News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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53% of Consumers ‘Oblivious’ to Healthcare Costs
Health Leaders Media

Most consumers have no idea how much they pay for healthcare beyond premiums and co-pays. Until they do it will be difficult to temper the rate of cost growth in healthcare, says Paul H. Keckley, PhD, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. “Our surveys show that about 53% of consumers are oblivious to costs and tend to go along with whatever is suggested. Only one in 10 is inclined to be price sensitive,” Keckley says.

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Five Things To Watch in Health Care in 2013
California Healthline

“Prediction is indispensable to our lives,” forecaster extraordinaire Nate Silver writes in his new book, “The Signal and the Noise.” Every day, whether wearing a raincoat to work or setting aside funds for future spending, “we are making a forecast about how the future will proceed — and how our plans will affect the odds for a favorable outcome.” In health care, the mix of ever-shifting technologies, laws and competitive landscape means that many patients’ lives (and industry dollars) rest on whether providers and regulators can make the right bets.

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$100-million gift to cover costs for 30-plus UCLA medical students
Los Angeles Times

More than 30 incoming medical school students will get a full ride to UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine thanks to a $100-million gift from the school’s benefactor.

The donation by Geffen, a philanthropist and entertainment executive, will create a scholarship fund to cover the recipients’ entire cost of medical school, including tuition, room and board, books and other expenses.

“It is a fantastic vote of confidence for higher education,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “We’re eternally grateful.”

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Growing financial instability seen for not-for-profit hospitals
Modern Healthcare

Not-for-profit hospitals and health systems will find it increasingly difficult to cut expenses and hold onto stable profits after 2013, a group of financial analysts concludes. Fitch Ratings analysts’ outlook for 2013 highlights the continued pressure on hospital operations from a weak economy and scheduled cuts to hospital pay under healthcare reform. Hospitals and health systems moved during the recession to slash expenses and have continued to do so—some quite notably— through the halting recovery.

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A shift in how healthcare is paid for
Los Angeles Times

It’s hard work being one of Dr. Damian Folch’s diabetic patients.

If a lab test shows high cholesterol, Folch is quick to call or email. No patient can leave the office without scheduling an annual eye exam, a key preventive test. A missed exam or an appointment leads to another call.

“We are a real pain in their necks,” joked Folch, a primary care physician in suburban Boston. “We track them down.”

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Monterey County supervisors mull alternative health plan for low-income residents
Monterey Herald

County health officials proposed an alternative interim health program for low-income, uninsured county residents to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

But union organizers and community activists insisted the county should pursue the original program, ViaCare, instead because it offered actual insurance and would serve as preparation for implementation of broader reform in 2014.

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Docs in hospital-owned practices see higher cost increases
Modern Physician

Operating costs for a physician working full time increased in 2011 from the prior year, though costs grew more slowly for physician-owned groups than for hospital-owned practices, according to a medical management group’s survey.

Operating costs per full-time doctor working in a physician-owned multispecialty practice climbed roughly 1.3% last year to total $528,182, the survey by the MGMA-ACMPE, formerly the Medical Group Management Association, found.

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Is California’s stem cell program preparing to waste $700,000?
Los Angeles Times

If you’re betting that the California stem cell agency will spurn key recommendations of a blue-ribbon review panel that criticized its leadership and management structures, you might want to double that bet. Several board members showed overt hostility to the panel’s recommendations during a public meeting today.

The governing board of the agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, formally received the review report at its meeting today in Los Angeles.

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Only 15 States Plan to Operate Own Health Insurance Exchanges
Insurance Journal

Only 15 U.S. states plan to operate health insurance exchanges under President Barack Obama’s reform law, leaving Washington with the daunting prospect of creating and operating the new online marketplaces in at least two-thirds of the country. On the eve of a federal deadline for states to say whether they will run their own exchanges, 11 other states have informed the administration that it should plan to be heavily involved in setting up private health insurance markets within their borders, said Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, on Thursday.

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More ACOs coming in new year
Modern Healthcare

The number of accountable care organizations operating under Medicare’s shared-savings program is expected to grow in the coming weeks. The initiative began roughly eight months ago with 27 accountable care organizations and expanded in July to include another 89. Created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the program offers hospitals and doctors financial incentives that are tied to quality goals and targets for cost control.

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UCI-led study identifies ulcer bug
Orange County Register

About 4.5 million people suffer from peptic ulcers, when stomach acid eats away at the lining of the esophagus, stomach or small intestine. Many ulcers are caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. The bug lives in the mucous layer that protects tissues in the digestive tract. About half of people have it, without problems, but sometimes it can inflame that mucous layer and cause an ulcer.

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Medical Practice Costs Creep Higher
Health Leaders Media

A year-to-year comparison of cost increases at both physician- and hospital-owned medical practices shows senior executives and administrators are increasingly being called on to build efficiencies.

MGMA-ACMPE (formerly the Management Group Medical Association) released on Wednesday its annual report on cost data gathered from member and non-member practices.

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S.F. lowest mastectomy rate for over-65s
San Francisco Chronicle

The Bay Area has among the lowest rates of mastectomy surgeries among Medicare patients in the country, a finding that suggests women are likely opting for lumpectomy and radiation or other treatment for early-stage disease. The data released Wednesday by the Dartmouth Atlas Project show wide variations among regions in treatment choices, differences that the study’s authors said indicate that where patients live and how their doctors influence them may be the biggest factors in making medical decisions.

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GOP governors want to talk health care with Obama
San Francisco Chronicle

Eleven Republican governors, including Florida’s Rick Scott, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Arizona’s Jan Brewer want to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss the federal health overhaul, including ways to make expanding the Medicaid rolls and setting up online health exchanges more affordable for states with tight budgets. The letter requesting the meeting comes after the Obama administration said Monday that states can do a partial Medicaid expansion but that they wouldn’t get the three years of 100 percent federal funding provided under the law.

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Aetna plans to join 15 exchanges under U.S. healthcare reform
Yahoo! News

Aetna Inc, the third largest U.S. health insurer, said on Wednesday that by 2014 it expects to be part of about 15 healthcare exchanges being established under government reforms. Aetna, one of the companies on the front lines of healthcare changes in the United States, told analysts and investors that it believes an increase in the number of customers from the new market places will likely contribute to its growth.

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New model for health insurance
San Francisco Chronicle

For most working people, choosing a health plan is a little like prison food: You take what you get. The federal Affordable Health Care Act, aka Obamacare, may change that starting in October, when government-run insurance exchanges will offer workers at small businesses a place to shop for health insurance. If successful, the exchanges may shift how employers provide health insurance to their employees.

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Blue Shield of California seeks rate hikes up to 20%
Los Angeles Times

Health insurer Blue Shield of California wants to raise rates as much as 20% for some individual policyholders, prompting calls for the nonprofit to use some of its record-high reserve of $3.9 billion to hold down premiums.

In filings with state regulators, Blue Shield is seeking an average rate increase of 12% for more than 300,000 customers, effective in March, with a maximum increase of 20%.

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Blue Shield foundation makes $6.4M in Q4 grants, for 2012 total of $30.3 million
San Francisco Business Times

The San Francisco-based Blue Shield of California Foundation is making $6.4 million in fourth quarter grants, bringing its 2012 total to nearly $30.3 million, officials said Wednesday. The foundation, the philanthropic arm of Blue Shield of California, said most of the new funding will be used to strengthen the Golden State’s fraying health care safety net. Anti-domestic violence programs, a longtime focus, will also benefit.

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Did UCD ignore wayward docs because of $$?
Sacramento Bee

Who paid for those innovative and now discredited procedures performed by neurosurgeon Dr. J. Paul Muizelaar at the UC Davis Medical Center? How much did they pay and where did the money go? In 2010 and 2011, before university officials issued a cease-and-desist order, Muizelaar and his colleague Dr. Rudolph Schrot opened the skulls of three terminally ill brain cancer patients and deliberately introduced bacteria into their open wounds. The neurosurgeons theorized that the procedure would trigger an immune response and prolong patients’ lives. All three died.

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Local medical providers must step up for KMC
Bakersfield Californian

It’s beyond disheartening that no local hospitals or health care providers except Clinica Sierra Vista have stepped forward thus far to help keep Kern Medical Center’s critical family medicine residency program alive. This failure cuts straight to the problem with our health care system today: It’s so partitioned among competing entities that it fails to achieve the goal of improving overall health care delivery for everyone.

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UCI receives $14M for autism work
Orange County Register

UC Irvine will receive $14 million in public and private funds to expand autism research and create a comprehensive clinic that will offer autism diagnostic services and treatment. The gift, to be announced today, comes from the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, which allocates state tobacco tax money, and the William and Nancy Thompson Family Foundation in Newport Beach.

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Repairing ObamaCare
The Health Care Blog

In the aftermath of the recent election, virtually all commentators were quick to conclude that ObamaCare has been saved. The health reform law can now go forward and Republicans are powerless to stop it. The trouble is: ObamaCare is a deeply flawed piece of legislation. Its defects are so huge that Democrats are going to want to perform major surgery on it in the near future, even if the Republicans stand by and twiddle their thumbs.

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California prison health care receiver issues lay off notices
Sacramento Bee

California Correctional Health Care Services has issued lay off warnings to 2,200 of its employees with a goal of axing 829 positions early next year. The cuts will touch nearly 60 job classifications around the state, from doctors to custodians and impact 38 jobs in Sacramento County. The statewide cuts take effect Mar. 31, 2013.

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