News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Leading Through Change
HealthLeaders Media

Healthcare is changing in significant ways. The industry is migrating to a highly connected world that is growing more transparent. Meanwhile, the very measures of success for healthcare organizations are shifting.

In such an environment, physicians, nurses, and other employees look to the C-suite to make sense of it all and to help them understand their organization’s place in healthcare’s future. But effectively developing and translating a strategy into a new set of policies, expectations, and desired results would be difficult for anyone, especially those who have reached their lofty positions by excelling at a business model that becomes more outdated and irrelevant with each passing day.

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A Single Gene May Determine Why Some People Get So Sick With The Flu
National Public Radio

It’s hard to predict who will get the flu in any given year. While some people may simply spend a few days in bed with aches and a stuffy nose, others may become so ill that they end up in the hospital.

Until now, researchers could only point generally at differences between flu patients’ immune responses. Jean-Laurent Casanova, a professor at Rockefeller University and investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has been sifting through cases of children with severe flu. He and his colleagues have pinpointed one gene that keeps the immune system from fighting off the flu, and their results were published today in Science.

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‘Pay Attention to How Doctors Talk’
HealthLeaders Media

Brian Goldman, MD, knows how doctors talk. He has been an emergency medicine physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in downtown Toronto for more than 20 years.

He has interviewed hundreds of healthcare professionals on his weekly radio show “White Coat, Black Art,” which is now in its ninth year on CBC/Radio-Canada.

He also wants to talk. His provocative presentation at TEDxToronto was called “Doctors make mistakes. Can we talk about that?”

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Study: Most employers have kept coverage and employee hours under the ACA
Sacramento Business Journal

Some employers are cutting part-time employee hours as a result of the Affordable Care Act, but 72 percent have not — and 90 percent aren’t touching full-time employee hours, a new survey suggests. Five years after the health reform law was signed, two-thirds of employers offer the same level of benefits they did before the law, although some offer alternative plans like health savings accounts, according to the 2015 health reform update survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

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Many People Entitled To Hefty Subsidies Still Opt Against Coverage
Kaiser Health News

The good news: Three-quarters of people who were eligible for the most generous financial subsidies on the federal health insurance exchange this year signed up for coverage, according to a new analysis by Avalere Health. The puzzler: Enrollment dropped off substantially for people with only slightly higher incomes who would also have qualified for significant subsidies.

Stiffer penalties for not having coverage and redoubled efforts to reach out and educate people about the health law and their obligations may be keys to increasing enrollment for people in these income groups, says Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president at Avalere Health.

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Senate punts on ‘doc fix’; passage expected after spring break
Modern Healthcare

There will be no doc fix until at least mid-April. The Senate adjourned for spring break on Friday morning without taking up legislation to permanently repeal Medicare’s sustainable growth-rate formula for paying doctors.That doesn’t mean physicians will face a 21.2% cut in pay on April 1, when the current patch expires. The CMS has indicated that it can delay processing claims for a period of time in order to keep the cut from being implemented. The House passed the package, which also includes a two-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, by an overwhelming 392-37 margin on Thursday, putting pressure on the Senate. President Barack Obama has indicated that he intends to sign the legislation.

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House Approves Permanent Fix For Medicare Doctor Payments
Kaiser Health News

For more than a decade, doctors who treat Medicare patients have been threatened with pay cuts due to a faulty formula of how doctors are reimbursed. But in a rare bipartisan agreement, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a deal to permanently end the problem and reward quality of care, not quantity. PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill learns more from Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News.

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New ‘superbug’-fighting brushes – and instructions – going to hospitals using medical scopes
Los Angeles Daily News

The maker of medical scopes linked to a potentially deadly “superbug” blamed for an outbreak at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center today issued an “urgent safety notification” to health providers detailing new procedures for disinfecting the equipment. In a 13-page letter, Olympus America Inc. gave instructions for cleaning the devices, called duodenoscopes, and said that a small-bristle brush required for the new sterilization procedures would be shipped “no later than May 8.”

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How Much Does Cancer Cost Us?
National Public Radio

Before we started our Living Cancer series, we went on NPR’s Facebook page to ask people about their experiences in paying for cancer treatment. Over a hundred people from across the country responded.

We talked with some people by phone to learn about their stories.

Maureen Carrigg, who lives in Wayne, Neb., was diagnosed with multiple myeloma six years ago. Even though she says she was meticulous about staying within her insurer’s network for care, she still ended up owing $80,000 in out-of-pocket costs.

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Why some nonprofit health plans pay taxes
Sacramento Business Journal

Blue Shield of California is not the only nonprofit health plan on the hook for income taxes. The IRS revoked VSP’s tax-exempt status in 2003. The Rancho Cordova-based eye-care giant also wasn’t paying state income taxes, but has since paid both federal and state taxes back to 2003. It continues to pay them, even though the corporate structure has stayed the same since VSP was founded in 1955. Sacramento-based Western Health Advantage, a small nonprofit health plan like Blue Shield and VSP, also pays both state and federal income taxes.

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‘Bubble boy’ disease targeted by stem cell award to Stanford
San Francisco Business Times

A method for making a specific break in a gene in patients with “bubble boy” disease and inserting a good copy of the gene in its place won a $1 million award Thursday for a Stanford University researcher. The award was one of seven from the San Francisco-based California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, totaling $25.2 million. The funding from from California’s stem cell research funding agency is designed to move not-quite-ready-for-prime-time experimental therapies closer to human clinical trials.

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Genentech announces $125 million expansion
San Francisco Business Times

Biotech giant Genentech plans to invest more than $125 million to expand its fill/finish production facility in Hillsboro, Ore. resulting in up to 100 new skilled manufacturing jobs, the company announced. The investment in sterile production operations will bring the total number of Genentech jobs in Oregon to more than 500 over the next five years, Larry Sanders, Genentech general manager and vice president of Hillsboro Technical Operations, said in a statement.

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UC Davis scientists win $7M in California stem-cell research grants
San Francisco Business Times

California’s stem cell agency awarded $25 million in grants Thursday to develop new treatments — and researchers at the UC Davis School of Medicine got more than $7 million. Dermatology professor Roslyn Rivkah Isseroff got a $5 million grant to continue research on wound care that uses stem cells to treat diabetic foot ulcers. And Diana Farmer, a professor and chair of surgery at the UC Davis Medical Center, got almost $2.2 million to continue work on a placental stem cell therapy for spina bifida, a common birth defect that causes paralysis and incontinence.

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Marin officials want drug companies to fund disposal of expired meds
Marin Independent Journal

Marin County officials, stepping up a war on prescription drug abuse, want the pharmaceutical firms who make drugs to pay to get rid of them when they are no longer needed.

County supervisors, saying there are more overdose deaths from prescription drugs in Marin than heroin and cocaine combined, want county lawyers to come up with a law compelling drug firms catering to Marin residents to provide a “take back” program in order to get rid of unused medications.

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Board votes to close Doctors Medical Center in April
Inside Bay Area

The West Contra Costa Healthcare District board voted Thursday to close Doctors Medical Center in less than four weeks, after years of financial losses and unsuccessful attempts to find a sustainable way to keep it open.

The closure is slated to begin April 21, to give officials time to vet a late-inning proposal by a self-described hospital turnaround specialist with a mixed track record.

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Emanuel Cancer Center earns national accreditation
Turlock Journal

The Emanuel Cancer Center has earned a three-year accreditation from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons.

The Commission on Cancer is a consortium of medical and other professionals with a mission of improving survival and quality of life for cancer patients through standard-setting, prevention, research, education, and the monitoring of comprehensive quality care.

To be accredited by the commission, a cancer center must meet several tiers of criteria, including offering services in nutrition, diagnostic imaging psychological, and rehabilitative.

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Hospital expanding emergency room
Moorpark Acorn

Simi Valley Hospital’s newly expanded emergency room should be up and running within the next few weeks, hospital offi cials estimate.

During an open house and ribbon-cutting on March 12, the hospital celebrated the completion of phase 1 of its three-phase, $ 41- million ER expansion, which includes a 5,500-squarefoot addition that features an expanded surgical suite. “Healthcare is a very important part of our community,” Councilmember Mike Judge said during the event.

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