News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospital reimbursement rates rose 2.7% in 2012, up from 2011
Modern Healthcare

The reimbursement rates paid to acute-care hospitals increased 2.7% last year after a slowdown in 2011 that contributed to an overall deceleration in hospital spending, preliminary figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show. Hospital reimbursement rates increased 2.2% in 2011. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports reimbursement rates paid to hospitals in its Producer Price Index. For December, hospital reimbursement rates decreased 0.2%, the preliminary figures show, compared with an increase of 0.3% the same month the prior year.

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HealthGrades Releases Clinical Excellence Hospital Rankings
Health Leaders Media

A scoring system that counts patient mortality rates as long as 180 days after discharge as well as dozens of complications from common hospital procedures shows 262 hospitals as the best in the country, out of about 1,900 eligible for consideration.

That’s according to the 2013 Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence report from Healthgrades, which says that if all hospitals in the nation had mortality rates as low as in these 262 hospitals between 2009 and 2011, 164,414 lives would be saved. That translates to 30.9% fewer deaths.

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Mayo, Optum to share huge data sources for healthcare research
Modern Healthcare

The Mayo Clinic announced it will collaborate with Optum, the data analytics arm of health insurance holding company UnitedHealth Group, in the launch of Optum Labs. The healthcare research center in Cambridge, Mass., will marry clinical information, provided by Mayo’s electronic health-record system, with claims information from Optum. Mayo President and CEO Dr. John Noseworthy called the collaboration the “largest effort of this type in the country,” adding that the combination of the two organization’s data could help in determining what treatments yield the best value through analysis of both clinical outcomes and cost.

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HHS Proposes Rules to Verify Health Care Premium Subsidy Eligibility
Workforce Management

The Department of Health and Human Services on Jan. 14 issued a proposed rule outlining the process that regulators will use to verify individuals’ eligibility for federal premium subsidies to purchase health insurance through public exchanges. Under the proposed rule, administrators of state and federal insurance exchanges must verify whether applicants seeking tax credits to buy health care coverage through an exchange are enrolled or eligible for qualifying coverage in an employer-sponsored health care plan.

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Melanoma treatment employs new strategy
San Francisco Chronicle

Melanoma cells that develop resistance to a promising new treatment may overcome that through intermittent treatment, a team of researchers at UCSF has found. Researchers from UCSF, the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Emeryville and University Hospital Zurich focused on Zelboraf, a drug marketed by Genentech that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011. The oral medication inhibits melanoma’s ability to spread by attacking a genetic mutation found in about half of melanoma patients.

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ER visits tied to energy drinks double since 2007
USA Today

A new government survey suggests the number of people seeking emergency treatment after consuming energy drinks has doubled nationwide during the past four years, the same period in which the supercharged drink industry has surged in popularity in convenience stores, bars and on college campuses.

From 2007 to 2011, the government estimates the number of emergency room visits involving the neon-labeled beverages shot up from about 10,000 to more than 20,000.

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Vaccinate all health workers, another group urges
Modern Healthcare

Add the Trust for America’s Health to the growing list of groups recommending flu vaccinations for all healthcare workers. That suggestion was listed as part of Trust for America’s Health research released today as providers cope with widespread influenza outbreaks across the country. The Washington-based not-for-profit group focuses on preventing the spread of diseases and other maladies.

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More groups urge review of MU incentives
Modern Healthcare

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and the Federation of American Hospitals have joined the American Medical Association in asking that federal health information technology policymakers stop and evaluate the activities of the federal electronic health records incentive payment program before pushing ahead with Stage 3 meaningful-use recommendations.

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Controversial bonus program seen boosting Advantage plans
Modern Healthcare

A much-maligned CMS bonus program for Medicare Advantage plans may have helped improve the quality of such plans and averted deep drops in their enrollments, according to preliminary government data.

The share of Medicare Advantage plans with higher quality ratings, based on Medicare’s star-rating system, has increased, according to an analysis of 2012 Medicare Advantage plan data by Medicare Payment Advisory Commission staff. That improvement was at least partially attributed to a massive CMS demonstration program.

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New website part of push for uninsured to get coverage
Visialia Times-Delta

The federal government Wednesday kicks off an effort to raise awareness about the most controversial part of the health care law – the requirement that the uninsured buy health care insurance.

Wednesday morning, the Department of Health and Human Services plans to relaunch its website to try to draw in the millions of uninsured people needed to make the health care law work when open enrollment in state and federal health care exchanges begins in October.

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Monterey County low-income health program to go forward
Monterey Herald

After a lengthy delay, Monterey County officials moved to implement a temporary low-income health program for the uninsured on a limited basis.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved a version of the pilot program, Via Care, as a precursor to major implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act at the start of 2014.

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New federal report backs off threat to cut UCD Med Center funding
Sacramento Bee

Federal regulators have backed off their threat to cut funding to the UC Davis Medical Center after a follow-up inspection found that the public hospital is now complying with regulations governing patient safety and care.

The latest findings by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are a victory for the university, which has endured withering scrutiny in recent months over the controversial activities of two neurosurgeons.

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Inaccurate quality reports could skew EHR incentives: study
Modern Physician

Electronically reported clinical quality measures vary widely in accuracy, an obstacle that could hinder the federal government’s electronic health-record incentive program, according to a study appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The problem could lead to the highest quality providers not being given the intended incentives, the study concluded.

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Electronic health records improve care, but don’t save money
HealthyCal.org

Thirty billion dollars was set aside to help Medicare and Medicaid providers move their operations into the high tech world of electronic health records as part of the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Four years later, providers say electronic health records aren’t the time and money saver they hoped for — but, they added, electronic records do improve the quality of care.

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Anthem Blue Cross Sued Over New HIV/AIDS Drug Policy
KPBS

A prominent consumer group is suing Anthem Blue Cross over a new policy that requires HIV patients to get their medications by mail. A San Diego man who’s HIV positive is the lead plaintiff. Jon Jones, which is not his real name, has a PPO plan with Anthem Blue Cross.

A few months ago, the insurer informed Jones of their new policy: It would no longer allow HIV patients to get their medications at a local pharmacy. Blue Cross would only provide the drugs via mail order.

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Survey gauges consensus on docs’ online behavior
Modern Physician

While the Federation of State Medical Boards and the American Medical Association have developed policies for physicians and social media professionalism, the consequences for violating these standards are still undefined, according to a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine. A team of researchers, including FSMB President and CEO Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, distributed a set of 10 hypothetical vignettes depicting various violations of online professionalism to the executive directors of the 70 medical and osteopathic boards for the 50 states, Washington and the U.S. territories, and they were asked in a survey whether the violations warranted further investigation.

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Law Expands Kids’ Dental Coverage, But Few Dentists Will Treat Them
KALW

Kids may not exactly jump for joy to learn that the health care overhaul makes it easier for them to get their teeth cleaned, filled and straightened. Tooth decay ranks as the No. 1 chronic disease in children, and better dental insurance coverage could help address the problem. But many children’s health advocates worry that there won’t be enough dentists available to meet the need.

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The Nursing Shortage Myth
The Health Care Blog

For years we’ve read that the US faces a looming shortage of nurses. Shortfalls in the hundreds of thousands of nurses are routinely predicted. These predictions have been good for nursing schools, which have used the promise of ample employment opportunities to more than double the number of nursing students over the last 10 years, according to CNN. Yet somehow 43 percent of newly-licensed RNs can’t find jobs within 18 months. Some hospitals and other employers openly discourage new RNs from applying for jobs. That doesn’t sound like a huge shortage, then does it?

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UC Regents expected to consider UCSF-Children’s Hospital Oakland affiliation on Wednesday
San Francisco Business Times

The Regents of the University of California are expected to consider a proposed affiliation agreement between UCSF Medical Center and Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland tomorrow, according to sources at UCSF. UCSF Medical Center and Children’s Oakland signed a formal letter of intent to affiliate in late November. Details about how tight the proposed affiliation would be, and if it would constitute a merger or something looser, are not yet clear.

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