News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Governor signs key health reform bills, vetoes others
Sacramento Business Journal

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed key legislation to implement health care reform in California, but he vetoed two important measures to reform the individual market. He also left hanging whether individuals will be allowed to use one portal to apply for both social services and health programs when a new insurance exchange launches in 2014.

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Medicare benefit structure may favor SNFs over hospice care, study finds
Modern Healthcare

The benefit structure of Medicare and Medicaid may encourage post-hospitalization Medicare beneficiaries to go into skilled-nursing facilities instead of hospice, even though hospice may be more appropriate, according to a study published online by the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study of more than 5,100 Medicare patients found that of patients who lived in the community and had used Medicare’s SNF benefit, 42% died in a nursing home, while of those patients who lived in the community and hadn’t used the SNF benefit, only about 5% died in a nursing home.

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Report: Overhaul offers key insurer growth chance
San Francisco Chronicle

A new study says the health care overhaul is poised to pour billions of dollars into an insurance industry thirsty for customers. The federal law aims to cover millions of uninsured people. It will take a major step toward that goal in 2014, when the government offers tax credits to help many Americans buy coverage through online exchanges. These exchanges will act as virtual marketplaces for customers to comparison shop for the right coverage.

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Not-for-profits see rise in donations, report finds
Modern Healthcare

U.S. not-for-profit hospitals and healthcare systems received $8.9 billion in donations in fiscal 2011, an 8.2% increase from the previous year, according to a new report from the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. That total represents an all-time high in donations, besting fiscal 2008’s mark of $8.6 billion, according to the report. However, hospitals and healthcare systems are spending more than ever on fundraising, as it cost 31 cents to raise a dollar in fiscal 2011. That represents a 2-cent increase from fiscal 2010.

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Jerry Brown veto seeks stronger ties between California health law and federal act
Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Sunday requiring California health insurers to cover all individuals regardless of medical condition, citing a technical flaw rather than opposition to the most popular part of the federal health care overhaul. The Democratic governor was concerned that Senate Bill 961 and Assembly Bill 1461 would force health insurers to carry out the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in California even if federal leaders dramatically change the law, such as eliminating the requirement that everyone carry insurance or pay a penalty.

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Anthem Blue Cross settles with state over information breach
Sacramento Business Journal

Anthem Blue Cross has reached a settlement with California Attorney General Kamala Harris over allegations the company failed to protect the personal information of its members. Between April 2011 and March 2012, Anthem printed the Social Security numbers as part of a priority code on marketing mailers and payment letters mailed to more than 33,750 Medicare members in violation of state law the restricts disclosure of the numbers.

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Anthem Blue Cross settles in SSN disclosure case
Sacramento Bee

State Attorney General Kamala Harris today announced a settlement with Anthem Blue Cross over allegations that the California health insurer failed to protect the personal information of members.

A lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court today along with the settlement, alleged that Anthem Blue Cross printed Social Security numbers on letters mailed to more than 33,000 of its Medicare Supplement and Medicare Part D subscribers between April 2011 and March 2012.

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Patients report better Rx adherence when docs share notes: study
Modern Healthcare

Most physicians who let patients read their notes over the course of a year as part of a study concluded that the practice was a good idea, and most patients in the study said the experience increased their medication adherence, according to a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded study included 105 doctors and more than 13,500 patients at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston; Geisinger Health System, Danville, Pa.; and Harborview Medical Center, a Seattle safety-net hospital. Before the study began, a preliminary survey about doctor note-sharing was conducted.

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Patients like reading their doctors’ notes: study
Yahoo! News

Both doctors and patients gave high marks to a program allowing patients to access their primary care physicians’ office notes online, in a new study. Researchers at three U.S. practices found doctors’ initial concerns about the extra time it would take to write out notes and answer patients’ related questions didn’t pan out. And almost everyone who got access to their notes for the study wanted to keep seeing them, even if some patients were concerned about privacy issues.

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AHIMA calls for unified data standards
Modern Healthcare

The American Health Information Management Association says it’s prepared to work alongside vendors, insurers, providers and the federal government to develop needed industrywide governance standards for health information technology. In a news release issued during AHIMA’s annual convention and exhibit, taking place in Chicago, the group said interoperability standards and common coding guidelines are necessary to protect patient safety, bolster quality improvement efforts and quell concerns about fraud and abuse.

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Memorial Hospital nurses going out on strike
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital nurses on Monday voted to strike today, marking the first impasse in 26 years between the union and the company that runs Sonoma County’s only trauma center.

Only four members of the Santa Rosa-based Staff Nurses Association voted against the walkout, which was scheduled to begin at 5 a.m. today and to end at 5a.m. Thursday.

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UCSF nabs $3 million to lead artificial kidney effort
San Francisco Business Times

A national research effort led by UC San Francisco to develop an implantable artificial kidney has won $3 million in funding, raising $2.25 million from the National Institutes of Health and $750,000 from the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation. The biomedical research campus said the funding will launch an effort to develop the device, with a goal of reaching clinical trials by 2017.

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Doctor Visits Dropping, New Census Figures Show
New York Times

Americans of working age are going to the doctor less frequently than they were 10 years ago, according to a new report by the Census Bureau. In 2010, people age 18 to 64 made an average of 3.9 visits to doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, down from 4.8 visits in 2001, said the report, which was released on Monday. The precise reasons for the decline were unclear, said Brett O’Hara, an official at the Census Bureau and a co-author of the report.

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Study: Doctor visits decline, uninsured less healthy
Visialia Times-Delta

People made fewer visits to the doctor over the past 10 years — a time when the cost of health insurance, deductibles and co-pays soared, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau out Monday.

Among people between the ages of 18 to 64, the average number of visits to medical services (physicians and hospitals) decreased from 4.8 visits in 2001 to 3.9 in 2010. The report examines the relationship between medical usage, health insurance, and health and economic status.

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A Season For Medicare Choices
Santa Monica Mirror

As the weather turns cooler, it’s time once again to think about your Medicare choices. Unlike the past several years, there are relatively few changes to Medicare rules for 2013.

But because your individual plan or your circumstances might be changing, you should still take a close look at your coverage options. There’s also another choice ahead this November: it has to do with the future of Medicare, and health care, for all of us.

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UCLA-led study finds direct link between hospital bedsores and patient mortality
Los Angeles Daily News

Seniors who developed bedsores in a hospital were more likely to die during their stay, to have longer periods in the facility, or were readmitted within 30 days of their discharge, according to a UCLA study released today.

The study, spearheaded by the dean of UCLA’s School of Nursing, is believed to be the first of its kind to use data directly from medical records to assess the impact of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers on Medicare patients at national and state levels.

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Report Sees Less Impact in New Autism Definition
New York Times

Proposed changes to the official diagnosis of autism will not reduce the proportion of children found to have it as steeply as many have feared, scientists reported on Tuesday, in an analysis that contradicts several previous studies. Earlier research had estimated that 45 percent or more of children currently on the “autism spectrum” would not qualify under a new definition now being refined by psychiatric researchers — a finding that generated widespread anxiety among parents who rely on state-financed services for their children. The new report, posted online Tuesday by The American Journal of Psychiatry, concluded that the number who would be excluded is closer to 10 percent.

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L.A. billionaire teams with insurer on personalized medicine
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles billionaire and healthcare entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong reached an agreement with insurer Blue Shield of California aimed at accelerating medical breakthroughs to doctors and patients to improve care and reduce costs.

Soon-Shiong, a former UCLA surgeon and drug-company executive, announced the deal Tuesday between his NantHealth company and Blue Shield, a nonprofit insurer with 3.3 million customers in California.

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Administration Advises States to Expand Medicaid or Risk Losing Federal Money
New York Times

The Obama administration is putting pressure on states to expand Medicaid, telling them they may lose federal money if they delay. But at the same time, federal health officials have also told states that if they choose to expand Medicaid, they are free to reverse the decision at any time.

The officials have set forth their position in letters to state officials — the first definitive guidance since the Supreme Court ruled in June that the expansion of Medicaid was an option, not a requirement, for states.

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The conservative case for Obamacare
Los Angeles Daily News

If Mitt Romney’s pivots on President Barack Obama’s health care reform act have accelerated to a blur — from repealing on Day 1, to preserving this or that piece, to punting the decision to the states — it is for an odd reason buried beneath two and a half years of Republican political condemnations: the architecture of the Affordable Care Act is based on conservative, not liberal, ideas about individual responsibility and the power of market forces.

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Medical Malpractice – What Obamacare Misses
The Health Care Blog

Medical malpractice in America remains a thorny and contentious issue, made no less so by its virtual exclusion from the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) governing healthcare reform in America. Which is why I was glad to see the former head of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag, now with the liberal Center for American Progress, cite it as his second top priority for gaining control of our out-sized medical spending – an implicit criticism of its omission from Obamacare.

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Can Personalized Care Survive ObamaCare’s Assembly Line Medicine?
The Health Care Blog

Previously, I wrote about some wondrous developments that are taking place in medical science. Implantable or attachable devices already exist — or soon will exist — that can monitor the conditions of diabetics, asthmatics, heart patients and patients with numerous other chronic conditions. These devices will allow patients and doctors to modify therapeutic regimes and tailor treatments to individual needs and responses. Genetic testing is reaching the point where patients can be directed to take certain drugs or avoid other drugs, based solely on the patient’s own genes.

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Strengthening Primary Care With A New Professional Congress
The Health Care Blog

Three months ago a post argued that America’s primary care associations, societies and membership groups have splintered into narrowly-focused specialties. Individually and together, they have proved unable to resist decades of assault on primary care by other health care interests. The article concluded that primary care needs a new, more inclusive organization focused on accumulating and leveraging the power required to influence policy in favor of primary care.

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