News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Primary-care doc shortage leaves 62M with inadequate access: study
Modern Healthcare

As national attention centers on the number of individuals who will gain insurance coverage under the health reform law, new research warns that a shortage of primary-care physicians means about 62 million Americans still have inadequate access to primary care.

That figure comes from a report by the National Association of Community Health Centers, which found that the majority of that population actually has insurance, with roughly 22% covered by Medicaid and 58% covered by other insurance. The remaining roughly 21%, the study showed, is uninsured.

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Health law concerns for cancer centers
San Francisco Chronicle

Cancer patients relieved that they can get insurance coverage because of the new health care law may be disappointed to learn that some the nation’s best cancer hospitals are off-limits.

An Associated Press survey found examples coast to coast. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is excluded by five out of eight insurers in Washington state’s insurance exchange. MD Anderson Cancer Center says it’s in less than half of the plans in the Houston area. Memorial Sloan-Kettering is included by two of nine insurers in New York City and has out-of-network agreements with two more.

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Septic Shock Treatment Protocols Challenged
Health Leaders Media

A long-awaited study of septic shock treatments has found that expensive and risky parts of a widely accepted resuscitation protocol now in place in many hospitals do not improve outcomes when compared with standard of care.

The study, conducted in 31 emergency departments in the U.S. over five years, should result in some hospitals revising their regulations and guidelines governing sepsis care in, says lead author Derek C. Angus, MD, of the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC Health System.

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Physicians Urged to Become ‘Political Advocates’ for Patients
Health Leaders Media

Physicians must become vocal and assertive political advocates for their patients and possess “structural competence” to identify and address social ills that harm public health. Teaching that structural competence should be part of pre-med and medical school curriculum, two public health advocates say.

In an essay published this month Social Science and Medicine, psychiatrists Jonathan Metzl, MD, director of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health and Society and Helena Hansen, MD, of New York University, say it’s clear that people’s health and wellness can be linked to their zip codes as much as their genetic codes.  As a result, they say, physicians need to understand and identify the “social factors” that can make their patients sick.

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Obamacare challenge could empower discriminators: Column
USA Today

Should corporations have the right to get out of obeying federal law and refuse services and deny health care coverage to some people because of the corporate owners’ religious beliefs? That’s the question the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing this month – and the answer could affect millions of Americans’ everyday lives.

Two companies – one a chain of crafts stores in 47 states, and the other a woodworking manufacturer with factories in three states – argue that they shouldn’t have to follow the federal law that requires insurance plans to include coverage for birth control. The corporate owners claim a religious objection to providing some birth control to their employees, in part because the owners allege that those forms of birth control are abortion, an allegation that major medical institutions reject.

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Concerns arise about access to cancer centers under health law
Modern Healthcare

Some of America’s best cancer hospitals are off-limits to many of the people now signing up for coverage under the nation’s new healthcare program.

Doctors and administrators say they’re concerned. So are some state insurance regulators.

An Associated Press survey found examples coast to coast. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is excluded by five out of eight insurers in Washington’s insurance exchange. MD Anderson Cancer Center says it’s in less than half of the plans in the Houston area.

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GOP health plan could be road to nowhere

Here’s the dirty secret about the House Republicans’ efforts to replace Obamacare: They haven’t even decided if they will hold a vote. Not to mention, the House GOP would still have to repeal Obamacare in order to implement whatever alternative health care plan they release, which isn’t going to happen as long as President Barack Obama is sitting in the Oval Office.

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Affordable Care Act deadline not just for uninsured
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The March 31 Affordable Care Act deadline has local insurance agents and health coverage officials scrambling to get out what they say is a crucial message that seems to have been lost in the federal law’s rollout.

The open enrollment deadline isn’t just for those those seeking coverage through state and federally run health exchanges. It applies to all individual and family health plans, including those purchased outside the state’s Covered California insurance marketplace.

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In healthcare, what makes Maine different?
Los Angeles Times

Sally Patterson reflected on her part in the healthcare system as she pointed her aging silver Subaru west on U.S. Highway 2 early one morning, headed for the tiny hamlet of Carmel. “You’ve got to teach people how to look out for themselves,” Patterson said, whizzing past isolated houses, meadows and stands of pine. “It’s like the old biblical saying. Give a person a fish, you feed them for a day. Teach them how to fish, you feed them for life.”

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Thousands of young California immigrants eligible for health insurance but don’t often know it
Los Angeles Daily News

Carlos Velazquez’s skateboard slipped out from beneath his feet and he spiraled onto the ground, landing hard on his left arm.

He decided not to go to the doctor after the 2012 accident, resorting to over-the-counter pain medication and home remedies.

The reason: He and his mother had overstayed their visas when he was a child, so he wasn’t eligible for government-funded health insurance. And he couldn’t afford a private plan.

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Calls for enrollment up at Merced Covered California center
Sacramento Bee

Despite a few setbacks, the regional call center in Merced has experienced an increasing number of calls from consumers wanting to enroll in a health insurance plan before the March 31 Affordable Care Act deadline.

The call center, which launched on Oct. 1 for open enrollment, handles calls that are routed from Covered California’s West Sacramento-based main information line. The call center serves residents in Merced, Mariposa, Madera, Inyo, Mono, Alpine, Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties.

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Valley boosts Covered California enrollment in Feb.
The Business Journal

Ahead of a March 31 deadline to get health insurance or pay a fine, 3,325 people in Fresno, Kings and Madera counties enrolled in plans offered by Covered California, the state’s new health exchange, in February.

Enrollment began in October 2013.

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Marin General lops 38 beds from planned hospital, citing fewer inpatients
San Francisco Business Times

Marin General Hospital, which last November won voter approval for a $394 million bond issue to help rebuild its aging Greenbrae facility, is lopping off 38 beds — an entire floor — from its planned rebuild due to projected decreased inpatient volume.

Last spring hospital officials envisioned a $500 million, 235-bed new complex with all private rooms, larger operating suites and up-to-date technology seen as needed to attract both patients and young doctors to Marin General. At the time, plans called for a 300,000-square-foot hospital and a 100,000-square-foot outpatient building, both five stories tall.

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Blue Shield, Hill, Dignity Health launch ACO
Sacramento Business Journal

Blue Shield of California, Hill Physicians Medical Group and Dignity Health are starting a three-year Affordable Care Organization effort in San Joaquin County to provide “integrated, cost-efficient” health care to 14,600 Blue Shield HMO enrollees in the region.

About 10,300 of those enrollees are covered through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

The goal is to hold costs steady the first year, with “low, single-digit increases” in subsequent years.  ACOs are seen as a key to success of national health reform, but the jury is still out on whether they’ll pull their weight in terms of controlling costs while maintaining or improving quality.

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UC Davis Medical Center launches cord blood collection system
Sacramento Business Journal

New mothers at UC Davis Medical Center can now donate the umbilical cord blood of their babies to California’s first comprehensive public system of collecting cord blood for transplantation and medical research.

Donations are scheduled to begin next month at Sutter Memorial Hospital.

Authorized by state legislation in 2010, California’s state-funded umbilical cord blood collection program is designed to broaden the diversity of umbilical cord blood banked for transplant use and to provide a source of high-quality cord blood units for research.

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Tri-City must find love to survive
San Diego Union-Tribune

In the rivalrous theater of health care, a lone North County hospital evokes Camille, a doomed beauty on what could be her deathbed.

If there’s an axiomatic truth in the brave new world of Obamacare, it may be this: Big networks offering nearby outpatient satellites and large hospitals will deliver the lion’s share of care.

Yes, it’s a jungle out there for stand-alone hospitals. Their survival will be the exceptions, especially in metro areas, national experts say.

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UC Merced Connect: Stem cell research gets $500,000 boost
Merced Sun-Star

UC Merced professor Kara McCloskey was recently awarded a highly competitive $500,000 grant to continue research in human stem cell biology, as part of an effort to enhance stem cell research in California.

In February, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine approved more than $27 million for Basic Biology V Awards, and McCloskey’s grant is included. The leads for this effort include Stanford University and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.