News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Medical trade groups agree to help boost Covered California enrollment
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California has enlisted 14 trade groups — including the California Medical Association and California Hospital Association — to urge health providers to promote health insurance during open enrollment for the state health benefit exchange. This means more than 100,000 providers and 400 hospitals will receive materials to get the word out to patients that open enrollment is underway and it’s time to sign up for coverage in 2015. The window opened Nov. 15 and ends Feb. 15, 2015. Those who enroll by Dec. 15 will be covered starting Jan. 1.

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Physician Staffing Firms Seeing Double-Digit Growth
HealthLeaders Media

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the healthcare sector’s move toward value-based reimbursements have created a favorable environment for hospital-based physician staffing companies to consolidate and grow even larger, Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. says.

Ron Neysmith, a senior analyst at Moody’s Corporate Finance Group, says the physician staffing sector has grown by more than 10% annually over the past four years. That pace is expected to continue, he says, as hospitals embrace outsourcing to streamline operations and create efficiencies.

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ECRI Institute’s Top 10 Healthcare Tech Hazards for 2015
HealthLeaders Media

For the fourth year in a row, ECRI Institute’s top 10 health technology hazards report has put hospital alarm mishaps in the top slot, indicating they remain a serious threat to patient safety.

The agency’s 2015 report spells out high-risk devices and systems that, combined with human error, can cause errors and harm in the process of patient care. Among them are “ease-of-use issues, design flaws, quality issues, and failure of devices to perform as they should.”

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Emergency Rooms Often Skip The Epinephrine For Severe Allergies
National Public Radio

An epinephrine injection can be life-saving for someone with a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting, a peanut or a piece of shrimp. But just half of internal medicine doctors know that epinephrine should be the first treatment, a recent study finds.

And it gets worse in the emergency room — up to 80 percent of the time, a person experiencing anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, isn’t receiving epinephrine when they should, another study found.

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Appeals court hears Obamacare challenge based on tax issue
Modern Healthcare

A federal appeals court panel Tuesday heard yet another challenge to the nation’s healthcare law, in a case that revolves around the legality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality because of which house of Congress originated it.

At issue in Hotze v. Burwell is whether the ACA is unconstitutional because it is a revenue-raising law that should have originated in the House rather than the Senate.

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Savings, quality benefits of health info exchanges still unclear: study
Modern Healthcare

Whether health information exchanges are contributing to healthcare cost savings and quality improvements still needs to be independently confirmed, a team of researchers from the RAND Corp. has concluded after a review of published studies. A few notable exceptions do stand out, the study also found.

Some studies that looked at cost savings stemming from health information exchange use in hospital emergency departments, for example, indicated HIEs contributed to reduced utilization or costs, the report authors said.

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Poll: Nearly 4 in 10 say California Obamacare exchange not working well
Los Angeles Times

Nearly four in 10 Californians say the state’s health exchange isn’t working well as the second open enrollment gets underway, a new survey shows.

The results from the Public Policy Institute of California survey may reflect persistent service problems experienced by some consumers as well as continued partisan opposition to the federal overhaul.

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Poll: Half of people think Covered California exchange is working
Sacramento Business Journal

As enrollment in Covered California’s health benefit exchange continues, a new poll says just more than half of people say the exchange is working well, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A Public Policy Institute of California survey found 52 percent said the exchange is working well, but another 39 percent said it’s not working too well or not at all. But Covered California says the number of people signing up shows that the exchange is doing better than last year, when it enrolled 1.2 million people, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Even With Subsidies, Some San Francisco Residents Can’t Afford Covered California Premiums
HealthyCal.org

With the high cost of living in San Francisco, many low-income residents who qualify for federally subsidized health insurance under Covered California still can’t afford it.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is looking at helping that population afford insurance by providing additional subsidies funded through employer contributions. In 2006 the city passed its landmark Health Care Security Ordinance, a step toward providing universal healthcare in the city.

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Why Medicare won’t force penalties on ACOs that don’t save money
Modern Healthcare

Medicare’s accountable care contracts have proliferated fast and the program is poised to expand again. But federal officials acknowledged that it may be difficult to maintain that momentum without easing the financial risk of participating.

The officials responsible for the initiative, created by the 2010 healthcare reform law, say it’s worth tweaking the structure to keep healthcare providers committed to the cause.

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California’s top court to address med-mal cap issue
Modern Healthcare

California voters who went to the polls on the matter in November might not have the final say on whether that state’s cap on medical malpractice damages should remain at $250,000.

The California Supreme Court announced last Wednesday that it will hear Hughes v. Pham, a case that challenges the constitutionality of the state’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975, known as MICRA, which caps pain and suffering, or noneconomic damages, at $250,000. The case also looks at how noneconomic damages should be paid. The court agreed to hold the case until after it hears another, Rashidi v. Moser, addressing several tangential issues.

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4 Northern California hospitals only ones on West Coast to be named Ebola treatment centers
Sacramento Business Journal

Four Northern California hospitals, including two Kaiser Permanente medical centers and two University of California facilities, have been designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to care for Ebola patients. The four — Kaiser Oakland Medical Center, Kaiser South Sacramento Medical Center, UCSF Medical Center and UC Davis Medical Center — are the only California hospitals to make the list of 35 designated centers, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Two Northern California Kaiser hospitals designated Ebola treatment centers
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Two Northern California Kaiser Permanente hospitals have been designated as Ebola treatment centers by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that Kaiser’s Oakland and South Sacramento medical centers are to be part of the nation’s Ebola preparedness response plan, Kaiser officials said. The designations follow recent visits to the facilities by state and federal health officials.

“This acknowledgment reflects the exceptional infectious disease experts, hospital-based physicians and nursing leadership we have across Kaiser Permanente,” Gregory Adams, group president and regional president of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals in Northern California, said in a statement.

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U.S. designates 35 hospitals to treat Ebola patients
Washington Post

U.S. officials have designated 35 hospitals around the country to care for Ebola patients, part of the Obama administration’s effort in the past two months to improve domestic preparedness to cope with the deadly virus that has ravaged West Africa.

The hospitals were chosen by state health officials and hospital executives and assessed by infection-control teams from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make sure they have adequate staff, equipment, training and resources to provide the extensive treatment necessary to care for an Ebola patient, U.S.

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Kaiser ramps up Ebola preparedness, scores in Sacramento and Oakland
Sacramento Business Journal

When Kaiser Permanente decided it needed to consolidate Northern California inpatient hospital care for potential Ebola patients, the company picked its medical centers in South Sacramento and Oakland.

On Tuesday, these two hospitals made a national list of 35 treatment centers designated to care for Ebola patients. The only others in California — or anywhere on the West Coast — to make the list are University of California medical centers in Davis and San Francisco. In October, UC officials announced all their medical centers were prepared to take Ebola patients, but only these two made the new national list. However, UC says three Southern California centers are expected to be added soon, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

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FDA Considers Allowing Blood Donations From Some Gay Men
National Public Radio

The Food and Drug Administration is considering revising a ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with other men.

An FDA advisory committee Tuesday mulled the issues raised by changing the policy, which has been in effect since the early 1980s.

While the committee did not take a formal vote, some members said they favored changes to the policy that would not threaten the safety of the blood supply. One suggested solution (and the policy of several other countries) would permit donations from men who have gone a year or more without having sex with another man.

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CDC Considers Counseling Males Of All Ages On Circumcision
National Public Radio

Draft federal recommendations don’t usually raise eyebrows, but this one certainly will — that males of all ages, including teenage boys, be counseled on the health benefits of circumcision.

In the past 15 years, studies in Africa have found that circumcision lowers men’s risk of being infected with HIV during heterosexual intercourse by 50 to 60 percent. Being circumcised also reduces men’s risk of infection with the herpes virus and human papillomavirus.

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UnitedHealth bullish on 2015, long-term future
Modern Healthcare

UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurance company by revenue, is predicting sizable profit growth next year and beyond as the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act becomes more entrenched.

Speaking at its annual investor conference in New York City Tuesday, UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley reaffirmed the company’s net earnings per share of $5.60 to $5.65 by year-end. He also confirmed that UnitedHealth has big goals for 2015 and 2016, setting a long-term growth target of 13% to 16% in earnings per share.

“We see our future squarely in the 13% to 16% range,” Hemsley said. By the end of 2015, UnitedHealth expects to post net earnings of $6 to $6.25 per share, which would give it high-end growth in the short term of almost 12%.

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Children’s Hospital raises funds to provide healthcare to children in need
Los Angeles Business Journal

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles said it has launched a new fund that will help cover the hospital’s costs to provide healthcare to every child it treats, regardless of insurance or ability to pay.

The Helping Hands Fund kicked off on Giving Tuesday with a $200,000 donation from RE/MAX and $100,000 gift from The Goldwin Foundation, Children’s announced. In addition, Credit Unions for Kids, a nonprofit collaboration of credit unions, chapters, leagues/associations and businesses, has donated $500,000 to the fund.

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Hospital consultant to get more money
The Press-Enterprise

A private healthcare consulting firm stands to earn as much as $1.9 million more from Riverside County as it helps ensure the county’s hospital stays on track financially. The county Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 Tuesday to approve two contracts with Chicago-based Huron Healthcare. The contracts, which can be renewed annually, could keep Huron in the county’s employ until at least 2017.

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UCSF Study Puts Spotlight on the High Prices of Medical Laboratory Tests
Dark Daily

Clinical laboratories owned by hospitals and health systems should take note of a public study of hospital laboratory test prices that was conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). It was published this summer and showed a remarkable range of prices for medical laboratory tests charged by California hospitals.

How about a charge of $10,169 for a routine blood cholesterol test? This was one finding a study discussed in the August 2014 issue of the British Medical Journal Open blog.

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