News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obama immigration plan keeps limits on health subsidies, tax credits
Modern Healthcare

President Barack Obama announced introduced an immigration reform plan Tuesday that would prevent undocumented immigrants, even though given provisional legal status, from gaining access to subsidies and tax credits created by the healthcare reform law.

In a Las Vegas address, Obama offered to create a form of provisional immigrant status for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented residents of the country that would allow them to stay legally and potentially earn citizen status over time.

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Who Pays Hospital Costs for Patients in Police Custody?
Health Leaders Media

News that Medicare improperly paid about $33 million for healthcare services to thousands of incarcerated patients between 2009 and 2011 should motivate hospital leaders to strengthen or establish relationships with local law enforcement authorities, a healthcare billing and legal expert says.

The Office of Inspector General announced this month that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services made Medicare payments totaling $33.6 million to healthcare providers for services to approximately 11,600 incarcerated beneficiaries during calendar years 2009 through 2011.

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Chico-area hospitals go on guard against the flu
Chico Enterprise Record

Who was that masked nurse? He was the one who didn’t get a flu shot. At Enloe Medical Center in Chico, employees who work close to patients are now required to wear surgical masks if they didn’t get flu shots. It’s an extra measure to protect patients because there has been so much flu around the country, including a strain that can cause severe symptoms, said Christina Chavira, a spokeswoman for Enloe.

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CPMC hospital agreement nears completion
San Francisco Examiner

Mayor Ed Lee said Tuesday that a compromise agreement is imminent for California Pacific Medical Center’s planned $2.5 billion project to rebuild St. Luke’s Hospital and construct a new hospital on Cathedral Hill.

“This is the last extension,” Lee said on the day the Board of Supervisors postponed a vote on the projects until March 12. Lee said people can expect an announcement of an agreement leading up to that date.

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Obamacare loophole threatens UC students
San Francisco Chronicle

Life was great for Kenya Wheeler in the spring of 2011. He’d just enrolled in a UC Berkeley master’s program in city planning and had won a research position that would pay his fees. Healthy as a horse, he biked to campus every day. A year later, a cancer diagnosis had changed everything. Wheeler, 38, had so many medical bills that he reached the $400,000 limit allowed by his UC student health plan. He scheduled a hasty wedding with his girlfriend in March so he could continue receiving life-saving chemotherapy through her insurance.

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Health Insurance Rate Shock Looms for California Consumers
Fox & Hounds

State-run health insurance exchanges are one of the most important developments from the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). True to form, California was an early adopter of insurance exchanges, approving legislation in 2010. Called “Covered California,” the exchange is up-and-running with the help of federal grants and state administration support. California has also opted in to the expansion of its Medicaid health care program for low income residents, here known as Medi-Cal.

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Supes talk health care reform planning
Times-Standard

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors heard a presentation Tuesday laying out local changes that are expected to take place with the enactment of national health care legislation. Health and Human Services legislative analyst Nancy Stark told the board that many provisions in the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act go into effect in 2014. California’s Medi-Cal program will expand, Stark said, becoming available to anyone below 138 percent of the national poverty level.

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Expanded Medi-Cal for poor eyed by state
Daily Democrat

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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Doctors Ask Court To Review Medi-Cal Pay Cut
KPBS

California doctors are asking a federal appeals court to review a decision that allows the state to cut the Medi-Cal payment rate by 10 percent. Up to 3 million more Californians could be eligible for Medi-Cal when health reform fully kicks in next year. Doctors complain the state is asking physicians to treat this influx of patients while it’s cutting their payment rate. La Mesa physician Ted Mazer said the state first proposed the 10 percent cut when its finances were in poor shape.

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Study: Digital tools lead to patient dissatisfaction
Modern Physician

The pull-down menus, alerts and point-of-care information contained in computerized clinical decision-support systems can distract physicians from their face-to-face encounters and leave patients feeling ignored and dissatisfied with their care. That’s the conclusion of a study from the University of Missouri at Columbia, which assessed patients’ perceptions of physicians who use digital diagnostic tools.

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SHCHD board moving forward with goals
Redwood Times

The Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District regular board meeting was on Jan. 24. Board chair Barb Truitt reported that in closed session the board approved resolution 13:01, medical staff appointments/reappointments of doctors Beckord, Bavuso and Vigil. There was no action to report on any other items in closed session. Human Resources report

During the quarterly report on Human Resources, HR director Linda Feretto was asked by board member Dave Ordonez if she kept a running record of reasons for employee separation from the district.

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Senator plans bill to tackle doc shortage
Modern Healthcare

One of the Senate’s health policy leaders is preparing legislation to address a primary-care physician shortage that could balloon next year as millions of uninsured Americans get coverage under the healthcare reform law.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters after a Tuesday hearing that he would soon introduce a bill and push for it to be enacted before the launch of the law’s individual insurance mandate, Medicaid expansion and insurance exchanges in 2014.

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Senior-care sector sees rise in demand, share prices
Modern Healthcare

Occupancy rates at senior-living centers are on the rise as the demand for housing grows and the pace of construction activity slows down, according to a report. The report from the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry found that the occupancy rate for the fourth quarter of 2012 was 89.1%, a 1 percentage point increase over the same quarter of the previous year.

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Sierra Health grant will promote health equity
Sacramento Business Journal

The Sacramento-based Sierra Health Foundation has received a $200,000 grant to support its work to reduce health disparities and promote health equity in the Sacramento region. The grant from the Convergence Partnership, a collaboration of eight of the nation’s leading philanthropic funders and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was announced Monday. The grant requires a foundation match of $2 for every $1 awarded.

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4 in 10 Hospitalists Report Unsafe Patient Workloads
Health Leaders Media

Four in 10 hospitalists responding to a survey from Johns Hopkins University say their workloads exceeded safe levels at least once a month. In a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine this week, authors Henry J. Michtalik, MD, Peter Pronovost, MD, and others also said that 36% of the 506 hospitalist respondents reported excessive workload assignments exceeding safe levels at least once per week.

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Calif. Medicaid provider pay cut blocked again
Modern Physician

A 10% Medicaid provider pay cut called for by California Gov. Jerry Brown has been blocked again, this time by the filing of a petition for review with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The pay cut was approved by the CMS in October 2011 and is included in Brown’s proposed 2013-14 budget, but it had been blocked by a U.S. District Court judge’s injunction. A three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit ruled Dec. 13 that the injunction should be lifted.

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Report: Kaiser tops state health insurance market with 40% share
Los Angeles Times

Nonprofit healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente had a 40% share of California’s $59-billion health insurance market for employers and individuals, new data show.

A report issued this week by Citigroup analyst Carl McDonald compiled nationwide data on 2011 premiums and enrollment among large and small employers and individuals buying their own policies.

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F.D.A. Approves Genetic Drug to Treat Rare Disease
New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug Tuesday that not only treats a rare inherited disorder that causes extremely high cholesterol levels and heart attacks by age 30, but does so using a long-sought technology that can shut off specific genes that cause disease.

The drug, Kynamro, which was invented by Isis Pharmaceuticals and will be marketed by Sanofi’s Genzyme division, is unlikely to be a blockbuster. It has some worrisome side effects and there might be no more than a few hundred people in the United States with the disease, known as homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, or HoFH.

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