News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Medi-Cal Expansion Correlates With Spike in ED Visits, Data Show
California Healthline

The number of Medi-Cal beneficiaries who visited the emergency department increased by about 50% from 2013 to 2014, according to data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, Payers & Providers reports.

Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program. According to the OSHPD data, nearly 800,000 Medi-Cal beneficiaries visited the ED in the first quarter of 2013. By the fourth quarter of 2014, that number increased to about 1.16 million.

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As Health Coverage Spikes, Medical Interpreters in Short Supply
KQED Radio

Vietnamese interpreter Siu Williams and her fellow linguists are in such demand at Stanford Hospital that the sprawling campus has become like a trampoline and the hallways like treadmills.

“We bounce from one building to another building. Sometimes at the main hospital, we run,” said Williams, describing a typical day helping a blur of limited-English-speaking patients at the medical center communicate with health care providers. “At the end of the shift, I don’t need to go to the fitness club.”

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Why Telemedicine Needs to Redesign the Doctor’s Appointment
Wired News

Talking to doctors via video chat is the future. Talking to doctors via text message is the even better future we should hope for after that.

A new partnership between insurance provider UnitedHealthcare and three leading telemedicine companies will make virtual doctor’s visits a reality for many Americans. The insurer is putting telemedicine on par with a trip to the doctor’s office, effectively saying a video visit is as good as a brick-and-mortar check-up. It’s a significant step into the future of healthcare, and it points to an interesting design challenge. Setting aside for a moment the complex thicket of regulations governing telemedicine: When it comes to staying healthy, what’s the ideal user experience?

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Healthcare spending rises 5.5% while rest of economy sputters
Modern Healthcare

A preliminary federal estimate of economic activity suggests healthcare spending maintained a consistently high growth rate in the opening three months of 2015 even though the broader U.S. economy largely dragged its feet.

When adjusted for inflation, healthcare spending ticked up 5.5% compared with the same quarter last year as well as the fourth quarter, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. Health services spending increased 6.2% annually in current-day dollars, totaling $2.07 trillion.

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GOP divided as Supreme Court ruling on health care law nears
San Francisco Chronicle

Congressional Republicans are divided over how to respond to an approaching Supreme Court decision on President Barack Obama’s health care law, even as growing numbers concede that their long-sought goal of repealing the statute will have to wait. Should the plaintiffs prevail in the GOP-backed lawsuit, the justices could annul one of the law’s backbones: federal subsidies helping around 7.7 million people afford health insurance in more than 30 states.

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Why the Supreme Court should strike down Obamacare subsidies
USA Today

Two questions will dictate not only the future of healthcare, but also the balance of power between Washington, D.C., and the states, and the separation of powers between the federal branches. One concerns state sovereignty, the other the heckler’s veto.

When justices heard arguments regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) in King v. Burwell on March 4, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts suggested ways they might vote to uphold an Internal Revenue Service rule granting taxpayer subsidies to Obamacare exchange policies in states that refused to join that part of the ACA.

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Report: Insurers skirt health law’s protections for women
San Francisco Chronicle

Some insurance plans offered on the health overhaul law’s new marketplaces violate the law’s requirements for women’s health, according to a new report from a women’s legal advocacy group. The National Women’s Law Center analyzed plans in 15 states over two years and found some excluded dependents from maternity coverage, prohibited coverage of breast pumps or failed to cover all federally approved birth control methods. The report calls for regulators to do a better job reviewing the plans and for insurers to comply with the law.

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An Obamacare Payment Reform Success Story – One Health System, Two Procedures
Kaiser Health News

To understand how the health law is supposed to fix the mediocre, overpriced, absurd medical system, you could read wonky research papers on bundled payments and accountable care organizations. Or you could look at what’s going on at Baptist Health System in San Antonio. Under the potent lure of profit, doctors, nurses and managers at Baptist’s five hospitals have joined forces to cut costs for hip and knee replacements, getting patients on their feet sooner and saving taxpayers money.

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California’s individual health insurance market grows 64% to 2.2 million
Los Angeles Times

The number of Californians buying individual health insurance soared 64% to nearly 2.2 million as Obamacare took full effect last year, a new report shows. In California, 843,607 people joined the individual market both inside and outside the Covered California insurance exchange, as of Dec. 31, 2014.

California and three other states — Florida, Texas and Georgia — accounted for about half of the enrollment growth nationwide for individual policies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation report released Wednesday.

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Insurers navigate health overhaul to rising profits
San Francisco Chronicle

Several of the nation’s biggest health insurers have hiked earnings expectations for 2015 after blowing past first-quarter forecasts and heading into a much more stable future than they faced this time last year. A better understanding of the health care overhaul’s impact, lighter Medicare Advantage funding cuts and old-fashioned business growth all helped deliver a confidence boost to much of the sector. The federal overhaul launched a major coverage expansion in the fall of 2013, when public insurance exchanges debuted with the promise of providing millions of new customers who rec

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Hospitals Provide a Pulse in Struggling Rural Towns
New York Times

“This real estate to be auctioned,” reads a banner stretched across the abandoned warehouse of a store-shelving manufacturer that once employed generations living in and around this town of about 12,000.

This isolated rural community has lost a lot of the energy of its heyday, when shoppers roamed downtown sidewalks, freight trains rumbled past the Big Blue River, and streets clogged at quitting time as factory workers spilled out of their plants.

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Why Not Start Addiction Treatment Right In The ER?
National Public Radio

When patients brought to the ER have uncontrolled blood pressure, neglected asthma or diabetes that hasn’t been dealt with, doctors often start treatment right then and there.

But what happens when the patient turns out to be addicted to opioids, such as oxycodone or heroin? In case of an overdose, the medical team can take action to rescue the patient. The underlying addiction is something else, though.

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Health literacy important for heart failure patient survival
Yahoo Finance

Acute heart failure patients are more likely to die within two years of hospitalization if they have trouble understanding and using health information, according to a new study.

“Heart failure is a complicated condition,” said lead author Dr. Candace D. McNaughton of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. “Patients often have to take multiple medications, monitor (and count) their salt intake, and monitor their symptoms and weight daily. In some cases they even have to change the dosing of the medications in response to these.”

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Doctor Reviews the Ethical Review Boards
HealthLeaders Media

When Robert Klitzman, MD, first began researching institutional review boards (IRBs), he was struck by how little he — or anyone — knew.

“There was very little data about how they actually make decisions,” Klitzman, a psychiatrist and director of the Bioethics program at Columbia University, told MedPage Today.

His latest book tries to change that. For it, he interviewed dozens of IRB chairs to find out how the organizations come to the decisions they do, and why there is so much variation among them.

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Individualized Discharge Planning May be Best for Some Elderly Patients
HealthLeaders Media

Elderly trauma patients are increasingly likely to be discharged to skilled nursing facilities, rather than inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRF), finds a study in The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery published in the April issue.

Discharge to skilled nursing facilities for trauma patients has, however, been associated with higher mortality compared with discharge to inpatient rehabilitation facilities or home.

Researchers wanted to “better characterize trends in trauma discharges and compare them with a population that is equally dependent on post-discharge rehabilitation.” They not only examined trauma discharges, but also discharges of stroke patients, who have been taking up more inpatient rehabilitation facility beds.

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Why The Urologist Is Usually A Man, But Maybe Not For Long
National Public Radio

If you need to see a urologist, the odds are very good that your doctor will be a man. Only about 8 percent of the practicing urologists are female, according to a poll from WebMD that includes gender distribution among medical specialties.

The fact that there are few female urologists might not seem shocking – urologists spend a lot of time looking at penises. But they also treat a wide variety of urinary tract and kidney health problems in both men and women.

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Theft of private data on 900 L.A. County-USC patients investigated
Los Angeles Times

Officials are investigating a security and privacy breach affecting 900 patients who were treated at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center’s mental health facility. The breach was discovered April 3 during a search of the home of a nurse who was employed at the Augustus F. Hawkins Mental Health Center, said Michael Wilson, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. The investigation was not related to county business, he said.

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Sonoma County hospitals earn high marks
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Santa Rosa’s three major hospitals earned high grades for patient safety and medical care quality, according to ratings released Wednesday by a national nonprofit group that scores hospitals.

Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center received an A grade, while Memorial Hospital and Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital each earned a B.

The grades come from the Leapfrog Group, whose Hospital Safety Score is released twice each year, during the fall and spring.

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