News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Many emergency rooms visits avoidable
San Francisco Chronicle

Nearly 60 percent of Medicare beneficiary visits to emergency rooms and 25 percent of their hospital admissions were “potentially preventable” had patients received better care at home or in outpatient settings – according to results of a study released Friday by a congressional advisory board. “These are spectacular rates,” said Scott Armstrong, a member of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and CEO of Seattle plan Group Health Cooperative.

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GAO outlines targets, costs of anti-fraud efforts
Modern Healthcare

Medical facilities—such as medical centers, clinics and medical practices—were the category of healthcare provider most likely to face fraud-related criminal investigations in 2010, according to a report that aims to help direct future anti-fraud efforts. Medical facilities were the subjects of nearly 25% of the 7,848 federal criminal fraud cases in 2010, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued Tuesday. And durable medical equipment suppliers comprised about 16% of such cases.

Those same categories of healthcare companies comprised a nearly identical combined percentage of criminal cases in 2005.

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Study: Nurse Ratio Law Has Mixed Results on Quality of Care
California Healthline

Authors of a new study contend that California’s 2004 law mandating minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals has had mixed results on quality of care for patients. California Nurses Association officials said the study’s findings do not support the authors’ conclusions. The nurses association was the driving force behind the ratio law and now is lobbying to get other states to adopt similar legislation.

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PCI rates lower in states with outcomes reporting, study finds
Modern Healthcare

The number of percutaneous coronary interventions, or angioplasties, is lower in states that mandate public reporting of PCI outcomes, according to a study in the Oct. 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Led by Dr. Karen Joynt of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, researchers reviewed Medicare data for more than 100,000 patients from reporting and non-reporting states.

For patients with acute myocardial infarction, their likelihood of receiving PCI in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York—states with public-reporting programs— was 37.7%, compared with 42.7% in seven non-reporting states, the study said.

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Basic Health Plan numbers do not add up
Capitol Weekly

One of the most hotly contested issues for the end-of-year special session called by Gov. Brown on healthcare is whether California should create a “Basic Health Plan.” This proposal would take away subsidies for the purchase of private health insurance from an estimated 800,000 lower-income Californians. It would require them to enroll instead in a program run by the state’s Medicaid department. The proponents of the Basic Health Plan claim that it will be vastly more affordable for Californians. But their numbers do not add up.

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Rising Health Care Costs to Pinch Employees
Workforce Management

Premiums for health insurance plans will climb 6.3 percent in 2013, but employee costs will shoot up even higher as companies look to shift more of the rising expenses to their workers, according to a new forecast by human resources consultancy Aon Hewitt.

The average cost to insure an employee is projected to jump to $11,283 in 2013, from $10,616 this year, according to the report by the unit of London-based Aon Corp.

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Dignity Health to use CEP America staffing
Sacramento Bee

Emeryville-based CEP America, a provider of hospital-based physician management solutions, says it is expanding its partnership with Dignity Health hospitals in the Sacramento area.

San Francisco-based Dignity Health operates more than a half-dozen hospitals in the Sacramento region and bills itself as the fifth-largest health system in the nation.

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ACEP: Frequent ED Users Need Coordinated Care
Health Leaders Media

Emergency room physicians say overcrowding and visits from frequent users could be reduced with a coordinated approach to care.

The American College of Emergency Physicians released several studies Tuesday analyzing data about patients who visit EDs frequently. Robert O’Connor, MD, FACEP, and ACEP board member as well as Chair of Emergency Medicine at the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine in Charlottesville, says each study focuses on a different aspect of frequent ED visits, and as a result pointed to a difficult, complex problem.

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Shasta County appoints Ewert to fill Health and Human Services post
Redding Record Searchlight

Shasta County’s biggest department will have a new leader starting Nov. 18.

Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to give the Health and Human Services Agency director position to Donnell Ewert, who currently heads the agency’s public health and adult services divisions of that department.

Ewert, 49, will replace the department’s outgoing director Marta McKenzie, who retires next month.

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Stores pair checkups with shopping
Ventura County Star

Behind store shelves and racks filled with school backpacks, M&M’s and sympathy cards, the doctor is waiting.

Well, wait a second. The doctor is a 33-year-old nurse practitioner from Moorpark. She’s giving flu shots and treating people for bronchitis in a small examination room decorated with an eye chart at the back of a CVS Pharmacy in Agoura Hills.

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Comparative Effectiveness Research Not Aligned with Financial Incentives
Health Leaders Media

Taxpayer-funded research findings in the last decade have altered clinical knowledge about the best way to treat patients, but five obstacles, the biggest of which is perverse financial incentives, keep physicians from adopting them for their patients. That’s the message from RAND researcher Justin Timbie and colleagues, who report their conclusions in the October issue of Health Affairs.

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Tackle Medicare during lame duck session, Schumer says
Modern Healthcare

The short post-election congressional session needs to include an entitlement reform package that cuts “hundreds of billions of dollars” from Medicare, a senior Senate Democrat said Tuesday.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate and a senior member of the powerful Finance Committee, urged the Medicare cuts as part of a “grand bargain” that produces at least $4 trillion in deficit reduction. The package also should increase taxes on high income earners while maintaining current rates for taxpayers with incomes below $250,000.

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HIMSS G7 offers plan for ICD-10 implementation
Modern Healthcare

HIMSS G7, a multi-stakeholder group charged with identifying strategies to improve the nation’s healthcare financial network, has released a plan of action for supporting the implementation of the ICD-10 coding set by the Oct. 1, 2014 deadline. In a 13-page advisory report, the group outlined a number of solutions it said would assist the transition, including targeted education efforts aimed at independent physician group practices and increased vendor readiness.

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Small hospitals helped by insurer’s loans
Chico Enterprise Record

Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital is among 11 small hospitals that received loans from an insurance company. Seneca Healthcare District, which operates a hospital in Chester, also received a loan. The funds were part of $20 million in loans made by UnitedHealthcare to hospitals in rural California communities. Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital received $2.5 million, and the Seneca District hospital got $1.6 million.

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For heart patients, medical disclosure can limit treatment
Los Angeles Times

Heart attack patients in states that require healthcare providers to report the outcomes of procedures to open blocked arteries are less likely to receive those live-saving treatments than similar patients in states without public reporting mandates, according to a new study.

The disparities in care, however, appeared to have little effect on patient survival rates.

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Hospital announces new breast cancer support group
The Press-Enterprise

A free breast cancer support group for patients and their families has been set up at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday, Oct. 15 Future meetings will be held on the third Monday of each month at the same time and place, the Oak Conference Room, First Floor, Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, 400 North Pepper Ave., Colton.

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Group lauds tougher penalties for theft of medical products
Modern Healthcare

Tougher penalties for stealing medical products contained in a recently signed law should reduce theft and improve patient safety, according to an industry group. The bipartisan Strengthening and Focusing Enforcement to Deter Organization Stealing and Enhance Safety Act of 2011, which President Barack Obama signed last week, established first-time federal criminal and civil penalties—including up to 30 years in jail—for stealing and re-introducing diverted products into the healthcare system.

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Health care reform at heart of Barton, OB-GYN conflict
Tahoe Daily Tribune

As the debate on health care reform continues to take center stage across the country, some very real effects of the 2010 Affordable Care Act have already reached California and the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Barton Health’s failure to renegotiate the contracts with the two obstetrician and gynecological physician groups has roots in the act, aka Obamacare.

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Health insurance debates cause some states to battle within themselves
Live Insurance News

The debates regarding the health insurance exchanges are making their way into the state capitals, and Republican controlled areas are finding cracks in their lines as new political movements begin to expand within them.

States are now making their choices regarding many central elements of the health care reform.

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Brownley, Strickland debate senior, health care issues
Ventura County Star

In a telephone debate with nearly 2,300 AARP members on the line, 26th District congressional candidates Julia Brownley and Tony Strickland each pledged Tuesday night that if they are elected, they will keep their hands off Social Security and Medicare benefits.

“It’s not an entitlement. It’s your money,” said Strickland, a Republican state senator from Moorpark.

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CVS customers say prescription refills weren’t OKd
Los Angeles Times

George Engelke manages his CVS prescriptions online. If he needs more of a medicine, he orders it. If he’s going to be away from his Corona del Mar home, he tells the pharmacy where to send the shipment.

He’s never asked CVS to automatically refill his prescriptions.

Engelke, 76, recently returned from a vacation in Montana, where he had CVS send a single order of his glaucoma medication and syringes for insulin injections.

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Health care for needy, elderly is on the block
Sacramento Bee

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law on July 30, 1965, establishing health insurance programs for the elderly and needy – a key to reducing old-age dependency and inordinate burdens on younger generations.

With the retirement of the baby boomers and the “oldest old” (over age 85), now the fastest-growing segment of our population, these essential health care programs have come under financial stress.

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UC San Francisco led group gets $10M to study advanced prostate cancer
San Francisco Business Times

A group of researchers led by the University of California, San Francisco will spend $10 million over three years studying advanced prostate cancer, which is resistant to even the most promising treatments. Eric Small, M.D., deputy director of UCSF’s cancer center, will lead the group, which the university characterizes as a “dream team.”

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Private Insurance Exchanges––Will They Save Money? Will the Idea Grow?
The Health Care Blog

Private health insurance exchanges will save employers money but not make health insurance cheaper. Because private health insurance will save employers money, they will grow. Will Private Insurance Exchanges Reduce Health Insurance Costs? There’s lots of buzz these days about private insurance exchanges. The idea is to give employees more choice in purchasing their own individual coverage from a big menu of insurance companies and plan alternatives, and as a result, create more robust competition and thereby help control costs.

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