News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospitals Fear They’ll Bear Brunt of Medicare Cuts
New York Times

As President Obama and Congress try to thrash out a budget deal, the question is not whether they will squeeze money out of Medicare, but how much and who will bear the brunt of the cuts. Republicans say that some of the savings should come from beneficiaries, and they are pushing proposals like raising the eligibility age or increasing premiums for people with high incomes, who already pay more than the standard premium. Even President Obama has proposed higher premiums, increasing the likelihood that the idea could be adopted.

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Market for health info could see new light as FTC targets data miners
Modern Healthcare

A Federal Trade Commission order for commercial data miners to disclose information about how they obtain and use consumers’ information likely will expose a dark market in health-related information, a leading privacy advocate says. As laid out in a 15-page disclosure order, the FTC seeks details about “the nature and sources of the consumer information the data brokers collect; how they use, maintain and disseminate the information; and the extent to which the data brokers allow consumers to access and correct their information or to opt out of having their personal information sold,” according to an FTC news release.

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White House calls for healthcare cuts, permanent SGR fix
Modern Healthcare

The White House has called for a permanent—not temporary—fix to Medicare’s sustainable growth-rate formula and about $400 billion in healthcare cuts, according to a source familiar with the fiscal-cliff negotiations.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), however, was generally dismissive of the president’s new proposal, signaling that a permanent fix to the physician payment system is still not within reach.

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Chorus of voices grows stronger for ‘death with dignity’
Los Angeles Times

The bullet that Larry Robert Broman used to kill himself went clean through his head and into the wall.

No one had expected him to do it. Not his ex-wife, who had remained close to him. And not their two grown daughters.

It happened early on the morning of Oct. 21. “I heard a noise and ran down the hall,” said his oldest daughter, Heather O’Hara, who forced her way into the back bedroom of her Riverside home, where she’d been caring for her terminally ill father.

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Investigators: Medicare pays more for off-the-shelf back braces
Modern Healthcare

You can find it on the Internet for $250 or less. But if Medicare is paying, a standard-issue brace for back patients costs more than $900. In a report expected Wednesday, federal investigators say Medicare paid an average of $919 for back braces that cost suppliers $191 apiece, providing a window on how wasteful spending drives up health care costs. “The program and its beneficiaries could have paid millions of dollars less if the Medicare reimbursement amount… more closely resembled the cost to suppliers,” says the report from the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department. The Associated Press obtained a copy.

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Many states say ‘no’ to health insurance exchanges
KFMB TV

Half of the states in the nation have rebuffed a key provision of the Obama administration’s health reform law: the creation of state-based health insurance exchanges, according to data compiled by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

States had until Friday, Dec. 14, to submit blueprints for creating their state-based insurance exchanges.

By default, the federal government will implement health insurance exchanges in the 25 states that are not moving forward, helping the uninsured gain coverage.

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NorthBay Medical Center’s trauma center in Fairifeld given stamp of approval by American College of Surgeons
The Reporter

NorthBay Medical Center’s trauma program took another step forward in its quest to provide the best trauma care in the county. The program received the blue-ribbon stamp of approval from the American College of Surgeons following a rigorous two-day survey by a team of experts, officials with the local hospital announced Tuesday. Solano County’s Emergency Medical Services agency requires all trauma centers to pass muster from the Verification Review Committee of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) to continue to operate.

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State switching low-income children to Medi-Cal care
Napa Valley Register

One out of eight children in Napa County will have their medical coverage switched to Medi-Cal next year, as the state attempts to balance its budget by offering a lower-cost service, according to local officials.

Some 4,231 Napa County children currently covered through Healthy Families will be transitioned to the state’s Medi-Cal program, which has traditionally served very low-income individuals and families.

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Amgen pleads guilty, to settle misbranding case for $762 million
Los Angeles Times

Biotech giant Amgen Inc. pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor of misbranding its anemia drug Aranesp and has agreed to pay $762 million in fines and penalties.

The Thousand Oaks company said it had reached a preliminary settlement of federal criminal and civil investigations last year and had already set aside about $780 million to resolve several related cases.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn said a federal judge is scheduled to hold another hearing on the settlement Wednesday.

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Amgen Agrees to Pay $762 Million for Marketing Anemia Drug for Off-Label Use
New York Times

The biotechnology giant Amgen marketed its anemia drug Aranesp for unapproved uses even after the Food and Drug Administration explicitly ruled them out, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday. The federal charges were made public as Amgen pleaded guilty to illegally marketing the drug and agreed to pay $762 million in criminal penalties and settlements of whistle-blower lawsuits.

Amgen was “pursuing profits at the risk of patient safety,” Marshall L. Miller, acting United States attorneyin Brooklyn, said in a telephone news briefing on Tuesday.

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Amgen to pay $762 million in misbranding case
Modern Healthcare

Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm, pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to criminal charges that it illegally misbranded its anemia drug Aranesp and agreed to pay $762 million in criminal fines and a civil settlement. The Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based company entered its guilty plea earlier today and has agreed to pay $136 million in criminal fines and $14 million in forfeiture, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The total settlement, which was not disclosed by the U.S. attorney’s office, will include a $612 million civil settlement, according to a law firm representing a whistle-blower who was involved in the investigation.

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