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Health care news from around the state and nation


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Does California Ruling Help Handicap ACA in High Court?
California Healthline

The Supreme Court’s consideration of back-to-back health care issues with potentially significant ramifications for California makes it tempting to look for connections. Last month, the Supreme Court essentially sidestepped the question of whether Medicaid providers and beneficiaries can sue a state if they believe the state is violating federal law. The decision to send Douglas v. Independent Living Centers back to California courts leaves several doors open for more legal questions — or the same ones, asked differently.

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Four Sacramento area counties prepare for early test of Obama’s health care overhaul
Sacramento Bee

One slice of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul is coming early to the Sacramento region, providing a first glimpse at what the massive, complex law will look like.

All four Sacramento-area counties are joining a program that will insure tens of thousands of residents who have been without coverage, more than a year before federal health care changes kicks in.

For county governments and health care providers, the Low-Income Health Program is a chance to get a head start and work out some of the kinks in a new and complicated system – one that must emerge by Jan.

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Blue Shield Enters Into Another ACO
Payers and Providers

Blue Shield of California has entered into another accountable care organization arrangement, teaming up with major Orange County providers to try and cut premium costs. The ACO, between the San Francisco- based health insurer, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and Greater Newport Physicians, both in Newport Beach, will focus on cost controls for 11,000 enrollees in Blue Shield’s health maintenance organization. It will launch on July 1 and operate for at least three years.

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CMS Plan to Restrict Sale of Pain Drugs Opposed by AMA
Health Leaders Media

A federal plan calling for Medicare Advantage Part D sponsors to deny potentially unsafe pain drugs such as hydrocodone and oxycodone—perhaps to patients who may be “doctor shopping”—has incurred strong objection from the American Medical Association.

The 131-page “advance notice” from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2013, calls for Part D sponsors to employ more effective ongoing and retrospective drug utilization reviews, or layers of formulary management, for each of their enrollees.

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Free surgeries offered for uninsured with cataracts
Sacramento Bee

Free eye surgeries will be available this spring for uninsured people whose vision is clouded by cataracts.

Kaiser Permanente staff have offered this service annually for 17 years as part of Mission Cataract USA, a national program in which participating doctors provide the sight-restoring surgery to people who have no health insurance and can’t afford the operation.

Sacramento-area residents who are interested in the surgery must sign up for a screening by calling (916) 973-7159.

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Most US doctors baffled by cancer screening stats

Most U.S. doctors fail to grasp simple statistics about cancer screening, which could boost their enthusiasm for unproven and potentially harmful tests, a new poll suggests. For instance, three-quarters of the more than 400 doctors surveyed believed better survival rates prove screening is a lifesaver although that’s not the case, researchers say. And nearly half thought early detection translates into saving lives — another common misperception.

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Healthcare reform helps Oakland clinic meet huge demand

When Sherry Hirota learned that healthcare reform meant community clinics like hers would be expected to double their capacity, she wasn’t surprised. “Across the board, it was understood that health centers would be called upon to be the work horse to expand,” said Hirota, the Executive Director of Asian Health Services in Oakland. They had the know-how to deal with the health issues that tend to afflict the uninsured and under-insured. There was just one problem – and it was a big one.

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On health care, Ore. picks up where Obama left off
San Francisco Chronicle

Pregnant with her seventh child and desperate to kick a meth addiction, Madeline Hutchinson turned to a program from the local Medicaid provider that connected her with a mentor and other support that she said helped her get off drugs. Emmanual, now 2, was born healthy. “We need mentors. We need advocates,” Hutchinson said. “We need someone that’s going to come along and say, `This baby needs to be clean. And we’re going to show you how.’”

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Cardiac surgery, CEO new at Murrieta hospital
North County Times

Loma Linda University Medical Center-Murrieta is now licensed to perform specialized cardiac procedures and is welcoming a new chief executive officer. The private teaching hospital that opened in April 2011 in Murrieta received a license in late February from the California Department of Public Health to launch its heart and vascular care program, hospital spokeswoman Kathryn Stiles said.

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O.C. doctor launches breast cancer Q&A website
Orange County Register

Dr. Jay Harness, a breast surgeon at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, has launched a breast cancer website to answer questions ranging from what to ask an oncologist during a first appointment to recommended exercise programs. Breast Cancer Answers provides more than 200 YouTube videos of doctors, including Harness, covering a host of topics. The goal isn’t to practice medicine online but rather to help patients prepare for treatment by their own doctors, Harness said. Visitors can also submit questions.

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Docs with e-access to results order more tests: study
Modern Healthcare

Physicians who have computerized access to patients’ test results are actually more likely to order additional lab and imaging tests, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

The study’s findings, which point to a 40% to 70% increase in testing among doctors with computerized access to test results, could shed doubt on long-held beliefs about health information technology’s potential to reduce healthcare spending and inefficiency, the authors said.

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Advice urges wider sharing of heart care decisions
USA Today

A heart device might save your life but leave you miserable. That awful possibility is the reason for new advice urging doctors to talk more honestly with people who have very weak hearts and are considering pumps, pacemakers, new valves or procedures to open clogged arteries. Too often, patients with advanced heart failure don’t realize what they are getting into when they agree to a treatment, and doctors assume they want everything possible done to keep them alive, says the new advice, published Monday by the American Heart Association and endorsed by other medical groups.

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Quality data shows no impact on mortality: report
Modern Healthcare

Requiring hospitals to publicly report quality data on the CMS‘ Hospital Compare website appears to have little to no effect on mortality rates, according to a newly published study. Using eight years of Medicare claims data, researchers tried to isolate the net impact of Hospital Compare on death rates, taking into account existing trends in performance improvement and mortality. The results, they say, call into question the utility of posting hospital data on the agency’s consumer site.


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Hospitals already making big changes ahead of healthcare reforms
Los Angeles Times

Much of the healthcare reform law doesn’t take effect for nearly two years, but hospital executives say they literally cannot afford to wait. The video above helps explain why. Throughout California, hospitals are cutting costs and trying to avoid duplication in anticipation of unprecedented changes that will affect their bottom line. Those changes, most driven by the healthcare law, are forcing hospital executives into new partnerships with doctors and and a new way of thinking about care.