News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Pelosi makes the case against Prop. 45
San Francisco Chronicle

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi covered plenty of territory in her meeting with The Chronicle’s Editorial Board on Monday, but one issue made her more animated than any other: state Proposition 45’s threat to the landmark federal health care law she shepherded through Congress in 2010.

“If I wanted to kill the Affordable Care Act, I would do this,” she said, slapping a copy of the initiative on the table for emphasis.

Pelosi’s expression of opposition to Prop. 45 was noteworthy in both its vehemence and its level of detail of its “potential to be very disruptive” to Covered California. It also was significant because Pelosi emphasized that she agreed with the basic concept of the initiative: to give the state insurance commissioner the authority to review health insurance premiums.

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Ebola’s evolving threat studied in UCSF lab
The Mercury News

Tiny vials of inactivated Ebola virus from Africa are coming into a San Francisco lab, carrying secrets that might reveal the killer’s past — and fateful future.

So far, 30 samples have been genetically deciphered at UC San Francisco by Dr. Charles Chiu and his team, who are searching for any pattern of change that forebodes a worsening of an epidemic that has claimed at least 4,400 lives in its most recent outbreak in Africa.

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Telehealth Program Going Mobile
California Healthline

Dignity Health, formerly Catholic Healthcare West, has been using robots in emergency departments and intensive care units in about 20 California hospitals for more than five years. Now, the hospital chain is hoping to broaden its telehealth capabilities through a new collaboration with a Texas company specializing in mobile health technology. Dignity Health’s partnership with San Antonio-based AirStrip is aimed at creating a more comprehensive and intuitive workflow for physicians, said Jim Roxburgh, director of the Dignity Health Telemedicine Network.

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California Hospitals Prepare For Possible Ebola Cases
capital public radio

California state officials say University of California medical centers are positioned to treat Ebola patients should cases appear here.

But they say all hospitals are expected to be able to screen, identify and isolate potential Ebola patients.

Hospitals say they are preparing workers for such a development.

Kaiser Permanente Northern California says it has been planning since before a possible case in South Sacramento in August. The patient tested negative.

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Medical Journal To Governors: You’re Wrong About Ebola Quarantine
National Public Radio

The usually staid New England Journal of Medicine is blasting the decision of some states to quarantine returning Ebola healthcare workers.

In an editorial the NEJM describes the quarantines as unfair, unwise and “more destructive than beneficial.” In their words, “We think the governors have it wrong.”

The editors say the policy could undermine efforts to contain the international outbreak by discouraging American medical professionals from volunteering in West Africa.

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Quarantine is the way to go: Other views
USA Today

Charles Krauthammer, Fox News: “Even though there’s a dispute over the details of (the quarantine), there is now a national consensus, as there should be, that if you return from that zone, particularly if you have a fever, you can be in quarantine; which of course is an infringement on your civil liberties. … (But) we seem all to agree that quarantine — meaning the state depriving you of liberty — is the way to go in a potential epidemic.”

Errol Louis, CNN: “Forcing volunteers to sit in a quarantine center for three weeks … will discourage, and in some cases halt, the desire of good-hearted professionals to volunteer to fight the war against Ebola. … The great irony is that the politicians, driven by ambition, are going to contain, quarantine, hassle and discourage the people who really do have the right stuff: Men and women willing to put their lives on the line to save the rest of us.”

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Hasty quarantine adds to Ebola problems: Our view
USA Today

In the face of Ebola, what’s needed most are cool heads and swift, decisive action. Over the weekend, the governors of New York and New Jersey got the swift part down pat, but in their rush to impose a quarantine, they made a hash of it.

The governors — Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie — seem to have ignored the impact of their actions on the people being quarantined, some of whom are health workers who risked their lives to fight Ebola in Africa, as well as the quarantine’s effect on the essential U.S. effort to control the disease at the source.

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Ebola response: Kaiser dives into debate over quarantining West Africa volunteers
Los Angeles Business Journal

Kaiser Permanente jumped into the burgeoning political controversy over mandatory quarantines for health care workers who go to fight Ebola in West Africa Sunday, saying returning doctors, nurses and other health staffers “deserve a hero’s welcome home, not fear and stigmatization.” Oakland-based Kaiser, which has 9.5 million health plan enrollees in eight states and the District of Columbia, said volunteers from the United States and other nations outside West Africa are “the only way to stop the virus from killing more, and spreading outside the region.”

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Supervisers to get Ebola briefing Tuesday
San Diego Union-Tribune

Public health officials will review their Ebola battle plan with the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Health and Human Services agency personnel will detail their work with the local medical community, schools and the public to implement protocols designed to detect, and isolate, any resident or visitor with the deadly disease that continues to ravage West Africa.

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University has plans in place for disease outbreak
Daily Trojan

Universities around the country are on high alert following the spread of contagious diseases such as meningitis and the Ebola virus.

The Ebola virus has decimated parts of West Africa and is starting to concern more Americans following the recent death of Thomas Duncan, a Liberian man who came to the United States with Ebola and was treated in Dallas, Texas. Two nurses caring for Duncan contracted the disease.

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Insurers cap what they’ll pay for some procedures.
Washington Post

Aiming to contain health-care costs, a growing number of employers and insurers are limiting how much they’ll pay for such things as knee replacements, lab tests and complex imaging. A recent study found that the resulting savings may be modest, however, and some experts question whether reference pricing, as it’s called, is good for consumers.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers), which administers the health insurance benefits for 1.4 million state workers, retirees and their families, has one of the more established reference pricing systems. More than three years ago, the agency began using the approach for elective knee and hip replacements; hospital prices for these two common procedures varied widely without discernible differences in quality, says Ann Boynton, Calpers’s deputy executive officer for benefit programs policy and planning.

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Study: Medical bill collectors will contact 1 in 5 Americans
Sacramento Business Journal

Americans pay three times more in medical debt to collection agencies each year than they pay for bank and credit card debt combined, according to a new study by NerdWallet Health.

In 2014, one in five American adults — roughly 51 million — will be contacted by a debt collection agency about medical bills, NerdWallet found. In 2012, $21 billion was collected. Consumers may be overpaying — NerdWallet found hospital billing errors resulting in overcharges of up to 26 percent.

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‘Leadership Gap’ Threatens MU Momentum, Says AMA
HealthLeaders Media

The second leadership shuffle in less than one year at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology could “jeopardize the growing momentum around [Meaningful Use] interoperability,” the American Medical Association said.

AMA President Robert M. Wah, MD, in remarks released by his office Monday, said the announced departures last week of ONC Director Karen DeSalvo, MD, and Deputy Director Jacob Reider, MD, “leaves a significant leadership gap” at the office charged with overseeing and coordinating the nation’s adaptation of interoperable electronic health records.

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Opioids prescribed by doctors led to 92,000 overdoses in ERs in one year
Los Angeles Times

Prescription drug overdoses, a dangerous side effect of the nation’s embrace of narcotic painkillers, are a “substantial” burden on hospitals and the economy, according to a new study of emergency room visits.

Overdoses involving prescription painkillers have become a leading cause of injury deaths in the U.S. and a closely watched barometer of an evolving healthcare crisis. Little was known, however, about the nature of overdoses treated in the nation’s emergency rooms.

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In The Hospital, A Bad Translation Can Destroy A Life
National Public Radio

Translating from one language to another is a tricky business, and when it comes to interpreting between a doctor and patient, the stakes are even higher.

Consider the story of 18-year-old baseball player Willie Ramirez.

In 1980, Ramirez was taken to a South Florida hospital in a coma, says Helen Eby, a certified medical interpreter in Oregon. “His family apparently used the word ‘intoxicado’ to talk about this person,” she says.  ”Well, ‘intoxicado’ in Spanish just means that you ingested something. It could be food; it could be a drug; it could be anything that has made you sick.”

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The doctor will see your selfie now

A University of Colorado, Denver study finds dermatologists may be able to provide good follow-up care for chronic skin conditions just by looking at pictures sent by their patients.

The study included 156 eczema patients. Half went back to the doctor’s office for follow-up appointments. The other half were able to email photos of their problem skin to their doctors, who then made recommendations or prescribed medications.

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CalOptima reopens to seniors
Orange County Register

Enrollment in one of Orange County’s health plans for the poor and elderly is set to reopen Nov. 1, when federal regulators lift an enrollment freeze, county health authorities announced Monday. The freeze was enacted early this year after auditors with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found serious threats to patients’ health and safety at CalOptima, the county’s public health plan.