News Headlines

Daily News
Health care news from around the state and nation

Headlines

News Headlines Article

Joint Commission issues sentinel alert on dangers of long hours for health workers
Modern Healthcare

The Joint Commission has issued a sentinel event alert warning hospitals of the dangers of long hours and fatigue among healthcare workers.

In the Dec. 14 alert, the Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based accreditation organization listed many of the hazards associated with extended work hours, including confusion, memory lapses and slowed judgment. The alert also pointed to past research demonstrating a link between residents’ and nurses’ long shifts and impaired performance.

News Headlines Article

Audit faults state health officials on Medi-Cal oversight
Los Angeles Times

State health officials have failed to adequately or promptly review the finances of publicly funded managed-care plans responsible for serving millions of Medi-Cal recipients, according to a report released Tuesday by California’s state auditor.

The state departments of Managed Health Care and Health Care Services also didn’t conduct timely medical checks, intended to ensure that Medi-Cal recipients receive high-quality care, according to the report by State Auditor Elaine M. Howle.

News Headlines Article

Blue Shield coverage of care at UCLA medical centers may end
Los Angeles Times

A contract dispute between one of California’s largest health insurers and UCLA could force thousands of patients at the university’s medical centers to seek treatment elsewhere if the disagreement is not resolved by the end of December.

Executives from Blue Shield of California and the University of California’s health system are quarreling over reimbursement rates for medical treatment at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood and nearby Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital.

News Headlines Article

Can’t raise taxes? Hike Medicare premiums instead
San Francisco Chronicle

Republicans may have found a way to squeeze more money out of well-to-do Americans without raising their taxes. A year-end economic package approved by the House on Tuesday prescribes a Medicare premium increase for “high-income” beneficiaries. Although the bill faces a veto threat from the White House, that specific provision may turn out to have staying power.

News Headlines Article

Hospital M&As Continue Apace in 2011
Health Leaders Media

Hospital mergers and acquisitions continued at a robust pace in 2011 as providers used consolidation and market share to elbow out competitors, improve economies of scale, and leverage better prices with vendors and insurers.

The top 10 hospital mergers and acquisitions in 2011 were valued at $5.6 billion, up from $3.8 billion in 2010, according to Sanford Steever, editor of The Health Care M&A Information Source, published by Norwalk, CT-based Irving Levin Associates. Hospital M&A carried a total value of about $7.3 billion in 2011.

News Headlines Article

Hospitals hire reps to sell doctors on patient referrals
USA Today

In northwest Indiana, Carrie Sota visits five or six doctors’ offices every workday as part of her new sales job. But Sota isn’t selling the physicians on a prescription drug or a medical device. She’s promoting her hospital — the University of Chicago Medical Center. Sota, 30, is one of four employees the academic medical center has hired in recent months to make “sales calls” on physicians in the hope that they will send more patients to the hospital.

News Headlines Article

State agency wants money from Medi-Cal cut
Los Angeles Business Journal

State health officials, backed by federal approval to reduce Medi-Cal rates by 10 percent, have launched an effort to put the pay cut in effect — and to recoup money paid out while the policy was contested. Part of the 2011-12 state budget, the fee cut was supposed to take effect June 1 but federal approval didn’t come until late October. The cut is expected to save the state $623 million in the current fiscal year.

News Headlines Article

HHS enlists drug plans in fraud fight
Modern Healthcare

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that HHS is guiding prescription drug plans to withhold payment on suspicious claims, including times when enrollees use multiple doctors to obtain painkillers and narcotics.

The CMS has released a notice to Part D prescription drug plan sponsors with information and guidance to help them identify and stop prescription drug misuse and fraud.

News Headlines Article

Hospitals continue lobbying push as vote on doc-pay fix nears
Modern Healthcare

The nation’s hospitals once again implored Congress not to pay for a fix to the physician payment system by making payment cuts to hospitals, but House Republicans had detailed responses at the ready. Later today, the House of Representatives will vote on the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011, which includes a two-year fix to the physician payment formula, thereby averting a 27.4% cut to the nation’s doctors that is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1.

News Headlines Article

Hospital foundation will change name
Tehachapi News

An organization that once claimed more than 500 members and raised nearly a half million dollars for the benefit of Tehachapi Hospital has changed its name — and may be changing its mission.

Just four people were present on Dec. 8 for a meeting at a local restaurant, where JoAnne Huckins, president of the Tehachapi Hospital Foundation, explained that the non-profit corporation was changing its name and aligning itself with the Kern Community Foundation.

News Headlines Article

Medicare changes payment plan to fight drug fraud
USA Today

Medicare will not pay prescription-drug bills if officials see evidence of fraud, which will let them avoid chasing down money after it has been paid out, Vice President Biden announced Tuesday. The move, Biden said, demonstrates “the administration’s continued commitment to cutting waste and protecting taxpayers.” The Justice Department recovered $5.6 billion from fraud in 2011, and $2.9 billion was for health care fraud, Biden said.

News Headlines Article

Angioplasty no riskier at facilities without on-site surgery, study says
Modern Healthcare

Performing percutaneous coronary interventions, such as angioplasty, at centers without on-site surgery capabilities is not associated with higher mortality rates, according to a new study in the Dec. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. That’s despite recently issued guidelines that recommend PCI be performed only at centers with on-site surgery.

News Headlines Article

New corporate board at helm of hospital
Calaveras Enterprise

Mark Twain St. Joseph’s Hospital President Patti Monczewski has announced results for the election of the hospital’s board of trustees. Former Chairman of the Board of Trustees Bob Campana was elected as vice chair on the board, extending his tenure on the board to 25 years. Joining Campana on the board will be Chairman William Griffin; Secretary Katherine Medeiros; Treasurer David Woodhams; and board members Ken McInturf, Donald Wiley, Dean Kelaita and chief of staff designee Chris Krpan.

News Headlines Article

Baucus to seek freeze in Medicare pay rates
Modern Healthcare

The Senate plans to act to prevent the looming 27.4% cut in Medicare physician payments before either Congress adjourns or the cuts go into effect at the beginning of next year, according to Senate Democrats. However, leaders have yet to finalize many of the relevant details. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and tax issues, plans to include a freeze in Medicare payment rates in his draft of a tax cut extension bill that the House of Representatives is voting on, according to a Senate aide.

News Headlines Article

Blue Shield says UC medical centers want to drive up costs
San Francisco Business Times

Blue Shield of California, which earlier this year capped its own profits at 2 percent, is publicly claiming that UCLA Medical Center and other UC medical centers are banding together to boost already sky-high prices. If a solution isn’t reached by year-end, thousands of patients who use Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopedic Hospital would have to go elsewhere.

News Headlines Article

Proposed cuts a concern for Kern Valley Hospital
Kern Valley Sun

The prospect and possibility of reduced reimbursement payments from the State of California continue to hang over the heads of the Kern Valley Healthcare District administrators and trustees.

McGlew began his Dec. 7 report stating, “Obviously one of the biggest challenges the hospital has in front of it right now are proposed cuts to the reimbursement of our skilled nursing facility. The state, in its budget for this year, proposed a 10 percent cut to Medi-Cal reimbursement to distinct department skilled nursing facilities.”

News Headlines Article

9 Ways to Prevent Fatigue-Related Errors in Healthcare
Health Leaders Media

“We understand that fatigue has been a contributing factor in many adverse events that we analyze – the Joint Commission reviews some 900 sentinel events every year; fatigue has played a role in many of these,” says Ana McKee, the commission’s executive vice president and chief medical officer who helped prepare the alert.

According to the alert, “the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt changes, particularly with regard to nursing” to prevent fatigue-related preventable healthcare-associated mishaps.

Blogs

News Headlines Article

Blue Shield Of Calif., UCLA Tussle Over Rates
Kaiser Health News

Blue Shield of California, which earlier this year pledged to cap its profits at 2 percent, took public Tuesday a contract dispute with UCLA Medical Center, which saw a nearly 17 percent operating margin this year. Unless the two can agree on contract terms by the end of the year, some Blue Shield customers who use UCLA or affiliated hospitals and doctor groups will face sharply higher out-of-network charges. The two have fought before — in 2006 and 2008 — over how much the insurer will pay in its contract rates.

Opinion/Editorial

News Headlines Article

Having to think about the unthinkable
Los Angeles Times

“I could show you case after case,” said Dr. Neil S. Wenger. “I could bet you million-to-1 odds these patients would not want to be in this situation.”

He was talking about patients in critical condition who are “attached to machines, being kept alive” in hospitals, many of them suffering. A common reason for that, said Wenger, director of UCLA’s Health System Ethics Center, is that fewer than one-third of us make our healthcare wishes known in advance of critical illness or injury.

Commands