News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Inland hospitals cover what-if disaster scenarios
The Press-Enterprise

Emergency experts say when Southern California is struck by a major earthquake on the San Andreas Fault, residents need to be prepared to be without power for a week to 10 days. Yet state regulations require hospitals to have just 24 hours of backup power in the event of a sudden power loss. Most area hospitals say they have resources that would allow them to operate for four days or more under such emergency conditions. But even that may not be enough.

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Nurses at Doctors Hospital of Modesto are in it for the long haul
Modesto Bee

Albie Perino was 19 years old when he was hired as an orderly at Doctors Hospital of Modesto, a few months after it opened in 1962. He said he never has seen any reason to work anywhere else. As the center marked its 50th anniversary this year, Perino passed the half-century mark as a hospital employee. “It never entered my mind to work at another hospital,” he said. “I always had what I considered a good job here.”

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Alameda County Medical Center puts together funding deal that could save San Leandro Hospital
The Mercury News

San Leandro Hospital and its emergency room would stay open for at least three more years under a deal Alameda County Medical Center has put together. What’s needed now is for Sutter Medical, which owns the hospital, to buy into the plan. San Leandro and Alameda County each agreed this week to pay $3 million over three years to help cover costs. ACMC, which is an independent entity separate from the county, also would contribute $3 million. As part of the deal, ACMC would own and operate the hospital.

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Safety net providers wary about Medicaid’s place in debt talks
Modern Healthcare

As Congress and the White House brace for intense deficit-reduction negotiations, the nation’s safety net providers are anxious about what changes might be in store for Medicaid. On Friday, House Speaker John Boehner said lawmakers must consider revenue and spending in their attempt to reach a grand bargain on reducing the nation’s federal deficit. A few hours later, President Barack Obama said the plan he highlighted during his re-election campaign calls for lowering the deficit in a “balanced and responsible way.”

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Obama Win Preserving Health Law Buoys Hospitals as Insurers Slip
San Francisco Chronicle

HCA Holdings Inc. and other hospitals will get more paying customers while insurers like UnitedHealth Group Inc. will see profits squeezed as U.S. President Barack Obama moves to preserve the health-care overhaul he championed. Obama’s re-election win rallied shares of HCA Holdings Inc., the largest for-profit hospital company, by 5.3 percent at 9:58 a.m. while Community Health Systems Inc. and Tenet Healthcare Corp. also saw gains on prospects for millions of newly insured patients being added to their admission rolls.

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President Obama’s big win saves Obamacare, but what’s next in Bay Area?
San Francisco Business Times

President Barack Obama’s re-election wasn’t a landslide, except in Electoral College-land, but it’s removed the last question mark about implementation of his Affordable Care Act. That’s especially true here in California and the Bay Area. The Golden State’s Legislature is firmly in the hands of a Democratic super-majority in both houses. The governor is Democratic icon Jerry Brown. And California is on the forefront of preparing for health reform even before the Nov. 6 election.

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Obamacare Is Still Vulnerable
The Health Care Blog

President Obama has won reelection, and his administration has asked state officials to decide by Friday, November 16, whether their state will create one of Obamacare’s health-insurance “exchanges.” States also have to decide whether to implement the law’s massive expansion of Medicaid. The correct answer to both questions remains a resounding no. State-created exchanges mean higher taxes, fewer jobs, and less protection of religious freedom. States are better off defaulting to a federal exchange.

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Boehner still wants to repeal Obamacare. Or not.
Los Angeles Times

Here’s a sign of how tenuous a hold House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has on his fellow Republicans: Seemingly every time he sounds a note of pragmatism, he has to follow up his remarks a few hours later to clarify that he’s not conceding a thing.

A good example comes in my colleague Lisa Mascaro’s story about an interview Boehner gave ABC News’ Diane Sawyer on Thursday. In addition to reiterating his opposition to higher tax rates, Boehner weighed in on the fate of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

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Kaiser income swings up sharply in Q3
Sacramento Business Journal

Kaiser Permanente generated net income of $803 million in the third quarter of 2012, a huge swing into solid profitability from the same quarter last year, when volatile financial markets caused a net loss of $45 million. Operating income jumped 75 percent — to $561 million from $320 million — and revenue climbed to $12.7 billion from $11.9 billion. The nonprofit Oakland-based health plan and health system reported net income of $2.1 billion for the nine months ending Sept. 30, up from $1.5 billion for the same period last year.

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Kaiser Permanente’s net income soars 40 percent in 2012’s first nine months
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente on Friday reported rapidly growing profits, operating revenue and investment income for the first nine months and third quarter of 2012 , highlighted by year-to-date net income of $2.1 billion — 40 percent more than last year’s $1.5 billion. The Oakland-based health care giant posted $38 billion in operating revenue through nine months, up 6 percent from 2011’s total of $35.8 billion. Operating income for the same nine-month period jumped 15.4 percent to $1.5 billion from $1.3 billion last year.

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Childless boomers wonder who will handle their long-term care
Sacramento Bee

Karen Spencer was single until she was 48. Like more than 20 percent of baby boom generation women – twice the number as in previous generations – she never had children.

The retired political consultant, now 60 and married, has diligently pieced together a long-term care insurance policy, a range of investments and a small pension to make sure her financial needs will be covered in the future.

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More Americans using mobile phones to look up health information
Modern Healthcare

Here’s the latest rundown of mobile application usage in healthcare from a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and the American Life Project and the California Healthcare Foundation: Of the 3,014 adults surveyed between Aug. 7 and Sept. 6, 85% own some form of mobile phone, and 45% own a smartphone. The 31% of all mobile-phone owners who said they use their phone to look up health or medical information is not quite double the 17% who said the same in a similar survey conducted in September 2010.

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Alameda County Medical Center offers funding deal for San Leandro Hospital
San Francisco Business Times

Alameda County Medical Center has put together a funding deal that would keep San Leandro Hospital, now owned by Sutter Health, and its emergency room operating for at least three more years, the Contra Costa Times reports. Under the deal, San Leandro and Alameda County would each pay $3 million over three years to cover costs, with Alameda County Medical Center contributing an additional $3 million.

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Black Kidney Cancer Patients Consistently Die Earlier than White Patients
Healthline

Racial disparities between blacks and whites affect a number of diseases and health outcomes, and cancer is no exception. Research shows that whites with kidney cancer consistently outlive blacks with the same condition, according to a new study appearing in the American Cancer Society’s publication, CANCER.

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Job-based health coverage falls on hard times
Ventura County Star

A five-year slide has pushed employers, long the dominant health insurance provider in California, into minority status.

For the first time since at least 2001, and likely much longer, less than half of Californians younger than 65 received coverage through their own or a family member’s employer in 2011.

The news comes from a UCLA study released in late October, just before employers begin to unveil their 2013 coverage offerings to workers with the now routine trends of rising costs or reduced benefits.

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Use genomics to reduce health disparities: researcher
Modern Healthcare

Advances in genetics have not yielded expected advances in the reduction of health disparities, but those advances could still arrive if clinicians apply genetics-informed care at the individual level, without looking at race or ethnicity, argues Dr. Katrina Armstrong of the Center for Comparative Effectiveness of Genomic Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in an online article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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HHS extends deadlines for insurance-exchange blueprints
Modern Healthcare

States still must meet the Nov. 16 deadline to inform HHS if they will build a state-based health insurance exchange, but they now have until Dec. 14 to submit a blueprint for it, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the nation’s governors in a letter Friday. The extra time is intended to give states the “appropriate technical support” they need if they are pursuing their own exchange. Meanwhile, those states interested in partnering with the federal government to operate an exchange now have until Feb. 15, 2013 to submit their declaration letter and blueprint.

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Specialist physicians cry foul on payment modifier
Modern Physician

The provisions of the quality-reporting programs laid out in the CMS‘ 2013 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule final rule “pose unique and significant challenges to specialty physicians, diverting time and resources away from direct patient care,” according to the Alliance of Specialty Medicine, a coalition of 13 physician specialty societies. The Alliance’s concerns involve the implementation of a value-based payment modifier—a mechanism that will create different levels of payment for physicians based on performance.

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Healthcare looms large as debt-reduction target in CBO analysis
Modern Healthcare

Federal healthcare programs were prominent targets in a new Congressional Budget Office analysis of debt-reduction options for policymakers expected to tackle that issue soon. The nonpartisan CBO noted that without “significant changes,” federal healthcare spending is projected to continue growing much faster than the economy and the revenue necessary to pay for it. Specifically, an aging population is expected to accelerate growth of both Medicare and the long-term-care services financed through Medicaid.

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Latina health leaders discuss new law at Mexican Consulate in Sacramento
Sacramento Bee

Seeking answers about changes in education policy and health reform, about 200 promotoras, or Latina community health leaders, gathered at the Mexican Consulate in Natomas on Saturday.

Specifically, participants of the second annual Conference of Women Leaders learned what advantages and disadvantages the new Affordable Care Act has in store for their Northern California communities.

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Better Practice Efficiency Comes with Automation
Health Leaders Media

Encounter forms, charge tickets, note cards… when it comes to physician documentation of professional charge information for reimbursement, putting pen to paper (maybe even a napkin) is still a heavily relied upon ­approach. Despite software advances, high physician adoption of automated processes remains elusive for many practices, and it’s costing them money.

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Essential benefits rules go to OMB for review
Modern Healthcare

The CMS submitted rules on essential health benefits two days after the presidential election for the final stage of review before publication.

The widely anticipated rules continuing to outline essential health benefits, or the specific coverage requirements, of insurance plans in coming health insurance exchanges were submitted to the Office of Management and Budget on Nov. 8, according to its website. The proposed rules also will lay out the exchanges’ “actuarial value, quality, and accreditation” standards.

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Congressional leaders reaffirm stands on entitlements
Modern Healthcare

Congressional leaders indicated Sunday that long-standing partisan positions on future healthcare policy changes have hardened in the aftermath of a “status quo” election.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), a member of the “Gang of Six” group of bipartisan senators that offered a federal deficit reduction deal during last year’s debt ceiling debate, said on ABC News’ “This Week” that any debt-reduction deal expected in the coming weeks or months will need to include changes to Medicare and Medicaid.

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Why Red State Govs May Embrace Medicaid Expansion
Health Leaders Media

As the campaign rhetoric cools and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act settles in, there is speculation that governors who’ve been adamantly resistant to Medicaid expansion under the law’s sweeping reforms, may find a way to drop their objections.

“Fall rhetoric does not always match with winter activity,” says Ceci Connolly, managing director of the Health Research Institute at PwC.

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Health Care Conference Q&A: David Hodges, Vantreo Insurance Brokerage
North Bay Business Journal

David Hodges recently merged his own brokerage into Vantreo Insurance Brokerage, becoming vice president of employee benefits after operating independently for nearly 30 years in the North Bay. He has focused exclusively on employee benefits during that span.

Q: Now that health reform is here to stay, what should companies be planning for and what can they expect, in terms of health care costs and overall impact on their workforces?

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Nine States to Watch for ACA Implementation
The Health Care Blog

Healthcare reporters have been in a frenzy to report this week that the ACA is a done deal and states should get on with it. The election certainly changes the dynamic in the repeal effort, as Speaker John Boehner indicated in a recent interview with ABC News, yet the implementation battle is far from over. The next interesting story line is developing out of an OK lawsuit pertaining to the legality of subsidies being made available in the federal exchange.

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The Next Digital Health IPO?
The Health Care Blog

Practice Fusion, Castlight or ZocDoc will be the next digital health IPO. That’s according to a survey of over 100 innovative digital health entrepreneurs, conducted by my firm, InterWest Partners. Nearly one third of respondents said Practice Fusion was most likely to be the next digital health IPO with approximately 20% of entrepreneurs voting for Castlight and ZocDoc, respectively.

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Set National Standards for Health Information Systems
The Health Care Blog

A recent report issued by the Institute of Medicine – titled “Best Care at Lower Cost” – calls for a dramatic transformation in health care delivery, saying “America’s health care system has become far too complex and costly to continue business as usual.” Its first recommendation (“The Digital Infrastructure”) focuses on the importance of health information systems and highlights a crucial aspect of their development that is too often overlooked – the issue of interoperability. Will the individual systems that are created be able to work together efficiently?

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