News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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AHA urges FTC to allow mergers before a hospital is ready to close
Modern Healthcare

A hospital should not have to arrive at death’s door before the Federal Trade Commission will allow it to merge with a competitor, lawyers for the American Hospital Association have written in a friend-of-the-court brief. The Chicago-based trade group filed a 45-page amicus brief this week in a case in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, where judges are set to consider the FTC’s order to unravel Toledo, Ohio-based ProMedica Health System’s acquisition of its eighth hospital, 216-bed St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee, Ohio.

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6 in 10 Physicians Would Quit Today
Health Leaders Media

Doctors are working less, seeing fewer patients, and many would quit if they could, a sweeping survey of 13,575 physicians from across the nation shows. The survey, A Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives, was commissioned by The Physicians Foundation.

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Supreme Court to hear cases on hospital deals, payment appeals
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Supreme Court has set hearing dates in November and December for three healthcare cases that will test the boundaries for acquisitions by public hospital authorities, Medicare payment appeals and settlements in wage-and-hour class-action lawsuits. On Nov. 26, the justices will hear arguments in the case of FTC v. Phoebe Putney Health System. In that case, the Federal Trade Commission is seeking to unwind the $198 million acquisition of a formerly for-profit hospital in Albany, Ga., that was purchased by a public hospital authority that owns the only other competing hospital in the county.

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Groups push back on federal warning about EHRs and billing fraud
Modern Healthcare

If hospitals’ bills to federal healthcare programs are increasing through the use of electronic health records, it may be because of improvements in documentation and a lack of national standards for gauging the intensity of some treatments, industry groups asserted in response to a critical letter from two federal agency chiefs. Healthcare groups issued those reactions swiftly after receiving a letter Monday from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that publicly warned hospitals it is illegal to use electronic health records to inflate bills through “false documentation.”

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AHA pushes ‘cure period’ on tax-status issues
Modern Healthcare

Worried that hospitals could have their tax-exempt status stripped without a chance to correct violations, the American Hospital Association asked federal officials for a “cure period” so hospitals could come into compliance with federal mandates. The recommendation was among several detailed in an AHA letter submitted  in response to regulations the U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service proposed in June.

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Knee replacements among Medicare patients skyrocket: study
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals are performing more knee replacement procedures on Medicare patients than they did two decades ago—and while inpatient stays have gotten shorter, readmissions and infection rates have gone up. A study in the Sept. 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at total knee replacement procedures—both primary operations and revisions—performed on more than 3.5 million Medicare patients between 1991 and 2010.

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Knee Replacements Gain in U.S. as Aging Population Seeks Fitness
San Francisco Chronicle

Knee replacement surgeries have more than doubled over the past two decades in the U.S. as older Americans strive to stay active later in life, a study found. Total knee replacement procedures rose 162 percent from 1991 to 2010 while the number of procedures to repair a previously implanted artificial knee joint, called revision, jumped 106 percent, according to research released in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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FDA forms task force on antibacterial drugs
Modern Healthcare

The Food and Drug Administration said it has formed an internal task force to aid the development of new antibacterial drugs. The creation of the Antibacterial Drug Development Task Force stems from a provision in the user-fee legislation that was signed into law in July. The Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now provision requires the FDA to extend exclusivity periods for antibiotic drugs, as well as provide priority review to designated infectious disease products.

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Antibiotic Use, Costs Show Wide Regional Variations
Health Leaders Media

Healthcare providers throughout the country, especially in Mississippi and Alabama and the rest of the South, need targeted education to reduce the number of Medicare patients given antibiotics without indication.

That’s the conclusion of a University of Pittsburgh-led report that found wide variation in antibiotic prescribing practices in outpatient settings by state and by region.

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Medical students lack knowledge of healthcare overhaul
Yahoo! News

The 2010 Affordable Care Act affects almost every aspect of the U.S. healthcare system, but many future doctors who will be operating under its policies admit they don’t know that much about the law. In a survey of about 850 medical students in Minnesota, less than half said they understood the healthcare law’s basic components, and more than 40 percent said they had no opinion on the law.

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Deficit law threatens new cancer research, official says
Modern Healthcare

Looming cuts under the federal deficit-reduction law would endanger about 40% of the funding for new federal cancer research next year, according to a federal research official.

Dr. Harold Varmus, director of the National Cancer Institute and co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, told reporters Tuesday that his informal estimate of potential cancer research cuts is based on likely sequester effects previously mentioned by Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

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Blues Plans Shift ACO Involvement Into Higher Gear With Boomlet of New Deals
AIS Health

Several Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans have announced accountable care organization (ACO) partnerships with providers in recent weeks, increasing the amount of payer participation in the coordinated-care marketplace. These commercial ACOs involving Blues plans are popping up across the country, demonstrating a variety of ways health plans can take part in systems created for cutting costs through improved patient care, market observers tell The AIS Report.

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Premium hikes set for Medicare drug plans
San Francisco Chronicle

Millions of seniors enrolled in some of the most popular Medicare prescription drug plans face double-digit premium hikes next year if they don’t shop for a better deal, says a private firm that analyzes the highly competitive market. Seven of the top 10 prescription plans are raising their premiums by 11 percent to 23 percent, according to a report this week by Avalere Health. It’s a reality check on a stream of upbeat Medicare announcements from the Obama administration, all against the backdrop of a hard-fought election.

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Shasta Regional Medical Center will take Blue Cross insurance starting Oct. 15
Redding Record Searchlight

Shasta Regional Medical Center will start accepting Blue Cross next month, ending a bitter feud between the hospital’s parent company and one of the nation’s largest health insurance carriers.

“The last thing you want is for people to have to worry and wonder if they can go to this or that hospital,” Shasta Regional Medical Center CEO Randall Hempling said Tuesday.

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UC Davis to lead electronically linking hospitals, docs across the state
Sacramento Business Journal

The UC Davis Health System has signed a $17.5 million agreement with state and federal health officials to lead an effort to electronically link hospitals, doctors and emergency rooms statewide by 2014. Dr. Ken Kizer at the university’s Institute for Population Improvement in Sacramento was asked to take over the state’s troubled health information exchange in June, but did some due diligence before hashing out an agreement.

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Generic-drug user-fee program moving forward
Modern Healthcare

A user-fee program intended to speed the approval of generic drugs is expected to begin Oct. 1 as planned even though Congress and the president failed to reach a spending agreement that reflected the new initiative.

Legislation passed in both the House and Senate before Congress adjourned until after the election would allow the Food and Drug Administration to begin collecting user fees from the generic drug industry next year.

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Report: Premium hikes for top Medicare drug plans
Modern Healthcare

Seniors enrolled in seven of the 10 most popular Medicare prescription drug plans will be hit with double-digit premium hikes next year if they don’t shop for a better deal, says a private firm that analyzes the highly competitive market.

The report Monday by Avalere Health is a reality check on the Obama’s administration’s upbeat pronouncements. Back in August, officials had announced that the average premium for basic prescription drug coverage will stay the same in 2013, at $30 a month.

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Will the Rollout Of the Exchanges Be Delayed?
The Health Care Blog

While the Governor’s Mansion in Pennsylvania is currently under the control of the Republicans. I know the state’s Insurance Department is relatively apolitical. That’s why this September statement by Pennsylvania Commissioner Consedine before the U.S. House Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Health is quite telling. In it, Mr. Consedine describes how the Keystone state is encountering difficulties implementing an health insurance exchange.

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