News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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CMS checks eligibility of 310,000 immigrants who bought ACA plans
Modern Healthcare

Some immigrants who signed up for insurance coverage via have been put on notice that they could lose their coverage unless they immediately furnish proof that they are legally qualified for coverage being offered on the marketplace.

The CMS sent out 310,000 letters Tuesday, giving the enrollees until Sept. 5 to send copies of green cards, proof of citizenship or other documents to show that they qualify for the coverage. If they do not, their coverage will end Sept. 30.

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FDA’s Social Media Gambit ‘A Long Shot,’ Says Patient Advocate
Health Leaders Media

After more than a decade of ambivalence toward social media, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is wading into the deeper waters of online communication platforms. In June, the FDA distributed a draft of long-awaited guidelines for industry when using social media.

Now the agency wants to employ listening technologies to improve the FDA Adverse Events Reporting System.

In late February, the agency quietly announced that it was looking for a contractor to take on the task of listening for adverse drug effects. It wanted to partner with an organization able to monitor social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Wikipedia for mentions of key words that would indicate negative side effects or other problems.

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Peer respites for mental health consumers prevent hospitalizations

As people with mental health crises overwhelm California’s hospitals, jails and homeless shelters, counties across the state are gradually embracing residential respite houses located in neighborhoods and staffed by peers — people who have been consumers of the mental health system.

For people on the verge of a crisis, staying at a peer-run respite, typically for a couple of days or up to two weeks, can help them recover with support from people who have had similar experiences.

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Doctor consultation apps: Healthy or harmful?
Southern California Public Radio

Have you ever visited with your doctor via the camera on your smartphone or computer? Could this soon become the norm for minor conditions?

Doctor consultation apps seem to offer incredible convenience: For basic but annoying health issues, they could possibly replace a visit to urgent care. After a virtual consultation, doctors can prescribe antibiotics and common medications, if needed. The virtual appointments are often available for a flat fee that ranges from $40 to $50 per visit, depending on which app you use. Some offer monthly subscription rates.

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What to expect from Obamacare in 2015
Orange County Register

I’m sure you’ve heard that premiums for plans sold through our health insurance exchange, Covered California, will go up an average of 4.2 percent next year.

Just remember, “average” means just that. Your premium increase (or decrease in some cases) will depend on a variety of factors, including where you live and what plan you choose. I’ll delve into that below.

Plus, you shouldn’t obsess over premiums alone. Satisfaction with your health insurance depends on so much more than your monthly bill.

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Administration warns some could lose health-care coverage on federal exchange
Washington Post

Federal health officials are warning hundreds of thousands of people who have bought health plans through the federal insurance exchange that their coverage will be cut off unless they quickly provide proof that their citizenship or immigration status makes them eligible to be insured through the new marketplace.

The warnings, in letters being mailed this week to 310,000 people in the three dozen states that rely on the exchange, give the recipients until Sept. 5 to send copies of green cards, citizenship documents or other information showing that they qualify for the coverage.

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On California Exchange, Only Kaiser’s Rates Will Go Down in 2015
KQED Radio

As all the other health insurers on California’s Obamacare exchange raise their rates for next year, Kaiser Permanente plans to lower them. The Los Angeles Times reports that a new analysis by Citigroup shows Kaiser’s premiums dropping by 1.4 percent in 2015. At the same time, the average premium across all plans on the Covered California exchange will rise 4.2 percent.

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Report: State offers workers generous health plans
Sacramento Bee

Health insurance plans offered to state employees in California and elsewhere are relatively generous, with government picking up a large share of deductibles and co-pays, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation was a first-of-its kind survey of state government health insurance plans nationwide.

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The Case For Payers to Oppose Meaningful Use
The Health Care Blog

The Meaningful Use program is at a critical inflection point. One one hand, the payers could jump on the MU bandwagon, follow Medicare’s example and demand provider MU attestation. On the other hand, they could throw private practice a bone and help them weather the storm until MU goes away or loses its teeth. Let me explain. Payers could take the easy money and penalize according to the upcoming ACA “adjustment” schedule. Lots of people think this is inevitable.

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Plan to reveal pharmaceutical payments to doctors hits snag
San Francisco Chronicle

The federal government’s effort to reveal the financial entanglements between doctors and drug companies is proving to be a long, hard slog.

It’s been four years since the Physician Payments Sunshine Act was passed by Congress as part of the same legislation approving President Obama’s health care reform package. The act requires pharmaceutical companies, medical device makers and medical purchasing companies to report any payments, including meals and honoraria, that they’ve provided to doctors and teaching hospitals.

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Transcending Obamacare: An Introduction To Patient-Centered, Consumer-Driven Health Reform

Today, the Manhattan Institute is publishing my 20,000-word, 68-page health reform proposal entitled “Transcending Obamacare: A Patient-Centered Plan for Near-Universal Coverage and Permanent Fiscal Solvency.” It represents a novel approach to health reform: neither accepting Obamacare as is, nor requiring the law’s repeal to move forward. And yet its ambition is to permanently solve our health care entitlement problem, while also expanding coverage for the uninsured.

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Hospital’s Bottom Line Just Got Better
Big Bear Grizzly

It’s been a long time coming, but Bear Valley Community Hospital is officially a critical access hospital. Ray Hino, CEO of the healthcare district, got the official word Aug. 7. It will mean a big boon to the bottom line, at least $800,000 a year, Hino said. In approving the budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, the board agreed to remove anticipated funds in relation to critical access for July and August. Hino said he is hopeful with the new designation, the lost funds can be made up.

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The Doctor Can See You Now
UCSF Today

We’ve all seen ads for Fitbits, Jawbones, Gearfits – perhaps even tracked our own health with a specialized home glucometer or blood pressure cuff.

These devices can help collect data that can help motivate an individual and track progress, but they don’t tell us much beyond that. The next wave of wearable health technology has far more advanced biosensors that can collect new data, teach us what data is most valuable – and maybe even change the way we practice medicine.

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In Cancer Survivors, Colonoscopy Risks Rise with Age
Health Leaders Media

Follow-up colonoscopies for people over age 74 who have a history of colon cancer or certain pre-cancerous polyps should be carefully considered, because the risk of hospitalization for a post-procedure adverse event may outweigh the benefits, researchers say.

An Hong Tran, MD, Kaiser geriatric fellow, found a higher risk of adverse events requiring hospitalization in seniors over age 74 — and relatively few cancers — compared with similar patients who underwent the procedure between ages 50 and 74.

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Bill to hike care-home fines faces key test
San Diego Union-Tribune

A bill that would significantly raise fines on assisted living facilities that violate state law faces a showdown vote in Sacramento Thursday as key players seek a compromise to keep it alive.

The measure would mandate civil penalties of up to $15,000 if a violation caused the death of a resident, and would impose $1,000 fines for a host of lesser violations. At present, the maximum fine the state can impose for any violation at such homes is $150.

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Health Insurance Rate Increases In California May Not Be Beneficial For Insurers
Live Insurance News

Fitch Ratings expects that health insurance rate increases in California will be a benefit for non-profit hospitals, but their impact on insurance companies is still uncertain. Insurers have been pushing for higher rates for the coverage they provide in the state and have been able to institute these rates regularly. The problem, however, is that the most recent round of rate increases may not be enough to help insurance companies keep up with the rate of medical inflation.

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CalPERS rolls out online comparison shopping tool for medical care
Los Angeles Business Journal

What does a prescription cost at CVS, Rite Aid and Walmart? Need a lab test? Which laboratory is closest to home? Public-sector workers insured by Anthem Blue Cross through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System have a new tool to find out. An online health-care “shopping” platform developed by San Francisco-based Castlight Health launched this week. Members of PERS Select, PERS Choice and PERSCare plans can compare doctors, hospitals, medical tests and procedures on a variety of factors, including cost, quality, patient satisfaction and convenience.

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Insurer WellPoint plans name change to Anthem
San Francisco Chronicle

WellPoint, one of the biggest players on the health care overhaul’s new insurance exchanges, wants to switch its corporate name back to the Anthem brand its customers know by the end of this year.

The nation’s second-largest health insurer said the name it used before combining in 2004 with WellPoint Health Networks is the best brand to go by in a market that’s becoming more consumer-focused.

WellPoint sells coverage using its Anthem name in several states, including California, Kentucky and its home state of Indiana. The company doesn’t sell plans under the WellPoint name.

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Mobile truck offers skin-cancer screening in Elk Grove
Sacramento Bee

From bronze windsurfers to cream-colored infants, Sacramentans of all shades and ages withstood the hot black concrete of a Rite Aid parking lot Tuesday to get a free skin cancer screening from a mobile dermatology clinic.

The 38-foot recreational vehicle parked at the Elk Grove pharmacy for the day was part of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s “Road to Healthy Skin” tour, which has been traveling the country for months in an effort to catch America’s most common cancer in its early stages. Sacramento is one of more than 50 stops the bus will make in 17 states.

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Hospital initiates ‘Quiet Time’ policy to improve patients’ rest
Paso Robles Daily News

Twin Cities Community Hospital has announced a new, hospital-wide “Quiet Time” policy stating that hospital staff will take certain measures to reduce noise and other sleep disturbances during the official rest period, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., daily.

Twin Cities initiated the policy in an effort to create an environment more conducive to patients’ sleep and rest, which are key factors in recovery. During the new Quiet Time period, the hospital dims its hallway lights, places staff phones and pagers on vibrate, offers patients ear plugs or headphones for music, and keeps staff conversations low.

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Judge won’t restore ambulance service to Doctors Medical Center
San Francisco Chronicle

A federal judge refused Tuesday to restore emergency ambulance service or stop further cutbacks at cash-strapped Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, which faces closure by the end of the year.

The hospital, the largest in west Contra Costa County, was dealt a severe financial blow in May when county voters rejected a $20 million parcel tax increase.

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Alameda County paramedics could reroute 911 patients from emergency rooms
Contra Costa Times

Paramedics could have a bigger say over where 911 emergency patients are treated and aid in their recovery after hospitalization under a proposal to expand their health care roles — a move opposed by nurses unions.

Currently, paramedics must send patients who call 911 to a hospital emergency room, a costly ride that may be unnecessary for people who really have a mental health issue or an ailment treatable at a less expensive urgent care or other health clinic.