News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Nearly 400 California Hospitals Join CMS’ Partnership for Patients
Becker's Hospital Review

The California Hospital Association announced that nearly 400 California hospitals have joined the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Partnership for Patients initiative, making California the state with the most hospitals voluntarily pledging to this quality and safety effort. Partnership for Patients aims to reduce inpatient harm by 40 percent and hospital readmissions by 20 percent compared with 2010 levels by the end of 2013.

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AHA: Hospitals a $2T Economic Driver
Health Leaders Media

With Congress and states looking to trim healthcare spending, the American Hospital Association this week issued a none-too-subtle reminder that hospitals are economic engines for the communities they serve. Citing various data sources, AHA said that the nation’s hospitals employ 5.5 million people and create $2 trillion dollars in economic activity, even as “some in Congress continue to threaten access to hospital services.”

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Gov. Jerry Brown calls for special session of Legislature on healthcare
Los Angeles Times

Healthcare and education reform were key themes of Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State address Thursday in which he called for the Legislature to convene a special session to work out issues involving the state’s compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act. “Our health benefit exchange, called Covered California, will begin next year providing insurance to nearly one million Californians,” Brown said. “Over the rest of this decade, California will steadily reduce the number of uninsured.”

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John Muir Health set to buy 49% stake in San Ramon Regional Medical Center for $100M
San Francisco Business Times

John Muir Health, one of the region’s largest independent health systems, said Thursday it has agreed to buy a 49 percent stake in San Ramon Regional Medical Center from owner Tenet Healthcare Corp. for $100 million. The proposal creates a joint venture partnership between 123-bed San Ramon Regional and John Muir to work jointly on various initiatives, including expanding outpatient care, according to a Jan. 24 statement from the two hospital systems and a joint interview with their chief executives.

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Governor calls special session on health reform
Fresno Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown is calling a special legislative session to implement parts of the federal health care overhaul in California.

Brown issued a proclamation Thursday calling on lawmakers to convene Monday.

The governor says California needs to tweak some state laws to conform to new federal rules on health coverage. The state will need to make it easier for people to enroll in Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid.

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Calif. not-for-profit takes stake in Tenet facility
Modern Healthcare

John Muir Health, Walnut Creek, Calif., has formed a joint venture with Tenet Healthcare Corp. that will give the not-for-profit system a 49% stake in Tenet’s San Ramon (Calif.) Regional Medical Center.

John Muir, which has three hospitals and a number of outpatient and urgent-care centers in the San Francisco Bay area, will invest about $100 million in the 123-bed facility in a deal that’s expected to close by March 31. Other terms were not disclosed.

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Health Net, Tenet Reach Hospital Agreement
San Fernando Valley Business Journal

Subsidiaries of Heath Net Inc. signed new multi-year agreements Thursday that give its customers access to all 11 Tenet Healthcare hospitals in California.

In December, the Woodland Hills insurer had terminated contracts at six hospitals in Southern California owned by the Dallas-based hospital chain citing disagreements over the cost of care. The new agreement reinstates coverage and retroactively covers any medical care at those facilities. It also adds five hospitals in Northern California to Health Net’s coverage network.

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John Muir Health to partner with San Ramon Regional Medical Center
The Mercury News

John Muir Health plans to invest $100 million in San Ramon Regional Medical Center so the former competitors can jointly expand services in the Tri-Valley area and gear up for changes under the national health reform law, leaders of both organizations said Thursday. John Muir will acquire a 49 percent ownership interest in the 123-bed San Ramon hospital.

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Penalty could keep smokers out of health overhaul
San Francisco Chronicle

Millions of smokers could be priced out of health insurance because of tobacco penalties in President Barack Obama’s health care law, according to experts who are just now teasing out the potential impact of a little-noted provision in the massive legislation. The Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” to its detractors — allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1.

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About Time? Smokers Face Tough New Rules Under Obamacare
The Health Care Blog

The Affordable Care Act contains a number of provisions intended to incent “personal responsibility,” or the notion that health care isn’t just a right — it’s an obligation. None of these measures is more prominent than the law’s individual mandate, designed to ensure that every American obtains health coverage or pays a fine for choosing to go uninsured. But one provision that’s gotten much less attention — until recently — relates to smoking; specifically, the ACA allows payers to treat tobacco users very differently by opening the door to much higher premiums for this population.

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Affordable Care Act stirring rage in California
Live Insurance News

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, health insurance companies have been warning of a nationwide rate increase that could introduce new financial pressures to consumers throughout the U.S. Insurers claim that the provisions of the health care law are responsible for the possibility of higher rates. The law requires insurance companies to take more aggressive measures on the types of coverage they provide, the administration of the companies themselves, as well as expand the eligibility of insurance coverage.

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Health Care Reform Examined in Business Journal Event
San Fernando Valley Business Journal

The San Diego Business Journal will host an informative panel discussion on the current and future state of health care reform Tuesday, February 12.

A panel of experts including Joy Higa, vice president, Health Care Reform for UnitedHealthcare and Dr. James LaBelle, corporate senior vice president and chief medical officer for Scripps Health, along with a keynote speaker (to be announced) will explore the impact of this historic legislation on small business and the strategies for navigating the changes.

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Make health insurance exchange top priority: survey
Modern Healthcare

Governors and state legislatures should make establishing a health insurance exchange the No. 1 item on their healthcare agenda this year, a majority of Americans said in a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health. In the survey, conducted Jan. 3-9, respondents identified the top healthcare priorities at the state and federal levels.

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Rethinking the annual-checkup idea
San Francisco Chronicle

I always like it when scientific studies confirm an unscientific idea that’s been rattling around in my brain for a while. A large survey run out of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine suggests that annual checkups may not be necessary – may even be counterproductive – for healthy adults. Everybody has anomalies. None of us is the textbook ideal of the human body. An annual ritual devoted to detecting oddities will almost always yield oddities – such is the nature of investigation.

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Report takes aim at malpractice ‘myths’
Modern Physician

In the debate over tort reform, “five myths of medical malpractice” with “wide currency in medical circles” are frequently repeated in op-ed essays, blog postings and public statements by physicians, including those designated as spokespersons for organized medicine, according to a report in Chest Journal, published by the American College of Chest Physicians.

The “myths” identified in the article are: Malpractice crises are caused by sudden rises in payouts and claim frequency; the tort system delivers “jackpot justice;”

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Foundation awards $2.1 million in grants
The Press-Enterprise

Riverside Community Health Foundation (RCHF), a local nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the community, granted over $2.1 million through 31 grants in 2012. The Foundation funds nonprofits, schools, and governmental agencies that provide inpatient services, outpatient services, or health education programs that benefit the Riverside Community.

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8 Changes in Healthcare Delivery & How Surgeons Can Keep Up
Becker's Hospital Review

Healthcare was front and center in the “fiscal cliff” debates to end 2012 and will continue to play a large role in the “debt ceiling” debates in 2013. Over the next several years, many new initiatives will take place to reduce the percent of growth domestic product devoted to healthcare. “In the broadest sense of the word, we have already fallen off the fiscal cliff,” says Eric Louie, MD, chief medical office for Sg2. “The legislation that was passed after January 1 didn’t solve anything; it was a stop gap that didn’t guarantee any changes.

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Mutations Found in Melanomas May Shed Light on How Cancers Grow
New York Times

In a leap forward in understanding the basic science of one of the most lethal cancers, two groups of researchers have found mutations in most melanomas that are unlike any they have seen before in cancer. The changes are in regions that control genes, not in the genes themselves. The mutations are exactly the type caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, indicating they might be among the first DNA changes in a cell’s path to melanoma.

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HHS renames health insurance exchanges ‘marketplaces’
Modern Healthcare

Health Insurance Marketplace, or just Marketplace, has replaced “exchanges” in how HHS now refers to a key and soon-to-go-into-effect provision of the 2010 healthcare reform law. On a website managed by HHS, www.healthcare.gov, Marketplace is prominently featured as the online portal where uninsured, low-income individuals will be able to use health care reform law-authorized government premium subsidies to purchase coverage from participating insurers.

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Change to state’s health insurance
Camarillo Acorn

The parents of more than 20,000 Ventura County children received notices in the mail last month reminding them that their Healthy Families medical insurance will soon be transitioning into the state’s Medi-Cal program.

Healthy Families—the statesponsored health insurance program for children and teens in low-income families—is being phased out as of Jan. 1, pursuant to Gov. Jerry Brown’s Assembly Bill 1494.

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Long Beach Hospitals Join Federal Initiative To Enhance Patient Care Quality
Long Beach Business Journal

Local hospitals have joined about 400 California hospitals in a federal initiative to improve their quality of patient care. According to the California Hospital Association, the “Partnership for Patients” initiative, created by Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), requires that hospitals in its program achieve two quality improvement goals by the end of 2013. First, they must work to decrease injuries and infections that can spread during treatment by 40 percent compared to 2010. Second, they must reduce patient readmissions by 20 percent compared to 2010 by improving their aftercare.

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$2 million challenge grant for Sonoma Valley Hospital
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

A $2 million challenge grant from the Vadasz family has been pledged toward a fund-raising campaign for Sonoma Valley Hospital.

The grant will match dollar for dollar — up to $2 million — donations to a hospital renovation and expansion project.

The $2 million in gifts from the community must be raised by September to receive the grant, campaign director Harmony Plenty said.

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Reports question $125 million in Medicare payments for inmates, illegal aliens
Modern Healthcare

A lag time in getting accurate information from the Social Security Administration caused Medicare to make as much as $125 million in improper payments for healthcare provided to people who were incarcerated or living illegally in the country, two new reports say.

Acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner partially disputed the findings, saying it wasn’t clear that all $125 million was incorrectly paid and that it might be prohibitively expensive to try to recoup all of the money.

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Lawmakers look to repeal Medicare provision aiding Amgen drug
Los Angeles Times

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is seeking to repeal a Medicare-pricing provision in the recent “fiscal cliff” deal that benefits biotech giant Amgen Inc.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) filed legislation this week to eliminate the exemption for a class of drugs, including Amgen’s Sensipar, that are used by kidney dialysis patients.

The fiscal-cliff legislation approved earlier this month excluded these oral medications from Medicare price controls for an additional two years.

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America’s health care needs reform
San Diego Daily Transcript

With retention of the Obama administration for another four years, the implementation of the president’s health care program will be a prime topic for 2013 and beyond. It seems obvious that the trouncing of the Republican in the November election was partly due to the party’s resolve to repeal Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

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