News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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House Calls Are Making a Comeback
New York Times

A relic from the medical past — the house call — is returning to favor as part of some hospitals’ palliative care programs, which are sending teams of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and other workers to patients’ homes after they are discharged. The goal is twofold: to provide better treatment and to cut costs.

Walter Park, 68, of San Francisco says house calls prevented an expensive return visit to the hospital, where he initially stayed for seven weeks after a heart attack in 2012.

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When the Extraordinary Becomes the Ordinary in Health Care
San Francisco Chronicle

When asked during a recent AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) interview on Reddit what he thought about spontaneous remission of cancer, David Agus, M.D., was quick to respond: “We need to focus on outliers. The physics world has learned the most by explaining the outliers. We have ignored them unfortunately.” Outliers – in medical parlance, something that stands apart from the rest, as in the physical recovery from disease or injury that is effected through unexpected or unexplainable means – are at once good news and bad news for people who study these kinds of things.

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The Affordable Care Act Gets Us a Step Closer to Equitable Health Care
The Huffington Post

As a person who has been living with what’s commonly known as “a preexisting health condition,” and one that can require expensive surgery and even result in emergency-room visits if it gets out of control, I consider the Affordable Care Act a lifesaver. It provides the most hope I have ever had for myself and my family when it comes to keeping us healthy and getting care when we need it most.

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Obamacare’s high-risk pools are closing for real this time
Washington Post

After three previous extensions, it looks like Obamacare’s temporary high-risk pools for the some of the country’s sickest patients are finally closing as planned. The high-risk pools were set up in each state four years ago as a bridge to Obamacare’s coverage expansion this year, when insurers can no longer deny people coverage or charge them more because of a pre-existing condition.

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HealthCare.gov users told to change passwords amid breach
San Francisco Chronicle

People who have accounts on the enrollment website for President Obama’s signature health care law are being told to change their passwords after an administration-wide review of the government’s vulnerability to the Heartbleed Internet security flaw.

Senior administration officials said there is no indication that the HealthCare.gov site has been compromised and the action is being taken out of an abundance of caution. The government’s Heartbleed review is ongoing, the officials said, and users of other websites may also be told to change their passwords in the coming days.

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How to Run on Health Reform
New York Times

The Republican attack machine, fueled by millions of dollars from the Koch brothers, has Democrats so rattled about the health reform law that many don’t want to talk about it. They’re happy to run on equal pay for women, or a higher minimum wage, or immigration reform — all of which provide important contrasts with a do-nothing Republican Party — but they haven’t said much about the biggest social accomplishment of the Obama administration.

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Parsing Obamacare and Covered California sign-ups
San Francisco Business Times

The big Affordable Care Act numbers are in, and both highly publicized and highly political. Eight million have signed up for private insurance on Obamacare exchanges nationally. That includes nearly 1.4 million in California. Interpreting those numbers is tough, and subject to intense partisan scrutiny. And we still don’t know key numbers, including how many have paid for coverage and how many are not just young, but young and healthy.

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Covered California approves $89M in additional spending
Sacramento Business Journal

With projected total operating costs 16 percent higher than expected for the current fiscal year, the board at Covered California approved $89 million in additional spending at its Sacramento board meeting on Thursday. This action brings projected total expenditures to $489 million for fiscal year 2013-14. After paying total costs, an estimated $363 million will be left in federal grant funds. Bolstered by federal grants to get going, the state health benefit exchange is expected to be self sustaining by 2015.

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Where health plans stand with Covered California enrollment
Sacramento Business Journal

Now the historic first open enrollment at Covered California is over, the big surprise in the numbers is that Kaiser Permanente came in fourth among participating health plans. Anthem Blue Cross was first, with 425,058 new members, or 30 percent of statewide enrollment of almost 1.4 million. Blue Shield of California came in second, with 381,457 new members, or 27 percent of the total. Health Net surged past Kaiser in the last month, ending the six-month enrollment period with 264,079 new members or almost 19 percent of the total.

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Let Medicare negotiate drug prices: Our view
USA Today

Recent disclosures of how much Medicare pays doctors provoked news stories about patients getting hyperexpensive drugs for cancer, glaucoma and other diseases — and providers getting rich in the process.

Medicare’s “Part B” program pays roughly $20 billion a year for the drugs patients get in doctors’ offices and hospital outpatient facilities.

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Hepatitis C pill spurs debate over patents, prices overseas
San Francisco Chronicle

A cure for hepatitis C might seem like welcome news in India, where 12 million people suffer from the disease. But the country isn’t quite rolling out the red carpet for Sovaldi, the breakthrough drug by Gilead Sciences in Foster City.

Sovaldi is already controversial in the United States, where insurers, lawmakers and patients are outraged that a 12-week treatment costs $84,000. Health advocates also fear Indian patients, many of them poor and uninsured, cannot afford even a heavily discounted version of Sovaldi.

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Children prescribed codeine despite safety concerns
Visialia Times-Delta

Although significant concerns have been raised about the safety and benefits of codeine-containing medications for children, there’s been only a slight decline in hospital emergency department prescriptions for the drugs over the past decade, a new study finds.

“There’s been growing evidence that codeine is metabolized very differently in different children, with a small portion of them being at risk for potentially fatal side effects,” says pediatrician Sunitha Kaiser, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California-San Francisco, and lead author of the study publis

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Leave Part D be: Opposing view
USA Today

It is universally agreed that we need sustainable solutions to containing America’s rising health care costs. However, in our search for solutions, we cannot jump to purported quick fixes that would actually undermine patient health, such as proposals to allow the government to negotiate prices in Medicare Part D. The Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly stated that allowing the government to negotiate prices in Part D would have a negligible impact on federal spending unless Health and Human Services limits access to medicines.

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At Mercy General Hospital, a garden of healing, soothing grace
Sacramento Bee

Amid a project devoted to helping hearts, this spot slows the pulse.

That’s the idea. The soft sound of water soothes nerves. Shady redwoods offer space to relax amid calming earth-toned hues. Fragrant flowers and herbs stimulate the senses and let the mind wander.

“We tore out a parking lot and put in a paradise,” quipped Doris Frazier, paraphrasing songwriter Joni Mitchell. “We went from asphalt jungle to soothing oasis.”

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Desert Regional will offer voluntary HIV testing at ER
The Desert Sun

Emergency room guests at Desert Regional Medical Center who have been admitted for follow-up care as inpatients will find themselves being offered voluntary HIV tests, starting Monday, among the battery of blood work.

Though patients might not notice the subtle change, valley and state health leaders have been preparing for this for months, the latest piece of a $5-million, large-scale HIV testing campaign designed to make testing for the disease in medical institutions county-wide routine.

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San Antonio Community Hospital grew up with San Bernardino County
Daily Bulletin

It began more than 100 years ago as a community hospital, with only 18 beds and five physicians — meant to serve the needs of a small citrus town.

As the region expanded, so has the role of San Antonio Community Hospital — to a regional health care provider with a 279-bed medical center and more than 500 physicians. The hospital has more than 1,600 on staff and 300 volunteers.

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Private-practice doctors fading in Sonoma County
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Jan Sonander, a Santa Rosa family practice physician with more than 3,200 patients, works 14 hours or more per day and says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

He logs nine hours of patient care in his office and at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, followed by three hours of charting and paperwork, a half hour of phone calls and two hours of administrative duty as Memorial’s chief of staff.

Commands