News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Study: Quality, Access Not Affected by Covered California Narrow Networks
California Healthline

Health plans offered through Covered California have narrower hospital networks than commercial insurance plans but they don’t appear to have lower-quality providers or differences in geographic access, according to a study published in the May issue of Health Affairs.

Health plans with narrow networks restrict the number and scope of contracting physicians and hospitals to keep premiums low. Narrow networks are not new, but they have proliferated under the Affordable Care Act as health plans participating in the state and federal exchanges balance cost with access.

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Staffing An Intensive Care Unit From Miles Away Has Advantages
National Public Radio

Recovering from pneumonia is an unusual experience in the 10-bed intensive care unit at the Carolinas HealthCare System hospital in rural Lincolnton, N.C. The small hospital has its regular staff, but Richard Gilbert, one of the ICU patients, has an extra nurse who is 45 miles away. That nurse, Cassie Gregor, sits in front of six computer screens in an office building. She wears a headset and comes into Gilbert’s room via a computer screen.

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Efforts to Save Premature Babies Vary Widely
HealthLeaders Media

Poor consensus on which very premature babies doctors should try to save because they are viable and which should be given only comfort care has resulted in widely varying levels of intervention among hospitals, with many lives lost as a result, researchers conclude.

A study of nearly 5,000 babies delivered emergently at 22 and 23 weeks of gestation at hospitals participating in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine Thursday.

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17 million gain coverage under Obamacare
CBS News

As a result of the landmark health-reform law known as the Affordable Care Act, nearly 17 million previously uninsured Americans now have health coverage, a new analysis reveals.

The Rand Corporation’s 2013-2015 report said increases were observed across all types of insurance, from employer-provided health plans to Medicaid.

“The Affordable Care Act has really changed the number of people who have access to health insurance,” said lead author Katherine Carman, an economist at Rand Corp.

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Nearly 17 Million Americans Covered Under Obamacare
NBC News

Nearly 17 million Americans got health insurance under the Affordable Care Act after the new insurance exchanges opened up, according to an independent analysis published Wednesday.

The goal of the law, known widely as Obamacare, was to increase the number of Americans who have health insurance, put an end to industry practices such as cutting off care when it gets expensive, and to lower medical costs.

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Commissioner Dave Jones on the “big missing piece” of CA health reform
State of Reform

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones sits down with State of Reform for a candid discussion about the challenges California is facing in its health care reform.

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Bill To Require Prescription Labeling for Non-English Speakers Moves Forward in California
capital public radio

Labels or instructions would have to be available in one of at least five other languages, upon a patient’s request. Those languages are Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Korean or Russian.

“We know from research that patients can often misunderstand the prescription medication information, and for limited English proficient patients, these misunderstandings can be much more severe and much more frustrating,” says Kimberly Chen of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, a supporter of the bill.

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Successful Pioneer ACO journey leaves faint trail for followers
Modern Healthcare

Touting $380 million in savings from the Affordable Care Act’s first test of accountable care, Medicare says the pilot did well enough to expand. But it’s unclear how the participants got the savings and to what extent others can replicate the success. Dr. Patrick Conway, head of the CMS Innovation Center, and his colleagues announced the savings this week in JAMA. They detailed medical spending for Medicare patients who received care from 32 accountable care organizations during the first two years of the Innovation Center’s Pioneer ACO program.

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IPAB Repeal Urged by More Than 500 Groups
HealthLeaders Media

Saved from the scourge of the Sustainable Growth Rate pay cuts, more than 500 physician groups, other providers, and advocacy organizations have refocused new attention on the Independent Payment Advisory Board. The groups are demanding that Congress repeal IPAB even though Medicare spending triggers that would activate it aren’t likely to be met in this decade.

The 15-member Presidential-nominated panel, which was empowered by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act but has not yet been appointed, is charged with cutting Medicare payments to providers if Medicare spending targets aren’t contained to certain thresholds.

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The HIX Crucible
HealthLeaders Media

What a difference a year makes.

Last fall, the new public health insurance exchanges seemed imperiled by the technical misadventures of the federal government’s bug-plagued enrollment website, healthcare.gov, and some of the related state exchanges.

But as the second open enrollment period approaches next month, early doubt about whether the exchanges for individual coverage would survive the winter has given way to a view that an HIX future is certain.

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Hospital efforts to save very premature babies vary widely
Yahoo! News

They weigh as little as a pound yet force some of the toughest choices in all of medicine. Extremely premature babies face big differences in how hard hospitals try to save them, a study finds.

It is the first major look in the U.S. at how preemies fare according to the care they get.

There was a wide range — some hospitals always gave active treatment to the youngest preemies as opposed to just comfort care, but others never did.

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U.S. has highest maternal death rate among developed countries
Modern Healthcare

U.S. women are more likely to die during childbirth than women in any other developed country, leading the U.S. to be ranked 33rd among 179 countries on the health and well-being of women and children.

Women in the U.S. face a 1-in-1,800 risk for maternal death, the worst among the developed nations surveyed in Save the Children’s 16th annual State of the World’s Mothers report.

The study, published with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Johnson & Johnson, relies on data from the World Health Organization’s Center for Health Development’s 2003-2011 demographic and health surveys.

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Losing A Hospital In The Heart Of A Small City
National Public Radio

In a leafy suburb of Cleveland, 108-year-old Lakewood Hospital is expected to close in the next two years, for economic reasons. Mike Summers points to the fourth floor windows on the far left side of the historic brick building. He recalls spending three weeks in one of those rooms. It was Christmas 1965 and Summers had a broken hip.

“I remember hearing Christmas bells from the church across the street,” he says.

Summers was born at this city-owned hospital. His sister was born here. This hospital has a special place in his heart. But then he became mayor of Lakewood four years ago, and realized the hospital was a financial liability to the small city, which has seen a sharp increase in poverty levels in the past two decades.

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State regulator slaps Aetna over small-biz rate hike
Sacramento Business Journal

A 19.2 percent rate increase Aetna levied on small business owners in California on April 1 is “unreasonable,” the state’s managed-care regulator said Wednesday. The increase affects about 16,000 employees covered by small employers with renewal dates in the second quarter of 2015. The California Department of Managed Health Care found the increase out of line after review of Aetna’s historic and projected estimates of how much these members use health-care services — and Aetna’s failure to provide the agency with adequate documentation to justify the hike.

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Aetna’s rate hike excessive for small employers, regulator says
Los Angeles Times

For the third time since 2013, California’s managed-care regulator has criticized health insurance giant Aetna Inc. for imposing an excessive rate hike on small employers. The nation’s third-largest health insurer is raising rates by 19.2%, on average, for about 16,000 people covered by small employers. This change in premiums took effect last month.

Shelley Rouillard, director of the California Department of Managed Health Care, said Aetna has demonstrated a pattern of unjustified rate hikes.

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Health center gets federal designation, lands funding
Sacramento Business Journal

Cares Community Health, a nonprofit health center in Sacramento that expanded its services beyond HIV/AIDS patients two years ago, received designation Tuesday as a full-fledged federally qualified health center. The title comes with annual grant funding of about $704,000 from the federal government. The funding will allow the center to significantly expand its capacity to provide primary care to patients in the Sacramento area — and bolster the safety net for needy patients.

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San Diego Doctor Raises Stroke Awareness – Especially for Women
KPBS

Annelise Wilding started experiencing headaches, that began with a pain in her neck, in July 2014.

She was 26, worked for the Navy as a construction manager and she thought she had pulled a muscle. She spent two weeks trying everything she could think of to get the headaches to go away. She got massages and eventually went to a chiropractor.

“Then my mom came over and said something is not right and took me to the doctor,” Wilding said.

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UCSF team: trauma screening should be standard in health care
San Francisco Chronicle

Experience with trauma is so pervasive in the United States and has such profound effects on a person’s physical and mental health that screening and treatment for anything from childhood abuse to domestic violence should be a standard part of mainstream primary care, according to a UCSF-led team of researchers. In a paper published Wednesday, the team proposes a move toward “trauma-informed” primary care, in which health care providers develop an understanding of the effects of trauma on their patients and find ways to help patients feel safe and comfortable talking about their expe

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Sonoma West Medical Center opening May 18th
Sonoma County Gazette

One year after closing, the hospital in Sebastopol proves this month that, indeed, “Something Wonderful” has happened by reopening on May 18th. Reborn as a completely new Medical Center, the hospital facility offers specialty Institutes intended to support the core services of a “No Wait ER”, an ICU and an acute care center that includes surgery with two operating rooms.

No other District hospital in California has reopened after closing.  This event is a historical and rare opportunity for the community to celebrate the return of locally delivered health care to West County. After over a year of grass-roots support evidenced by 2000 yard signs sprouting up in the area, the community’s private donations allowed the Sonoma West Medical Foundation to reach their fund raising goal of over $8,000,000 by opening date.

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