News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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L.A. Donor Lays Groundwork for ‘Health Superhighway’
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Billionaire surgeon and biotech entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong is unveiling a major program Wednesday aimed at speeding the flow of patient information among doctors, says Reuters in a profile of the wealthiest man in Los Angeles. Mr. Soon-Shiong’s health-technology firm NantHealth will partner with other tech companies and nonprofit insurer Blue Shield of California to build a nationwide network for doctors to share DNA and other information on cancer patients, enabling genetic analyses that now can take weeks to be done in minutes.

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Recovery Auditor Improper Payments Ratchet Up
Health Leaders Media

With the close of the fiscal year quarter, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has again released statistics for the amount of overpayments and underpayments. The latest report shows that the trend continues to point upward, as CMS has once again corrected more improper payments than the previous quarter, this time to the tune of $701.3 million.

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No nurse-ratio penalties like no penalties for speeding
Sacramento Business Journal

State enforcement of California’s strict nurse-to-patient ratio law is like a world with no traffic tickets, says lobbyist Beth Capell. “There’s no fine, no penalty. The Department (of Public Health) allows a plan of correction, but if not, nobody checks.” Yet Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a measure that gave the department more authority to crack down on hospitals that don’t obey the law.

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UC Riverside gets preliminary OK to open med school
Los Angeles Times

A national accrediting agency has approved UC Riverside’s plan to open a full medical school and to start enrolling future doctors next summer. It would be the sixth medical school in the University of California system and the first to open since the late 1960s.

Last year, the same panel rejected the proposal because it looked too risky after the state refused to fund the school. But UC Riverside officials have since secured enough other public and private financing for a program that they say will help ease a doctor shortage in the Inland Empire and improve public healthcare there.

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Anthem Blue Cross to pay $150,000 in data breach settlement
Modern Healthcare

Blue Cross of California, doing business as Anthem Blue Cross, has agreed to pay $150,000 and implement a number of procedural changes following the exposure of more than 33,000 members’ Social Security numbers, the California attorney general’s office has announced. The complaint and settlement, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by the office of state Attorney General Kamala Harris, says that Anthem violated a state law restricting the disclosure of individuals’ Social Security numbers. According to a news release, the payer printed the Social Security numbers on letters mailed to more than 33,000 of its Medicare supplement and Part D covered members.

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L.A.’s richest man ups the ante for city, cancer fight
Yahoo! News

As owner of 5 percent of the Los Angeles Lakers, Patrick Soon-Shiong could walk into the locker room of the storied basketball franchise any time for a chat with stars like Kobe Bryant. But the richest man in Los Angeles chooses to sit with the rest of his team’s fans. “He’s not one of those owners who wants to be seen everywhere. He’s just one of the fans,” said Bryant.

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Blue Shield of Calif. links with Soon-Shiong for ACO IT
Modern Healthcare

Blue Shield of California has reached an exclusive agreement with a company founded by billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong to provide information technology services for a newly created accountable care organization.

The ACO will include Access Medical Group, an independent physician association in Marina del Rey, Calif., and St. John’s Health Center, Santa Monica, Calif., according to a news release. Soon-Shiong’s company, NantWorks, launched in September 2011 and markets remote monitoring devices, encryption technology,broadband telecommunication services and genomic sequencing technology.

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Cancer treatment speeded by genome superhighway: creator
Yahoo! News

A new supercomputer-based network will allow doctors to use genomic sequencing to speed cancer treatment and could increase survival chances for patients, its creator, billionaire healthcare businessman Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong, said on Tuesday. A group of technology and healthcare companies have formed the superhighway that will accelerate the time for genetic analysis of a patient’s tumor to 47 seconds from eight to 10 weeks now, Soon-Shiong said in a press release.

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Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital nurses hit the picket line
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

For more than a quarter century, registered nurses at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital have worked in relative harmony with hospital administration.

Whenever labor negotiations heated up around a new contract, the local Staff Nurses Association often threatened to strike — five times during the past six contract negotiations. But hospital management and the nurses union always seemed to work things out in the end.

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Orange County clinics pilot patient centered care
HealthyCal.org

Orange County has gotten an early start on healthcare reform with a pilot program testing a new approach to care for the low-income and uninsured in three clinics. The Coalition of Orange County Community Clinics (COCCC) is piloting a program for patient-centered care with UCI Family Health Center, Serve the People and The Vietnamese Community of Orange County’s Asian Health Center clinics. The initiative’s goal is for local safety-net providers and local health plans to partner together to coordinate care for their patients.

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Medical Schools, Students See Gaps in Policy Education
Health Leaders Media

Should health policy should be a bigger part of medical students’ education? While most medical students feel obligated to put the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into practice, they don’t understand much about it, a study shows. The study’s survey results, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, are from a January 2011 survey of all medical students in Minnesota, asking three things about the PPACA:

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Future U.S. healthcare customers to challenge insurers: report
Yahoo! News

U.S. health insurers will face challenges over the next decade as they expand their marketing to individuals who in many cases will be less educated and poorer than their current policyholders, according to a report released on Tuesday. As a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 30 million Americans are expected to gain access to health insurance through regulated exchanges in each state, more plans from employers, and an expansion of the federal Medicaid program for the poor.

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Health Plan Cost Rate Hikes Lower for Large Employers in 2012: Aon
Insurance Journal

In 2012, large U.S. companies and their employees saw the lowest health care premium rate increases in six years, according to an analysis by Aon Hewitt, the global human resources firm.

The average health care premium rate increase for large employers in 2012 was 4.9 percent, down from 8.5 percent in 2011 and 6.2 percent in 2010. In 2013, however, average health care premium increases are projected to jump up to 6.3 percent.

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Scripps Health opens radiation center
San Diego Union-Tribune

Radiation oncologist Dr. Ray Lin is thrilled that he and his cancer patients are getting out of the basement and into the sunlight, now that the $44 million Scripps Radiation Therapy Center is opening. He tells this joke: “One of my patients said, ‘Going to see you is like going to hell. I go into a dungeon, drop down in the elevator and then you burn me.’ “This center is much lighter and brighter and much nicer,” Lin said as he strode the halls of the newly opened center on Torrey Pines mesa in La Jolla.

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Post-discharge complications common after surgery, study finds
Modern Healthcare

Serious post-discharge complications are common among surgical patients, leading to significantly higher healthcare costs, more frequent emergency department visits and higher readmission rates, according to research findings presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Surgeons, held in Chicago.

One in seven cases of orthopedic, gastrointestinal, vascular or gynecological surgery resulted in a complication within 30 days of an operation, said the authors, who analyzed data from nearly 60,000 surgical procedures performed at 112 VA hospitals from 2005 to 2009.

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Monterey County care workers urge implementation of low-income health program
Monterey Herald

Expressing frustration at the slow pace of implementing a local low-income health program as a precursor to national health care reform, a group of long-term home care workers urged the Board of Supervisors to move ahead with the program Tuesday.

Led by Mario Torres, a member of the state executive board of the workers’ union, the group submitted a stack of petitions calling on supervisors to speed up the process of putting the program in place. Many workers would qualify for the program, and Torres said they are eager to see it up and running.

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SF General Gets a Facelift
San Francisco Chronicle

For anyone driving down Potrero Ave. at 23rd street in the last three years, the construction at San Francisco General Hospital is hard to miss. The city-owned hospital is building an entirely new structure, which will eventually house the new SFGH emergency room and trauma unit. At 64 percent complete, the rebuilding project recently finished the installation of the all-steel structure and is moving on to the prefabricated brick façade, said a spokesman in an update of its progress.

To form the foundation of the new structure workers poured over 400 truckloads of cement over a two-day period.

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