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Health care news from around the state and nation


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Heart-shock machine may cost lives, not save them
Orange County Register

Hospitals nationwide began spending millions to buy automated defibrillators a decade ago, sure the machines would save the lives of more patients who went into sudden cardiac arrest. But that assumption seems to have been wrong, according to a report by “The latest, most extensive research suggests that the new gear, now found in nearly all hospitals, saves fewer lives than the old, lower-tech defibrillators,” it says.

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CMS Pushing to Reduce Improper Payments
Health Leaders Media

As part of the ongoing effort to reduce improper payments in Medicare and Medicaid, CMS announced on November 15 that it will launch a number of demonstration programs beginning in January 2012 that will target some of the most common factors that lead to erroneous payments. The top two issues that have the most dramatic impact on providers are the launch of a recovery audit prepayment review program and a Part B rebilling initiative.

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Antelope Valley Hospital Announces Partnership with USC Urology
San Fernando Valley Business Journal

Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster has entered into a partnership with the USC Institute of Urology to provide robotic surgery for urologic cancers using the da Vinci Si surgical robot at AV Hospital.

The local robotic urology program will provide advanced surgical options for patients of the Antelope Valley who will no longer need to travel out of town for care.

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‘Health Care Reform’ Improves Benefits In Medicare Plans for Seniors

As the result of changes required under the Affordable Care Act, seniors now have “more benefits, better choices, lower costs,” according to The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The Affordable Care Act gives seniors with Medicare cheaper prescription drugs, free preventive services, and lower costs, the CMS said in a recent press release.

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New trauma director named at Kaweah Delta
Visialia Times-Delta

Dr. Nichole Meissner has been appointed medical director of Kaweah Delta Medical Center’s trauma unit.

Tuesday was her first day on the job as director, she said. The Kaweah Delta Board of Directors approved her appointment Monday.

She replaces Dr. Rebecca Zulim, who was forced to resign this month after being fired from Mineral King Surgical Associates, which has the contract to provide emergency surgeons at the hospital.

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Higher copays seen for Medicare brand-name drugs
San Francisco Chronicle

With three weeks left for seniors to change their Medicare prescription plan for 2012, a study released Wednesday finds that copays for brand-name drugs are going up — sharply in some cases. Copays for preferred brand-name drugs will increase by 40 percent on average next year, and non-preferred brands will average nearly 30 percent more, according to the study by Avalere Health. Copays are the portion of the cost of each prescription that the customer pays the pharmacy.

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Adventist Health to use grant for new electronic medical record system
Hanford Sentinel

It’s a headache for both doctors and patients – tracking down and keeping medical record information updated. Hospital stays drag on while surgeons wait for lab results to be found, copied and faxed over. This in turn increases stress, because patients and their families have to miss work, lose pay and later receive higher medical bills because of their extended stay. Everything and everyone is forced to wait when time is so valuable.

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2nd health option for city workers

Many of the city’s employees forced into contributing to their health care costs now have a second, cheaper option for coverage under the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan.

Bringing in Kaiser marks a first for Stockton. Until now, city employees were all covered by the city’s self-funded health care plan, which draws on a network of Blue Cross providers.

The City Council without discussion Tuesday unanimously approved the Kaiser option.

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Kaiser Permanente makes $5.1M in Q3 NorCal safety net grants
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente has made $5.1 million in third-quarter community benefit grants to safety net hospitals and clinics Northern California, officials told the San Francisco Business Times. Funding is being used to increase access to chronic disease management programs, health screenings and heart disease and stroke prevention programs, among other programs, according to the Oakland-based health care giant. The two-year grants were awarded through a Kaiser Permanente fund at the East Bay Community Foundation. They run from Nov. 1 through October 2013.

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County mulls a bridge to health care
New Times

Federal health-care reform is in the midst of a Supreme Court challenge, the federal budget is set to be chipped at by a congressional supercommittee, the California Legislature continues to face multi-billion-dollar deficits, and San Luis Obispo County has another two years of spending reductions in its future—but local officials think they might be able to take advantage of additional health-care funding in the meantime.

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Patient mix plays into risk of ERs closing: study
Modern Healthcare

Among California hospitals, for-profits and those serving higher rates of blacks and Medicaid patients were found to be at greater risk of closing their emergency rooms, according to a study published online (PDF) by the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The five researchers who conducted the study found that for every 10% increase in black patients that a hospital served, the risk of its ER closing increased by 40%.

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SF health care fight may move from City Hall to the ballot
San Francisco Chronicle

A plan to close a loophole in San Francisco’s landmark health care ordinance won preliminary backing of a split Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

The vote came after Mayor Ed Lee vetoed different legislation last month intended to address the same problem.

The new plan, said Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who co-sponsored the legislation, will “hopefully better balance the health care needs of employees in San Francisco while at the same time doing what we can to minimize job layoffs.’’

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UC Davis to open larger pediatric intensive care unit
Sacramento Business Journal

UC Davis Medical Center will open a $22 million pediatric intensive care unit early Thursday that’s twice the size of the old one and can accommodate a third more patients. The first patients will move into the new unit in the UC Davis Children’s Hospital on the Sacramento medical center campus beginning at 2 a.m. The state-of-the-art facility complements the hospital’s pediatric emergency department and Level I pediatric trauma center, which offer the highest level of care for critically ill children. …

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Commonwealth analysis finds steady rise in premium costs, shift toward employees
Modern Healthcare

Health insurance premiums for employer-based plans grew 50% from 2003 to 2010 and if unchecked will increase another 72% by 2020, to nearly $24,000 for family coverage, according to a new state-by-state analysis by the Commonwealth Fund. The not-for-profit organization, which studies and promotes healthcare quality, affordability and access, is a vocal supporter of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and asserts that the law provides a foundation for slowing that growth. Curbing it by just 1 percentage point would save the average household $2,161, according to the report.

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Hospitals, pharma could bear brunt of deficit-cutting measures, Moody’s says
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals and pharmaceutical companies will likely be hit hardest by proposals from the deficit-reduction supercommittee, Moody’s Investors Service said.

Proposals could include reduced federal funding to offset unpaid Medicare co-insurance or deductibles and medical education costs, Moody’s said in a quarterly report. Not-for-profit hospitals would be more vulnerable than for-profits to such reductions, the report said.

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The Smokers’ Surcharge
New York Times

More and more employers are demanding that workers who smoke, are overweight or have high cholesterol shoulder a greater share of their health care costs, a shift toward penalizing employees with unhealthy lifestyles rather than rewarding good habits. Policies that impose financial penalties on employees have doubled in the last two years to 19 percent of 248 major American employers recently surveyed. Next year, Towers Watson, the benefits consultant that conducted the survey, said the practice — among employers with at least 1,000 workers — was expected to double again.

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With San Francisco’s election over, hospital plan takes center stage
San Francisco Examiner

One of the biggest winners in last week’s election wasn’t even a topic of discussion for most of the campaign.

And that’s not that easy to do when you’re talking about the largest nonprofit medical center in San Francisco’s history.

That would be the plan to build a new $2 billion California Pacific Medical Center hospital in the heart of San Francisco that has trudged along for years, but somehow managed to bypass the usual rhetoric generated in heated mayoral campaigns.

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Health Insurance Exchanges Deliver Flexibility, Frustration To States
Neon Tommy

About 8 percent of the country is expected to buy health insurance through virtual marketplaces by the end of the decade, bringing those customers a clear menu of competitive insurance options and a quick sense of whether they qualify for government welfare programs. But getting those marketplaces running by 2014 is proving to be a frustrating mess for many states.

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Family health care premiums exceed 20% of income
San Francisco Chronicle

Family health insurance premiums in California went up 52 percent between 2003 and 2010 and now exceed 20 percent of income, according to a study released today. A state-by-state analysis by the Commonwealth Fund, a philanthropic research group, found the average annual family health premium in California in 2003 was $9,091, which was slightly lower than the national average of $9,249.

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Consumer hospital prices up 0.7% in October
Modern Healthcare

Consumer prices for hospital services increased 0.7% in October, according to the latest monthly figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figures are seasonally adjusted. For the same month last year, the agency’s Consumer Price Index shows an identical increase. During the 12 months ended last month, hospital consumer prices climbed 5.4% compared with 8.4% the year before that.

Consumer inpatient hospital prices climbed faster than outpatient prices in October.

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Ads Target Possible Supercommittee Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid
Roll Call

Labor unions and progressives Wednesday will hit the airwaves in Nevada, Montana and Massachusetts in the hopes of pushing Republican Senate candidates to oppose any super committee deal that includes cuts to Medicare or Medicaid. Republicans and Democrats on the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction have been struggling to come up with a way to reform entitlement programs as part of a broader deal on reducing the deficit.

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90% of U.S. Corporations Now Offer Wellness Programs
Sacramento Bee

The Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) today reported more and more companies are discovering giveaways boost employee participation in wellness programs and can ultimately lead to cuts in overall health-care costs.

Incentives are key to encouraging employee participation in wellness programs. A recent Incentive Research Foundation report shows only one in five people will participate in wellness programs if there are no incentives, while offering incentives increases participation by a minimum of 60%.


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Health Benefit Exchange plans major outreach effort
Capitol Weekly

Peter Lee is the executive director of the California Health Benefit Exchange, former CEO of Pacific Business Group on Health, and HHS Director of Delivery System Reform for the Obama Administration. Set to launch in 2014, the exchange is charged with enrolling Californians made eligible for new benefits under the Affordable Care Act, and creating a health insurance marketplace that will allow California consumers and small businesses to purchase plans at competitive rates through federal tax subsidies and credits.