News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Tavenner nomination could face resistance from ACA foes
Modern Healthcare

President Barack Obama’s re-nomination of Marilyn Tavenner as administrator of the CMS on Thursday drew wide support from health industry leaders but an uncertain outlook on Capitol Hill.

Tavenner, who leads the agency in an acting capacity, was first nominated in 2011 following the resignation of Dr. Donald Berwick, the previous acting administrator. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, opted not to advance her initial nomination and it expired at the end of the last Congress.

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Health reform drives lobbyist spending in 2012
Sacramento Business Journal

Health care businesses and trade groups spent more than $34 million to lobby state lawmakers and regulators in 2012 — a figure likely to grow this year. A special session of the state Legislature kicked off last month, and regulations are spewing at a furious pace as health-care policy takes the spotlight less than a year before millions more Californians seek insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

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Alzheimer’s cases, and costs, projected to swell
Los Angeles Times

As baby boomers enter their golden years, the number of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to reach 13.8 million by 2050 — millions more than previously anticipated, according to a new study in the journal Neurology.

If researchers can’t find a way to reduce the prevalence of the brain disease, the cost to care for all of these patients could top $1 trillion a year, experts say.

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Hospital Chiefs: Cut Costs with Care
Health Leaders Media

In our October Intelligence Report, 19% of leaders said that they still need to pull 11% or more out of their operating budget. When making budget cuts, especially deep cuts, what can the C-suite do to avoid harm to quality care and staff morale?

The first thing you already should have in place is a good communication channel. We have two strategies that we use a lot. One is town hall forums, face to face with an executive. We developed a script in those town hall meetings to ensure that specific topics are discussed.

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Obama nominates Tavenner to lead Medicare and Medicaid
Yahoo! News

President Barack Obama on Thursday renominated one of his top healthcare advisers to lead the federal agency responsible for overseeing Medicare, Medicaid and the implementation of his 2010 healthcare reform law.

If confirmed by the Senate, Marilyn Tavenner would become the first official head of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) since 2006. She currently leads the same agency as acting administrator.

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FDA issues new draft guidance on Alzheimer’s drug testing
Modern Healthcare

The Food and Drug Administration issued draft guidance today outlining how drug manufacturers could enroll patients who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in clinical trials in an effort to urge development of new treatments.

Few new drugs have been developed to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The FDA has approved three new drugs since 1998. During the same timeframe, at least 101 drugs have failed to gain approval, according to a report released in September by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

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Blue Shield employees may be cut due to Triwest contract loss
Sacramento Business Journal

A small number of Blue Shield employees may be laid off as TriWest Healthcare Alliance hands over its longtime military health care services contract to UnitedHealthcare April 1.

Last March, the Department of Defense announced plans to award a $20.5 billion Tricare contract for 21 western states to UnitedHealthcare. Phoenix-based TriWest, which provided care for military families in the Western Region for 16 years, filed a protest, but it was denied in July.

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Compounding pharmacies have been linked to deaths, illnesses and safety failures for years
Washington Post

Shoddy practices and unsanitary conditions at three large-scale specialty pharmacies have been tied to deaths and illnesses over the past decade, revealing that the serious safety lapses at a Massachusetts pharmacy linked to last fall’s deadly meningitis outbreak were not an isolated occurrence, records and interviews show.

The series of safety failures happened long before national attention focused on the New England Compounding Center, whose contaminated steroid shots were linked to 45 deaths and 651 illnesses.

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Consumer Group Says California Doctors Should Be Drug Tested
KPBS

The nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog is calling for mandatory drug testing for doctors in California. The push comes in response to news reports about doctors who over-prescribe painkillers like Vicodin.

A recent series in the LA Times identified a number of doctors whose patients died from overdoses of prescription painkillers. Consumer Watchdog says California should randomly drug test all doctors who prescribe narcotics.

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Prices of cardiac imaging systems fall—for now
Modern Healthcare

The average cost of cardiac cath lab imaging systems fell to about $885,000 over the last year, but the cost decreases will most likely be short-lived, according to the Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index.

The index provides monthly and annual price data for approximately 30 supply and capital items purchased by hospitals and other healthcare providers, based on three-month rolling averages. The average cost of biplane systems, which are usually more expensive than single-plane systems, has increased slightly, while the cost of single-plane systems has dropped, according to Robert Bense, clinical manager for ECRI’s healthcare technology advisory membership service.

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Some Flu Patients May Pose Greater Risk to Healthcare Providers
Health Leaders Media

One in five flu patients exhales so much more of the airborne virus than other flu patients, that researchers are asking whether these “super emitters” pose a greater likelihood of transmitting the virus to the people near them.

Werner Bischoff, MD, assistant professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, and lead author of a study published in the Jan. 31 online edition of The Journal of Infectious Disease, told HealthLeaders Media that more research is needed before he can determine the potential threat that super emitters may present to healthcare providers.

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AHRQ, CMS unveil children’s EHR format
Modern Healthcare

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the CMS have unveiled a new electronic health-record format for children’s healthcare, which the agencies say will help EHR vendors to create customized modules for pediatric patients.

The new EHR format includes specific functionality and data elements for children, such as immunizations and growth data, AHRQ said in a news release. Built on interoperable standards such as HL7, the newly developed format also allows for data exchange and performance measurement.

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The medical Internet of things and the future of health care
Marketplace

We are keeping a focus this week on the Internet of things — going beyond websites, to what some see as a new network of intelligent objects, devices that communicate with each other. We’ve heard from artist Will.i.am about how this sort of thing might change music. Also from a company called SmartThings and the CEO of Cisco, about how smart devices in the home could revolutionize everything from reading electricity meters to kitchen appliances. Today it’s something even closer to the heart: How medicine could be transformed by smart devices.

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New Reform Analogy at National Policy Conference
California Healthline

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius offered a new analogy for health care reform this week, setting the tone and sparking feedback — positive and negative — at the National Health Policy Conference hosted by AcademyHealth.

“I think of this as synchronized swimming. There’s a lot of focus on bathing caps, but there are a lot of things happening under the surface,” Sebelius said. The shift to electronic health records, preparation for expanding Medicaid and payment reform are examples of changes under way below the surface, Sebelius said.

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Potrero Hill is the best site for Kaiser
San Francisco Chronicle

Kaiser Permanente’s mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve.

As part of our commitment to San Francisco, we are working with the city to create a more decentralized approach to providing health care services. Today, the vast majority of our doctors and nurses are at our campus on Divisadero Street and Geary Boulevard. This new initiative will better serve residents throughout the city by making it easier for them to get their care closer to where they live and work.

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Blog: Tardy regs will have lingering effect
Modern Healthcare

The administration has shrugged off attacks for its delays on issuing Obamacare regulations. But you’d think they would have been more timely on the Basic Health Program regs, whose postponed implementation will have a major impact on the law’s coverage expansion.

The BHP was designed to provide coverage assistance program for people with incomes too high for Medicaid but who cannot afford exchange coverage, even with subsidies. An HHS guidance document released this week put off proposed rules until sometime later this year and implementation of the program until 2015. That’s a year later than originally planned.

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