News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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High court quashes hospitals’ hopes of recouping underpayments
Modern Healthcare

In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed hospitals’ and health systems’ hopes of recouping millions in Medicare underpayments made between 1987 and 1994. Providers had asked the high court to give them the same extra time to find underpayments in Medicare reimbursement that the government gave its outside contractors to find overpayments.

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State quality projects curbed readmissions: study
Modern Healthcare

A Medicare initiative aimed at smoothing transitions of care through community-based interventions successfully lowered 30-day readmission rates and all-cause hospitalization rates among beneficiaries, according to a study.

Led by Medicare quality improvement organizations (QIOs), which contract with the CMS to lead statewide quality-related efforts, the 14-community project relied on patient coaches, medication-management strategies, home health tool kits, enhanced discharge planning and other interventions to keep patients out of the hospital.

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Blue Shield names Aetna’s Michael Mathias to fill vacant CIO position
San Francisco Business Times

Blue Shield of California’s new CEO Paul Markovich has added Michael Mathias as chief information officer at the San Francisco-based nonprofit health insurer — and the newest addition to the newly minted CEO’s management team. Blue Shield has dramatically reshuffled its senior executives since former CEO Bruce Bodaken announced his retirement and said second-in-command Markovich would replace him on Jan. 1.

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Outlook remains negative for not-for-profit hospitals: Moody’s
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals will see lower insurer payments for services in coming years as Medicare slashes slashes $300 billion from hospital reimbursement and commercial insurers respond to public pressure to curb premium growth, Moody’s says. Moody’s Investors Service, in an outlook for not-for-profit hospitals, said scheduled Medicare cuts, likely federal deficit-reduction measures, continued state budget distress and pressure to slow private insurance premiums will reduce the amounts hospitals are paid.

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Sonora Health Leader To Advise State
MyMotherLode.com

The CEO of Sonora Regional Medical Center has been elected to a state advisory board. CEO Jeff Eller will serve a three-year term on the California Hospital Association’s Rural Healthcare Center (RHC) Advisory Board.

“I am excited to represent Sonora Regional Medical Center, Adventist Health and Tuolumne County as a member of the RHC Advisory Board,” states Eller. “Hospitals located in rural communities have unique challenges.

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UCSF Mission Bay marks 10 years
San Francisco Chronicle

When Keith Yamamoto moved into his fifth-floor office at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus a decade ago, he felt like a pioneer – and maybe, just a little, like a pariah. Several of his colleagues had told Yamamoto, who was helping plan the new campus, that they would refuse to ever work there. Mission Bay at the time was a “wasteland,” he said. “There was really nothing,” said Yamamoto, a molecular biologist and executive vice dean of the UCSF School of Medicine.

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Salinas sleep disorder center opening soon
The Californian - Salinas

There is bad news and good news in sleep medicine.

The bad news is that the modern medical world now lists more than 100 different sleep disorders.

The good news, if you live in the Salinas area, is there’s a new sleep disorder treatment center opening soon. “There are other sleep centers in the area, but there are not any other five-star-hotel-feeling sleep centers with the latest, greatest technology.

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Groups Urge Feds to Issue Physician Payments Final Rule
Health Leaders Media

Groups and coalitions representing physicians, labor unions, and distributors are expressing frustration that little progress has been made on a final rule outlining full disclosure procedures for medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services set a deadline of October 2011.

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A clue to brain disorder – before death
San Francisco Chronicle

For the first time, scientists think they have detected in living patients a protein that accumulates in the brains of people suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disorder tied to repeated brain injuries that afflicts football players and military veterans. Doctors have only been able to diagnose CTE during autopsies based on the presence of a protein called tau, but UCLA researchers write in a paper published Tuesday that they believe they have identified tau in five living former NFL players.

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Drug Is Shown to Help Pancreatic Cancer Cases
New York Times

Celgene’s drug Abraxane prolonged the lives of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer by almost two months in a clinical trial, researchers reported Tuesday, signifying an advance in treating a notoriously difficult disease but not as big a leap as some doctors and investors had hoped. “It was not the breakthrough we were anticipating,” said Dr. Andrea Wang-Gillam, an assistant professor and pancreatic cancer specialist at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved in the trial.

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Kaiser study finds Medicaid coverage gaps in U.S. states
Yahoo! News

U.S. adults who qualify for Medicaid often must have incomes well below the federal poverty line, while adults who have no dependent children are allowed to receive benefits in only nine of the 50 states, according to a survey released on Wednesday. The survey by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation provides a snapshot of widespread coverage gaps in national healthcare program for the poor, less than a year before Medicaid is scheduled to undergo a dramatic expansion under President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law.

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Dominican Hospital unveils $12.6 million rehab unit
Santa Cruz Sentinel

Dominican Hospital officials showed off a new $12.6 million acute rehabilitation unit to treat stroke and head injuries Tuesday, thanking donors for supporting the state-of-the-art project.

The 20-bed wing, built in a former oncology unit on the hospital’s second floor, will replace Dominican’s rehab campus at 610 Frederick St., in operation since 1992. The new facility meets state seismic safety standards adopted in 1994 after the Northridge earthquake. It is expected to open in February.

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Central Valley physicians dispense more than medical care
Los Angeles Times

On a morning in early January, the air is cold and Firebaugh’s main street is nearly empty. But the Sablan Medical Clinic is quickly filling up with people eager to see the physicians they affectionately call Dr. Marcia and Dr. Oscar.

Lela Burkhart, whose family owns a farm in this remote San Joaquin Valley town surrounded by fields of pistachios and almonds, is one of the first patients of the day.

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Sutter Solano RNs protest ‘attacks’ on nurses’ rights
Vallejo Times-Herald

Sutter Solano’s registered nurses returned fire against hospital management Tuesday, condemning Sutter officials for threatening disciplinary action against nurses who strike the Vallejo facility. Several dozen nurses and supporters rallied at Tuolumne Street and Hospital Drive, shouting rhetoric reminiscent of an earlier time. Gandhi was quoted. Martin Luther King was invoked.

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Mixed results for hospital pay-for-performance initiatives
HealthyCal.org

Federal health care reforms are trying to cut costs and improve quality—two objectives that are often at odds. Policy makers hope that strategies like changing how providers are paid can balance cost and quality. But studies of current programs like pay-for-performance initiatives show mixed results in cutting costs and improving quality. Providers say the incentive amounts are not enough to cover the cost of change. “It’s an awful lot of sticks and not a lot of carrot,” said G. Scott Smith, medical director of St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group in Orange County.

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Stanford lab creates HIV-resistant cells
San Francisco Chronicle

Stanford lab creates HIV-resistant cells Stanford scientists have developed a technique to genetically engineer certain immune cells and make them resistant to HIV – a technique that, if proved successful in human subjects, could provide an alternative to the lifetime of medication that people with HIV infections now face. HIV is so harmful because of the virus’ ability to break into and ultimately kill T-cells, eventually leading to AIDS and the collapse of the immune system.

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Harkin offers sweeping public health bill again
Modern Healthcare

For the sixth time, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee introduced sweeping legislation to strengthen the nation’s public health with provisions that aim to combat chronic disease and encourage healthier lifestyles in schools, businesses and communities. Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) bill calls on several Cabinet departments and federal agencies to implement a host of recommendations, and, in some cases, work together to achieve those goals.

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Insurer WellPoint’s 4Q profit jumps 38 percent
Monterey Herald

WellPoint Inc.’s fourth-quarter earnings jumped 38 percent compared to the final quarter of 2011, when the nation’s second largest health insurer incurred a big hit from its Medicare Advantage business. But the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer also said Wednesday it could make less this year than it did in 2012, as it prepares for expansion resulting from the health care overhaul and other growth opportunities.

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Why Employers Should Stop Worrying About Health Costs
The Health Care Blog

A report published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on high-value health care attracted attention when it was issued last June. Authored by a group of eleven leading hospital executives, A CEO Checklist for High-Value Health Care describes programs at various hospitals that resulted in quality improvements and lowered costs. The report has a section called “Yield,” quantifying the extent of these improvements. These programs sound notable, and in fact I know some of the executives and hospitals involved, and would vouch that many significantly improved patient care.

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And With the Stroke of a Pen, Health Insurance Exchanges Become Health Insurance Marketplaces
The Health Care Blog

Thanks to David Kerrigan of the Massachusetts Health Connector for pointing out that the Obama Administration has suddenly switched terminology: health insurance exchanges are now health insurance marketplaces. I think it’s a great idea, which is why I wrote a blog post on this very topic on Friday. The Hill (Obama officials ditch ‘exchanges’ in rebranding of healthcare reform law) covers the story. However, the Hill has a weird angle on this. The article heavily features an anti-ObamaCare activist, Dean Clancy who says:

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