News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Readmission Responsibility Extends Beyond Hospitals
Health Leaders Media

County-based data collected from across the country show hospitals are far from solely responsible for readmission rates.

An analysis of the data, which is slated for publication this month in the journal Health Services Research, features information collected from 4,000 hospitals for patients with three conditions: acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia. The key finding of the study, “Community Factors and Hospital Readmission Rates,” is that 58% of the variation in readmission rates was related to community characteristics outside a hospital’s control.

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Anthem hack exposes data on 80 million; experts warn of identity theft
Los Angeles Times

Health insurance giant Anthem Inc. said late Wednesday that hackers had breached its computer system and the personal information of tens of millions of customers and employees was possibly at risk. The attack on the nation’s second-largest health insurer could be one of the largest data breaches in the healthcare industry.

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Feinstein, Boxer urge California to reconsider vaccine exemptions
Los Angeles Times

California’s two U.S. senators on Wednesday called on state officials to reconsider California’s policy on allowing exemptions to childhood vaccinations.

Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, in a letter to state Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley, said the two parental exemptions allowed under California law, on religious grounds or due to a personal objection made after consulting with a health professional, are “flawed.’’

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How Health Care Payment Reform and Interoperability Are Intertwined
iHealthBeat

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) called last week a “historic week.” There were two big health policy announcements: HHS’ initiative to shift to alternative payment models for Medicare reimbursements and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s 10-year nationwide interoperability roadmap.

At ONC’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., this week, officials said those two separate announcements are actually closely intertwined and dependent on one another.

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CDC Director: ‘Unfortunately, I’m Not Surprised’ By Measles’ Rise
National Public Radio

The current measles outbreak may have begun in California, but it has spread to 14 states. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are now more than 100 reported cases.

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Pediatricians Pressured To Drop Parents Who Won’t Vaccinate
National Public Radio

Dr. Bob Sears, a pediatrician in Capistrano Beach, Calif., says that he strongly believes in the protective power of vaccines to save lives. But he’s also well-known in Southern California as a doctor who won’t pressure parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, or who refuse some vaccines, or who want to stray from the recommended schedule of vaccinations.

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Most People Getting Measles Are Adults. Time For A Shot?
National Public Radio

Most of the 92 cases of measles confirmed in California are among adults — more than 62 percent. Maybe they or their parents chose not to vaccinate, or maybe those people are allergic to one of the ingredients in the measles vaccine. But it’s also possible that a few of those adults happened to slip through the cracks when the measles vaccine first came to the public.

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Many California child-care centers have low measles vaccination rates
Los Angeles Times

John Leddy was all set to send his 2-year-old daughter Vanessa to the YWCA Family Cooperative Preschool in Santa Monica recently when he and his wife decided at the last minute to ask about its measles vaccination rate.

They went onto the state’s website and were alarmed to learn that as of last fall, only 51% of the preschool’s children were vaccinated against the measles.

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Measles + Low Vaccination Rates = Big Headaches For Schools
National Public Radio

In Southern California many schools are facing tough questions about measles.

California is one of 20 states that allow students to opt out of school vaccination requirements when those rules conflict with their parents’ personal beliefs. Many affluent areas along the California coast are home to schools with some of the highest “personal belief exemption” rates in the country. And that is creating some tension for administrators and health officials.

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California law would end ‘personal belief’ vaccine exemption for children
San Francisco Chronicle

Parents would no longer be able to cite personal beliefs as the reason for opting children out of vaccines for infectious disease, under a bill announced Wednesday by Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento.

The legislation, which has not yet been formally introduced, would join California with 32 other states that do not allow for such “personal belief” exemptions. Pan, a Sacramento Democrat, said his experience as a pediatrician led him to witness “the suffering caused by these preventable diseases.”

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Anthem: Hackers breached personal data of tens of millions of its insured, employees
Orange County Register

Anthem, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, said late Wednesday that the personal information of tens of millions of its customers and employees, including its chief executive, was the subject of a “very sophisticated external cyberattack.”

The company, which is continuing its investigation into the exact scope of the attack, said hackers were able to breach a database that contained as many as 80 million records of current and former customers, as well as employees.

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Health insurer Anthem hit by hackers; millions of records breached
The Mercury News

Health insurer Anthem Inc. revealed Wednesday that it was the recent victim of a “very sophisticated external cyber attack” and that hackers broke into a database containing personal information for several million customers and employees, some of whom reside in California.

While investigators are still working to determine just how many people were affected, the attack, which was discovered sometime last week, likely resulted in more than 80 million records being stolen.

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Hackers breach health insurer Anthem
Modern Healthcare

Hackers infiltrated Anthem’s information technology system and gained access to the personal information of about 80 million current and former members. It appears to be by far the largest cyberattack ever disclosed by a healthcare company.

In what the Indianapolis-based company described as a “very sophisticated” attack, hackers gained access to the names, birthdays, medical IDs, Social Security numbers, addresses, e-mail addresses, employment information and income data of current and former members, including Anthem employees, according to a letter to customers by CEO Joseph Swedish.

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Hackers access records for millions of Anthem customers
Lodi News-Sentinel

Health insurer Anthem said hackers infiltrated its computer network and gained access to personal information for “tens of millions” of customers and employees, including CEO Joseph Swedish.

The nation’s second-largest health insurer said it was contacting customers affected by what it calls a “very sophisticated” cyberattack that the company discovered last week.

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California lawmakers target $1,000 hepatitis pill, other costly drugs
Los Angeles Times

California lawmakers are joining the national debate over what effect high-priced specialty drugs are having on medical costs for consumers and taxpayers.

A hearing Wednesday led by state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) is expected to feature testimony from an executive at Gilead Sciences Inc. about Sovaldi, the company’s $1,000-per-pill hepatitis C drug that has drawn criticism from members of Congress, Medicaid officials and health insurers.

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FDA seeks faster patient access to experimental drugs
Modern Healthcare

The Food and Drug Administration wants to dramatically simplify and speed up the application process for access to investigational drugs.

The agency Wednesday introduced new draft guidance that includes a new application form for physicians to apply for experimental drugs not yet approved by the FDA under its expanded access program. Dr. Peter Lurie, the FDA’s associate commissioner for public health strategy and analysis, wrote in a blog post that the new application form would streamline the process and cut the amount of time needed to complete an application from the current 100 hours to just 45 minutes.

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Kaiser appoints new Roseville area executive
Sacramento Business Journal

Jeff Collins, 58, is the new senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser Permanente in Roseville.

A health-care executive with more than 30 years of leadership experience, he started the new job Feb. 1. He replaces Ed Glavis, who retired in January. Collins is responsible for all local health plan and hospital services at Kaiser’s 340-bed Roseville Medical Center. The health system works with doctors to provide care to more than 273,000 Kaiser members in South Placer County.

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Hospital, nurses union reach deal over pay, staffing
Thousand Oaks Acorn

Nurses picketing over pay and staffing issues at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center late last month have since reached a tentative agreement with the Thousand Oaks hospital that includes 3 percent pay raise for nurses.

All nurses at the hospital will receive the raises retroactive to Sept. 28, 2014, according to Aimee Baror, communications director of Service Employees International Union Local 121RN, the union for registered nurses in Southern California. Per the agreement, nurses would get another 2.75 percent raise in September 2015.

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Sutter, Blue Shield reach terms on two-year agreement
Los Altos Town Crier

Sutter Health forged a new two-year contract with Blue Shield of California that preserves patient access to the doctors and care centers Blue Shield sold to patients during the fall open-enrollment period.

The contract applies to all Blue Shield plans in which Sutter Health providers historically participated, including HMO, PPO and those offered through Covered California.

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Health care reform costs, investments nick Aetna profit
Business Insurance

Increased investment spending and health care reform costs reduced Aetna Inc.’s fourth-quarter profits by more than one-third in 2014 compared to prior-year results, even as the company’s total revenue grew by 12.1%.

The Hartford, Connecticut-based health insurer recorded $232.0 million in net income for the three months ending Dec. 31, down 37.1% from the fourth quarter of 2013.

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Bill Would Require Insurers to Update Provider Directories
HealthyCal.org

After reports of inaccurate provider directories, a California state senator and three advocacy groups are hoping to require insurers to keep their doctor lists up to date.

State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) proposed a bill late last month that would require health plans to update their lists weekly and post them to their website, specifying whether in-network doctors are accepting new patients and what languages the providers speak.

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EHR Use by Physicians Lagging
Health Leaders Media

Despite a federal mandate to adopt electronic health records systems, many physicians remain woefully behind in how they receive patient data, researchers say.

Published in the journal Medical Care, the study is the result of a collaboration by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and the National Center for Health Statistics.

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Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center unveils new facility in Harbor City
Daily Breeze - Los Angeles

Kaiser’s gleaming new North Hospital was formally unveiled Wednesday as some 400 community leaders gathered to listen to speeches and get a first peek during small-group tours.

The four-story facility on Kaiser’s Harbor City campus was 10 years in the making and features the latest in medical technology and patient comforts. The building goes live Feb. 10, when patients and staff will transfer into the new hospital near Vermont Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.

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Orange County officials appeal for San Clemente hospital solution
Orange County Register

Two Orange County legislators weighed in this week on the possible closure of San Clemente’s community hospital and emergency room as part of a plan by MemorialCare Health System to develop an outpatient medical pavilion in San Clemente.

In a statement Monday, State Assemblyman Bill Brough and State Sen. Patricia Bates said they hope to work with MemorialCare, elected leaders and a Save San Clemente Hospital group toward a solution beneficial to all.

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