News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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California’s uninsured increasing in numbers
CalCoastNews.com

California’s uninsured population is among the nation’s highest at 19.7 percent and continuing to increase, according to a new Census Bureau report. Even though nationally the number of those without medical insurance fell from 16.3 percent to 15.7 percent in 2011, in California the number of uninsured rose from 19.4 percent to 19.7 percent. Nationally, uninsured rates range from 3.4 percent in Massachusetts to 23.8 percent in Texas.

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Hospitals to Congress: Drop Payment Cap Proposal
Health Leaders Media

The nation’s four largest hospital associations and their allies at medical schools urged Congress in a letter this week to oppose a cap on payments for outpatient services in hospitals.

The cap proposal was floated earlier this year by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which estimates that it could save the federal government about $1 billion.

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Sutter will launch its own HMO next year
Sacramento Business Journal

The Sacramento-based nonprofit health system applied for an HMO license from the California Department of Managed Health Care in August and hopes to begin sales of a company-owned health plan next fall for coverage in 2014. Sutter Health — and the health care marketplace — have changed dramatically since Sutter sold its Omni Healthcare HMO at a steep discount to Blue Cross in 1999.

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Desert Regional Medical Center gets new CEO
Los Angeles Business Journal

The Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs has a new chief executive officer in Carolyn Caldwell. Caldwell will come to Desert Regional from Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence, Mo. Before joining Centerpoint, Caldwell was CEO of Lee’s Summit Medical Center from 2004 to 2007. For more on Caldwell and her accomplishments at Centerpoint, check out this report from the Kansas City Business Journal.

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Medicare cuts will cost 766K jobs, providers say
FierceHealthcare

If a 2 percent reduction of Medicare payments goes through as planned, it could cost more than three-quarters of a million jobs, according to the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association. The provider groups are urging Congress to reconsider the budget sequester and the expiring sustainable growth rate fix, The Hill’s Healthwatch noted. The sequester is aimed at saving $2.1 trillion in federal spending over the next 10 years, Kaiser Health News reported.

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Rise in hospital PPI highest since October 2009
Modern Healthcare

Wholesale prices for acute-care hospital services saw their highest one-month spike since October 2009, climbing 1.7% in August, according to preliminary figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Produce Price Index. Last month’s jump followed a 0.2% increase in July. In August 2011, acute-care hospital wholesale prices rose 0.2%. The index climbed 1.8% in October 2009. For the year that ended in August, acute-care hospital wholesale prices increased 3.8%, the preliminary figures show, compared with 2.3% the prior year.

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Health care providers collect $734M to improve IT
Sacramento Business Journal

In less than a year, more than $734 million in federal funding has been distributed to doctors, clinics and hospitals throughout the state — including $17.1 million to 223 providers in the Sacramento Valley Area — for information technology to improve health care services. Incentive payments to encourage meaningful use of electronic health records, the funding has contributed toward modernizing California’s health care system by enabling patient information to be managed in ways that improve health care quality, safety and efficiency.

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Digital X-ray prices up jump 22.3% in July
Modern Healthcare

The average price of a digital X-ray system jumped 22.3% in July but is up just 1% for the 12-month period ended in July, according to the latest edition of the Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index. The TPI tracks the monthly and annual price changes of 30 supply and capital items purchased by hospitals and other provider organizations. The price hike for a digital X-ray system was the largest among the 30 items tracked in July.

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Simi Valley Hospital breaks ground on ER expansion
Ventura County Star

As a key part of Simi Valley Hospital, the emergency department must meet the medical needs of friends and neighbors every day, said Kim Milstien, the hospital’s new president and CEO.

“Simi Valley Hospital is the only emergency department in the community, and we take that very seriously,” Milstien said.

The current facility, however, was built in 1985 when the community was much smaller. So a groundbreaking was held Wednesday for a new facility, to be called the Thakkar Family Emergency Pavilion.

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Western Health eyes Napa County too
North Bay Business Journal

Western Health Advantage formally announced its plan to expand into the North Bay, adding Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties to its roster with hopes of offering a commercial health plan for employers and individuals by Jan. 1. In June, the Sacramento-based HMO (916-563-2250, westernhealth.com) filed expansion plans with the state Department of Managed Health Care. [See "HMO plans to expand into North Bay," Aug. 20.]

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Cal eConnect discloses stolen laptops
Modern Healthcare

Cal eConnect, which is transitioning out of its role as California’s contractor for health information exchange, announced a possible security breach as several of its laptops were stolen this summer. E-mail addresses and contact info may have been stored in the computers’ Microsoft Outlook e-mail address books. Officials from the Emeryville, Calif.-based exchange said they don’t believe serious harm is possible from the thefts, but in letters to those affected, it advised changing passwords on e-mail accounts.

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CMS lax on reporting violations to anti-fraud database, inspector general says
Modern Healthcare

The CMS has done better recently in reporting violations by durable medical equipment suppliers to a national database used to keep fraudsters out of the healthcare system, but an audit says the agency is still not meeting other reporting requirements.

The HHS‘ inspector general’s office says in a four-page follow-up audit that the CMS has not been consistently reporting problems with nursing homes, laboratories, managed-care plans and prescription-drug plans to the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank.

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Policy changes, more IT promotion needed to spur wider EHR adoption: senators
Modern Healthcare

Wider adoption of electronic health records will require both more legislation and efforts to promote EHRs to providers, members of Congress said Thursday.

After addressing members of health IT organizations gathered in Washington for a National Health IT Week event, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told Modern Healthcare that he plans to introduce legislation to address conflicts between varying state privacy laws and federal efforts to spur health information exchange. Some health IT experts have said strong state laws have hindered that exchange.

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Slideshow: How to Open an Urgent Care Center
Health Leaders Media

Market competition plays a role in the development and expansion of both urgent care centers and freestanding EDs. Entrepreneur physicians and investors target markets capturing the insured population, similar to the boutique hospital competition for orthopedic, cardiovascular, and oncology services. Until now there have been limited choices for patients seeking access to immediate care, so by default hospitals have been receiving the revenue from paying patients for the treatment of minor ailments.

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Western Health moving into North Bay counties
Sacramento Business Journal

Sacramento-based insurance company Western Health Advantage is expanding, with plans to offer coverage in Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties next year. If approved by state regulators, this will be the home-grown HMO’s first geographic expansion in years and the first time it works with providers beyond its three owners. The nonprofit health maintenance organization is owned by the UC Davis Health System, Dignity Health and NorthBay Healthcare in Fairfield.

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L.A. County Medical Association sues Health Net over payment denials
Modern Healthcare

The Los Angeles County Medical Association and two patients have filed a lawsuit against Health Net of California, accusing the insurance company of implementing “a defective utilization management process” to deny payment for medical procedures it deemed unnecessary. According to the complaint, Health Net considered the emergency radical prostatectomy recommended to plaintiff Robert Mendoza was not medically necessary, nor was the implant of a nerve stimulating device suggested to plaintiff Kalana Penner.

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Lawmakers weigh in on Sebelius speech violation
Modern Healthcare

Some Democrats defended HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius after the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found she violated federal law when she made “extemporaneous partisan remarks” during a February speech while acting in her official capacity as head of HHS. “If she made a mistake and said something she shouldn’t have at some event, that is of little significance compared to the importance of the healthcare reform effort that she is leading,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told Modern Healthcare.

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Children’s Hospital Oakland eyes challenges, opportunities as it turns 100
The Mercury News

A typical hospital bed costs $1 a day. And if you wanted to splurge for a private room? That would set you back $2.50. Running the entire 38-bed hospital costs $2,000 a month — more than a quick emergency room visit today. Things have changed dramatically since nurse Bertha Wright and social worker Mabel Weed began planning an Oakland hospital in 1912 that would have the special equipment and expertise to serve and save children.

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