News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation


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California’s measles outbreak is over, but vaccine fight continues
Los Angeles Times

California officials on Friday declared the end of the Disneyland measles outbreak, but the political battle over immunization that it sparked continues to rage on.

In announcing that the health scare had passed, state medical authorities warned that California remains at high risk of another outbreak because immunization levels in some communities remain so low.

The state epidemiologist, Dr. Gil Chavez, said immunization rates in some schools are at 50% or lower, creating an ideal environment for the virus to spread quickly. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics last month calculated that the measles virus that caused the outbreak spread in areas where vaccination rates were likely between 50% and 86%.

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A surge in federal funding for Mental Health First Aid could make it as popular as CPR
Contra Costa Times

It’s not very often that someone can say he talked a person out of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Gary Scheppke can.

Scheppke, a member of the Marin County Board of Mental Health, credits completing a certified course that trains a broad spectrum of people to identify and respond to mental illness.

The Mental Health First Aid course, advocates say, could grow to be what CPR is to heart attack victims.

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Breast cancers predicted to rise by 50 percent by 2030
Washington Post

The number of breast cancers suffered by American women will increase by about 50 percent by 2030, researchers from the National Cancer Institute reported Monday.

Breast cancers already are the most common form of cancer in the United States, with 283,000 diagnosed cases in 2011. That number is predicted to rise to about 441,000 in 2030, according to Philip Rosenberg, a senior investigator in the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute.

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Doctors Medical Center Closure Shows Struggle of Hospitals That Serve the Poor
capital public radio

Doctors Medical Center, a 60-year-old hospital in San Pablo, has been struggling financially for two decades. Economic changes in health care are putting new pressures on hospitals, especially ones that serve the poor. Doctors Medical Center is shutting down at 7 a.m. Tuesday, after two decades trying to close a budget deficit. It cut costs, raised local parcel taxes, sought buyers, and Contra Costa county helped with fundraising. It wasn’t enough.

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Innovation waivers could open door to state Obamacare alternatives
Modern Healthcare

A little-noticed clause in the Affordable Care Act will provide the next president with an option for allowing states to restructure their healthcare systems.

The law signed by President Barack Obama includes a waiver that, starting in 2017, would let states take federal dollars now invested in the overhaul and use them to redesign their own healthcare systems.

States could not repeal some things, such as the requirement that insurance companies cover people with health problems.

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Waivers may give next president way out of health care feuds
Houston Chronicle

Republican or Democrat, the next president will have the chance to remake the nation’s health care overhaul without fighting Congress.

The law signed by President Barack Obama includes a waiver that, starting in 2017, would let states take federal dollars now invested in the overhaul and use them to redesign their own health care systems.

States could not repeal some things, such as the requirement that insurance companies cover people with health problems.

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Seeking Obamacare alternative, U.S. Republicans eye tax credits

If the U.S. Supreme Court blows up the tax subsidies at the heart of Obamacare in June, Republicans hope to deliver on their promise to offer an alternative healthcare plan.

But key parts of it may resemble the one President Barack Obama delivered five years ago in the Affordable Care Act, partly reflecting Republican concerns that they could pay a political price if insurance subsidies are yanked from millions of Americans later this year.

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Next goals for health care reform: Controlling costs, assuring quality
Sacramento Bee

Five years after President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, chalk up a Mission Accomplished for one of the legislation’s three primary goals, access to insurance coverage.

Driven by health insurance exchanges, hefty federal subsidies and expanded coverage for the poor under Medicaid, the uninsured rate of U.S. adults is now 12.9 percent compared to 17.1 percent a year ago, according to the Gallup Poll.

Assuming all that is not undone by a Supreme Court decision this June on the legality of subsidies in federally run exchanges, and assuming for now that “coverage” truly means access to care, public attention may start to focus on progress for the other two goals of health care reform – controlling costs and assuring quality. And none too soon. Those provisions need popular understanding and support to withstand continued calls for repeal of the ACA.

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Panel discusses impact of Affordable Care Act on patients, doctors, hospitals
Chico Enterprise Record

With the federal Affordable Care Act marking its fifth anniversary last month, Enloe Medical Center hosted a panel Thursday looking at the act’s impact on patient care, doctors and hospitals.

While about 23 million people have signed up for either private insurance or Medicare, panelist Amber Kemp of the California Hospital Association told the group of more than 50 that medical coverage doesn’t equal access.

“This is very concerning,” Kemp said. “We have some very serious access issues.”

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CMS hints at ‘two-midnight’ changes in draft hospital payment rule
Modern Healthcare

The CMS is studying how and whether to replace its controversial “two-midnight” payment policy for short hospital stays in response to vigorous and persistent complaints from the provider community.

Deep within its sweeping proposed 2016 prospective payment rule for acute and long-term-care hospitals released Friday, the agency acknowledged it has continued to receive complaints about the initiative and is studying the feedback and the recommendations of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

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FDA to revisit its policies on homeopathic products
Washington Post

Homeopathy has long been a magnet for controversy, earning a devoted following among patients who insist its remedies are safe and effective, while attracting criticism from many doctors and researchers who say its treatments offer no more help than a placebo.

After problems within the industry in recent years, the Food and Drug Administration says it wants to revisit how it oversees homeopathic products, which can be manufactured and marketed without prior approval from regulators.

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Why are C-section rates still so high?
San Diego Union-Tribune

A new statement from the World Health Organization drives home a point long acknowledged by doctors and hospitals: Many Caesarean-section operations are medically unnecessary.

Despite that decades-old consensus, rates of the surgery have not fallen in San Diego County, California, the United States and most developed countries. In fact, they have gone up.

C-sections come with an increased risk of infection and surgical injury when compared to vaginal births. Women who undergo the procedure also face a greater risk of complications in subsequent pregnancies.

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Shopping tools help patients find cash prices for medical procedures
Los Angeles Times

When Vicki Burns was told she needed total hip replacement surgery in 2012 she asked her local hospital for a cash price. She got a $79,000 estimate for the surgery.

A doctor advised her to research the fee that the hospital accepts from Medicare and use that as a starting point. Her husband gathered the data and tried to negotiate.

“They wouldn’t even talk to him about it,” she recalls.

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Google Glass In The ER? Health Care Moves One Step Closer To Star Trek …
Kaiser Health News

Imagine walking into an emergency room with an awful rash and waiting hours to see a doctor until, finally, a physician who doesn’t have specific knowledge of your condition gives you an ointment and a referral to a dermatologist.

That could change if a technological device like Google Glass, which is a wearable computer that is smaller than an ink pen and includes a camera function, could be strapped to an emergency room doctor’s head or to his or her eyeglasses and used to beam a specialist in to see patients at the bedside.  Not only would a patient get a more specific initial diagnosis and treatment, but a second visit to a dermatologist might not be necessary.

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The future of medicine: Telehealth visits allow UCSF patients to continue care from home
San Francisco Examiner

Swaddled in an orange-and-black Giants blanket, 13-year-old Sergio Aaron Manriquez propped open his laptop and expertly signed into the video conference program WebEx, smiling to greet the face at the other end of the screen.

Kelsey Lythcott, a program analyst for the Integrated Pediatric Pain and Palliative Care unit (IP3) at UC San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, smiled back.

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John Muir opens first pediatric ICU in the county
Contra Costa Times

With three children who have medical conditions, Robert Pewitt estimates that over the past 14 years, he and his wife, Nancy, have made more than 200 trips back and forth to the hospital.

Each trip is a 55-mile, nearly hourlong drive to Children’s Hospital in Oakland from their home in Vacaville.

This week, they were able to breathe a sigh of relief when their 5-year-old son, Ian, needed leg surgery to help treat his cerebral palsy.

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Hoag Orthopedic only O.C. hospital to receive top Medicare ranking
Orange County Register

Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine was the only Orange County hospital to receive the maximum five stars, as the federal government this week unveiled a new quarterly ratings system to make it easier for patients to select hospitals.

Medicare’s star ratings identify hospitals based how well they fared on random surveys measuring patients’ experiences, including whether the hospital was clean and quiet and how well doctors and nurses communicated.