News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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AHIMA, MGMA welcome Stage 2 rule; AHA airs concerns
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare interest groups offered generally favorable reviews of the CMS’ final rule on the second phase of the federal electronic health-record system incentive program as they continued to examine the 672-page rule issued Thursday.

“Overall, we’re pleased that they have removed the administrative burden on eligible professionals on allowing groups to report batch information for certain measures,” said Robert Tennant, senior policy adviser at MGMA, which represents physician group practices.

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Health plans, providers poised for expansion of Medi-Cal
Sacramento Business Journal

Health plans see business potential when California expands Medicaid coverage to 1.5 million additional people in 2014 under federal health reform. California hospitals, though, see mixed messages: They will get more federal support, but they’re concerned that state government will rake back millions. And primary-care doctors see a temporary increase in pay as incentive to take more patients but wonder how it will play out long term.

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Health Benefit Exchange lands $196M
Los Angeles Business Journal

The California Health Benefit Exchange has received a $196 million federal grant to fund operations through June. The exchange is on an aggressive timeline to launch a new insurance marketplace for individuals and small businesses in January 2014. Enrollment is expected to begin in October 2013. Key over the next year will be development of an easy-to-use program for eligibility and enrollment — and outreach efforts to get individuals and small employers to sign up.

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Health insurance rate regulation measure qualifies for California’s November 2014 ballot
The Mercury News

An initiative that would bring health insurance rate regulation to California has qualified for the November 2014 ballot, setting the stage for a vigorous and costly battle between insurers and consumer groups. The measure, sponsored by Consumer Watchdog, would give the state insurance commissioner the power to deny certain premium increases if they are deemed excessive. The insurance commissioner has little control over such rate hikes now. The initiative would apply to the individual and small group health insurance markets, but large employer group plans would be exempt.

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Supervisors, Hospital executives discuss growth in health care job market
The Mercury News

According to a panel of hospital executives, a number of factors will continue to shape health care in Santa Clara County–in particular, the emergence of various technologies, as well as finding people to fill numerous and diverse jobs. The executives discussed issues facing the future of health care at the second in a series of three economic summits held by Santa Clara County to facilitate jobs.

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Final rule on Stage 2 of EHR incentive program issued
Modern Healthcare

The final requirements that hospitals and other providers must meet to receive funding under the second phase of the federal electronic health record incentive program were issued Thursday.

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Final MU Stage 2 Rules Released
Health Leaders Media

The final rule for Meaningful Use Stage 2 was released late Thursday afternoon by the Department of Health and Human Services. In a step sure to please many stakeholders, HHS will delay the onset of MU Stage 2 criteria until 2014 to allow time for vendors to develop the necessary certified electronic health record technology.

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HHS awards $765 million in insurance exchange grants
Modern Healthcare

HHS has awarded eight states more than $765 million in additional grant funding to establish the health insurance exchanges that are supposed to be available for consumers in 2014. The department awarded level-one establishment grants—which provide a year of funding to states that have already started the process to build an exchange—to California, Hawaii, Iowa and New York. Meanwhile, Connecticut, Maryland, Nevada and Vermont received level-two grants, which are awarded to states that have made more progress in their planning efforts. HHS reports that 34 states and Washington, D.C., have received establishment grants.

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Not-for-profit revenue rose in 2011, Moody’s says
Modern Healthcare

Revenue growth rebounded in 2011, but it remains weak compared with growth prior to the recession for not-for-profit hospitals and single-state health systems rated by Moody’s Investors Service.

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Many obese Americans struggle with stigma, discrimination
KFMB TV

As if the physical woes that accompany obesity aren’t bad enough, many obese Americans say they face discrimination and stigma because of their weight, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll found.

And the levels of stigma rise along with weight, and affect both people’s working and social lives, the poll found.

Fifty-two percent of people who fell into the “obese” or “morbidly obese” categories believe they have been discriminated against when applying for a job or promotion.

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The Future of Health Care Innovations Depend on Today’s Policies
iHealthBeat

This is an exciting time in health care.

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Nursing homes’ problems revealed in new online tool
The Mercury News

In February, a San Jose nursing home resident felt pain and thought employees had mistakenly pulled out a catheter as they removed an incontinence brief. The resident yelled at the employees to stop, but said they laughed, moved their hips like they were dancing and smirked. “I felt terrible, ugly and down,” the resident told investigators. “Treated like a dog.”

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Treatment shows promise to slow Alzheimer’s progression
USA Today

An experimental Alzheimer’s drug treatment showed “statistically significant” slowing of cognitive decline in some patients while failing to meet the primary goals of two large studies, Eli Lilly and Co. announced Friday. “We are encouraged by the pooled data that appear to show a slowing of cognitive decline,” said John Lechleiter, Lilly’s chief executive officer, in the statement. “We intend to discuss these data with regulatory authorities to gain their insights on potential next steps.”

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Health insurance to be on 2014 ballot
Sacramento Bee

An initiative to regulate health insurance rates in California has qualified for the November 2014 ballot.

Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog drafted the initiative after rate-regulation legislation fell short in the Capitol last year.

The measure would give the state insurance commissioner the power to approve or reject health insurance rate changes, a move supporters say would protect consumers from spikes in the cost of coverage.

Supporters believe the wording of the initiative would give the insurance commissioner the power to order refunds of excessive rate hikes enacted af

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Controversy surrounds effort to help addicted doctors
California Watch

Five years ago, a state program to help doctors struggling with addiction was shut down after repeated audits found it failed to hold addicts accountable and fell short in protecting the public. While there is widespread support for current legislation that would replace the program, the process has been contentious. Consumer advocates and the Medical Board of California are insisting that the new program not be run by leaders of the former version.

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No California legislative session is complete without a medical turf war
Sacramento Bee

No session of the California Legislature would be complete without at least one “scope-of-practice” bill.

What’s that?

Health care is the largest single piece of the California economy, involving about $200 billion a year. That cornucopia fuels competition among medical specialists over the legal scope of their practices. As some seek to expand their fields, they encroach on others’ turf.

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Tulare hospital board: Get to work
Visialia Times-Delta

Tulare Regional Medical Center has a lot on its plate.

It’s searching for a new chief executive officer.

It’s struggling to right its finances after a half-million-dollar shortfall last year.

It has important expansion projects under way but not completed.

A major bond rating agency downgraded its debt last spring. It has recently opened or is trying to open clinics in Woodville, Pixley, Earlimart and West Tulare.

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New Requirement for Vaccine Exemption Passed by Senate
KQED Radio

California has one of the more lenient approaches for parents who wish to opt out of vaccinations for their school-age children. While state law requires that children must be vaccinated against various illnesses (think polio, measles, tetanus) to enroll in school, California parents can opt out of vaccines simply by filing a short statement stating that immunizations are contrary to their beliefs. It’s known as a personal belief exemption.

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