News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Study: California Residents Face Third-Highest Rate of Medical Debt
California Healthline

California residents accumulated the third-highest amount of medical debt in the U.S. last year, according to a recent study by NerdWallet, Payers & Providers reports.

Details of Study: NerdWallet researchers analyzed data from CMS and other federal agencies collected between 2010 and 2013 (Shinkman, Payers & Providers, 10/9).

The analysis also included results from a seven-question survey conducted by Harris Interactive between Aug. 13 and Aug. 15. It polled 2,016 adults ages 18 and older (NerdWallet study, October 2014).

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CDC urges all US hospitals to ‘think Ebola’
San Diego Union-Tribune

The government is telling the nation’s hospitals to “think Ebola.”

Every hospital must know how to diagnose Ebola in people who have been in West Africa and be ready to isolate a suspected case, Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday.

He said the CDC is working to improve protections for hospital workers after a nurse caring for an Ebola patient in Dallas became the first person to become infected with the disease inside the U.S.

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Ebola poll: Two-thirds of Americans worried about possible widespread epidemic in U.S.
Washington Post

Nearly two-thirds of Americans are concerned about a widespread Ebola epidemic in the United States, despite repeated assurances from public officials that the country’s modern health-care and disease-surveillance systems will prevent the type of outbreak ravaging West Africa.

In a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in recent days, the number of Americans who say the government should be doing more to prevent additional Ebola cases in the United States is almost twice the number who believe the United States is doing all it can to control the spread of the virus.

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Ebola: CDC Seeks to ‘Immediately’ Change Hospital Procedures
HealthLeaders Media

Hours after a Texas Health Presbyterian nurse tested positive for Ebola virus late Saturday, federal disease control experts joined front line providers at the Dallas hospital, working through the night, to “immediately” make changes “that could make it potentially safer and easier” to provide care at that hospital, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, MD, said Monday.

“That care is complex, and we’re now working very closely with the hospital to make that care simpler and easier with hands-on training, and hands-on oversight and monitoring,” as healthcare teams stay on the lookout for other workers who may have been infected in the course of caring for the hospital’s first Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, who died Oct. 8.

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NIH director: Ebola vaccine could be ready by now if not for budget austerity
Washington Post

Federal budget austerity slowed the development of vaccines and therapies for the deadly Ebola virus that has ravaged West Africa, killed one man in Dallas and infected a health-care worker in Texas, according to the top National Institutes of Health official.

NIH Director Francis Collins told the Huffington Post on Friday that the agency has been working on Ebola vaccines for more than a decade. But the NIH budget has shrunk by about $5 billion over the same period, after adjusting for inflation.

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Ebola preparedness: Latest Dallas case heightens Bay Area concerns
San Francisco Business Times

News that a Dallas nurse has tested positive for Ebola after assisting in the care of the Liberian patient who died last week is raising new questions and concerns in the Bay Area and beyond about how the Dallas hospital, the CDC and the U.S. government and public health system are responding to the disease.

“You cannot imagine the wave of outrage” among nurses in the California Nurses Association when the Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, appeared to blame the infected nurse for contracting the disease, said Chuck Idelson, a spokesman for the Oakland-based union, which has been a leading voice in recent weeks for more training and more safety equipment for nurses and other care givers who may have to confront Ebola cases in the United States.

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Hospitals rethinking precautions in wake of nurse’s Ebola infection
San Francisco Chronicle

At the urging of federal health officials, U.S. hospitals, including some in the Bay Area, are rethinking the protocols they have in place even while assuring the public they are prepared to deal with an Ebola patient. News that a 26-year-old nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital had contracted Ebola after treating a patient has unsettled hospital administrators and health care workers because it seemingly contradicts assurances from federal health officials that U.S.

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How the new stacks up with the old
San Francisco Chronicle, the website for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, has been revamped as its second enrollment season approaches. But things are still complicated, since other major provisions of the Affordable Care Act are taking effect for the first time. A look at website and program changes just ahead:

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Covered California to send pre-termination notices to consumers with missing paperwork
Modesto Bee

A little more than 10,000 Californians who failed to provide citizenship or immigration status verification will soon start receiving pre-termination notices for their health care coverage, Covered California officials announced Monday.

According to a Covered California news release, about 98,900 families in the state received multiple notices starting in early September informing them of the need for citizenship or immigration status verification.

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Probe sought in California no-bid health contracts
Sacramento Bee

California’s health insurance exchange faced calls Monday for a state investigation of its contracting practices, while a state senator urged the agency to account for deals that steered millions of dollars to a firm whose employees have long-standing ties to the agency’s executive director.

The no-bid deals “reek of the kind of cronyism that all public servants should be interested in eliminating,” Sen. Ted Gaines, a Republican running for state insurance commissioner, said in a letter to Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee.

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16 Medicare Advantage Plans Earn 5-Star Ratings
HealthLeaders Media

Ratings data released for Medicare Advantage plans shows significant year-over-year improvement in the number of plans earning top rankings, which “are driving improvements in Medicare quality,” says the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“We continue to see increases in the number of Medicare beneficiaries in high-performing [five-star] Medicare Advantage plans,” the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says a fact sheet released with the star ratings for 2015. “This year, there are significant increases in the number of Medicare beneficiaries in high-performing Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs).”

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Why reducing poverty — and stress — might be the key to better health

Look at the health data for just about any collection of neighborhoods in California and one thing will soon become clear: Poor people are sicker and, on average, die younger than people with higher incomes.

The medical profession, social workers and health researchers have known this for a long time. But exactly why it is so remains, surprisingly, a mystery. Answering that question and then doing something about it would probably improve health more than all of the reforms advanced by President Barack Obama and so bitterly despised by his opponents.