News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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California hospitals say they are ready for Ebola, if it shows up
Sacramento Business Journal

California public health officials scrambled on Wednesday to reassure residents that Ebola does not currently pose a public-health risk in California. At the same time, hospitals say they are ready if cases do crop up.

News late Tuesday that a patient at Kaiser Permanente’s South Sacramento Medical Center was being tested for the virus kicked vigilance into high gear, sources say. The reason: there is no cure. There are supportive therapies and some people do get better, but 1,229 of 2,240 people suspected to have contracted the virus have died, state public-health officials said Wednesday.

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Governor vetoes bill boosting mental-health parity enforcement
Sacramento Business Journal

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have given California Department of Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones authority to levy fines of up to $2,500 a day against health plans that ignore state mental-health parity laws.

Senate Bill 1046 by Democratic Sen. Jim Beall from San Jose tried to give Jones authority the California Department of Managed Health Care already has. Brown cited ongoing litigation as one reason for his veto.

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Hospitals see more paying patients, but there’s a hitch
Modern Healthcare

Insurance expansion under healthcare reform is starting to yield patient volume for hospitals, but the costs of staffing up for more patients are eclipsing the additional revenue. Earnings reports for not-for-profit systems in the first half of the year show that many providers are seeing rising salary and benefit expenses cut into revenue gains, leading to smaller operating surpluses. “As the pieces of the Affordable Care Act are coming together, it’s changing the demand for care,” said Jeff Jones, managing director at Huron Consulting Group. “It’s shifting the way that providers are thinking about their labor pools.”

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An Unstoppable Killer: New Research Suggests Cancer Can’t Be Eradicated
National Public Radio

Since Richard Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971, the National Cancer Institute has poured some $90 billion into research and treatments. Yet a cure remains elusive. Experts have plenty of targets for blame, including a flawed emphasis on treatment over prevention, and Big Pharma betting on blockbuster treatments that cost billions to develop.

But a new study raises a sobering possibility: Cancer simply may be here to stay. Researchers at Kiel University, the Catholic University of Croatia and other institutions discovered that hydra — tiny, coral-like polyps that emerged hundreds of millions of years ago — form tumors similar to those found in humans. Which suggests that our cells’ ability to develop cancer is “an intrinsic property” that has evolved at least since then — way, way, way before we rallied our forces to try to tackle it, said Thomas Bosch, an evolutionary biologist at Kiel University who led the study, published in Nature Communications in June.

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Can the ACA Solve Staggering Prescription Drug Prices?
California Healthline

Last December, FDA approved the hepatitis C treatment Sovaldi, giving it a coveted breakthrough therapy designation that allowed its maker, Gilead Sciences, to fast-track its approval.

Observers hailed the drug as a “game changer” because it combined a high cure rate with a 12-week regimen, far shorter than other treatments. For many of the estimated 3.2 million U.S. residents with chronic hepatitis C, relief from the disease’s highly elevated risk of long-term effects — such as liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer — was now just 84 days away.

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Morning Plum: Can Dems defend expanding coverage to poor in red states?
Washington Post

Ever since embattled Dem Senator Mark Pryor went up with a new ad discussing his cancer and touting his vote for the health law as the right thing to do, critics have pointed out that he failed to name the whole law in the spot, so the ad doesn’t really count as a full-throated defense of it.

I think that’s a silly standard. But it does raise an interesting question: Can Democrats in difficult states stand behind the goal of expanding coverage to poor people?

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Hurdles Remain to Signing Up More Latinos for Health Coverage
HealthyCal.org

As a college-prep consultant, Marina Grijalva heard about the Affordable Care Act and how it would enable her to sign up for health insurance. But the enrollment campaigns — which the state poured tens of millions of dollars into — didn’t reach her sister or many other Latinos.

Had Grijalva not informed her sister of the new health law and walked her through the enrollment process, the 53-year-old woman may have remained uninsured this year.

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Doctor’s orders: The value of comparing drug prices
Southern California Public Radio

Dr. Sharon Orrange recently heard me on KPCC’s AirTalk discussing the wide variation in the cost of back MRIs, as part of our #PriceCheck collaboration.

Orrange, an internist at the Keck USC School of Medicine, reached out to me via e-mail to say that the lack of transparency with imaging costs is similar to what’s happening with the cost of prescription drugs. I was intrigued. I recently read that one California hospital charged $10 for a blood cholesterol test, while another charged over 1,000 times more.

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Audit: $93M Medi-Cal payments could be fraudulent
San Francisco Chronicle

State auditors have found Medi-Cal, the nation’s largest Medicaid program, was hit with more than $93 million in potentially fraudulent bills by substance abuse clinics across California.

The audit released Tuesday reviewed billing data from July 2008 to December 2013 for Medi-Cal’s Drug Treatment program, which reimburses outpatient rehabilitation clinics, the Los Angeles Timesreported.

The state’s Department of Health Care Services and the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs failed to administer the program “and created opportunities for fraud,” according to the report.

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Kaiser South: Testing patient for possible Ebola virus
News10.net

A patient at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center is being tested for possible exposure to the Ebola virus, officials confirmed.

The person has been admitted to the hospital and is in isolation as a precaution, according to Kaiser spokesperson Edwin Garcia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be testing blood samples to rule out the presence of the virus, Dr. Stephen M. Parodi, Kaiser infectious diseases specialist, stated in a news release.

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California patient being tested for Ebola had been in West Africa
San Francisco Chronicle

California public health officials declined Wednesday to disclose the identity of the Sacramento patient who is being tested for the Ebola virus after returning from one of the West African countries affected by the growing outbreak of the disease. They refused to reveal the patient’s gender, age, which West African country he or she had traveled to and how the exposure may have happened, citing federal health privacy laws.

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Sacramento patient’s Ebola test results to come in three days, health officials say
Sacramento Bee

With the West African outbreak of Ebola escalating, state public health officials said Wednesday they were not surprised that the deadly virus may have reached Sacramento in the case of a patient who recently returned from a trip to one of the stricken nations.

The patient, held in isolation at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center, is considered at risk – albeit at “low risk” – of having the disease and possibly carrying it back to the capital region, state officials said.

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UCSF expert on chance of U.S. Ebola outbreak: “I’d take these odds in Vegas”
San Francisco Business Times

The news that a patient at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Sacramento is being tested for the Ebola virus has raised new fears and new vigilance here in California, although it will take days to discover if the patient has been infected.

So far, the outbreak in West Africa — the largest ever — has killed roughly 1,200 people, although experts at Doctors Without Borders, a charity that is doing much of the hands-on work in Africa to battle the outbreak, fear that the true count may be far higher.

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Bills would help curb growing crisis over antibiotics
The Almanac

Good news hails from Sacramento in the form of two bills successfully sponsored by Sen. Jerry Hill. Both are important first steps in reining in the overuse of antibiotics in an effort to control the growing health crisis that results from that excess; the bills now are headed for the governor’s desk after approval with no opposition in both the Senate and the Assembly.

SB 835 takes aim at the widespread practice of using antibiotics in farm animals solely for the purpose of fattening them for market.

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Hospital revamp could shutter San Clemente ER
Orange County Register

The owners of San Clemente’s 42-year-old hospital are looking to remake it from the ground up, transforming the space into an outpatient health center they see as the future of medicine.

MemorialCare Health System is launching a feasibility study for transitioning the 73-bed hospital at 654 Camino de los Mares into a three-story, 103,000-square-foot ambulatory care center designed to offer a wide range of services with more convenience and lower cost than an acute care hospital can provide.

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