News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Medicare Payment Changes Garner Approval of FQHC Advocates
Health Leaders Media

Community health advocates are applauding the federal government’s newly announced plan to boost Medicare payments to Federally Qualified Health Centers by as much as 32%.

“Generally we are very pleased with it,” says Dan Hawkins, senior vice president of policy at the National Association of Community Health Centers.

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Are Electronic Health Records Safe from the Next Heartbleed?
HealthyCal.org

A widely-used version of an Internet encryption program has a vulnerability that may have exposed volumes of online patient medical records to cyber-criminals.

Heartbleed is a bug in Open SSL, an open-source programming protocol used to add layers of security to websites as they communicate with servers and computers.

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Asthma Sufferers Face New Challenge in Climate Change
HealthyCal.org

May 6 marks World Asthma Day, and it also marks the release of a major study on climate, the National Climate Assessment. The timing may be coincidental, but the connection isn’t: climate change represents a major new threat to health and is already contributing to increases in asthma around the globe. California has much to do to protect the health and environments of its residents.

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Is Obamacare working? Uninsured rate now only 13.4%, Gallup reports
Sacramento Business Journal

Only 13.4 percent of adult Americans didn’t have health insurance in April, the lowest uninsured rate since Gallup began tracking it in 2008. That’s down from a peak of 18 percent in the third quarter of 2013, before the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance exchanges opened. Those exchanges enrolled 8 million individuals in private insurance plans, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

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The End of Antibiotics. Can We Come Back from the Brink?
The Health Care Blog

Antibiotic resistance — bacteria outsmarting the drugs designed to kill them — is already here, threatening to return us to the time when simple infections were often fatal. How long before we have no effective antibiotics left? It’s painfully easy for me to imagine life in a post-antibiotic era. I trained as an internist and infectious disease physician before there was effective treatment for HIV, and I later cared for patients with tuberculosis resistant to virtually all antibiotics.

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Obamacare a Hispanic success story: Column
USA Today

Talk about seeing the glass half-empty. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services released statistics on the racial and ethnic breakdown of Affordable Care Act sign-ups, generating a slew of negative headlines. “Obamacare’s Hispanic enrollment is low,” said The Washington Post. And the National Journal weighed in with “Why Hispanics didn’t get Obamacare.” Not so fast. Although the Obama administration did not achieve its goal for Latinos enrollments, the full story is more complex.

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Massachusetts ditches RomneyCare health exchange
POLITICO

RomneyCare’s pioneering health insurance exchange is headed for the scrap heap. Bay State officials are taking steps this week to junk central parts of their dysfunctional health insurance exchange — the model for President Barack Obama’s health care law — and merge with the federal enrollment site HealthCare.gov. The decision is part of an expensive plan that would occur alongside a parallel, last-ditch attempt to still build a working state system.

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College graduates should consider options for health insurance
Los Angeles Times

Devyn Bisson is a 22-year-old Orange resident about to graduate from Chapman University with a degree in film. She knows she’ll need to think about health insurance after graduation, but not just yet. “It’s the last thing I’m looking at,” she says. “I’m way more preoccupied with how I’m going to make money.” With graduation looming, college students have many big issues to face in the coming months. They may include signing up for health insurance, and facing deadlines and even fines for laggards.

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Appeals court to hear Pacific Legal Foundation challenge to the ACA
Sacramento Business Journal

Almost two years since the U.S. Supreme Court approved the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation gets a shot in appeals court this week at unwinding the mandate based on how it was enacted. In June 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that a penalty levied on people who fail to buy insurance under the ACA is a tax because it requires payment to the federal government from people who decide not to buy insurance.

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Massachusetts study suggests health insurance saves lives
Los Angeles Times

Giving more people health insurance could save tens of thousands of lives nationwide, according to a new analysis of data from Massachusetts, whose reforms became the model for President Obama’s health law.

Throughout the national debate over the Affordable Care Act, critics have questioned whether expanding coverage results in better health. The new analysis adds to the growing evidence that it does.

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Medicare covers routine dementia screening, but experts say evidence of its value is lacking
Washington Post

For the millions of seniors who worry that losing their keys may mean they’re losing their minds, the health law now requires Medicare to cover screening for cognitive impairment during an annual wellness visit.

But in a recent review of the scientific research, an influential group said there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend dementia screening on a routine basis for people older than 65.

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Court upholds retiree health cuts
San Diego Union-Tribune

The state Supreme Court upheld Monday the city of San Diego’s right to shrink health care benefits for retired workers, closing the door on legal challenges to 2012 labor pacts projected to save taxpayers more than $700 million over the next 25 years.

“This landmark decision is great news for the people of San Diego because it upholds a key reform that will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer, praising City Attorney Jan Goldsmith for successfully litigating the case.

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Insurance will pay up to $200K to injured nurses
Sacramento Business Journal

A supplemental insurance program at Dignity Health will pay up to $200,000 in benefits if registered nurses are severely injured or killed in workplace assaults or injuries.

The landmark program,reached during contract negotiations last year between Dignity Health and the California Nurses Association, is one step toward addressing the problem, the union says. A bill to strengthen violence prevention in all California hospitals is moving through the state Legislature.

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$1,000 hepatitis C pill a tough miracle to swallow
San Francisco Chronicle

Three decades ago, Scott Barnes needed luck to survive the bullets and bombs of the Vietnam War. Today, his life depends on a beige, $1,000 pill.

Hailed as a breakthrough treatment for hepatitis C, Sovaldi could help more than 130 million people across the globe who suffer from the disease. Barnes believes he became infected during the war, when he received a blood transfusion laced with the virus.

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Bariatric Surgery and the Obesity Battle
Health Leaders Media

Mounting concern over obesity in America has put the spotlight on bariatric surgery. Interest in this approach to weight-loss spiked between 2000 and 2004. The number of inpatient surgeries then began to decline from a high of 130,158 in 2004, according to the Agency for Health Quality Research.

Still, many hospitals and health systems find it important to offer the service for patients who cannot lose weight through diet and lifestyle changes.

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Infant death rate remains high in Sacramento County
Sacramento Bee

Infants die at a greater rate in Sacramento County than in most other places in the state, a long-term pattern that largely affects minority families, the latest state data show.

Almost 110 infants, or 5.6 per 1,000 births, died in 2012, according to the California Department of Public Health. That’s about 25 percent higher than the statewide average of 4.5 infant deaths per 1,000 births.

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Stanford, UCSF target better drug development in new FDA partnership
San Francisco Business Times

Stanford University and UCSF will work together in a first-on-the-West-Coast center aimed at streamlining drug development and regulatory approval, the institutions said Monday. The center, backed by an initial $3.3 million grant from the Food and Drug Administration, will work on three central areas: boosting preclinical safety and efficacy tests, improving clinical trials and evaluation, and pulling together various data sets to speed and better focus new drug development.

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Kaiser Permanente hires N.Y. health commissioner for Southern California executive job
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente, based in Oakland, has hired New York State Commissioner of Health Nirav Shah, M.D., for a high-level executive job in Southern California. Shah is senior vice president and chief operating officer for Kaiser’s 3.7-million-enrollee Southern California region, based in Pasadena. The new hire was announced by Benjamin Chu, M.D., a Kaiser executive vice president, group president and Southern California regional president. Shah started May 5 in the new job.

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Pioneers Memorial Hospital may be critical to El Centro Regional Medical Center affiliation
Imperial Valley News

As El Centro Regional Medical Center’s chief executive officer prepares to retire, officials say that the formation of a partnership with Scripps Health may hinge on an agreement with Pioneers Memorial Hospital. “They absolutely have to be a part of the solution,” said El Centro Mayor Cheryl Viegas-Walker, referring to Brawley-based PMH.

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West Contra Costa to vote on Measure C hospital parcel tax
San Francisco Chronicle

Voters in western Contra Costa County will have a chance Tuesday to pass a parcel tax that health officials say is crucial to keeping open the only public hospital and full-service emergency room between Berkeley and Vallejo.

Measure C would raise $20 million for Doctors Medical Center, a 189-bed facility in San Pablo that serves about 250,000 people in Richmond, El Cerrito, Hercules, Crockett and other communities.

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