News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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‘Last Distraction’ Removed as California Moves Ahead on Health Reform
KQED Radio

First, there was uncertainty over a U.S. Supreme Court challenge. Then came the race for the presidency. Now, California lawmakers say the uncertainty is over and nothing can stop them from bringing health coverage to millions of uninsured Californians under President Obama’s signature health care law. “This removes the last distraction and question from anyone’s mind that we won’t be launching a dramatic expansion in coverage in California,” said Peter Lee, executive director of California’s health insurance exchange, a key piece of the expansion.

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Children’s health hangs in balance
HealthyCal.org

The health of nearly 1 million California children hangs in the balance this month as the state prepares to shift responsibility for their care to the troubled, cash-strapped Medi-Cal program from a popular service that subsidizes private insurance coverage, known as Healthy Families. The administration of Gov. Jerry Brown says the change will save the taxpayers’ money while also improving care for the children. But advocates for kids are not so sure.

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AARP presses Congress to replace SGR, block doc pay cut
Modern Healthcare

AARP, the advocacy group for older Americans, has added its voice to the chorus of organizations calling on Congress to replace the sustainable growth-rate formula for Medicare physician payment and to block the scheduled 27.5% pay cut that the SGR calls for on Jan. 1.

In a letter sent to Congressional leaders, AARP called on Congress “to pass the longest possible SGR fix this year” and to develop a long-term alternative. To help pay for this solution, it’s recommended in the letter that money from the Overseas Contingency Operations fund—“which the Pentagon says will never be spent”—be redirected to cover costs.

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Paul Ryan: We didn’t lose on Medicare
Washington Post

In his first post-Election Day television interview, former GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan said Monday that he doesn’t believe that the 2012 White House campaign was a referendum on his plan to cut the federal budget and overhaul entitlement programs such as Medicare. “I don’t think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare,” Ryan told Jessica Arp, a reporter for Madison CBS affiliate WISC-TV, when asked whether the race was a referendum on his budget blueprint.

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States now must make call on Obamacare
San Francisco Chronicle

President Obama’s re-election solidified the future of national health care, and now it’s up to the states to carry it out. They have to work quickly. By Friday, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia must let the Obama administration know whether they plan to set up their own insurance exchanges, a key element of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, or let the federal government do it for them.

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Clinton says his foundation to tackle health gaps
Yahoo! News

In one of his last messages to the U.S. Congress as president, Bill Clinton declared disparities in health “unacceptable in a country that values equality and equal opportunity for all,” and called for a national goal to eliminate the disparities by 2010. It didn’t happen. But what Clinton couldn’t accomplish with his final-days fiat in 2001, he hopes to achieve through his William J. Clinton Foundation.

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High-Deductible Health Plans Can Cost Patients A Discount
capital public radio

As workers consider their health insurance options this fall, chances are there’s one on the open-enrollment menu with a deductible of more than a $1,000. Coverage like that is often linked to a tax-advantaged financial savings account to pay for medical expenses that fall below the hefty deductible. More than two-thirds of employers expect to offer high-deductible plans next year, according to a survey by benefits consultants Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health.

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Cancer patients boost their self-esteem at hospitals that offer salon services
Washington Post

With thinning brown hair and nearly invisible eyebrows, Margaret Fisher sits her frail frame down in the salon chair. She received a diagnosis of Stage IV pancreatic cancer almost two years ago and has undergone 18 radiation treatments and six rounds of chemotherapy since. A hairstylist places a wig on Fisher’s head and draws eyebrows on her bare face. Fisher, 63, looks in the mirror and smiles.

Such smiles are common at the Image Recovery Center, a beauty salon inside the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore.

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EHR data show some patients receive excess pain med: study
Modern Healthcare

A retrospective review of electronic health records at two urban hospitals shows that some patients may be receiving higher-than-recommended doses of acetaminophen, increasing their risk of toxicity and acute liver failure.

In a study published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers examined three months of electronic medication administration record data from two Boston-area hospitals, covering more than 14,000 patients. Four percent of those patients received more than the recommended four-grams-per-day dosage of acetaminophen, despite existing policies and procedures put in place to prevent such errors, they found.

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Cost becomes bigger question in treating heart disease
Yahoo! News

The cost of treating heart disease has become a key factor in decisions by U.S. cardiologists grappling with the nation’s No. 1 killer. Record prices for drugs and devices, reduced reimbursement by insurance plans and the looming full implementation of the healthcare reform law are convincing doctors to consider not only novel treatments, but also how to get the most bang for the buck. The trend was reflected at the annual scientific meeting of the American Heart Association, generally a forum for groundbreaking research on medications and devices to combat heart disease.

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Drug prices can be overly high at times, but you may be able to keep costs down
Washington Post

High drug prices affect everyone: those who pay out of pocket, those with private insurance and even those on Medicare Part D. Some may skip filling prescriptions because they can’t afford them, while others who take expensive drugs may see their insurance premiums rise as a result.

Here are five instances in which medication prices are likely to be especially high, based on Consumer Reports’ analysis of drug-pricing data, and how you can avoid overspending.

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Advice available on Medicare drug plans
Sacramento Bee

Seniors can get free help Sunday picking their 2013 Medicare prescription drug plan, as well as a review of their personal medications.

The free counseling on Medicare Part D prescription plans is offered by University of the Pacific graduate pharmacy students, an annual outreach effort by the Stockton campus.

The Sacramento event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Vietnamese Martyrs Catholic Church, 8181 Florin Road.

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Better Patient Flow Boosts Physicians Group Revenue by $3.5M
Health Leaders Media

If you want to get serious about improving revenue in your practice, you may have to consider an entire culture change. That was the experience of Atrius Health in Auburndale, Mass., the largest primary care physician group in the state, which is enjoying increased revenue of $1.75 million per year, after a gain in the first year of $3.5 million. The improvements were the result of an ongoing cultural transformation, says Chief Medical Officer ­Michael Pinnolis, MD.

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Patient trapped in health insurance rate hike
Los Angeles Times

It’s understandable that car insurance rates can change when you move. One neighborhood might have more accidents or burglaries than another.

But health insurance?

Joan Swope, 62, moved recently from Cathedral City, just down the road from Palm Springs, to nearby Palm Desert.

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Health Care Conference Q&A: Mike Purvis, Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa
North Bay Business Journal

Mike Purvis is the chief administrative officer for Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa, an affiliate of Sutter Health. Mr. Purvis has been with Sutter in Santa Rosa for the past three years, helping to lead health systems’ efforts in rebuilding and relocating its current Chanate Road hospital to a $284 million facility on Mark West Springs Road just north of Santa Rosa.

Q: Now that health reform is here to stay, what is the feeling among hospitals and large providers? Will the Affordable Care Act adequately contain costs for providers?

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Nation’s HIV research general Tony Fauci: Cure in ‘discovery phase’
San Francisco Business Times

As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for the past 28 years, Tony Fauci has seen the fight against the AIDS virus travel from only a hope for treatment to serious talk of a cure. But, Fauci warned, an AIDS cure still is only in the discovery phase. Speaking last week, as he keynoted the Centers for AIDS Research’s national scientific symposium at the University of California, San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus, Fauci said there are several avenues for fighting HIV but patients must follow treatments for those treatments to be effective.

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