News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

 

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California health exchange seeks to make buying insurance a breeze
Sacramento Bee

Peter V. Lee wants to make buying health insurance “as easy as buying a book on Amazon.” He heads the nascent California Health Benefit Exchange, the cornerstone of the state’s effort to put in place the federal health care overhaul. Lee envisions that 15 months from now, uninsured California residents will log onto any computer to shop for health care the same way they purchase novels. The poorest residents will receive Medi-Cal. Those above the poverty line will find a menu of subsidized private options at different prices, from a “platinum” plan with higher premiums but lower deductibles down to a “bronze” selection that has lower premiums but requires the buyer to accept more risk.

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Joint Commission offers guidelines for scribes
Modern Healthcare

The Joint Commission has an online guide for critical-access hospitals that use unlicensed scribes to help physicians and other licensed healthcare professionals document patient encounters in an electronic health-record system. The guide is presented as a list of frequently asked questions and is contained in the Joint Commission’s comprehensive accreditation manual for critical-access hospitals.

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Anthem Blue Cross ordered to stop trying to collect old overpayments
Sacramento Business Journal

State regulators ordered Anthem Blue Cross on Monday to stop trying to collect millions in reimbursement from providers for medical claims the health plan thinks were overpaid. California law allows health plans to seek reimbursement for overpaid medical claims within a year of the payment date. If a plan wants to collect on claims more than a year old, it must demonstrate fraud or misrepresentation by the provider.

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Mental health services concern African Americans, study says
California Watch

African Americans across the state have concerns that their mental health assessment and diagnoses are inadequate, according to a state-commissioned report issued today. These inaccurate psychiatric assessments are a “part of the problem that leads to disparate outcomes,” the report said.

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U.S. News & World Report ‘Best Hospitals’ List Shifts Methodology
Health Leaders Media

Consumers, payers and providers have yet another tool to rank hospital quality with the updated edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals List released Tuesday. This 23rd edition lists 732 of the nation’s 4,800 hospitals, and upsets Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, which has held the number one slot for 21 years, into second place. In its place is Massachusetts General Hospital.

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UCLA Medical Center earns high marks in U.S. News ranking
Los Angeles Times

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center nabbed top honors among California hospitals in the latest U.S. News & World Report annual rankings.

The Los Angeles medical center ranked No. 5 nationally in the publisher’s annual honor roll of best hospitals. Only one other hospital in the state, UC San Francisco Medical Center, made the national honor roll of 17 hospitals. It ranked No. 13.

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Local health care goes global
San Francisco Chronicle

When young medical students come to the United States to study, it’s often to learn what their medical schools and hospitals cannot teach them because the schools lack resources.

When their American counterparts go abroad, it’s to re-learn what they may have forgotten: compassion, patience, a need to sit, listen and comfort.

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FDA approves Truvada as HIV preventive
San Francisco Chronicle

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the marketing of the first drug shown to curb the transmission of the HIV virus, a development heralded by AIDS advocates and physicians as a turning point in the battle against the decades-long epidemic.

Truvada, made by Gilead Sciences in Foster City, was approved in 2004 to treat people already infected with HIV, but studies have shown the drug is also effective at reducing the risk of contracting the virus.

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FDA approves Truvada to prevent HIV infection
Washington Post

In a move hailed by advocates as pivotal in the 30-year battle against AIDS, the Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved for the first time a drug for preventing infection by the virus that causes the disease.

The FDA greenlit the drug, Truvada, for people at high risk for HIV — namely, men who have sex with men and partners of people who carry the virus.

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Consumer engagement: Helping members help themselves
FierceHealthPayer

As insurers continue to grapple with rising healthcare costs, they’re faced with an increasingly unhealthy member population. So payers have started taking matters into their own hands to engage members into becoming stewards of their own health and wellness–and reduce industry-wide risk and cut costs.

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Gene mutation seems to protect people against Alzheimer’s disease
Washington Post

A rare mutation that alters a single letter of the genetic code protects people from the memory-robbing dementia of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study. The DNA change may inhibit the buildup of beta-amyloid, the protein fragment that accumulates in the hallmark plaques that form in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Some researchers say the findings are intriguing but not hugely surprising. They fit well, in fact, with current thinking about Alzheimer’s disease.

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County’s kids with asthma more likely to visit ER
The Mercury News

Children with asthma in the dusty and impoverished Imperial County are far more likely to visit the emergency room, costing taxpayers for care often covered by state and federal health care programs. One in five children ages 5 to 17 in the county has been diagnosed with asthma, which can be managed with medication. The rate of youngsters visiting the emergency room for asthma treatment is three times higher than the state average, according to the California Department of Public Health.

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Still no St. Luke’s resolution as supervisors consider CPMC hospital project
San Francisco Examiner

Even as negotiations over the preservation of St. Luke’s Hospital in the Mission threaten to derail a $2.5 billion California Pacific Medical Center construction project, supervisors continue to review other aspects of the controversial deal.

The proposed development would include a new 555-bed acute-care hospital at Cathedral Hill and a seismic rebuild of St. Luke’s, which serves lower-income residents in The City’s southern neighborhoods.

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Bariatric Surgery Fails to Shrink Healthcare Costs
Health Leaders Media

A study that differed dramatically with prior research of its kind has found that gastric bypass operations did not lower healthcare costs in the three years after surgery, at least in a cohort of older male patients in the Veterans Affairs Medical System, although they did save lives.

“Given that prior studies have shown lower (healthcare) cost reductions for patients who underwent bariatric surgery, I think we were quite surprised,” says principal author, Matthew Maciejewski, of the Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care at the Durham VA Medical Center in North Caroli

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Report: 80 percent of L.A. County’s uninsured could get affordable coverage under Obamacare
Los Angeles Daily News

The Affordable Care Act recently upheld by the Supreme Court would allow 80 percent of Los Angeles County’s 2.2 million uninsured residents access to affordable insurance coverage, according to a report released this week. Dr. Mitchell Katz, director of the county Department of Health Services, added about half of those residents would be eligible to receive coverage through Medi-Cal if California opts to participate in the Medicaid expansion beginning in 2014.

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Psychiatric unit for seniors could open
Ventura County Star

A 20-bed psychiatric unit for seniors with serious mental illness could open next year in Ventura, officials said.

The project is in the early stages but was well received by the Ventura County Mental Health Board on Monday. The county has lacked such a unit since 2008, when an inpatient program closed at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks for financial reasons.

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Critics charge conflict of interest in county health plan
BakersfieldNOW.com

Critics complain the company administering the large health plan for Kern County employees has a serious conflict of interest. An anonymous watchdog group and a local doctor say the company managing the plan is too closely tied to three local hospitals. The management company denies there’s a conflict and defends its track record.

In June 2009, Managed Care Systems was awarded the contract to be the administrator for the Point of Service Health Plan for county employees.

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Palo Alto Medical’s Innovation Center Announces Seed Funding for Accelerator Program
The Health Care Blog

Through the linkAges™ Developer Challenge and Accelerator Project, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s (PAMF) David Druker Center for Health Systems Innovation (IC) is inviting teams to create innovative solutions to help seniors age successfully.

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