News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Steinberg to launch mental health foundation
Sacramento Bee

Outgoing Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said Tuesday that after he leaves the Legislature at the end of next month he will form a foundation to work on mental-health policy issues, an area that has long been a priority for the Sacramento Democrat.

The announcement came in the form of a tweet and was confirmed by Steinberg spokesman Rhys Williams. Steinberg was not immediately available to comment, but during a Twitter chat about the large number of mentally ill people who fill California prisons, he wrote:

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Rural Primary Care Challenges Extend Beyond Physician Supply
HealthLeaders Media

Rural and economically disadvantaged areas of the country pose a daunting challenge to boosting primary care services, a recent UnitedHealth Group study has found. But there is no single pathway toward expanding access and capacity, it suggests.

“Approximately 50 million Americans live in areas with an under-supply of primary care physicians. Most of these areas are rural,” says the report, “Advancing Primary Care Delivery: Practical, Proven, and Scalable Approaches.”

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One U.S. Hospital’s Strategy For Stopping Ebola’s Advance
National Public Radio

Dr. Jack Ross is used to seeing potentially lethal viruses, and he is used to putting patients into isolation. Still, Ebola is different. “I think, for any hospital today, Ebola represents one step higher than anything else, if we had to do it,” says Ross, who directs infection control for Hartford Healthcare’s five hospitals in Connecticut.

On a tour of Hartford Hospital, Ross explains how his Ebola control plan would affect various parts of the facility — from the emergency room, to the intensive care unit, to the floors of rooms where patients stay.

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Health officials: Healthcare.gov enrollment will be faster and smoother
Washington Post

Federal health officials on Wednesday unveiled what they described as a cleaner website and a more logical sign-up process for insurance under the health-care law as they prepared for the next open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15.

When the first year of open enrollment began last fall, Healthcare.gov had severe technical problems and frequently crashed, resulting in frustration for millions of people trying to sign up for health plans offered in the new online marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.

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New HealthCare.gov improved, but with a glitch
San Francisco Chronicle

The Obama administration unveiled a new version of HealthCare.gov on Wednesday, with some improvements as well as at least one early mistake and a new challenge. Officials also said that HealthCare.gov won’t display premiums for 2015 until the second week of November. Open enrollment season runs Nov. 15 through Feb. 15. Coverage can start as early as Jan. 1. On the plus side, the health insurance website will feature a streamlined application for most of those signing up for the first time. Seventy-six screens in the online application have been reduced to 16, officials said.

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Upcoming Obamacare enrollment period must be better for consumers
San Francisco Chronicle

You could call it Obamacare II, the second installment of the mandatory health insurance law that took effect last year. And when the Obama administration unveiled its new version Wednesday of HealthCare.gov, the website that many will used to sign up for coverage, the pluses outweighed the minuses. The site has a streamlined application process for most of those signing up for the first time, and a dizzying array of 76 screens in the application has been reduced to 16. Access has also been improved for mobile devices.

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Affordable Care Act: How has mandate’s first year worked in California?
Southern California Public Radio

We’re getting close to the second open enrollment period for people to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, which starts next month.

California is seen as a bellwether of the law’s success.

SCPR’s Health Care Correspondent Stephanie O’Neill explained how things have gone here during the law’s first year to sign up.

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CMS posts long-awaited Pioneer ACO quality and financial results
Modern Healthcare

The CMS published for the first time the quality and financial performance for individual Pioneer accountable care organizations, a small, select group enlisted for Medicare’s most ambitious test of the payment model. First year financial results show health spending slowed as much as 7% among some ACOs and accelerated as much as 5% for others. In the second year, health spending slowed as much as 5.4% among those that reduced patients’ medical bills and accelerated as much as 5.6% where costs escalated.

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Why ACO Savings Aren’t About Location.
The Health Care Blog

One of the big questions since the inception of the Medicare Shared Savings Program has been whether the model would only work in regions with extremely high baseline costs. Farzad’s state-level analysis of earlier MSSP results suggested that ACOs in higher-cost areas were more likely to receive shared savings. It’s one of the questions that Bob Kocher and Farzad received in the wake of the op-ed on Rio Grande Valley Health Providers last week. So we decided to dig into the data.

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Insurance execs vow to fight further cuts to Medicare Advantage
Modern Healthcare

Health insurers are justified in raising alarms about the harmful effects of Medicare Advantage program cuts, executives with two of the country’s largest health plans said Wednesday at a Washington forum. They promised to fight further reductions in spending on the popular coverage program for seniors.

“It has really not been adequately funded for the last four years,” said Stephen Hemsley, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, the largest insurer in the country in terms of live covered, speaking at the CAPG Colloquium on Physician Groups in Medicare Advantage.

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LAX traveler quarantined over Ebola concern just the beginning, officials say
San Bernardino Sun

In the first sign that the growing scare over Ebola has hit Los Angeles, a man who traveled through LAX was quarantined at an Inglewood hospital for testing Wednesday even though he did not display any symptoms of the deadly disease.

The unidentified man, who recently had traveled to Liberia, was taken by ambulance from Los Angeles International Airport soon after landing Tuesday night to Centinela Hospital Medical Center for undisclosed symptoms.

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Kaiser Permanente gives $1 million to help West Africa fight Ebola
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente has donated $1 million to two international aid groups to support “direct medical care and safe clinical treatment practices” in West Africa, its first major donation to help halt the spread of the virus. The money will help bolster medical care in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where the vast majority of Ebola-related deaths have taken place. Oakland-based Kaiser has contributed $500,000 each to two aid groups, Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontieres and the International Medical Corps, and officials emphasized they may “provide additional aid as the s

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Jahi McMath hearing postponed after doctor’s determination
San Francisco Chronicle

A Thursday court hearing to decide whether Jahi McMath will be declared “alive again” was postponed after her family said their “team of international brain death experts” needs more time to review a letter from the court-appointed doctor reaffirming his belief that the 13-year-old Oakland girl is brain dead. Jahi was declared brain dead after suffering what doctors said were terminal complications from surgery for sleep apnea at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland in December.

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Average cost of angiography system up 26% in June
Modern Healthcare

The average cost of angiography systems rose 26% in June as more hospitals purchased pricier systems used in hybrid operating rooms, according to the Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index.

The index looks at monthly and yearly price data for 30 supply and capital items purchased by hospitals and other healthcare providers, based on three-month rolling averages.

The average cost of angiography systems is about $1.5 million, while the cost of the most expensive models can reach $2.5 million, said Kevin Lee, an analyst in ECRI’s healthcare technology advisory service

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Building Healthcare Facilities for Quality
HealthLeaders Media

Michael Covert is ecstatic about the $1 billion hospital that opened under his watch just over two years ago while he served as CEO of Palomar Health in Escondido, California. Palomar Medical Center emulates the imaginary fable hospital with the best that innovative design and technology can offer, he says.

During planning, many features seemed inspired by genius, including this one: Situated at the entrance to each of its 288 patient rooms is a sink with a faucet that automatically trickles water when it detects human motion.

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Despite federal move, California home-care workers still will get overtime pay
San Francisco Business Times

The Obama administration plans to put off enforcement of a new rule providing minimum-wage and overtime protections for home-care workers until July 1. But the move won’t affect California workers, state officials say. The rule still takes effect on Jan. 1, but the federal labor officials said Tuesday they would not enforce it for six months. Beginning in July, they’ll “exercise discretion” in enforcement for another six months and consider good-faith efforts to come into compliance.

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Health agency moving to skid row to aid homeless
Los Angeles Times

A Los Angeles County health agency is moving its headquarters and medical clinic into the heart of skid row in what experts said could become a national model for curbing homelessness.

The $18-million Housing for Health program aims to get 10,000 of the county’s sickest, most vulnerable people off the streets and into permanent housing. In a departure from previous efforts, the county is spending health funds — $14 million — on homeless housing in the belief that getting a place to live is the best medicine for homeless people with medical and mental health disorders.

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Doctors on demand: Silicon Valley physicians test delivery business models
San Francisco Business Times

Dr. Caesar Djavaherian spends his days crisscrossing the Bay Area, stitching up lacerations and attending to his patients’ other urgent-care needs. It’s a far cry from a few years ago, when he was a disillusioned emergency room resident in New York City. “They’re average people who do average things and have an accident,” Djavaherian recalled of the sprained ankles, sliced fingers and other common ailments he saw in the emergency room. “Should you really be burdened by costs akin to a mortgage?”

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UCI awarded $8 million for creation of brain cell database
Los Angeles Times

UC Irvine announced Wednesday that it had been awarded an $8-million grant to establish one of six centers around the country tasked with creating a database of brain cell activity, expected to help develop treatment for a number of diseases.

The grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow researchers to study brain cell activity in motor neuron disorders like Lou Gehrig’s disease and build a detailed collection of these diseases’ signatures.

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Children’s hospital gets $1.25 million for diabetes education
Fresno Bee

A Fresno development company has given Children’s Hospital Central California $1.25 million for diabetes education.

The gift from River Park Properties and Lance-Kashian & Company will be used to develop a diabetes education program, hospital officials said Wednesday.

Hospital staff will work with schools, community organizations and doctors in the region to help identify diabetes risk factors in children for type 2 diabetes and fight the growing health problems of diabetes and childhood obesity.

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Sharp exec reviews 1st year in health exchange
San Diego Union-Tribune

When local residents look at the options offered by Covered California for its second year, only one of the six available insurance carriers is based in San Diego. In 2015, Sharp Health Plan will continue to compete with statewide companies such as Blue Shield, Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente on the health exchange — which was established as part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

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