News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Another healthcare crisis: Closing hospitals
Los Angeles Times

Lower Oconee Community Hospital in southern Georgia closed its doors this month, eliminating 25 hospital beds and up to 100 hospital jobs. This was the fourth Georgia hospital to fold in two years and the eighth rural hospital in the state to close since 2000. Although Lower Oconee’s shutdown may not have registered much media coverage, those in search of medical attention in Glenwood, Ga., should be mindful that the closest hospital is now 30 miles away. As reference, Santa Ana is 30 miles from Los Angeles. When faced with a medical emergency, no one fancies a long road trip.

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Medi-Cal could see surge of young immigrants, but challenges remain
Sacramento Business Journal

A new study estimates that up to 125,000 young immigrants are eligible for Medi-Cal under a state policy that provides help for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

While Med-Cal coverage could increase access to care and reduce burdens on the safety net, immigrant youth still face barriers to enrolling because they lack information on the program or fear deportation, according to Laurel Lucia, a policy analyst at the UC Berkeley Labor Center, one of the groups behind the study. Read a PDF of the study here.

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Obesity Rate for Young Children Plummets 43% in a Decade
New York Times

Federal health authorities on Tuesday reported a 43 percent drop in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-old children over the past decade, the first broad decline in an epidemic that often leads to lifelong struggles with weight and higher risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke.

The drop emerged from a major federal health survey that experts say is the gold standard for evidence on what Americans weigh. The trend came as a welcome surprise to researchers. New evidence has shown that obesity takes hold young: Children who are overweight or obese at 3 to 5 years old are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults.

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Operation recycles, reuses hospital equipment
San Diego Union-Tribune

Hope worked the room Thursday.

And if hope blooms the way Laura Luxemburg envisions, our community will green up, gather up and help send excess medical supplies and equipment to hospitals and clinics in Africa and other developing countries.

Luxemburg is the founder of Ssubi is Hope Foundation, a 501(c)(3) which, along with other charitable organizations, has helped “the poorest of the poor” at the Bishop Asili Medical Center in Luwero, Uganda. The rural hospital, run by seven Catholic nuns, delivers care to more than 660,000 people living in 49 nearby villages and is the only hospital within a 100-mile radius.

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Obamacare enrollment hits 4 million
Los Angeles Times

Enrollment in health plans sold on marketplaces created by President Obama’s healthcare law has hit 4 million, the administration announced Tuesday, marking another milestone in the law’s implementation. The number suggests sign-ups have continued at a brisk pace in February, with about 700,000 people selecting an insurance plan so far this month.

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Health insurance enrollment at 4 million, Obama says
Modern Healthcare

Making a pitch for a final rush of health care enrollees, President Barack Obama says about 4 million people have signed up for health insurance through federal or state marketplaces set up under his health care law.

Obama urged some of his most vocal supporters Tuesday to help sign up as many people as possible for coverage by the end of March.

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Many Americans open to narrow doctor networks in Obamacare
Los Angeles Times

Most Americans would rather pay more for a health insurance plan that allows them to get treatment from a wide range of doctors and hospitals, a new survey finds. But in a finding that could prove important for President Obama’s health law, working-age consumers who don’t get health benefits through an employer favor health plans with narrower provider networks that cost less.

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Manufacturers warn of ObamaCare fallout
The Hill

Manufacturers on Tuesday warned that ObamaCare is putting millions of people at risk of losing their employer-based healthcare coverage.

Jay Timmons, the CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), said that, while a majority of his member companies offer health insurance to their employees, ObamaCare is making it more expensive for them to offer those benefits.

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Health reform law posed cybersecurity challenges
Modern Healthcare

As the Obama administration raced to meet its self-imposed deadline for online health insurance markets, security experts working for the government worried that state computer systems could become a back door for hackers.

Documents provided to The Associated Press show that more than two-thirds of state systems that were supposed to tap into federal computers to verify sensitive personal information for coverage were initially rated as “high risk” for security problems.

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Tribes take closer look at Affordable Care Act, health care reform
The Desert Sun

About 200 American Indians frequent the Indian Health Services clinic in Thermal, a small beige building located on the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians reservation, receiving regular care for diabetes, colds and other health concerns. Some have insurance. Some pay small fees in cash. Others rely on the federal program to provide all medical care.

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Details still scarce for four-day health exchange outage
San Diego Union-Tribune

Californians were unable to apply for coverage on the state’s health insurance website for more than four days but operator Covered California still has not said exactly what caused the unplanned outage.

Exchange officials said that the shutdown did not involve an attack from an outside threat and did not cause the loss of any customer data.

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California insurance exchange had ‘vulnerability’
The Mercury News

More than three months after it opened for business, California’s online health insurance marketplace had what federal officials described as a potential security flaw in its computer system and one that had already been disclosed publicly. The concern is noted in a Jan. 10 email between officials with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that oversaw development of the online exchanges.

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Obesity rates fall for young children, rise for older adults
Sacramento Bee

While adults and older children continue to struggle with obesity, America’s 2- to 5-year-olds appear to be slimming down.

The prevalence of obesity among children in the preschool set has fallen from nearly 14 percent in 2003 and 2004 to 8.4 percent in 2011 and 2012. That’s a 43 percent decline, according new survey data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Obesity in young American children plummets
Los Angeles Times

Americans are still carrying too much weight, but a new federal study offers a glimmer of hope amongst the nation’s smallest eaters: Between 2003 and 2012, obesity among children between 2 and 5 years of age has declined from 14% to 8% — a 43% decrease in just under a decade. And much of that reduction has come in the past three to four years, as efforts to address a burgeoning child obesity crisis have escalated.

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New CDC data shows 43 percent drop in obesity rates among children 2 to 5
Washington Post

New federal data published Tuesday show a 43 percent drop in obesity rates among children ages 2 to 5 during the past decade, providing another encouraging sign in the fight against one of the country’s leading public health problems, officials said.

The finding comes from a government study considered a gold standard to measure public-health trends. . Researchers found that just over 8 percent of children 2 to 5 were obese in 2011-2012, down from nearly 14 percent in 2003-2004. Although the drop was significant, federal health officials noted that obesity rates for the broader population remain unchanged, and for women older than 60, obesity rates rose about 21 percent during that period.

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This polio-like illnesses has paralyzed some California children
Santa Cruz Sentinel

More than a dozen children in California have developed an extremely rare, polio-like syndrome within the past year that within days paralyzed one or more of the children’s arms or legs, Stanford University researchers say.

The illness is still being investigated and appears to be very unusual, but Dr. Keith Van Haren at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University warned Monday that any child showing a sudden onset of weakness in their limbs or symptoms of paralysis should be immediately seen by a doctor.

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Diabetes in overweight women linked to low level of protein
San Francisco Chronicle

Women who are overweight and have low levels of a protein known to bind to sex hormones are five times more likely to develop gestational diabetes, according to a Kaiser Permanente study conducted in Oakland.

The research was published Friday in the journal Diabetes Care and is among the first to discover that the risk for gestational diabetes increased as the protein, a sex hormone binding globulin, decreased, according to Kaiser.

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Behind Retailers’ Healthcare Strategies, Operational Know-How
Health Leaders Media

In Part 2 of an interview with HealthLeaders Media, analysts Vaughn Kauffman and Ceci Connolly of the PwC Health Industries Advisory Service discussed their views on what we might see in the coming months and years as retail businesses carve out a larger role for themselves in healthcare delivery. The following is an edited transcript. See Part 1.

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Giving and getting: Mom turns son’s death into new rare-disease drug voucher program
San Francisco Business Times

Jacob Froman was a typical, healthy 8-year-old boy until his diagnosis seven years ago with medulloblastoma, a rare pediatric brain cancer. He died in January 2009 at age 10.

But Jacob’s story doesn’t end there. Instead, it could spark a new wave of drugs for rare childhood diseases, benefiting companies such as BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. and other companies as well as patients.

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Hospital advisory board disbands
RecordNet

The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to disband a temporary advisory board overseeing San Joaquin General Hospital.

The county had high hopes for the group of experts and officials assembled in 2010 to help guide the financially struggling San Joaquin General Hospital into a successful future.

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Alta Bates Summit cancer patients irate over acupuncture price spike
San Francisco Business Times

A number of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center cancer patients who receive acupuncture treatments to deal with pain, inflammation and the side effects of chemotherapy are upset about price hikes last week that increased the hospital’s “facility charge” per visit from $10 to $91. That’s on top of a $75-per-visit physician fee, and isn’t covered by insurance, leaving many patients unsure of what to do next.

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John Muir Health names new chief strategy guru
San Francisco Business Times

John Muir Health added George Sauter to its executive team as chief strategy officer, filling a void created when Marti Tarnowski retired at year-end. The Walnut Creek-based health care system said Tuesday that Sauter “recently joined” John Muir Health as chief strategy officer. He had been a director at the Chartis Group, a San Francisco health care consulting firm.

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New Sutter facility rises in Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Giant concrete walls, three stories high and 30 feet wide, cut slowly through the air Tuesday morning, hoisted by a giant crane that moved the 204,000-pound slabs as easily as a child lifts the panels of a cardboard clubhouse.

In just under 30 minutes, construction crews guided, positioned and fastened each wall in a speedy process that belied the months of preparation that came before.

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New ambulance contract OK’d; increases countywide services
Daily Democrat

In an effort to increase emergency medical services in Yolo County, the Board of Supervisors approved a contract with American Medical Response, but questions remain on how the arrangement will affect hospitals in the long run. The contract details a partnership between Yolo County hospitals to have emergency ambulance, advanced life support, and critical care transport services readily available to people.

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Kaiser Permanente: Free eye screening and cataract surgeries for the uninsured
Sacramento Bee

For nearly 20 years, Kaiser Permanente doctors and staff have offered free eye screenings and, for those who are eligible, no-cost cataract surgeries. And you don’t have to be insured by Kaiser to get access to these important vision services.

The surgeries are part of Mission Cataract USA, an annual program in which participating doctors help restore the sight for hundreds of people nationwide who cannot afford to get their cataracts treated.

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Riverside County Regional Medical Center seeks to increase ties to area med schools
The Desert Sun

The financially struggling Riverside County Regional Medical Center is working with three medical schools in an effort to boost its reputation, service and bottom line.

The county-run hospital in Moreno Valley already works with UC Riverside, Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Western University of Health Science in Pomona, but increasing the partnerships to create a teachin­g hospital would help save the hospital money and make it more compet­itive, according to consultants hired to evaluate the hospital’s operations.

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