News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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CMS Offers Some ACOs $114M for ‘Upfront’ Costs
HealthLeaders Media

The federal government is offering to loan up to $114 million to 75 accountable care organizations serving Medicare beneficiaries in rural and underserved areas to help cover the upfront costs of redesigning care processes and building IT infrastructure.

“The ACO investment model will give Medicare accountable care organizations more flexibility in setting quality and financial goals, while giving them greater accountability for delivering quality care efficiently,” said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in prepared remarks.

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Ebola outbreak spurs production of protective suits
Los Angeles Times

The Ebola outbreak has sparked demand for protective apparel worn by healthcare workers, causing manufacturers to increase production and speculative investors to boost the stock prices of some companies that make germ-resistant suits, smocks and masks.

DuPont Co. said it is tripling production of protective suits — the ones seen around-the-clock on cable news networks — as it works with the World Health Organization and other agencies to protect those treating Ebola patients in West Africa, Europe and, now, the United States.

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Just Seeing Charts And Graphs Makes Drug Claims More Credible
National Public Radio

Graphs and formulas say “Science!” to consumers, so much so that simply seeing claims about a new drug that were accompanied by data visualizations made people more likely to believe the claims.

The effect is especially true if people have a strong belief in science to begin with.

That’s the conclusion of a study published online in the journal Public Understanding of Science. It includes three experiments. In the first, 61 people read a paragraph saying that a nonexistent new drug enhances immune function and reduces the likelihood of catching a cold by 40 percent.

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Covered California begins health insurance renewals for more than 1 million people
Los Angeles Daily News

More than 1.1 million Californians who signed up for Obamacare plans through the state’s health insurance exchange will begin to receive renewal notices and can start testing an improved online system, officials said Thursday.

“This is our very first experience with renewal, and we will learn things during this process just as we learned a great deal about open enrollment during 2013-2014,” Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said during a teleconference.

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Covered California kicks off renewals for 2015
Sacramento Business Journal

The first wave of renewal notices for individuals with health insurance through Covered California are going out this week, executive director Peter Lee announced at a news conference Thursday. Open enrollment starts Nov. 15 and ends Feb. 15, 2015, but there will be some differences this time around. More than 1.1 million Californians currently enrolled can keep existing plans — or shop around for a better deal — and changes have been made to ensure things work more smoothly.

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Obamacare cancellations, again: Column
USA Today

Last fall, millions of Americans breathed a sigh of relief when Obamacare didn’t cancel their health care plans. Now they’re holding their breath once again.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans will soon receive cancellation letters affecting their 2015 health care plans — and that number may quickly rise into the millions. This wave of cancellations will fall into two categories. The first group hit will be in the individual market, the same group that suffered through at least 6.3 million cancellation letters last year. They will almost certainly be joined by millions of people in the small-employer market, which has 40 million plans and will be under Obamacare’s control starting next year.

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Dem push for health law rooted in demographics
San Francisco Chronicle

While much of America was upset about the botched rollout of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, most Democrats in Congress were still willing to give the law a chance to work. Without the law, many of their constituents wouldn’t have health insurance. No new law has been more polarizing during Obama’s presidency. It passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote, and GOP lawmakers have been railing against it ever since. House Republicans have voted more than 50 times to repeal all or parts of the law. Almost all of their changes died in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

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Health care looks to ACOs to cut costs
Sacramento Business Journal

Add another acronym to the alphabet soup in health care: ACO. Accountable care organizations aren’t health plans like health maintenance organizations or preferred provider organizations that impose requirements on where consumers can go for care. ACOs aren’t even health plans. They generally reflect agreement among providers — or providers and health plans — to deliver accountable care to patients and cut costs by a certain amount. If they don’t, they share the tab. If there’s money left over, they share the pot.

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Poll: More Than Half of Americans Worry About Ebola Outbreak in U.S.
KQED Radio

A Harvard School of Public Health poll finds that more than a third of Americans (38 percent) are worried that Ebola will infect them or a family member over the next year. Most (81 percent) believe Ebola can spread from someone who is sick and has symptoms. And that’s correct.

Body fluids, such as blood, urine and feces, can carry the virus from one person to another. And almost all the poll respondents (95 percent) agreed that direct contact with body fluids from a person with Ebola symptoms was likely to cause infection.

A large proportion (85 percent) of people believes the virus can be transmitted by a sneeze or cough. That’s highly unlikely. “Common sense and observation tell us that spread of the virus via coughing or sneezing is rare, if it happens at all,” the World Health Organization says.

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Half of Americans fundamentally misunderstand Ebola
Washington Post

There’s a reason politicians are mentioning Ebola on the campaign trail: Many Americans are reasonably concerned about the disease.

But why are people that concerned about Ebola? Well, in large part, it’s because they fundamentally misunderstand it.

Case in point: A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll. The poll asked Americans a series of questions about how the disease can spread from one person to another. As you might imagine, they flunked the test.

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Ebola crisis: One reporter’s reflections
San Francisco Business Times

When I returned to work from a two-week vacation in early August, it quickly became apparent that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was far worse than originally anticipated and that the world’s response was, shall we say, sub-optimal. Amazingly enough, all that’s still largely true, two long and scary months later. Locally, huge players like Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, UCSF Medical Center, Dignity Health, Blue Shield of California and Stanford Health Care have had little to say about the epidemic, and have done relatively little to aid the fight in West Africa.

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Nurses’ Concerns Grow After 2 in Texas Contract Ebola
The Wall Street Journal

Concerns about hospital workplace safely are echoing around the health-care system in light of the two Dallas nurses who contracted Ebola. Nurses associations say nurses and aides are on the front lines and aren’t always adequately protected from infection and injury on the job.

“Nurses spend way more time with their patients than physicians do,” said Deena Brecher, the president of the Emergency Nurses Association, a group with 40,000 members.

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‘We’re looking at every element’: Opposing view
USA Today

Today’s development (of a second hospital worker diagnosed with Ebola), while concerning and unfortunate, is continued evidence that our monitoring program is working. We continue to monitor 75 health care workers in conjunction with the state. And while I cannot discuss patient specifics, I can tell you this new patient was involved in the care of Mr. Duncan, the original patient whose passing we still mourn.

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Valley hospitals holding Ebola-preparedness drills
The Desert Sun

Coachella Valley hospitals have been holding Ebola-preparedness drills within their walls and working to align with the latest Ebola-related federal recommendations for health care workers, as fears over the disease spread closer to the Coachella Valley Thursday and questions and controversy over transmission risk and handling of cases continue to mount.

“The potential for any infectious disease is cause for concern, but the hospital’s Ebola response plan adheres to the most recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and

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With eye on Ebola, local hospitals practice vigilance
Monterey Herald

As criticism grew Wednesday over a Dallas hospital’s handling of an Ebola patient, one local hospital is taking a careful look at how it can best protect their workers while caring for highly contagious patients.

On Wednesday, doctors, nurses and administrators at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula took part in a walk-through of one of the hospital’s isolation rooms. After news that two nurses at Texas Presbyterian Hospital tested positive for Ebola, local hospital officials want to make sure they’re adequately prepared.

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Blue Shield Can’t Shake Reconstructive Surgery Class Action
Law 360

A California judge on Wednesday said evidence was needed to determine if state law required Blue Shield of California to have a reconstructive surgeon review any denial of a request for reconstructive surgeries, rebuffing the insurer’s bid for a quick win in a putative class action over coverage denials.

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WellPoint Dominates Nearly Half of Markets, AMA Says
HealthLeaders Media

WellPoint Inc. does business in more markets than any other private plan in the United States and its size and dominance could spur anti-competitive practices, the American Medical Association says.

The AMA’s annual survey of insurer competition found that WellPoint was the largest insurer by market share in 82 of 388 metropolitan areas examined.

WellPoint operates in metropolitan markets in 13 states, including: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

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Natividad starts trauma center operations
Monterey Herald

Natividad Medical Center’s emergency department was bustling about noon on Wednesday, treating three trauma patients during the Monterey County-owned hospital’s second week of operating as the area’s first Level II trauma center.

It wasn’t quite as busy as last weekend when the emergency department took in six trauma patients during one 24-hour period.

Since Natividad began accepting trauma patients on Oct. 6, the hospital has served 20 such patients.

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Monterey County hospitals have $1.6 billion impact, study says
Monterey Herald

Monterey County hospitals have an annual economic impact of $1.6 billion, according to a report released Thursday.

The first study from the nonprofit Hospital Council of Northern and Central California looked at direct spending, local purchases and employee spending.

It used mainly 2012 and ‘13 numbers but adjusted for inflation.

The four county hospitals have 3,648 full-time employees and a combined annual payroll of $359.6 million.