News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Study questions stroke-care quality measure
Modern Healthcare

In-hospital mortality rates may be a poor indicator of the quality of care provided to stroke patients, according to a study in the journal Neurology. Using stroke mortality data from patients treated at Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester, N.Y., during 2009, researchers found that approximately 40% of those deaths could be attributed to voluntary decisions by patients and their families to withdraw life-sustaining care.

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State gets $4.6M federal grant to address health insurance questions
Sacramento Business Journal

California regulators have been awarded a $4.6 million federal grant to provide direct assistance to consumers with questions about health insurance and boost data collection on trends and problems. Authorized under federal health reform, the money goes to the California Department of Managed Health Care but the California Department of Insurance and Office of the Patient Advocate partnered with the agency on the grant application.

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Doctor Rate Gaps May Be Short-Lived
The Wall Street Journal

Hospital systems’ acquisitions of doctor practices sometimes result in higher prices paid by insurers, as WSJ reports today. But while the two sides may be clashing now over rate bumps for physicians, both say the future is likely to look very different. Insurers are increasingly cutting deals that begin to move away from the typical method of paying fees for each medical service.

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Doctors try to revive Healthy Families over Jerry Brown’s objection
Sacramento Bee

The California Medical Association and other health care groups are trying to restore Healthy Families coverage for 880,000 lower-income children, but Gov. Jerry Brown remains opposed. As part of a June budget compromise, the Democratic governor asked lawmakers to eliminate Healthy Families and shift 880,000 children just above poverty level over to Medi-Cal. Republicans opposed the move and Democrats reluctantly approved it as part of a deal to avoid deeper cuts in other health and welfare programs.

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New health law broadens free preventive services for women; men fare less well
Washington Post

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 greatly expanded women’s access to free preventive services, particularly for sexual and reproductive health . Men didn’t fare nearly as well. The ACA guidelines’ promise of free contraception may have generated the most controversy, but the law also provides many other services for women, including free screening for HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea, and pregnancy-related benefits such as screening for gestational diabetes, and breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling.

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Patients negotiate for care with cash
San Francisco Chronicle

Palo Alto resident Ed Lee routinely negotiates for his own health care services, everything from the cost of a scan to an urgent-care visit – often securing discounts of 30 to 50 percent off the original charges. Lee, 61, a self-employed public relations expert in the semiconductor industry, started bypassing his health insurance and paying out of pocket last year when he realized that premiums and deductibles were costing him more than $12,000 before his insurer paid a dime.

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Most employers to continue offering healthcare plans in 2014: Survey
Modern Healthcare

The overwhelming majority of employers say they will continue to offer health care plans after core provisions of the health care reform law take effect in 2014, but most say they will need to make plan changes later to avoid a new excise tax on the most costly plans, according to a new survey.

Eighty-eight percent of employers surveyed by Towers Watson & Co. said they have no plans to terminate coverage in 2014 or after for full-time employees, while 11% were not sure. Just 1% said they planned to terminate coverage for some employees.

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Diagnostic Errors Found in 1 of 4 ICU Patients
Health Leaders Media

As many as 40,500 American adults may die in hospital intensive care units each year because their critical care teams didn’t accurately diagnose their illnesses, according to a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine review of 30 international papers that examined autopsy results. That’s more people than die each year of breast cancer in the U.S. or from bloodstream infections acquired in the ICU, the researchers say.

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Missed calls in hospital ICUs connected to more than 40,000 deaths annually: study
Modern Healthcare

About a quarter of adult patients treated in the intensive-care unit had at least one missed diagnosis at death, according to a new study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality.

The study, which was published online in BMJ Quality & Safety, found that up to 40,500 adult patients die with an unknown medical condition each year that may have caused or contributed to their death.

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Health care survey shows workers often make poor coverage decisions
Live Insurance News

According to a health care survey conducted by Aflac, many people either don’t understand the benefits that they have, or they’re not putting in the necessary effort to learn about their coverage in the first place, and this could lead them to make poor decisions when the open enrollment season begins. According to the Aflac vice president of corporate services, Audrey Tillman “Far too many people don’t really understand their benefits.” She went on to add that “In fact, most employees are on autopilot.”

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Employers Committed to Offering Health Plans; Cost Seen Going Up 5.3% in 2013
Insurance Journal

Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision on health care reform, most employers (88 percent) have affirmed their commitment to offer health care benefits to their active employees for the foreseeable future, according to a survey of 440 midsize to large companies by Towers Watson.

This commitment (up 17 percentage points from 2011) comes despite a projected 2013 per employee health care cost of $11,507, an increase of 5.3 percent from 2012.

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Group decries GOP healthcare platform
Modern Healthcare

The head of an advocacy group representing millions of retired Americans criticized the Republican Party platform, calling it “badly out of touch” with American workers and retirees.

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Preparing for the health-care law
The Press-Enterprise

With the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers must continue to implement the law as its provisions go into effect. Perhaps surprising to some employers are the new rebates being issued to them by health insurance carriers. These annual rebates are payable when the insurance carrier fails to spend a sufficient portion of premium revenue on direct medical care and activities that improve the quality of health care.

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MLK Community Hospital names Batchlor CEO
Los Angeles Business Journal

The Martin Luther King, Jr.-Los Angeles Healthcare Corp. has named Dr. Elaine Batchlor as chief executive officer of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, currently under construction and set to open in South Los Angeles in 2014. Batchlor comes to the hospital with more than 20 years of experience in the medical field, most recently as chief medical officer for L.A. Care, the largest public health plan in the United States.

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Three Valley hospitals face Medicare fines
Fresno Bee

Three area hospitals will have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties for having too many Medicare patients return to the hospital within a month of being discharged.

The penalties, part of the federal Affordable Care Act, are designed to encourage hospitals to reduce readmissions, which cost taxpayers an estimated $17 billion a year.

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Proposed Medicare cuts
Ventura County Star

I treat cancer patients daily in our community. As a radiation oncologist, I am deeply troubled by the proposed Medicare cuts that could take effect Jan. 1.

These payment cuts would drastically reduce the amount Medicare pays for certain cancer treatments by up to 40 percent. My patients depend on these vital treatments, and these cuts would be devastating to my practice and my patients.

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Doctors challenge Jerry Brown over children’s health
Los Angeles Times

The state’s largest association of doctors is making a last-ditch attempt to resurrect a popular children’s health program eliminated by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year. The California Medical Assn., which represents more than 30,000 California doctors, is pushing legislation in the final days of the legislative year to resurrect Healthy Families, which provides medical care to about 875,000 California children. The program was eliminated under the budget approved by Democrats and signed by Brown earlier this year.