News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Task force seeks to change California’s mental health commitment law
Los Angeles Times

A homeless man plagued by schizophrenia is beaten to death by police in Fullerton. A man from Fort Bragg fixates on aliens for years while denying he is ill, then kills two men before dying in a gunfight with law enforcement. A Nevada County mental health client who had refused additional care storms into a clinic and kills three workers.

Those headline grabbers, according to a task force pressing to change the California law that governs involuntary civil commitment to psychiatric hospitals, were merely the most visible signs of a broken system.

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Riverside County may boost medical school support
North County Times

Riverside County supervisors are scheduled to consider this week pledging $15 million in support for the UC Riverside medical school between now and 2020. The money would be in addition to $5 million the county gave the university last year, raising the total amount of aid to $20 million. The proposal comes as university officials work to secure funding from various local sources.

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EHR payments accelerate for docs, slow for hospitals
Modern Healthcare

Adoption of electronic health records by Medicare physicians is accelerating while the rate of hospitals adding the technology is slowing, according to federal data on the program’s spending through February.

Cumulative incentive payments for EHR adoption by physicians reached $636 million, a 57% increase over the previous month, while hospital payments rose to $1.4 billion, or 10% more than the previous month’s cumulative total, according to CMS data released by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

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Whole-person approach to care is good medicine
The Press-Enterprise

Wil Alexander walked into Jonna Martinez’s hospital room at Loma Linda University Medical Center with a half-dozen physicians and medical residents in tow. He stopped at the 49-year-old Moreno Valley woman’s bedside, handed her a tiny artificial rose and questioned her — not about the medication she was taking or course of treatment for chronic hepatitis, but about her family and how she copes with the emotional drain of extended hospital stays.

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The Autism Wars
New York Times

The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that one in 88 American children have an autism spectrum disorder has stoked a debate about why the condition’s prevalence continues to rise. The C.D.C. said it was possible that the increase could be entirely attributed to better detection by teachers and doctors, while holding out the possibility of unknown environmental factors.

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Healthy eating can reduce overall cancer risk
USA Today

Can you reduce your risk of cancer by eating a certain way? The American Cancer Society says, “Yes.” The society released updated nutrition and physical-activity guidelines earlier this year that stress the importance of lifestyle in cancer prevention. “The research continues to show that we can make a difference in our risk for cancer,” said Michelle Eckhart, a Louisville dietitian who manages Jewish Diabetes Care, a service of KentuckyOne Health.

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Counterfeit drugs show need for tracking
San Francisco Chronicle

The discovery of a second batch of a phony cancer drug in the United States this week has frustrated regulators in California, where the nation’s most stringent law to track and trace pharmaceuticals was passed in 2004 but has yet to be implemented. Federal authorities said Tuesday that a counterfeit version of Genentech’s best-selling cancer drug Avastin has been found in undisclosed locations – less than two months after another bogus version of the same drug made it to medical offices in Southern California, Texas and Illinois.

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System to Curb Abuse of Prescription Painkillers Goes Unused
The Bay Citizen

Byung Sik Yuh, the owner of Nichols Hill pharmacy in Oakland, filled more than 5,000 online prescriptions for addictive painkillers before the California State Board of Pharmacy moved last year to revoke his license. The patients who picked up the prescriptions at Yuh’s pharmacy had never met their doctors, nor had physical examinations. They filled out a brief online survey and paid an anonymous doctor to write prescriptions over the Internet.

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Autism redefinition questioned
Monterey Herald

One child doesn’t talk, rocks rhythmically back and forth and stares at clothes spinning in the dryer. Another has no trouble talking but is obsessed with trains, methodically naming every station in his state.

Autistic kids like these hate change, but a big one is looming.

For the first time in nearly two decades, experts want to rewrite the definition of autism. Some parents fear that if the definition is narrowed, their children may lose out on special therapies.

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Employers urged to stay the course on health care reform — for now
North Bay Business Journal

With the federal health overhaul hanging in the balance of what will most certainly be a politically charged U.S. Supreme Court decision, insurance brokers in the North Bay offered a familiar refrain to employers on what changes, if any, they should make to their health plans: wait and see and stay the course.

Few can confidently predict the outcome of the court’s hearings held two weeks ago on whether the Affordable Care Act, and its individual mandate, is constitutional.

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Aetna proceeds with health insurance hike for small businesses
Sacramento Bee

Despite criticism from the state insurance commissioner and several statewide consumer groups, Aetna said Thursday it’s going ahead with a recent hike in health care premiums for small businesses.

Aetna’s new increases, which average 8 percent annually and took effect April 1, were deemed “unreasonable” this week by state Department of Insurance Commissioner David Jones. He said it’s the first time a California health insurer has proceeded with an increase after it’s been labeled as excessive by the department.

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Healthcare Job Growth Slows in March, but Q1 Strong
Health Leaders Media

The healthcare sector created 26,000 jobs in March, a precipitous deceleration in growth when compared with the first two months of 2012, new federal data shows.

Even with the slowdown, healthcare job growth is outstripping the pace set in 2011. The sector created 101,800 jobs in the first quarter of 2012 compared with the 61,000 jobs created in the first three months of 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

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Meager Participation Hobbles Drug Oversight
New York Times

Byung Sik Yuh, the owner of Nichols Hill pharmacy in Oakland, filled more than 5,000 online prescriptions for addictive painkillers before the California State Board of Pharmacy moved last year to revoke his license. The patients who picked up the prescriptions at Mr. Yuh’s pharmacy had never met their doctors, nor had physical examinations. They filled out a brief online survey and paid an anonymous doctor to write prescriptions over the Internet.

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Tightening the Lid on Pain Prescriptions
New York Times

It was the type of conversation that Dr. Claire Trescott dreads: telling physicians that they are not cutting it. But the large health care system here that Dr. Trescott helps manage has placed controls on how painkillers are prescribed, like making sure doctors do not prescribe too much. Doctors on staff have been told to abide by the guidelines or face the consequences.

So far, two doctors have decided to leave, and two more have remained but are being closely monitored.

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Obesity during pregnancy may raise autism risk
Monterey Herald

Obesity during pregnancy may increase chances for having a child with autism, provocative new research suggests.

It’s among the first studies linking the two, and though it doesn’t prove obesity causes autism, the authors say their results raise public health concerns because of the high level of obesity in this country.

Study women who were obese during pregnancy were about 67 percent more likely than normal-weight women to have autistic children.

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Study finds gene variants behind childhood obesity risk
USA Today

Scientists have discovered two gene variants that appear to play a critical role in the development of common childhood obesity, according to a large genetic study released Sunday. The discovery could eventually lead to treatments and specific lifestyle advice for heavy children. Although previous research isolated gene variants that impact extremely obese children and obese adults, this is the most extensive effort yet to pinpoint those involved in more typical childhood obesity.

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UC Davis study suggests link between obesity and autism
Sacramento Bee

In the scientific hunt for the causes of autism, researchers at UC Davis may have just picked up a new trail: obesity during pregnancy.

Their study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, found obese mothers were 70 percent more likely to have a child with autism and twice as likely to have a child with other kinds of developmental delays compared with normal-weight moms with normal blood pressure and no diabetes.

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Mary Bono Mack, Raul Ruiz differ on federal government’s role
The Desert Dispatch

Two competing visions of the federal government’s role in American life mark the 36th Congressional District race between incumbent Rep. Mary Bono Mack and challenger Dr. Raul Ruiz.

For the second year in a row, Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, has voted for the federal budget plan offered by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the chairman of the House Budget Committee. This year’s version proposes a $5.3 trillion cut in federal spending over the next 10 years, making deep reductions in most domestic programs while protecting defense.

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WellPoint Raises Rates Again
Columbia Journalism Review

Anthem Blue Cross—a subsidiary of WellPoint, the country’s second largest insurer—and its 39 percent rate increase in California became somewhat famous early in 2010 as the health reform law stumbled to the finish line. Democratic politicians used the new rate card to help push the Affordable Care Act over the line. California senator Dianne Feinstein called the rate hike unconscionable, saying it was proof of the need for comprehensive health reform.

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Dental Insurance, but No Dentists
New York Times

WE know that too many Americans can’t afford primary care and end up in the emergency room with asthma or heart failure. But in the debate over health care coverage, less attention has been paid to the fact that too many Americans also end up in the emergency room with severe tooth abscesses that keep them from eating or infections that can travel from decayed teeth to the brain and, if untreated, kill. More than 830,000 visits to emergency rooms nationwide in 2009 were for preventable dental problems. In my state of Georgia, visits to the E.R.

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To cut health costs, doctors, hospitals must end unneeded medical procedures
Sacramento Bee

For weeks now, the nation has been riveted by arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court over one provision of the Affordable Care Act. Does the law’s requirement that every adult buy health insurance violate the U.S. Constitution? We think it does not.

Yet even if the court ultimately shares that view, the federal health care reform law will face monumental hurdles to be successfully implemented. The biggest of these is its cost. Can the nation afford to insure all its citizens?

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Healthcare: A mandate that overreaches
Los Angeles Times

Healthcare is different. That, according to defenders of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” — is the justification for the law’s individual mandate.

Healthcare is different, they say, because every hospital must provide emergency treatment to all who present themselves, regardless of their ability to pay.

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Health care districts — an anachronism?
San Mateo Daily Journal

This Wednesday, the state Assembly’s Accountability and Review Committee will hold a hearing on whether health care districts which no longer run hospitals should continue to operate and receive property taxes. The chair, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said it could trigger new legislation to tighten controls on how health care districts spend public funds. The committee will meet at 9:15 a.m. in Sacramento. The Peninsula Health Care District has been asked to testify.

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Affordable Care Act a leap forward for women
Bakersfield Californian

The Supreme Court is again at the center of a highly controversial policy debate, having just heard arguments for the Affordable Care Act. There’s been much discussion about the justices’ supposed political agendas. I’ve heard fear-mongering about government takeovers and rumors of increased business costs.

But I haven’t heard much about what’s really at stake: the welfare of the American people — specifically women. Women like my mother and the other mothers, wives, sisters and daughters who need preventive services to ensure that they are healthy.

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Commission Tackles Physician Payment Reform
The Health Care Blog

How physicians are paid and what services they choose to recommend are key drivers of today’s escalating health care costs. The Society for General Internal Medicine (SGIM) has convened an independent commission to assess physician payment and physician-influenced expenses as well as issue recommendations on how to reform physician payment to restrain health care costs while at the same time optimizing patient outcomes. The 13-member National Commission on Physician Payment Reform will work together over the upcoming year, with a final report expected in early 2013.

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Planning Commission gives preliminary OK to CPMC’s Cathedral Hill Hospital
San Francisco Business Times

You know you’re trying to do too much when you miss news like this on your beat, but kudos to the San Francisco Chronicle which a) wasn’t asleep at the switch, and b) had someone at yesterday’s San Francisco Planning Commission hearing. Anyhow, the Planning Commission voted 5-2 Thursday to give a preliminary OK to California Pacific Medical Center’s proposed Cathedral Hill hospital, rebuild of St. Luke’s Hospital and other projects, which have a cumulative price tag of at least $2.5 billion.

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