News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Liberal Democrats rip proposed Medicaid cuts
Modern Healthcare

Leading liberals in Congress blasted separate Republican and Democratic proposals to cut Medicaid spending as part of an end-of-the-year deficit deal but remained open to unspecified Medicare cuts.

Republican proposals to restructure Medicaid from an open entitlement to a fixed-dollar block grant to states and a Democratic proposal to move it into a per-capita grant drew derision from senior Senate and House Democrats during a Tuesday news conference packed with boisterous healthcare union representatives.

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Why not expand Medi-Cal in California?
Los Angeles Times

California’s Democratic-controlled Legislature has been an enthusiastic supporter of the 2010 federal healthcare reform law, but it has yet to take advantage of one of the most important provisions: the opportunity to offer Medi-Cal, the state’s version of the Medicaid insurance program for the poor, to more Californians largely at the federal government’s expense. Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t committed mainly out of concern about the potential cost to the state.

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Some counties requiring health workers to get flu vaccine
The Bay Citizen

In an effort to prevent health care workers from spreading the flu to patients this winter, county health officials are mandating that medical staff around the Bay Area receive vaccinations or wear a surgical mask on the job. Health officials say flu vaccination rates among health care workers are dangerously low – 60 percent of those working in California hospitals received the vaccine in the 2010-11 flu season, according to the most recent data available from the California Department of Public Health.

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Higher Readmission Penalties Linked to Low HCAHPS Scores
Health Leaders Media

Hospitals that struggle with high rates of 30-day readmissions and fear federal penalties may look at their patient experience scores for clues on what might be driving their negative scores. That’s according to Press Ganey, which conducts Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) surveys as required by the healthcare reform law’s value-based purchasing regulations.

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Public hospitals plan lobbying blitz in states weighing Medicaid opt-out
Modern Healthcare

An advocacy group for public hospitals plans to lobby its members to continue explaining to state leaders the importance of Medicaid expansion under the federal healthcare reform law.

HHS clarified in a letter issued Monday that it will cover all costs of expanding Medicaid enrollment, as authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, only in states that undertake an expansion of Medicaid eligibility to 133% of the federal poverty level, or as high as 138% of the federal poverty level.

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Workers’ spending on health premiums surges 74% in 8 years
Modern Healthcare

The cost of employee health insurance grew faster than income in every state, an analysis of data from 2003 to 2011 shows, and health benefits increasingly failed to protect workers from the cost of getting injured or ill.

The analysis of health insurance in the workplace by the health policy foundation the Commonwealth Fund underscored the financial strain on household and business budgets from the country’s rising healthcare costs.

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Sutter Health hires CEO for HMO plan
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Health has hired a CEO for a new HMO plan currently under development. Stephen Nolte, 52, has consulted with Sutter on the project for the past few months. On Dec. 31, he’ll take the helm. Angling to get more control over how health care dollars are spent, Sutter applied for an HMO license from state regulators in August. The health system hopes to get approval in time to begin sales next fall for coverage in 2014.

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Eyeing new healthcare business models, payers software companies in deal
Modern Healthcare

HealthEdge, a healthcare analytics and software specialist, is eyeing a growing need among payers for real-time market information and support for new healthcare business models in a deal to acquire a competitor, Click4Care. Terms of the deal were not disclosed in a news release from Burlington, Mass.-based HealthEdge, but the acquisition is expected to close this month, pending shareholder approval.

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Change Comes To Healthcare District
Big Bear Grizzly

Ray Hino is in the hospital—Bear Valley Community Hospital in the administration office, that is. He is the new interim CEO. Hino is spending a week getting acquainted with the district and finding a place to live. He doesn’t officially begin his duties until Jan. 2. But he was all smiles Dec. 10 after about three hours on the temporary job. The USC grad has spent the majority of his career in hospital administration in hospital districts of all sizes, he says.

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Kaiser Permanente gives $5 million to Children’s Hospital in Oakland
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente gave $5 million to Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland to help rebuild its facilities. Oakland is also the headquarters of Kaiser itself, and the two medical organizations share a long history in the city. Gregory Adams, president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan/Hospitals Inc., said Children’s Oakland is part of the region’s “safety net” and is important player in the future of Bay Area health care.

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California’s recovery raises hopes for restoring health, social service cuts
Sacramento Bee

People camped out overnight, enduring pain and boredom while waiting hours in line for something they could not otherwise afford.

It was not a Black Friday sale, but a free dental clinic this summer that attracted a record number of toothaches to Cal Expo in Sacramento.

Three years earlier, the state eliminated most adult dental services to help balance the budget.

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WellPoint reaffirms 2012 earnings forecast
San Francisco Chronicle

WellPoint Inc. is sticking with a 2012 earnings forecast that it had cut in July, and the nation’s second-largest health insurer said it expects next year’s earnings to be on par with this year’s performance. The Indianapolis company on Tuesday reaffirmed its forecast for 2012 adjusted earnings of $7.30 to $7.40 per share, which doesn’t count investment gains and litigation or acquisition costs. That means the forecast doesn’t count costs tied to its acquisition of fellow insurer Amerigroup Corp., a $4.46 billion deal WellPoint expects to close later this month.

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When government does things better than private enterprise
Los Angeles Times

Budget discussions in Washington these days always seem to deteriorate into arguments over what government is supposed to do for its citizens, and what should be left aside. Is the reach of government strictly defined in the Constitution? Or tradition? And, if so, whose “tradition”?

Here’s a rule of thumb to consider for when government should take a role in providing a service: When it’s cheaper.

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Raising the Medicare age is the worst idea ever
USA Today

You might remember when, during the recent presidential and congressional campaigns, many candidates put forth serious proposals to increase the Medicare eligibility age to 67.

Actually, you probably don’t, because it didn’t happen. Yet here we are, during the lame duck session of Congress, with the worst idea ever apparently on the table in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

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States cannot do partial Medicaid expansion, says Obama administration
The Hill

States must take or leave the entire Medicaid expansion under President Obama’s healthcare law, and cannot expand the program only partially, the Obama administration said Monday. The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) said the law does not allow for a partial expansion — at least not with the level of federal funding available to states that participate in the expansion.

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