Author Archives: KQED News Staff and Wires

Contra Costa Supervisors Approve Plan to Help Doctors Medical Center

Contra Costa County’s Board of Supervisors passed two new financial measures Tuesday providing last-minute help to embattled Doctors Medical Center (DMC) in San Pablo.

The county voted to delay the hospital’s $3 million property tax payment. If DMC can come up with enough to sustain itself for the next three years, the board will permanently waive $9 million in future repayments.

“What the county’s doing today is, it’s not committing 100 percent,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, “it’s saying these other pieces have to fall into place. If this comes together, we’re in.” Continue reading

First Death Reported from the Napa Quake

The magnitude-6.0 earthquake struck Aug. 24. (Craig Miller/KQED)

The magnitude-6.0 earthquake struck Aug. 24. (Craig Miller/KQED)

A 65-year-old woman who suffered a head injury when a television struck her during last month’s earthquake in California’s wine country has died — the first death attributed to the magnitude-6.0 quake, sheriff’s officials said.

Laurie Anne Thompson was at her Napa home during the Aug. 24 earthquake when she was hit, according to the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. She did not go to the hospital until the next day when she felt dizzy and experienced a decline in mental function.

Sheriff’s officials said she died Friday at a hospital of an intracranial hemorrhage.

“Her condition continued to deteriorate over time and, unfortunately, she passed away,” Sheriff’s Capt. Doug Pike said. Continue reading

Legal Threat to Obamacare Diminished After Court Action

by Mark Sherman
Associated Press

The federal appeals court in Washington threw out a ruling Thursday that called into question the subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their premiums under the president’s health care law.

A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange on October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange on October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted an Obama administration request to have its full complement of judges re-hear a challenge to regulations that allow health insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for consumers in all 50 states.

The announcement diminishes the prospect of Supreme Court review of the issue in the near term. The initial 2-1 appeals court ruling in Washington came out the same day that a panel of appellate judges in Richmond, Virginia, unanimously sided with the administration on the same issue.

The health law’s opponents had hoped that the split rulings would lead the high court to take up the issue soon. Continue reading

West Nile Virus Infections in California at All-Time High (Map of Cases by County)

westnilevirus

West Nile virus is hosted primarily by birds — and spread by mosquitos. (Getty Images)

West Nile Virus infections in mosquitoes are at their highest recorded level ever in California. Last week, 52 new human cases were reported, bringing the total to 181.

Eight people have died from the illness.

“If you’re out there at a time of day when the mosquitoes are out — particularly at dawn and dusk — the risk of being bitten with an infected mosquito is higher than it’s been in the past,” said James Watt of the California Department of Public Health. Continue reading

Options Outlined in Doctors Medical Center Court Hearing

(s_falkow: Flickr)

(s_falkow: Flickr)

(Bay City News) A federal judge in San Francisco today heard arguments Wednesday for — and against — court intervention that would force financially embattled Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo to restore recently cut emergency services.

The U.S. District Court hearing came amid an ongoing fight to keep the hospital open. Officials have reduced services and shed more than 80 staff members there after multiple failed attempts to cover the hospital’s $18 million deficit.

Earlier this month, the hospital stopped accepting emergency ambulances, closed its heart attack intervention unit and reduced its number of inpatient beds to 50. Emergency ambulances that would normally go to DMC are now re-routed to other area hospitals.

A group of doctors, nurses and community advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court on Aug. 12 against Contra Costa County, each member of the Board of Supervisors and West Contra Costa County Healthcare District and district board chairman Eric Zell. Continue reading

Obamacare: With One-Third of Californians Now on Medi-Cal, Can State Manage?

By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

California is coming face to face with the reality of one of its biggest Obamacare successes: the explosion in Medi-Cal enrollment.

The numbers — 2.2 million enrollees since January — surprised health care experts and created unforeseen challenges for state officials. Altogether, there are now about 11 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries, constituting nearly 30 percent of the state’s population.

That has pushed the public insurance program into the spotlight, after nearly 50 years as a quiet mainstay of the state’s health care system, and it has raised concerns about California’s ability to meet the increased demand for health care.

Even as sign-ups continue, state health officials are struggling to figure out how to serve a staggering number of Medi-Cal beneficiaries while also improving their health and keeping costs down. Many are chronically ill and have gone without insurance or regular care for years, and some new enrollees have higher expectations than in the past.  Continue reading

Lawsuit Claims Service Reductions at San Pablo Hospital Violate Civil Rights Act

Photo: Doctor's Medical Center

Photo: Doctors Medical Center

by Alexandra Garreton, Jon Brooks, and Bay City News

Contra Costa County officials say they’re doing their best to keep the largest hospital in west Contra Costa County from going under. And that means cutting patient services.

This month Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo stopped accepting ambulances and reduced the number of in-patient beds to 50. County Health Services officials said last week that the 22 to 24 emergency ambulance patients normally seen at DMC each day — including three to four considered to be in critical condition — are now being diverted to other area hospitals.

Last fall, Doctor’s Medical Center announced a fiscal emergency and planned closure of the hospital. In recent months, at least 88 doctors, nurses and other hospital staffers have left, according to DMC spokesman Chuck Finney.

The hospital plans to cut more beds and close their cardiac unit in September.

Continue reading

Report: California State Employees Get Relatively Generous Health Insurance

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Health insurance plans offered to state employees in California and elsewhere are relatively generous, with government picking up a large share of deductibles and co-pays, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation was a first-of-its kind survey of state government health insurance plans nationwide. It found that state plans paid on average 92 percent of a typical enrollee’s health care costs, which is equivalent to the best offerings — “platinum” plans — that the public can purchase on one of the new health insurance exchanges.

In California, Pew found that figure was 95 percent and that 68 percent of plan members had no annual deductible.

Putting the report into a broader context that can make the data easily understood is difficult. Continue reading

San Francisco Supervisors Put Soda Tax on Ballot

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a November ballot measure to tax soda and sugary drinks Tuesday afternoon, but not with the unanimous vote they were looking for.

If passed by a two-thirds majority of San Francisco voters, the new legislation will tax soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages at two cents per ounce and direct the revenue to the city’s public health and recreation and parks departments and the school district.

The board voted 6-4 this afternoon to place the initiative by supervisors Scott Wiener and Eric Mar before voters, with supervisors Jane Kim, Katy Tang, Norman Yee and London Breed voting against it. Continue reading

New Guidelines Say Many Women Can Skip Pelvic Exam

(Maigh/Flickr)

If this picture makes you shudder, you’ll want to understand the new guideline. (Maigh/Flickr)

No more dreaded pelvic exam? New guidelines say most healthy women can skip the yearly ritual.

Routine pelvic exams don’t benefit women who have no symptoms of disease and who aren’t pregnant, and they can cause harm, the American College of Physicians said Monday as it recommended that doctors quit using them as a screening tool.

It’s part of a growing movement to evaluate whether many longtime medical practices are done more out of habit than necessity, and the guideline is sure to be controversial.

Scientific evidence “just doesn’t support the benefit of having a pelvic exam every year,” said guideline coauthor Dr. Linda Humphrey of the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University. Continue reading