News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Employer Mandate Delay Hurts NFP Hospitals’ Credit Outlook
Health Leaders Media

Postponing the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for mid-sized employers for a second time is a “credit negative” for not-for-profit hospitals because it delays expanded coverage for previously uninsured patients and the corresponding reduction in bad debt and charity care, Moody’s Investor Services says.

The delay announced this month by the Obama administration gives companies with 50 to 99 employees until 2016 to offer insurance for their employees of face fines. The 2010 law originally required mid-sized employers to provide coverage beginning this year or face a $2,000 fine for each employee. The Obama administration last year delayed the employer mandate until 2015.

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Measles cases have health officials worried about vaccine refusers
Southern California Public Radio

News that California has already had 15 cases of measles this year has public health officials on alert, particularly because of the growing number of parents opting not to vaccinate their children. Last year at this time there were only two cases.

Health officials have determined that at least seven of the 15 measles victims were intentionally not vaccinated. That has stoked their concern that if more people choose not to vaccinate it could lead to a more widespread outbreak of measles or other communicable diseases.

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Study calls DNA test reliable in discovering fetal disorders
Los Angeles Times

It’s billed as a faster, safer and more accurate way of screening expectant mothers for fetal abnormalities like Down syndrome, and proponents say it has already become the standard for prenatal care. But as a handful of California companies market their DNA-testing services to a growing number of pregnant women, some experts complain that the tests have not been proven effective in the kind of rigorous clinical trials that are required of new drugs.

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How Mayo Clinic Is Using iPads to Empower Patients
The Health Care Blog

Throughout the world, companies are embracing mobile devices to set customer expectations, enlist them in satisfying their own needs, and get workers to adhere to best practices. An effort under way at the Mayo Clinic shows how such technology can be used to improve outcomes and lower costs in health care. Defining the care a patient can expect to receive and what the road to recovery will look like is crucial.

When care expectations are not well defined or communicated, the process of care may drift, leading to unwarranted variation, reduced predictability, longer hospital stays, higher costs, poorer outcomes, and patient and provider dissatisfaction.

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Obama budget will seek record funding for new doctors
USA Today

President Obama will propose boosting the National Health Services Corps from 8,900 a year to 15,000 a year over the next five years, as well as spending $5.23 billion to train 13,000 primary care residents over the next 10 years, in his budget next week, administration officials told USA TODAY.

The budget, which Obama will reveal Tuesday, marks the first time Medicare funds will be used to increase the number of medical residents, and it’s the largest-ever proposed increase of the corps, officials said.

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Biden stepping up role in promoting health law
San Francisco Chronicle

Vice President Joe Biden is stepping up his role in promoting enrollment in new health care exchanges as the end of the open-enrollment period nears.

The vice president’s office says Biden will hold a number of conference calls this week to reach out to groups that are spreading the word about the health care law. Those groups include Latinos, African-Americans, women and young Americans.

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The cost of health coverage rises for these Californians
San Francisco Chronicle

The Affordable Care Act has led to higher health insurance premiums and deductibles for consumers who buy coverage outside the federal or state-run marketplaces, according to an analysis released Wednesday.

In California, an individual plan that cost an average of $196 a month before the health law went into effect now costs an average of $331 a month, according to eHealth, a Mountain View company that is the largest online broker of health insurance in the country. The firm’s report offers one of the first and most comprehensive looks at the cost of individual policies purchased outside the so-called exchanges.

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Bill aims to create standards for surgical technologists
Sacramento Business Journal

A California lawmaker introduced legislation Wednesday to establish minimum education and certification standards for surgical technologists.

While many hospitals, surgery centers and other facilities prefer applicants who are certified by a recognized professional association, there are no minimum rules enforced in California.

Assembly Bill 2062 by Democratic Senator Roger Hernandez from West Covina would prohibit a health facility from employing a surgical technologist or contracting with an individual to practice surgical technology at the facility unless the individual has specified training and certification — or has practiced at a health facility at any time since Jan. 1, 2013.

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California has most top-rated nursing homes
Sacramento Business Journal

California has the highest number of top-rated nursing homes in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. A total of 416 of the 1,268 skilled nursing homes in the state received five stars in 2014 under the federal government’s quality rating system. That’s about 33 percent of the nursing homes in the state — up from 25 percent last year. Other top ranking states include Florida, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania.

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New prenatal test: Sooner, safer and more reliable, researchers say
The Mercury News

A DNA test of a pregnant woman’s blood is more accurate than current methods of screening for Down syndrome and other common disorders, new research finds. If other studies bear this out, it could transform prenatal care by giving a more reliable, non-invasive way to detect these problems very early in pregnancy.

That would let couples decide sooner whether to have an abortion or to prepare for a major medical problem. It also might cut down on the 200,000 more invasive tests like amniocentesis done each year in the United States to diagnose or rule out problems with a fetus.

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Laura’s Law mental-health debate rages in Bay Area
San Francisco Chronicle

A man drives to the East Bay hills every Wednesday to leave groceries for his son, who lives in the woods. An Albany woman sleeps with a baseball bat and stun gun next to her bed, fearing the son who threatened to kill her.

These were among the stories shared this week by family members of people who suffer from severe mental illness as they sought, yet again, to bring the much-debated Laura’s Law to the Bay Area more than 11 years after its passage in California.

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PCMH Pilot Not Associated with Cost Reductions, Study Shows
Health Leaders Media

Yet another report showing lackluster quality improvement in physician practices certified as patient centered medical homes—after three years of concerted effort—sparks the question: why is it so difficult to get better results?

The report, published in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association, compared quality, utilization, and costs of care delivered to about 120,000 patients in 32 Pennsylvania practices. About half of the patients were treated by physicians in PCMHs certified or recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance; the others were treated by physicians in traditional practices.

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Salinas patients left out of health care
The Californian - Salinas

Ernesto Sanchez has several medical conditions that require him to follow up regularly with his doctors. But when the Salinas resident tried to schedule appointments, he was told his providers no longer accept his insurance.

The 58-year-old Sanchez did all the right things.

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Alta Bates Summit relents on controversial acupuncture price hike
San Francisco Business Times

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center has decided to nix a steep price hike for acupuncture treatments that had a number of cancer patients planning a protest, and instead will try to tamp down the controversy. In a short statement late Wednesday, Alta Bates Summit spokeswoman Carolyn Kemp said the multi-campus hospital, part of Sutter Health, is working with patients and with acupuncture specialist Dr. Amy Matecki “to address any confusion and resolve any outstanding issues.”

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Chinese Hospital ‘tops off’ new $106 million structure
San Francisco Business Times

Chinese Hospital’s new $106 million, 100,000-square-foot building at 835 Jackson St. was “topped off” Tuesday, with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in attendance, as shown in our slideshow. Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. is the 54-bed project’s architect; DPR Construction is its general contractor. The original 1925 building was demolished to make room for the new structure, which is next door to a 1979 annex that is still operational.

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Bayview center aims to help traumatized kids heal
San Francisco Chronicle

Gunshots and murders just outside the door. Parents and children being beaten in the home. Poverty.

These things do more than just rattle a child – they carve trauma so deep that a young person’s life can pitch off the rails, physically and mentally.

So on Wednesday, San Francisco opened what is believed to be the nation’s most comprehensive center of services aimed at keeping traumatized children on those rails and healthy.

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Sutter Tracy nurses plan informational picket
Sacramento Business Journal

Registered nurses at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital will hold an informational picket Thursday afternoon to protest lack of progress on a first contract after more than 20 months at the bargaining table. In March 2012, nurses voted for representation by the California Nurses Association. Issues that prompted the hospital’s 160 nurses to support the union persist today, union representatives say.

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