News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Covered California Questions Health Insurance Initiative
KQED Radio

Ahead of its board meeting Thursday, Covered California officials are raising questions — literally — about a November ballot initiative that some say could destabilize the state’s health insurance marketplace.

If approved by voters, the Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act would give California’s insurance commissioner the authority to reject excessive health insurance premium increases.

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In a single gene, a path to fight heart attacks
Sacramento Bee

Two major studies by leading research groups published Wednesday independently identified mutations in a single gene that protect against heart attacks by keeping levels of triglycerides – a kind of fat in the blood – very low for a lifetime.

These findings are expected to lead to a push to develop drugs that mimic the effect of the mutations, potentially offering the first new class of drugs to combat heart disease in decades, experts say.

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How Conflict of Interest Became a Health Care Urban Legend
The Health Care Blog

Throughout history, physicians have treated patients for conditions that generations of their professional successors later deemed figments of their (the physicians’) imaginations. The list is long, but in just the last 100 years, it has included such disorders as female hysteria, homosexuality, moral insanity, neurasthenia, and vapors, among many others. The consequences of such diagnoses were not trivial, and in some cases, patients were stigmatized, ostracized, subjected involuntarily to a variety of noxious treatments, and even incarcerated because of them. Yet we now believe that each of these conditions was a fiction, and they are absent from today’s textbooks.

Something similar may be afoot in the profession of medicine today. The affliction is known as conflict of interest, and medicine is thought to be suffering a pandemic of it. In fact, its proponents argue that no physician is safe.

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Obamacare subsidies on track to cost billions this year, report says
Los Angeles Times

The large subsidies for health insurance that helped fuel the successful drive to sign up approximately 8 million Americans for coverage under the Affordable Care Act are on track to cost billions of dollars this year, a new federal report indicates.

Nearly nine in 10 Americans who bought healthcare coverage on the federal government’s healthcare marketplaces received government assistance to offset their premiums.

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Here’s How Much People Are Actually Paying For Obamacare
San Francisco Chronicle

In his days as a salesman pitching his healthcare law to the American public, President Barack Obama often said it would not cost much more than a monthly cell-phone bill.

For many people, that has turned out to be true, according to new data released by the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday. The report found people receiving subsidized health insurance plans are paying $82 a month, on average, for their premiums.

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California Improves its Long-Term Supports – Improvements Still Needed

California’s support systems for older adults, the disabled, and their family caregivers have improved in recent years and now rank among the top ten states in the nation, according to a scorecard released Thursday.

Yet while the state came in ninth overall – with substantial improvements in many areas – its high ranking is due largely to one area in which it excels: a vast choice in long-term care settings and providers.

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California bill would restore funding for adult day care centers

California lawmakers advanced a bill on Wednesday that would restore adult day care services as a benefit under Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for low-income and disabled residents.

The program, which provides a variety of healthcare and social services to people with disabilities, was cut during the state’s budget crisis in 2011, but is one of several pieces of the state’s tattered safety net Democrats have been pushing to restore.

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Lawsuit alleges overbilling by Hospitalist Company
San Diego Union-Tribune

Federal prosecutors have filed a civil lawsuit in Chicago claiming a California-based company systematically overbilled Medicare and other government programs for hospital physician services.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois filed the lawsuit Monday against IPC The Hospitalist Company Inc. The government is taking over a 2009 whistleblower’s lawsuit filed by a Dallas doctor who once worked for IPC.

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Heart Treatment Centers Form Afib Alliance
Health Leaders Media

Five heart treatment centers from across the country and a leading atrial fibrillation patient advocacy group for have formed a multidisciplinary alliance to treat people with irregular heartbeats.

The National Alliance of Integrated Afib Centers says there exists little coordination or data sharing about the heart ailment even though by some estimates that 5.1 million people in the United States have a cardiac rhythm disturbance, and that the number could grow to 15.9 million by 2050.

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Physicians Rail at Recertification Requirements
Health Leaders Media

A physicians association representing some 120,000 practicing internists is up in arms over groundshaking new rules for board certification, known as maintenance of certification or “MOC.”

Many of the new recertification requirements, which took effect Jan. 1, “are not evidence-based, but are expensive, burdensome, and detract from the care of the patient,” says David Fleming, president of the American College of Physicians.

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New physician trade group represents independent doctors
Sacramento Business Journal

Sixteen small group physician practices have banded together to form a new trade group to represent independent medical practices in the changing health care industry. The California Integrated Physician Practice Association includes more than 260 gastroenterologists, medical oncologists, orthopedic surgeons, radiation oncologists, urologists and other physician specialists.

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CalPERS board gives final approval to health care rates
Sacramento Business Journal

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System board formally approved health care premiums for 2015 Wednesday that raise HMO rates an average of almost 4 percent but include wide swings between competing health plans.

Members of the Pension and Health Benefits Committee approved the rates Tuesdayand recommended the board follow suit. Board members did so without discussion.

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CalPERS finalizes new health premiums
Sacramento Bee

CalPERS’ governing board Wednesday approved new health-care premiums for 2015.

About 40 percent of its 1.4 million members will get a slight rate decrease, while others will see higher premiums. CalPERS said open enrollment will run from Sept. 15 to Oct. 10. The new rates will take effect Jan. 1.

The board ratified premium rates recommended a day earlier by CalPERS’ Pension and Health Benefits Committee.

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Community Medical Centers picks new CEO for Fresno hospital
Fresno Bee

Community Medical Centers has picked Craig Wagoner to run Community Regional Medical Center, its flagship hospital in downtown Fresno.

Wagoner’s new job begins immediately.

Community had tapped Wagoner to serve in an interim capacity to replace Jack Chubb, who resigned as CEO earlier this year.

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Personal Data Of 20k Rady Children’s Hospital Patients Possibly Compromised
San Diego 6

First it was retailer Target, now a local hospital is making headlines for a massive data breach. Rady Children’s Hospital has alerted thousands of patients whose personal information may have been compromised.

The hospital is currently notifying the parents of more than 20,000 patients who were treated at the hospital as early as June of 2009. On Monday, the facility set up a phone bank staffed by more than 150 employees.

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Fresno hospital considers robotic device to help paralyzed walk again (video)
Fresno Bee

The scene at Community Regional Medical Center on Wednesday could have been taken from a page in an “Iron Man” movie script.

Allen Prahl, a hospital physical therapist, stood motionless, waiting to take his first robot-controlled step.

With an exoskeleton strapped to his ankles, calves and thighs and a 50-pound pack secured to his back, Prahl waited as the robot lifted his right foot and then his left.

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Children’s Hospital Oakland to open new specialty pediatric clinic at Bishop Ranch
Contra Costa Times

Tri-Valley residents who need more specialized pediatric care — especially for their young athletes — can get it close to home.

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland will be opening a new specialty pediatric clinic at Bishop Ranch by the end of August. It also will feature orthopedics and a new Sports Medicine Center for Young Athletes that will focus on the treatment and prevention of sports injuries.