News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obamacare to provide help to mental health patients
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Obamacare will allow thousands of California adults to gain access to mental health services starting in 2014, according to a study released Wednesday. The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that about a half-million adults in need of mental health treatment will be able to access it through various means, including Medi-Cal and the California Health Benefit Exchange.

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Brand-Name Drug Prices Rise Sharply, Report Says
New York Times

The price of brand-name prescription medicines is rising far faster than the inflation rate, while the price of generic drugs has plummeted, creating the largest gap so far between the two, according to a report published Wednesday by the pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts. The report tracked an index of commonly used drugs and found that the price of brand-name medicines increased more than 13 percent from September 2011 to this September, which it said was more than six times the overall price inflation of consumer goods. Generic drug prices dipped by nearly 22 percent.

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Solano hospitals give county’s economy a healthy boost
The Reporter

The five hospitals in Solano County are a major drive to the area’s economy, according to a report released Wednesday by Economic Forensics and Analytics. Together, the five privately operated hospitals are responsible for more than 11 percent of the local economy, according to Robert Eyler, an economics professor at Sonoma State University and principal of the independent research and consulting firm in Petaluma. Additionally, the revenue generated by hospitals represents more than 7 percent of Solano’s total revenue.

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Project seen cutting colorectal surgical-site infections
Modern Healthcare

Seven institutions participating in a Joint Commission and American College of Surgeons quality-improvement project to reduce colorectal surgical-site infection rates saved more than $3.7 million by avoiding 135 infections over a 2½-year period. This included superficial incisional infections, affecting skin and underlying tissue, which were lowered 45%; and all types of colorectal surgical-site infections by 32%. The average length of stay for surgical-site infection patients was reduced to 13 days from 15.

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Health plans air concerns amid changes to kids’ coverage
California Watch

Under a budget-paring plan crafted by Gov. Jerry Brown and approved by lawmakers, 870,000 children who were covered by the Healthy Families program will be moved to Medi-Cal in phases starting Jan. 1. But it remains unclear whether a health plan serving Sacramento, Fresno, San Diego and Los Angeles counties will have enough doctors to accept the children.

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Medicare Is Faulted on Shift to Electronic Records
New York Times

The conversion to electronic medical records — a critical piece of the Obama administration’s plan for health care reform — is “vulnerable” to fraud and abuse because of the failure of Medicare officials to develop appropriate safeguards, according to a sharply critical report to be issued Thursday by federal investigators. The use of electronic medical records has been central to the aim of overhauling health care in America.

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Survey finds more workers in self-insured company health plans
Modern Healthcare

The share of workers in self-insured company health plans increased for the fourth straight year in 2011 to 58.5% of all private-sector employees, according to an employment research group. The Employee Benefit Research Institute analyzed data collected by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and found a 1 percentage point increase last year in the share of private-sector employees in health plans operated by their employers, instead of commercially available plans. Ten years earlier, 48.8% of private-sector employees were in such plans.

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AMA report sees monopolies in insurance markets
Modern Healthcare

The American Medical Association’s annual report on the health insurance marketplace suggests that 70% of metropolitan markets lack competition among insurers, prompting a quick critical response from a payers trade group.

The Chicago-based AMA, in its “Competition in Health Insurance: A Comprehensive Study of U.S. Markets” 2012 report, states, “It appears that consolidation has resulted in the possession and exercise of health insurer monopoly power.”

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Doctors and Plans Blame Each Other for Costs
Health Leaders Media

Health plans and physicians pointed fingers at one another this week, with each side blaming the other for market consolidations that they both claim are driving healthcare costs.

However, impartial observers say both sides are to blame and consumers are bearing the cost. The American Medical Association on Wednesday released the 2012 edition of Competition in Health Insurance: A Comprehensive Study of U.S. Markets.

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Deadly ’superbugs’ invade U.S. health care facilities
News10.net

The doctors tried one antibiotic after another, racing to stop the infection as it tore through the man’s body, but nothing worked.

In a matter of days after the middle-aged patient arrived at University of Virginia Medical Center, the stubborn bacteria in his blood had fought off even what doctors consider “drugs of last resort.”

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Justice Department OKs WellPoint’s $4.9 billion acquisition of Amerigroup
Modern Healthcare

The Justice Department gave the go-ahead to WellPoint’s $4.9 billion agreement to buy Amerigroup Corp. as a result of Amerigroup’s deal to sell its Virginia subsidiary to Inova Health System Foundation, though a hearing in Washington state is delaying the closing of the WellPoint deal.

Amerigroup, a Virginia Beach, Va.-based managed-care provider for Medicare and Medicaid recipients, expects the Virginia deal to close Friday, while its deal with Indianapolis-based Blues insurer WellPoint can close after hearings are held on the issue by regulators in Washington state, according to an Amerigroup securities filing.

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Clear Vision Information Systems COO Among Featured Speakers at Healthcare Industry’s ICE Meeting
Ventura County Star

Pam Klugman, chief operating officer of Clear Vision Information Systems, will be one of the featured speakers at the annual ICE meeting, December 3–4, in San Francisco. ICE is healthcare’s Industry Collaboration Effort, which brings together providers, health plans, associations, state and federal agencies, and accrediting bodies to work collaboratively to improve healthcare regulatory compliance and efficiencies.

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Insurers Join Former Adversaries to Publicize Health Law
BusinessWeek

Aetna Inc. (AET) and other insurers that initially fought President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul are reversing course and supporting the effort by funding a group planning to spend $100 million to help the uninsured get coverage.

Enroll America, a nonprofit created two years ago, has gathered support from the insurers that opposed the law and consumer organizations such as Washington-based Families USA that supported it.

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31 million patients receive ACO care as delivery model expands
EHR Intelligence

According to a new report by consulting company Oliver Wyman, as many as 31 million American patients are now covered by an accountable care organization (ACO). The Medicare program, which requires physicians to be reimbursed based on the quality of work performed, instead of the traditional fee-for-service model, has been rapidly expanding despite industry belief that ACOs have had little impact on the market.

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New hospital finance center expected to open Monday
St. Helena Star

Approximately 120 employees will make up the Northern California Network Revenue Cycle Center, which is expected to open Monday, Dec. 3, in Windsor.

The staff includes those who handle billing, health information management, and pre-admissions for Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits, Ukiah Valley Medical Center, St. Helena Hospital Napa Valley, and St. Helena Hospital Clear Lake. An open house for the new Windsor facilities was held Nov. 14.

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Statewide outreach continues focus on SIDS prevention
HealthyCal.org

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome hits some communities harder than others. Preventative programs offer all parents simple tips for safe sleep for their children, but recent efforts have stepped up outreach to high-risk groups and emphasize culturally appropriate advice. SIDS is the leading cause of death for children from one month to one year of age.

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The Hidden Costs Of Raising The Medicare Age
capital public radio

Whenever the discussion turns to saving money in Medicare, the idea of raising the eligibility age often comes up. “I don’t think you can look at entitlement reform without adjusting the age for retirement,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on ABC’s This Week last Sunday. “Let it float up another year or so over the next 30 years, adjust Medicare from 65 to 67.”

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HHS inspector general: Medicare EHR program needs better oversight
Modern Healthcare

The CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS need to tighten up their oversight of the Medicare EHR incentive payment program, according to HHS’ inspector general’s office. The watchdog office, headed by Inspector General Daniel Levinson, offered a couple of recommendations for the agencies in its report, “Early Assessment Finds That CMS Faces Obstacles in Overseeing the Medicare EHR Incentive Program“.

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Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley to move patients Saturday
The Mercury News

In a move that has been scripted down to the minute, Eden Medical Center doctors and staff members will transfer 60 to 65 patients from the old hospital to the new one on Saturday.

The carefully choreographed move comes after 28 “move school” classes and a dress rehearsal Wednesday, when volunteers filled in for patients, said Carolyn Kemp, Sutter Health spokeswoman. On Saturday, the actual patients will be transported one at a time by wheelchair, gurney or bed. “It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to move each patient,” Kemp said.

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UCI students inject creativity into medical apps
Orange County Register

Smartphones and tablets could one day become as essential to medicine as stethoscopes and thermometers. With that future in mind, 30 UC Irvine medical students joined forces with 100 computer science students for the university’s first “Med App Jam.” Eighteen teams competed to develop apps for the iPhone and iPad. The winners were announced last week, with the top award going to Life Buoy, which allows users in a natural disaster to find relief centers or request prescription refills.

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Share your thoughts: New North Bay health plans to improve costs for businesses?
North Bay Business Journal

The North Bay soon will have three new health-plan providers: Western Health Advantage, Blue Cross of California and Sutter Health.

Sacramento-based Western Health Advantage on Jan. 1 is expanding its business into Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties. Novato-based Meritage Medical Network, formerly known as the Marin-Sonoma IPA, in October officially made known its plan to earn accountable care organization, or ACO, designation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

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$2.2 million in federal funds aimed at East Bay med device, bioscience innovation
San Francisco Business Times

A consortium that includes the University of California, Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and East Bay job-training and economic development groups will tap $2.2 million in federal funding to spur medical device and bioscience manufacturing jobs along the I-80/880 corridor. The Advanced Manufacturing Medical/Biosciences Pipeline for Economic Development — or AM2PED — is aimed at technology transfer, economic development and workforce development, according to UC Berkeley.

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UCSF Medical Center and Children’s Oakland sign letter of intent to merge
San Francisco Business Times

UCSF Medical Center, including its UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, and Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland have signed a formal letter of intent to merge, officials told the San Francisco Business Times late Wednesday. A letter of intent to “develop a formal affiliation” between the two hospitals was signed Tuesday, according to Karin Rush-Monroe, a UCSF spokeswoman. Talks between the two hospitals became public in mid-June after earlier affiliation talks between Children’s and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto went nowhere.

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