News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Lawmakers urged to protect charity deductions
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare groups, including the American Hospital Association, want Congress to protect tax breaks given to those who make donations to not-for-profit organizations.

The Obama administration has proposed decreasing the cap on tax deductions from charitable gifts to 28% from 35% as part of the efforts to avert the fiscal cliff of spending cuts and tax hikes.

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Q&A: Don Berwick Reflects on Healthcare Reform, Part II
Health Leaders Media

A year after leaving his position as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Don Berwick, MD, talked with HealthLeaders Media. Berwick discussed death panels, the challenges of implementing healthcare reform, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and the improvement movement. This is the second part of the interview.

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Medi-Cal expansion needed in California
San Francisco Chronicle

The federal Affordable Care Act, beginning in 2014, makes tens of millions of Americans eligible for health insurance who suffer without it. One of the most important provisions of the act is the substantial federal funding for states to expand Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California). According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Urban Institute, expanding Medicaid will result in not only providing much needed health care for the millions of Americans who are uninsured, but also will save money.

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Creative reform in state health care
Pasadena Star

Physicians aren’t the only doctors out there – though sometimes they, and their medical associations, would have you believe that’s the case. In addition to MDs, there are dentists, pharmacists, physician assistants, nurses, midwives, dietitians, physical therapists, psychologists, chiropractors, phlebotomists, podiatrists, optometrists, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, acupuncturists – and many more, very much including the specialty MDs such as surgeons and psychiatrists.

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Reckless prescribing of narcotics endangers patients, eludes regulators
Los Angeles Times

Dr. Carlos Estiandan was up to no good, and the Medical Board of California was on to him.

He prescribed powerful painkillers to addicts who had no medical need for them, conducted sham examinations and appeared to be a key supplier for drug dealers, according to court records.

He wrote more prescriptions than the entire staffs of some hospitals and took in more than $1 million a year.

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GOP governors pressure Obama on Medicaid
San Francisco Chronicle

Republican governors are ratcheting up pressure on President Obama to scale back a key provision of his health care law. In a letter to Obama last week, 11 governors asked for a meeting “as soon as possible” to negotiate for greater control over their Medicaid programs. Among other things, the governors want the option of expanding Medicaid – the state-federal program for the poor and disabled – in a much more modest way than envisioned in the law.

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Supreme Court slates generic drug ‘pay-for-delay’ case
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a “pay-for-delay” case that has the Federal Trade Commission accusing generic drugmakers of violating competition laws by agreeing to accept $42 million in annual payments in exchange for not selling generic versions of a more-expensive brand-name testosterone gel. The FTC says the companies—lead respondent Watson Pharmaceuticals, along with Paddock Laboratories, Par Pharmaceutical Cos. and Abbott Laboratories subsidiary Solvay Pharmaceuticals—conspired illegally to keep cheaper drugs off the market, to the detriment of consumers of the brand-name drug.

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Health group is listening to patients
Merced Sun-Star

Golden Valley Health Centers officials say they are reaching out to patients for their opinions and guidance to help improve health care services. Last year, Golden Valley established Patient Family Advisor groups at six sites to gather feedback. The groups meet monthly to review the information that’s been collected and discuss health care topics. That idea came out of work that was done by the California HealthCare Foundation in 2009, said Felicia Batts, research program manager with Golden Valley.

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Docs will likely face patient surge
The Californian - Salinas

Angie Wang arrived at the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical School in Dallas after two years of working in a New York laboratory, trying to unlock the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease. She expected to continue down that path or veer in the direction of another specialty that caught her attention, cancers of the blood. But in her third year of study, Wang spent a month working alongside an Irving, Texas, family practitioner and watching him interact with his patients. It set her in a whole new direction.

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Family docs: Don’t nix Medicaid pay boost
Modern Physician

The American Academy of Family Physicians is mobilizing its 105,900 members to let Congress know it opposes a proposal to pay for suspending the scheduled 26.5% Medicare payment cuts by cutting Medicaid primary-care pay increases. The group also opposes allowing across-the-board sequestration-driven pay cuts to reduce funding for graduate medical education physician-training programs and sequestration-driven cuts to programs such as the National Health Services Corps, which encourages new doctors to practice in underserved areas.

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Cost of Dying: Some Bay Area hospitals combat death aggressively with expensive treatment
The Mercury News

How you die — and what it costs — depends largely on where you get care. That’s the revelation of a major national database widely regarded as the best hospital-by-hospital look at the cost of dying. It shows that Bay Area residents are about twice as likely to die in a high-cost, high-tech intensive care unit as people in Minot, N.D., or Portland, Ore. But they are far less likely to get ICU care than residents of Manhattan.

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Health coalition takes lead role in test of mobile technology
North Bay Business Journal

Redwood Community Health Coalition recently took part in a pilot project testing a mobile health application that enrolls patients in public assistance programs, a potentially pivotal development for the public health sector.

The accelerating convergence of mobile technology and health care will likely open new avenues of access to underserved populations, which could in turn help states with implementing key pieces of health care reform, officials said.

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Oakland still struggling with HIV/AIDS
HealthyCal.org

Almost 20 years after first declaring a local state of emergency due to the AIDS epidemic, the City of Oakland continues to be struggle to get the disease under control. More than half of all HIV cases in Alameda County are diagnosed in Oakland, according to Dr. Neena Murgai, Deputy Director of Epidemiology and Surveillance for Alameda County, who tracks HIV & AIDS in the county.

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Vote on S.F. hospitals likely in 2013
San Francisco Chronicle

Negotiations are ongoing between city officials and Sutter Health over a $2 billion project for two hospitals in San Francisco – but there won’t be a vote on the matter any time soon.

Instead, the Board of Supervisors will push any vote on the deal off into the new year.

Three supervisors – David Chiu, David Campos and Mark Farrell – as well as Ken Rich from Mayor Ed Lee’s office have been in intense talks with Sutter Health’s West Bay president, Mike Cohill, and Warren Browner, CEO of the Sutter-affiliated California Pacific Medical Center.

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Medicare, the beloved budget buster
Los Angeles Times

While President Obama spars with congressional Republicans over whether to raise taxes, advocates for the elderly have been girding for a fight that promises to be at least as intense: what to do about the rising cost of Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled. The program is vital to its beneficiaries, but its expenses are growing far faster than federal revenues or the economy. In fact, it is the single biggest factor in the deficit over the long run.

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Medicare eligibility age conundrum
San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Raising the eligibility age for Medicare sounds like a fiscal no-brainer. After all, the Social Security retirement age is rising to 67. It would seem sensible for Medicare to have the same rule.

After all, life expectancy is growing. Today, the average 65-year-old can expect to live another 20 years – about five years longer than when Medicare started.

After all, federal health care spending is on an unsustainable course. Something’s got to give.

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ACOs: We’re NOT There Yet
The Health Care Blog

Last week veteran analyst Vince Kuraitis reviewed a report from the consulting firm Oliver Wyman (OW), arguing that the trend toward reconfiguring health systems to deliver more accountable care is more widespread than any of us suspect. “The healthcare world has only gotten serious about accountable care organizations in the past two years, but it is already clear that they are well positioned to provide a serious competitive threat to traditional fee-for-service medicine.

In “The ACO Surprise,” our analysis finds that 25 to 31 million Americans already receive their care through ACOs-and roughly 45 percent of the population live in regions served by at least one ACO.”

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Democrats divided on how much to expand MediCal under healthcare reform law
Southern California Public Radio

California’s plan to expand MediCal as part of federal healthcare reform is now being reconsidered as the state measures the financial burden that will ultimately come. Nearly eight million Californians use MediCal, the state’s healthcare program for low income residents. When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, state officials committed to expanding the program — espcially since the federal government agreed to pick up most of the tab.

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Health Insurance Exchanges Will Transform Health care…
The Health Care Blog

NPR ran a story recently about how some retailers are retooling efforts to appeal to consumers in light of increased competition, particularly from online vendors. Many are striving to be more “customer friendly”; Kohl’s department store was mentioned for adopting a “no questions asked” return policy with the idea that customer loyalty could be enhanced as the retailer made itself easier to do business with.

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