News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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The newest new thing: Obama’s precision medicine initiative
Modern Healthcare

President Barack Obama used some of his State of the Union oratory to lay out a grand vision for “precision medicine” and announce an initiative to realize it. “I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine—one that delivers the right treatment at the right time,” he said. The initiative would help to “give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.”

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California lawmakers introduce ‘death with dignity’ bill
Sacramento Bee

Flanked by the family of a brain cancer patient who left California to end her own life, state lawmakers Wednesday introduced a bill to allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to terminally ill people who want to die.

Senate Bill 128 was prompted by the high-profile death in November of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Californian who moved to Oregon last year after being diagnosed with an aggressive cancer her doctors said would kill her within months.

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Fund more physician training spots, groups tell Congress
Modern Healthcare

The system of federally funding physician training is inadequate to meet current and future healthcare workforce needs, various medical groups recently told the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. The committee last month had asked the medical community to weigh in on the topic.

Among suggestions for improving the system were adding at least 4,000 more federally financed GME positions and leveraging clinical reimbursement to influence geographic distribution and specialty composition.

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HealthCare.gov sign-ups surge
Modern Healthcare

HHS saw a rush of people enrolling in insurance plans through HealthCare.gov as consumers sought to meet the Jan. 15 deadline to get coverage effective Feb. 1. Between Jan. 10-16, more than 400,000 people enrolled in an insurance plan on the federal marketplace. That compares with roughly 100,000 a week over the past few weeks. Still, it was less than half of the more than 1 million people who signed up in the week before Dec. 15, the deadline to get policies that were effective Jan. 1.

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Government closer to goal of 9.1M enrolled under health law
San Francisco Chronicle

The Obama administration is moving closer to its goal of 9.1 million people signed up for private coverage under the president’s health care law. The Health and Human Services Department says at least 400,000 people signed up last week. That brought total enrollment in the 37 states served by HealthCare.gov to more than 7.1 million. National figures should be significantly higher because the federal count doesn’t include major states such as California and New York that are running their own markets.

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HealthCare.gov contract process may have compromised security
Modern Healthcare

The HealthCare.gov contracting process hampered finding the best contractors to create the site, according to a new report from HHS‘ Office of Inspector General. Those findings raise concerns about long-term data security on the site, some experts said.“The complexity and significance of the federal marketplace underscored the need for CMS to have the opportunity to select the most qualified contractors,” the report said. “CMS’ procurement decisions may have limited its choices for selecting federal marketplace contractors.

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Medicaid pay bump helps beneficiaries get appointments
Modern Healthcare

Increasing Medicaid reimbursement for primary-care services to match Medicare rates led to increases in appointments for Medicaid patients, a new study finds.

But care access gains made could be wiped out this year because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s provision authorizing the bump expired Dec. 31, 2014, according to a study published Jan. 21 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Our findings suggest that providing higher Medicaid payments is an effective strategy for ensuring access to enrollees among already participating primary care providers,” the study authors wrote.

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Brittany Maynard’s mom: ‘Help me carry out my daughter’s legacy’
San Francisco Chronicle

The family of aid-in-dying advocate Brittany Maynard made an emotional plea Wednesday for Californians to join them in supporting a bill introduced in the state Legislature that would allow terminally ill patients to decide when enough is enough. “Californians, you now have an opportunity to bring this option to this state,” said Maynard’s mother, Debbie Ziegler, as she fought back tears inside the state Capitol. “Let your voice be heard, even if your voice shakes, like mine. Please help me carry out my daughter’s legacy.”

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California bill would legalize assisted death for the terminally ill
Los Angeles Times

It was a dying wish of Brittany Maynard, after a terminal cancer diagnosis led her to move to Portland, Ore., so she could legally end her life, that her home state of California would someday adopt Oregon’s death-with-dignity law. On Wednesday, three months after Maynard’s death at age 29 drew international attention to the issue, her husband and mother stood with nine California lawmakers to announce the introduction of legislation that would allow physicians to prescribe medications to hasten death for terminally ill patients.

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Congress kicks off meeting to reform Sustainable Growth Rate
Healthcare Finance News

Congressional members of the The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health kicked off a two-day meeting Wednesday to find a way to reform the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate formula and offset the $140 billion the program costs the government. The lawmakers, however, struggled to find a fix on the first day of hearings.

“Coming up with approximately $140 billion in offsets will not be easy, but it is a task we must embrace,” said Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts, R-PA during the meeting.

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SGR: Work Resumes on Elusive ‘Doc Fix’
Health Leaders Media

With a two-day hearing being held this week in Congress, the annual scramble has begun to plug a gaping hole in the formula Medicare uses to calculate physician reimbursement.

In 1997, Congress crafted the Sustainable Growth Rate formula (SGR), which ties Medicare’s payment rates for doctors to the projected growth of the national economy. But healthcare spending quickly outpaced economic growth, opening a multibillion-dollar gap in funding for Medicare payments to physicians.

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Predictable fault lines emerge as perennial doc-fix debate begins
Modern Healthcare

There’s only one outstanding issue left to resolve before Congress can pass a permanent “doc fix”: how to cover the roughly $140 billion price tag. Last year, that nagging detail derailed a much celebrated bipartisan, bicameral deal to permanently do away with Medicare’s widely loathed sustainable growth-rate formula for paying doctors. That resulted in a 17th consecutive patch that expires at the end of March.

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Adults urged to get measles shot as outbreak spreads
Orland Press Register

It’s a good idea to get a measles vaccine as an adult, even if you already received one as a child, medical experts and public health officials said Wednesday.

The vaccine is 99 percent effective, but that can wane over time. Even people who, as a child, received the two doses required by the state might consider getting another booster, said Dr. Shruti Gohil, associate medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention at UC Irvine. A blood test can determine whether someone who was vaccinated is still immune.

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SVMH optimistic about new labor effort
The Californian - Salinas

Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System officials say they’re optimistic a fact-finding agreement between the system and the California Nurses Association could lead to a breakthrough in a 10-month long labor impasse.

SVMH and the union have the choice of mutually choosing a neutral third party, or they can allow the California Public Employment Relations Board to appoint a third party. As with any labor strife, both sides have their views of what the facts are in the negotiations and often those views are conflicting.

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San Pablo among investors bidding to save Doctors Medical Center
Vallejo Times-Herald

Four proposals have emerged to buy Doctors Medical Center and keep it running — three from private hospital groups and one from the city of San Pablo — fueling hopes that services can be maintained at West Contra Costa Costa’s only public hospital.

Set to run out of money by the end of February and hit with the resignation last week of its interim CEO due to health troubles, the governing board of Doctors Medical Center San Pablo heard the series of proposals at its meeting Wednesday.

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Ukiah Valley Medical Center recognized for maternity care
Lake County Record-Bee

Ukiah Valley Medical Center (UVMC) was ranked 33 in a list of high-performing hospitals in California for its quality of maternity care services, according to a report released by the California Hospital Assessment and Reporting Taskforce (CHART).

The taskforce analyzed data from 262 hospitals and found wide variation in performance in terms of four common procedures related to delivery and newborn care: C-section, episiotomy, breastfeeding and vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC).

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