News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Pharmacists expanding role in Californians’ health care
San Francisco Chronicle

Elba Santos, 63, rolled up her black trousers so Ryan Gates could examine her shins and feet. Gates touched a beet-red area, asking if it hurt. Santos winced and nodded. “Even just from breathing, the pain hurts down here,” she said.

Gates noted unusual glucose levels in her daily blood sugar log, ordered a new medication to reduce water retention in her feet and legs and another for her blood pressure, and told her to return in a week.

Then he reminded her to visit her doctor for other health issues.

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Advanced EHRs Save 10% Per Patient, Study Says
HealthLeaders Media

A sweeping examination of more than 5 million inpatient records at 550 hospitals during 2009 identified savings averaging 9.6% per patient – or $731 – from the 19% of hospitals that used advanced electronic health records when compared with hospitals that did not.

The findings from researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston were published in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Managed Care. Abby Swanson Kazley, an associate professor at MUSC’s college of Health Professions, and a lead author of the study, spoke with HealthLeaders Media Tuesday.

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Covered California’s COBRA signup deadline looms July 15
Fresno Bee

People who have health coverage through COBRA have until July 15 to enroll in insurance plans through Covered California, the state’s health benefit exchange.

COBRA is a health insurance program that extends employer health plan coverage when a worker is not on the job.

Covered California launched a limited special-enrollment period from May 15 to July 15 for people who have insurance through COBRA, the acronym for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.

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Small businesses can keep health plans next year
Sacramento Bee

California small businesses will be allowed to keep health insurance plans that don’t conform to the federal Affordable Care Act through next year.

The urgency measure signed by Gov. Jerry Brown brings the state into line with a federal policy that lets small employers continue to offer non-compliant plans. Senate Bill 1446 was authored by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, and sponsored by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

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Complaint Says Insurance Plans Discriminate Against HIV Patients
National Public Radio

Four Florida insurers allegedly discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS by structuring their prescription drug benefits so that patients are discouraged from enrolling, according to a complaint filed by health advocacy groups.

According to the complaint filed with the Office for Civil Rights at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the insurers — CoventryOne, Cigna, Humana and Preferred Medical — violated the Affordable Care Act and federal civil rights laws by placing all covered HIV/AIDS drugs, including generics, in the highest drug tiers that require significant patient cost sharing.

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California Apologizes After Social Security Numbers Of 18,000 Doctors Released To Public
Medical Daily

A California health department apologized Monday for releasing the Social Security numbers of around 18,000 doctors.

The mix-up started when the insurance company Blue Shield of California gave a list of health-care providers to the state agency but forgot to take out their private information. The Department of Managed Health Care, which regulates the state’s health maintenance organizations, then distributed those lists in response to 10 public records requests — also without redacting the Social Security numbers.

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What Looks Like Overcharging By Your Hospital Might Not Be
National Public Radio

Despite concerns first raised a few years ago, hospitals do not seem to be abusing their electronic data systems to generate bigger bills and boost their income — at least according to authors of a large study released Tuesday. Other leaders in the field say the jury’s still out.

The concern over possible misuse of records grabbed headlines in 2012 after an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and the New York Times found that some hospitals using electronic records were billing Medicare for significantly more than hospitals that still used paper records.

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HPV Vaccine Doesn’t Raise Risk Of Blood Clots, Study Finds
National Public Radio

The vaccine for human papillomavirus has been controversial from the get-go, partly because it protects against a virus that causes cervical cancer and is spread by sexual activity.

The vaccine’s safety has also been contested, with media celebrities like Katie Couric publicizing rare reports of people who became ill or died after receiving the vaccine, even though there was no evidence that the vaccine caused the problems.

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Women should have full choice of contraceptives
Sacramento Bee

More than 99 percent of women use birth control at some point in their lives, and more than half of all pregnancies are unintended. For many women, their first entry into the health care system is to obtain contraception.

That’s why Congress required insurance companies to cover the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved methods of contraception with no out-of-pocket costs as part of the Affordable Care Act. Nearly 30 million women across the country have benefited from this provision since it went into effect in August 2010.

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Anthem Blue Cross accused of ‘fraudulent’ enrollment practices
Daily Democrat

California insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross misled “millions of enrollees” about whether their doctors and hospitals were participating in its new “Obamacare” plans and failed to disclose that many policies wouldn’t cover care outside its approved network, according to a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday.

As a result, many consumers are on the hook for thousands of dollars in medical bills and have been unable to see their longtime doctors, alleges the suit filed in Superior Court in Los Angeles by Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog.

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UnitedHealth: New doctor payment plan cut cancer care costs
Yahoo! News

An experiment changing how U.S. cancer doctors are compensated cut healthcare costs by a third, with no discernible decline in patient health, according to a three-year study by insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc and five medical oncology groups.

Cancer treatment is one of the most expensive and fastest growing categories of care in the United States. Oncologists and insurers have been devising new incentives for doctors to improve patient care while lowering costs.

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Hospital to lease health clinic building
The Appeal-Democrat

The Corning Healthcare District board of directors approved a lease agreement with Feather River Hospital for the district-owned building now housing Corning Medical Associates at 155 Solano St., during a meeting last week. District Manager Shirley Fay said Feather River plans on licensing the facility as a rural clinic. “They plan to bring additional services to Corning, such as dental that accepts medical, orthopedic services, nurse practitioner, registered dietitian and more,” Fay said.

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Pioneer surgical hospitalist program improves care, cuts costs
Sacramento Business Journal

A Sacramento-based program that uses trauma and emergency care specialists to perform acute-care surgeries as needed while patients are in the hospital improves patient outcomes, reduces length of stay and cuts costs, a new medical journal study shows. The study by doctors at Sacramento-based Surgical Affiliates looked at data collected at Sutter Medical Center Sacramento over five years. Results are published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

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Los Angeles County doctors sue state over Cal MediConnect program
Los Angeles Daily News

The Los Angeles County Medical Association has filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Health Services for implementing a program that is supposed to help thousands of eligible Californians receive coordinated health care.

In the lawsuit, filed last week in Sacramento Superior Court, the association and other organizations called the state’s Cal MediConnect program ill-conceived and asked a judge for a preliminary injunction to stop enrollment and implementation of the program.

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Miniature horse joins therapy dogs and cats comforting patients at Sutter hospitals
Sacramento Bee

Hope couldn’t make it past the front doors of Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento without causing a commotion.

It was the first day of work Tuesday for the miniature horse. She’s the latest and most novel addition to Paws on Call, a volunteer group of therapy animals and their owners who visit patients in Sutter hospitals. Until now, the organization consisted of 30 dogs and one cat.

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Telehealth expanding at Memorial Hospital Los Banos
Merced Sun-Star

Like many community hospitals in the Central Valley, Memorial Hospital Los Banos struggled to recruit critical care intensivists to the area. However, 10 years ago, Sutter Health, the hospital’s parent company, invested in an alternative that, according to hospital officials, has worked just as well and is ready to expand.

The solution? A 24-hour electronic Intensive Care Unit that monitors patients from a small room of experts nearly 150 miles away in central hubs in Sacramento and San Francisco.

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Nurses petition labor board to toss Modesto election results
Sacramento Business Journal

The California Nurses Association filed formal objections with the National Labor Relations Board Tuesday, alleging the union election last month at a Modesto hospital affiliated with Sutter Health was “fatally compromised” and results should be tossed.

Preliminary results show registered nurses at Memorial Medical Center voted against the union by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent. The union alleges hospital managers harassed nurses to pressure them to vote against unionization in an election held June 26 and 27.

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