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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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California health exchange weighs formal opposition to Proposition 45
Sacramento Bee

Members of the state health insurance exchange on Thursday came out strongly against a fall ballot initiative to give rate-regulation authority to the elected insurance commissioner, with some requesting the board issue formal opposition.

Covered California, the state agency charged with carrying out the federal health care law, issued an analysis stating the measure could have a detrimental impact on the exchange’s operations, including its ability to negotiate with insurance companies.

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Hospitals hope for relief from two-midnights purgatory
Modern Healthcare

The heavily criticized Medicare two-midnights rule involving short inpatient stays has technically been in effect for the past year. But providers, regulators and healthcare observers are not sure the rule will hold up in its current makeshift form.  

The two-midnights rule entered the healthcare vernacular last year after it was finalized in Medicare’s fiscal 2014 inpatient rule. But enforcement and details of the rule have been far from concrete since then. “It’s just been a lot of change and a lot of confusion for hospitals,” said Regan Tankersley, a healthcare attorney with Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman.

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Sacramento Ebola test comes back negative
San Francisco Chronicle

Health officials announced Thursday night that a patient in Sacramento who was thought to have been exposed to the Ebola virus after traveling to West Africa has tested negative and does not have the disease.

Dr. Ron Chapman, Director of the California Department of Public Health, said that a blood sample sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came back free of the deadly virus, which has been ravishing West Africa over the last two months, killing more than 1,100 people. The patient had recently traveled to the region, officials said.

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TJC Warns Hospitals of Deadly Medical Tubing Mistakes
HealthLeaders Media

With at least 21 hospital patient deaths and nearly 100 other adverse events occurring because plastic tubing intended to deliver food instead went into an IV, a Joint Commission Sentinel Event Alert urges healthcare providers to be extra diligent to avoid such mistakes.

In addition to the 2006 death of a pregnant woman whose feeding tube was placed into her bloodstream in a Kansas hospital, the commission said, this week, “116 other case studies [involved] misconnections directing enteral feeding solutions into IV lines” over the last decade.

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It’s yea or nay for health bills
Sacramento Business Journal

It’s going to be a wild run to the finish over the next two weeks as lawmakers slog through hundreds of bills before the 2013-14 session ends Aug. 31.

Anything that would cost the state money got scrutiny in appropriations committees last week. Many bills died as a result, including the most high-profile health-care bill of the year — to regulate community benefits and charity care at nonprofit hospitals.

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Kern County Hospital Authority bill on to governor’s desk
BakersfieldNOW.com

The Assembly gave approval Thursday morning, a week after AB 2546 was blessed by the Senate.

Bill sponsor Rudy Salas, a Democratic Assemblyman from Bakersfield, said last week that “the legislature is going to empower Kern County’s local government to be able to ensure that this hospital continues to provide vital health care services that the Central Valley so greatly needs.”

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Bills to curb antibiotic use head to governor’s desk
The Almanac

The California Legislature recently sent to the governor two bills sponsored by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, that will prohibit the use of antibiotics as growth enhancers in farm animals and promote more responsible use of antibiotics in humans.

Sen. Hill told the Almanac he is optimistic the bills will be signed. The bill involving antibiotic use in livestock is supported by the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture, he noted, and that endorsement is a good indication that the bill is supported by the governor’s office.

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ALD newborn-testing advocates fear veto for cost
Inside Bay Area

Supporters of a bill that would require newborns to be tested for a deadly disease fear it may be headed for a veto because of its cost.

Assemblyman Richard Pan’s AB 1559, requiring newborns to be screened for adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), is now headed for a Senate floor vote, having been approved last week by the Appropriations Committee on a 5-0 vote. In fact, no lawmaker has voted against the bill so far; the Assembly approved it 79-0 in May.

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Sacramento patient tests negative for deadly Ebola virus
Sacramento Bee

Sacramento residents can breathe easier knowing that the nation’s top public health experts have ruled out an Ebola viral infection in a patient quarantined this week at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center.

Blood samples from the patient, who’d just returned from a trip to West African nations hard hit by the virus, were found to be negative for strains of the notoriously deadly Ebola virus.

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Sacramento patient tests negative for Ebola after West Africa visit
Los Angeles Times

A patient at the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center who was potentially exposed to the Ebola virus has tested negative, hospital officials confirmed Thursday night.

The unidentified patient was being cared for in a specially equipped negative pressure room while tests were ongoing, officials said. It is unclear when the patient arrived at the facility or when the possible exposure to the virus occurred, but it did happen in West Africa, officials said.

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Surprise: Obamacare is helping, not harming, traditional healthcare
Yahoo! News

Since the Affordable Care Act became law four years ago, healthcare experts have warned of sweeping changes to the U.S. healthcare system.

But here’s one thing they didn’t expect. Instead of weakening the existing system of employer-provided health insurance — which many analysts predicted — the ACA so far seems to have strengthened it. And that could make Obamacare, as the ACA is known, far less revolutionary than advocates promised and critics feared.

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Without proof of citizenship, residency, 100,000 could lose Obamacare
Los Angeles Times

About 100,000 Californians who haven’t yet proved their citizenship or legal residency in the U.S. face losing their Obamacare coverage in October, state officials said.

Covered California, the state-run insurance exchange, enrolled more than 1.2 million people during the rollout of the Affordable Care Act this year. For most consumers, the exchange said, it could verify citizenship or immigration status electronically with a federal data hub.

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Democrats Reframe Debate on Health Care
ABC News

President Barack Obama’s unpopular health care law is losing some of its political punch as vulnerable Democrats see it as less of an election-year minus and Republicans increasingly talk about fixing it instead of repealing.

Two-term Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, who is locked in one of the most competitive races in the country, says in an ad this week that he voted for a law that prevents insurers from canceling policies if someone gets sick, as he did 18 years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer.

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Insurers Refuse To Cover Some Contraceptives, Despite Health Law
National Public Radio

How much leeway do employers and insurers have in deciding whether they’ll cover contraceptives without charge and in determining which methods make the cut?

Not much, as it turns out, but that hasn’t stopped some from trying. People still write in regularly describing battles they’re waging to get birth control coverage they’re entitled to under the Affordable Care Act.

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Covered California Plans to Offer Expanded Dental Services for Children and New Coverage for Adults
Sierra Sun Times

Covered California is offering new family dental plans to consumers who enroll in health insurance coverage in 2015. Additionally, all individual health insurance plans sold through the Covered California exchange will include pediatric dental benefits for members younger than 19.

“This is great news for families and children, because all children enrolled in Covered California will have dental coverage embedded in their comprehensive health plan,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said.

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Covered California to Offer Dental Coverage in 2015
KFBK

New dental plans are coming to Covered California.

Starting with enrollments in 2015, Covered California officials say you’ll be able to get family coverage that will include pediatric dental benefits for members younger than 19.

They say this will give you better coverage for your health insurance dollar.

The new family dental plan will allow adults the option of getting dental coverage outside the general health plans at an additional cost.

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Covered California to offer adult dental benefits in 2015
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California will offer new family dental plans to consumers who enroll in health insurance coverage in 2015 and all individual health insurance plans will include pediatric dental benefits for members through age 18.

The optional stand-alone family dental plans that offer coverage for adults will not be available when open enrollment starts Nov. 15, but are expected to be added in early 2015. Both a dental health maintenance organization and a dental preferred provider organization plan will be available.

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Reform Update: People keeping noncompliant plans; rate impact varies by state
Modern Healthcare

When the Obama administration in November 2013 decided to allow states to decide if individuals could keep noncompliant insurance plans, speculation began about what effect that decision would have on premiums and enrollment for plans that did comply with provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Subsequently, the administration this March gave states the option of a maximum two-year extension into 2016.

Early indications of how many individuals opted to keep those plans have begun to emerge as have signs of the effect on premiums. As with so much else related to the ACA, the results depend on what state is being discussed.

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Doctor drug testing latest front in medical malpractice measure
Sacramento Bee

When consumer advocates were preparing a fall ballot initiative to raise the sum victims can recover in medical malpractice lawsuits, they considered tacking on an inducement that would resonate with voters across California.

After running eight to 10 ideas past focus groups and through opinion polls, they found strong support for a proposal to make California the first state to require random drug and alcohol testing of doctors. They reason that if pilots must submit to drug screenings, why shouldn’t doctors?

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New restrictions on hydrocodone to take effect
Modern Healthcare

The federal government is finalizing new restrictions on hundreds of medicines containing hydrocodone, the highly addictive painkiller that has grown into the most widely prescribed drug in the U.S.

The new rules mean that drugs like Vicodin, Lortab and other generic versions will be subject to the same prescribing rules as painkillers like codeine and oxycodone. Patients will be limited to one 90-day supply of medication and will have to see a healthcare professional to get a refill.

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Vision Problems Increase The Risk Of Early Death In Older People
National Public Radio

An eye exam may be the ticket to a longer life, researchers say, because good vision is essential for being able to shop, manage money and live independently. And maintaining independence in turn leads to a longer life.

Researchers have known for years that people who have vision problems as they get older are more likely to die sooner than those who still see well. But they weren’t sure why that was so.

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Sharp Memorial Hospital renovates inpatient center
CBS News

Patients, caregivers and community members gathered at Sharp Memorial Hospital in Serra Mesa Thursday to celebrate the reopening of a $7.7-million dollar inpatient center.

The Sharp Allison Derose Rehabilitation Center located on Health Center Drive was extensively renovated. The 30-bed unit was named after a former patient whose family donated $1 million toward the costs of the project.

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Poor? You’re more likely to lose a limb to diabetes, study shows
Orange County Register

Patients with diabetes from lower-income neighborhoods in Orange County are up to five times more likely to have a limb amputated than those in wealthier areas, according to a new UCLA study of amputations across the state.

The average annual rate of amputation in Santa Ana, Fullerton and Orange was roughly five per 1,000 patients. Garden Grove and Anaheim were close behind at four.

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