News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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More than half of uninsured don’t know health care law deadline is looming
Yahoo! News

A new national survey of Americans without health insurance finds that more than half are not aware that the deadline to obtain coverage under the Affordable Care Act is less than a week away. The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 61 percent of uninsured Americans either are not aware of the deadline or think it does not take effect until later than it does. Only 39 percent of uninsured individuals in the survey correctly identified the March 31 deadline.

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San Diego Research Suggests Autism Develops During Pregnancy
KPBS

By pinpointing irregularly developed patches in young autistic brains, UC San Diego researchers have discovered new evidence suggesting autism begins in the womb. In a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, Eric Courchesne and his colleagues compared brain samples from autistic and typical children, all who died between the ages of 2 and 15.

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Hospital-Acquired Infections Decline, But Threat Remains
Health Leaders Media

Hospitals have greatly improved their ability to avoid transmitting infections to patients during acute care stays, according to two reports issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But officials say there’s a lot more work to do, especially in protecting patients from C. difficile, bacterial pneumonia, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

The first report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, surveyed a sample of 11,282 patients treated at 183 hospitals in 10 states in 2011. It found that at any point in time, 4% had at least one infection transmitted within the acute care setting; they did not get infected while outside of a hospital.

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Health officials say more work needed to fight tuberculosis
The Mercury News

Although tuberculosis has reached an all-time low in California, with a total of 2,170 cases reported in 2013, Bay Area public health officials say there are still challenges in fighting the preventable disease. “We still have a lot of work to do,” said Pennan Barry, surveillance and epidemiology chief of the state Department of Public Health’s Tuberculosis Control Branch.. He was speaking Wednesday at an event in recognition of World Tuberculosis Day at Curry International Tuberculosis Center in Oakland that drew public health leaders from Bay Area counties. World Tuberculosis Day was Monday.

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Boehner: Latest Obamacare extension is ‘a joke’ (Video)
San Francisco Business Times

Another day — another Obamacare delay. The Obama administration says it will give extra time beyond the March 31 deadline to Americans who say they started to apply for health insurance coverage through the HealthCare.gov exchange but were unable to complete enrollment by that date.

This extension is not much of a surprise, given all the other delays in implementing health care reform — if you’ve forgotten all of those, Politico conveniently provides a list. Plus, a few state insurance exchanges also have extended their deadlines for individuals to enroll.

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Battered spouses can claim subsidies for health insurance
Washington Post

The Obama administration has decided to rewrite federal tax rules to allow battered spouses who are living separately from their abusers to claim government subsidies to help them afford health plans through new insurance marketplaces.

The decision, announced by Treasury Department officials Wednesday, is an attempt to resolve a long-percolating controversy over access to the subsidies. The 2010 Affordable Care Act created these tax credits for people buying coverage through federal and state insurance exchanges — the first time the government has helped many Americans pay for private insurance. But the law says that married people may get such help only if they file their taxes jointly.

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Interest in Obamacare surges ahead of enrollment deadline
Los Angeles Times

As Monday’s deadline approaches to sign up for insurance under President Obama’s health law, more than 1 million people a day are visiting HealthCare.gov, Obama administration officials said Wednesday. The site — the main portal for insurance marketplaces in 36 states — drew 1.2 million visitors Tuesday and 1.1 million visitors Monday, according to the administration.

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Got questions on HealthCare.gov extension? Don’t expect many answers
San Francisco Business Times

Going on HealthCare.gov is like going to the polls on Election Day: As long as you’re in line before the polls are scheduled to close, you’ll be able to vote. That’s the analogy officials in charge of HealthCare.gov used Wednesday to describe the extra time Americans will get to enroll for Obamacare coverage this year as long as they start the process by March 31. The extra time may be needed because HealthCare.gov officials expect heavy volumes of users as the March 31 deadline nears.

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Exceptions in place for Covered California’s March 31 deadline
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Covered California will not extend the Monday deadline for open enrollment through its health plan exchange, though extra time will be given to those who initiated an application in time but were unable to complete the process, officials said Wednesday.

Those who start applying for a policy before 11:59 p.m. Monday will receive assistance in completing their application by April 15, said Peter Lee, executive director for Covered California.

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Covered California deadline still Monday
San Diego Union-Tribune

Amid a flood of applications, the state’s health insurance exchange said Wednesday it would give residents an extra two weeks to finish applying for insurance, as long as they start enrolling by midnight Monday. Covered California’s softened deadline followed the Obama Administration’s announcement Tuesday that it would allow consumers using the federal insurance marketplace in three dozen states to finish enrolling after the March 31 cutoff date.

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Extended health care enrollment draws cheers and jeers
Sacramento Bee

The Obama administration’s decision to allow marketplace health insurance enrollments beyond the March 31 deadline could exacerbate a growing credibility gap with insurers and lawmakers who have chafed at the troubled implementation of the Affordable Care Act. After stating that the deadline would not be extended, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday outlined a broad “special enrollment period,” which gives people an undetermined amount of extra time to finalize insurance purchases that were initiated before March 31 on HealthCare.gov, the federal insurance marketplace that serves 36 states.

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Covered California gives extra time to finish applications, but deadline is same
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California on Wednesday confirmed its March 31 deadline for enrollment in an exchange health insurance plan, but announced that people who start an application before the deadline will have through April 15 to finish it.

That’s a little different from an Obama administration announcement Wednesday that will allow consumers to complete enrollment after March 31 if they declare they started the process before that date. How long they will have to do so is unclear.

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Open enrollment period closes Monday
Lompoc Record

Like many other Americans, Santa Barbara County resident Gloria Gonzalez, 62, didn’t have insurance when she was hospitalized in September. She hadn’t had it in years.

But in less than an hour Wednesday, Dora Robles, with the county’s Public Health Department, enrolled her in Medi-Cal.

There’s no time for Robles to take a break, though.

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California sticks with March 31 deadline for Obamacare — for now
Los Angeles Times

California says March 31 remains the deadline to apply for Obamacare, but the state will give residents who start an application by then until April 15 to finish signing up. Wednesday, the Obama administration said it would allow consumers using the federal exchange in 36 states to complete enrollment for health insurance after next week’s deadline as long as they declare that they started the process before the end of the month.

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California struggling to enroll African Americans in Obamacare
Los Angeles Times

Latinos aren’t the only sore spot for Covered California heading into Monday’s enrollment deadline for Obamacare coverage. Very few African Americans have signed up statewide, and there’s not much time to address the lackluster turnout. Wednesday, state officials reiterated that Monday remains the deadline for open enrollment. But the state will give Californians until April 15 to finish their application if they start it before midnight Monday.

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Raul Ruiz lauds extension of Obamacare deadline
The Desert Sun

The Obama administration extended the March 31 deadline for open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act late Tuesday, just after Rep. Raul Ruiz sent a letter urging Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to extend it.

The administration said those who had started an application by the date but were unable to finish it would have a limited amount of time to enroll for insurance starting May 1.

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House, Senate leaders agree on Medicare fees
San Francisco Chronicle

Congressional leaders agreed Wednesday on legislation to avert a threatened 24 percent cut in fees to doctors who treat Medicare patients, and said votes were likely in both houses before Monday’s deadline.

The legislation would prevent the cut for 12 months. The heavily-lobbied measure also contains numerous other health care provisions of interest to doctors, hospitals, drug companies and other health care providers.

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New evidence that Medicare Advantage is an insurance industry scam
Los Angeles Times

A big part of the argument made by enemies of the Affordable Care Act that the Act is hurting Medicare applies to a category of health plan known as Medicare Advantage. New evidence has just come in showing that Medicare Advantage is a ripoff that fattens the health insurance industry while scarcely helping its enrollees, all at public expense.

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SGR Patch Bill Proposes ICD-10 Delay; Vote Expected Thursday
Health Leaders Media

Another healthcare reform-related federal deadline may be delayed. This time it’s the ICD-10 deadline, which has already been delayed once.

The American Health Information Management Association Wednesday alerted its members that Congress will vote Thursday on a bill, negotiated at the leadership level in the House and Senate, which contains a provision that would delay implementation of ICD-10 for another year, until October 1, 2015.

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CDC says hospitals can be hazardous to your health when infections aren’t controlled
Sacramento Bee

Catching a life-threatening illness while lying in crispy-clean linens is one of the last things most people expect from a hospital stay. But one in 25 patients have at least one hospital-associated infection, according to a survey of 183 hospitals released Wednesday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New England Journal of Medicine.

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One in 25 patients has an infection acquired during hospital stay, CDC says
Washington Post

One in 25 patients in U.S. hospitals has an infection acquired as part of his or her care despite modest progress in controlling those pathogens inside medical facilities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday in its most comprehensive look at a stubborn and lethal health-care problem.

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Autism may be tied to flawed prenatal brain growth
San Francisco Chronicle

A small study that examined brains from children who died found abnormal patterns of cell growth in autistic children. The research bolsters evidence that something before birth might cause autism, at least in some cases.

Clusters of disorganized brain cells were discovered in tissue samples from brain regions important for regulating social functioning, emotions and communication — which can all be troublesome for children with autism.

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Integrative medicine: Probiotics can help young children maintain health, study shows
Sacramento Bee

Bacteria help kids stay healthy! In a study published this month in the Journal of Pediatrics, scientist found that daily probiotics help toddlers avoid certain infections. Researchers enrolled 300 children, ages 6 months to 36 months, in day care centers in a double-blinded study. Half of the children received placebos and half received probiotics.

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Race to the Finish
Mission & State

Covered California is in the final stages of a major push to enroll the uninsured as the March 31 deadline looms. In Santa Barbara County and throughout the state, officials are working feverishly to enroll Latinos, a population that so far has been reluctant to sign up for the healthcare plan. “On the whole we’ve done a very good job,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara).

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Doctors should embrace lifesaving tools
Sacramento Bee

What good is a lifesaving tool if a doctor refuses to use it?

That question came to mind as I read Dr. Lee T. Snook Jr.’s criticism of The Bee’s editorial stand in favor of requiring that California physicians use the state database known as Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, or CURES, to guard against prescription drug abuse (“No quick fix for prescription drug abuse,” March 14).

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Doctors Medical Center preps for possible closure
San Francisco Business Times

Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo is again desperate for money and could be forced to close this summer.

The Contra Costa Times reports closure could be forced as early as July 25, according to a contingency plan given to the West Contra Costa Healthcare District board Wednesday. The board said the hospital leadership must prepare for the worst with contingency planning.

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