News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obama willing to deal on Medicare, sequester
Modern Healthcare

The Obama administration on Tuesday signaled its willingness to make changes in Medicare and other entitlement programs as it urged Congress to delay automatic federal spending cuts scheduled for March 1.

In a White House briefing, President Barack Obama said the threat of automatic federal spending cuts through sequestration—which Congress delayed until early March in its New Year’s Day deal to avert the fiscal cliff—has already begun to affect business decisions.

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Hospitalizations Up For the Terminally Ill
Health Leaders Media

Despite efforts to reduce aggressive and expensive care for the terminally ill, a greater percentage of dying Medicare patients underwent hospitalization in their last 90 days—not fewer—and more patients spent time in intensive care units in their last month in 2009 than in 2000, says a surprising report.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the percentage of patients hospitalized in their last 90 days of life went from 62.9% in 2000 to 69.3% in 2009. And the percentage of patients who spent time in the intensive care unit in their last 30 days went from 24.3% to 29.2%.

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Critical-access hospitals get break on staffing
Modern Healthcare

The CMS has proposed reducing hospital staffing requirements at critical-access hospitals, rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers, which could save those facilities as much as $676 million a year. The proposed rule, issued Monday, would eliminate the requirement that a physician be present at those facilities at least once every two weeks. The CMS called the ruled burdensome and outdated.

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3 Valley counties deal with tuberculosis drug shortage
Fresno Bee

A nationwide shortage of a common anti-tuberculosis drug has public health officials in the central San Joaquin Valley limiting treatment.

Only people with active TB are assured of getting the drug by health departments in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties. Madera County has an ample supply.

Valley health officials said it could be April before supplies of the drug isoniazid return to normal. The federal Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday the shortage is being resolved.

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Social Security, health spending to hit $3.2 trillion a year
Yahoo! News

Spending on Social Security and healthcare will double to $3.2 trillion a year over the next decade, threatening a sharp rise in national debt unless Congress acts to avoid the danger, congressional researchers warned on Tuesday. A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office did not put forth a plan to resolve the long-term imbalance between revenues and spending on retirement and healthcare benefits. But it said that action taken now would help minimize the economic impact of whatever course lawmakers can agree on.

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‘Sunshine Act’ Gets Guarded Reaction
Health Leaders Media

The federal government’s long-delayed rollout this month of the “Sunshine Act” mandate to disclose financial relationships between drug and device manufacturers and healthcare providers is getting a mostly guarded reception from key groups that will be affected by it. For the most part, when it came to commenting on the 287-page final rule, those lobbying groups and professional associations avoided trash talking the final rule.

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Quiet deaths don’t come easy
Los Angeles Times

For Americans with a terminal diagnosis, death increasingly comes in the places and ways they say they want it — at home and in the comfort of hospice care.

But for a growing number of dying patients, that is preceded by a tumultuous month in which they endure procedures that are often as invasive and painful as they are futile.

New research finds that the proportion of Medicare patients dying in hospice care nearly doubled from 22% in 2000 to 42% in 2009, an apparent bow to patients’ overwhelming preference for more peaceful passings free of heroic measures.

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Hospice use increases but aggressive care still common: study
Modern Healthcare

Fewer seniors died in hospitals during the past decade and the use of hospice increased, but more elderly were also hospitalized within a month of dying or moved within days of death, research shows. Results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest that hospice care has not replaced aggressive medical intervention at the end of life, said Dr. Joan Teno, lead author of the study and a professor of health services policy and practices at Brown University.

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Sutter Davis Hospital receives top CCE award
Sacramento Bee

Sutter Davis Hospital has received the Governor’s Award for Performance Excellence from the California Council for Excellence.

The award was presented Monday night during ceremonies in Irvine. “Most of the hospital’s key performance results are within the top 10 percent of comparable organizations, demonstrating a passion for excellence that is driving Sutter Davis to achieve prominence in health care,” said Denise Shields, CCE chairwoman.

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Allergens and pollution combine to increase asthma risk
HealthyCal.org

Children living in poverty in California and elsewhere in the U.S. are much more likely to suffer from asthma than their wealthier peers. A new study suggests that a symbiotic relationship between pollution and allergens common in low-income urban areas makes children more vulnerable to the chronic and potentially life threatening illness. Allergies to roaches have been long understood as a factor in higher asthma rates among children in poorer neighborhoods.

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CMS plans shared-savings program for renal care
Modern Healthcare

The CMS is bringing its care-coordination and shared-savings model to end-stage renal disease in a program that aims to extract cost savings and improve quality. The initiative comes one month after the New Year’s Day fiscal cliff compromise, which called for $4.9 billion in cuts to dialysis providers. Under the Comprehensive ESRD Care initiative, healthcare providers will manage a group of Medicare beneficiaries with late-stage kidney disease.

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Telehealth reduced readmissions, hospital days: report
Modern Healthcare

When done right, telehealth programs work.

That’s the bottom line from a 10-page report, “Scaling Telehealth Programs: Lessons from Early Adopters,” by the Commonwealth Fund. It focuses on three pioneers of home health monitoring technologies and programs: the Veterans Affairs Department, Boston-based Partners HealthCare and Centura Health, Englewood, Colo.

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EHR use up among family doctors, but varies by area
Modern Physician

The number of family physicians that have adopted electronic health records has more than doubled since 2005, though wide geographic variations exist, according to a report in the Annals of Family Medicine. Using census survey data from the American Board of Family Medicine maintenance of certification exam and the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, researchers predicted that the adoption rate could pass 80% by the end of the year.

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Health care students plan rally for single-payer health care
Sacramento Business Journal

Hundreds of health professional students in white coats hope to draw attention to the more egregious practices of the health insurance industry via a rally on the steps of the State Capitol on Monday from noon to 1 p.m. The idea is to rally support for a single-payer, universal health care system in California. Legislation introduced every year for the last eight has failed to get approval from lawmakers.

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CVS’ Medicare drug program causing headaches for enrollees
Los Angeles Times

Deborah Shapiro decided a few months ago to switch her prescription drug coverage from her former employer’s plan to Medicare. The Medicare literature made clear that she could save hundreds of dollars on the various drugs she and her husband required.

Shapiro, 76, of Woodland Hills, studied her options carefully and decided to enroll in SilverScript, the Medicare-approved drug program run by CVS Caremark.

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Los Robles Hospital Welcomes New Chief Nursing Officer
Ventura County Star

Greg Angle, President & CEO of Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center is pleased to announce that Cynthia J. Johnson, R.N., MSN has joined the hospital as Chief Nursing Officer, effective February 18, 2013.

“It gives me great pleasure to welcome Cyndi to Los Robles Hospital. She brings a wealth of experience to Los Robles in the areas of clinical nursing, nursing education, administrative management, and leadership, Angle stated. “As the Chief Nursing Officer, she will have the opportunity to maximize her relationship-building talents and her proven leadership abilities in the effort to continuously enhance the quality of patient care.”

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California passes up millions for prison healthcare, report says
Los Angeles Times

California’s court-run prison healthcare program is missing out on tens of millions of dollars a year in federal funds because of disagreement with counties and software problems, a new legislative report states. The legislative analyst’s office found increasing numbers of prison inmates who, because of their low income status, are eligible for the state’s Medicaid program. That program, delivered through counties, draws matching federal reimbursements.

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All options need to be on table for Medi-Cal dental program
Sacramento Bee

The lack of timely and appropriate access to dental care for low-income children and adults is one of the most overlooked problems of California’s health care system. It can also be life-threatening when not addressed.

The challenges facing California policymakers will become more substantial as the state embarks on a massive expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s public insurance program for the poor.

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