News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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New Obama fiscal offer includes $400 billion in health cuts
Modern Healthcare

Narrowing a “fiscal cliff” negotiating gap, President Barack Obama is backing off what had once been ironclad positions.

A new proposal handed to House Speaker John Boehner on Monday drops Obama’s long-held insistence that taxes rise on individuals earning more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000. He is now offering a new threshold of $400,000 and lowering his 10-year tax revenue goals from the $1.6 trillion he had argued for a few weeks ago.

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Shorter hospital stays don’t necessarily mean higher readmissions: study
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals that have grappled with how best to curb length of stay while also preventing readmissions may find comfort in a new study that suggests that a drop in the former does not necessarily mean a greater number of the latter. Using 14 years of data from 129 Veterans Affairs hospitals, researchers concluded that an overall reduction in risk-adjusted length of stay was not associated with a corresponding spike in 30-day readmission rates, according to the VA-funded study, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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M&A Strategies for Small Hospitals
Health Leaders Media

Small systems and standalone hospitals are frequently in the news announcing a new affiliation agreement. Typically, these agreements are about seeking partners with deep pockets and strong reputations. That’s nothing new in healthcare, where a merger and acquisition market has always existed. But any link to previous eras of consolidation is difficult because the creativity surrounding partnerships among hospitals and health systems is expanding rapidly.

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What’s new in Medicare for 2013?
Times-Standard

The Affordable Care Act strengthened Medicare in important ways. Signed in 2010, the federal health law already has provided free preventive health benefits to millions of people with Medicare, and saved billions of dollars for those who hit the gap in their Part D prescription drug coverage. In 2013, discounts on prescription drugs for people who reach the Part D “donut hole” will increase, and Medicare will cover screenings and counseling for alcohol misuse, behavioral therapy for cardiovascular disease, counseling for obesity and more.

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Health insurance exchanges planned by 18 U.S. states: Sebelius
Yahoo! News

A total of 18 U.S. states are planning to start their own health insurance marketplaces, which will be available to consumers and businesses in 2014, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a blog posting on Monday. The deadline for states to inform the federal government if they would operate healthcare exchanges under President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law was December 14. The number of states participating was in line with expectations and leaves the government to create online marketplaces for the rest of the country.

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Health exchange to talk standard benefits
Sacramento Business Journal

The board at Covered California — the new name for the state health benefit exchange — will make a decision about standard benefit designs for health plans when it meets in Sacramento on Tuesday. The new state health insurance program for individuals and small businesses will begin enrollment Oct. 1, 2013 and launch coverage Jan. 1, 2014. It is expected to serve as many as 4.7 million Californians when it gets up to full speed.

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10 more state exchange plans submitted
Modern Healthcare

Ten more states have submitted their plans to operate a state-based insurance exchange in 2014, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Monday, days after an extended deadline for states to apply for that calendar year. That brings the tally to 18 states and Washington, D.C., of states that intend to operate their own exchanges in 2014, the inaugural year for these health insurance marketplaces. States have until mid-February to indicate if they want to operate an exchange in partnership with the federal government.

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Health centers prepare for impact of insurance reform
North Bay Business Journal

With full implementation of the health care law on everyone’s mind, from providers to insurers to employers, federally qualified health centers have long been viewed as a critical piece of expanding access, many of them anticipating an influx of new patients and thus an increase in services.

But while the Affordable Care Act will add significant funding for the nonprofit health sector, such health centers are rapidly evolving on their own, in part to address changes in health care but also in response to increasing demand, according to North Bay health center executives.

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ONC releases final 2014 EHR specs
Modern Healthcare

All of the “waves” have hit the beach, and what have washed up are the final sets of federally approved test procedures, data and tools for software developers to use in building IT systems that can be certified for use in the federal electronic health-record system incentive payment program. In September, HHS‘ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology began releasing—in what it called a series of seven “waves” — its draft specifications for the 2014 edition of standards and certification criteria for EHRs.

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Healthcare Workers Don’t Always Practice What They Preach
Health Leaders Media

One presumes healthcare workers have much healthier behaviors than the general population because they know better, but that’s far from the case, especially in areas of weight control, binge drinking, and cigarette smoking.

“If you go down the list, in most cases, healthcare workers are no better than anybody else,” says Kenneth Mukamal, MD, a researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and principal author of a research letterentitled in part, “Do Healthcare Workers Practice What they Preach?”

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Cancer patient tells court medical expenses left her devastated
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

With tears in her eyes, Kathleen Carter told a jury on Monday what it felt like to receive an unexpected hospital bill for more than $100,000 following her cancer treatment. She also talked about how she had to deal with the creditors who called her home looking for payment.

“The notices were very rude, abrasive, nasty,” she said on the witness stand in West Valley Superior Court. “I didn’t want to answer the phone ever after that.”

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Hospital board prepares for final construction decisions
Tehachapi News

The Board of Directors of Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District has tentatively approved some bids — and rejected others — as it prepares for construction of the new Tehachapi Hospital to be located in the Capital Hills area north of Highway 58 at Mill Street.

At a special meeting held on Dec. 12, Greg Simons, Joint Venture Manager for Bernards Colombo, the construction management firm in charge of the construction of the future hospital, explained the bidding process for the new hospital to the board.

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Medi-Cal cuts worry Merced area health organizations
Merced Sun-Star

A 10 percent cut to the Medi-Cal reimbursement rate would make it more difficult for patients who use it to get the care they need, said Christine Muchow, executive director of the Merced-Mariposa County Medical Society. Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California can cut its Medi-Cal reimbursement rate by reversing an earlier decision that blocked the cuts, according to the California Medical Association.

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Medical problems don’t always require expert diagnosis and complicated treatment
Washington Post

Not every medical problem requires an extensive diagnostic work-up and complicated treatment. Sometimes minor changes in what you eat or wear or in your daily habits can help.

Keep in mind that though some of the approaches described below are self-help measures, others, such as those for treating urinary incontinence, are likely to be most effective under a doctor’s guidance.

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Medicare denials are rarely challenged by seniors, but appeals can succeed
Washington Post

Dan Driscoll used to be a smoker. During a regular doctor’s visit, his primary­-care physician suggested that Driscoll be tested to see if he was at risk for an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a life-threatening condition that can be linked to smoking. The doctor said Medicare would cover the procedure. So Driscoll, 68, who lives in Silver Spring, had the test done and was surprised when he got a bill from Medicare for $214.

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Specialists: Replace SGR this year
Modern Physician

In a letter to congressional leaders, the Alliance of Specialty Medicine is calling on Congress to create a permanent replacement for the sustainable growth-rate Medicare payment formula by the end of the year. If Congress does not act, an SGR-driven 26.5% pay cut will take effect Jan. 1. The letter from the alliance—a coalition of 13 medical specialty societies—notes that there is also the potential for another 2% Medicare pay decrease if Congress does not act to stop across-the-board cuts called for in 2011’s Budget Control Act.

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One stop for free food and medicine
HealthyCal.org

It’s early Saturday morning at Serve the People Community Health Center in Santa Ana, and dozens of people have crowded into the cheery waiting room to get their blood pressure or diabetes screenings, mammograms, or follow up appointments for a lingering illness. The clinic, which opened its doors in 2009, offers the gamut of clinic services to 500 patients a month — all for about $15 or less — and the staff regularly haggles with medical specialists for discount rates if the patient needs a referral. The health center’s doors are open to anyone who requires — but can’t afford — medical care.

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