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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Health care law’s new regulations set soon
Washington Post

With the national health law’s political future now entrenched, a deluge of new rules is expected in the coming days and weeks as the Obama administration fleshes out the law’s complex components. Most of the anticipation has been focused on rules that determine how the new state-based insurance marketplaces called exchanges will operate. But also closely awaited are decisions about how the government will tax medical devices, allot the shrinking pool of money for hospitals that treat the uninsured, and determine how birth control insurance coverage can be guaranteed for employees of religious schools, universities and charities.

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Drug Shortages Persist in U.S., Harming Care
New York Times

Paul Davis, the chief of a rural ambulance squad in southern Ohio, was down to his last vial of morphine earlier this fall when a woman with a broken leg needed a ride to the hospital.

The trip was 30 minutes, and the patient was in pain. But because of a nationwide shortage, his morphine supply had dwindled from four doses to just one, presenting Mr. Davis with a stark quandary. Should he treat the woman, who was clearly suffering? Or should he save it for a patient who might need it more?

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Joint Commission awards first comprehensive stroke center certification
Modern Healthcare

The Joint Commission awarded its first comprehensive stroke center certification to the Stanford Stroke Center at Stanford Hospital & Clinics in Palo Alto, Calif.

The comprehensive stroke center certification, developed with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, is the third disease-specific care program certification launched by the commission and follows the previous launch of programs for certification of primary stroke centers and advanced certification in heart failure, according to a news release.

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Kaiser Permanente lays off 530 employees in Southern California
Long Beach Press-Telegram

Kaiser Permanente officials have confirmed 530 union employees in Southern California have been laid off. At least 85 position were eliminated at the Fontana and Ontario medical centers, officials said Friday.

Officials at the health-care provider did not release the locations of the other 445 positions.

The layoffs do not include physicians.

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California moves full speed ahead with health care exchange
Sacramento Bee

Since the waning days of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration, California has pushed to become the earliest adopter of President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

But it wasn’t until Obama’s re-election this month that state officials were fully confident their plans would take flight. They first had to survive a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June and wait to find out whether a new Republican administration in Washington would reverse the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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California is primed for Obamacare
The Mercury News

No state in America is better positioned to take full advantage of President Barack Obama’s health care reforms than California. While Republican-led states continue to resist implementation — and to pass up federal money — California already has received more than $200 million to set up a health exchange marketplace, now officially called California Covered. If all goes as planned, it will eventually insure more than 20 million residents, including 7 million who are now uninsured.

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Five Republican Governors Reject State-Run Health Exchanges
Insurance Journal

Five Republican governors rejected on Friday a major provision of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law that calls on states to set up online health insurance markets where consumers can purchase private coverage at federally subsidized rates.

That makes it likely that the federal government will establish its own markets, known as healthcare exchanges, in those states and potentially supplant state control of private individual insurance markets.

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Nurses to strike Bay Area hospitals again
San Francisco Chronicle

Registered nurses represented by the California Nurses Association have barely had time to put away their picket signs from the last strike, and they’re preparing to walk off their jobs again over a long-standing contract dispute. Unionized nurses plan to strike Tuesday at a number of Bay Area hospitals operated by Sutter Health, the largest being Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland and Berkeley. This will be the seventh strike against Sutter since September 2011 and the second one this month.

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Blue Cross overhaul makes headway, raises concerns
San Francisco Chronicle

A proposal that would end Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s tax-exempt status and transform the organization from a charitable trust of the state to a customer-owned nonprofit is making headway in Lansing, but not without critics trying to step in the path of the legislation to overhaul Michigan’s largest health insurer. Competitors and advocates for consumers and the elderly — including the state attorney general — have been attempting to change or stop the legislation, which was proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder and enjoyed widespread support in the Michigan Senate.

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Blue Cross Accused of Monopoly Conspiracy
Courthouse News Service

Blue Cross and Blue Shield conspired with Aetna and Quest Diagnostics to monopolize the diagnostic lab test market in California, four laboratories claim in a federal antitrust complaint. Lead plaintiff Rheumatology Diagnostics Laboratory is joined as plaintiff by Pacific Breast Pathology Medical Corp., Hunter Laboratories, and Surgical Pathology Associates. They claim Blue Shield of California, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Aetna and Quest Diagnostics conspired to corner the market by offering cut-rate deals to physician groups.

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Medicaid providers tough to find for many states, report says
Modern Healthcare

More than half of U.S. states and territories surveyed earlier this year by the Government Accountability Office reported it was a challenge to find enough dentists, specialists, primary-care doctors or other providers to care for Medicaid patients, a newly released report said. The online survey of the District of Columbia, U.S. states and five territories, conducted between February and May, found dentists were the most problematic provider, with 30 surveyed Medicaid officials who reported a challenge ensuring enough were participating in Medicaid.

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Riverside’s co-pay: Subsidizing a hospital expansion
The Press-Enterprise

In March ’08, Riverside Community Hospital unveiled a $400 million, space-doubling expansion — with no mention of a city subsidy. “Wow!” gushed MayorLuv. “For the region and the city, this is really quite exciting.” Six months later, the economy tanked. The hospital didn’t expand. Now, it’s back with a $315 million version and Riverside has agreed to subsidize it up to $4.5 million over 15 years.

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Two S.J. hospitals honored by peers
RecordNet

Two hospitals in San Joaquin County are among eight recognized by their peers as top performers that significantly reduced hospital acquired infections, sepsis mortality and the number of early elective deliveries at their facilities.

Such accomplishments mean that hundreds of people had better health outcomes and millions of dollars in health care costs were avoided, according to the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California that presented the awards to St. Joseph’s Medical Center of Stockton and Sutter Tracy Community Hospital.

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High-deductible health plans pushed
San Francisco Chronicle

With open enrollment for benefits in full swing, U.S. workers are seeing more high-deductible health plans from cost-conscious employers. A new report finds that 36 percent of large employers offered consumer-directed, high-deductible health plans in 2012, up from 14 percent five years ago. Enrollment in those plans has risen to 16 percent of all covered employees, compared with 5 percent in 2007, according to benefits consultant Mercer.

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Enloe moves patients into Magnolia Tower
Chico Enterprise Record

The first patient was “the littlest patient.” A baby was the first to be moved into Enloe Medical Center’s new five-story Magnolia Tower on Thursday, said Connie Rowe, the hospital’s vice president for patient-care services. From Thursday through Saturday, hospital staff planned to move some patients from the older Fifth Avenue tower to the new building. The two towers are connected.

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Sutter pilot program coordinates patient care
Sacramento Business Journal

At a pilot program in Davis, they call it the “Mo-Joe,” the handoff of a patient from one provider to another that’s central to a new trend in health care nationwide. The idea is to provide patients with coordinated care from a group of medical providers working together in the same office, called a patient-centered medical home. The goal is to cut costs and improve care. Joe Odom, 65, is a patient at the pilot program in Davis, run by Sutter Health. Odom — the Joe in Mo-Joe ­— has diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

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3 Hospitals First to Receive Comprehensive Stroke Designation
Health Leaders Media

Three hospitals are the first in the country to receive The Joint Commission’s long-awaited “comprehensive” stroke center designation, a high-performance credential that could result in new paramedic protocols that divert some stroke patients from other hospitals.

Stanford Hospital & Clinics in Palo Alto, CA, was the first to receive clearance two weeks ago, followed by OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, and Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, PA, says M.J. Hampel, senior associate director for The Joint Commission’s disease-specific care certification.

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Targeted breast cancer therapies hit forefront
Monterey Herald

If there ever was a right time to be diagnosed with breast cancer, Beth Thompson found one.

In February 2006, the pea-size tumor in her right breast was too small for a clinical trial of Herceptin, a targeted therapy that had proved effective in advanced stages of the aggressive cancer Thompson had. She underwent a lumpectomy and chemotherapy. When the cancer continued to show signs of growth, she had a double mastectomy.

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States Decline to Set Up Exchanges for Insurance
New York Times

Georgia, Ohio and Wisconsin joined more than a dozen other states on Friday in saying they would not establish health insurance exchanges, while a handful of other states said they would take advantage of an extra month allowed by the Obama administration to make decisions. The exchanges — online markets where consumers can shop for private insurance subsidized by the federal government — are a centerpiece of President Obama’s health care law.

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Health insurers, companies, providers adapting rapidly to new law
North Bay Business Journal

Health care reform is here to stay and employers must adjust quickly in order to meet compliance with the complex law, whether they find it politically palatable or not.

Providers, meanwhile, are themselves rapidly adjusting to new incentives and payments under the law, resulting in transformational changes that will begin to address, though not completely solve, some of the high cost curves seen over the last decade.

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Study: Employers help slow cost growth in health plans
Sacramento Business Journal

Employer action to move workers into low-cost, consumer-driven health plans and beef up health management programs paid off in 2012 with the lowest cost growth in 15 years, a new Mercer study shows. The total average health benefit cost growth slowed to 4.1 percent in 2012, down from 6.1 percent in 2011, according to Mercer’s National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans.

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HHS announces changes to Medicare premiums, deductibles
Modern Healthcare

Medicare Part B premiums will rise in 2013 while Part A premiums will fall, HHS announced Friday. Published in the Federal Register, the notice said the standard premium for Medicare Part B —which covers physician, outpatient hospital and certain home health services, as well as durable medical equipment—will be $104.90, a 5% increase over the 2012 premium of $99.90. The deductible for Part B services next year will be $147, up from $140.

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Tough Hard Decision: What To Do About Medicare
The Health Care Blog

This is ironic because I have gotten famous for how well I’ve used electronic medical records, have written advice for physicians trying to qualify for “meaningful use,” and am esteemed enough to be often asked for my opinion on the subject (culminating in a presentation last year for CDC public health Grand Rounds). I have spent much of the past 16 years disproving the myths that small practices couldn’t afford EMR, that EMR decreases profitability, or that they reduce quality of care.

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Health care reform: It lives!
Sacramento Bee

If this year’s election was a referendum on President Barack Obama’s first term, then it was also a test of the voters’ support for his biggest legislative achievement: federal health care reform. And while polls continue to show widespread public skepticism about the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s re-election means the law is probably here to stay. That prospect should cheer Californians, who support the federal health care reform in greater numbers than voters in most other states.

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Health is about more than health care
HealthyCal.org

Barack Obama’s re-election appears to have settled the future of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s health reform law. The law will evolve in the years ahead, perhaps in ways that no one now anticipates, but it will not likely be repealed any time soon. As a result, several million Californians who do not now have insurance coverage will get it, either through the government directly or by buying it with subsidies at a new online marketplace to be known as the California Health Benefit Exchange.

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