News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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FDA Seeks More Safety Data on Hospital Antiseptics, Proposes Rule
HealthLeaders Media

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Thursday issued a proposed rule that would downgrade the safety status of virtually all antiseptic products used by healthcare workers, such as hand-sanitizing gels and surgical scrubs. It says more evidence is needed to prove they aren’t unsafe.

There is concern about the safety of alcohol, iodine, and other ingredients used to make hand washes, rubs, surgical scrubs, and patient preoperative skin preparations, including pre-injection preparations used in hospitals and other clinical settings. Antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizer rubs sold as consumer products are not part of the proposed rule.

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Medical Schools Target 30% Increase in Enrollment by 2019
HealthLeaders Media

The nation’s medical schools are on track to reach targeted enrollment increases of nearly 30% within four years, but bottlenecks still exist with a shortage of clinical training sites and residency slots, the Association of American Medical Colleges says.

The AAMC’s annual Medical School Enrollment Survey shows that first-year medical school enrollment in 2019–20 will reach 21,304 — a 29.2% increase over the baseline enrollment level in 2002–03 and only 130 slots shy of the 30% target. The projections are in line with enrollment increases the AAMC called for in 2006.

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The Doctor Will Video Chat With You Now: Insurer Covers Virtual Visits
National Public Radio

If you can live stream movies, why not live stream medical care?

Insurance company UnitedHealthcare will start covering visits to the doctor’s office — via video chat. Patients and physicians talk live online — on smartphones, tablets or home computer — to get to a clinical diagnosis. This move to cybermedicine could save insurers a ton of money — or have unintended consequences.

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Study finds source of aging in cells
San Diego Union-Tribune

A major advance in understanding the cellular basis of aging was reported Thursday in a study by a team led by Salk Institute and Chinese Academy of Sciences researchers.

Researchers found what appears to be the molecular driver of a disease called Werner syndrome, that mimics accelerated aging. The same mechanism is at work in normal cells, although operating at a slower pace, the study found.

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Nearly half of Obamacare exchanges are struggling over their future
Washington Post

Nearly half of the 17 insurance marketplaces set up by the states and the District under President Obama’s health law are struggling financially, presenting state officials with an unexpected and serious challenge five years after the passage of the landmark Affordable Care Act.

Many of the online exchanges are wrestling with surging costs, especially for balky technology and expensive customer-call centers — and tepid enrollment numbers. To ease the fiscal distress, officials are considering raising fees on insurers, sharing costs with other states and pressing state lawmakers for cash infusions. Some are weighing turning over part or all of their troubled marketplaces to the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, which is now working smoothly.

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Obama holds off support for military retirement and healthcare reform
The Hill

President Obama is holding off on endorsing controversial recommendations by a blue-ribbon panel to reform the military retirement and healthcare systems.

“I believe there is merit in all of these recommendations and that they deserve careful consideration and study. I will ensure that the Congress is kept apprised of this ongoing work,” the president said Thursday in a letter to Congress.

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Local HMOs see revenue surge under Obamacare
Sacramento Business Journal

Doomsayers were wrong about 2014. It was a very good year for HMOs in California. The river of money flowing through major health maintenance organizations that do business in Sacramento topped $103 billion in the first year of mandated insurance coverage under Obamacare. Total HMO revenue statewide jumped 11.7 percent from 2013 as more people signed up for coverage.

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Expanding Medicaid Trims Hospitals’ Costs Of Caring For Uninsured
National Public Radio

When patients show up in the hospital without health insurance, they often receive charity care — the hospital treats the person and then swallows some or all of the costs.

It’s central to the mission of many nonprofit hospitals, particularly those serving low-income areas.

“That’s why we’re here, that’s what we’re all about, and our patients count on us for that care,” says Johnny Smith, who represents Ascension Health, a not-for-profit Catholic health care system that operates 131 acute-care hospitals in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

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Medicare Itemizes Its $103 Billion Drug Bill
Kaiser Health News

The federal government popped the cap off drug spending on Thursday, detailing doctor-by-doctor and drug-by-drug how Medicare and its beneficiaries spent $103 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2013.

The data show that 14 drugs cost the federal government and Medicare beneficiaries more than $1 billion each, accounting for nearly a quarter of Medicare prescription drug spending in 2013.

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Many patients unaware of risks that go with some medical scans
Yahoo! News

Over half of people receiving medical scans such as X-rays do not know if they are exposed to radiation and many have unanswered questions even as they are waiting to undergo the test, a small U.S. survey found.

Previous studies have shown that when patients have more information and can share in the decision-making process, they have less anxiety and more satisfaction with their treatment, the study authors write in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

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Opposition sidelines bill to sunshine high drug costs
Sacramento Business Journal

Opposition from drug companies and tech groups has sidelined legislation to sunshine production costs of expensive specialty drugs, while legislation to cap the amount consumers pay for these medications moved ahead.

Assemblyman David Chiu announced plans this week to pull back Assembly Bill 463 for now, but make another go at it next year. The bill would require drug manufacturers to report research and development costs and subsidies, pricing history, acquisition costs and profits attributable to drugs or treatments priced at or above $10,000.

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Hospital hand cleaners come under FDA scrutiny
San Francisco Chronicle

To fight infections, hospital workers can hit the hand sanitizer a hundred times or more a day.

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Roundtable: Clinical Integration for Physician Alignment
HealthLeaders Media

Clinical integration allows independent/private practice and employed physicians alike to jointly develop clinical initiatives with hospitals or health systems, aiming at patient care that’s higher quality, more efficient, and less costly.

These agreements also allow providers and care partners to formally align and collaborate on the critical requirements of care coordination: evaluation and concrete improvement of clinical performance, reduction of unnecessary service utilization, and management and support of high-cost and high-risk patients.

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Health System Took Control To Make Joint Replacement More Profitable
National Public Radio

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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Largest U.S. health insurer inks deal with Bay Area group to serve 63,000 patients
San Francisco Business Times

United Healthcare, the nation’s largest health insurer, and the 1,200-physician Palo Alto Medical Foundation are launching an accountable care organization to serve 63,000 Bay Area patients enrolled in United’s employer-sponsored health plans. The new arrangement builds on the Sutter Health affiliate’s prior ACO networks with Cigna (40,000 patients) and Anthem Blue Cross (60,000 patients), for a new total of 163,000 between the three health plans.

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Rural hospitals struggle to stay open, adapt to changes
San Luis Obispo Tribune

After 45 years of providing health care in rural western Missouri, Sac-Osage Hospital is being sold piece by piece.

Ceiling tiles are going for 25 cents, the room doors for an average of less than $4 each, the patient beds for $250 apiece. Soon, the remnants of the hospital that long symbolized the lifeblood of Osceola, population 923, will be torn to the ground.

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Medical startup names technology veteran as CFO
Sacramento Business Journal

SureClinical, a medical technology startup company in Rancho Cordova, on Thursday named Julie Morris as chief financial officer. Morris is a biotech and technology executive with over 25 years of experience, the company said. She worked most recently with Tahoe Consulting Associates. Previously she was CFO at Marrone Bio Innovations Inc. from 2006 until 2011. Morris also worked for 15 years with Hewlett-Packard Co. and Agilent Technologies in corporate development and marketing.

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Bayer breaks ground on $100M Berkeley testing facility
San Francisco Business Times

Leaders of drug giant Bayer HealthCare and East Bay political leaders celebrated the company breaking ground Wednesday on a $100 million product testing facility in Berkeley for new hemophilia A treatments. The 80,000-square-foot structure, which the company expects to complete in 2017, will test potential new drugs designed to stop bleeding in patients with the hereditary bleeding disorder, the company said earlier this month.

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Two Santa Monica Hospitals Get Top Marks in Patient Safety
Santa Monica Lookout

Two hospitals in Santa Monica earned the top score Wednesday in a ranking of patient safety that also handed out C, D, and F grades to 40 percent of the nation’s hospitals.

Providence Saint John’s Health Center and UCLA Medical Center of Santa Monica each received a grade of A in the Leapfrog Group’s Spring 2015 Hospital Safety Score, (http://leapfroggroup.org/) which rated more than 2,500 hospitals on their ability to prevent errors, injuries, accidents and infections.

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