News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Study cuts Medicare payments to California hospitals
California HealthCare Foundation

Already reeling from big cutbacks in Medicare funding, California hospitals would lose another 3-4 percent of their federal reimbursement under a new analysis ordered up by Congress. Rural areas of California would be hit hardest under the Institute of Medicine study. A separate proposal governing Medicare payments to physicians would slightly toward California’s advantage, but here again the rural parts of the state would lose ground. Payments would decline in 36 of 58 California counties, nearly all of them rural. The institute’s recommendations, which would cut hospital payments in 26 of 28 metropolitan areas in California, alarm the California Hospital Association.

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U.S. to penalize hospitals that too often readmit patients
The Mercury News

Nearly 30 hospitals around the Bay Area are among some 2,000 nationwide that the federal government will penalize for readmitting patients soon after discharge. The government considers readmissions a prime symptom of a too-expensive and uncoordinated health system, and many experts see them as an indicator of poor patient care. Nearly 2 million Medicare beneficiaries are readmitted within 30 days of release each year, costing Medicare $17.5 billion in additional hospital bills.

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Kaiser grants $2M to Silicon Valley health groups
San Jose Business Journal

Health care provider Kaiser Permanente said Monday it has granted more than $2 million to 39 local health groups and their related projects. The nonprofits specialize in areas such as health care coverage, obesity prevention, violence and substance abuse prevention, and quality-of-life improvements. Some of the grantees include: Children’s Discovery Museum (healthy eating); Planned Parenthood Mar Monte; Sunnyvale Community Services (farm-fresh food for low-income families); Santa Clara Family Health (uninsured children); Santa Clara County Public Health (Latino health); and YMCA/Project Cornerstone (school bullying prevention).

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Hoag, St. Joseph to form new health company
Orange County Register

St. Joseph Health and Hoag Hospital announced Wednesday they will create a new company that will result in their six local hospitals, networks of doctors, and outpatient clinics providing roughly one-third of healthcare in Orange County. The two nonprofits are not merging, but they are forming a so-called “affiliation,” which must be approved by the state attorney general’s office. The company, which has yet to be named, could be in operation in early 2013, said Deborah Proctor, CEO of St. Joseph Health.

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Steinberg seeks audit of mental health programs
Sacramento Bee

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg formally requested a state audit Wednesday of billions in mental health funds raised by the Proposition 63 ballot measure he authored eight years ago. The Sacramento Democrat’s letter to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee came after two Republican assemblymen, Dan Logue of Marysville and Brian Nestande of Palm Desert, made a similar request.

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AHA profits up nearly 20% in fiscal 2011
Modern Healthcare

The American Hospital Association reported an almost 20% rise in profits for fiscal 2011, according to tax documents.

“We had a solid year in 2011,” said Teri Fontenot, the AHA’s board chair, who is also president and CEO of 226-bed Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, La. “We were able to manage expenditures the same way our members handle them daily in their hospitals.”

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White House, pharmacies to tout reform benefits
Modern Healthcare

The Obama administration is partnering with more 15,000 pharmacies nationwide to tout new Medicare benefits available under the federal healthcare overhaul. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced partnerships with five national pharmacy chains Wednesday at a Jacksonville, Fla., CVS drugstore.

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In health care, clock is ticking to Jan. 1, 2014
Capitol Weekly

If only implementing health care reform was as easy as flipping a switch. It’s not, and before it goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, there are a number of steps that state officials must take. The first was to create the California Health Benefits Exchange. The next is to put in place an option known as the Basic Health Plan. Let me explain why this is so vital to ensuring lower-income Californians have access to care, and why it’s critical that the state Legislature pass Senator Ed Hernandez’s SB 703.

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Consumers see hospital, doc-office prices rise 0.4%
Modern Healthcare

Consumer prices for hospital services climbed 0.4% in July after a 1.2% spike the prior month, according to newly released seasonally adjusted figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. Last month’s increase is slightly lower than the 0.5% gain in July 2011. For the year that ended last month, consumer hospital prices increased 5.7% compared with 7% the prior year. Inpatient hospital consumer prices climbed 0.4% in July and outpatient consumer hospital prices grew at an identical rate.

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Dignity Health’s acquisition of U.S. HealthWorks quietly closes
San Francisco Business Times

Dignity Health’s acquisition of U.S. HealthWorks quietly closed last Friday, according to spokeswoman Tricia Griffin. No official statement was released. San Francisco-based Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest hospital and health care systems, initially announced the deal in early July, but said it was contingent on regulatory approvals. The purchase is part of Dignity’s aggressive plan to be become a national player in the near future. U.S. HealthWorks, based in Valencia, is a start. It operates 172 occupational health and urgent care centers in 16 states.

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Dignity Health completes purchase of U.S. HealthWorks
Sacramento Business Journal

Dignity Health’s deal to buy the largest independent operator of occupational health and urgent care centers in the U.S. closed Friday. The parent company to local Mercy hospitals announced July 2 it had reached an agreement to buy U.S. HealthWorks, but the sale was subject to regulatory approvals. The purchase transforms Dignity Health into a national health care system with 172 centers in 16 states.

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Nurses’ union: Legislature should set charity care level for nonprofit hospitals
The Mercury News

A nurses’ union urged state lawmakers Wednesday to set a minimum level of charity care for all nonprofit hospitals in exchange for their lucrative, tax-exempt status. “We are calling on state officials to pass legislation to rein in the abuses we have seen,” said Michael Lighty, public policy director for the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United. CNA released a study Wednesday concluding that beyond what they delivered in charity care, California’s nonprofit hospitals in 2010 received more than $1.8 billion in government subsidies and be

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Retail clinic visits continue climb
Modern Healthcare

Visits to retail clinics increased 403% from 2007 to 2009, and about 44.4% of those visits occurred during hours when physician offices are typically closed, according to a report posted online by Health Affairs.

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Local HIV/AIDS agencies fight for life as state, federal aid falls
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The system of HIV/AIDS care in Sonoma County has been buffeted by financial challenges.

The amount of money flowing into the county from the federal government and the state has been cut by at least $1.7 million.

Funds from the state to the county and independent providers for treatment, care, prevention and testing fell from $2 million in fiscal year 2008 to $1.3 million last fiscal year.

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King City clinic will open at the end of the month, CEO says
Monterey Herald

The chief executive officer for Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas said he plans to open the new King City clinic by the end of the month.

Dr. Maximiliano Cuevas said the clinic’s opening has been pushed off as he struggled to get necessary permits, the last of which he received Friday from the city.

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California has below-average rate of obesity
Sacramento Bee

California may have high taxes and high unemployment, but its residents have one of the nation’s lower rates of obesity, according to a new report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the agency says more than a third of American adults are obese, it’s just 23.8 percent in California. Other states range from a high of 34.9 percent in Mississippi to 20.7 percent in Colorado.

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Health outcomes unchanged under new dialysis payment system, analysis finds
Modern Healthcare

A yearlong analysis of a new payment system for outpatient maintenance dialysis from the CMS showed changes in use patterns for certain services and procedures but no real changes in beneficiary health status in 2011. In January 2011, the CMS implemented the end-stage renal disease prospective payment system and since then has used real-time claims analysis to monitor groups of Medicare beneficiaries that could be affected by the new payment method.

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The GOP’s Medicare Advantage
The Wall Street Journal

Predictably, Democrats went after Mitt Romney’s new running mate immediately, describing Paul Ryan as a “certifiable right-wing ideologue” whose views are “extreme” and “radical.” They focused on Medicare, warning that Republicans “would end Medicare as we know it,” making it “a voucher system” that costs seniors “thousands of dollars in health care costs.”

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Medicare drama more hype than reality
USA Today

The day Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan as his running mate, attention turned to the “Ryan budget,” the proposal he put forth as chairman of the House Budget Committee to deal with the nation’s fiscal crisis. Both sides seized on Medicare and the supposedly drastic difference between the Republican’s plan and President Obama’s. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told Fox News Sunday, “Paul Ryan has embraced an extremist proposal.”

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Hospital Rankings Get Serious
The Health Care Blog

After years of breaking down, my sedan recently died. Finding myself in the market for a new car, I did what most Americans would do – went to the web. Reading reviews and checking rankings, it quickly became clear that each website emphasized something different: Some valued fuel-efficiency and reliability, while others made safety the primary concern. Others clearly put a premium on style and performance. It was enough to make my head spin, until I stopped to consider: What really mattered to me?

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Paul Ryan on Medicare: ‘We will win this debate’
Washington Post

Paul Ryan spoke about the issue of Medicare for the first time since being tapped as Mitt Romney’s running mate, telling a crowd of about 3,000 people Wednesday night at his alma mater, Ohio’s Miami University, that the conversation is one that Republicans welcome. “The president, I’m told, is talking about Medicare today,” said Ryan, who graduated from the school in 1992 with a B.A. in economics and political science. “We want this debate. We need this debate. And we will win this debate.”

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