News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Employers brace for law’s implementation
Imperial Valley Press Online

Two books sitting on Jeff Alford’s desk offer a glimpse into his current business dilemma. As the chief operating officer of Alford Distributing, he has been trying to determine the potential impact the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will have on the family business. In addition to his reading “ObamaCare Survival Guide” and “Health Care Reform Simplified,” Alford has also had numerous discussions with knowledgeable people about the legal obligations he has as an employer under the new health care law.

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John Muir Health Purchases 49% of San Ramon Regional Medical Center
San Francisco Chronicle

Tenet Healthcare Corporation and John Muir Health today announced the creation of a joint venture partnership between San Ramon Regional Medical Center, a 123-bed acute care hospital in San Ramon, and John Muir Health, based in Walnut Creek. John Muir Health is a not-for-profit integrated system of doctors, hospitals and other healthcare services in the San Francisco Bay area.

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Quality push curbs infections in neonatal ICUs: AHRQ
Modern Physician

A group of 100 hospital neonatal intensive-care units participating in a government-funded quality initiative made big strides in reducing rates of central line-associated bloodstream infections, according to data from HHS‘ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The NICUs, located in nine states, were part of an AHRQ-funded initiative known as On the CUSP: Stop BSI, which relies on the Comprehensive Unit-Based Safety Protocol, or CUSP.

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Fresno’s Saint Agnes Medical Center lays off 75
Fresno Bee

Saint Agnes Medical Center is laying off 75 employees in response to fewer patients, changes in payments and a slow-to-recover economy, hospital officials said Thursday.

Fresno’s second-largest hospital began notifying affected employees Wednesday, said Saint Agnes spokeswoman Kelley Sanchez.

Sanchez declined to say what positions were affected or whether the layoffs involved any employees who provide direct patient care.

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Medical interpreters plan to help more Californians find a voice
HealthyCal.org

Almost 7 million Californians speak limited or no English, and many of them may become insured soon thanks to federal health care reform. Medical interpreters are preparing to be outnumbered by this population while still fighting language barriers. Of the 2.6 million expected to enroll in California’s Health Benefit Exchange in 2014, 1 million will speak English less than well, according to a study by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

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SF restaurateurs dispute city allegations
San Francisco Chronicle

Amid a citywide crackdown to prevent restaurateurs from misleading consumers, San Francisco officials have released a list of 93 business owners who collected more money in employee health care surcharges in 2011 than they spent on health care for their workers. The Chronicle obtained the list under a public records request after City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced Friday that he would be going after at least 50 San Francisco restaurants for allegedly charging diners extra fees to cover the cost of city-mandated health care for workers and then pocketing much of the money.

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San Francisco cracks down on restaurants for healthcare surcharge fees
San Francisco Business Times

San Francisco is cracking down on restaurants suspected of consumer fraud for pocketing money intended for employee’s health care. City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Friday that “several dozen” of the city’s restaurants are under investigation for allegedly exploiting the now infamous health care surcharge fees that restaurants put on diner’s tab to cover the costs of a controversial San Francisco ordinance passed in 2006 requiring employers to provide health benefits to employees.

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Reform brightens for-profit outlook; chains see share prices surge
Modern Healthcare

Despite worries about a storm of reimbursement cuts expected to rain on all sectors of the healthcare industry, shares of for-profit hospital operators remained buoyant in the early weeks of 2013. The acute-care chains continued what was already a strong run last year as investors calculated that the benefit of having more insured patients would ultimately outweigh any payment squeeze.

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Health care overhaul on target
Monterey Herald

Buying your own health insurance will never be the same.

This fall, new insurance markets called exchanges will open in each state, marking the long-awaited and much-debated debut of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The goal is quality coverage for millions of uninsured people in the United States. What the reality will look like is anybody’s guess — from bureaucracy, confusion and indifference to seamless service and satisfied customers.

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Experts chew over Obamacare
The Daily Titan

The College of Business and Economics hosted an in-depth look at the specifics of the Obamacare health care reform act and its effects on business.

The panel was held at the Radisson hotel in Newport Beach on Friday as a way to clear up the myriad of misconceptions that have arisen from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

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Lack of doctors imperils reach of healthcare reform
Bakersfield Californian

One year from now, tens of thousands of uninsured Kern County residents will celebrate the bounty of health reform — they will finally have a chance at health insurance.

That’s when Medi-Cal, a publicly funded health program for low-income and disabled residents, will expand statewide, bringing the promise of coverage to perhaps 1 million more Californians.

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San Ramon Regional, John Muir form hospital partnership
Pleasanton Weekly

John Muir Health will invest nearly $100 million to acquire part ownership of San Ramon Regional Medical Center in San Ramon and expand and improve services throughout the Tri-Valley. The agreement would give John Muir, which serves patients in Contra Costa and Alameda counties and has more than 6,000 employees, a 49% stake in the 123-bed San Ramon hospital. The partnership is expected to close on or before March 31.

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Medical group marks 25th anniversary
Napa Valley Register

As a senior physician at Napa Valley Nephrology with more than three decades of local patient care, Dr. Thomas Paukert knows both renal physiology and the community inside-out.

Specializing in nephrology and internal medicine — which deal with the kidneys and broader adult issues — Paukert said he enjoys not just the science of medicine, but also its personal side, getting to know patients and their families.

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Doctors, scientists argue over tests that may foreshadow Alzheimer’s
Ventura County Star

Kathryn Becker wants to know if, like her mother, she won’t recognize her own daughter one day.

The retired Navy engineer who taught herself two programming languages decided to undergo tests that may reveal her future. She went through a spinal tap and brain imaging that revealed biological components that may cause Alzheimer’s disease.

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Health care limits leave some UC students with few options
Contra Costa Times

UC Santa Cruz graduate student Micha Rahder suffers from a rare disorder that requires her to be hooked up to an IV over two days, five to eight hours at a time, every four weeks. Afterward, her body returns to more than 95 percent normal. Without the exhaustive treatments, the effects can be severe. “I can barely walk and can’t really move my hands,” said Rahder, diagnosed with Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy — a disease that attacks the nervous system.

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Doctor pay boost may increase access to care
Bakersfield Californian

Bakersfield doctor Hasmukh Amin is bracing for competition.

Amin is a pediatrician at Riverwalk Pediatric Clinic, a private practice with about 20,000 patients. About half of those patients are covered by Medi-Cal, a publicly funded health program for low-income and disabled residents. Unlike Amin, many local doctors won’t see Medi-Cal patients, saying the payment rates are too low and don’t cover costs.

But starting this month, that could change as some Medi-Cal rates rise temporarily — and dramatically.

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Fresno’s 2nd largest hospital lays off 75 workers
San Francisco Chronicle

The second-largest hospital in Fresno plans to lay off 75 workers in response to what hospital administrators described as continued economic hurdles, a dwindling number of patients and lower government reimbursements. The Fresno Bee reports Saint Agnes Medical Center began notifying affected employees on Wednesday, the third staff reduction in the last four years at the hospital owned by Michigan-based Trinity Health.

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Land for hospital expansion urged in Visalia growth debate
Fresno Bee

New details about land use and building projects in Visalia emerged last week when the City Council met to debate a proposed long-term growth plan good until 2030.

Construction begins this year on a sewer trunk line under Mineral King Avenue from Locust Street to Ranch Road — about 20 city blocks.

A 36-inch line will be built parallel to an existing 30-inch pipe, which will stay in use.

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Arrowhead Regional Medical Center’s School of Radiologic Technology gives students career training
Contra Costa Times

Leia Redmond, 25, followed her dream by earning a bachelor’s degree from Cal State San Bernardino in theatre arts, with an emphasis on acting. Now she’s focused on earning a living. In a few months, she’ll be finishing an intensive 23-month training program at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center’s School of Radiologic Technology. And when she gets out, she can expect to earn between $26 and $35 an hour, said Morris Hunter, the school’s program director.

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Pediatric strokes tied to pinched vessel
San Francisco Chronicle

Briley Pompe was 12 years old when he had his first stroke. It took him months to recover and regain full use of his left arm and leg, which had been weakened by a lack of blood flow to his brain. But eventually he felt fine, and doctors told him he was healthy. He could be a normal boy again. Then Briley had his second stroke. Both strokes, his doctors at UCSF now believe, were caused by an unusual condition in which one of the four major arteries in the neck is repeatedly compressed when patients turn their head too far to one side.

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Consumer alert: new health care markets on the way
The Mercury News

Buying your own health insurance will never be the same. This fall, new insurance markets called exchanges will open in each state, marking the long-awaited and much-debated debut of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. The goal is quality coverage for millions of uninsured people in the United States. What the reality will look like is anybody’s guess—from bureaucracy, confusion and indifference to seamless service and satisfied customers.

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Obama Health Reform Allows Insurance Companies to Charge Smokers 50% More than Non-Smokers
All Gov

Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) will prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing health conditions. Although ACA guarantees access to the chronically unwell, including those who are overweight, or have a condition like diabetes, it will allow insurers to charge up to 50% higher rates to smokers, because smoking is considered an optional behavior, not an illness. As a result, millions of smokers may find that health insurance is just too expensive.

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Covered California to distribute $43M in grants, solicits applications
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California, the health benefits exchange set up to implement key parts of Obamacare in California, is soliciting applications for $43 million in grants. The initial application deadline is March 4. Depending on what response rate it gets, the exchange may ask for additional applications in late May. Its goal is to find community organizations to help it reach uninsured and “subsidy eligible” Californians who may not know about or understand the purpose of the exchange.

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