News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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California hospitals prepared as wildfires rage, association says
Healthcare Finance News

Approaching wildfires and a lingering drought have hospitals in California putting their disaster plans into use.

With the drought affecting all 400 hospitals in the state, many are conserving water, according to Jan Emerson-Shea, vice president for external affairs for the California Hospital Association.

“We’re well practiced at wildfires,” said Cheri Hummel, vice president of Emergency Management and Facilities.”We have more of those than earthquakes.”

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ACA challenge fails to win rehearing from appeals court
Modern Healthcare

A federal appeals court decided Friday it will not rehear a case considered one of the last significant legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act. The plaintiff in the case, Washington artist Matt Sissel, plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, said Timothy Sandefur, an attorney for Sissel with the Pacific Legal Foundation, which is backing the case. Sissel and his attorneys had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to rehear the matter before a full court after a three-judge panel sided with the government last year.

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Will Doctors Soon Be Prescribing Video Games For Mental Health?
National Public Radio

Developers of a new video game for your brain say theirs is more than just another get-smarter-quick scheme.

Akili, a Northern California startup, insists on taking the game through a full battery of clinical trials so it can get approval from the Food and Drug Administration — a process that will take lots of money and several years.

So why would a game designer go to all that trouble when there’s already a robust market of consumers ready to buy games that claim to make you smarter and improve your memory?

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Designing life from scratch: A fledgling field is about to take off
The Mercury News

Mother Nature has always been life’s master architect, working off genetic blueprints that are fine-tuned from one generation to the next.

Until now.

Scientists increasingly are designing life from scratch, using inexpensive, fast and accurate tools to create and assemble strands of DNA like tinkertoys — and instructing cells to do things that nature never imagined.

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House GOP Looks Ahead to Huge Medicare Overhaul in 2016
National Journal Magazine

For years, Republicans have openly pined for pushing Medicare further into the private sector. But they have been restrained by the practical realities of divided government and the political risks of a plan that Democrats have said would turn the popular insurance program into a voucher system.

Conservatives on Capitol Hill, however, have not surrendered the dream and now are planning to undertake the dirty work to make it a legislative reality.

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Accessing Care Especially Difficult for Latinos on Medi-Cal
ABC News

Miriam Uribe enrolled in California’s low-income health insurance program last November, and she still hasn’t found a primary care doctor 10 months later who could see her. “Once you have (insurance), you actually still don’t have it because it’s still a struggle to find someone,” the 20-year-old college student from Bellflower said. Uribe isn’t alone.

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Healthcare reform creates bigger players
Health Leaders Media

The idea of a federal overhaul of the health insurance industry, which embraces one-sixth of the U.S. economy, always has been a little intimidating — perhaps frightening, considering Americans fiscal and physical health are at stake. But the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, always seemed to be more a matter to worry about in the future. That was probably the only sliver of comfort it offered. No longer. It’s here now, and we’re actually seeing pieces of this massive health care mosaic move, as experts have been predicting.

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Go beyond the headlines for rate hike reality
Los Angeles Daily News

Some Californians recently got good news about the price of their health insurance. But as always, it pays to know the details. Covered California, the state health insurance exchange, announced that its premiums will rise by a weighted average of 4 percent next year. This year’s increase was 4.2 percent. Both were welcome surprises after double-digit rate hikes in recent years. However, the increase – or decrease – in your premiums will depend largely on where you live. And plan changes next year will lead to more out-of-pocket costs for some people, less for others.

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$259,000 Drug Hard To Swallow For Some Patients

A new drug discovered in San Diego is giving hope to some patients with cystic fibrosis. It’s giving others a severe case of sticker shock.

Approved by the FDA last month as the first drug to treat the most common genetic form of cystic fibrosis, Orkambi costs a quarter-million dollars per patient, per year. Some experts say our healthcare system can’t afford it. Meanwhile, many patients are hoping their insurance will cover the drug’s cost.

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The Current State of Patient Portal Adoption
The Health Care Blog

In an effort to improve health outcomes and patient quality of life at lower costs, provider groups around the country are increasingly focused on developing a deeper connection with patients. Expanding digital engagement is central to this effort, with online patient portals at the center of virtual physician-provider relationships. Portals offer patients immediate access to their health records, allow them to schedule appointments and pay bills, and enable secure conversations with providers.

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For Marginalized Patients, BOOM! Health Is ‘A Great Model’
Kaiser Health News

Harm reduction centers — where drug users and sex workers can get clean needles, syringes, free condoms and HIV prevention information — have existed for decades. They’ve generally operated on the outskirts of the health care system and pieced together shoestring budgets with the help of state and federal programs as well as private donations.

But harm reduction centers are increasingly trying to reposition themselves as a commodity for hospitals and insurers because of their unique experience in coordinating care for high-risk and often marginalized patients.

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Technical Error Forces Blue Shield of California To Pay $80 Million in Rebates

The health care provider Blue Shield of California will soon be paying tens of millions of dollars back to its members, the result of a technical error the company made in 2014.

Large health care providers collect money from premiums that individuals, who’ve enrolled in a plan through Covered California, and businesses who provide health care packages to their employees pay.

Under the federal rules of the affordable care act, health care providers like Blue Shield of California have to spend at least 80 percent of that money they collect on medical care for

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Kaiser posts another quarter of slow and steady growth
ABC News

Kaiser Permanente, the Oakland, Calif.-based system that operates 38 hospitals as well as its own health plan, continues to grow as it adds new members.

The integrated delivery network has added 524,000 members since Dec. 31, bringing the total to 10.1 million members. Kaiser does not otherwise break out the number of admissions.

The combination of new members as well as a laser focus on managing its expenses led to a small uptick in its second-quarter financial performance. Kaiser reported an operating margin of 5% for the period compared with 4.7% in the second quarter of 2014.

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Kaiser Permanente’s first-half revenue jumps past $30 billion, profits dip
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente’s financial results for the first half of 2015 look a lot like they did a year ago, except that Wall Street and other investments didn’t do as well and overall operating revenue grew at a healthy pace. First-half operating income clocked in at an identical $1.5 billion for 2015 and the prior year, for example, although it showed more momentum in Q2, jumping 16.5 percent to $760 million compared to 2014’s second quarter.

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A hectic hospital moving day for moms, babies and Sutter staff (slideshow)
Sacramento Business Journal

Saturday was the last day of business for Sutter Memorial Hospital in East Sacramento, and emotions were mixed among patients and staff at the 77-year-old facility long known as Sacramento’s “baby hospital.” Ambulances transported Sutter Memorial’s remaining patients — 161 in all — two miles to Sutter’s midtown hospital campus, with new mothers going to the brand new Anderson Lucchetti Women’s and Children’s Center at 29th Street and Capitol Avenue. Hospital officials said the move was completed about 5:30 p.m. without mishap.

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Fighting readmissions at Scripps Mercy
San Diego Union-Tribune

Like hospitals nationwide, Scripps Health is realizing that millions of dollars, specialized staffing and extensive patient outreach cannot ensure a big drop in people who are readmitted for treatment within days or weeks of being sent home.

The medical network has taken extensive steps in trying to fulfill a government-mandated transformation in health care: Instead of being paid to repeatedly treat the same patient, hospitals are now penalized for it. The goal these days is to prevent readmissions by working closely with patients and their primary care physicians, home health aides, social workers and other support groups.

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Hospital hires chief financial officer
Plumas County News

Plumas District Hospital’s new chief financial officer is no stranger to small towns. Caleb Johnson is a fifth-generation native of Fall River Mills, a town with a population of 650, about two-and-a-half hours northwest of Quincy. Johnson, 31, and his fiancée, Kelsey Wederbrook, a Redding native, are quickly adapting to life in their new town as Johnson settles into his new position. “It was the right move at the right time,” Johnson said.

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Clearlake Planning Commission approves REACH’s new helipad plans at hospital
Lake County News

The Clearlake Planning Commission approved a use permit Tuesday for construction of a new helipad at St. Helena Hospital Clear Lake. The new helipad, which will replace the existing temporary aerial landing facility, will increase the number of types of helicopters able to land at the hospital. Following adjournment of Tuesday’s meeting, Commission Chairman Carl Webb said the upgraded facility is important in improving the area’s health care services as currently there exists no trauma center within the county.