News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

 

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Heart bypass deaths fall as care, reporting improve
San Francisco Chronicle

Patient deaths after heart bypass surgeries at California hospitals plummeted 34 percent between 2003 and 2009, newly released statistics show – a drop that may reflect the power of publicly reporting medical results as well as improvements in cardiac care. Experts believe that having to report the results pushed hospitals to work harder to improve their success numbers in bypass operations, and that one major technique has been turning toward alternatives to the surgery.

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Health care consumers are more engaged in social media
San Jose Business Journal

About a third of consumers are turning to Facebook, Twitter and other social media to interact with health care providers, according to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute. They are using social media to get health-related information and sound off on physicians, drugs, devices, treatments, hospitals and health plans.

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California’s working poor would lose a lot if health reform law dies
Los Angeles Times

If the healthcare reform law is thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court — as many fear could happen based on the comments of conservative justices — more than 700,000 low-income Californians could lose a once-in-a-lifetime chance to obtain affordable health insurance. At stake is what’s known as a Basic Health Plan.

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GAO wants Medicare Advantage bonuses canceled
San Francisco Chronicle

In a blow to the Obama administration on Medicare, government auditors Monday called for the cancellation of a costly bonus program for private health plans that congressional Republicans have criticized as a wasteful political ploy. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said it’s not clear that the $8.3 billion Medicare Advantage bonus program will improve quality because most of the money is going to plans just rated average.

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Insurers Alter Cost Formula, and Patients Pay More
New York Times

Despite a landmark settlement that was expected to increase coverage for out-of-network care, the nation’s largest health insurers have been switching to a new payment method that in most cases significantly increases the cost to the patient. The settlement, reached in 2009, followed New York State’s accusation that the companies manipulated data they used to price such care, shortchanging the nation’s patients by hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Romney’s healthcare plan may be more revolutionary than Obama’s
Los Angeles Times

As he pushes to “repeal and replace” President Obama’s healthcare law, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has turned to proposals that could alter the way hundreds of millions of Americans get their medical insurance.

In public, Romney has only sketched the outlines of a plan, and aides have declined to answer questions about the details. But his public statements and interviews with advisors make clear that Romney has embraced a strategy that in crucial ways is more revolutionary — and potentially more disruptive — than the law Obama signed two years ago.

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Ohioans’ high use of ER costly
Middletown Journal

Ohioans are increasingly turning to hospital emergency departments for their health care, a costly trend some say is symptomatic of a disjointed approach to care that ails the U.S. health care system. “It makes everyone’s health care more expensive in the region,” Bryan Bucklew, president and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association. “The challenge for Dayton is to get people to understand that improper utilization of emergency rooms — not having a medical home for people — everyone ends up paying for it.”

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Memorial set to begin $15 million upgrade to emergency department
North Bay Business Journal

Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, the only level II trauma center in the region, said it will soon begin site preparation work on a $15 million renovation to its emergency department, a project that was delayed with the financial collapse of 2008.

Hospital officials said they anticipate getting final approval and permits from the Office of Statewide Health and Planning Department in early May.

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GAO: White House lags on some Medicare anti-fraud efforts
Modern Healthcare

Although the Obama administration has made some progress in implementing various anti-fraud programs for Medicare, it continues to lag in efforts to implement upfront screening of providers, according to a government audit (PDF).

The CMS was hailed in the Government Accountability Office report for its provider screening efforts in implementing portions of the 2010 federal healthcare-reform law, which aimed to tighten such screening of Medicare providers.

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Obamacare collapse would put employers in charge
The Mercury News

If the Supreme Court strikes down President Barack Obama’s health care law, employers and insurance companies—not the government—will be the main drivers of change over the next decade and maybe even longer. They’ll borrow some ideas from Obamacare, and push harder to cut costs. Business can’t and won’t take care of America’s 50 million uninsured, but for the majority with coverage, here’s what experts say to expect:

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French Hospital makes top 100 list
San Luis Obispo Tribune

French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo has been named one of the top 100 hospitals in the nation, according to a comparison of 2,886 hospitals by Thomson Reuters, a New-York based news and research company. The hospital also received the Everest Award for having one of the greatest rates of improvement among the top 100 hospitals over five years.

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Health IT policy group considers Stage 2 clinical quality measures
Modern Healthcare

The combination of electronic health-record systems and clinical quality measures is supposed to improve patient care, but whether the federal program to incentivize the meaningful use of EHRs can be harnessed to boost clinical quality measures’ development was a question raised Monday at a health IT policy work group meeting.

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Sutter announces clinic closures
Lake County Record-Bee

Sutter Lakeside Hospital is closing two clinics in the county as part of a cost-cutting strategy.

“We are striving to ensure our long-term financial stability and needed to reduce our operating losses,” chief administrative officer Siri Nelson stated in an email Monday.

Services at the Upper Lake Community Health Clinic, currently housed in the town’s high school, will be shifted to the Lakeport hospital’s Family Medical Center beginning May 31, according to Nelson.

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Appendix removal: Huge sticker shock in hospital study
USA Today

What do hospitals charge to remove an appendix? The startling answer is that it could be the same as the price of a refrigerator — or a house. It’s a common, straightforward operation, so you might expect charges to be similar no matter where the surgery takes place. Yet a California study found huge disparities in patients’ bills — $1,500 to $180,000, with an average of $33,000.

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Medicare hospital trust fund insolvency date remains 2024: trustees
Modern Healthcare

Medicare’s hospital trust fund insolvency date remains 2024, according to Monday’s annual report (PDF) by the program’s trustees, but only because of a 2% reduction in provider payments scheduled to start in January.

The solvency date would have accelerated without the cut, the Social Security and Medicare trustees board reported, because of technical changes in their short-term cost assumptions. The Medicare provider cut is part of the deficit-reduction package to which Congress and President Obama agreed last summer.

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Mitt Romney vs. employer-provided healthcare insurance
Los Angeles Times

The Times’ Noam Levey stitched together the clues that Mitt Romney has given about his plans for redoing healthcare reform, concluding that the GOP presidential candidate’s strategy is “in crucial ways more revolutionary — and potentially more disruptive” than the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That’s because Romney wants to shift from a system in which employers are the primary supplier of insurance to one in which individuals are responsible for their own coverage.

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More sunshine needed for state hospitals
Sacramento Bee

Jerry Brown’s administration is to be commended for trying to turn around California’s long-troubled state hospital system. But improving state hospitals should not entail limiting the amount of legitimate information provided to the public.

More than 90 percent of the 6,000-plus patients in California’s five state hospitals have committed a criminal act, many of them violent. As the Legislative Analyst’s Office noted last month, violence directed toward patients and workers has been on the rise, averaging 23 incidents each day.

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The Confusion of Hospital Pricing
New York Times

When Augie Hong awoke with severe abdominal pain nearly two years ago, he went to the hospital emergency room closest to his home in San Francisco. The diagnosis was acute appendicitis, and doctors removed his inflamed appendix. Mr. Hong had health insurance, so he wasn’t too worried about paying. Then the bills started to arrive.

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