News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Bill To Expand Role Of Nurse Practitioners Moving Through Legislature

Nurse practitioners have years of training and clinical experience, but they’re not allowed to work in California without a doctor’s supervision.

A measure to change that is moving through the California Legislature. Senate Bill 323 has been approved by the Senate and is now in the Assembly.

“It’s not a radical idea,” said Donna Emanuele, president of the California Nurse Practitioners Association. “Twenty-one other states allow NPs to work without physician oversight.”

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Study: ‘Underinsured’ population has doubled to 31 million
The Hill

One-quarter of people with healthcare coverage are paying so much for deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses that they are considered underinsured, according to a new study.

An estimated 31 million insured people are not adequately protected against high medical costs, a figure that has doubled since 2003, according to the 2014 national health insurance survey by the Commonwealth Fund.

Rising deductibles — even under ObamaCare — are the biggest problem for most people who are considered underinsured, according to the 22-page report.

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Watch how the body’s ‘serial killers’ stalk and attack cancer cells
Washington Post

The body’s immune system is under constant assault — from viruses, bacteria and other foreign substances that threaten our health on a daily basis. How do we fight off that steady barrage of pathogens? With cells of our own that are, scientifically speaking, cold-blooded assassins.

A fascinating video published Tuesday by U.S. and British researchers in the journal Immunity shows in detail how cytotoxic T-cells, a specialized type of white blood cells, relentlessly hunt down and destroy cancer cells in the body.

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Access is similar, but quality may be better in narrow hospital networks
Sacramento Business Journal

Hospital networks in Covered California are narrower than their counterparts in the commercial market, but geographic access to care is not much different — and quality is comparable or better, a new study shows.

This conclusion belies controversy over so-called “narrow networks” in the state health benefit exchange — or focuses it. Researchers looked at hospitals, but not doctors.

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Even with insurance, people avoid the doctor
Market Watch

Among people 65 and under, almost two-thirds are covered by private health insurance plans, according to the CDC. But that doesn’t mean health care is affordable. A report released today by the Commonwealth Fund shows that rising deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses are a serious problem for more than 30 million underinsured working-age adults.

Knee replacements, hysterectomies, even getting prescriptions filled, are all things people with insurance are opting not to do, simply to cut down on out-of-pocket costs, says Jeffrey Rice, CEO of Healthcare Bluebook.

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New rating looks at hospital performance on high-volume procedures
Modern Healthcare

Data on how well 4,600 U.S. hospitals perform on common elective surgeries like knee replacements, and on treating chronic health conditions like congestive heart failure were released Wednesday on a new consumer tool from U.S. News and World Report.

The “Common Care” rating system looks at outcomes for five high-volume surgeries and chronic diseases that potentially impact millions of U.S. inpatients patients each year.

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When Paying The Obamacare Penalty Is Cheaper Than Buying Insurance
Kaiser Health News

When Angela Denig couldn’t cover the costs of Obamacare health insurance this year, she made the only decision she could: She gave up on coverage, paid the fee for not being insured and hoped she wouldn’t get sick.

A few months later, a health scare would put the South Florida woman’s high-stakes gamble to the test. But at the time, she said, the calculation was clear. Paying a “several hundred dollar” penalty for remaining uninsured was much cheaper than forking over a monthly insurance premium of at least $200 under the Affordable Care Act — the only insurance she qualifies for.

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California Medical Association drops opposition to aid-in-dying legislation
Ventura County Star

Reversing its long-held position, the California Medical Association has dropped its opposition to doctors providing aid to terminally ill patients who choose to hasten their deaths.

The association representing 40,000 California physicians will announce the policy change Wednesday. It will be become officially neutral on the bill being considered in the Legislature that would allow mentally competent patients diagnosed as having less than six months to live to receive a prescription for lethal drugs.

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Medical group drops opposition to aid-in-dying bill
San Francisco Chronicle

The California Medical Association has become the first state medical association in the nation to drop opposition to what has long been known as “physician-assisted suicide,” it said, acknowledging a shift in doctor and patient attitudes about end-of-life and aid-in-dying options.

The move comes as the doctors organization removed its opposition Wednesday to a controversial aid-in-dying bill that would allow terminally ill Californians to end their lives with doctor-prescribed drugs.

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Baby Data: California Bill Seeks to Secure Newborns’ DNA
Government Technology

Each year, more than 3 million babies are born in the United States, and each one undergoes genetic testing. In 32 states, however, the residual dried-blood sample from every newborn is retained – in some states, they even become government property.

California, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Texas are just a few jurisdictions where genetic privacy has come to light — but California is the only one where lawmakers are taking action.

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UCSF Moves Forward with Plans for New General Hospital Research Facility
UCSF Today

It has been more than a decade since a baby was born HIV-positive in San Francisco. This is no small feat, considering transmission of the disease from untreated HIV-positive mothers to their children used to occur in one of every four cases.

Thanks in large part to groundbreaking research from the unique partnership between UC San Francisco and San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (SFGH), researchers are now focused on finding a cure for HIV, a disease that first emerged as an almost certain death sentence.

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Sutter CEO Pat Fry to retire
Sacramento Business Journal

Pat Fry, president and CEO at Sutter Health, will retire Jan. 4, 2016, Sutter officials announced Tuesday. Chief operating officer Sarah Krevans will succeed him.

Fry, 57, is leaving after more than 30 years with the Sacramento-based health system. During that time, the nonprofit grew from a collection of local hospitals to a Northern California powerhouse with 24 hospitals and annual revenue of more than $10 billion.

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Physicians ‘Missing the Mark’ on Shared Medical Decisions
Health Leaders Media

Patients trying to decide between two surgical options for the treatment of ulcerative colitis found information supplied by doctors to be “believable” but not very “useful,” according to a small pilot study at the University of California, San Francisco.

The study was based on responses from 25 patients who were questioned about the research they did before meeting with a surgeon and the sources of information they considered most useful.

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Cancer charities bilked donors out of $187 million, government says
Washington Post

A group of four cancer philanthropies bilked donors across the country out of $187 million, the Federal Trade Commission charged Tuesday in what the agency called one of the largest government actions against charity fraud.

The four groups named in the civil complaint are the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, the Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society.

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4 Cancer Charities Are Accused of Fraud
New York Times

There were subscriptions to dating websites, meals at Hooters and purchases at Victoria’s Secret — not to mention jet ski joy rides and couples’ cruises to the Caribbean.

All of it was paid for with the nearly $200 million donated to cancer charities, and was enjoyed by the healthy friends and family members of those running the groups, in what government officials said Tuesday was one of the largest charity fraud cases ever.

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‘Stalking’ of pro-vaccine lobbyists prompts warning from doctors’ group
Sacramento Bee

The California Medical Association has sent a letter warning a California Chiropractic Association official who they say encouraged opponents of a mandatory vaccination bill to stalk lobbyists advocating for the legislation.

The emotional debate over Senate Bill 277, which would make vaccinations compulsory for California schoolchildren and passed the Senate last week, has taken a personal turn in recent weeks.

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Limits Urged on Surgeries by Low-Volume Providers
Health Leaders Media

Leaders at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, and the University of Michigan Health System are urging other systems to join their combined 20 hospitals in the “Take the Volume Pledge” campaign to place limits on surgical procedures.

The campaign aims to reduce complications linked to insufficient practice by setting minimum volume thresholds on 10 surgical procedures. The limits apply to hospitals and surgeons.

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The Smoking Gun: How U.S. Health Care Came to Cost Insanely More
The Health Care Blog

Cost is the big factor. Cost is why we can’t have nice things. The overwhelmingly vast pile of money we siphon into health care in the United States every year is the underlying driver of almost every other problem with health care in the United States from lack of access to waste to fragmentation to poor quality. We can’t afford to fix the problems, cover everyone, do real outreach, build IT systems that are interoperable and transparent and doc-friendly — or so it seems, because at least on weak examination every fix seems to add even more cost.

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SVMH board to meet Thursday
The Californian - Salinas

The Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Board of Directors will hold a special meeting Thursday to meet with its labor negotiator about the ongoing contract dispute with nurses represented by the California Nurses Association.

The board will meet in closed session beginning at noon in the Downing Resource Center, Room 123. The hospital is at 450 E. Romie Lane, Salinas.

Negotiators for SVMH and the CNA are scheduled to meet Friday. Nurses have announced that they plan to conduct a one-day strike on May 27, if the contract is not resolved before then.

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Bay Area health care giant’s CEO to step down
San Francisco Business Times

After a decade at the helm and more than 30 years with Sutter Health, CEO Pat Fry is stepping down in early January.

Chief operating officer Sarah Krevans, 56, as many anticipated, will succeed Fry, 57, as head of the 24-hospital nonprofit system.

Sutter Health includes many of the Bay Area’s biggest hospitals and medical groups, including California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland and Berkeley, Castro Valley’s Eden Medical Center, Burlingame’s Mills-Peninsula Medical Center and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, one of the region’s largest integrated medical groups.