News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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State data on hospitals shows costs are rising
Modesto Bee

A state agency released data Wednesday on the financial health of hospitals in California, showing a dramatic rise in labor costs across the industry and an increase in uncompensated care at public hospitals. From 2006 to 2010, county and city hospitals provided far more uncompensated care than did facilities run by investor-owned companies or large nonprofit corporations. The rate rose from 23.5 percent to 25.5 percent of gross revenue for public hospitals, but it was only 4 percent for investor-owned or nonprofit hospitals.

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UnitedHealthcare taps Brandon Cuevas as CEO of California health plan
San Francisco Business Times

UnitedHealthcare chose Brandon Cuevas to be CEO of its California health plan. This is a new job at the company, part of UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) of Minneapolis. In the past, two people handled the work that Cuevas will do — they were Dan Rosenthal and Dave Anderson, CEOs of the company’s operations in Northern and Southern California, respectively. UnitedHealthcare has about 8,600 employees in California, and it covers about 2.3 million people in the state with its health plan.

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SGR Dangles Over Fiscal Cliff
Health Leaders Media

The Sustainable Growth Rate formula, the scourge of physicians, detested by both Republicans and Democrats, may be on the brink of being eliminated if the Obama administration has its way, according to healthcare sources. For years, major physician groups have sought to get rid of the formula, which has meant proposed payment declines for doctors. And ironically, government actions to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” may open the door to elimination of the SGR.

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New report embraces Medi-Cal expansion
Los Angeles Times

Gov. Jerry Brown’s top healthcare official appeared to embrace an expansion of the state’s Medi-Cal system as California moves to implement the healthcare overhaul signed by President Obama in 2010.

A new report from the Let’s Get Healthy Taskforce, co-chaired by Diana Dooley, Brown’s secretary for Health and Human Services, says “expansion of coverage through the Health Benefit Exchange and Medi-Cal will be an important step” that can particularly help African American and Latino populations, who together comprise nearly half of the state’s estimated 8 million residents without health coverage.

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Amgen Workers Helped U.S. in Marketing Inquiry
New York Times

“I hope no one is taping this,” the Amgen manager remarked at a company sales meeting in 2005. The manager then boasted of how she had given a $10,000 unrestricted grant to a pet project of a doctor who was an adviser to the local Medicare contractor. In turn, she said, the doctor would help persuade the contractor to provide reimbursement for an unapproved use of Amgen’s anemia drug, Aranesp.

Someone, it turned out, was taping it.  Jill Osiecki, a longtime sales representative at Amgen, was wearing a recording device under her clothes, transmitting the proceedings to agents of the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Judge OKs $762 million Amgen settlement
Modern Healthcare

A federal judge accepted biotechnology giant Amgen’s guilty plea that it illegally marketed its anemia drug Aranesp, clearing the way for a $762 million settlement agreement. The Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based company has agreed to pay $762 million in criminal fines and a civil settlement, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York.

“We will continue to pursue those who improperly market pharmaceuticals and biologics at the expense of individual patients’ well-being and the federal healthcare system as a whole,” Stuart Delery, principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil division, said in a news release.

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CMS notice spurs AMA to stress doc-pay fix
Modern Healthcare

The American Medical Association on Wednesday called on Congress to act immediately to avert a looming 27% Medicare payment cut to physicians after a notice from the CMS indicated there will be no delay in the processing of claims payments under the Medicare physician fee schedule. “The threat is real and a cut of 26.5 percent is simply unsustainable,” AMA President Dr. Jeremy Lazarus said in a statement.

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CA Hospital Margins on the Rise
Health Leaders Media

An analytic tool launched Wednesday by the nation’s largest state hospital database reveals that California hospitals are slowly rebounding from the recession, with total margins rising from just above 3% in FY 2008 to 6% in 2010. A series of five-year charts from 2006-2010, specifically those reflecting total margin or net income margin, “shows us that in the last couple of years, hospitals made more of a profit, but we’re talking small profit,” says Ty Christensen, health program audit manager for the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

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Clinton Health Matters Initiative tackles Coachella Valley health
HealthyCal.org

Think big. That was the charge given to 125 health experts from across the Coachella Valley at a recent planning conference hosted by the Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI). “We are looking to set big, audacious goals here,” Ginny Ehrlich, CEO of the CHMI, told the crowd. The participants came from every sector of the health care field: hospitals, non-profits, cities, the Desert Healthcare District, school districts, medical clinics and more.

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Inside Medicine: How’s your doctor paid? It pays to know
Sacramento Bee

Like it or not, in the United States, the practice of medicine is driven by different incentives – to get people better, to improve the quality of people’s lives, and of course to make money.

For the most part, there are four basic models to pay doctors.

None of these payment systems is perfect, and each can lead to some pretty odd behaviors when care is driven by these financial incentives. It is important to understand the incentives that may be driving your doctor’s behaviors so you can ask clarifying questions to make sure you are getting the care you need.

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F.D.A. and States Discuss Regulation of Drug Compounders
New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration conferred with public health officials from 50 states on Wednesday about how best to strengthen rules governing compounding pharmacies in the wake of a national meningitis outbreak caused by a tainted pain medication produced by a Massachusetts pharmacy. It was the first public discussion of what should be done about the practice of compounding, or tailor-making medicine for individual patients, since the F.D.A. commissioner, Dr.

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As SVMH mulls the future of health care, business leaders ponder how to stay afloat
Monterey County Weekly

Patients are already starting to take advantage of the new benefits provided under President Obama’s signature law, the Affordable Care Act. But the health care industry is looking a little bit like a deer caught in the headlights.


Before Obamacare kicks into full effect in 2014, health care experts are tabulating the many unknowns in the complicated financial world of health insurance. What they know is that having more insured patients doesn’t necessarily benefit providers. 


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Healthcare capital outlays seen making comeback
Modern Healthcare

One snapshot of capital spending by hospitals, physician groups and ambulatory-care centers found that budgets for information technology, buildings and other investments were somewhat more likely to increase than to shrink during the past year. In an online survey of 600 executives, managers, providers and others by Premier, a member-owned group purchasing organization and collaborative, 41% of respondents said their capital budgets grew in the past year. In comparison, one-third reported a drop in their capital budgets. The remaining respondents saw budgets stay the same.

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A road map to a healthier state
HealthyCal.org

A task force appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown has laid out a road map for California to become the healthiest state in the nation by 2022. The ten-year plan establishes 39 specific, measurable goals from cradle to grave. They range from infant mortality and childhood obesity to the management of chronic disease, preventable hospitalizations and the number of terminally ill people using hospice care.

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Federal grant assists two Sacramento clinics for students
Sacramento Bee

Washington, D.C., dispatched more than $800,000 in federal Affordable Care Act grants to two local clinic operations to bolster health and behavioral health care services for students in two Sacramento school districts.

The Effort network of clinics received $500,000, and the Midtown Medical Center for Children and Families got $376,774 to partner with Sacramento City Unified School District and San Juan Unified School District, respectively.

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FDA pressed for clarity on compounding pharmacies
Modern Healthcare

Officials from state pharmacy boards repeatedly told members of the Food and Drug Administration that they need clarification on the definition of a nontraditional compounding pharmacy. The FDA held a hearing Wednesday to help establish a framework for how the federal agency and the states should regulate compounding pharmacies in the wake of the fungal meningitis outbreak that has sickened 620 and led to the deaths of another 39 people.

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Rising healthcare premiums
Napa Valley Register

I’m part of a small group of three employees. We’ve had our health insurance through Anthem Blue Cross for several years. Our most recent notification says that our renewal rate for our group is up 22 percent for next year. Twenty #&*%@!^ two percent!?

— Just a little upset

Tom: Well put, Upset. A report from the Commonwealth Fund tells you something we all know: health insurance costs over the past 10 years have gone up faster than our income. Some specifics on the report in “Modern Healthcare” include:

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Long wait experienced at ‘no-wait ER’
Napa Valley Register

I had an unsettling experience at the emergency room of St. Helena Hospital when my father and I went to get urgent care after he had injured his hand from a mishap with the seed broadcaster.

A large flap of skin had been torn off the back of his right hand and blood was everywhere. We both calmly realized that a trip to the “San” was our next task at hand.

“We are going to the ‘no-wait ER’ room as advertised all over the county,” I said to my father, “so we should be able to get your hand repaired in no time flat!”

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Health Insurance Executive: ‘Incorporating All The New Regulations’ Will Be Challenge In 2013
Kaiser Health News

As chairman and CEO, Bruce Bodaken led Blue Shield of California to become one of the fastest growing health plans in the state – it currently has more than 3 million members. But after 12 years of service, the 61-year-old recently announced his plans to retire at the end of 2012. Bodaken’s successor, Paul Markovich (the chief operating officer), may not have an easy time of it. He’ll have to implement provisions of the federal health law while trying to keep costs as low as possible.

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Where Have All the Primary Care Doctors Gone?
New York Times

More and more, my family and friends are asking for my help in finding a primary care doctor. That they would be having trouble finding one doesn’t surprise me. We’ve all been reading warnings about an impending doctor shortage for several years now. What is alarming to me is that there are no sure-fire solutions in place that will bail us all out in time.

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California leaders set state health goals to be met by 2022
Los Angeles Times

With the state facing rising medical costs and increasing rates of chronic disease, California health leaders issued a report Wednesday setting specific health targets to meet by 2022. The state’s goals include reducing smoking rates, increasing vaccinations among children and improving depression screening and treatment. The report also describes ways to improve end-of-life care, by expanding palliative care at hospitals and hospice programs at home.

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Children’s Hospital Los Angeles receives $11-million gift
Los Angeles Times

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has received an $11-million gift from the estate of an Oscar-winning filmmaker and his wife. The gift from Billy and Audrey Wilder will be used to create an endowed chair of the Division of Neurosurgery, which will be named after the late couple. Funds will also be used for general neurosurgical research and the treatment of neuro tumors, rheumatic diseases and other illnesses.

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