News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Surge in Quality Scores Linked to Drop in Malpractice Claims
HealthLeaders Media

The quality of hospital care may have just as much of an impact on malpractice claims as tort reform, research suggests.

Examining a single health system with hospitals in both Texas and Louisiana researchers observed that the number of lawsuits dropped in the Texas hospitals after tort reform. But they also dropped at the health system’s hospitals in Louisiana, even though the state does not cap malpractice payments.

In Louisiana, the drop in malpractice claims corresponded with an increase in hospitals’ quality scores.

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CMS Data Release Thrills Researchers, Not Medical Groups
HealthLeaders Media

Reaction to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recent release of inpatient and outpatient hospital utilization and payment data is polarized.

Major medical groups are grumbling about the opportunity for newly released Medicare claims data to be misinterpreted, but innovators and entrepreneurs are eager for the chance to access and work with the data like never before.

Although the American Hospital Association acknowledged that payment data transparency is needed, both groups point to shortcomings with how the data is organized, its potential for being misleading, and how it might be misinterpreted.

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Organ Donation: State Efforts Have Done Little To Close The Supply Gap
Kaiser Health News

In the U.S., an average of 21 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant, and the wait times can range from four months for a heart to five years for a kidney, dependent on how sick the patient is, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) and the Gift of Life Donor Program.

But public policies have done little to close this gap between supply and demand, according to a study published earlier this month in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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Obama: Health law is now ‘reality,’ despite what critics say
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama on Tuesday declared his health care law a firmly established “reality” of American life even as the legality of one of its key elements awaits a decision by the Supreme Court. “This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another,” Obama said of the law, one of his most prized domestic policy accomplishments. For the second day in a row, Obama mounted a stout defense of a law that remains unpopular with the public and under legal challenge but that has contributed to 14.75 million adults gaining coverage since its health care exchanges began signing up

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Before Supreme Court Weighs in, Obama Makes His Case for Health Law
New York Times

President Obama on Tuesday condemned opponents of his signature health care law as “cynical” partisans seeking to deprive Americans of a benefit that has become an integral part of the country’s social safety net, building a tough political case against Republicans as the Supreme Court weighs whether to strike down a key element of the Affordable Care Act.

“This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another — this is health care in America,” the president said in a speech to the Catholic Health Association, an organization that championed the law and has written a brief asking the high court to uphold it. “It seems so cynical to want to take health care away from millions of people.”

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Obama, Championing The Health Law, Says It Shows The Country ‘We Want To Be’
Kaiser Health News

As the Supreme Court weighs the fate of a major part of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama Tuesday laid out the moral underpinnings of the law in a speech to the Catholic Health Association.

Noting some of the individuals who make up the millions of Americans who have gained insurance coverage or new protections in the five years since the law was enacted, the president said: “Behind every single story was a simple question – what kind of country do we want to be?”

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Insured question affordability of Covered California

California’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act earned high marks from the White House Tuesday, but the praise was not echoed by all insurance exchange customers. Carol James and her husband run a small business from home. Lately her work desk has been taken over by medical bills — and she blames her Covered California policy.

Watch report: Some customers disappointed by Covered California’s cost

“Very disappointed financially,” James said. “It was sold to me under a different premise completely and it wasn’t what it has turned out to be.”

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California lawmakers pass vaccine bill amid emotional debate
San Diego Union-Tribune

California lawmakers on Tuesday approved a hotly contested bill that would impose one of the strictest vaccination laws in the country, after five hours of highly emotional testimony that brought hundreds of opponents to the Capitol.

SB277 is intended to boost vaccination rates after a measles outbreak at Disneyland that sickened more than 100 in the U.S. and Mexico. It has prompted the most contentious legislative debate of the year with thousands of opponents taking to social media and legislative hearings to protest the legislation.

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California vaccine bill clears committee
Sacramento Bee

A California bill mandating full vaccination for schoolchildren now awaits an Assembly floor vote after passing the Assembly Health Committee on a 12-6 vote Tuesday.

Senate Bill 277 would end the “personal belief exemption” that allows parents to enroll kids in school without having the full slate of vaccines. It allows for medical exemptions, with a recent amendment seeking to make it easier for physicians to sign off on those opt-outs, though bill opponents insisted the exemptions would remain out of reach for many.

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California bill to limit vaccine exemptions passes key committee
San Francisco Chronicle

A proposal to eliminate California’s personal-belief exemption for childhood vaccinations cleared a critical hurdle Tuesday after five hours of debate and public comment.

The bill now heads to the Assembly after having already cleared the Senate. If approved in the Assembly, SB277 would then head to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration.

More than 1,000 opponents lined the walls in the Capitol where they waited hours for their turn to record their opposition to the bill. They left the Assembly hearing room decrying pharmaceutical influence on policymaking and yelling “fascist” at lawmakers in the Assembly Health Committee, which approved the bill 12-6.

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Mandatory vaccine legislation easily clears Assembly health committee
The Mercury News

An incendiary bill that would reverse California’s liberal vaccine exemption law was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday by the state Assembly Health Committee, the sole Assembly panel that will take up the measure.

Before a chamber packed with hundreds of opponents to the legislation, the 12-6 vote followed five hours of public testimony from experts, spirited debate between experts and Assembly members, and a parade of parents who came to the lectern to argue that the bill removes their fundamental right to decide how to care for their own children.

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Asthma visits rising among kids in California emergency rooms
Contra Costa Times

In an exam room at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, 8-year-old Kaamil Chaudhry blows hard into an instrument that checks his lung capacity.

Nurse practitioner Maria Villanueva frowns. She can see that Kaamil’s airways are constricted, even if he isn’t wheezing at the moment.

Villanueva’s job in a Santa Clara County-run program is an ever-challenging one — keeping asthmatic kids like Kaamil healthy enough to avoid a trip to the local emergency room or an overnight hospital stay.

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Cervical cancer vaccine might work after just 1 shot, not 3
San Diego Union-Tribune

Protecting girls from cervical cancer might be possible with just one dose of the HPV vaccine rather than the three now recommended, a new analysis suggests.

The authors of the study acknowledged it isn’t convincing enough to change vaccination strategies immediately. But if their results are confirmed, requiring just one dose of the vaccine could have a big impact on how many girls around the world get immunized.

Cervical cancer is the fourth-most common cause of cancer death in women worldwide and is estimated to kill more than 260,000 every year.

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Costs Of Slipshod Research Methods May Be In The Billions
National Public Radio

Laboratory research seeking new medical treatments and cures is fraught with pitfalls: Researchers can inadvertently use bad ingredients, design the experiment poorly, or conduct inadequate data analysis. Scientists working on ways to reduce these sorts of problems have put a staggering price tag on research that isn’t easy to reproduce: $28 billion a year.

That figure, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Biology, represents about half of all the preclinical medical research that’s conducted in labs (in contrast to research on human volunteers). And the finding comes with some important caveats.

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Hospital or Healthcare District?
East Bay Express

An old wound is being reopened in the years-long fight to keep San Leandro Hospital in operation. Alameda County and hospital officials say the community hospital, despite various subsidies, continues to incur monthly losses of up to $1 million, and they say the hospital could be forced to close unless the Eden Township Healthcare District hands over $17 million. However, Eden Township officials say the healthcare district can’t afford to pay the $17 million all at once, and being forced to so would bankrupt the public agency.

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Walgreens, insurers push expansion of virtual doctor visits
Long Beach Press-Telegram

Walgreens expects to reach about half the country by the end of the year with a new service that lets people see doctors for minor ailments without leaving home, through smartphone, tablet or computer.

The nation’s largest drugstore chain is expanding a smartphone application it started testing last December to tablets and personal computers and plans to make it available in 25 states.

The growth comes as major insurers UnitedHealth Group and Anthem prepare to expand their own non-emergency telemedicine services to about 40 million more people by next year.

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Rady ranks 2nd nationwide in orthopedics
San Diego Union-Tribune

Rady Children’s Hospital ranks second nationwide in orthopedics, and is one of 21 hospitals recognized in 10 different specialties, according to a closely watched hospital report released Tuesday.

The rankings appear in the ninth annual “Best Children’s Hospitals” published by U.S. News and World Report, one of several programs that assess hospital quality using a range of often-conflicting criteria.

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Enloe celebrates completion of ‘Century Project’

Enloe Medical Center’s multi-year “Century Project” is crossing the finish line.

After nearly a decade of work, the completion of the project was celebrated Tuesday with the grand opening of their emergency department.

“We were celebrating Enloe’s centennial and this then became the project that would take us into the next century,” explained Bill Seguine, the Director of Facilities at Enloe.

The project totaled $175 million, seeking to meet an ever-growing number of patients.