News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Study Casts Doubt On Assumptions About Hospital ‘Frequent Fliers’
Kaiser Health News

Super-utilizers are the frequent fliers of the health care system, whose serious illnesses send them to the hospital multiple times every year and cost the system hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Figuring out how best to address these patients’ needs and reduce their financial impact on the health care system is a subject of intense interest among policymakers. Now a new study has found that, in contrast to the notion that “once a super-utilizer, always a super-utilizer,” many patients who use health care services intensely do so for a relatively brief period of time.

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Does Prevention Save Money? ____ Yes ____ No
The Health Care Blog

Or…it’s complicated.

The New York Times today published a story titled, “No, Giving More People Health Insurance Doesn’t Save Money.” A piece of the argument is, as the author Margo Sanger-Katz puts it, “Almost all preventive health care costs more than it saves.”

What do you think? What’s the evidence? Leave aside, for the moment, the “big duh” fact that at least in the long term saving people’s lives in any way will cost more, because we are all going to die of something, and will use a lot of healthcare on the way. Leave aside as well the other “big duh” argument: It may cost money, but that money is worth it to save lives and relieve suffering. Leave that argument aside as well. The question here is: Does getting people more preventive care actually lower healthcare costs for whoever is paying them?

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Does expansion of coverage actually cut healthcare costs?

When President Barack Obama stood before Congress in 2009 and urged for the passage of the Affordable Care Act, he reiterated that the law would slow spending growth.

But his argument that universal healthcare would generate significant cost savings is wrong, according to an opinion piece from the New York Times‘ The UpShot.

The article’s author, Margot Sanger-Katz, points out that individuals with insurance actually spend more on medical care than people who don’t. Additionally, most preventive healthcare costs more than it saves.

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Even With Insurance, Medicaid Recipients Still Go to ER for Dental Problems
KQED Radio

States that provide Medicaid adult dental care still have high rates of dental patients who show up at hospital emergency departments, particularly in urban underserved areas, according to a study released this week. The study — by researchers at Stanford University, UC San Francisco, Truven Health Analytics and the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality — was published in Health Affairs.

Researchers said a dearth of dental providers who accept Medicaid patients, particularly in those urban underserved areas, has limited the effectiveness of Medicaid dental coverage in states that provide it.

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FDA Warns Hospitals to Stop Using Medical Device Vulnerable to Hackers
NBC Bay Area

An FDA alert issued last Friday warns that a common medical device that regulates medicine in intravenous drips is vulnerable to hackers. The federal agency strongly encouraged health care facilities to “discontinue use” of the Symbiq medical pumps made by Hospira because of “cybersecurity vulnerabilities” first exposed by a Bay Area security researcher.

The pumps are designed to deliver medicine intravenously to prevent patients from getting incorrect dosages. They connect wirelessly to a hospital’s network. According to security experts, that’s where hackers can take control of the device.

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Good and bad news on ER front
Desert Dispatch

Months ago, Staff Writer Anneli Fogt wrote a series of stories on emergency room bed delays in the High Desert and throughout the Inland Empire. At the time, many hospitals were seeing long lines of ambulances at their ERs, with some waiting hours for a bed to open up so they could unload patients. Fogt checked in on the situation recently and found there was good news and bad news on the ER front.

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Blood Clots Show Limits of Quality Care Penalties
The Health Care Blog

In the world of medicine, blood clots during hospitalization have become synonymous with imperfect care. As many as 600,000 patients per year experience a blood clot, and more than 100,000 die as a result, accounting for between 5 and 10 percent of hospital deaths. Regulatory agencies have taken clots as signals that safety and quality have been compromised, and have instituted significant financial penalties on physicians and hospitals for these “preventable events.”

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Hospitals Turn To Toyota To Make Care Safer And Swifter
National Public Radio

Until recently, nurses at Los Angeles County Harbor-UCLA Hospital had to maneuver through a maze of wheelchairs, beds, boxes and lights to find surgical supplies in the equipment closet for the operating rooms.

But as public hospitals like Harbor-UCLA try to cut costs and make patients happier, administrators have turned to an unlikely ally: Toyota.

They are adapting the car maker’s production system to healthcare — changing longstanding practices such as how to store equipment, schedule surgeries and discharge patients.

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Even short term use of birth control pills can lower uterine cancer risk decades later, study says
Washington Post

When it comes to the impact of oral contraceptives on cancer risk, the picture is mind-numbingly confusing.

One large analysis showed that the pill can slightly increase your risk of breast cancer. But there’s evidence your risk might go back to normal 10 years after you stop taking it. A few studies have shown a link to a heightened in the risk of cervical cancer. But no one’s quite sure because taking the pill is also associated to an increase in sexual activity, which could also lead to cervical cancer.

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HCA unnerves investors with healthcare reform outlook
Modern Healthcare

Shares of hospital giant HCA are rebounding after investors digested their disappointment with the chain’s conservative outlook on healthcare reform for the remainder of the year.HCA shares dropped about 7% Wednesday after the company’s earnings call when executives implied that some of the early benefit from treating a greater number of insured patients may have hit its peak.

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Oscar’s California entrance might show whether insurer can transform industry

Oscar Insurance Corp’s decision to enter the California health insurance exchange may provide clues to whether the highly touted, upstart insurer actually provides breakthrough innovation that can turn the insurance industry on its head or if it just boasts smart and shiny marketing techniques, reported California Healthline.

This fall, the New York-based insurer will be competing against longstanding, big-name insurers like Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Health Net and Kaiser Permanente, which have a 94 percent control of the exchange market.

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U.S. hospitals urge DOJ antitrust probe of Anthem-Cigna deal
Yahoo! News

U.S. hospitals urged antitrust regulators this week to consider whether health insurer Anthem Inc’s planned acquisition of rival Cigna Corp would boost healthcare costs. In a letter to the Department of Justice, the hospital industry’s largest lobbying group said combining the No. 1 and No. 5 health insurers threatens to reduce competition in 817 geographic markets serving 45 million consumers.

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Grants support county health programs
San Mateo Daily Journal

The Sequoia Healthcare District’s Board of Directors has awarded two grants to the county totaling about $1.3 million to provide care to the uninsured and medically indigent who live in the southern part of San Mateo County.

The Board of Supervisors approved a memorandum of understanding with Sequoia, a special tax district, to implement the Community Care Transitions program at the San Mateo Medical Center and for the expansion of the Ron Robinson Senior Care Center at the Fair Oaks Health Center in Redwood City.

The grants will support the programs through 2018.

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Hospital is growing robotic surgery program
Camarillo Acorn

Community Memorial Hospital surgeons have performed over 1,500 robotic surgeries, including urology, gynecology, cardiology and general surgery procedures.

Dr. Marc Beaghler, urologist and board certified surgeon, leads the hospital’s robotics program along with specialized robotically trained surgeons. Beaghler said the hospital “has made a consistent commitment to our community to invest in the best technology and patient care. The da Vinci robot is one such technology.”

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Dedication ceremony to be held for new Martin Luther King Jr. hospital
Los Angeles Times

When it opened in 1972, King/Drew hospital was seen as a victory of the civil rights era and a source of pride for black Los Angeles. But after the hospital failed several inspections and patients died due to staff errors, the South L.A. hospital was forced to close its doors. Eight years later, a new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital has opened in its place. On Friday, local officials and hospital leaders will lead a dedication ceremony for the long-awaited facility in Willowbrook.

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Sacramento Sutter hospital move met with ‘nervous excitement’

As Dr. Dineen Greer led KCRA 3 on a tour of the soon-to-be-opened Anderson Lucchetti Women’s and Children’s Center, she explained how hospital staff is feeling about the challenge that lies ahead. “It’s nervous excitement,” said Greer, Sutter Medical Center’s chief of staff.

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Long Beach-Based MemorialCare Health System Listed as one of the 50 Great Health Systems to Know in the U.S.
Long Beach Post

Yesterday, MemorialCare Health System announced it was listed as one of the “50 Great Health Systems to Know in the United States” by Becker’s Hospital Review. It was the only health system based in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, according to a release.

The release, issued Wednesday, said hospitals selected were chosen based on “clinical and general excellence, national awards and recognition, quality, safety and responses from health leaders across the country” on which healthcare systems stood out.