News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Rates for STDs in California increase

The rate of sexually transmitted diseases in California increased in 2013, the California Department of Public Health said Tuesday. Rates for syphilis went up by 18 percent over a one-year span, the health department reported. Gonorrhea rates also spiked by 13 percent, or about 100 people per 100,000.

“It’s the lack of education in talking about STDs — and going after youth and really talking about the importance of getting tested,” said Enrique Manjarrez, the outreach director for Breaking Barriers, which pushes for HIV testing among the LGBT community.

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U.S. Healthcare: Still Pricey, but Getting Better
MedPage Today

Healthcare costs in the U.S. remain the highest per person, but expenditure growth has slowed in the past decade, bringing the nation’s health budget more in line with other countries, according to a new analysis.

In 2011, the cost of health spending was $7,212 per person in the U.S., compared with $3,359 in France, $3,796 in Canada, $3,808 in Germany, $4,110 in the Netherlands, and $4,338 in Switzerland, wrote Luca Lorenzoni and colleagues from Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris.

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Hospitals Urged to Review Visitation Policies
Health Leaders Media

Hospitals are considering allowing families 24 hour access to their loved ones — but some hospital employees worry that relaxing security policies will come to mean the end of boundaries in care settings.

The Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care (IPFCC) is challenging hospitals to reevaluate their visitation policies. Through its Better Together Campaign, IPFCC hopes to raise awareness of the benefits of unrestrictive visitation policies and make hospital leaders aware of negative consequences associated with restrictive visitation policies.

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Health-care exchanges are not properly ensuring applicants’ eligibility, probe finds
Washington Post

The new health insurance marketplaces run by the federal government and some states are not checking carefully enough that Americans who apply for health plans qualify for the coverage and federal subsidies to help pay for it, according to federal investigators.

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The Illogic of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance
New York Times

Imagine yourself in a bar where a pickpocket takes money out of your wallet and with it buys you a glass of chardonnay. Although you would have preferred a pinot noir, you decide not to look that gift horse in the mouth and thank the stranger profusely for the kindness, assuming he paid for it. You might feel differently, of course, if you knew that you actually had paid for it yourself.

Persuaded by both theory and empirical research, most economists believe that employer-based health insurance is an analogue of this bar scene.

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The Hobby Lobby case proves the necessity of single-payer healthcare
Los Angeles Times

Is there anything more absurd than the American way of delivering healthcare coverage?

Most Americans receive coverage through their employers. In the wake of Monday’s Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court, businesses accounting for about 52% of all privately employed workers now have the option to discriminate among their employees and among the healthcare benefits they offer, based on their owners’ religious beliefs.

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Big Data in Healthcare: Good or Evil? Depends on the Dollars
The Health Care Blog

An organization’s “business model” means: How does it make a living? What revenue streams sustain it? How it does that makes all the difference in the world.

Saturday, Natasha Singer wrote in the New York Times about health plans and healthcare providers using “big data,” including your shopping patterns, car ownership and Internet usage, to segment their markets.

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Covered California plans to award $16.9 million in “Navigator” grants
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange, plans to award $16.9 million in grants to educate consumers about its Navigator program, “the next phase in the agency’s outreach, education and enrollment efforts.” That next phase comes after some critics took issue with earlier outreach and enrollment procedures. The exchange, run by Executive Director Peter Lee, hopes to enroll 130,700 subsidy-eligible consumers during Covered California’s second open-enrollment period, which runs Nov. 15, 2014 through Feb. 15, 2015.

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State health exchange says some board member emails are private
Sacramento Bee

California’s health insurance exchange, the agency responsible for administering the federal health care law, does not provide official email addresses to members of its governing board.

So it became an issue last month when a consumer group requested from the exchange a long list of public records, including any communications between agency officials and health insurance companies.

Representatives for Consumer Watchdog were told that because board members do not have email accounts with Covered California, their communications are private.

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USA witnesses dramatic slowdown in health spending growth over last decade
News Medical

Growth in health expenditure in the USA slowed dramatically between 2000 and 2011, bringing the growth rate of the country’s health budget in line with other high-spending countries, according to new research published in The Lancet as part of a new Series, The Health of Americans.

However, the report’s authors warn that future economic recovery in the USA could jeopardise the substantial progress that has been made towards containing the country’s healthcare budget in recent years, and that policymakers should consider measures such as tightening Medicare and Medicaid price controls to avoid spiralling costs driven by an improving economy in the country. The USA currently spends more on healthcare per person than any other country in the world.

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Emergency room online appointments ease wait times
San Francisco Chronicle

Scott Paul knew he needed to head to the emergency room on a recent Sunday after his foot became so painful he couldn’t walk. The one thing that gave him pause was the thought of having to wait several hours next to a bunch of sick people.

But his wife, Jeannette, remembered she’d seen Dignity Health television commercials featuring a woman sitting in a hospital waiting room and then cutting to the same woman sitting on her living room couch as words come up on the screen: “Wait for the ER from home.”

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Feds: California health exchange lags on verifying
San Diego Union-Tribune

California’s marketplace for buying individual health insurance often failed to verify important personal information and resolve discrepancies in applications, a critical process in determining if people are eligible for taxpayer subsidies, a federal watchdog said Tuesday.

Covered California did not resolve inconsistencies in data, failed to verify citizenship and legal residence, and entered paper applications incorrectly into its system, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a report.

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In rare move, Genentech to buy breast cancer drug company for up to $1.7 billion
San Francisco Business Times

Genentech Inc. will buy startup Seragon Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $725 million upfront and as much as $1 billion in milestone payments — just the second acquisition by the biotech powerhouse in its 38-year history. Genentech, the South San Francisco-based North American beachhead of Swiss drug maker Roche, said late Tuesday that the acquisition of privately held Seragon of San Diego will boost its portfolio of breast cancer drugs. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter, Genentech officials said.

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Hoag Hospital Foundation receives $1 million from philanthropists James and Catherine Emmi
Orland Press Register

Hoag Hospital Foundation recently received a $1 million gift from patient James Emmi and his wife, Catherine, of Corona del Mar, who have supported the hospital every year since 1976.

“Twenty-five years of teaching kindergarten tugs at my heart and makes me want to give back,” Catherine Emmi said. “Jimmy and I have a deep affection for Hoag and feel it is important to support the community we call home.”

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Scripps Encinitas celebrates hospital expansion
CBS News

If you live in the North County, your emergency room wait times are about to get much shorter.

Scripps Encinitas celebrated the grand opening of its new emergency department and in-patient rooms Tuesday. The facility adds more than two dozen ER beds and features the latest medical technology.

“It means a lot of different things – shorter wait times, it means more comfort in the rooms.

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Adventist Health sees revenue climb, net income plummet
Sacramento Business Journal

Net income at nonprofit Adventist Health plummeted to $55.1 million in 2013 from $133.1 million in 2012, evidence of challenges as the industry adapts to federal health reform.

Revenue climbed to $3.1 billion from $2.7 billion, but expenses and investments for the future more than halved the bottom line.

Hospital admissions dropped slightly, but emergency room visits were up and patients spent more time in the hospital once they got a bed, evidence of higher acuity among those who were admitted.