News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Sharp HealthCare’s Dan Gross Receives California Hospital Association’s Highest Honor
PR Newswire

Daniel L. Gross, DNSc, RN, Executive Vice President of Hospital Operations for Sharp HealthCare, received the Award of Merit from the California Hospital Association (CHA), at the organization’s board meeting today in Newport Beach. CHA, which is dedicated to advancing the interests of California hospitals, patients and communities, gives its highest honor to a CHA member executive for outstanding contributions to the California health care community.

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Fiscal cliff appears closer as sequester bill clears House and ‘Plan B’ vote is dropped
Modern Healthcare

The House narrowly approved a measure that would maintain across-the-board cuts to Medicare payments while rolling back other spending reductions scheduled for 2013, but the legislation drew a veto threat from the White House. Meanwhile, House GOP leaders failed to muster votes for their “Plan B” proposal to avert tax increases and pulled that bill from the floor.

Thursday night’s votes appeared to set up yet another stalemate in the year-end fiscal negotiations, watched closely in the healthcare industry because the solution will likely require addressing a looming 26.5% cut to Medicare physician pay and because a deal might include new cuts to federal health programs.

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Health exchange adds employees, seeks first service center
Sacramento Business Journal

Local hiring is picking up as Covered California — the new name for the state health benefit exchange — charges ahead with plans for a new insurance marketplace in 2014. With 13 new staff, the program is up to 66 employees. Another 36 hires are in the works, which will bring the Sacramento headquarters to more than 100 by Jan. 1, executive director Peter Lee reported at a board meeting Tuesday. Ultimately, the number is expected to double to about 200.

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Medicare Starts To Reward Quality, Not Quantity, Of Care
capital public radio

It’s no longer enough for hospitals to just send a bill to Medicare and get paid. The nation’s biggest insurer is starting to dole out bonuses and penalties to nearly 3,000 hospitals as it ties almost $1 billion in payments to the quality of care provided to patients. In what amounts to a nationwide competition, Medicare compared hospitals on how faithfully they followed basic standards of care and how patients rated their experiences. Medicare disclosed on Thursday how individual hospitals will fare when the program, created by the federal health law, begins in January.

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CMS shows first winners, losers in value-based purchasing
Modern Healthcare

Medicare will reward 1,557 hospitals with more money and reduce payments to 1,427 others starting Jan. 1 under its value-based purchasing program, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of CMS records. The CMS released a spreadsheet of the revised payments on its website Dec. 20. “We’ve known for a long time that when Medicare paid providers based on how much work they did and not on how well they did for patients, too often patients got services and tests that didn’t improve their health,” CMS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patrick Conway wrote in a blog post about the data.

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Author of Obamacare Blueprint Rewarded with Job at Johnson & Johnson
All Gov

The person most responsible for crafting President Barack Obama’s plan for healthcare reform is returning to the private sector where she will advise one of the biggest players in the health industry. Elizabeth “Liz” Fowler was chief health policy counsel to U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), who helped spearhead the charge for healthcare reform on Capitol Hill. While Baucus was often the public face during the legislative battle, it was Fowler who actually drafted the mammoth plan that came to be known as “Obamacare.”

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Doctors Move to Webcams
The Wall Street Journal

Virtual doctor visit services—which connect patients from their homes with physicians whom they meet via online video or phone—are moving into the mainstream, as insurers and employers are increasingly willing to pay for them.

In the latest sign, WellPoint Inc., the nation’s second-biggest health insurer, plans to offer a new service in all of its employer and individual plans that will allow people to consult with physicians on-demand, using laptop webcams or video-enabled tablets and smartphones.

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Why WellPoint’s Earnings May Not Be So Hot
San Francisco Chronicle

Although business headlines still tout earnings numbers, many investors have moved past net earnings as a measure of a company’s economic output. That’s because earnings are very often less trustworthy than cash flow, since earnings are more open to manipulation based on dubious judgment calls. Earnings’ unreliability is one of the reasons Foolish investors often flip straight past the income statement to check the cash flow statement.

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Providers oppose House sequester measure
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare providers are lining up against legislation the House will vote on Thursday that would replace part of the mandatory federal spending reductions scheduled for 2013 while maintaining billions in Medicare cuts.

As part of the ongoing fiscal-cliff negotiations, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) introduced the Spending Reduction Act of 2012, which would supplant one year of the sequester—the across-the-board spending cuts to defense and nondefense programs outlined in last year’s Budget Control Act—with other spending cuts and an additional $200 billion in savings over 10 years.

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State Senate leader backs Medi-Cal expansion
Los Angeles Times

The Democratic leader of the state Senate urged Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday to expand the state’s public health system as part of the implementation of the federal healthcare overhaul signed by President Obama in 2010. Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) told reporters Thursday that he looked forward to an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s public insurance system for the poor, during the next year.

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