News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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U.S. Set to Sponsor Health Insurance
New York Times

The Obama administration will soon take on a new role as the sponsor of at least two nationwide health insurance plans to be operated under contract with the federal government and offered to consumers in every state. These multistate plans were included in President Obama’s health care law as a substitute for a pure government-run health insurance program — the public option sought by many liberal Democrats and reviled by Republicans. Supporters of the national plans say they will increase competition in state health insurance markets, many of which are dominated by a handful of companies.

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CMS posts clinical quality measure tech specs
Modern Healthcare

Beginning in 2014, health information technology users participating in the federal meaningful-use financial incentive program must electronically report their performance on clinical quality measures, and now the technical specifications for doing so are available. These specifications include required data elements, measure definitions and other factors necessary for the electronic capture, storage and transmittal of the data, according to the CMS‘ website.

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Flu shots or mask: hospital workers must make choice
RecordNet

A local health rule imposed for the first time this year is encouraging many more hospital workers to get flu shots.

San Joaquin County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Furst, following discussions with officials from the county’s seven acute-care hospitals, has mandated that all hospital health care workers either receive a seasonal influenza vaccination or wear a surgical mask from Nov. 1 through March 31.

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Americans too confused by healthcare act to like it, survey finds
Los Angeles Times

Mitt Romney may be a little fuzzy on the details of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – as he and others call it, Obamacare – but a new survey finds he’s got plenty of company. Researchers quizzed more than 2,600 Americans about 12 aspects of the health reform law. Not only did they have to say whether the provision was really in the law (after all, they’d have a 50-50 chance of guessing the correct answer), they also had to say how certain they were that their answer was correct.

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Smartphones help doctors monitor patients
San Francisco Chronicle

For many patients with chronic medical conditions like depression, pain or diabetes, the pattern is predictable: The more they suffer, the more they draw inward. Doctors may not see them until they are in crisis and show up in an emergency room. Now a digital-era solution is emerging. When patients withdraw, their cell phones may reach out for them. The phones use an app that tracks how often they send text messages and place calls, and how often they move and where they go.

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Nearly $1.5 million raised in Upland for breast cancer research
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Reminding women to get their annual mammograms and raising funds for breast cancer research have been the theme of many recent events in the city, often with the help of awareness advocates like Barbara Jo Kirshbaum of Upland. Throughout October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, several individuals and organizations in Upland have held events to raise money to donate through Kirshbaum, who has already raised nearly $1.5 million for breast-cancer research.

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California insurance exchange to add eye care for individuals; VSP satisfied
Sacramento Bee

Moving to make peace with a furious and influential Rancho Cordova insurance company, state officials are planning to tweak the rules of California’s fledgling online insurance market.

The company, Vision Service Plan, had threatened to leave California but said Friday it is “pleased” with the proposed new rules. The revisions are expected to be approved Tuesday. The flap is over the California Health Benefit Exchange, which is building the state’s new insurance market – a key element of the federal Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s overhaul of the health care system.

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Health exchange will ask board to allow stand-alone vision plans
Sacramento Business Journal

Staff at the California Health Benefit Exchange will recommend Tuesday that the board change its policy to allow standalone vision plans to compete for business in both the individual and small business programs. An Aug. 23 decision by the board to bar these plans from selling to individuals in the exchange for at least a year prompted backlash from VSP Global, including a threat by CEO Rob Lynch to move the eyecare giant’s Rancho Cordova headquarters out of state. Lawmakers and business leaders in the region asked for reconsideration of the policy.

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Seton hospital and public unions continue to bankroll county’s sales tax hike measure
The Mercury News

The parent organization of Seton Medical Center, which hopes to receive a subsidy to help finance an expensive, state-required, seismic upgrade, donated an additional $284,347 earlier this month for Measure A — San Mateo County’s half-cent sales tax hike proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot. Campaign disclosure documents filed Friday show that the “Coalition to Protect Critical San Mateo County Services for Children, Families and Seniors, Yes on Measure A” committee raised $345,617 from Oct. 1 to 20.

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Insurers nervous over prospect of Romney victory
San Francisco Chronicle

You’d think health insurance CEOs would be chilling the bubbly with Republican Mitt Romney’s improved election prospects, but instead they’re in a quandary. Although the industry hates parts of President Barack Obama’s health care law, major outfits such as UnitedHealth Group and BlueCross Blue Shield also stand to rake in billions of dollars from new customers who’ll get health insurance under the law. The companies already have invested tens of millions to carry it out.

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San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland partners with Mayo Clinic
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

When San Antonio Community Hospital staffers take a blood sample from a patient, they may not realize what happens next. For those patients who require specialized testing, their blood is now being sent to Mayo Medical Laboratories in Minnesota.

San Antonio Community Hospital at 999 San Bernardino Road has partnered with Mayo Medical Laboratories through Mayo Clinic as their reference laboratory for tests that cannot be performed in San Antonio’s lab.

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Crucial test for an outpost of healthcare in South L.A.
Los Angeles Times

Nurse practitioner Matt Tomlin steps into a small patient exam room, logs on to a computer and pulls up a formidable list of ailments for the 57-year-old woman sitting in front of him.

Hypertension. Diabetes. Congestive heart failure. Obesity. Anxiety disorder. Multiple heart attacks.

Rosemary Ricks, hunched over in a bright yellow dress, moans and describes a fall she took earlier in the week.

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Election may determine fate of sick, uninsured Americans
Los Angeles Times

Jode Towe was driving his big rig across the New Mexico desert in April when he noticed an odd sensation at the back of his throat.

“It was like something was growing there,” he recalled.

When Towe, 41, went to a clinic, he got bad news. He might have cancer. Doctors recommended a biopsy. If the results confirmed their suspicions, surgery and chemotherapy might follow.

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Dems tout impact of reform law drug program
Modern Healthcare

Congressional Democrats heralded a new Government Accountability Office report as proof that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s discount prescription drug program is working as planned. Starting in January 2011, the law stipulated that drugmakers that want their products covered under Medicare Part D must participate in the drug discount program.

Under this provision, the drug manufacturers must provide a 50% discount on the price that Part D plan sponsors negotiate for brand-name drugs when beneficiaries reach the so-called doughnut hole—the gap between the initial and catastrophic coverage periods where Medicare helps pay the costs.

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Health Benefit Exchange meeting includes revisiting vision plan policy
Sacramento Business Journal

The California Health Benefit Exchange will make important decisions about health plan contracting — including whether to change policy about standalone vision plans — at a board meeting Tuesday in Sacramento. The meeting is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1500 Capitol Ave. The board will meet in a closed session until about 12:30 p.m.

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Lawsuit affects health coverage
Fresno Bee

Should the federal government cover the costs of many kinds of treatments for patients who aren’t going to get any better?

It didn’t, for many years. But after the settlement of a landmark class-action lawsuit last week, Medicare soon will begin paying more often for physical, occupational and other therapies for large numbers of people with certain disabilities and chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

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How to choose Medicare plans
Modesto Bee

Recently we wrote about open enrollment season, that annual autumn rite where employees with health care coverage at work get to choose their medical benefits for the coming year. This week, it’s about the other side of open enrollment: Medicare coverage, which is primarily for retirees ages 65 and older. If that’s you, your open enrollment season started Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7. As everyone knows, health care choices can be confusing.

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How Bundled Payments Just Might Save Health Care From Itself
The Health Care Blog

In the 1960s, Texas Instruments developed the first handheld calculator. It could display up to 12 digits while performing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. And it cost $2,200. Since then, the calculator has come a long way. Competition forced continuous innovations, and today’s models are more lightweight, have longer battery life, are capable of performing more complex computations –all at a dramatically reduced price point.

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