News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Healthcare crisis: not enough specialists for the poor
Los Angeles Times

The blurry vision began early last year. Roy Lawrence ignored it as long as he could. But after falling off a ladder at his construction job, he knew he had to see a doctor.

He went to a community health clinic in South Los Angeles, where doctors determined he had diabetes and cataracts. The clinic could manage his illness but referred him early this year to the county health system for eye surgery.

Nearly a year later, Lawrence, a Jamaican immigrant without insurance, still is waiting for the operation. His vision has deteriorated so much he is considered legally blind.

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GAO report finds EHR digital divide
Modern Healthcare

A report from a federal watchdog gives further evidence of a digital divide between large and urban hospitals on one side and small and rural facilities on the other. Under the federal electronic health-record system incentive program, hospitals where at least 10% of patients are covered by Medicaid are eligible for payments through Medicaid for adopting a certified EHR. The Government Accountability Office, in a report reviewing the 2011 activities of the Medicaid EHR incentive program, found that 41% of eligible urban hospitals received EHR incentive payments. In comparison, 35.8% of eligible rural hospitals did.

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Hospital Systems Branch Out as Insurers
The Wall Street Journal

A growing number of hospital systems are moving to start their own insurance plans, aiming to broaden their roles and prepare for the changes coming under the federal health-care overhaul.

Piedmont Healthcare and WellStar Health System, both in the Atlanta area, are set to announce a jointly owned insurance arm, with the goal of marketing coverage to employers and Medicare recipients in 2014.

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Democrats want GOP to show hand on Medicare in deficit negotiations
The Hill

Democrats wary of accepting any entitlement benefits cuts are asking Republicans to show them their plans if they want to make Medicare means-testing a part of a lame-duck fiscal package. GOP leaders have floated the idea of hiking Medicare costs for wealthier beneficiaries – a proposal President Obama has repeatedly backed – as a condition of any deal to prevent a slew of tax hikes and spending cuts from taking hold Jan. 1.

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Obama to Control Most Health Exchanges as States Opt Out
San Francisco Chronicle

More than half of the state exchanges to be created under the 2010 U.S. health-care overhaul are expected to be run by the federal government, offering insurers and consumers uniform criteria in at least those areas. While a final tally on who will participate won’t come until the end of today, many states led by Republican governors have said they won’t build their own insurance exchanges.

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Many states leaving insurance exchanges to federal government
Los Angeles Times

Despite years of prodding and pleading by the Obama administration, close to half of the nation’s governors will not take a critical step to implement the president’s healthcare law next year, leaving the job of running new insurance markets for their residents to the federal government.

But what was once viewed as a setback for the Affordable Care Act is increasingly seen as a blessing by consumer advocates, many of whom doubt that officials in some Republican-controlled states are committed to implementing a law they fervently oppose.

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New Medicare fraud detection system saves $115 million
Modern Healthcare

A highly touted new technology system designed to stop fraudulent Medicare payments before they are paid saved about $115 million and spurred more than 500 investigations since it was launched in the summer of 2011, according to a report released Friday.

Federal health officials said the projected savings are much higher. The savings so far, however, are miniscule compared to the estimated $60 billion lost each year to Medicare fraud.

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St. Joseph’s gains recognition

St. Joseph’s Medical Center has received advanced certification as a Primary Stroke Center from The Joint Commission, the nation’s leading accrediting body for hospitals and health care organizations. The recognition was granted in conjunction with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

As a certified stroke center, it signifies that St. Joseph’s is dedicated to better outcomes for stroke patients by demonstrating to on-site reviewers that its program has met critical performance elements based on national standards.

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Health Care: Three area hospitals receive top Leapfrog ranking
North Bay Business Journal

Three North Bay hospitals received “A” grades for patient safety from the Leapfrog Group, considered the industry standard for hospital surveys.

Kaiser Permanente hospitals in San Rafael and Santa Rosa and St. Joseph Health-operated Petaluma Valley Hospital each received the ranking from the Leapfrog Group, an independent national nonprofit run by employers and other large purchasers of health benefits.

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Smoking rates increase among ages 18 to 24 in California, study reveals
Contra Costa Times

California has made significant progress with its anti-smoking campaigns, but one group has been particularly tough to reach: 18- to 24-year-olds. They have the highest smoking prevalence of any age group, and their smoking rate has gone up despite widespread attempts to educate them about the dangers of tobacco use. Smoking rates among young adults rose from 12.3 percent in 2010 to 14.6 percent in 2011, a new state study reveals.

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States Lean on Feds for Health Insurance Exchanges
Health Leaders Media

The federal government will run more health insurance exchanges as they come online next year than states. On Friday, both Virginia and Florida rejected running their own exchanges, just hours before the midnight deadline for states to officially declare whether or not they would set up their own insurance exchange or get some amount of help from the federal government.

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Doctor: HMOs preying on ‘dual eligible’ patients
Orange County Register

For months, doctors have warned that a state proposal to enroll 627,000 poor, elderly and disabled Californians into managed care would ultimately harm patients. The cost-cutting move — which would affect Californians who qualify for both Medi-Cal and Medicare in eight counties, including Orange — is still awaiting federal approval before it can be implemented, but one doctor says the state’s proposal has already severely injured one of his patients.

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Five Reasons ObamaCare Won’t Bend Cost Curve Downward
Investor's Business Daily

The president promised that his health care overhaul would bend the cost curve downward. But it was clear from the beginning that wasn’t true. There was no way that ObamaCare would roll back costs, not with its goal of universal coverage and mandates requiring health plans to provide platinum-plated benefits. And then there’s the troubled history of government programs, which always cost more than they are projected. Now that the election is over, there’s been a steady drip of revelations about the true costs of health reform.

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For many baby boomers, heart attack is a wakeup call
Sacramento Bee

At 61, Les Finke has recently returned to work as executive director of Sacramento’s Albert Einstein Center senior residence community after open heart surgery and a six-way bypass early in October.

“It blew everyone’s mind that I was going in for open heart surgery,” Finke said. “It created a sense of anxiety here. But the experience really put me in touch with these residents.”

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State-Federal “Partnership” Exchanges: The Rarely Discussed Alternative Option
The Health Care Blog

Beginning in 2013, states will begin rolling out health care insurance exchanges as required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). To this point most legislators, policymakers and health care experts have discussed the state-based and federal insurance exchange options at length. However, there is another form of insurance exchange that states are beginning to explore: the “partnership”.