News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Plaintiffs request review of 10% Medi-Cal cut
Sacramento Business Journal

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit to stop a 10 percent cut in Medi-Cal provider rates filed court documents Monday asking for review of the case by a full panel of appeals court judges. In December, a three-judge panel reversed a lower court decision that blocked California’s attempt to cut Medi-Cal fees — essentially affirming the state’s right to make authorized cuts to the federal health care program for the poor.

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CEOs Get a Medicare Compliance Checklist
Health Leaders Media

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged more than 1,480 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion.

The fraud agents are not done, however, one healthcare leader warns. “The government Medicare enforcement agents are under added pressure to increase their fraud recoveries,” says Roy Snell, CEO of the Health Care Compliance Association in Minneapolis.

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Legislation proposed to help California launch healthcare overhaul
Los Angeles Times

The state Legislature gaveled in a special session on healthcare Monday, pushing forward with sweeping proposals to help California implement President Obama’s healthcare overhaul.

The measures, including a major expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s public insurance program for the poor, would cement the state’s status as the nation’s earliest and most aggressive adopter of the federal Affordable Care Act. Beginning in January 2014, the law requires most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

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Report urges coordinated approach on preventive care
Modern Healthcare

The not-for-profit Trust for America’s Health is calling for a revamp of public health management at the federal, state and local levels in a report that urges a greater focus on preventive care. The report, called “A Healthier America 2013: Strategies to Move From Sick Care to Health Care in the Next Four Years,” argues that the different agencies in HHS involved with preventive healthcare should work more closely together to coordinate efforts, and existing attempts to become more coordinated have been too slow in creation.

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California lawmakers move to expand Medi-Cal eligibility
Sacramento Bee

More than 1 million low-income Californians would become eligible for health care coverage through Medi-Cal under legislation proposed Monday by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.

The measure is meant to lay groundwork for President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul, which requires all Americans to obtain insurance by next year or pay a penalty.

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Calif. Speaker seeks to expand Medi-Cal for poor
San Francisco Chronicle

Assembly Speaker John Perez introduced legislation Monday to expand Medicaid in California under the federal Affordable Care Act, extending the health care program for the poor and disabled to include more than 1 million additional people. At the same time, health care providers escalated their legal fight against the state’s planned cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates, saying any further reductions to the state’s payments could keep patients from accessing vital care at a time when the state seeks to expand quality coverage for uninsured Californians.

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Medi-Cal expansion proposed as special session on health care opens
Ventura County Star

As the Legislature opened a special session devoted to the implementation of the federal health care overhaul Monday, legislative leaders introduced bills to expand Medi-Cal coverage to more than 1 million additional Californians.

The program now covers about 8 million low-income residents.

The expansion of Medicaid, as the health insurance program for poor people is known nationally, is optional for states under last year’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Health care providers ask court to block Medi-Cal rate cut
Sacramento Bee

Health care providers are asking federal judges today to reconsider a December decision by a three-judge panel that allows California to slash Medi-Cal rates. Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers approved a 10 percent cut in Medi-Cal reimbursements to doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and other providers as part of their 2011-12 budget. The reduction had been tied up in litigation since 2011, but a three-judge panel at the U.S.9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that the state could move ahead.

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Healthcare providers appeal to block Medi-Cal cut
Los Angeles Times

California healthcare providers are appealing a December court decision that would allow the state to cut spending on medical care for poor residents. The case revolves around the state’s 2011 attempt to reduce by 10% reimbursements to doctors, pharmacies and others who provide healthcare through the Medi-Cal program. The cut has been continuously blocked by judges worried about how it would affect access to medical care.

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New law may help speed the processing of Medicare claims in personal injury cases
Washington Post

Anyone who sues for personal injury probably knows that the process may take time. But for Medicare beneficiaries, too often it’s not only the legal system that grinds slowly. Lawyers and policy experts say bureaucratic inefficiency at the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) can add months or even years to the process. During that period, a beneficiary often must wait until Medicare is reimbursed for its costs before he or she can receive any payment.

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Gov. Brown calls special session to push federal health law
KCRA Channel 3

Gov. Jerry Brown has called a special legislative session on Monday to help implement federal health care reform in the state. In his State of the State address, the governor said next January “Covered California” will provide insurance to an extra one million people in the state who otherwise couldn’t afford insurance.

The goal is to make health care more accessible and affordable for everyone in the state.

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Health care reform special session starts
Sacramento Business Journal

California lawmakers kicked off a special session Monday to pass laws to implement federal health reform and get California ready to expand insurance coverage in 2014. The special session is expected to last a few months, running concurrently with the Legislature’s existing session and work. But bills in the special session will operate on a faster timeline. Once approved and signed by the governor, they will take effect within 90 days after the session ends, rather than waiting for enactment on Jan. 1, 2014, like most legislation.

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Mobile Healthcare Apps Slated for Federal Oversight
Health Leaders Media

Healthcare apps for smart phones and other mobile devices have been flooding the market since 2010 and have proliferated so rapidly that efforts are under way to create a process to evaluate and certify them.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there were 17,288 health and fitness apps on the market in mid-2012 along with 14,558 medical apps.

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Hospitalists see heavy workloads undermining care
Modern Healthcare

Heavy workloads can contribute to unnecessary tests and procedures, poor transitions of care and increased complications and mortality, according to self-reported data from more than 500 hospitalists.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, collected survey responses from 506 hospitalists on topics such as how their excess workload affects patients’ risk of adverse events or causes delays in discharging patients.

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UC Davis Institute for Population offering grants to link rural areas with health providers
Sacramento Business Journal

The UC Davis Institute for Population Health Improvement, tapped to lead an initiative to link doctors, hospitals and emergency rooms statewide, is offering two grants totaling $1.3 million to support the effort. Requests for proposals will be posted by Thursday; completed proposals are due Feb. 28. A $1 million grant will be allocated to establish a mechanism and structure through which rural medical communities can evaluate and contract with preselected health information exchange providers.

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Special Needs Children Struggle to Obtain Quality Health Care
HealthyCal.org

California children with special needs often receive less-than-adequate health care services, regardless of whether they are covered by private or public health insurance, a new analysis has found. California was among the bottom six states in offering coordinated and family-oriented care to some of the state’s most vulnerable populations. According to the report, 1 in 10 California children, or about one million, have special health needs.

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AHIP backs quick adoption of payment reforms
Modern Healthcare

A liberal group’s entitlement-reform proposal elicited support from some payer leaders Monday. The Commonwealth Fund issued a Jan. 10 report suggesting a series of health system changes that would mean an estimated $1 trillion in reduced healthcare spending for the federal government over the next 10 years.

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Employers look to escape healthcare mandate
Modern Healthcare

Seeking to limit their costs under Obamacare, small and midsize companies are considering cutting jobs, slashing employee hours and using more temporary workers, and Northeast Ohio staffing firms are hiring more people to meet the anticipated demand.

The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as of Jan. 1, 2014, requires businesses with 50 or more full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees to offer health insurance that meets certain requirements or to pay to the government a penalty of $2,000 or $3,000 per employee.

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Boys should get the HPV vaccine too, study shows
The Mercury News

The human papillomavirus has the dubious distinction of being the sexually transmitted disease you are most likely to get. It’s also the leading cause of cervical cancer. January has, somewhat arbitrarily, been dubbed Cervical Health Awareness Month (also National Hobby Month and Hot Tea Month, the last at least for good reason). While cervical cancer is the disease most commonly associated with HPV, a recent report from the American Cancer Society emphasizes that HPV’s threat is not gender-specific or organ-specific.

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Pfizer, Lilly profit hurt by generic competition
USA Today

Two big drug makers saw sales hurt by generic competition in the fourth quarter, but Pfizer’s profit more than quadrupled because of a $4.8 billion gain from selling its nutrition business.

Eli Lilly’s fourth-quarter earnings slipped 4% as generic competition continued to eat away at sales of its former best-seller, the antipsychotic Zyprexa, but the drugmaker cut expenses again and growth from other products helped it beat analyst expectations. It also raised its forecast for 2013, and its shares edged up in premarket trading.

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Should smokers and the obese face penalties?
Contra Costa Times

Faced with the high cost of caring for smokers and overeaters, experts say society must grapple with a blunt question: Instead of trying to penalize them and change their ways, why not just let these health sinners die prematurely from their unhealthy habits? Annual health care costs are roughly $96 billion for smokers and $147 billion for the obese, the government says. These costs accompany sometimes heroic attempts to prolong lives, including surgery, chemotherapy and other measures.

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Ibuprofen, anti-fever drugs can cause kidney damage in kids
The Mercury News

Giving children painkillers such as Advil and Aleve instead of Tylenol or no drugs at all can lead to serious kidney damage, according to a new study — particularly if the children are dehydrated, a common side effect of illnesses such as flu. Nearly three percent of cases of acute kidney injury treated at an Indianapolis hospital between 1999 and 2010 could be traced directly to the children having taken common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, according to an analysis published online today in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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Hospitals reassess the age factor in evaluating candidates for kidney transplants
Washington Post

Robert Brown was healthy, willing and a good match: So why not give a kidney to his wife, who otherwise would need dialysis?

There was just one potential obstacle: Brown was 74, an age once unthinkable for a kidney donor. For this retired psychologist from Columbia, that wasn’t an issue. “I didn’t think about the age thing, not at all,” Brown said about his decision two years ago to offer a kidney to his wife, Sue.

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Rules of organ donation under reconsideration
Washington Post

Kidneys from deceased donors are carefully rationed under rules established by the nonprofit United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS. The system is set up so that kidneys go to people who have spent the longest time on waiting lists and who are a good match, with provisions made for distributing organs to patients within the same region, when possible. That method of allocating organs would change under a proposal from the UNOS’s kidney transplant committee.

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Hospital project moving forward
Tehachapi News

The firms that will be building the new Tehachapi Hospital formally announced the planned groundbreaking in trade publications last week.

Ground is scheduled to break on March 28 for the new $56 million hospital with Bernards and Colombo Construction Company Inc., acting in a joint venture partnership, providing the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District with construction management services for the approximately 79,000-square-foot project.

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Doctors Really Do Feel Your Pain
Yahoo! News

Good doctors really do feel their patients’ pain. A study, published today (Jan. 29) in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, shows that when doctors see their patients experiencing pain, the pain centers in the physicians’ own brains light up. And when the doctors give treatment to relieve pain, it activates the physicians’ reward centers. “Doctors feel rewarded when they are responsible for someone’s relief,” said study author Karin Jensen, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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Stanford Hospital to open San Jose outpatient cancer clinic in 2014
San Francisco Business Times

Stanford Hospital & Clinics plans to open a 70,000-square-foot outpatient cancer center in San Jose by 2014, officials said Monday, without providing many details. The four-story clinic will be located at the intersection of State Route 85 and Los Gatos Boulevard in San Jose. Care will be provided by an unspecified number of Stanford and community physicians, and the new center will have access to clinical trials and Stanford Hospital’s National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, officials said in the Jan. 28 statement.

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