News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Government hackers try to crack
San Francisco Chronicle

The government’s own watchdogs tried to hack into earlier this year and found what they termed a critical vulnerability — but also came away with respect for some of the health insurance site’s security features.

Those are among the conclusions of a report released Tuesday by the Health and Human Services Department inspector general, who focuses on health care fraud.

The report amounts to a mixed review for the federal website that serves as the portal to taxpayer-subsidized health plans for millions of Americans.

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Slideshow: Healthcare Leaders Examine Patient Engagement
HealthLeaders Media

Four senior healthcare leaders discuss one of their toughest challenges: getting patients involved and engaged in their own care. One challenge is “providing information through our EHRs in a way that is easy to understand.” says Michael Schaffrinna, MD, CMO of Community Health of Central Washington in Washington state. For some patients there is a deeper issue. Some feel it is the physician’s responsibility to make them healthy, says Don Beckstead, MD, Program Director at Altoona (PA) Family Physicians.

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30,000 Californians face Obamacare enrollment delays, dropped coverage
Los Angeles Times

California’s health insurance exchange is vowing to fix enrollment delays and dropped coverage for about 30,000 consumers before the next sign-up period this fall.

Covered California said it failed to promptly send insurance applications for 20,000 people to health plans recently, causing delays and confusion over their coverage.

Another group of up to 10,000 people have had their insurance coverage canceled prematurely because they were deemed eligible for Medi-Cal based on a check of their income, officials said.

The exchange said the private insurance should remain in place until coverage kicks in under Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for lower-income residents.

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GOP: Obamacare ‘bending over backwards’ for illegals
Washington Times

The Obama administration has dragged its feet on revoking Obamacare coverage for people who can’t prove U.S. citizenship or legal residency, allowing some of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. to continue enjoying taxpayer-funded benefits, a Republican senator charged Monday.

“The Obama administration is bending over backwards to give Obamacare to illegal immigrants but won’t protect hardworking American citizens who are losing their health care coverage,” said Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican and an outspoken critic of President Obama’s health care law.

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CMS Forecasts 4% Medicare Advantage Premium Hike in 2015
HealthLeaders Media

Federal officials released data last week forecasting an average 4% increase in Medicare Advantage health plan premiums in 2015.

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a prepared statement that the Medicare Advantage program has been thriving since the adoption of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010.

“Since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans is now at an all-time high, and premiums have fallen,” Tavenner said.

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CMS urged to fix meaningful-use program flaw, prevent penalties
Modern Healthcare

Two members of Congress and the Medical Group Management Association are calling on the CMS to address a programming problem that threatens to saddle some physicians and other eligible professionals with Medicare payment penalties in 2015. The issue involves eligibility determinations for the federal electronic health-record incentive payment program.

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Medicare gives first glimpse of ACO quality performance
Modern Healthcare

The CMS for the first time publicly released individual performance data for Medicare accountable care organizations on 33 measures of healthcare quality.

The results for 220 of the participants (PDF) in the Medicare Shared Savings Program reveal how ACOs performed on measures (PDF) of patient experience and preventive care and disease management for some of the leading causes of death among U.S. elderly, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

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When Medi-Cal forces us to pay back ‘invisible loan’ to the state
San Francisco Chronicle

Everyone’s now legally obliged to have health insurance, but only low-income Californians age 55 to 65 are forced into an involuntary and invisible loan for their health care.

Almost anyone would want to know what they are paying for health care, but Medi-Cal requires this group of recipients to fill out a form and pay a $25 fee to get this information. When I did, I still didn’t find out.

SB1124, which is on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, would require Medi-Cal to provide this information free of charge and easily accessed.

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High drug co-pays deny needed treatments
San Francisco Chronicle

Treatments for debilitating diseases are saving millions of patients from pain and possible death.

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Avoid The Rush! Some ERs Are Taking Appointments
National Public Radio

Three times in one week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo returned to the emergency room of the Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Southern California, seeking relief from intense back pain. Each time, Granillo waited a little while and then left the ER without ever being seen by a doctor.

“I was in so much pain, I wanted to be taken care of ‘now,’ ” says Granillo. “I didn’t want to sit and wait.”

But on a recent Wednesday morning, he woke up feeling even worse. This time, Granillo’s wife, Sonya, tried something different. Using a new service offered by the hospital, she was able to make an ER appointment online, using her mobile phone.

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Knowing prices of surgical options influences choice
San Francisco Chronicle

In the U.S. health care system, patients rarely know how much they’ll be charged for surgeries or hospital stays before they get the bill. But a new study from the University of Utah reveals that when patients and their families do get pricing information beforehand, they’re likely to make cost-conscious decisions about equal, but different treatments, even if the one they choose is not the doctor’s first choice.

Doctors at Primary Children’s Hospital in Utah treated 100 children who needed their appendix removed.  Their parents were offered a choice between traditional open surgery or a laparoscopic procedure. Both types of surgery are considered equally safe and require similar amounts of time in the hospital, but doctors often prefer laparoscopies because they leave smaller scars and, in some cases, reduce the chance of infection.

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More patients could wear regular clothing in hospital: study
Yahoo! News

Although doctors say many patients in hospitals could be wearing their own clothing below the waist, and most want to, a majority still don’t, according to a small Canadian study.

That could have an important effect on patient dignity, the authors suggest.

Dr. Todd C. Lee, who participated in the research, said he was struck by how bizarre it was to see one of his patients leave the ward briefly to attend to business wearing a suit, and then return and don an undignified open-backed hospital gown again.

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Teladoc raises $50 million for telemedicine platform

In one of the largest raises of the year in the digital health space, the telehealth company Teladoc says today it has raised $50 million from Jafco Ventures and others.

The funding was made public in a regulatory filing on September 18, in which Teladoc also reported that its revenues are between $25 million and $100 million a year.

The large investment underscores the eagerness of startups and investors to grab mindshare as virtual doctor visits move mainstream for both consumers and healthcare providers.

In fact, telemedicine may be one of the healthcare system’s most powerful tools for cutting costs and promoting wellness as more payors begin using value-based reimbursement models. The might eliminate unnecessary face-to-face doctor visits, as well as allow caregivers to keep better tabs on at-risk patients.

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Oakland Kids to be Offered Free Flu Shots Right at Their Schools
KQED Radio

Children at more than 100 Oakland schools are eligible for free flu shots this fall as part of a new program aimed at protecting children and the broader community against influenza. All pre-K students through fifth grade at public, private, charter and parochial schools are eligible. At some schools, students through sixth or eighth grade may participate.

It’s all part of Shoo the Flu, a collaboration between the Alameda County Public Health Department, the California Department of Public Health and the Oakland Unified School District.

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UC Riverside Med School seeks out, fast-tracks local med students to keep new doctors in region
Southern California Public Radio

Medical student Crystal Deedas leans over and peeks into the ears and noses of pint-sized patients she’s caring for during her rotation at the Riverside Medical Clinic. “Does this hurt?” she asks an 8-year-old boy visiting the clinic with his mother.

“What about now?” she says, as she further examines his ear.

There’s nothing unusual about a medical student, such as Deedas, doing supervised work on real- life patients.  That’s all part of the clinical rotation experience required by medical schools. But what is unique is that Deedas is seeing patients in her first year of medical school. Typically, med students wait until their third year before getting such clinical experience.

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Hospital’s effort to improve patient experience is commendable
Porterville Recorder

If residents of the Sierra View Local Healthcare District ever needed more reason to be pleased with their hospital, then they need to look no further than the hospital’s significant effort to improve the experience patients and their families have at the hospital. Sierra View has brought on board Daniel Blazer as a patient experience officer and he is charged with improving the experience patients have when at the hospital.