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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Health insurance premiums rise a moderate 4%
Los Angeles Times

The price of health insurance provided by employers rose a moderate 4% this year, a major survey shows, but experts warn that rates may climb higher next year.

Annual insurance premiums for families increased 4%, on average, to $15,745, according to the survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. That was down from a 9% hike in 2011.

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$1B in Premium Rate Increases Rejected in Rate Reviews
Health Leaders Media

State and federal insurance premium rate reviews resulted in the denial of an estimated $1 billion in health insurance rate increases in the individual and small group markets, according to the 2012 Annual Rate Review Report released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services. The rate review program requires insurers to publically disclose proposed increases and justify any requests to raise premiums.

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Study of U.S. Health Care System Finds Both Waste and Opportunity to Improve
New York Times

The American medical system squanders 30 cents of every dollar spent on health care, according to new calculations by the respected Institute of Medicine. But in all that waste and misuse, policy experts and economists see a significant opportunity — a way to curb runaway health spending, to improve medical outcomes and even to put the economy on sounder footing.

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Spending varied widely in early ACO test, report says
Modern Healthcare

Medicare spending varied widely among 10 physician groups that tested accountable care ahead of healthcare reform, with the most notable reductions among low-income, medically complex seniors, a newly published estimate shows.

On average, Medicare spending for low-income seniors also covered by Medicaid, a population known as dual eligibles, declined by $532 annually for elderly patients included in the five-year accountable care pilot, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Report: Employer health premiums rose 4 percent this year
The Business Journal

A new survey finds that annual insurance premiums for employee-sponsored family health care coverage have gone up 4 percent in the past year, the Dayton Business Journal writes. Employees on average pay more than $4,300 toward insurance costs with annual premiums at $15,745, the survey, conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust, found.

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Health insurance premiums rise a little
San Francisco Chronicle

Health insurance premiums for coverage sponsored by employers edged up an average of 4 percent – a modest increase by historical standards but still higher than wages and inflation, according to a nationwide survey released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. While insurance continues to be pricey – the survey found the average annual premium for a family of four costs $15,745 – the 4 percent increase stands in contrast to the 9 percent increase reported from 2010 to 2011 and the double-digit increases of 2004 and earlier.

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Health Care Premiums Rise Slightly
New York Times

A family with employer-provided health insurance now pays just under $16,000 in annual premiums, an increase of about 4 percent over a year ago, according to a study released Tuesday by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Individual policies purchased through an employer rose even less, increasing just 3 percent from last year to an average of $5,615, the study said.

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Group Health Insurance Premiums See Moderate Increase in 2012: Survey
Workforce Management

Group health insurance premiums rose modestly this year, according to a survey released Sept. 11 by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The survey of more than 2,000 employers found that the premium for family coverage rose an average of 4 percent, increasing to $15,745 this year.

“Four percent is a low increase. It is good news,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.

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Studies find massive premium savings, lower rate hikes
Modern Healthcare

New analysis from HHS found that the 2010 healthcare law’s insurance reforms have saved consumers an estimated $2.1 billion through lower premiums and rebates, while a separate report said health insurance premiums for families rose by 4% in 2012.

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Ranks of uninsured drop to 15.7% in 2011
Modern Healthcare

The number of U.S. uninsured declined to 48.6 million last year from 50 million in 2010 and the rate of uninsured dropped to 15.7% from 16.3% during the same period. The decrease in the percentage of uninsured is the largest on record since the Census Bureau adjusted its methodology in 1999.

Newly released figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show the number of those with insurance coverage increased to 260.2 million in 2011 from 256.6 million the prior year.

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Cancer study seeks 300,000 participants
San Francisco Chronicle

S.F. General study seeks 300,000 San Francisco General Hospital is seeking volunteers to participate in a national study tracking the effects of lifestyle, behavioral, environmental and genetic factors on cancer rates and prognoses. The study is being organized by the American Cancer Society, and researchers hope to enroll 300,000 adults from a wide variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds around the United States.

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Oak Valley Hospital sued over foundation firing
Modesto Bee

The former executive director of the Oak Valley Hospital Foundation is suing the public hospital district and its former chief executive officer, alleging wrongful termination, breach of contract and defamation. Amy Thompson alleges that she was fired because she campaigned on behalf of three challengers running for the district’s board of directors in the November 2010 election. The challengers — Dan Cummins, Wendell Chun and Louise Sanders — ran on a platform that was critical of then-CEO John Friel.

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Heavy drinkers at increased risk for early stroke
Los Angeles Times

Heavy drinkers who consume three or more servings of alcohol per day are at increased risk of a type of stroke called an intracerebral hemorrhage — and they’re more likely to have that stroke at an earlier age than patients who don’t drink, scientists reported Monday. Writing in the journal Neurology, researchers from the University of Lille Nord de France reported that on average, heavy drinkers were afflicted with intracerebral hemorrhage — which is caused by bleeding in the brain and has a more dire prognosis than more-common ischemic strokes, which are caused by clots in blood vessels — 14 years earlier than people who were not heavy drinkers.

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Be aware of signs of gynecologic cancer
Times-Standard

September. It’s gynecologic cancer month again. Every year this month the Humboldt Community Breast Health Project, where I facilitate a gynecologic cancer support group, makes an extra effort to get the word out about ovarian, uterine, cervical, and vulvar cancer. This year my goal is slightly different. I don’t want to just get the word out; I’m working toward “The Tipping Point.” Made notable in the book of the same name by Malcom Gladwell, the tipping point is where an idea or trend gains enough momentum to “tip” into widespread knowledge and behavior change.

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Health care district faces odd election
San Mateo Daily Journal

An odd election is brewing for three seats on the Sequoia Healthcare District board that pits three current members in a race for just two open seats. Kim Griffin’s and Katie Kane’s seats are up for re-election this November but Jack Hickey, who already sits on the board and whose seat does not expire for another two years, jumped into the race to force a $160,000 election in an effort to gain the most votes and to prove with his victory that residents want to see the district dissolved.

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Ordeal of hepatitis C treatment worth it
San Francisco Chronicle

Daniel Berrner was diagnosed with HIV and hepatitis C in 2005, but it took four years to get the HIV infection under control enough to tackle the hepatitis C. Berrner stayed at Laguna Honda Hospital during the nearly yearlong treatment for hepatitis C, which involved multiple injections of interferon every week and daily doses of ribavirin. Both drugs are known to cause significant emotional and physical side effects, and the treatment sometimes fails.

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Obesity: Doctors need to change their eating habits, too
Los Angeles Times

Doctors are supposed to help patients eat healthfully — but they’re not exactly dietary angels themselves.

Skipping from meeting (snacks provided) to conference (catered, with jumbo cookies) to lunch at the hospital cafeteria (sugary soda on the side), many fall into the same bad habits the rest of us do, consuming too many calories, gaining too much weight, and eating all the wrong foods.

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Premiums for family health plans hit $15,745
USA Today

It sounds like good news: Annual premiums for job-based family health plans went up only 4% this year. But hang on to your wallets: Premiums averaged $15,745, with employees paying more than $4,300 of that, a glaring reminder that the problem of unaffordable medical care is anything but solved. The annual employer survey released Tuesday by two major research groups also highlighted another disturbing trend:

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Officials: 8 infants exposed to TB at CA hospital
The Mercury News

Eight infants were exposed to tuberculosis at the neonatal intensive care unit of a Sacramento hospital, but health officials said Tuesday it’s unlikely the babies will contract the disease. The babies were doing well and weren’t exhibiting any symptoms of tuberculosis but will receive antibiotic treatment as a precaution, Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said. In addition, doctors will conduct follow-up tests in six months to see if the children are infected.

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Hospital District Cuts
Kern Valley Sun

I’ve recently been so pleased and proud of our financial performance at the Kern Valley Hospital District. With the participation of, and dedicated hard work by, all of our employees, providers, and administrators, we’ve been trending toward and had just recently found some profitability.

Our hope and goal has been to be able to provide the citizens of the Kern River Valley with the very best healthcare possible, to offer you services and care that you would otherwise have to travel over 100 miles to obtain, and to do it in a financially responsible way.

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Blog: ACO finds savings harder to find as time goes by
Modern Healthcare

The first two years of a Sacramento accountable care experiment cut spending by $50 million, including $13 million that was divided by the participating doctors, hospitals and insurer. But in year three, those savings have grown more elusive. That’s according to Kristen Miranda, vice president of provider network management at Blue Shield of California, which launched the project with Dignity Health, formerly Catholic Healthcare West, and Hill Physicians Medical Group. “It does get harder,” said Miranda.

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