News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

 

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IPPS Proposed Rules Clarify Readmissions Penalties
Health Leaders Media

Acute care hospitals will receive a 2.3% increase in operating payment for Medicare patients if they participate in hospital inpatient quality reporting programs under the latest proposed rules form the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Those that don’t participate will receive a 2% reduction, or a payment update of .3%.

This would amount to a projected $904 million increase in FY 2013, but after reductions accounting for the expiration of certain temporary payment increases, the real amount of increase is $175 million.

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Cutting mandate would hurt hospitals: Moody’s
Modern Healthcare

Moody’s Investors Service said a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down one key insurance provision of the healthcare reform law would eliminate its “most credit-positive feature” for not-for-profit hospitals.

In a comment released by the rating agency, analysts said hospitals would continue to see Medicare cuts under the law without offsetting gains from newly insured patients, should the court uphold the law but eliminate a provision that nearly everyone carry insurance.

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California moves forward with insurance Exchange
HealthyCal.org

Despite a potentially disruptive U.S. Supreme Court decision expected this summer, California officials are moving forward with the creation of a new, online health insurance market that is expected to be the centerpiece of the federal health reform approved two years ago by Congress and President Obama. “There are many different scenarios,” said David Panush, director of government relations for the California Health Benefit Exchange. “Rather than trying to crystal-ball what the court may or may not do, we’ve got our foot on the pedal and we’re going full speed ahead.”

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CDC: Cholesterol levels continue to drop
USA Today

U.S. health officials say only 13 percent of U.S. adults have high total cholesterol. That may seem incredible in a nation where two-thirds of adults are overweight. Experts believe it’s largely because so many Americans take cholesterol-lowering drugs, but dropping smoking rates and other factors also contributed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the report Tuesday.

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State report shows decreased mortality for coronary artery bypass graft surgeries
Lake County News

A new report shows a reduced mortality rate for coronary artery bypass graft surgeries performed around the state.

California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) on Monday released the “California Report on Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery, 2009 Hospital Data,” showing that hospital operative mortality declined 34 percent since 2003, the first year of mandated public reporting for the 119 state-licensed hospitals that performed isolated coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery during 2009.

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Debt collectors posted at ERs as harsh steps taken on hospital bills
Sacramento Bee

Hospital patients waiting in an emergency room or convalescing after surgery could find themselves confronted by an unexpected visitor: a debt collector at bedside.

One of the nation’s largest medical debt-collection companies is under fire in Minnesota for having placed its employees in emergency rooms and other departments at two hospitals and demanding that patients pay before receiving treatment, according to documents released Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general. The documents say the company also used patient health records to wrangle for more money on overdue bills.

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Insurer WellPoint’s 1Q profit falls as costs climb
San Francisco Chronicle

WellPoint Inc.’s first-quarter net income fell nearly 8 percent as enrollment slipped and expenses rose, but results beat analyst earnings expectations and the health insurer raised its forecast for 2012.

The Indianapolis company said Wednesday that it expects its capital management to improve after earning $169 million in investment income in the first quarter. Company leaders also said they anticipate improvements in their main businesses and more growth from a Medicare Advantage segment that hurt WellPoint last year.

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Medicaid billing weakness hinders audits: HHS
Modern Healthcare

In an audit of audits, HHS‘ inspector general’s office has concluded that limitations in the quality and completeness of Medicaid billing data has limited the ability of government contractors to find out which healthcare providers are receiving overpayments from the government.

The report (PDF) says that the CMS projected that 161 audits of specific healthcare providers since January 2010 were expected to return up to $33.5 million in overpayments. Instead, as of February 2012 the audits yielded $286,000 in recoveries.

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Enloe Medical Center heart program does well in state study
Chico Enterprise Record

Enloe Medical Center’s heart-surgery program got mostly excellent ratings in the latest report released by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Issued on Monday, the state agency’s report looked at coronary artery bypass graft surgeries. In these operations, part of an artery is taken from a patient’s body and grafted onto a heart artery to bypass a blockage.

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EHR adoption still lags for small, rural practices: researchers
Modern Healthcare

Adoption of electronic health-record systems remains higher among large physician groups and hospitals than among smaller ones, according to two studies published in the journal Health Affairs.

In the first study, government researchers, using funding from HHS‘ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2002 through 2011.

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Rise of ACOs leads to AAAHC reorganization
Modern Healthcare

The rise of accountable care organizations and continued healthcare consolidation have led to a plan to reorganize the Skokie, Ill.-based Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, which includes splitting the organization into two parts and launching a pilot program to accredit small hospitals. “The movement to accountable care organizations and other recent trends has led to more health systems reabsorbing primary-care physicians and free-standing ambulatory-care settings back into the hospital,” John Burke, AAAHC president and CEO, said in a news release (PDF).

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Medicare Trustees’ Report Signals ‘A Lot of Work Ahead’
Health Leaders Media

The Cliff Notes version of the 279-page Medicare Trustees Report is that the program’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will remain solvent until 2024, and that further action is needed to assure its long-term financial stability.

That sums up much of the media’s reporting of the dense tome, which was released Monday afternoon. Immediately upon the report’s release, politicians, think tanks, and policy wonks from across the political spectrum used the findings to bolster their arguments for their particular brand of healthcare reform.

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San Francisco must back CPMC hospital plan to be quake-ready
San Francisco Examiner

The clock is ticking until a major earthquake strikes on one of the faults that transect the Bay Area, and San Francisco is woefully unprepared for the big one in a major department — seismically safe hospitals.

One giant step toward preparedness would be a handful of new hospitals that are part of the California Pacific Medical Center project, a large-scale development that deserves the immediate backing and approval of San Francisco officials.

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Nurses union puts politics ahead of health
Sacramento Bee

State Sen. Lois Wolk wants to encourage – not require – that health care workers get annual flu vaccinations if they come into contact with patients in hospitals and nursing homes. No right-thinking person could possibly oppose her legislation. But in our dysfunctional Capitol, public health has become a contested issue. Too often, lobbyists place the interests of the organizations they represent ahead of what’s best for the rest of us.

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Los Angeles Bets On Crusading Doctor To Turn Around Public Health System
National Public Radio

It would be easy to confuse Dr. Mitch Katz with any other doctor at the Roybal Comprehensive Health Center in East Los Angeles. His desk in a closet-sized, windowless office is littered with patient records, X-rays and cans of Diet Coke. His everyman demeanor belies his stature. As director of the county’s Department of Health Services, Katz, 52, oversees Los Angeles’ public hospitals and clinics, the health care of last resort for millions of low-income Angelenos.

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