News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

 

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U.S. measles outbreak sets record for post-elimination era
Washington Post

The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The largest measles clusters are in Ohio (138 confirmed cases), California (60) and New York (26), according to the CDC. Almost all — 97 percent — have been brought into the country by travelers, mainly Americans, who contracted the infection abroad. About half of those were people who picked it up in the Philippines, where a large measles outbreak has affected more than 32,000 people, causing 41 deaths, since January alone, said Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

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Medicare Overpaid Physicians $6.7B For Miscoded Claims
Health Leaders Media

Suggesting physician upcoding practices on a major scale, an Office of Inspector General report Thursday said Medicare overpaid physicians $6.7 billion in 2010.

The overpayments were claims reimbursements for evaluation and management (E/M) services submitted with frequently exaggerated severity codes, the report said. After examining medical records for a large sample of those claims, the OIG found that 26% of the claims were upcoded to reflect a higher level of severity than what was justified by the patient’s record, amounting to $4.6 billion in overpayments.

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Study: Meaningful Use Could Change Order of Hospital EHR Adoption
iHealthBeat

The meaningful use program could cause hospitals to change the order in which they adopt electronic health record functions, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, FierceEMR reports.

For the first-of-its kind study, University of Michigan researchers analyzed the order in which 2,794 general acute care non-federal hospitals adopted various EHR functions.

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California birth rate falls again to near-record low
Sacramento Bee

Even as the economy improves, Californians aren’t having many children, according to new, preliminary figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Californians gave birth to about 504,000 children in 2013, equivalent to 13.1 births per 1,000 residents. That’s the lowest birth rate in California since 1933 — the heart of the Great Depression. The biggest decline in births came among non-Hispanic whites. The number of births to non-Hispanic white mothers fell from roughly 149,000 in 2012 to about 146,000 in 2013.

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Farmworkers’ Health Plan Asks for State Subsidy To Comply With ACA
California Healthline

A health plan that provides coverage for farmworkers in California is asking the state to provide a one-year, $3.2 million subsidy to help it comply with Affordable Care Act requirements, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Without the subsidy, farmworkers say that 10,700 individuals could lose their health coverage. The Robert F. Kennedy Medical Plan does not meet ACA standards because it caps annual benefits at $70,000. The health plan has received a waiver to continue offering its non-compliant coverage until September.

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Covered California Insurers, state exchange claim credit for expansion
San Francisco Business Times

Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California and Health Net — three of the top four health plans in the Covered California exchange — say they’ve added doctors and/or hospitals to their contracted networks in recent months. Covered California says it asked them to do so. But all three deny they made the changes in response to requests or demands by the Obamacare exchange.

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Finding doctors who take Covered California plans isn’t easy, locals say
San Luis Obispo Tribune

For many people buying an individual health insurance plan through Covered California, being able to get an affordable policy was a dream come true.

About 1.4 million Californians — including 12,256 people in San Luis Obispo County — bought individual and family insurance policies through Covered California by the March 31 deadline.

In this county, 90 percent qualified for a subsidy to help them pay their monthly premiums.

Now the reality is setting in. Many doctors — particularly specialists — don’t take their insurance.

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Test Driving the Covered California Website
Synapse - UCSF Student Newspaper

The idea originally came from our professor. She thought that students of healthcare—whether we were to be future clinicians or health policy experts—should experience the trials of finding insurance alongside our eventual patients and clients.

In theory I agreed. As a nurse in the ICU my coworkers and I complain when our management has never been “in the trenches” themselves. Although it sounded tedious and I lacked enthusiasm, I eventually acquiesced.

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Lawmakers seek to expand care to undocumented immigrants
HealthyCal.org

On a recent Tuesday evening in Richmond, Marta waited to see a doctor. In recent months, she had developed a rash that covered her body, and her entire face had been swollen.

Marta was seeing a doctor at a free clinic for the uninsured that is open just once a week. Unlike most health-care facilities, this clinic is staffed by volunteer doctors, nurses, receptionists, and medical interpreters.

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HIV, spinal cord treatments win $20 million in stem cell agency awards
San Francisco Business Times

Experimental HIV and spinal cord injury treatments under commercial development by two Bay Area companies won a combined $20 million in funding from California’s stem cell research funding agency Thursday. Sangamo BioSciences Inc. (NASDAQ: SGMO) of Richmond will split a $5.6 million California Institute for Regenerative Medicine award with Dr. John Zaia of the Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope near Los Angeles to take blood stem cells from HIV patients and cut and replace a gene that is key to the spread of the AIDS virus.

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How a Community Hospital Tackles Diabetes
Health Leaders Media

The fight against diabetes is being fought hard in places as far flung as school lunch rooms and large academic medical centers. But there’s one place that’s in the vanguard: a community hospital in Athens, OH.

OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital, a 132-bed acute care facility is on the front lines of the battle against diabetes, a killer that claims thousands of American lives every year.

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MCDH increases doctor office space
Fort Bragg Advocate News

An agreement to obtain new doctor office space that was approved at the monthly Mendocino Coast Healthcare District board meeting on May 22 has ramifications that alter the geography of competition among health care providers for local patients.

Approved with a few conditions remaining to be finalized by legal counsels representing all parties is a sublease agreement with Adventist Health Physicians Network for MCHD to occupy Suite C, one of three doctor office suites at 721 River Dr.

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ValleyCare Health System explores merger with Stanford Hospital
San Francisco Business Times

ValleyCare Health System, which operates two hospitals and other sites in Pleasanton and Livermore, is exploring a merger with Stanford Hospital & Clinics, the two parties said Thursday afternoon.

ValleyCare has had financial difficulties recently, and former CEO Marcy Feit left the organization abruptly in early February. Officials at both organizations say ValleyCare and Stanford have signed a non-binding letter of intent to affiliate. Such a move could bolster ValleyCare, which could use the support of a larger, wealthier system, and Stanford Hospital, which has been engaged in a vigorous competition with academic medical center rival UCSF Medical Center in recent years to grab more doctors, patients and philanthropic support throughout the Bay Area.

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PIH Health to use bond money to upgrade Downey Medical Center Hospital
Whittier Daily News

PIH Health will use up to $102 million in bond funds authorized by the city of Whittier for improvements to the Downey Medical Center Hospital, Downey, which PIH acquired in late 2013.

“The city of Downey does not have a bond-issuing structure to issue the type of nonprofit bond that PIH Health required,” Mitchell Thomas, chief financial officer for PIH Health, said in an email. “Therefore, we requested the bond from the city of Whittier, where our corporate headquarters is located.”

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Nurses ask for public’s help keeping San Pablo hospital open
KTVU.com

The California Nurses Association is calling on Contra Costa County residents to demand county leaders save Doctor’s Medical Center in San Pablo from certain closure. The hospital is set to close in July after years of financial struggles and the failure of West Contra Costa County voters to pass a parcel tax that might have kept the facility open. “If this hospital closes, people are going to die.” said emergency room nurse Maria Sahagun.

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New, Private Inland Empire Medical School Could Open in 2016
California Healthline

Plans for a new medical school in the Inland Empire have been largely met with praise from local officials eager for more doctors in the region. However, there is some uncertainty about the ambitious timeline for opening the new school. Dev GnanaDev — former president of the California Medical Association and founder, president and CEO of the proposed California University of Science and Medicine’s College of Medicine — said the school could open as early as 2016. Commonly referred to as Cal Med, the school’s first class would have 50 medical students and would later grow to 150.

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