News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Unused Flu Vaccines Cost California Millions
NBC Bay Area

Around this time every year, health departments across the state ramp up to battle one of the biggest risks to public health—the flu virus. In 2013, the flu killed more than 300 people in California and sickened thousands more. That’s why the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) provides thousands of free flu vaccines to local county health departments, in an effort to limit the virus’ impact.

But when the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit began looking into exactly how many of those vaccines actually make it out to the public, we found millions of dollars in waste with minimal oversight. It’s an inefficient system that has health experts raising this question: if counties can’t effectively distribute routine flu vaccines, how prepared are they to respond to other disease outbreaks?

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Slideshow: Healthcare Leaders Explore Emergency Department Solutions
HealthLeaders Media

The emergency department is one of the most vital components of a healthcare organization. The ED presents a number of challenges, as healthcare leaders must find ways to produce optimal outcomes and improve patient satisfaction, while reducing wait times. Four senior healthcare executives discuss the ways they are trying to improve their EDs, while combating these issues.

“One of our major problems is patient flow,” says Julie Dunlop, RN, BSN, MRO-A, the director of Emergency Preparedness at East Liverpool City Hospital in Ohio.

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Health care coverage is a confusing maze for many immigrants
Orange County Register

Jessica Bravo walks house to house in the piercing heat. Over and over, at doorsteps around Orange County, she asks the same question: “Are you insured?”

Getting an answer isn’t always easy. Doors slam in her face. She gets shooed from porches. And sometimes people cut her off mid-spiel.

Bravo is a paid health outreach worker for the Orange County Congregation Community Organization, a faith-based nonprofit organization. Her job is to inform people about getting health insurance under the nation’s landmark health law, the Affordable Care Act.

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Insurers ramp up staffing ahead of Obamacare open enrollment
Modern Healthcare

During Obamacare’s first open-enrollment period, Geisinger Health Plan was inundated with queries as consumers struggled to figure out what health insurance meant for them.

Phone volumes were six times higher than they were historically. The provider-owned plan, part of Geisinger Health System, Danville, Pa., created a website on healthcare reform. That’s when Web hits “went through the roof,” said Joseph Haddock, Geisinger Health Plan’s chief sales officer. “The volumes were extremely significant relative to what we experienced in the past.”

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Employers Can’t Skip Insurance Coverage For Hospitalization
National Public Radio

Closing what many see as a loophole that could trap millions of people in sub-standard insurance, the Obama administration said Tuesday that large-employer medical plans lacking hospital coverage will not qualify under the Affordable Care Act’s toughest standard. It also offered relief to workers who may be enrolled in those plans next year.

The administration will rule that plans without “substantial coverage for in-patient hospitalization services” do not meet the law’s “minimum value” threshold, the Treasury Department said in a notice. It will issue final regulations saying so next year, it said.

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Two-Midnight, Pioneer ACO Rules Targeted by OIG
HealthLeaders Media

The impact of Medicare’s two-midnight rule on both hospital billing practices and on beneficiaries, is among 26 new probe targets in the Office of Inspector General’s 2015 Work Plan.

“We will determine the impact of new inpatient admission criteria on hospital billing, Medicare payments, and beneficiary copayments, [who now pay 20% of allowed charges if they don't meet admission criteria] and “how billing varied among hospitals in FY 2014,” the OIG said.

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Primary Care Physicians Need To Be More Like Financial Advisors
The Health Care Blog

Man looks into the Abyss, and there’s nothin’ staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character, and that’s what keeps him out of the Abyss. – Lou Mannheim (Hal Holbrook) in the movie “Wall Street” We hear reform ideas all the time: primary care physicians need to work at the top of license, physicians need to work in teams, healthcare must deliver top-notch customer service, the focus needs to be on creating strong physician/patient relationships, and physicians need to be paid for delivering value.

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What do Republican election wins mean for healthcare reform?

Republicans scored big wins in yesterday’s midterm elections, and today’s headlines are full of analysis of what those victories mean for the future of the Affordable Care Act.

First, Republicans prevailed in areas of the country where the uninsured rate fell as a result of the healthcare reform law, The New York Times reported. Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia elected GOP Senate candidates who oppose the ACA. Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia elected GOP Senate candidates who oppose the ACA. And Arkansas elected Republican supermajorities in its legislature and a Republican governor, which might threaten Medicaid expansion in the state.

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California Voters Reelect Jones, Soundly Reject Props. 45 and 46
Insurance Journal

Californians voted against two measures opposed by the insurance industry, and reelected incumbent Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

Election results from Tuesday show the Democrat Jones won reelection with 56.3 percent of the vote. He defeated Republican challenger Ted Gaines, who had 43.7 percent of the votes. Gaines, a state Senator from Northern California, also owns an insurance agency.

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Palm Drive district election could influence hospital plans
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Two strong supporters of reviving the shuttered Palm Drive Hospital as a full-service inpatient facility won the two open seats Tuesday on the board of directors of the Palm Drive Healthcare District.

Richard Powers, a Sebastopol family physician, won 46.6 percent of balloting, and Dennis Colthurst, a retired Sebastopol police officer, earned 29.9 percent of the vote. Both Powers and Colthurst strongly endorse a plan to reopen Palm Drive as an acute care hospital with an emergency department.