News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospital, Physician Professional Liability Undergoing Major Change: Aon
Insurance Journal

The way health care is delivered and financed is undergoing major change, and this is reshaping the risks that hospitals and physicians face on a daily basis.

Among other challenges, hospital risk managers are grappling with greater physician integration and changes in state legislation that influence professional liability costs, according to an annual industry study by Aon Risk Solutions.

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CMS Proposal on Hospital Outpatient Payment Panel Open for Comment
Health Leaders Media

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services held its first Hospital Outpatient Payment Panel meetings this year and has issued proposals on the changes to current supervision levels for the following categories:

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Labor Efficiency Emerges as Cost Containment Measure
Health Leaders Media

For many healthcare leaders, it’s a case of easier said than done.

“Hospitals are real good at identifying expenses and cutting them,” says William Cors, MD, MMM, FACPE, chief medical quality officer at the 185-staffed-bed Pocono Medical Center of East Stroudsburg, Pa. “But if they are so good at it, why doesn’t it ever solve the problem?”

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Lawmakers must weigh ACA tax effects: report
Modern Healthcare

The healthcare reform law’s provisions to increase federal revenue through taxes on high-income workers are among the many tax and spending policies lawmakers are set to face next year, congressional researchers said in a report.

As Congress addresses the so-called fiscal cliff—the term used to describe the various tax provisions set to expire coupled with a host of spending policies set to change—they must evaluate the benefits of reducing the nation’s federal deficit against the implications that those policy choices will have on America’s economic recovery, wrote analysts at the Congressional Research Service.

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Healthy Families transition to start in January
Sacramento Business Journal

California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley announced plans Tuesday to move about 863,000 children out of Healthy Families and into Medi-Cal in 2013, with the first wave of 200,000 beneficiaries making the transition in January. A controversial provision included in the current state budget, the move is expected to streamline care and save the state $73 million a year once fully implemented.

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Health insurance industry healthier than predicted
Marketplace

So far, the fiscal impact of President Obama’s health care reform is not nearly as bad as originally forecast by Wall Street types. Parts of the Affordable Care Act have already taken effect, like the rule requiring insurers spend a certain percentage of their profits on medical costs — some analysts had predicted that requirement would hurt the bottom line.

“Investors overestimate the impact of the law on managed care organizations,” says Matt Choffina, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar. “They seem to be feeling little, if any, impact from the health reform law.”

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New website shows local health care by numbers
North County Times

As of June 2012, there were 30,835 registered nurses and 10,190 medical doctors working in San Diego County. These facts, and many others about how health care breaks down in the region and across the state, are available at a new website launched Monday by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. The new site contains fact sheets on much more than just the raw numbers of health care workers in California.

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Insurance giant UnitedHealth reports 23% jump in quarterly profit
Los Angeles Times

The nation’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group Inc., reported a 23% increase in third-quarter profit on the strength of continued growth in its Medicare and Medicaid businesses.

The Minnetonka, Minn., company raised its full-year earnings forecast and said overall medical costs among its customers remained largely in check. UnitedHealth is the first major health insurer to report third-quarter results, and it often sets the tone for the industry.

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Commissioner Touts Obamacare in Santa Barbara County
Santa Barbara View

While not mentioning what might happen if the incumbent is not re-elected in the upcoming presidential election, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones told more than 100 Santa Barbarans on Oct. 15 the health reform act known as Obamacare “is not socialism.”

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a former Democratic assemblyman, spoke to more than 100 men and women at Antioch University before a panel of four top Santa Barbara County health leaders. However, Jones had little to say that he had not already said in the past.

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Hospital opens wallet to save executives’ pay
The Bay Citizen

A Peninsula ballot measure that would limit the pay of executives at El Camino Hospital faces its toughest opposition from the hospital, which has donated three-quarters of the campaign funds to defeat the proposal. El Camino Hospital has contributed $149,000 in an attempt to defeat Measure M, which would cap the annual salary and compensation package for hospital executives, managers and administrators to twice the salary of the governor of California.

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AHA lends support for recovery audit contractor program changes
Modern Healthcare

The country’s hospitals offered their support Tuesday for federal legislation that would make changes to the recovery audit contractors program and other national audit programs.

Introduced by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) in a pro forma session during a congressional recess, the Medicare Audit Improvement Act of 2012 would impose financial penalties—which would be paid to the Medicare program—for those recovery auditors who show a pattern of failing to comply with basic program requirements.

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New Medi-Cal contract gives Clinicas more autonomy
Ventura County Star

After negotiations that started more than a year ago, a contract has been finalized giving a private clinic network more control over the care of its 14,000 Medi-Cal patients.

The new contract was announced this week by the Gold Coast Health Plan, which administers Medi-Cal for 100,000 people in Ventura County. It gives Clinicas del Camino Real more Medi-Cal compensation in return for more responsibilities and an increased share of financial risks previously shouldered by Gold Coast.

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UnitedHealth lifts 2012 outlook as health costs stay stable
Los Angeles Business Journal

UnitedHealth Group posted a 23 percent gain in third-quarter earnings Tuesday, better than analysts had expected. It also lifted its full-year outlook in a sign that the insurer expects health costs to stay stable even as unemployment drops. The Wall Street Journal reports that Minnetonka, Minn.-based UnitedHealth reported a profit of $1.56 billion, or $1.50 a share, up from $1.27 billion, or $1.17 per share in the year-ago period. Revenue rose 8 percent to $27.3 billion. (You can read the full release here.)

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Insurer helps two north state hospitals update electronic records
Redding Record Searchlight

Two north state hospitals have received nearly $4 million in financing from one of the nation’s largest insurance companies.

The money from UnitedHealthcare is helping Mayers Memorial Hospital District in eastern Shasta County and Trinity Hospital in Weaverville update their health information technology systems.

Mayers Memorial received $2 million. Trinity Hospital got $1.7 million.

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The EMR and the Case of the Disappearing Patient
The Health Care Blog

The electronic medical record (EMR) is here to stay. Its adoption was initially slow, but over the past decade those hospitals that do not already have it are making plans for implementing it. On the whole this represents progress: the EMR has the ability to greatly improve patient care. Physicians, as well as all other caregivers, no longer have to puzzle over barely legible handwritten notes or flip through pages and pages of a patient’s paper chart to find important information.

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Healthcare cuts questioned by lawmakers
Los Angeles Times

Lawmakers gathered on Tuesday to review one of the most controversial parts of this year’s budget, the decision to dissolve a well-liked children’s healthcare program. Officials plan to begin shifting nearly 900,000 children from Healthy Families into the general Medi-Cal program, which reimburses doctors at a lower rate, in January. Critics are concerned children will get lower-quality healthcare while only saving the state $73 million annually, a tiny amount of California’s $91.3-billion budget.

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Cholesterol Is Falling in Adults, Study Finds
New York Times

Cholesterol levels in adults are falling, and changes in the amount of trans fats in the American diet may be part of the reason, new research suggests. The findings, published Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, were celebrated as something of a triumph by health authorities, who said the data showed that the nation had reached its 2010 goal of getting the average total cholesterol level in adults below 200 milligrams per deciliter.

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Ensuring the Long-Term Viability of Health Insurance Exchanges
The Health Care Blog

November 16 marks the deadline for states to submit their plans for establishing a health insurance exchange—or HIX—either on their own or with some level of assistance from the federal government. For those states, a majority, according to Kaiser Family Foundation research, have yet to set up a HIX or develop concrete plans to do so. That’s an uncomfortably tight timeline in which to make some tough decisions.

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