News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Federal Appeals Court Mulls Observation Status
HealthLeaders Media

One of the highest courts in the land is focusing on one of the hottest issues in healthcare.

Attorneys from the Center for Medicare Advocacy and the federal government recently sparred in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit over a lawsuit linked to the distinction between inpatient and observation status at hospitals.

The stakes are high for Medicare beneficiaries, who face paying the whole bill at skilled nursing facilities if they are transferred from the hospital without spending at least three days designated as inpatient status.

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Americans’ fears about Ebola are fading, Post-ABC News poll finds
Washington Post

Fears among Americans about the Ebola virus appear to be waning despite intensive news coverage of the small number of cases in the United States and ongoing political rancor over how best to screen travelers returning from West Africa, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The poll finds tepid public support for the disease-prevention efforts put in place by U.S. officials, including mixed approval for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of those surveyed are at least somewhat confident in the federal government’s ability to respond effectively to an Ebola outbreak. Even so, more than 6 in 10 people say the federal government is not doing enough to prevent additional Ebola cases and suspect that local hospital workers lack adequate training to deal safely with the virus. Some 47 percent approve of the CDC’s handling of the situation, while 45 percent disapprove.

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With Obamacare, More Millennials Are Going To The Doctor, Sort Of

I write about health and health care, but even I’m not immune to the “young and invincible” mentality. My annual dental checkup is more than six months overdue.

A provision of the Affordable Care Act that took effect in 2010 aimed to make it easier for young adults to access preventive care by allowing them to stay on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26. As of 2011, some 3 million young adults gained coverage through this provision.

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New glitches at Covered California website
Sacramento Business Journal

Less than three weeks before Covered California kicks off its second open enrollment, there are problems with the website. Some brokers have been unable to process special-circumstance enrollments, renewals or changes to existing accounts for over a week. A scheduled maintenance over the weekend didn’t fix it. “Some consumers are experiencing errors,” Covered California spokesman Larry Hicks said.

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Healthcare prices are up, and patients are buying less
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare spending by people who get their health insurance at work remained modest last year. Prices edged upwards, but people in employer-based plans made fewer trips to doctors, hospitals and pharmacies.

Health spending increased 3.9% in 2013 for roughly 40 million people with health benefits from an employer, according to the latest report from the Health Care Cost Institute.

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Home Health Workers Struggle For Better Pay And Health Insurance
National Public Radio

Holly Dawson believes her job is a calling. She is one of about 2 million home care workers in the country. The jobs come with long hours and low pay.

Each workday, Dawson drives through the Cleveland suburbs to help people take their medicines, bathe and do the dishes. She also takes time to lend a sympathetic ear. George Grellinger, a former client of hers, has dementia. He recently fell down the back steps of his home. Dawson remains friends and regularly stops in to check on him. To remain living at home, Grellinger had to switch to an aide who is covered by his veterans’ benefits.

When Dawson worked for him, Grellinger paid an agency $37 for two hours of her time each day. Dawson received $13 an hour, higher than the national average for home health aides. She had to pay her own taxes and health care benefits. Dawson says she can’t remember the last time she could afford health insurance.

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Breakthrough Technology Treats Heart Failure Without Patient Leaving Home
NBC News

A potentially life-saving medical breakthrough could treat heart failure without the patient ever having to go to a doctor’s office. This new technology is being used by Dr. David Shavelle at the Keck Hospital of USC. Alfredo Delatorre is one of the first recipients of the new device. “This will significantly improve his quality of life. It will keep him out of the hospital and it will potentially reduce visits to the clinic so he can spend more time at home with his family ” Shavelle said.

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Insurers May Cover Costly Hepatitis C Drugs Only For The Very Ill
National Public Radio

In the past year, hepatitis C drugs that promise higher cure rates and fewer side effects have given fresh hope to millions who are living with the chronic liver disease. But many patients whose livers haven’t been significantly scarred by the virus face a vexing reality: They’re not sick enough to qualify for the drugs that could prevent them from getting sicker.

An estimated 3.2 million people are infected with hepatitis C virus. Many public and private insurers are restricting access to treatment to those who already have serious liver damage. The treatment cost per patient is roughly $95,000 or more for a 12-week course of treatment.

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Expectations high for health insurers’ Q3 results, thanks to ACA
Modern Healthcare

Upcoming third-quarter earnings reports for many of the nation’s publicly traded health insurers will offer a further glimpse into how many patients are seeing providers and how the new public exchanges are affecting business strategies. Financially, expect higher earnings for the group, analysts say.

UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurance company, was the first to post quarterly results. Its profit and revenue were both up year over year as the insurer said “medical utilization remained restrained.”

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Healthcare overhaul ramps up business at WellPoint
San Francisco Chronicle

WellPoint raised its 2014 earnings forecast again and trumped third-quarter expectations as the overhaul of the health care system adds millions to the nation’s health insurance rolls, and at a lower cost than was expected at the nation’s second largest health insurer.

The Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer expects earnings growth in 2015 as well, and CEO Joseph Swedish said the company is weighing larger dividends.

Company shares rose more than 2 percent at the open of trading Wednesday.

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WellPoint raises outlook as Medicaid enrollment booms
Modern Healthcare

Despite a drop in year-over-year profit, health insurer WellPoint bumped up its earnings guidance for the rest of the year. Medicaid was a major growth engine for WellPoint, as more than 750,000 low-income beneficiaries were added to the insurer’s rolls.

Third-quarter net income fell 4% to $630.9 million. But adjusted earnings per share totaled $2.36, above what Wall Street had predicted.

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Palm Drive Hospital: Open by April?!

There’s still a ways to go, but Sebastopol philanthropist-businessman and out-front Palm Drive Hospital booster Dan Smith says to keep an eye out for April 6, 2015.

That’s the “projected opening date” of the now-shuttered West County hospital, says Smith, who has been working with the Santa Rosa pulmonologist Dr. James K. Gude on a board-approved plan to try and reopen the hospital as a financially viable, sustainable business with an emphasis on specialty services. The beloved hospital went bankrupt and closed in late April.