News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Patient Satisfaction Among Low-Income Patients on the Rise, Survey Says
California Healthline

More than half of Medi-Cal and other low-income patients rated their care as very good or excellent, a gain of about five percentage points from 2011 to 2014, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Blue Shield of California Foundation.

The gain in patient satisfaction is more significant given the upheaval in the medical system from adding millions of lower-income Californians to coverage through Covered California and Medi-Cal expansion, according to Peter Long, President and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation.

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Smoking’s Death Toll May Be Higher Than Anyone Knew
National Public Radio

The U.S. surgeon general lists 21 deadly diseases that are caused by smoking. Now, a study in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine points to more than a dozen other diseases that apparently add to the tobacco death toll.

To arrive at this conclusion, scientists from the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and several universities tracked nearly a million people for a decade and recorded their causes of death.

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Stem cells reduce MS brain damage
San Diego Union-Tribune

In what could herald a major advance in treating multiple sclerosis, brain damage was significantly reduced in patients getting stem cell transplants, compared to a control group. Results of the small Phase 2 trial — the first of its kind — are preliminary but promising, according to experts not involved with the trial.

The four-year study compared the results of intense immune suppression followed by transplants of the patient’s own blood-forming, or hematopoietic stem cells to those of a control group given immune suppression alone.

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ACA sign-ups accelerate as deadline looms
Modern Healthcare

The rate at which individuals are signing up for health insurance is increasing as open enrollment comes to a close this weekend, senior HHS officials said Wednesday while announcing the latest enrollment figures.

Last week, 275,676 signed up for coverage on HealthCare.gov, up from the roughly 100,000 who have been signing up in an average week, they said.

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Sunday deadline driving health law sign-ups for 2015
San Francisco Chronicle

Ahead of a Sunday deadline, consumers are stepping up to enroll for 2015 coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law, administration officials said Wednesday.

The number of people signing up jumped last week, the Health and Human Services Department reported. Nearly 276,000 signed up in the 37 states served by the federal insurance marketplace, compared with about 180,000 the previous week.

Although enrollment centers haven’t seen the same long lines as last year, volunteers from Austin, Texas, to Columbus, Ohio, report a surge this week, not yet captured in official numbers.

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White House Reaches Out To Uninsured Americans, Jarrett Says
National Public Radio

The deadline to sign up for health coverage for 2015 under the Affordable Care Act is Sunday. Renee Montagne talks to presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett about the looming deadline.

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A mean-spirited interpretation would deny millions healthcare coverage
Fresno Bee

Millions of Americans only recently rescued from worry and hardship by acquiring health insurance now face losing it because Obamacare’s foes won’t end their obsessive opposition.

The latest threat to the Affordable Care Act is a Supreme Court case, due to be decided this spring, that will determine whether all Americans are eligible for the subsidies that make coverage affordable. The Court should allow working families all across the country to keep their life-saving subsidies.

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Insurer’s Bid To Join California’s Marketplace Meets Resistance
National Public Radio

UnitedHealthcare can’t have its cake and eat it, too.

That’s the message from California’s health insurance marketplace, which turned aside a request from the nation’s largest health insurer to sell statewide on the exchange because it opted not to participate when the effort was getting off the ground in 2014.

California is one of a handful of states that imposed waiting periods of up to three years for insurers to join exchanges, if they didn’t take part from the start.

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Bill aims to end limited health coverage for large companies
Sacramento Business Journal

Large employers could no longer provide workers with minimal health plans that provide less than 60 percent of the cost of essential care, under legislation introduced this week by Assemblyman Roger Hernández.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 248, seeks to close a perceived loophole in the Affordable Care Act that allows companies with 50 or more employees to provide a form of limited health insurance, known as “skinny” plans, while avoiding federal penalties for opting out of health care.

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The Sickeningly Low Vaccination Rates at Silicon Valley Day Cares
Wired News

The scientists, technologists, and engineers who populate Silicon Valley and the California Bay Area deserve their reputation as innovators, building entire new economies on the strength of brains and imagination. But some of these people don’t seem to be vaccinating their children.

A WIRED investigation shows that some children attending day care facilities affiliated with prominent Silicon Valley companies have not been completely vaccinated against preventable infectious diseases.

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S.F. General Hospital to salute birth center’s nurse manager
San Francisco Chronicle

Asked to guess which San Francisco medical center has been named the city’s only “Baby Friendly Hospital” by the World Health Organization and the safest place in California to have a baby by the New York Times, most city residents probably wouldn’t say San Francisco General Hospital.

Best known for handling the city’s traumas — from plane crashes to gun fights — the city’s public hospital also helps 1,200 babies enter the world every year.

Twenty-two years after giving birth to her own daughter at S.F. General, Maya Vasquez, nurse manager at the hospital’s birth center, will be honored on Thursday at the hospital foundation’s annual Heroes and Hearts luncheon.

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Pediatric ICU temporarily shut down at county hospital
Ventura County Star

Problems in finding specially skilled nurses to fill mushrooming vacancies forced the temporary closure of a high-profile pediatric intensive care unit at the Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura, officials said.

Hospital leaders said they placed the state license to operate the six-bed unit — the only one of its kind in Ventura County — on temporary suspension Friday. Barry Fisher, director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency, said it’s unclear how long the 3-year-old program will stay closed but promised it will reopen.

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Panel Says Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is A Disease, And Renames It
National Public Radio

The mysterious and complicated illness that has been called chronic fatigue syndrome has a new definition and a new name: systemic exertion intolerance disease, or SEID for short.

The name change is big news because many patients and experts in the field hate the name chronic fatigue syndrome; they feel that it trivializes the condition. Another name, myalgic encephalomyelitis, has been used in Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, but it doesn’t accurately describe the illness, either.

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Physicians’ Attire Linked to Patient Satisfaction Rates
Health Leaders Media

What can incent a patient to trust a physician, follow her directions, and remember the interaction with satisfaction?

One recent study released this week in The BMJ suggests that a conservative and professional style of dress—complete with the quintessential white coat—is where trust, patient compliance, and patient satisfaction begin.

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Hospital board to weigh drafts for new districts
Hollister Free Lance

The San Benito Health Care District later this month will weigh three draft plans for new districts. The hospital district is moving toward district-based elections after legal questions arose last year over the at-large process now used.

According to an announcement on the upcoming meeting: On Feb. 26, the directors of the San Benito Health Care District will consider three draft plans for the establishment of five single-member director districts. Currently, directors are elected on an at-large basis.

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CEOs in Prime Healthcare-Daughters of Charity deal worry AG conditions could scuttle sale
San Francisco Business Times

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has until Feb. 20 to approve, reject or add her own conditions to the Daughters of Charity Health System’s proposed sale of its six hospitals to for-profit Prime Healthcare, a sale opposed by the powerful Service Employees International Union.

Dr. Prem Reddy, Prime’s CEO, and Robert Issai, his counterpart at the Los Altos Hills-based Daughters of Charity system, told me this afternoon they fear that Harris will either nix the deal or — more likely in their opinion — add “onerous” conditions.

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Cancer patients, doctors sue to allow physician-assisted death for terminally ill
Los Angeles Times

A group of cancer patients and physicians filed a lawsuit Wednesday to clarify the ability of mentally competent, terminally ill patients in California to obtain prescription drugs from their physician to hasten their death if they find their suffering unbearable.

The lawsuit asks the San Francisco County Superior Court to rule that physicians who provide fatal doses of medication to be taken by such a patient should not be subject to criminal prosecution under state law.

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Stanford Health Care is said to have signed big Emeryville lease
San Francisco Business Times

Stanford University’s medical arm will expand its reach farther into Emeryville, likely growing into about 90,000 square feet in a new vacant building that is a block away from its pediatric clinic.

Stanford Health Care spokesman James Larkin confirmed that it recently signed a lease for medical office space in Emeryville, but wouldn’t say where. Several East Bay brokers not involved in the deal said Stanford had signed a lease at the Greenway Building at 5800 Hollis St., which was built by Wareham Development and is part of the 2.5 million-square-foot research campus called Emerystation.

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Patient-safety movement reboots
Modern Healthcare

Dr. Donald Berwick will help lead a new team of experts convened to find ways to streamline and refocus the patient-safety movement around clearer targets.

Despite a national assault on medical errors over the past 15 years, patient safety experts say there is still much work to be done to make hospitals safer. The National Patient Safety Foundation announced Wednesday that a new 25-person multidisciplinary panel will meet Feb. 23-24 in Boston to review the current literature and then deliver a report this summer with its recommendations.

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Providers Sound Alarm Over Proposed MSSP Changes
Health Leaders Media

In public comment letters filed on proposed changes to the Medicare Shared Savings Program, many providers say MSSP faces an existential threat if the rule changes are not revised.

A joint comment letter signed by nearly three dozen healthcare provider organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Medical Group Management Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the National Association of ACOs, is highly critical of the proposed changes.


 

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