News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obamacare spotlights need for nurse practitioners, physician assistants
Los Angeles Daily News

His wife caught the flu and was treated at Summit Urgent Care in Palmdale. Then his daughter became ill and sought treatment at the facility. Now it was his turn.

The middle-aged man in faded jeans and a green T-shirt stumbled into a treatment room in the early afternoon and told nurse practitioner Donna Emanuele he felt lousy, so lousy he couldn’t wait for an appointment with his family doctor, which would have taken several days.

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Hospital Groups Strike Back at Hospital Rating Systems
Health Leaders Media

As hospitals grow increasingly frustrated with contradictory commercial rating systems that grade, score, and rank their quality of care, the Association of American Medical Colleges and other hospital groups are striking back.

They’ve issued a list of 25 Guiding Principles to help hospital officials judge the scorecards themselves, so they can explain results to their patients, payers, philanthropists, and board members, and if there are fees associated, so they can determine whether a survey’s marketing value is worth the asking price.

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California’s flu death toll rises to 318 even as widespread influenza activity decreases
Sacramento Bee

As the flu season winds down, the number of statewide deaths due to severe influenza continues to rise – to 318 people under the age of 65 – as California public health officials investigate additional cases still trickling in from counties.

By Friday, California had seen three times the number of deaths reported in all of last year’s flu season, which took the lives of 106 people. Another 26 deaths are under investigation and likely will increase the 2013-14 flu fatality toll, state officials said.

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The Dangers Of Quality Improvement Overload
The Health Care Blog

Quality improvement (QI) and patient safety initiatives are created with the laudable goal of saving lives and reducing “preventable harms” to patients.

As the number of QI interventions continues to rise, and as hospitals become increasingly subject to financial pressures and penalties for hospital-acquired conditions (HACs), we believe it is important to consider the impact of the pressure to improve everything at once on hospitals and their staffs.

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Slew of changes to health-care law creates more confusion for consumers
Washington Post

As the deadline approaches for most Americans to obtain health insurance, a flurry of changes by the Obama administration has led to a frenzied effort among employers, insurance companies, politicians and consumers to try and understand what they might mean.

The latest batch of adjustments came Wednesday, when the administration disclosed that it was delaying, once again, the deadline for people with old private health plans to buy beefed-up versions required under the health-care law.

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Timeline of major change to the Affordable Care Act
Washington Post

As it has been implementing the 2010 law reshaping the U.S. health-care system, the Obama administration has instituted a series of delays and other changes to the way the statute works in practice. Some changes were prompted by the government’s technical and other difficulties in launching HealthCare.gov, the online insurance marketplace on which three dozen states rely. Other changes respond to complaints by specific groups of consumers or parts of the health-care industry. Major changes and the dates when they were announced:

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Another Obamacare frustration: long hold times
Bakersfield Californian

Employees in the billing office of San Dimas Medical Group have been tearing their hair out since the new year, when patients who had purchased health plans made possible by the Affordable Care Act began streaming into the group’s southwest Bakersfield offices.

First, the medical group of OB-GYNs, physician assistants and nurse practitioners was surprised to learn it was in the networks of two insurers who sent paperwork asking providers to opt out, not in.

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When Health Costs Harm Your Credit
New York Times

Like most people, I am generally vigilant about paying my bills — credit cards, mortgage, cellphone and so on. But medical bills have a different trajectory. I (usually) open the envelopes and peruse the amalgam of codes and charges. I sigh or swear. And set them aside for when I have time to clarify the confusion: An out-of-network charge from a doctor I know is in-network? An un-itemized laboratory bill from a doctor I’ve never heard of? A bill for a huge charge before my insurer has paid its yet unknown portion of a hospital’s unknowable fee?

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Survey: Uninsured rate drops; health law cited
Modern Healthcare

With just three weeks left to sign up under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, a major survey tracking the rollout finds that the uninsured rate keeps going down.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, released Monday, found that 15.9 percent of U.S. adults are uninsured thus far in 2014, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months — or calendar quarter— of 2013.

That translates roughly to 3 million to 4 million people getting coverage.

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California drafts labor icon Huerta to woo Latinos to Obamacare
Los Angeles Times

With time running short to sign up for Obamacare, California officials have recruited labor activist Dolores Huerta to urge Latinos to get health insurance. The state’s move comes amid struggles at enrolling Latinos, who represent about 60% of the state’s uninsured population. Open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act ends March 31. Huerta is co-founder of the United Farm Workers union and worked for years alongside the late Cesar Chavez.

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Obamacare: Fifteen percent of Covered California enrollees haven’t paid
Santa Cruz Sentinel

With less than a month left to sign up for private insurance under the federal health care law, California’s enrollment numbers are closing in on the magic number of 1 million as 8,000 people sign up every day. If only everyone would pay their premiums. Roughly 15 percent of the Californians who had enrolled by Jan. 31 still haven’t sent in their first month’s payment, according to four major health insurance companies participating in the Covered California exchange.

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Just 3 weeks left to get signed up for mandatory health care coverage
Sacramento Bee

The clock is ticking on health care coverage. If you’re one of about 48 million Americans – roughly 7 million in California – who don’t have health insurance, you’ve got until March 31 to sign up.

That’s the deadline for all Americans to sign up for new, expanded health care benefits under the federal Affordable Care Act.

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Covered California reaches out to San Gabriel Valley Latino community
San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Covered California is redoubling its efforts to reach the Latino community. The state’s health exchange has doubled its advertising campaign for Spanish-speaking residents. It plans to spend $8.2 million in Spanish-language media in the first quarter.

Covered California is also working with local libraries to get the word out. In fact, the state’s health care exchange has been helping residents sign up for health insurance in La Puente and Diamond Bar.

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In California, middle class feels health insurance squeeze
Sacramento Bee

Dawn and Nick LaPolla of Fair Oaks are solidly middle class, and they aren’t uninsured. Yet their required switch to a new health insurance plan under federal changes puts them at a financial crossroads. If they earn less than $94,200 a year, the family of four’s preferred plan through the California health exchange would cost about $750 a month. But if they make even slightly more, they’ll pay about $1,040.

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Thousands of SF residents eligible for health coverage currently not enrolling
San Francisco Examiner

Going without health care coverage is over — if The City’s uninsured want it that way. But for a variety of reasons, as many as 70,000 people apparently don’t seek the coverage. There are as many as 166,000 people in San Francisco eligible for subsidized health care coverage via either Medi-Cal or insurance purchased from the Covered California marketplace, according to the Department of Public Health.

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Health care reform from the front lines in Marin
Marin Independent Journal

After many years and great effort, health care reform is finally here.

A major deadline is looming — March 31. The end of the month is the last date for individuals to enroll in Covered California, the health insurance exchange that offers affordable insurance options to thousands of Marin residents who are currently uninsured.

This much-anticipated reform has already brought major improvements to the lives of many Marin residents.

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How your company can bypass the health insurance companies
Sacramento Business Journal

When it comes to providing health benefits to your employees, sometimes it pays to call the doctor instead of an insurance company.

That was the case for small-business owner Terry Tumulillo, who couldn’t afford to buy health insurance coverage for the six contract court reporters who work for her communications company, VoicePrint.

 Instead, she contracted directly with R-Health, a Philadelphia-based startup health care provider that offers primary care services to individuals and businesses.

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Study finds prenatal Tylenol use linked to ADHD in baby
Sacramento Bee

More often than not, a woman’s first prenatal visit comes with a lot of do’s and don’ts. What to eat. What not to eat. When to exercise. How to exercise. And most importantly, which over-the-counter medications are safe to take in the event of minor ailments like an upset stomach or a headache.

Until recently, that list banned ibuprofen but approved acetaminophen (the main ingredient in Tylenol) for reducing fevers, and relieving minor aches and pains.

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Prices of new hepatitis C drugs are tough to swallow for insurers
Los Angeles Times

A pair of new drugs to treat hepatitis C offer a cure for millions of Americans afflicted with the disease — but at a potentially staggering cost to taxpayers and health plans. Until now, therapies for hepatitis C helped only about half of patients and posed numerous side effects, such as flu-like symptoms, anemia or depression. In comparison, clinical trials of Sovaldi and Olysio have shown cure rates of 80% to 90% with far fewer complications.

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Experts: Fewer survive hepatitis C
Monterey Herald

The number of Americans who are infected with hepatitis C is falling, but that’s probably because more people who have been sickened by the virus are dying as a result, government researchers reported Monday.

After analyzing data from thousands of people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that about 1 percent of the population over age 5 has hepatitis C.

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AHIP: Enormity of HIX Challenges Sinks In
Health Leaders Media

A pair of top government officials set the tone early for the Exchanges Forum in Washington, D.C. March 6 – 7 organized by America’s Health Insurance Plans. The first speaker at the exchange forum was Gary Cohen, who has been leading the federal effort to establish the new public exchanges as director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. CCIIO is a branch of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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Gene therapy shows promise for HIV control
Monterey Herald

Scientists have modified genes in the blood cells of HIV patients to help them resist the AIDS virus, and say the treatment seems safe and promising. The results give hope that this approach might one day free at least some people from needing medicines to keep HIV under control, a form of cure.

The idea came from an AIDS patient who appears cured after getting a cell transplant seven years ago in Berlin from a donor with natural immunity to HIV. Only about 1 percent of people have two copies of the gene that gives this protection.

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The Death of SGR Reform
The Health Care Blog

Late last week, House Republican leaders declared their intention to bring H.R. 4015, the bipartisan, bicameral SGR repeal measure, to the floor for a vote. Good news, you’d think, for doctors and the broader healthcare system, that we might finally be rid of the SGR’s broken machinations and perverse cycle of congressional intervention. But House leaders added a footnote: the measure would be paid for by delaying the individual mandate, which CBO opined last week would save money through reduced enrollment in Exchanges and Medicaid.

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Five candidates running in special election
The Press-Enterprise

With more than two years left of his four-year term, Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, unexpectedly resigned in December, citing a lack of passion for the job and his frustration with Sacramento. An orthodontist, Emmerson eventually took a job coordinating lobbying for the California Hospital Association. Seeking to finish Emmerson’s term are two Democrats, two Republicans and a Libertarian.

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AMN Healthcare Services poised for healthy growth under Obamacare
Los Angeles Times

In the age of Obamacare, AMN Healthcare Services Inc. would appear to be in a healthy position. The San Diego company is the nation’s largest healthcare staffing firm, and if the Affordable Care Act proves successful in its goal of providing healthcare for Americans who don’t have it, the scramble for quality doctors and nurses will be intense. There could be a shortage of up to 45,000 primary care doctors in the U.S. by 2020, according to the Assn. of American Medical Colleges.

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Sutter hospitals in Sacramento, Davis receive national honor
Sacramento Bee

Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, and Sutter Davis Hospital are among the nation’s “100 Top Hospitals” in the latest annual study released by Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Truven Health Analytics.

Truven, which provides a wide range of health care data, evaluated U.S. hospitals in 10 key areas of patient care and overall operations.

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Riverside County First Responders Frustrated by Ambulance Delays
California Healthline

In Riverside County and across the state, ambulances that have transported patients to hospitals are not zipping off to help others in need. Instead, they are being delayed at those same hospitals, sometimes for up to six hours. In areas with the worst delays, emergency response systems can be nearly paralyzed, straining the capacity of first responders, officials said.

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