening and what’s coming next” – held at the Lakeport Senior Center on Saturday afternoon. Congressman Mike Thompson, whose office organized the event, was unable to attend due to having what his district representative Brad Onorato called “minor” surgery in San Francisco on Jan. 21.

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Dramatic rise in flu deaths reported by California health officials
Los Angeles Times

State health officials reported Friday that California influenza deaths this flu season have doubled to 95, with an additional 51 cases likely to be confirmed next week. That would put this year’s number of flu fatalities so far at 146. At this time last year, nine deaths had been confirmed, and only 106 were confirmed by the end of the season. “So far we have a much more severe season,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Gil Chavez in a conference call with reporters Friday. He said that flu activity in California remained “widespread.”

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Why the SGR Fix Won’t Work and Could Actually Make Things Worse
The Health Care Blog

Partisan gridlock in Washington regarding health policy has been so pervasive and bitter that any bipartisan co-operation on any important health issue should be applauded by a frustrated public. That is why the emerging bipartisan compromise regarding the fifteen-year long policy embarrassment known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) problem needs to be taken seriously.

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Jahi McMath: Could her case change how California determines death?
Contra Costa Times

If Christopher Dolan gets his way, the Jahi McMath case may change how California determines when death occurs.

Dolan, a San Rafael resident who has gained newfound prominence as the attorney for Jahi’s family, hopes to mount what may be the nation’s first challenge to a law linking end of life to brain death.

Families — not hospitals, judges or governments — should decide when treatment stops on a loved one, Dolan argues. And if a family believes life stops when the heart stops, based on religious beliefs, a government should not have the power to interfere with their constitutional right to practice those beliefs.

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A new way: Foundation lines up generic heart drug for multiple sclerosis trial
San Francisco Business Times

A generic high blood pressure drug could unlock a new treatment window for multiple sclerosis patients in a groundbreaking study championed by a Bay Area nonprofit. The Myelin Repair Foundation of Saratoga in the next few months will launch a Phase I safety trial of the drug, approved two decades ago to treat hypertension, said President and CEO Scott Johnson.

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San Pablo hospital’s fight for survival grows more desperate
The Mercury News

Suffering from a suspected case of Lyme disease, 75-year-old San Pablo cancer survivor Renate Wunderlich seemed as concerned about her hospital’s health as her own during a recent visit to the Doctors Medical Center emergency room.

“The joint pain is pretty bad,” Wunderlich said, her voice trailing off before moving on to the new topic.

“This hospital isn’t really going to close, is it?” she asked Dr. Laurel Hodgson, the lone emergency medicine doctor on duty this night, and other hospital staff. “It can’t close.”