News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Physician Fee Schedule Proposal Generates Calls for Changes
Health Leaders Media

A proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to set the Medicare physician fee schedule for 2013 drew more than 2,900 comments from a variety of stakeholders. While there was general support for many of the provisions in the 765-page proposed rule, the comments provide insight into the complicated fee structure that providers must contend with in the delivery of healthcare services to Medicare beneficiaries. The comment period ended Sept. 6.

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ONC releases draft 2014 test procedures for EHRs
Modern Healthcare

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology released the first draft of a set of test scripts to be used for the testing and certifying electronic health-record systems against the recently released 2014 Edition of standards and certification criteria for the federally funded EHR incentive payment programs.

The draft test procedures will be posted “in waves” on the ONC’s website, HealthIT.gov, according to a news release.

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Know the consequences of cutting Medicaid
Los Angeles Times

Of the nation’s major social insurance programs, Medicaid tends to be the one that gets the least respect.

The reason is not because it’s small — with some 53 million enrollees, the federal-state program is slightly smaller than Social Security but larger than Medicare — but because it serves the poorest and sickest Americans, those with the fewest healthcare options.

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Nonprofit Hospitals Shifting Investment Portfolios
Health Leaders Media

Nonprofit healthcare organizations are gradually shifting traditional investment strategies away from bonds and other fixed income securities toward more highly diverse portfolios that could make them less vulnerable to market swings, multiyear analyses from Commonfund show.

William F. Jarvis, managing director and health of research with the Wilton, CT-based financial advisors, says nonprofit healthcare organizations are taking cues from colleges and universities that have seen generally strong investment returns over the last 20 years using a more diversified “endowment model.”

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More Young Adults Have Insurance After Health Care Law, Study Says
New York Times

The share of young adults without health insurance fell by one-sixth in 2011 from the previous year, the largest annual decline for any age group since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began collecting the data in 1997, according to a new report released on Monday. The estimates are drawn from a federal survey of about 35,000 households.

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Girl’s cancer death brings hope of saving lives through Stanford’s work
The Mercury News

Dave and Kristine Wetzel made the decision at one of the most heart-wrenching moments of their lives. Just hours before their nearly 8-year-old daughter, McKenna, succumbed to an inoperable brain tumor in July 2011, the Huntington Beach couple decided to donate some of her cancerous tissue to Stanford University for research. The goal: to grow the cancer cells so scientists can develop drugs and other treatments for a disease that is nearly always fatal.

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A few doctors learn how to be Medicaid millionaires
Modern Healthcare

While most doctors spurn the Medicaid program because of low fees, a select few manage to pull in millions of dollars each year by running high-volume practices.

Ten doctors in Illinois were paid at least $1 million a year from the health care program between 2009 and 2011, according to a Crain’s analysis of state payment records.

The totals for some of the highest-paid physicians are boosted by payments for services performed under their supervision.

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AHRQ seeks to tap patients for safety-event data
Modern Healthcare

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is seeking approval to design and test a system for collecting information from patients about healthcare safety events, according to a Federal Register filing. Based on a growing body of evidence that many medical adverse events go unreported by providers, AHRQ is seeking to create a way for patients and their families to report healthcare safety events.

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California to Allow Cardiac Catheterization in Outpatient Facilities
Becker's Hospital Review

California lawmakers passed legislation last week that would allow outpatient facilities to perform cardiac catheterization, according to a California Healthline report. The bill was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for his consideration. Cardiac catheterization involves the placement of a small tube in a patient’s chest via an artery or vein.

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Alta Bates Summit to slash 370 jobs
San Francisco Business Times

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center is cutting roughly 370 jobs at its campuses in Oakland and Berkeley due to sharp declines in patient volume, revenue and profits. Cuts involving approximately 180 positions in Berkeley and 137 in Oakland were posted Aug. 27, according to filings on the state’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) website. Another 55 East Bay layoffs are posted on the site with a Sept. 24 date. Employers are usually required to make such filings before a major layoff.

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San Joaquin General Hospital needs new sterilizers for surgery, baby delivery
Lodi News-Sentinel

San Joaquin General Hospital has two ‘steam sterilizers” used for surgery and maternity procedures that desperately need replacing, according to county officials. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will consider a state of emergency regarding the steam sterilizers. By adopting the resolution, the county would be exempt from the bid process to replace the equipment and pay Belimed about $250,000 to replace the sterilizers.

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Palliative care helps critically ill children and reduces costs
HealthyCal.org

The parents of critically ill children insured by Medi-Cal once had to choose between ongoing treatment and end-of-life care. A program to offer a third option, community-based palliative care, was launched in California in 2009.

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Information is power when patients make health care decisions
HealthyCal.org

Low-income Californians are more likely to feel empowered and engaged in decisions about their health care when they are more informed about their condition and the options available to them, according to a report released Monday. And patients are more likely to feel informed when they see the same health provider regularly and believe that someone in their doctor’s office or clinic knows them well.

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FDA offers plan for better post-market device surveillance
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a new report that it plans to improve its post-market surveillance system for medical devices, in part by establishing a unique device identification system. In a Sept. 6 report, the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health proposed four initiatives to improve its post-market surveillance of devices.

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HHS steps back on NwHIN governance
Modern Healthcare

HHS, through its Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, has decided to punt on its previous drive to regulate the proposed nationwide health information network. In May, the ONC published a formal request for information—chiefly a list of more than 60 questions—that gave a sense of government regulators’ thoughts on how the national network might be regulated.

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Millions in San Francisco health fees don’t go to workers
The Mercury News

Restaurants and other businesses in this food-loving tourist mecca collected almost $14 million dollars in extra fees last year from their patrons, as they sought to comply with the progressive city’s landmark universal health-care ordinance.

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Bill would require testing for congenital heart defects
North County Times

An Oceanside family is just one signature away from helping pass a law that would require all California hospitals to screen newborns for congenital heart defects.

A bill that would mandate the screenings —- AB1731 —- got final approval from the state Assembly on Aug. 30 and now sits on the governor’s desk. “We’re very excited because we know how much good this law will do, and we’re urging the governor to sign AB1731,” said Casey Pelteir, an Oceanside mom who knows firsthand how important such screenings could be.

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Pfizer taps Pleasanton’s SFJ Pharma to run late-stage lung cancer trial
San Francisco Business Times

SFJ Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Pleasanton-based company formed to run clinical trials for large drug companies, will conduct a Phase III trial of Pfizer Inc.’s experimental lung cancer drug dacomitinib. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but SFJ said it will fund and supervise the trial across sites in Asia and Europe that will help the world’s largest drug maker (NYSE: PFE) submit dacomitinib for regulatory approval.

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