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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Getting ready for emergency room care for the elderly
Sacramento Bee

There is no dispute here – the elderly are coming and in unprecedented numbers.

Their arrival promises to have a lasting impact on California’s health system.

The state’s Department of Aging estimates that the 60-plus population is on course to have doubled between 1990 and 2020. The most frail of our residents – those 85 and older – will have tripled in 26 of the state’s 58 counties.

At some levels, state health officials and professionals are making ready.

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Doctors hunting rare polio-like illness getting tripped up
San Francisco Chronicle

Stanford University and UCSF neurologists leading the investigation into a rare polio-like paralysis that’s affected at least two dozen children in California are still hunting for the source of the illness, and they’re finding themselves hampered by delays in reporting cases and questions about how to even describe the disease. The California Department of Public Health last week released the first geographic data on 20 cases it has investigated. Of those 20, five are in the Bay Area and six are in other parts of Northern California.

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Augmedix raises $3.2 million to bring Google Glass into doctor’s office
San Francisco Chronicle

Augmedix, one of several start-ups developing ways to use Google Glass in health care, said Wednesday it has raised $3.2 million in venture capital funding.

The announcement comes on an especially busy day for the start-up’s 36 employees, who will begin moving out of the Mission Bay incubator Rock Health and into their own 7,000-square-foot office in San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood.

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How Safety-Net ERs Can Save Health-Care Reform
The Huffington Post

Safety-net emergency departments are frequently blamed for being the source of rising health-care costs. After all, they care for the millions of underserved and uninsured Americans forced by a variety of circumstances to visit ERs for their primary care and low-acuity concerns.

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) reforms initiated in January, demand for emergency services will rise significantly. Medicaid already covers over 50 million individuals, most of whom are vulnerable low-income children and their mothers, or medically complex elders. Now that Medicaid has been expanded to those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level in many states, new research predicts that previously uninsured patients will use emergency services even more frequently. Furthermore, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will reduce disproportionate-share-hospital funding (a major revenue source for safety-net providers) from now until 2020 to accompany the ACA expansion. States that did not expand Medicaid coverage will likely struggle to provide services to their underserved patients.

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Pelosi, Dems doubling down on ObamaCare
The Hill

The move is just the latest signal that Pelosi and her caucus, who have hardly shied away from the ACA in the face of political attacks from the right, instead intend to embrace the law and highlight its benefits in hopes that voters will respond amiably. “I think the Republicans are wasting their time using that as their electoral issue, and they will find that out,” Pelosi told reporters last week.

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O-Care premiums to skyrocket
The Hill

Health industry officials say ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration.

The expected rate hikes will be announced in the coming months amid an intense election year, when control of the Senate is up for grabs. The sticker shock would likely bolster the GOP’s prospects in November and hamper ObamaCare insurance enrollment efforts in 2015.

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10 states are critical to health care plan enrollment
USA Today

Ten states — seven of them controlled by Republicans — hold the key to whether the Obama administration succeeds at signing up 6 million people for health insurance by the deadline of March 31.

Those large states account for nearly 30 million uninsured — almost two-thirds of the nation’s 47 million uninsured.

That is why the Obama administration and advocates have focused so much attention on California, Texas, Florida, New York, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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State exchanges plan extensions for consumers thwarted by tech woes
Modern Healthcare

Several state-based health insurance exchanges that have experienced technological problems are planning to extend enrollment beyond March 31. But only those who have started the enrollment process by the deadline will be eligible for extensions. Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington all plan to allow individuals who have encountered problems while trying to sign up for coverage to complete the process after March 31.

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Obamacare is a Trojan horse for government-run health care starting in 2015
Washington Times

President Obama promised that we could keep our health care plans and our doctors, but he knew that was a lie. He pretended Obamacare was the endgame. That was also false. Mr. Obama’s objective has always been to entrench the doomed law into our lives so that it would lead to a government takeover of the whole health care system. This maniacal plan is working. In advance of the March 31 deadline for individuals to enroll, the White House touted this week that 5 million people had signed up for Obamacare.

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Republicans Considering Proposing High-Risk Pools: Health Insurance Ghettos?
The Health Care Blog

We are hearing that Republicans are considering proposing high-risk pools as part of an alternative health insurance reform proposal to Obamacare. A high-risk pool proposal would likely mean the Congress giving states the flexibility, and perhaps funding, to set up these risk pools. Risk pools by definition are a place where people can go when they are not able to buy health insurance in the regular market because they have a health problem.

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Covered California board meets today
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California will take action on regulations for certified application counselors and proposed benefit designs for 2015 at a board meeting today in Sacramento. The board also is scheduled to re-adopt regulations related to the eligibility and enrollment process, the plan-based enrollment program and insurance agents. The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the East End Complex Auditorium at 1500 Capitol Ave. in Sacramento.

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Half of US adults 40 to 75 eligible for statins
San Francisco Chronicle

Almost half of Americans ages 40 to 75 and nearly all men over 60 qualify to consider cholesterol-lowering statin drugs under new heart disease prevention guidelines, an analysis concludes.

It’s the first independent look at the impact of the guidelines issued in November and shows how dramatically they shift more people toward treatment. Supporters say they reveal the true scope of heart risks in America. Critics have said the guidelines overreach by suggesting medications such as Zocor and Lipitor for such a broad swath of the population.

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The fix is in: Portola blood-thinner antidote moves into late-stage trial
San Francisco Business Times

An experimental universal blood-thinner antidote, aimed at potentially millions of patients on drugs that prevent life-threatening blood clots, pushed into the first of several small Phase III trials by Portola Pharmaceuticals Inc. The initial studies test South San Francisco-based Portola’s (NASDAQ: PTLA) andexanet alfa with Eliquis, an FDA-approved Factor Xa inhibitor from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE: BMY) and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE).

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CMS Announces HIX Changes for 2015
Health Leaders Media

In their “Final 2015 Letter” released Friday for the new public exchanges, federal officials announce a relatively easy framework for health plan and beneficiary policy renewals for 2015, adopt changes related to provider networks, and set a 2015 health plan application timeline that pegs open enrollment to begin Nov. 15.

Health plan executives and state exchange officials alike have anxiously awaited a decision on how the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would set 2015 renewal rules.

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Assembly Considering New Bills on Charity Care Requirements
California Healthline

The California Legislature is considering two bills (AB 1952; AB 503) that call for stricter guidelines over the amount of charity care not-for-profit acute care facilities must provide in order to maintain their tax-exempt status, Payers & Providers reports.

The bills are based off of a charity care bill (AB 975) that failed to advance last year (Payers & Providers, 3/20).

The stalled bill — by Assembly members Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) — would have increased the level of charity care not-for-profit acute care facilities must provide and tightened hospital reporting requirements.

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Unvaccinated People Make Up Large Portion Of Measles Cases In California
capital public radio

Some of the measles cases are linked to international travel. UC Davis infectious disease expert Dr. Dean Blumberg says measles wouldn’t exist in California without that external exposure. But as more people choose not to get vaccinated, vulnerability increases.

“The more people who opt out of immunization, that leaves a larger susceptible pool, and then leads to increased transmission, and then that really is not only a danger to those who are not vaccinated, but also a danger to those who are vaccinated.”

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Clinic chain AltaMed is signing up Latinos for Obamacare
Los Angeles Times

Under fire for a shortage of Latino sign-ups for Obamacare, the state’s health insurance exchange is looking for a booster shot from a well-established Southern California clinic chain. One recent weekday, Maria de Lourdes Martinez sat at a cubicle inside an AltaMed enrollment office in East Los Angeles browsing through the health plans available under the Affordable Care Act. Martinez, 49, of Rosemead, came to this strip-mall storefront across from a Starbucks because she’d brought her grandmother to an AltaMed clinic before.

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Urgent care clinic moves into San Jose retail center, reflecting larger trend
Silicon Valley Business Journal

A growing local urgent care provider has signed a ten-year lease for space within a shopping center in San Jose’s Evergreen district, highlighting a trend of healthcare providers opting to move into retail centers.

San Jose-based Action Urgent Care signed a long-term lease for an 8,480-square-foot space in the Silver Creek Marketplace neighborhood center at the corner of Capitol Expressway and Silver Creek Road, according to Bob Quigley, senior vice president with SRS Real Estate Partners.

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UCSF seeks to buy site adjacent to its new medical center
Modern Healthcare

The University of California at San Francisco is in the planning stages to acquire and develop a site across from its UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, itself a still under-construction children’s, women’s and cancer hospital complex.

At a March meeting of the Mission Bay Citizens Advisory Committee, the university told community members that it is in early discussions with Salesforce.com to acquire and redevelop the land.

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Children’s Hospital Oakland finds safe harbor under UC San Francisco
Inside Bay Area

Noah Smith watched as his leg was fitted for a brace to help support his left heel, which can now touch the ground after a six-hour surgery at Children’s Hospital Oakland.

Before, the 11-year-old could walk only on his left toes, an effect of cerebral palsy. But then his family, who lives in the Central Valley, found Dr. Coleen Sabatini, and she was able to extend his hamstring and Achilles tendon to resolve the problem.

“The service, the care they give, Dr. Sabatini, they’ve all been excellent,” said Chuck Pasquale, Noah’s grandfather.

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Stanford spinout Oculeve raises $16.6 million in pursuit of dry-eye treatment
San Francisco Business Times

A Stanford University medical device spinout aimed at treating dry-eye condition scored more than $16.6 million in funding, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Oculeve Inc., led by former Stanford vision research fellow D. Michael Ackermann, received the money from eight funders. It received $7.6 million in Series A funding in October 2012 from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Versant Ventures and New Enterprise Associates.

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