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Health care news from around the state and nation


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Reforms Will Continue in California, Leaders Predict
California Healthline

The sky is not falling, according to Peter Lee, executive director of the California Health Benefit Exchange board. The Supreme Court is taking up a case this month that, among other things, challenges Congress’ right to impose an individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Justices later this month will hear six hours of oral arguments over three days — the most time allotted for a case in 56 years. A ruling is expected by the end of June.

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Hospital emerges out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy
The Downey Patriot

Downey Regional Medical Center has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy after securing $52 million in loans, the hospital announced Wednesday.

Under its bankruptcy exit plan, Downey Regional issued $32 million in new taxable bonds through the Independent Cities Financing Authority and entered into a $20 million deal with Midcap Financial LLC.

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Hospitals, Docs Are Assuming Leadership In Majority of ACO Governance Structures
Atlantic Information Services

Ask the developer of any accountable care organization how its governance structure works, and most will say that it’s the provider entities — the hospitals and physicians — steering the ship, as they work in tandem with insurance carriers through contractual agreements. However, in polling various ACOs across the country, ABN found that there is a great deal of variety in how these organizations establish leadership roles among their respective ACO partners.

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FDA considers waiving prescriptions for key drugs
USA Today

Some of the most widely used prescription drugs, including those to treat cholesterol and high blood pressure, could be available over the counter under a new proposal being weighed by government regulators. Food and Drug Administration officials said Wednesday they are considering waiving prescription requirements for certain drugs used to treat ailments like diabetes, asthma and migraine.

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Poll: Health overhaul unpopular, but not as feared
San Francisco Chronicle

Attacked as a rationing scheme and praised as a lifesaver, President Barack Obama’s health care law remains as divisive and confusing as ever. But a new poll finds Americans are less worried that the overhaul will undermine their own care. As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Associated Press-GfK poll shows that Americans are less concerned their own personal health care will suffer as a result of it.

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Survey: Health Care Reform Law Driving Employers’ Group Health Costs Up
Workforce Management

While most employers have not yet calculated the financial impact of compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, some estimate compliance with the law has driven their group health costs up by as much as 5 percent, according to a Willis Group Holdings P.L.C. survey released on March 8.

The survey, conducted in December by Willis’ New York-based Human Capital Practice division, indicated that only 27 percent of responding employers have determined what it has cost their company to comply with the health care reform law in the two years since its implementation.

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Panel suggests ways to protect safety net facilities under health reform
Modern Healthcare

The Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System issued a report suggesting ways that policymakers can alter reimbursement to safety net hospitals once components of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act reduce the number of uninsured and increase the Medicaid rolls.

Among the recommendations is a suggestion that states in which Medicaid rates are below the cost of efficiently delivered care, Medicaid rates be increased for those hospitals with the highest rates of Medicaid patients and lowest rates of privately insured patients, contingent on providing

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1 In 4 Kids Live In A Family Struggling With Health Care Bills
Inland News Today

When we think of the growing burden of paying for health care, we often think of older Americans struggling to pay for medicines and procedures that can become more prevalent as we age. But new data from the National Center for Health Statistics finds that kids who are 17 and under are the most likely of any age group they studied to be living in a family that has recently had trouble affording their medical bills.

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Three medical malpractice insurers roll back rates
Sacramento Business Journal

Three top medical malpractice insurers in California have rolled back their rates, saving doctors, dentists and other providers nearly $19 million a year in premiums, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced Thursday. Last year, Jones required the top six medical malpractice insurance companies in California to submit rate filings to the department to justify their current rates. Jones called for rate reductions by three companies following a review of the filings. The other three are still under review.

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Patients suffer as state overhauls Medi-Cal, advocates say
California Watch

Patients who are being moved into Medi-Cal managed care plans as part of a major statewide policy shift are facing life-threatening obstacles to getting needed care, according to patient advocates who testified in a legislative oversight hearing. An attorney, doctor and lobbyist pleaded with lawmakers on Wednesday to slow the pace of a program overhaul that they say has knocked patients off organ transplant waiting lists or upended care that kept chronic diseases under control.

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Plaintiff challenging healthcare law went bankrupt – with unpaid medical bills
Los Angeles Times

Mary Brown, a 56-year-old Florida woman who owned a small auto repair shop but had no health insurance, became the lead plaintiff challenging President Obama’s healthcare law because she was passionate about the issue.

Brown “doesn’t have insurance. She doesn’t want to pay for it. And she doesn’t want the government to tell her she has to have it,” said Karen Harned, a lawyer for the National Federation of Independent Business. Brown is a plaintiff in the federation’s case, which the Supreme Court plans to hear later this month.

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Texas looks to fund health program without feds
San Francisco Chronicle

Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday directed state officials to begin looking for money to keep the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, even if the Obama administration revokes federal funding amid a fight over clinics affiliated with abortion providers. “We’ll find the money. The state is committed to this program,” Perry told reporters, shortly before he issued a letter directing Thomas Suehs, head of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, to work with legislative leaders and identify money to keep the program going if federal funds are halted.

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Readmission More Likely for Non-surgical Patients
Health Leaders Media

Patients undergoing non-surgical care for chronic or acute conditions were back in the hospital significantly more often than patients initially hospitalized for surgical procedures, a study 30-day readmission rates in 15 large states has revealed.

That’s according to the latest statistical brief from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), which looked at 8.7 million discharges for all payers and all ages.

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Victor Valley hospital gets $100K grant
Victorville Daily Press

Victor Valley Community Hospital received a $100,000 grant from the Henry L. Guenther Foundation to replace older diagnostic imaging equipment with advanced technology.

Patients requiring CT or MRI scans — including the 100-plus per day patients seen through the Emergency Department — will benefit from the new equipment, hospital officials said.


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Healing Medi-Cal
Los Angeles Times

Like many states, California is struggling to pay for the health insurance it offers poor residents. The ranks of the Medi-Cal program grew by more than 12% after the economy tanked, and rising healthcare costs increased the fiscal burden. Making matters worse, state officials kept trying to solve the problem mainly by paying doctors less for their services and charging Medi-Cal beneficiaries more, ignoring the skewed incentives and inefficiencies in the system that were driving costs higher.

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GOP distortions on health law sink to new lows
Sacramento Bee

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Republican presidential candidates believe that the national Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in March 2010, is crushing the American people under the boot of an oppressive government.

Rick Santorum on Super Tuesday said of the health care law, “This is the beginning of the end of freedom in America.” It is the issue, he said, that “broke the camel’s back” and the main reason he is running for president.