News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Flu spike, saline shortages linked
Monterey Herald

A shortage of intravenous saline is causing hospitals and dialysis centers to scramble to manage their supplies of the commonly used solution.

Health care providers are asking doctors and staff members to use smaller IV bags and find alternatives, officials and executives said. Officials have not heard of facilities running out of saline, “but we know that hospitals are still reporting that they may only have a few days’ supply,” said Valerie Jensen, associate director of the drug shortages program at the Food and Drug Administration.

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HealthCare.gov can’t handle appeals of enrollment errors
Washington Post

Tens of thousands of people who discovered that HealthCare.gov made mistakes as they were signing up for a health plan are confronting a new roadblock: The government cannot yet fix the errors.

Roughly 22,000 Americans have filed appeals with the government to try to get mistakes corrected, according to internal government data obtained by The Washington Post. They contend that the computer system for the new federal online marketplace charged them too much for health insurance, steered them into the wrong insurance program or denied them coverage entirely.

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OIG to Investigate HIX Flaws in 2014
Health Leaders Media

What went wrong with the health insurance exchange rollout and HealthCare.gov, admission criteria under the so-called “two-midnight rule,” and whether taxpayers should bear the brunt of unreasonable healthcare executive compensation, are among 60 new targets of investigation announced by the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Hospitals Look at Retail Pharmacies With Renewed Interest
Health Leaders Media

U.S. hospitals have offered on-campus retail pharmacies for years, but the drive to achieve improvements across the continuum of care is prompting a surge in new facilities and reinvention of existing on-site drug stores.

“A retail pharmacy based on-campus and operated by the hospital provides an integrated continuum of care for one of the most critical steps in the health care transitions process,” said Christine Collins, director of pharmacy at Lifespan, which includes Rhode Island Hospital, The Miriam Hospital and Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island.

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Special report: California kids’ mental care is in crisis
Fresno Bee

In recent years, Dr. Jason Bynum has seen the churn: teens in crisis cycling through his south Sacramento psychiatric hospital, admitted, released, and just a few months down the road, back with another breakdown. Increasingly, he lives with a deathly fear that his young patients are going to commit suicide after he sends them home. He worries even more about the ones who are violent toward others.

“One of these kids that I’m discharging is going to go home and kill somebody,” said Bynum, a psychiatrist at Sierra Vista Hospital who is also president-elect of the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society.

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Cantor vows healthcare reform push from GOP, more discussions on immigration
The Hill

Cantor told “Face the Nation” that healthcare would be a winning issue for the GOP in the 2014 mid-terms. He said the chairmen of the Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and the Workforce committees – Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and John Kline (R-Minn.) – are “all working of this that I believe will turn into an alternative for ObamaCare,” just as Democrats approached their effort in 2009.

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After Months of Thought Senate Republicans Propose Obamacare Lite
The Health Care Blog

No-one can say any longer that Senate Republicans are entirely deaf to calls to describe how they would replace the much maligned Affordable Care Act. This week, three senior GOP senators (Orrin Hatch, Tom Coburn, and Richard Burr) announced their proposed Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment (or Patient CARE) Act. Given that each of this group is a heavyweight mainstream Republican and that Senator Coburn is one of the few physicians in the Congress, the draft Act deserves a serious look.

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Covered California: 45,000 signed up in San Diego
San Diego Union-Tribune

More than 45,000 people in San Diego County purchased health plans from the state’s health insurance exchange through the end of December, according to data released Friday.

About 84 percent, or 37,882, of that number qualified for income-based subsidies through exchange operator Covered California, while 7,199 bought plans at full price.

Janice Collins, a spokeswoman for Scripps Health in San Diego, said Covered California business is starting to pick up.

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Kaiser Permanente tops Covered California enrollment
Sacramento Business Journal

Kaiser Permanente, already the dominant health plan in the Sacramento region, tops local enrollment in Covered California so far. The health plan signed up 10,176 members in Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer and Yolo counties from Oct. 1 through December 31. That translates to 37.4 percent of the 27,224 total sign-ups in the new state health benefit exchange during the first three months of open enrollment.

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Study: Patients need training on new health insurance
Visialia Times-Delta

New Medicaid patients in Oregon failed to use their benefits effectively because they did not understand how to use insurance or health care, according to a study released Monday in the journal Health Affairs.

As a result, researchers told USA TODAY, patients did not receive preventive health screenings, schedule appointments to manage chronic illnesses or use their new insurance coverage for anything beyond medical emergencies.

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Little-known Medicaid provision allows states to seek repayment from enrollees
Contra Costa Times

The new federal health care law is enabling millions of low-income and unemployed Americans to sign up for Medicaid, a taxpayer-funded health program originally designed for the indigent.

Yet a little-known wrinkle in the decades-old Medicaid law may be prompting some Americans ages 55 to 64 to shy away from the health plan of last resort — called Medi-Cal in California — after learning there’s a catch: Once they die, their estates may have to reimburse the government for the cost of their medical care.

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Medi-Cal seen as relief for some, confusing burden for others
Los Angeles Times

Business owner Lori Golden wasn’t looking for charity. But the 62-year-old Northridge resident said that’s what it felt like when she tried to buy an Obamacare health insurance policy through the Covered California exchange — and instead learned that her income was so low it qualified her to receive benefits through California’s healthcare program for the poor. “I’m upset. I sort of feel like I’m being forced to go into Medi-Cal,” Golden said.

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Health care savings: Having doctors display commitment to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescription
Imperial Valley News

Inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions are a major public health concern, costing millions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs annually and contributing to the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Still, despite widely accepted prescription guidelines, physicians continue to prescribe antibiotics for colds even when they won’t help.

A study in JAMA Internal Medicine published today offers an inexpensive and seemingly simple “nudge” that reduced inappropriate antibiotic prescribing by nearly 20 percent.

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Flu Season Results In Saline Shortage At San Diego Blood Bank
KPBS

Blood banks nationwide are facing a shortage of saline this flu season, and the problem is now affecting the San Diego Blood Bank.

Lynn Stedd works for the blood bank and said the shortage has been caused by the large number of flu sufferers going to the hospital for dehydration. The clear liquid is used to treat dehydration, and hospitals are given first priority by saline manufactures.

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California flu deaths for those under 65 running far ahead of last year
Los Angeles Times

Influenza-related illness has killed 147 Californians under age 65 this season, including 17 people in Los Angeles County and one in Long Beach, state health officials have confirmed. The toll is unusually high: At the same point last year, only 14 people in that age group had died of the flu, Dr. James Watt of the California Department of Public Health told reporters Friday.

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Doctors Medical Center seeks new parcel tax to avoid closure
San Francisco Business Times

Doctors Medical Center, the beleaguered safety net hospital in San Pablo that has been losing lots of money for years, is seeking an additional parcel tax to stave off closure as soon as this spring. Earlier tax measures passed in 2004 and 2011. Doctors serves a population of about 250,000, many of whom are covered by Medi-Cal, which pays hospitals at a lower rate than most insurance offerings, are underinsured or have no coverage.

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Lompoc Hospital Foundation gets $20K
Santa Maria Times

Representatives of St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church visited Lompoc Valley Medical Center and presented a $20,000 donation check to board members and staff of the Lompoc Hospital Foundation recently.

The donation was a portion of funds raised at the fourth annual St. Mark’s Cellar Classic: An Auction of Rare and Fine Wines on June 29.

“It is a tradition in the wine industry to support local hospitals with fund raising efforts,” said

Lompoc resident Stephen Pepe, co-owner of Clos Pepe Vineyards and co-chair of St. Mark’s Cellar Classic.

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Palm Drive Hospital seeks help from state legislators
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Palm Drive Hospital is seeking urgency legislation in Sacramento that would allow the financially strapped Sebastopol hospital to refinance bond debt at lower interest rates. The 37-bed hospital, which two weeks ago announced layoffs and cuts affecting 40 employees, is getting assistance from Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, and his staff to craft the bill.

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