News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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More Expected to Face Penalty Under Health Law
New York Times

Nearly six million Americans, most of them middle-income workers, will face a tax penalty under President Obama’s health overhaul for not getting insurance, Congressional analysts said Wednesday. That estimate, from analysts at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, is significantly higher than their previous projection, calculated in 2010 shortly after the law passed.

The earlier estimate found four million people would be affected in 2016, when the penalty is fully in effect.

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California Could Lose $61B in Medicare Pay. Does it Matter?
California Healthline

ObamaCare takes about $716 billion out of Medicare spending across a decade. That much isn’t up for debate. But does that figure represent “cuts” to Medicare, as opponents of the Affordable Care Act contend? Or is it just payment reductions phased in over time that won’t affect benefits, as the White House maintains? Where you stand on that may depend on your politics — and semantics.

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MLR Waiver Bill Could Shift Power to States
Health Leaders Media

A key waiver provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would be amended under a medical loss ratio (MLR) bill scheduled for mark-up Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

That provision of HR 1206 would give states the final say on MLR waiver requests. MLR waiver authority now rests with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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Tax penalty to hit nearly 6M uninsured people
Santa Cruz Sentinel

Nearly 6 million Americans—significantly more than first estimated— will face a tax penalty under President Barack Obama’s health overhaul for not getting insurance, congressional analysts said Wednesday. Most would be in the middle class. The new estimate amounts to an inconvenient fact for the administration, a reminder of what critics see as broken promises.

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CBO: Penalty tax on uninsured could yield $7 billion in 2016
Modern Healthcare

The federal government could receive about $7 billion in collections from the approximately 6 million Americans who will pay a penalty tax because they are uninsured in 2016, according to new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. In 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will require most legal U.S. residents to buy health insurance or to pay a penalty if they fail to do so.

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Bay Area hospitals lauded as top performers nationally
The Mercury News

Several Bay Area hospitals were named top performers Wednesday by the nation’s leading accrediting agency. The Joint Commission analyzed whether 3,300 institutions nationwide met specific quality measures at least 95 percent of the time in 2011. The practices have been shown to improve outcomes for patients, including giving antibiotics one hour before surgery, giving aspirin to heart attack patients when they arrive and doing blood tests in the emergency room for patients thought to have pneumonia.

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Sutter hospitals included again in national listing
Sacramento Bee

Sacramento-area Sutter hospitals stood out on a list of the nation’s top performers in an annual report released today by the Joint Commission, the Illinois-based nonprofit health care accreditation organization.

Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento was one of 244 hospitals to be on the list two years in a row. Overall, 620 U.S. hospitals earned “Top Performer on Key Quality Measures” recognition.

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Sacramento Sutter hospital named top performer
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Medical Center Sacramento is one of 244 hospitals nationwide — and the only one in the Sacramento region — to be named a top performer on key quality measures for two years in a row by The Joint Commission, the leading accrediting agency for heath care organizations and programs in the U.S. The medical center, which includes Sutter General Hospital in Midtown and Sutter Memorial in east Sacramento, was recognized for top performance in using clinical guidelines shown to improve care for heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia.

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Scripps Encinitas earns spot on national quality list
North County Times

The nation’s largest hospital accreditation agency has named Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas among the top 18 percent of hospitals nationwide for hitting quality goals in 2011. The Joint Commission, which accredits 10,300 hospitals and home care organizations across the United States, released its “top performers” list Wednesday.

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Poor Pain Control for Cancer Patients
New York Times

Recounting her father’s struggle with cancer was difficult for the young woman, even several years after his death. He’d endured first surgery and then chemotherapy and radiation, she told me, and the cancer had gone into remission. He was thrilled, but the aggressive treatment left him with chronic, debilitating pain. Once active, he struggled to get around in his own home.

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Medicare officials say program should curb fraud
San Francisco Chronicle

Wheelchair suppliers raised concerns Wednesday about a new government program that requires Medicare contractors to sign off before power wheelchairs can be delivered to elderly and disabled consumers. Federal health officials countered that the changes are needed because nearly 80 percent of the power wheelchair claims submitted to Medicare don’t meet program requirements. That error rate represents more than $492 million in improper payments annually.

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Sutter to close San Mateo ER
San Mateo Daily Journal

The emergency room at Mills Health Center in San Mateo will close Dec. 1 to meet earthquake standards set by the state, hospital officials announced yesterday. The standby emergency department will be replaced with an urgent care center in the same space, scheduled to open in late 2013. It would cost between $60 million and $80 million to retrofit the one affected building at Mills which hospital officials said is “simply not feasible.”

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Nurses group: AAFP ‘out of step’ on medical-home leadership
Modern Healthcare

While voicing its strong support for team-based care models, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners called the American Academy of Family Physicians “misdirected and out of step” because of the organization’s call to have care teams led by physicians. On Tuesday, the AAFP issued Primary Care for the 21st Century, a report stating that nurses and other healthcare professionals have a role in easing healthcare delivery shortages created by a lack of primary-care physicians, but that allowing nurse practitioners to practice independently would create two classes of care: one led by physicians and one led by “less-qualified” individuals.

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Healthcare a Seedbed for Analytics Research
Health Leaders Media

The healthcare industry, which has long trailed other industries in its use of analytics, is developing into a seedbed for research on advanced analytics, including topics such as natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and genomics.

The healthcare analytics world last year took particular note of IBM’s Watson project, a supercomputer able to answer questions posed in natural language that defeated human competitors on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!

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