News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Despite Parity Laws, Equal Access to Mental Health Care Slow Going in California
KQED Radio

After the state of California fined her employer $4 million in 2013 for violating the legal rights of mental health patients, Oakland psychologist Melinda Ginne expected her job — and her patients’ lives — to get better.

Instead, she said, things got worse. Within months, Ginne, a whistleblower in the 2013 case, was back to writing her supervisors at Kaiser Permanente about what she considered unconscionable delays in care. Some patients might not live long enough to make the next available appointment, she said.

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To Address Doctor Shortages, Some States Focus on Residencies
Kaiser Health News

Last year, 369 students graduated from Iowa medical schools, but at least 131 of them had to finish their training elsewhere because Iowa had only 238 residency positions available. The story was the same for at least 186 students who graduated from Missouri medical schools and 200 who studied at Tennessee schools. States such as New York, California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania were happy to take them — all four states took in more residents than students they trained.

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The dirty truth of hospital cleaning: thin science
Modern Healthcare

U.S. hospitals are evaluated on their ability to reduce the incidence of infections patients acquire during their stays, but there’s surprisingly little evidence suggesting the best method to disinfect surfaces in patient rooms.

An abundance of research looks at the number of bacteria on a surface before and after cleaning and disinfecting. But few studies have taken the next step to specifically evaluate to what degree those procedures led to fewer patients getting sick. Even fewer studies compared the effectiveness of one environmental cleaning method over another, according to an analysis published Aug. 10 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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Number of Uninsured Has Declined by 15 Million Since 2013, Administration Says
New York Times

The number of people without health insurance continues to decline and has dropped by 15.8 million, or one-third, since 2013, the Obama administration said Tuesday.

The decline occurred as major provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect. The law expanded coverage through Medicaid and through subsidies for private insurance, starting in 2014.

In the first three months of this year, the National Center for Health Statistics said, 29 million people were uninsured.

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Federal report: 7 million fewer Americans uninsured this year
USA Today

The number of Americans without health insurance dropped from 36 million last year to 29 million in the first quarter of this year, according to the latest in a string of reports showing uninsured rates are on the decline.

The newest report, released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics on Wednesday, contains early estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, which are based on data for 26,121 people from across the nation. The estimate of 29 million, which represents 9.2% of Americans, reflects the portion of respondents who reported being uninsured at the time of the interview.

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A (Lower Cost) Healthcare Industry to Deal With a (Higher Cost) Healthcare Industry
The Health Care Blog

I was recently on the phone with a medical device company executive who was describing his company’s efforts to develop a non-invasive diagnostic device that could quantify the degree of cirrhosis in a patient with liver illness. It’s technology that his firm sees as timely given the recent introduction of Solavdi and other Hepatitis C therapies: the device will be offered as a way for healthcare systems (and insurers) to risk-stratify a bolus of patients who are waiting for hepatitis C antiviral therapy.

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Whistleblower Says Medicare Advantage Plans Padded Charges In Home Visits
National Public Radio

A whistleblower case in Texas accuses a medical consulting firm and more than two dozen health plans for the elderly of ripping off Medicare by conducting in-home patient exams that allegedly overstated how much the plans should be paid.

The Texas litigation, whose details were unsealed by the court in June, is just the latest of at least a half dozen whistleblower cases that have been filed in the past five years alleging billing fraud and lax government oversight of privately-run Medicare Advantage plans, which have proven increasingly popular with the elderly.

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Doctor group proposes three steps to fix mental-health care in region
Sacramento Business Journal

Leaders of the Sacramento region’s medical society on Tuesday released a plan to help fix a mental-health care system that most agree is badly broken.

More than 1,600 patients in mental health crisis continue to seek care in local emergency rooms each month because they have no other place to go. These folks stay for hours — sometimes days — before other care is arranged.

The new proposal is intended to complement ongoing work by Sacramento County and a coalition of local providers concerned about the problem, said Aileen Wetzel, executive director of the Sacramento Sierra Valley Medical Society. The county, with support from the state, is spending $13.7 million for three new crisis residential treatment programs, additional sub-acute beds, drug supplies for mental health patients and expansion of the county crisis-stabilization unit.

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Senators address solutions to California’s foster care system’s reliance on psych meds
Inside Bay Area

In a sharp rebuke, the chairman of a powerful Senate committee on Tuesday admonished state officials for failing many of California’s 63,000 foster children, who critics say are too often prescribed powerful psychiatric drugs with little follow-up or coordinated care.

The scolding from Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsberg, who chairs the Senate Human Services Committee, came during a three-hour hearing in which he and Sen.

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Taking page from early AIDS activists, ALS patients push for access to experimental drug
San Francisco Business Times

A one-time tech security specialist, “Mike” now calls himself an amateur chemist and neurologist, seeking out new drugs to treat the deadly muscle-wasting disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It’s not a hobby; it’s his life. Diagnosed in October 2013 with ALS — or Lou Gehrig’s disease — the 55-year-old Massachusetts resident believes he’s found hope in an experimental drug under development by a small Palo Alto company.

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Taking pills for too long has potential to harm your health
San Diego Union-Tribune

Even with a background in pharmacology, Julie Abraham said there are times when she scans the shelves for over-the-counter medicines at the drug store and gets overwhelmed.

“It’s overwhelming what’s out there,” said Abraham, the director of pharmacy and clinical ancillary services at Sharp Coronado Hospital.

While there are some medications that people may need to take daily for the rest of their life such as drugs to control blood pressure, asthma or thyroid problems, many people may fail to recognize the importance of knowing when to stop taking most drugs — both over the counter

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Post-market studies of high-risk medical devices are slow to yield results
Modern Healthcare

Medical-device makers are slow to complete studies on the safety and effectiveness of medical devices such as pacemakers, heart valves and stents after the products enter the market, according to new research. Some are never completed at all.

Researchers reviewed post-market clinical studies for more than two dozen high-risk medical devices introduced in 2010 and 2011. The majority weren’t finished. That included 33 marketplace studies that the Food and Drug Administration required when it approved the device.

The results, published Tuesday in JAMA, add to other studies that raise concerns about the quality of clinical research required by regulators for high-risk devices. The concerns come as Congress debates new legislation known as the 21st Century Cures Act, which has been criticized for relaxing safety standards for medical devices by allowing less rigorous evaluation before approval.

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Air ambulance industry counts on Congress to boost Medicare pay
Modern Healthcare

Legislation that would significantly raise Medicare rates for emergency air medical providers is working its way through both chambers of Congress. The nation’s largest air ambulance company expects passage soon.Bills in the House and Senate would increase Medicare payments for air-ambulance services and establish a data-reporting program for all companies that provide emergency air medical transportation. The House version would raise Medicare rates by 20% starting Jan. 1, 2016, and an additional 5% from 2017 through 2019.

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Transport nurses give rides that can save lives

If a sick child needs to be moved, the UC Davis Children’s Hospital Pediatric Transport team will likely get the call.

Every year, transport nurses like Jackie Hrabowski help move more than 600 children by car, plane or helicopter. Those rides could mean life or death.

“As we are traveling, we are planning on every case scenarios,” Hrabowski explained. “We have three or four plans for when we arrive at the hospital — if the patient is going to be sick, if the patient is going to be real sick or we are just really really bad.”

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Here’s what happens next at Sacramento Memorial Hospital
Sacramento Business Journal

After years of planning and a busy Saturday move, Sutter Memorial Hospital is closed. Now comes the next phase: decommissioning and demolishing a 77-year-old landmark to make room for new homes. The last patients at Sacramento’s “baby hospital” moved out last weekend, when Sutter opened the brand-new Anderson Luchetti Women’s and Children’s Center in midtown.

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Hospital partnership vote delayed
Tehachapi News

There’s will be a delay in the possible vote for a partnership agreement for the new hospital.

The Tehachapi Healthcare District and Adventist Health could not come to a lease agreement to become partners in running the new hospital. The negotiations for the resolution agreement and ballot measure couldn’t not be completed in time to get the issue before the public on the Nov. 3 ballot, but it was felt that wasn’t a bad thing.