News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Many doubt benefit of annual physicals exceeds cost
San Francisco Chronicle

The annual physical has been cast as both an essential benefit for preventive care and an unnecessary cost that overtaxes an already burdened system without making people healthier.

Now that the routine checkup is covered under the federal Affordable Care Act as well as Medicare, that debate is likely to heat up.

“The annual physical – the annual part – is where the current tension applies,” said Dr. Edward Yu, a family practice doctor and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s lead physician on quality measures.

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California Lawmakers Consider Medical Interpreters Program For Second Time
KVPR

For the second time in a year, California lawmakers will consider a bill that would create a medical interpreters program. As Capital Public Radio’s Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone reports, the bill’s backers say circumstances are different this time.

This year’s bill is essentially the same as last year’s. The state would pay interpreters to help Medi-Cal patients who have limited English skills to understand their health care.

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Hospitals revamping their menus
San Diego Union-Tribune

From organic lettuce to hormone-free milk, healthier food just costs more. But meal managers at local hospitals said they’re finding ways to improve the quality of their menus without plowing their budgets under.

Across the county, hospitals are revamping their menus — adding a scoop of brown rice here and a bunch of bok choy there, shutting down deep fat fryers and pushing sodas to the bottom shelf of the cooler.

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GOP backers hate ‘Obamacare’ but like its subsidies
San Francisco Chronicle

Several big corporations have reaped millions of dollars from the Affordable Care Act even as they support GOP candidates who vow to repeal the law. This condemn-while-benefiting strategy angers Democrats, who see some of their top congressional candidates struggling against waves of anti-Obamacare ads partly funded by these companies.

Among the corporations is a familiar Democratic nemesis, Koch Industries, the giant conglomerate headed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

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Employer insurance increasing as Obamacare rolls out, study finds
Los Angeles Times

In addition to gains in insurance coverage as a direct result of the Affordable Care Act, the number of Americans covered by employer-provided insurance also has increased in the last year, according to newly released data from the Rand Corp.

As previously reported by my colleague Noam N. Levey, Rand estimated that the number of Americans with health insurance rose by about 9.3 million as of mid-March. The group’s researchers note that the number probably has increased as their survey missed much of the final surge of enrollments in the online marketplaces created by the healthcare law, also known as Obamacare.

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Capitalism, inequality and healthcare reform
Healthcare Finance News

Although the English translation of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century was published only this month, it has already become a classic in the economics literature. This book is not about healthcare, but it provides us with an excellent background for understanding why we need to reform our current healthcare financing system. It is a must read, not just for those advocating for healthcare reform, but for everyone.

Here is Piketty’s summary of the book’s central thesis:

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Net Gain of 9.3 Million American Adults with Health Insurance
The Health Care Blog

Using a survey fielded by the RAND American Life Panel, we estimate a net gain of 9.3 million in the number of American adults with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to mid-March 2014.

The survey, drawn from a small but nationally representative sample, indicates that this significant uptick in insurance coverage has come not only from enrollment in the new marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but also from new enrollment in employer coverage and Medicaid.

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Column: Affordable Care Act leaves lots of questions, confusion
San Francisco Chronicle

When a patient came in for a recent visit, she was noticeably upset. When I asked her what was wrong, she told me she was annoyed that her other physicians would not accept her new insurance. She felt abandoned and blamed her doctors for not taking her coverage. When I inquired further about what type of insurance she procured, she responded, “one of the new affordable health care act plans” — better known as Obamacare.

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Viewpoints: What needs to be fixed with health care reform
Sacramento Bee

It seems that all we hear about health reform these days is hatred or hype. As usual, the truth is more complicated. We’ve laid a solid foundation for a much-needed national reform, but the challenges to date run deeper than the issues with the website. Successfully creating a functional, universal health care system for our country will require being entirely clear-eyed about what has worked and what needs to be fixed with the Affordable Care Act.

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Release of Medicare Physician Payment Data Imminent
Health Leaders Media

The federal government’s shift toward healthcare data transparency continues.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials are planning to release payment and other Medicare data on 880,000 physicians across the country as soon as Wednesday, April 9. A federal court injunction had kept the data under wraps since 1979, but a US District Court ruling in Florida last spring lifted the injunction.

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Release of Medicare doctor payments shows some huge payouts
Los Angeles Times

Ending decades of secrecy, Medicare is showing what the giant healthcare program for seniors pays individual doctors, and the figures reveal that more than a dozen physicians received in excess of $10 million each in 2012.

The Obama administration is releasing a detailed account Wednesday of $77 billion in government payouts to more than 880,000 healthcare providers nationwide that year. The release of payment records involving doctors has been legally blocked since 1979, but recent court rulings removed those obstacles. No personal information on patients is disclosed.

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Fla. eye doctor received almost $21 million from Medicare
Modern Healthcare

Medicare paid a tiny group of doctors $3 million or more apiece in 2012. One got nearly $21 million.

Those are among the findings of an Associated Press analysis of physician data released Wednesday by the Obama administration, part of a move to open the books on healthcare financing.

Topping Medicare’s list was Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, whose relationship with Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., made headlines last year after news broke that the lawmaker used the doctor’s personal jet for trips to the Dominican Republic. Medicare paid Melgen $20.8 million.

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Hospital’s patients are in good hands
Sacramento Bee

Chaplain Hai Tran, above right, blesses the hands of nurse Hachelle Natano in the chapel at the Alex G. Spanos Heart & Vascular Center to mark the center’s opening on Tuesday in Sacramento.

Blessing of the Hands is a tradition with deep roots at Mercy General Hospital, which was built on the legacy of compassionate care established by the Sisters of Mercy.

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Elder home reforms move forward
San Diego Union-Tribune

Legislation aimed at reforming California’s assisted-living industry pushed through separate committees at the state Capitol on Tuesday, making it more likely that rules governing senior homes will get tighter.

Advocates for residents of the state’s 7,500 board-and-care facilities lined up to support legislation before the Senate Human Services Committee and its counterpart in the state Assembly.

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Healthcare district needs $20 million to complete hospital
Tehachapi News

The Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District is seeking additional funding for the new hospital in Capital Hills as it continues its plans to open in the first quarter of 2016.

At TVHD’s most recent board meeting on Wednesday, March 26, it was announced that the district is still in need of $20 million to complete the project. The money will be put towards resources needed once the the project is nearing completion, including costs for medical equipment, signage, furniture, fixture, artwork, as well as various city, county and state fees.

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Children’s Hospital Oakland gets $50 million and new name
Contra Costa Times

Children’s Hospital Oakland is receiving $50 million and a new name.

San Francisco philanthropists Lynne and Marc Benioff also are giving $50 million to UCSF’s Benioff Children’s Hospital, the school announced Tuesday.

In honor of the gift, Children’s will now be called UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. The two institutions formally allied earlier this year.

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End of an era at 101-year-old Children’s Oakland, now a UCSF Benioff campus
San Francisco Business Times

It’s now more obvious than ever that it’s the end of an era for Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland, now to be known as UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland after philanthropists Marc Benioff and wife Lynne Benioff’s second $100 million gift to UCSF Medical Center.

Half of the new funds — on top of an earlier 2010 donation to help fund the new 183-bed UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco — will go to UCSF’s new Children’s Oakland campus, and the other half to the Mission Bay campus.

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San Francisco-based online ‘brain registry’ seeks volunteers to transform research
The Mercury News

Quick: Find the fruit! Feed the fish! List a sequence of steps, in reverse!

Your online test results aren’t pass-fail. You aren’t graded. But your scores give valuable snapshots of your mental flexibility and memory, contributing to what UC San Francisco researchers hope will some day be a vast archive of information about brain health — and the first neuroscience project to use the Internet on such a scale to advance research.

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Encinitas hospital turns 50 today
San Diego Union-Tribune

Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas is 50 years old today and owes its existence to three North County doctors who were tired of their daily commute.

“We had to drive down to the hospital in La Jolla twice a day — we delivered babies down there and did rounds down there,” said Dr. Dwight Cook, who helped found the Encinitas hospital a half-century ago. “That was before the freeway, and it was a real grind.”

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UC Davis research finds ag health issues undercounted
Sacramento Business Journal

More than three-fourths of all injuries and illnesses experienced by U.S. agriculture workers and farmers aren’t reported, according to research led by a University of California Davis public health sciences professor.

In the April issue of “ Annals of Epidemiology,” a study led by professor J. Paul Leigh suggested federal agencies don’t report 77.6 percent of such incidents, making it unlikely safety and health risks for those in agriculture will be addressed or corrected accurately.

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Sharp volunteers make memorable rounds
San Diego Union-Tribune

Sure, volunteers at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center get some perks— pharmacy discounts, leadership-building and scholarship opportunities for college students and career exploration for high school students.

But that’s not what keeps bringing them back, or for that matter, what brought them in the first place.

It’s the simple desire to give back, and that the gratitude of patients far outweighs any benefit.

Commands