News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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California works to get word out on health insurance exchange
Los Angeles Times

Nearly every day, worried Californians call a Pacoima hotline asking what lies ahead in healthcare reform: Do I have to get private insurance? Will I lose my Medi-Cal? How much will it cost? When does it start?

“There’s mass confusion already,” said Katie Murphy, managing attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, which runs the call line.

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AMA Offers Guidance on Physician Employment
Health Leaders Media

In a sweeping series of recommendations, the American Medical Association’s governing body this week issued “guiding principles” for physician employment, reaffirmed its opposition to ICD-10, sought improved government payments, and acknowledged the need for improved clinical care on issues ranging from genetic testing to whooping cough.

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Antibiotic overuse remains a problem in the U.S., researchers say
Los Angeles Times

Patterns of antibiotic overuse in the U.S. vary by region, with residents of some Southeastern states taking about twice as many antibiotics per capita as residents in some Western states. According to the Washington-based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana were the states with the highest rates of antibiotic use in 2010. Those states had more than one antibiotic prescription per capita in 2010.

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Liberal group outlines substantial Medicare cuts
San Francisco Chronicle

Trying to prevent a raid on health care programs in upcoming budget talks, a think tank close to the White House on Wednesday released a plan for significant savings, mostly from Medicare.

Medicaid and the new health care law are largely spared from cuts in the blueprint from the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress. Instead, it targets Medicare service providers, from the pharmaceutical industry to hospitals and nursing homes. Higher-income Medicare recipients also would face increased monthly premiums for outpatient and prescription coverage.

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A primer on ‘Obamacare’
San Francisco Chronicle

Now that President Barack Obama has won a second term, the Affordable Care Act is back on a fast track. Some analysts speculate that there could be modifications to reduce federal spending as part of a broader deficit deal. What is clear is that the law will have sweeping ramifications for consumers, state officials, employers and health care providers, including hospitals and doctors. While some of the key features don’t kick in until 2014, the law has already altered the health care industry and established a number of consumer benefits.

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The legal hurdles Obamacare still must clear
POLITICO

The Supreme Court gave its definitive ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act in June. But that hasn’t stopped three other legal challenges to core provisions of Obamacare — including the mandates and subsidies — that could unravel big parts of the law if they succeed. One case challenges whether people can get subsidies for health insurance in states that don’t run their own insurance exchanges.

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Healthcare ranked third as top ballot issue
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare played a role in how the electorate voted last week, but the issue came in third behind the candidates’ characteristics and the economy as a leading factor, according to the findings of a November tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Conducted from Nov. 7-10, the survey of 1,223 respondents asked voters to identify the top two factors in their decision, without providing choices.

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AMA continues fight against ICD-10 mandate
Modern Healthcare

The American Medical Association reaffirmed its commitment “to work vigorously” against the nationwide adoption of ICD-10 diagnostic and procedural codes while evaluating the feasibility of skipping directly to ICD-11 codes, which are expected to be introduced in 2015. The AMA House of Delegates adopted a resolution at its annual meeting in Chicago this summer to weigh skipping ICD-10 and debated the issue again Monday during its interim meeting in Honolulu after two related resolutions were put on the meeting’s agenda.

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HHS finds $1.5 billion in bad billing by SNFs
Modern Healthcare

Skilled-nursing facilities received $1.5 billion in inappropriate Medicare payments in 2009, according to HHS‘ inspector general’s office, which found that one quarter of all SNF claims in the period were done in error. The report could lead to increased scrutiny of SNFs by Medicaid Audit Contractors. The majority of the identified incorrect claims were upcoding errors, with many of the claims related to what is known as ultrahigh therapy, according to the report from the inspector general.

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Medicare paid $1.5 billion in improper therapy claims in 2009
Los Angeles Times

Medicare paid $1.5 billion in improper claims for skilled nursing care in 2009, federal investigators found.

The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that 25% of all Medicare claims submitted by skilled nursing facilities had errors and the majority of those bills were “upcoded” for ultra-high therapy that wasn’t necessary.

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52,000 more primary care doctors needed by 2025, researchers say
Los Angeles Times

The United States will need an additional 52,000 primary care doctors to cope with population growth, newly insured people and an aging population, a group of researchers has forecast.

The researchers — from several institutions including Georgetown University and the Robert Graham Center, Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, Washington, D.C. – looked at several factors to come up with their total. Others have projected different numbers but agree that there will be a shortage of doctors.

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The ‘$5 doctor’ practices medicine from bygone era
San Francisco Chronicle

Patients line up early outside his office just off the town square, waiting quietly for the doctor to arrive, as he has done for nearly 60 years. Dr. Russell Dohner is, after all, a man of routine, a steady force to be counted on in uncertain times. Wearing the fedora that has become his trademark, he walks in just before 10 a.m., after rising early to make rounds at the local hospital. There are no appointments. He takes his patients in the order they sign in — first come, first-served. His office has no fax machines or computers. Medical records are kept on hand-written index cards, stuffed into row upon row of filing cabinets.

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Mercy Medical Center: Income loss won’t hurt care
Merced Sun-Star

Mercy Medical Center officials say the hospital remains committed to serving the community, despite its parent company, Dignity Health, seeing a huge loss in its net income in the last fiscal year. Dignity Health posted a net income of $132.5 million at the end of 2012 fiscal year, compared to $917 million the previous fiscal year, according to financial documents.

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San Anselmo doctor named new county public health officer
Marin Independent Journal

Dr. Matthew Willis, the county’s part-time deputy health officer since March, got the top job Tuesday.

Dr. Willis, who will leave a role as internal medicine doctor at Marin Community Clinics, pledged to “maintain vigilance around core public health functions” and called for control of communicable diseases, ongoing disease surveillance, emergency preparedness and “protection against threats to health from our environment.”

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Providers want Medicare payment changes tied to quality
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare providers are pushing for Medicare payment changes based on quality during the recently started post-election lame duck session of Congress.

Premier healthcare alliance is urging Congress to ensure that if a scheduled 2% cut to Medicare providers does go into effect next year, it will not apply to hospitals that have enacted demonstrable cost reductions.

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Report could boost effort targeting Part B drug costs
Modern Healthcare

More than half of the drugs Medicare beneficiaries receive in hospitals and physicians’ offices would be subject to price negotiations under proposed legislation, according to a GAO report. The Government Accountability Office reported this week that in 2010 Medicare spent $19.5 billion on Part B drugs, which are generally pharmaceuticals administered by physicians in their offices or hospital outpatient departments. And Medicare beneficiaries were the primary users of at least $11 billion worth of those drugs in 2010, the latest year for which data is available.

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State HIX Options ‘Ironic from Both Sides’
Health Leaders Media

In one of the many ironies of the healthcare reform debate, several governors are citing the defense of state sovereignty as a reason why they won’t build health insurance exchanges. It is a strategy that effectively cedes regulatory control of the exchanges to the federal government. “It is ironic from both sides,” says Alan Weil, executive director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Academy for State Health Policy.

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Poll: Support for Obamacare repeal is plummeting
Washington Post

The Kaiser Family Foundation polled Americans last week, right after the election, asking what they want to see happen next with the health-care law. Most notably, they saw support for repeal plummet to an all-time low: It’s worth noting that this isn’t exactly Americans gravitating toward the health-care law: Support for expanding the law or keeping it as is held steady at 49 percent. Those who no longer support repeal seem to have drifted into the “don’t know” category, about what should happen next.

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