News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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AHA to HHS: Let’s work on EHR compliance
Modern Healthcare

The American Hospital Association wants to work with the government to ensure that the sellers of electronic health-record systems are producing systems that comply with federal law and don’t lead healthcare providers to submit bills that later get them in trouble. The Nov. 12 letter from the hospital interest group comes after news organizations and federal auditors said there are signs that hospitals have been using the federally subsidized electronic records systems to increase their bills without providing more services than before.

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Calif health board OKs plan for insurance exchange
The Mercury News

The board overseeing California’s efforts to establish an insurance marketplace for providing affordable health care approved its operational blueprint Wednesday, an essential step toward meeting a key deadline under the federal health care reform law. The governor’s office is expected to forward the plan to the Obama administration on Friday, the deadline for states to notify the federal government about whether they plan to establish health care exchanges. The deadline for states to submit an operational plan, as California is doing, has been extended to mid-December.

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Hospitals getting better at treating cardiac arrest
Los Angeles Times

Hospitals have gotten far better at treating cardiac arrest, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, reducing both deaths and neurological damage as a result. The study looked at more than 80,000 patients in 374 hospitals who suffered a cardiac arrest while in the hospital from 2000 to 2009 to determine whether rates of survival or the incidence of serious side effects had changed. In particular, the researchers were interested in the percentage of patients who survived long enough and got healthy enough to be discharged from the hospital after the incident.

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Delay in Transporting Some Trauma Patients Linked to In-Hospital Mortality
Health Leaders Media

For patients with serious penetrating trauma injuries, emergency medical transport teams should “scoop and go” rather than “stay and stabilize” the patient because staying at the scene for 20 minutes or more increases the patient’s chance of in-hospital death. That’s the conclusion of a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine based on a 14-year project that tracked 19,167 trauma patients treated at the University of California Irvine Medical Center, 865 of whom died.

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Sutter confirms leasing space at Mather Field, denies adding 500 jobs
Sacramento Bee

Sutter Health said today it is leasing a new office building at Mather Field, but the health-care organization denied a report by Sacramento County officials that it’s adding 500 jobs.

Sutter confirmed it is leasing a 100,000-square-foot building at Mather to accomodate information-services employees. But instead of adding jobs, Sutter plans to move current staffers into that building from other locations.

“The new building does provide for future expansion should we need it at some point in the future,” said Sutter spokesman Bill Gleeson by email.

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Sutter: 500 jobs report is wrong
Sacramento Business Journal

Sacramento County got it wrong this morning. Sutter Health has signed a new lease at Mather Field — but this is a space consolidation and will not bring 500 new jobs to town, as the Business Journal reported earlier Wednesday. There will be no effect on the information services employees who work for Sutter in this area except they will work in a building closer to a Sutter-owned office at Mather, it’s more modern and has better parking, Sutter spokesman Bill Gleeson said.

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Can the GOP Still Stop Obamacare? Let’s Count the Ways
California Healthline

“Obamacare is the law of the land,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told ABC News last week … before reversing course within minutes and affirming that his goal remains to repeal the “job-killing” legislation. Boehner’s quick turnaround — a “whip-flop,” to borrow Micah Weinberg’s popular neologism — reflects Republicans’ general reaction in the week since President Obama’s re-election.

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Health Law Has States Feeling Tense Over Deadline
New York Times

The days since President Obama won re-election have been marked by tension and angst in Republican-led states like Iowa, where Gov. Terry Branstad has waited until the last minute to decide whether to create a crucial tool for people to get medical coverage under Mr. Obama’s health care law. “There has been a total blackout of information,” said State Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat who vented his frustration at a news conference here this week. “We’re behind schedule, we’re at a disadvantage, and I don’t know what our governor’s plan is to reposition Iowa.”

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Sebelius subpoenaed over efforts to promote healthcare reform
Los Angeles Times

Despite last week’s election, House Republicans kept up their attack on the Obama administration’s 2010 healthcare law Wednesday, as the House Ways and Means Committee subpoenaed Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for information about the administration’s efforts to promote the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans have complained for years that the administration’s multimillion-dollar public relations campaign touting the law’s benefits was a misuse of taxpayer money.

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Report Finds Hospital Mergers Drive Up Health Care Prices
KQED Radio

A report released Wednesday says hospital mergers are the biggest single factor driving up health care prices. The national study by San Francisco-based Catalyst for Payment Reform found a single Bay Area hospital merger, the 1999 consolidation of Summit and Alta Bates in the East Bay, increased prices by nearly 40 percent in just two years.

Study co-author Suzanne DelBanco said hospital chains have more sway over prices.

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U.S. docs gain ground on health IT, but other countries lead
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. is not alone among high-income nations in its efforts to push health information technology use to primary-care providers, according to results of a recent survey by the Commonwealth Fund.

Nor is the U.S. alone in its struggle to achieve interoperability of systems and the free exchange of healthcare information, the surveyors found.

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Panel subpoenas details on funding to promote reform law
Modern Healthcare

The Ways and Means Committee has subpoenaed details on federal funding spent to promote the 2010 federal healthcare overhaul. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the panel’s chairman, issued his first subpoena after receiving no responses to voluntary requests for the information since June 1. “The lack of response leads me to believe that this administration is either unwilling to disclose why they are using taxpayer dollars to market their unpopular law or are unable to keep track of how those taxpayer dollars are being spent,” Camp said in a news release.

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Staying smart about end-of-year healthcare
Los Angeles Times

November is one of the most important months for health benefits. And it’s half over.

This month is a time of open enrollment, when many workers sign up for next year’s health insurance. Deadlines are a big deal, and you don’t want to miss one.

But once you’re set for 2013, experts say, shift your attention back to 2012 and those use-’em-or-lose-’em benefits awaiting you.

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F.D.A. Chief Seeks Expanded Authority To Improve Safety of Drug Compounders
New York Times

The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday called on Congress to empower the agency to better police compounding pharmacies like the one at the center of a national meningitis outbreak. But Republican lawmakers pushed back, arguing that the agency has enough authority, leaving it unclear whether the House would support efforts to increase oversight.

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Medical response time lags in many pricey L.A. neighborhoods
Los Angeles Times

Waits for 911 medical aid vary dramatically across Los Angeles and many of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods have the longest response times, according to a Times investigation.

Under national standards adopted by the Los Angeles Fire Department, rescuers are supposed to arrive within six minutes to almost all medical emergencies. But the Times analysis found that in affluent hillside communities stretching from Griffith Park to Pacific Palisades, firefighters failed to hit that mark nearly 85% of the time.

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MGMA: Medicare Part B Tops Payer Rankings
Health Leaders Media

Put another point on the board for HHS.

Medicare Part B remains the highest ranked payer among executives of physician practices, a Medical Group Management Association survey finds.

MGMA released its fifth annual survey of group practice attitudes toward their interactions with the country’s seven largest payers: Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Coventry, Humana, Medicare Part B, and United Healthcare.

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Group Health Plan Costs Up 4.1 Percent in 2012, Smallest Increase in 15 years: Mercer
Workforce Management

Aided by the move of more employees into lower-cost consumer-driven health care plans, group plan costs increased by just over 4 percent in 2012, the smallest increase in 15 years, according to a survey of more than 2,800 employers released Nov. 14 by Mercer L.L.C. in New York.

The 4.1 percent increase brought health plan costs to an average of $10,558 per employee in 2012, compared with $10,146 per employee in 2011, according to the survey.

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Retiree health care still a long-term problem for California
Sacramento Bee

The sound of backslapping between Gov. Jerry Brown and union leaders who helped put his tax initiative over the top last week could soon turn to teeth-gnashing and bargaining-table-pounding as the administration takes on a touchy subject: retiree health care.

The state estimates its long-term retiree medical commitments stand at $62 billion, and it has put virtually nothing aside to pay those obligations.

It’s the most expensive way to do business, sort of like making interest-only payments on a mortgage.

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Retiree health care bills swell
The Appeal-Democrat

Unfunded pension benefits for government employees pose huge liabilities for taxpayers; in California alone, perhaps $500 billion, or more. But governments also face unfunded liabilities for promised retiree health care benefits. These are obligations for retirees’ insurance coverage until Medicare coverage begins, and sometimes also for a portion of Medicare supplemental insurance premiums from that point on.

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11% of children in California are uninsured, study says
Los Angeles Times

Children in California are more likely to be uninsured than children nationwide, with 1.1 million lacking health coverage in 2011, according to a new study by the Keck School of Medicine of USC. About 11% of children lacked insurance last year — and they were less likely to seek medical care than those with coverage, the authors reported. The study, released Wednesday by the California HealthCare Foundation, detailed children’s insurance trends over a 10-year period.

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