News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Blue Shield set to offer ‘narrow’ network for 2013
North Bay Business Journal

Blue Shield of California will launch its SaveNet HMO in Marin and Sonoma counties in 2013, forming a narrow network around Novato-based Meritage Medical Network and Sonoma County Primary Care.So-called “narrow” or “skinny” networks have been used for some time by carriers, but recently, San Francisco-based Blue Shield has been expanding its SaveNet HMO and other similar networks across the state as a way to offer employers more affordable options in lieu of increasing health care costs, according to David Joyner, senior vice president for mid and large spe

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UC Davis Medical School can lead the way on primary health care
Sacramento Bee

The medical school at the University of California, Davis, is well-positioned for major changes, coming from the national Affordable Care Act and also from the looming retirements of the one-third of California physicians who are over age 60.

As medical school dean Claire Pomeroy moves on at the end of June after a decade at UC Davis, the medical school can build on her legacy of education and research.

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Obamacare becomes reality
San Mateo Daily Journal

This week, President Barack Obama’s administration formally proposed new rules requiring all insurers to cover people with preexisting conditions and set minimum health benefits for millions of others under the new U.S. health care reform law. Just two weeks after Obama’s re-election ensured the survival of the 2010 law Republicans had vowed to repeal, the proposal is the first in an expected deluge of rulemaking to implement the law in time for its Jan. 1, 2014 start date.

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Is It Time To Charge Medicaid Members for ER Usage?
The Health Care Blog

No one would deny that we’ve reached a point in public healthcare finance where tough choices have to be made about what gets covered and what doesn’t. There is, however, one fairly easy choice, and that is to reconfigure the $3 copay for Medicaid members using the emergency room. I would propose a replacement benefit of $0 for the first visit and $20 for each subsequent one, in a given calendar year. Not every state, but any state that reaches certain thresholds for physician access or urgent care availability may switch to this policy.

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CHA leader: Unions, organizations need to work together
Sacramento Business Journal

No more lines in the sand, says Duane Dauner, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association. If unions are going to make a comeback in America, they’ll have to work with business owners to solve problems together. Union gains on pensions and other issues have prompted a backlash. Global competition and cheap foreign labor have taken a toll on manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade.

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Health Care Reform Gangnam Style
The Health Care Blog

So I read an article the other day about a new company called Rap Genius. The company consists primarily of a website that relies on crowdsourcing to explain rap lyrics to the masses who are not down with the urban vibe (aka, people over 30). The company takes lyrics such as these from Kanye West’s Gold Digger…. “She was supposed to buy your shorty Tyco with your money She went to the doctor got lipo with your money She walking around looking like Michael with your money.”

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Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center upgrades mammogram equipment
San Bernardino Sun

Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center has begun replacing equipment used to perform mammograms with new technology better at early detection of breast cancer. The hospital started using the new mammography imaging equipment at its health centers in Chino Hills and Claremont two weeks ago.

It is making preparations to replace equipment at the hospital’s Robert and Beverly Lewis Family Cancer Care Center.

In total four new 3-D breast imaging machines are expected to be in operation by mid-December, hospital spokeswoman Kathy Roche said.

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Salinas Valley Memorial panel aims to guide hospital’s future
Monterey Herald

A panel of Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital and community leaders has begun helping fashion a road map for the future as the hospital seeks to remain a standalone entity, even as top hospital officials move closer to choosing a new CEO.

The 41-member panel is set to conduct its second meeting Monday with the Los Angeles-based consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal, which has been hired to guide the panel’s efforts.

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Petaluma Health Center gears up for influx of patients
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Just one year from the full implementation of federal health-insurance changes known as “Obamacare,” the Petaluma Health Center is gearing up for as many as 5,000 new patients in the coming years. The health center, which last year moved into a new 53,000-square-foot facility on North McDowell Boulevard, has recently hired five new health-care providers, including two medical doctors, a psychologist and two physician assistants.

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Private cardiologists selling to hospitals
San Francisco Chronicle

Thomas Lewandowski, a Wisconsin heart doctor, was faced with a dilemma after his Medicare payments were cut and his overhead costs soared: fire half his staff to keep his practice open or sell it to a local hospital. He decided to sell, becoming one of more than 6,000 employees at Thedacare, which runs five hospitals and numerous clinics in northeast Wisconsin. It’s a decision being made increasingly in the United States, creating a new dynamic that threatens to raise the price of health care even as the federal government and states strain to keep a lid on costs.

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The doctor will e-mail you now. And then see you later.
Washington Post

When Ted Palen, a Kaiser Permanente researcher, started investigating what happens when doctors begin e-mailing with patients, he thought he would see the practice lighten workloads. Patients would get their questions answered remotely, with no need to turn up in person. Palen just finished a five-year retrospective study of what happened when Kaiser Permanente in Colorado began allowing e-mail access to doctors in 2006.

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Two Dartmouth Studies Report Unnecessary Testing
Health Leaders Media

Two reports issued last week by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice raise new questions about whether physicians order far too many tests, and whether some tests might be motivated more by economic rather than diagnostic or therapeutic reasons, whether subconsciously or not.The first report, published in the Online First edition of Archives of Internal Medicine, points to a wide regional variation in the rate by which Medicare beneficiaries receive certain repeat tests, often with far more frequency than existing guidelines suggest they should be conducted.

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Smallpox vaccine kills liver cancer
San Francisco Chronicle

A global team of scientists led by Bay Area doctors is studying an unusual new technique – involving, in part, injecting a genetically engineered smallpox vaccine directly into tumors – that they hope will prolong the lives of patients with untreatable liver cancer. If the therapy proves effective, it would be one of only two treatments available for people with liver cancer that has failed to be stopped by traditional chemotherapy and radiation, and for whom removal of the tumor isn’t an option.

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UnitedHealth forecasts 2013 earnings growth
San Francisco Chronicle

Insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc. predicts 2013 earnings growth of up to 5 percent compared to its forecast for this year, but analysts have higher expectations. The Minnetonka, Minn., company released its initial forecast for the new year on Monday, a day ahead of its annual investor conference in New York City. UnitedHealth said it expects 2013 earnings to range between $5.25 and $5.50 per share on $123 billion to $124 billion in revenue.

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Western Health seeks to join exchange
North Bay Business Journal

Western Health Advantage formally filed plans with the state to be a part of Covered California, the state’s online health exchange that will go live in 2014 as part of the federal health care reform bill, the Affordable Care Act. The Sacramento-based HMO said it intends to offer both employer group and individual plans through the exchange, which will be in effect starting in October 2013 to ramp up for the launch date in 2014.

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PPACA Rules on Wellness Programs Could Push Participation
Health Leaders Media

New proposed rules for wellness programs that were released last week under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act don’t break much new ground, but they will likely provide the framework and clarity that will encourage more employers to participate, observers say. “It’s a good starting point,” says Stephanie A. Mills, MD, president and CEO of Baton Rouge, LA–based Franciscan Health and Wellness Services, Inc.

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Health reform could bring a crowd, some leaders say
North County Times

With health reform now a certainty, some local health care leaders are bracing for a surge in waiting-room complaints as thousands of newly insured patients start showing up for medical care.

The Affordable Care Act mandates increased health coverage for the uninsured. In California, that means expanding the state’s Medi-Cal program and offering subsidized insurance plans on a newly created state-run exchange.

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