News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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IOM calls for better use of technology in healthcare
Modern Healthcare

Recent advances in science and technology hold the keys to addressing an increasingly complicated healthcare system plagued by inefficiency, high costs and poor quality, the Institute of Medicine said in a report released Thursday.

In the 382-page report, Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America, an 18-member expert panel argues for a set of improvement strategies that panel members say will make information more accessible, engage patients and their families and make care more equitable.

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OPPS Comments Focus on Observation Status
Health Leaders Media

At the close of the public comment period, the proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for the 2013 Outpatient Proposed Payment System garnered almost 300 comments. Although the proposed rule made significant changes in how CMS calculates ambulatory payment classifications (APC) and how it reimburses hospitals for payable drugs and biologics, the lion’s share of the comments address the effect that assigning patients observation status could have on Medicare benefits.

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California gets Medicaid money to keep people out of institutions
Sacramento Business Journal

California will be the first state in the nation to receive Medicaid dollars under the Affordable Care Act to provide home and community-based services for at-risk seniors and people with disabilities as an alternative to nursing home or other institutional settings. A new Community First Choice program established by federal health care reform provides a 6 percent increase in federal medical assistance for Medicaid enrollees who require an institutional level of care.

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WellCare has deal to buy Easy Choice
Los Angeles Business Journal

WellCare Health Plans Inc. agreed to buy Long Beach’s Easy Choice Health Plans Inc. Financial terms were not disclosed in a statement announcing the deal, but WellCare (NYSE: WCG) said it expects the acquisition will boost net income in 2013. Easy Choice serves about 34,000 Medicare Advantage plan members in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties in Southern California.

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Report: US health care system wastes $750B a year
San Francisco Chronicle

The U.S. health care system squanders $750 billion a year — roughly 30 cents of every medical dollar — through unneeded care, byzantine paperwork, fraud and other waste, the influential Institute of Medicine said Thursday in a report that ties directly into the presidential campaign.

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Americans better off because of ACA, Democrats say
Modern Healthcare

In the face of a slow economic recovery, the healthcare law gives Democrats a way to show the electorate that they are better off than they were four years ago, party leaders told party activists Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

“Every American is better off today than they were four years ago,” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said when speaking about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at a gathering of activists and party leaders who pushed enactment of the law.

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Clinton defends reform law in DNC speech
Modern Healthcare

In the highest-profile speech yet at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, former President Bill Clinton offered a detailed defense of the 2010 healthcare law that explicitly endorsed cuts to providers.

Clinton directly answered many of Republicans’ leading criticisms of the law, including the projection that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will cut $716 billion from Medicare.

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Folsom tech firm gets Medi-Cal contract
Sacramento Bee

Visionary Integration Professionals, a Folsom-based information technology and managed services firm, said the California Department of Health Care Services has awarded it a $6.5 million contract to provide project management support services for the California Medicaid Management Information System project.

VIP will help oversee a replacement of CA-MMIS, a 30-year-old legacy IT system that supports the Medi-Cal program. CA-MMIS processes payments to medical care providers on behalf of 7.2 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

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VIP lands $6.5M contract to help replace outdated system for Medi-Cal payments
Sacramento Business Journal

Folsom-based Visionary Integration Professionals LLC has landed a $6.5 million contract with the California Department of Health Care Services for project management support. VIP will help design, develop and implement an information management system to replace the outdated technology that supports the state’s Medi-Cal program, according to the company.

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Cedars-Sinai, Scripps Memorial Can Offer Cardiac Procedure in Outpatient Setting Under New Bill
Becker's Hospital Review

A new California bill will allow Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla to offer cardiac catheterizations in their new outpatient buildings, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

Previously, California hospitals were allowed to perform the procedure only in main hospital buildings.

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Inland doctors not immune to burnout
Contra Costa Times

A recent survey shows nearly half the nation’s doctors suffer from some form of burnout – in large part because of too much work. Burnout among U.S. physicians “is at an alarming level,” said Dr. Tait D. Shanafelt, the lead author of a Mayo Clinic study of 7,288 physicians published by the online edition of Archives of Internal Medicine last month.

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Hearing to examine IRS enforcement of healthcare reform law provisions
Modern Healthcare

A House Ways and Means Committee panel next week will hold a hearing on how well-equipped the Internal Revenue Service is to handle enforcement of the healthcare reform law.

Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act over which the IRS has jurisdiction include penalties on employers that do not offer qualified coverage, a cutback on contributions to flexible spending accounts, and reports on health insurance coverage.

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High blood pressure often undetected, uncontrolled in Merced County
Merced Sun-Star

Nearly 67 million adults suffer from high blood pressure and about 36 million of them don’t have it under control, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High blood pressure statistics are not reported to local health departments, but according to the 2009 California Health Interview Survey, 26.7 percent of Merced-area residents indicated they had been diagnosed with hypertension by a physician.

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Feds let St. Joseph, Hoag Memorial plans proceed
Modern Healthcare

St. Joseph Health and Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian have received federal antitrust clearance for their plan form a new regional health system in Southern California. The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday gave early clearance to the affiliation, in which nine-hospital St. Joseph, Orange, would combine with two-campus Hoag Memorial, Newport Beach.

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North Bay doctors group adopts new name
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

No longer will the Marin/Sonoma IPA group, a network of independent doctors and health care providers in the North Bay, be associated with the popular beer style.

The group is changing its name to Meritage Medical Network, a move that reflects its aggressive push into Wine Country and beyond.

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Stop Ignoring Low Quality Ratings
Health Leaders Media

For many hospitals, it’s bound to happen at some point, if it hasn’t already. In an avalanche of public quality scorecards, there will be at least one that reveals—in vivid detail—how your hospital’s quality or safety score is “worse than” those at other hospitals.

Or a competitor across town will show up as “better than,” leaving your doctors, staff, trustees, and donors, not to mention patients, all asking why you don’t measure up.

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Group sues FDA over Alzheimer’s disease drug
USA Today

A consumer group pressing the Food and Drug Administration to remove the highest dose of an Alzheimer’s disease drug from the market is suing the agency for what it calls “foot-dragging.” Public Citizen said Wednesday that the FDA’s own medical and statistical reviewers found that high-dose Aricept doesn’t work better at controlling symptoms of moderate-to-severe Alzheimer’s than two low doses.

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Special Session should pass a Basic Health Plan for California
Capitol Weekly

As director of the second largest public health care system in the nation, I see first-hand the impact of the uninsured in Los Angeles County. I treat these patients each week at one of our walk-in urgent care clinics in East Los Angeles. When I sit across from a patient my first question (in English or Spanish) is always: How can I help you? I was taught in medical school to expect to hear a physical complaint: my head hurts, I can’t stop coughing.

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Stanford experts argue need for health care, not sick care
SCOPE

Discussions about U.S. health-care reform have largely focused on broadening insurance coverage. That’s unfortunate, says a Stanford researcher, because we should spend more time looking for ways to truly improve health. Randall Stafford, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, says the health-care system needs to be re-engineered to help people stave off conditions like obesity and diabetes in the first place.

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No quick end to federal control of prison healthcare, judge orders
Los Angeles Times

A judge has once again rejected the state’s request for a speedy end to federal control of prison healthcare. In an order issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said he would require tougher reviews than the state wanted before agreeing to dissolve the receivership that has run inmate medical care for six years.

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