News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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How Hospitals Prevent VTE
Health Leaders Media

It’s been four years since the U.S. Surgeon General stunned providers with these numbers about rates of preventable death and harm: 350,000 to 600,000 Americans a year suffer poor health outcomes because of blood clots, and 100,000 of them die. The single biggest risk factor is the care provided in hospitals. Far too few clinicians use interventions such as drugs that could prevent more than one-third of these clots.

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IT contractor SRA to support CMS accounting system
Modern Healthcare

HHS awarded a five-year contract to SRA International to provide support services for the CMS Health Care Integrated General Ledger Accounting System, according to an SRA news release.

The Fairfax, Va.-based company could earn more than $92 million from the deal if all options are exercised. The HIGLAS system tracks each Medicare claim, financial transaction, grant and administrative payment. It processes more than five million transactions daily and accounted for more than $700 billion in transaction in fiscal 2011, according to the release.

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Report: CPMC’s proposed $2 billion Cathedral Hill campus could shrink to win city OK
San Francisco Business Times

California Pacific Medical Center, apparently bowing to the political winds in San Francisco, may be considering a reconfiguration of its planned $2 billion Cathedral Hill hospital campus and related seismic projects. That’s according to a Sunday evening online report in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier & Ross column. Instead of building a 555-bed monster hospital at Van Ness Avenue and Geary Boulevard and creating a $300 million new St.

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Medicare payment shift didn’t curb outlays: study
Modern Healthcare

Medicare spent more on primary care and specialty physicians in the year after a 2010 policy change that eliminated more-costly consultation payments but raised pay for office visits, a newly released analysis shows.

The increased office-visit pay—which remained lower by 16% to 61% than the discontinued consultation payments—nonetheless accounted for about two-thirds of the roughly 6.5% increase in spending that year after the policy change, according to the research, which was published online by the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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Hospitals Face Pressure to Avert Readmissions
New York Times

After years of gently prodding hospitals to make sure discharged patients do not need to return, the federal government is now using its financial muscle to discourage readmissions.

Medicare last month began levying financial penalties against 2,217 hospitals it says have had too many readmissions. Of those hospitals, 307 will receive the maximum punishment, a 1 percent reduction in Medicare’s regular payments for every patient over the next year, federal records show.

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Medicaid Expansion Report Calculates Modest State Costs
Health Leaders Media

States that expand their Medicaid rolls under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would see only modest increases in their share of the costs when compared with the windfall in federal funding that would come with it.

That’s according to a new report released Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation that also suggests that some states could net budget savings under the expanded Medicaid rolls, as millions of poor and uninsured people gain coverage.

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Hospital director race still undecided
Tehachapi News

Three weeks have passed since many local incumbent political officers were triumphantly celebrating their re-elections. And while most races have clear winners, the outcome of one local race still hangs in the balance.

What appeared to be a razor-thin victory for Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District incumbent director Bill Steele on the night of Nov. 6 has slowly evolved into a slight half percentage-point lead for challenger Henry Schaeffer.

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For states, impact of Medicaid expansion would vary: study
Modern Healthcare

Some states would see savings while others would experience cost increases as a result of the health reform law’s provision to expand Medicaid, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation (PDF).

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As End Nears, Cancer Patient Struggles With Cost of Long Term Care
New America Media

The long and hard-fought battle Eileen Hadidian has been waging against bone cancer for more than 10 years seems to be drawing to a close. Doctors earlier this month said she is probably just a few days, or maybe even just a few hours, away from death.

When that happens, the 64-year-old Lebanese American woman will become just another statistic in a health care system that fails to provide frail seniors and people with disabilities like her the long-term care they need – a situation that is sending many families into bankruptcy.

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Medicaid expansion poses “modest” state costs: study
Yahoo! News

President Barack Obama’s $1 trillion plan to expand Medicaid would raise state costs by only 3 percent and extend health coverage to more than 21 million low-income people as part of the new healthcare reform law, a study said on Monday. The report released by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation said states would spend an extra $76 billion over the next decade to implement the Medicaid expansion, or 2.9 percent more than they would without the reform law.

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Less Support for Hepatitis C Testing for Baby Boomers
New York Times

An influential advisory committee has given only lukewarm support to a government recommendation that all baby boomers be tested for hepatitis C.

In a draft opinion Monday, the United States Preventive Services Task Force said that clinicians may “consider offering” hepatitis C screening to adults born between 1945 and 1965.

That falls short of the recommendation made in August by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all adults in that age group should get a one-time test to see if they are infected.

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Is the Readmissions Penalty Off Base?
The Health Care Blog

I’ve been getting emails about the NY Times piece and my quotation that the penalties for readmissions are “crazy”. Its worth thinking about why the ACA gets hospital penalties on readmissions wrong, what we might do to fix it – and where our priorities should be. A year ago, on a Saturday morning, I saw Mr. “Johnson” who was in the hospital with a pneumonia. He was still breathing hard but tried to convince me that he was “better” and ready to go home.

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VA, cancer group team for personalized medicine research effort
Modern Healthcare

The Veterans Affairs Department will participate in a longitudinal study of clinical and genetic patient data, seeking to find better treatments and a possible cure for multiple myeloma, the VA and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation announced.

The VA and the Norwalk, Conn.-based foundation have entered into a “cooperative research and development agreement” under which the VA will participate in the foundation’s study—which has been under way for about a year—targeting treatment approaches for the as-yet incurable blood cancer, according to a news release.

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Innovation Case Studies: Small Hospital Venture Funds
The Health Care Blog

Healthcare providers are finding their “play it safe” culture isn’t conducive to breakthrough innovation. Facing the inevitable deflationary pressures being put upon the healthcare system, innovation is critically needed.

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Genetics-based personalized medicine gets big data boost
FierceHealthIT

With the help of big data that shows the effectiveness of various treatment regimens on different kinds of patients, personalized medicine can “better match patients with complex diseases to the best therapies, eliminating the trial-and-error process that often has resulted in ineffective treatments, particularly in the use of pharmaceuticals,” according to an article in amednews.com.

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Breast cancer rates higher than average in parts of Bay Area counties, new study reveals
Contra Costa Times

Two Bay Area regions are among four in California with substantially higher than average rates of invasive breast cancer, researchers revealed Monday. Breast cancer rates in the four regions were 10 to 20 percent higher than the state average from 2000 to 2008, according to a study that pinpoints the location of cancer cases with a new level of precision. What caused the higher rates remains a mystery.

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Feds seek industry input on health plan quality measures
Modern Healthcare

Federal regulators are seeking healthcare industry input to decide which types of insurance plan quality measures that HHS should use with the coming federal and state health insurance exchanges.

In a request for information issued Nov. 23, HHS urged healthcare entities to provide their perspectives on the types and extent of quality measures (PDF) the department should include in exchanges that will begin operating in 2014.

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Air pollution may be factor in autism, researchers report
Daily Democrat

Researchers have found that exposure to traffic-related air pollution during pregnancy is associated with autism, according to a new study released on Monday.

The study, published online in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found evidence that pollution may affect the developing brain among children whose mothers lived in areas where there was poor air quality.

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Bay Area breast cancer clusters seen
San Francisco Chronicle

Breast cancer clusters in California may not be limited to Marin County. New research released Tuesday identified four areas of the state that have rates of the disease 10 to 20 percent higher than the state average. Relying on U.S. census tracts rather than county-level data, researchers for the Public Health Institute’s California Breast Cancer Mapping Project in Oakland were able to identify northern and southern Bay Area counties as “areas of concern.” The two other areas were located in Southern California.

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Cancer patients should be wary of needless tests and treatments
Washington Post

When the diagnosis is cancer, many people understandably want to pull out all the stops to treat it. But some tests, treatments and procedures not only are unnecessary but also can be harmful.

“Sometimes less really is more,” says Lowell E. Schnipper, chief of hematology-oncology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and clinical director of the Boston institution’s cancer center. “It’s important to assess if what you are doing will help you stay well longer.”

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Sun, sand and root canal: Medical tourism booms in Costa Rica
Yahoo! News

When Canadian house cleaner Marlene Trithardt needed a tooth replaced, she drove past her local dentist’s office in Alberta and flew to the beach paradise of Costa Rica – to save money. Trithardt is one of a growing number of North Americans who turn south for medical care lured by lower prices, contributing close to 0.8 percent of Costa Rica’s gross domestic product. “I chose to come here because I find in Alberta the prices are about 80 percent higher than in Costa Rica,” says Trithardt, 57, who makes $30,000 a year.

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Supreme Court lets university’s reform law challenge proceed
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday revived a legal challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act dealing with issues that weren’t addressed in the landmark June 28 ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the healthcare reform law.

Legal experts said Liberty University v. Timothy Geithner (PDF) does not appear to threaten striking down the law, as could have happened with the prior litigation. But the revived challenge could potentially have wide ramifications for how the government forces employers to offer healthcare coverage for workers.

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3% error rate found in ‘present-on-admission’ conditions
Modern Healthcare

As patient safety becomes tied to hospital payments, healthcare providers are devoting closer attention than ever to the medical problems that patients have before they arrive at the hospital. But a new study has found flaws in how providers record such “present-on-admission” conditions.In a review of about 700 Medicare patients’ bills from October 2008, contractors for HHS‘ inspector general’s office found that about 18% of the beneficiaries had at least one incorrectly reported condition as present-on-admission, or POA.

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Four convicted in $154-million medical insurance fraud
Los Angeles Times

An attorney, an accountant and two medical administrators were convicted Monday for their parts in a $154-million insurance fraud scheme in which hundreds of healthy patients were recruited to undergo unnecessary and dangerous surgeries to fraudulently bill insurance providers, Orange County prosecutors said.

A jury found the four defendants guilty of charges related to revenue and tax fraud for the massive scheme, according to a statement from the Orange County district attorney’s office.

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