News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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ED Waits Linked to Higher Costs, LOS
Health Leaders Media

The common-sense assumption that longer waits in crowded emergency departments are bad for patients’ health is bolstered by a new study. The study, Impact of Emergency Department Crowding on Outcomes of Admitted Patients, published online this week in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, found that admission to the hospital from the ED on days with prolonged ambulance diversion or high ED crowding was associated with 5% increased odds of dying in the hospital compared to admissions on days with low ambulance diversion.

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Health services advocates are apprehensive about federal budget debate
Sacramento Bee

Health care providers and patient advocates are anxious over pending cuts to federal health programs next year if Democrats and Republicans can’t strike a deal on budget cuts and taxes by Dec. 31.

Unless Congress can agree on at least $1.2 trillion in program cuts, wide-ranging reductions in domestic and defense spending, known as “sequestration,” will begin Jan. 2.

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State offers online portal to lodge health plan complaints
Los Angeles Business Journal

The state HMO regulator has launched a secure, easy-to-use online form to allow Californians to file complaints regarding their health plan. Available in both English and Spanish, the portal enables consumers to request an external review of a health plan’s denial of medical services. Previously, health plan members had to submit forms via mail or fax.

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Baucus said working on bill to stall doc pay cut
Modern Healthcare

The Senate Democratic health policy leader is writing legislation to delay an impending Medicare physician pay cut, according to health policy sources.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, is writing the bill that would delay a 26.5% Medicare physician fee cut scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, according to Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The senators referenced Baucus’ doc patch legislation in a letter they wrote on behalf of 29 of their colleagues this week urging him to include extensions of a range of smaller Medicare payments for hospitals, including the low-volume and the Medicare-dependent hospital programs.

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ER overcrowding tied to higher death rate: study
Modern Physician

Overcrowding at emergency departments is a serious patient-safety issue and must be made a public health priority, conclude the authors of a study published this week in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Patients at overcrowded emergency departments were 5% more likely to die as compared with patients cared for at less-crowded EDs, according to the study’s researchers. The researchers measured overcrowding using ambulance diversion—the practice of hospitals closing emergency rooms to ambulances because they are too busy to accept new patients.

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Opting Out of Coverage Seen Creating Employee Backlash
Bloomberg.com

Maggie Wilderotter, chief executive officer at cable, Internet and phone provider Frontier Communications Corp. (FTR) says it’s her “fiduciary responsibility” to study ending medical benefits long provided by her company. “Frontier, like a lot of companies, is likely to at least consider dropping health-care benefits” in 2014, she said. As President Barack Obama presses ahead with plans to broaden insurance coverage, many U.S. executives say his health- care law has them rethinking their options.

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Healthcare adds 20,000 jobs in November
Modern Healthcare

The healthcare services sector added 20,000 jobs in November, representing an increase of 0.1% from October and bringing total healthcare employment in the country to 14.5 million, according to preliminary seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Within that sector, hospitals increased their job count by 8,300 in November—an increase of 0.2% from October. Hospital employment now stands at 4.9 million, according to the BLS.

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Gov. Christie lobbies for Sandy aid after vetoing ‘Obamacare’ bill
Los Angeles Times

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was in the nation’s capital Thursday to lobby for billions in federal aid for his and other states affected by Superstorm Sandy, amid uncertainty over the fate of a supplemental appropriations bill that will be considered during the “fiscal cliff” debate over spending and taxes.

Christie met with senior Obama administration officials, and briefly with the president himself, before heading to Capitol Hill for a scheduled appearance with Garden State lawmakers who are pushing for relief beyond the $50 billion that the White House was expected to request.

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Christie vetoes state-run health exchange bill
San Francisco Chronicle

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation establishing a state-run health insurance exchange on Thursday, blaming the federal government for failing to provide the answers he said he needs to make a fiscally sound decision on the best way to comply with the Affordable Care Act. The governor said he has not eliminated any of the options available to states to comply with the national health care overhaul. But, he said it would be irresponsible to choose one over the others without knowing the costs of each.

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Delta Dental of California wins five-year $2.6B Defense Department contract
San Francisco Business Times

Delta Dental of California said Thursday that it’s been awarded a new five-year. $2.6 billion U.S. Department of Defense contract for the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program. However, most of the $2.6 billion is paid out to dentists who provide services for enrollees in the program, according to a Delta Dental of California spokeswoman. On other contracts, Delta Dental has said it gets roughly 10 percent of the total.

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N.J.’s Christie rejects state-run health insurance exchange
Modern Healthcare

One of the last holdouts among prominent Republican governors, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, put his state among a growing number that will defer to the federal government to run the health insurance marketplaces that are a key provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The picture of which states would participate in providing tightly regulated individual and small-group coverage through the exchanges beginning in 2014 has rapidly clarified since the Nov. 6 election.

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CMS seeks doc input in push for patient experience data
Modern Physician

In its latest move to get performance data up and available on the fledgling Physician Compare consumer website, the CMS is seeking feedback from providers about the use of patient experience measures.

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Murrieta Hospital Becomes Home To Region’s First Neonatal ICU Services
The Valley News

A gaping hole in children’s medical services was filled on Monday, Nov. 26, when a pair of health care providers opened the region’s first neonatal intensive care unit.

The 11-bed unit – the first in a vast area that stretches from Escondido to Orange County – opened at Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta. The unit was created following an agreement between a regional hospital operator and a prominent San Diego children’s services specialist.

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San Francisco General is the city’s main public hospital, and also the main provider for the city’s
KALW

San Francisco General is the city’s main public hospital, and also the main provider for the city’s poorest and most vulnerable residents. On an average day, about 20 people suffering from mental illness walk through its doors asking for psychiatric help. It’s often a last resort for people without a support system or anywhere else to turn. But ongoing state and city budget cuts have forced San Francisco General, like many other public hospitals in the state, to make tough decisions. The psychiatric emergency rooms have been hit the hardest.

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Interest Groups Push to Fill Margins of Health Coverage
New York Times

The chiropractors were out in force, lobbying for months to get their services included in every state’s package of essential health benefits that will be guaranteed under the new health care law.

“We’ve been in constant contact with our state chapters, just telling them, ‘Look, you’ve got to get in the room,’ ” said John Falardeau, senior vice president of government relations at the American Chiropractic Association.

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California Spends Less Than 4 Cents of Every Tobacco Dollar to Reduce Tobacco Use
KQED Radio

Tobacco prevention advocates are calling on California to spend more on anti-smoking programs — especially since the state already has the money for it. A new report published Thursday titled Broken Promises to Our Children looked nationwide at how states are spending the money from the 1998 master settlement agreement with cigarette companies and from states’ tobacco taxes.

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Trade-offs in raising Medicare eligibility age
San Francisco Chronicle

Americans are living longer, and Republicans want to raise the Medicare eligibility age as part of any deal to reduce the government’s huge deficits. But what sounds like a prudent sacrifice for an aging society that must watch its budget could have some surprising consequences, including higher premiums for people on Medicare. Unlike tax hikes, which spawn hard partisan divisions, increasing the Medicare age could help ease a budget compromise because President Barack Obama has previously been willing to consider it.

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Insurers change their tune on Obamacare; encourage people to sign up for benefits
New Jersey Online

Aetna and other insurers that initially fought President Obama’s health-care overhaul are reversing course, funding a group planning to spend $100 million to help the uninsured get coverage under the law. 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. The new organization plans a broad-based educational campaign to make uninsured people aware of the health-care law’s benefits and help them sign up, said Ron Pollack, Enroll America’s chairman.

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Grass Valley hospital to close transitional care unit
The Union

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley will close its transitional care unit in February, affecting the employment of more than 20 staff members, the organization announced Thursday evening.

The decision to close the unit is due to the changes in financial reimbursement for skilled nursing care, which does not cover the cost of providing that care in an acute care hospital facility, according a statement issued Thursday evening.

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Reset on CEO search could cost Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital another three months
Monterey Herald

Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital could be without permanent top executive leadership during a critical period, as an advisory panel considers a “road map” for the hospital’s future as a standalone organization.

According to Salinas Valley Memorial spokeswoman Adrienne Laurent, it could take up to three months to hire a chief executive officer after hospital officials announced earlier this week that the top two finalists for the position backed out.

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Nonprofit opens health center in Victorville
Victorville Daily Press

A Los Angeles County-based nonprofit opened a clinic designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center to serve indigent and uninsured Victor Valley residents.

Mission City Community Network recently began operations at a 1,200-square-foot office across from Victor Valley Community Hospital, offering primary care services. The nonprofit operates 12 clinics in Los Angeles County and Victorville is its first location outside the county.

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Health care reform: Insurance exchanges are the key to success
North Bay Business Journal

The re-election of President Barack Obama signals full-speed ahead for the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform), including the creation of public health insurance exchanges. The act mandates that all U.S. states and territories establish and launch their own health insurance exchange by 2014, or default to a federal fallback program.

While the numbers keeps moving, presently it is estimated that between 16 and 23 states plus Washington, D.C., plan to launch their own exchanges.

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Health care reform: Is there a role for holistic medicine and patient choice?
North County Times

Amid the nationwide debate about health care and each person’s search for a safe, effective and affordable approach is the realization that being healthy is an individual responsibility and personal endeavor.

A synopsis of an article in The Atlantic by Dr. David H. Freedman says, “The medical profession kept a cool distance from alternative medicine, which most doctors dismissed as the province of hippies and snake oil salesman.”

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Potential ObamaCare privacy nightmare
USA Today

By mid-December, the federal government is planning to quietly enact what could be the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of the republic. If you think identity theft is a problem now, wait until Uncle Sam serves up critical information on 300 million American citizens on a platter. Hyperbole? Unlikely. Here’s why: As the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act lurches toward full implementation on Jan. 1, 2014, only a handful of states (California, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon and Washington) are likely to be truly ready to operate state exchanges by next October.

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Stanford Hospital completes $50 million renovation of Hoover Pavilion
San Francisco Business Times

Stanford Hospital & Clinics on Thursday celebrated completion of a 14-month, $50 million renovation of the historic Hoover Pavilion, set to open Dec. 17. The renovated complex — part of a multi-billion expansion and rebuild of Stanford Hospital, the adjacent Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and related facilities — will serve as the new home for various Stanford Clinics, including Stanford Coordinated Care, the Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine, Stanford Internal Medicine, Stanford Family Medicine, Stanford Senior Care, and the Stanford Neurology Clinic, officials said Dec. 6.

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Clinton Foundation begins health project in Coachella Valley
Los Angeles Times

The Clinton Foundation has launched a project to reduce health disparities in the Coachella Valley, one of only two U.S. communities being targeted by the new effort. The project, Clinton Health Matters Initiative, aims to reduce preventable diseases, cut healthcare costs and bridge health gaps between poor and wealthy residents. Organizers brought together more than 100 people Thursday to begin planning how to improve the health of the residents of the region.

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