News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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AIDS-free generation within reach scientifically
USA Today

There are no scientific reasons the world can’t chart a path, albeit a difficult one, toward the world’s first AIDS-free generation, a top federal health official said Sunday. “There is no excuse scientifically to say we cannot do it,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaking to the media at AIDS 2012, an international AIDS conference, which began here Sunday. “What we need now is the political and organizational will to implement what science has given us.”

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Facing need for black bone marrow donors
San Francisco Chronicle

For months, Johnika Carter-Kiel had been feeling sick and tired. A trip to the doctor revealed what was wrong with her body: a pair of serious blood disorders.

The Berkeley resident learned at age 16 that she had aplastic anemia, in which the body’s bone marrow doesn’t make enough new blood cells. She also had paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, in which red blood cells break down earlier than normal.

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F.D.A. Approves Drugs for Cancer and Myeloma
New York Times

New drugs for breast cancer and multiple myeloma won approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, expanding options for patients in advanced stages of those diseases.

The breast cancer drug, Afinitor from Novartis, seems to expand the time that endocrine therapy can keep the disease in check. The multiple myeloma drug, Kyprolis from Onyx Pharmaceuticals, was approved for use when at least two other drugs have failed.

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Defining ‘palliative care’: Easing the pain of chronically ill
The Mercury News

Palliative care — from the Latin “palliare,” which means “to cloak” — grew out of the hospice movement of the 1970s. It is care that helps patients with life-limiting illness in their final years. Its managers guide patients through difficult choices in planning for care and treatment and managing symptoms and spiritual, social and psychological issues.

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Relief at the door: Palliative care improves lives and eases the cost of dying
Contra Costa Times

Marilyn Cronin was too sick to live. But she wasn’t ready to die. So she curled up on the sofa of her Soquel mobile home, next to a bucket for vomit, and cried. Suffering from liver failure and lung disease — suspended between health and death — she braced herself for the next hospitalization, then another, and perhaps still others, until the last one, when her suffering would end.

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Legislation offers one-year extension of Medicare doc payment rates
Modern Healthcare

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) has introduced legislation that would provide a one-year extension for Medicare physician payment rates.

Called the Assuring Medicare Stability and Access for Seniors Act of 2012 (PDF), the bill is intended to provide payment certainty throughout 2013 as lawmakers develop a long-term Medicare physician payment program that is different from the current sustainable growth-rate formula.

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Working poor stand at center of Medicaid debate
San Francisco Chronicle

Jose Gallegos’ company eliminated employee health insurance to save money, so when his gut started hurting and his skin took on a yellow tinge, he resisted seeing a doctor. When he finally went to the emergency room, physicians diagnosed stomach cancer.

Gallegos made too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy his own insurance, so he scraped together what he could, and his wife, Andrea, took on three jobs. Just over a year later, at 41, he died, leaving behind four children.

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Skilled nursing sites in California highly rated
Sacramento Bee

California skilled nursing facilities ranked best in the nation in three categories on the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Nursing Home Compare website, according to the Sacramento-based California Association of Health Facilities.

The site – www.medicare.gov/ NursingHomeCompare – helps consumers obtain information about nursing centers.

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Lawmakers ask officials about Advantage plan bonus program
Modern Healthcare

Two House lawmakers have demanded answers from HHS and the CMS about the Medicare Advantage Quality Bonus Demonstration Program after a recent federal report questioned HHS’ legal authority to implement the program.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office found that the demonstration program had not met two statutory requirements, including one that would provide additional incentives to Medicare Advantage plans to increase the efficiency and economy of Medicare services; and another that would provide the CMS enough information to determine if the demonstration’s changes in

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Hospitals Rarely Report Adverse Events, Says OIG
Health Leaders Media

Hospitals rarely inform state health departments about adverse events that cause temporary or serious harm to patients, often because states don’t require that they be reported, but also because treatment teams don’t identify such events, according to an Office of Inspector General “Memorandum Report” issued Thursday.

“Hospital administrators indicated that staff often did not report events because they identified them not as patient harm, but rather as expected side-effects,” the report said.

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AHRQ seeks comment on health IT quality measures
Modern Healthcare

HHS‘ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has asked a variety of healthcare industry players about effective ways to develop health information technology-enabled quality measures. In a notice published Friday in the Federal Register, AHRQ noted that quality measurement has been generated mostly through paper chart information, manual chart abstraction and the analysis of administrative claims data.

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Joint Commission adopts new accreditation standards for foreign teaching hospitals
Modern Healthcare

Joint Commission International announced that it will have new standards for accrediting academic medical centers outside the U.S. starting Jan. 1, 2013.

The new standards involve medical professional education and human-subject research programs, and they will be integrated into the JCI hospital evaluation process, according to a news release.

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Sonoma County gets early start to federal health law
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

More than 6,000 residents in Sonoma County and 400,000 in the state are getting an early taste of Obamacare, receiving a version of health care coverage promised to 30 million Americans nationwide.

The coverage is part of California’s early expansion of the federal Medicaid program, a key component of the health care law promoted by President Barack Obama. Only six other states in the country and Washington, D.C., have such programs.

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Patients can reserve a space in the ER with new online service
Contra Costa Times

For some, real misery is sitting in an emergency room waiting hours for a doctor. Children cry, sick people cough and some guy with a bloody toe makes it to the front of the line because he is moaning the loudest. But now you can make an ER reservation as easily as saving a table at the corner cafe. For a small fee, patients at San Ramon Regional Medical Center can call in, save themselves a place in line, then wait to see a doctor from the comfort of their home.

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County considers shifting retirement health care coverage to state CalPERS
Calaveras Enterprise

Calaveras County supervisors will wade through roughly $16 million in unfunded pension liabilities next week, holding a study session to weigh the costs of moving retirement health care plans into CalPERS. Tuesday’s discussion follows up on earlier talks to fold county law enforcement health plans into the statewide retirement system.

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Bisognano: Listen to patients to improve quality
Modern Healthcare

Maureen Bisognano closed out this year’s American Hospital Association Leadership Summit by advising administrators to listen to patients better to improve the quality of care. Bisognano, the president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, was the final speaker at the AHA’s annual conference in San Francisco. The participants said this year’s event, coming weeks after the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, had more energy than past events, as administrators excited about planning for their facilities’ futures.

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Is there an Rx for coaxing young to buy health plans?
The Sacramento Bee

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Congress can mandate individuals to carry health insurance or pay a penalty, starting in 2014, all eyes turn to Massachusetts. That state has had a mandate since then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed it into law in 2006. Did people sign up for insurance when it took effect on July 1, 2007 – or did they choose to pay the penalty? And what about the group with the highest rates of no insurance, young adults in the 18-34 age range?

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CEO of Presbyterian Healthcare named chair-elect of AHA
Modern Healthcare

The American Hospital Association named James Hinton its new chair-elect designate.

Hinton, 53, will begin leading the board in 2014. The AHA made the announcement of his election at its Leadership Summit in San Francisco. Hinton is the president and CEO of Presbyterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque, a post he’s held since 1995.

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Why are you trying to take away my insurance?
USA Today

When I was 17, I started experiencing a lot of seemingly unrelated symptoms. None of my doctors could figure out what was causing them. Finally, after two years of undergoing MRIs and CAT scans, visiting specialists and a week-long stay in a hospital my freshman year of college, I was diagnosed with Behcet’s Disease, a very rare auto-immune condition. This was a lot to deal with at 19.

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AHA: Christensen Cautions Hospital Leaders on Costs
Health Leaders Media

Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen, one of the keynote speakers at this year’s American Hospital Association Leadership Summit in San Francisco, spoke to hospital leaders about their impossible mission and how they can work to make healthcare more affordable and higher quality.

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Health Care for All
Santa Barbara Independent

The recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Florida v. HHS upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was surprising but deeply important. This decision protects the health of millions of Americans.

As Elisabeth MacNamara, national League of Women Voters president, said, “The Court recognized health care reform for what it is: a legislative response to complex issues threatening the health and well-being of Americans that was best resolved by the elected branch of government – the Congress.

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Docs at odds over kids’ cholesterol test guidance
San Francisco Chronicle

Should all U.S. children get tested for high cholesterol? Doctors are still debating that question months after a government-appointed panel recommended widespread screening that would lead to prescribing medicine for some kids.

Fresh criticism was published online Monday in Pediatrics by researchers at one university who say the guidelines are too aggressive and were influenced by panel members’ financial ties to drugmakers.

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Health Insurers & the Affordable Care Act: Extinction or Reinvention?
The Health Care Blog

Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), health insurers are scrambling to reinvent themselves for a new era. In an earlier post, I quoted Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini as saying he wants to create a business model that makes sense under the new rules and regulations. In a recent speech Bertolini explained, “We need to move the system from underwriting risk to managing populations. We want to have a different relationship with the providers, physicians and hospitals we do business with.”

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Most women return to work after breast cancer
HealthNews

Women who were in the workforce before a breast cancer diagnosis often get back to their normal job routine after treatment, a study of Swedish women finds. Researchers found that of 505 women treated for breast cancer, three-quarters were employed 16 months after their diagnosis – which is in line with the rate of employment among Swedish women in general.

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Health plan rate hikes lowered on Calif. small group policies
Employee Benefit News

As California goes, so goes the nation, according to an old axiom.

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