News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Oncologists ask Congress to make data-sharing requirements for EHRs
Modern Healthcare

The American Society for Clinical Oncology Tuesday called on Congress to help improve research and treatment by building upon current legislation and strengthening the interoperability of electronic health records.

Dr. Clifford Hudis, chairman elect of the ASCO’s government relations committee and oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said few adult clinical trials exist in cancer research, and data that is being gathered on how well treatments work is not being shared among doctors.

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Cardiologist and researcher Robert Califf nominated as next FDA commissioner
Washington Post

President Obama nominated Robert Califf, a prominent cardiologist and longtime researcher at Duke University, as the next commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday.

The nomination comes after the resignation this spring of Margaret A. Hamburg, who left the agency in March after a six-year tenure marked by a wave of new drug approvals, as well as legislation to overhaul the nation’s food safety system and begin regulating tobacco products for the first time. Stephen Ostroff, previously the FDA’s chief scientist, has served as acting commissioner in recent months.

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Under Pressure, Hospitals Push Physicians To Improve Their Bedside Manners
Kaiser Health News

A doctor’s training hasn’t historically focused on sensitivity. And too often while juggling heavy workloads and high stress, they can be viewed as brusque, condescending or inconsiderate.

A 2011 study, for instance, found barely more than half of recently hospitalized patients said they experienced compassion when getting health care, despite widespread agreement among doctors and patients that kindness is valuable and important.

But payment initiatives and increasing patient expectations are slowly forcing changes, encouraging doctors to be better listeners and more sensitive to patients’ needs.

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California voters sharply disagree on low-cost healthcare for immigrants
Los Angeles Times

California has adopted a series of laws in recent years to help people in the country illegally, and polls show broad support for a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 2 million such immigrants living in the state.

But it’s a different story when it comes to providing them healthcare benefits.

California voters are sharply divided over whether free or low-cost health insurance should be granted to those who reside in the state without legal status, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

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Primary Care Providers Benefit from Large ACA Donations
RevCycle Intelligence

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has allocated $500 million in Affordable Care Act (ACA) funding to aid health centers and increase primary care services, according to a recent press release. The goal of this funding matches the goals of the ACA — to increase quality of care for all citizens, regardless of ability to pay.

A majority of the money, nearly $350 million, will go toward the expansion of services to awardees, including medical, oral, behavioral, pharmaceutical, and vision care services. The remaining $150 million will go toward building renovations and expansion to allow for greater patient and service capacity.

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How Botched $600 Million Worth of Contracts

The public employees responsible for overseeing $600 million in contracts to build were inadequately trained, kept sloppy records, and failed to identify delays and problems that contributed to millions in cost overruns.

That’s according to a new government audit, published today. It reveals widespread failures by the federal agency charged with managing the private contractors who built  The audit is the first to document, in detail, how shoddy oversight by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which manages federal health programs including Obamacare, contributed to the website’s early struggles.

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Premium subsidies flow heavily to populous, poor states
Modern Healthcare

More than half of this year’s $27 billion in Affordable Care Act premium subsidies are going to five states, which has created a big but risky business opportunity for health insurers. Many Republican-led states with high numbers of low-income residents are also among the leading recipients of the law’s premium subsidies, according to recent CMS data.California, Florida and Texas not surprisingly lead the list of states receiving the most in premium subsidies, which are provided to consumers as tax credits to help pay down the monthly cost of their health insurance.

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CMS moves forward with rule on out-of-pocket limits
Modern Healthcare

The CMS is sticking to its guns on the maximum out-of-pocket limits for medical care, stating Tuesday that members within families shouldn’t have to pay more than individual consumers.

The Affordable Care Act limits how much people have to pay out of pocket for deductibles, coinsurance and copayments. The maximum yearly amount is $6,850 for individuals, and $13,700 for families. Those costs apply to the mandated essential health benefits within every health plan’s network, which includes most major treatments and procedures such as hospitalizations and maternity care.

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How To Save Money On Prescription Drugs, Insured Or Not
National Public Radio

If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you’ve no doubt heard about the outrageous — and rapidly growing — prices of certain prescription medications.

The average price for about one year of cancer-drug therapy has skyrocketed from $10,000 or less before 2000 to more than $100,000 by 2012, according to a recent Mayo Clinic study.

The new hepatitis C drug Sovaldi comes at a retail price tag of $84,000 for a 12-week course.

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California doctor charged in $150 million insurance scam
Sacramento Bee

An orthopedic surgeon was charged as the ringleader in one of the state’s biggest health fraud schemes, which included unnecessary operations by an untrained assistant that scarred patients forever, according to indictments unsealed Tuesday.

Dr. Munir Uwaydah and 14 associates, including another doctor and a lawyer, bilked insurance companies out of $150 million in the scheme, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said.

Nearly two dozen patients were told Uwaydah would perform surgery on them, only to have his physician’s assistant — who had not attended medical school — operate once they were under anesthesia, according to the indictment. Uwaydah wasn’t even present for the surgeries.

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Patients scarred, insurance firms duped in massive scam, L.A. County prosecutors say
Los Angeles Times

The patients were told a board-certified orthopedic surgeon would conduct their operations.

But the surgeries were instead performed by a physician’s assistant who had never attended medical school and was not overseen by the surgeon during the operations, which were billed as the surgeon’s work, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

The results for nearly two dozen patients were lasting scars, prosecutors said. Many had to undergo additional surgeries to repair the damage.

The allegations were made Tuesday by prosecutors after two indictments were unsealed accusing Dr. Munir Uwaydah, his attorney and more than a dozen associates of carrying out one of the largest insurance fraud scams in California history.

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The Gender Gap Persists In Academic Medicine, Studies Find
Kaiser Health News

Academic medicine is still a man’s world, according to two studies and an accompanying editorial published Tuesday in the journal JAMA.

Despite growing numbers of women doctors and researchers, the top echelon at U.S. academic medical facilities is still heavily skewed to favor men, the studies suggest.

The larger study examined male and female promotions in medical schools, analyzing about 90,000 doctors’ records. It found that, even when accounting for factors such as experience, age and research, men are 15 percentage points more likely to have the rank of full professor – the senior-most position on a tenure track – than are women. Women generally do produce less research than men, the study adds, which it suggests may be because of roadblocks like lack of mentorship and less institutional support.

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Senior health: Does your insurance plan pay for elder care?
Los Altos Town Crier

In less than four decades, the senior population in the U.S. will double. At last count, the total was 41 million, and it will multiply to more than twice that by 2050. Globally, the number of people 65 and older expands from 531 million to 1.5 billion. Countries like Japan, South Korea and Germany will find their majority population to be over the age of 50.

Last July, the once-in-a-decade White House Conference on Aging gathered. Senior care experts, members of the legislature and President Barack Obama joined in the discussions.

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Foundation Gives $4.4 Million in Additional Funding to Support California’s Healthcare Safety Net & Domestic Violence Providers
PR Newswire

Blue Shield of California Foundation today announced more than $4.4 million in third-quarter grants aimed at advancing healthcare and domestic violence services for the most vulnerable Californians. The funding — which brings the Foundation’s 2015 giving to more than $22 million — includes a new initiative that will facilitate collaboration between government and private charitable funders with the goal of improving the health of targeted, high-need populations across the state.

“This emerging concept, known as ‘Accountable Communities for Health,’ has the potential to transform health in California,” said Peter Long, PhD, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “This initiative will harness the resources, talents, and priorities  of public and private stakeholders to improve health outcomes at the population level.”

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Supervisors launch pilot program to aid uninsured
The Californian - Salinas

The Board of Supervisors gave a unanimous thumbs-up Tuesday to a pilot project that promises to deliver expanded health care services to uninsured and undocumented residents of Monterey County.

The board voted 5-0 to invest $500,000 into the as yet unnamed project. Health officials said the program could begin in October. But supervisors asked for more specifics about client eligibility, contracts and lists of services before the program kicks off.

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Omada Health makes big haul on Series C funding round, some from major customers
San Francisco Business Times

Omada Health, a San Francisco digital health startup that helps employers identify and help employees at risk for chronic diseases, has nabbed $48 million in Series C funding, some of it from existing customers. The new round — on top of earlier funding of about $29 million — is led by Norwest Venture Partners, plus a cohort of other venture capitalists including prior investors US Venture Partners and Andreessen Horowitz, new investors GE Ventures and dRx Capital, and major customers Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) and Providence Health & Services, according to Omada.

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A windfall in hospital safety
Mountain View VOICE

It’s tough for nurses to predict when a hospital patient is going to try to climb out of bed and risk tumbling to the ground, but some recent tech upgrades at El Camino Hospital are enabling hospital staff to be a little more proactive.

Using a new data collection system and notification devices for nurses throughout the hospital, El Camino has lowered the number of patients’ falls by 39 percent over the last six months, down to 3.5 falls per month from 5.7 last year.

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Monterey County supports new program to help uninsured

The county is moving ahead with a pilot program designed to expand medical services to those who currently don’t have health insurance, such as appointments and prescriptions.

Alfonso Hernandez says he stands to benefit.

“I’m sick with diabetes, and I have no way of buying my medicine,” Hernandez said. “My job doesn’t pay enough to cover it.”

Hernandez is also part of the non-profit COPA, which worked with the health department to make the program possible.

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Medical center set to expand ER, reopen Groveland clinic full time
Union Democrat

Sonora Regional Medical Center will soon start construction to expand its Emergency Department, and its Groveland Family Medical Clinic will now be open five days a week.

Hospital CEO and President Andrew Jahn Tuesday told the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors the work to expand the Emergency Department will begin Nov. 1 and will expand patient treatment space by 30 percent and patient capacity by 50 percent.