News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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White House: Obama opposes higher age for Medicare
Modern Healthcare

The White House says President Barack Obama opposes raising the eligibility age for Medicare, an idea he once was willing to consider in budget negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner.

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday said Obama “has made clear that we don’t believe that that’s the right policy to take.” Obama in the summer of 2011 was open to raising the age for Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67 over time as part of a large deficit reduction package. But he has since backed off, and Carney’s remarks Monday were meant to end any speculation.

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HIMSS to CMS: Move forward with ICD-10
Modern Healthcare

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the Chicago-based trade group for health information technology developers and users, has encouraged the CMS to stay the course on nationwide adoption of ICD-10.

In a four-page letter to CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and signed by HIMSS President and CEO H. Stephen Lieber and board Chairwoman Willa Fields, a professor in the school of nursing at San Diego State University, the pair urged the CMS “to give a strong message to the industry that ICD-10 has already been thoroughly vetted, will be implemented on the (Oct. 1, 2014) regulatory date, and that we must move forward with the nationwide implementation.”

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Observation units may ease burdens of ER care, but benefits to patients come at a price
Washington Post

A growing number of hospitals are opting to move some people from the emergency room into observation units where they can undergo further monitoring or testing before doctors decide whether they should be released or admitted. More than a third of hospitals report having such units today, a number that has doubled since 2003. But many hospitals and insurers haven’t set up their clinical and billing systems or their insurance contracts with these patients in mind.

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Hoag, St. Joseph Get Conditional Approval on Network
Orange County Business Journal

Newport Beach-based Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and Orange-based St. Joseph Health have received conditional approval from the California Attorney General’s office to develop an integrated regional healthcare delivery network.

The office of Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office sent a letter outlining certain conditions, including requiring the network to submit a detailed report on the specific steps they are taking to create a health systems, and for Hoag to provide community benefit services to the needy equal to or greater than $9.5 million for six years after the affiliation agreement’s closing date.

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California Hospital Association Launches Statewide Quality Institute
Becker's Hospital Review

The California Hospital Association announced it and regional hospital associations have launched a statewide organization to improve quality in California hospitals. The regional associations — Hospital Council of Northern & Central California, Hospital Association of Southern California and Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties — and CHA created the Hospital Quality Institute to support and align patient safety and quality improvement activities in hospitals throughout the state. As such, HQI will include all of the associations’ existing patient safety and quality improvement activities.

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Wild hospital cost disparities revealed
San Francisco Chronicle

Jaime Rosenthal, a senior at Washington University in St. Louis, called more than 100 hospitals in every state last summer, seeking prices for a hip replacement for a 62-year-old grandmother who was uninsured but had the means to pay herself. The quotes she received might surprise even hardened health care economists: Only about half of the hospitals, including top-ranked orthopedic centers and community hospitals, could provide any sort of price estimate, despite repeated calls.

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Need surgery? Good luck getting hospital cost info
San Mateo Daily Journal

Want to know how much a hip replacement will cost? Many hospitals won’t be able to tell you, at least not right away — if at all. And if you shop around and find centers that can quote a price, the amounts could vary astronomically, a study found.

Routine hip replacement surgery on a healthy patient without insurance may cost as little as $11,000 — or up to nearly $126,000. That’s what researchers found after calling hospitals in every state, 122 in all, asking what a healthy 62-year-old woman would have to pay to get an artificial hip. Hospitals were told the made-up patient was the caller’s grandmother, had no insurance but could afford to pay out of pocket — that’s why knowing the cost information ahead of time was so important.

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Need hip replaced? Prices prove elusive
Sacramento Bee

Jaime Rosenthal, a senior at Washington University in St. Louis, called more than 100 hospitals in every state last summer, seeking prices for a hip replacement for a 62-year-old grandmother who was uninsured but had the means to pay herself.

The quotes she received might surprise even hardened health care economists: Only about half of the hospitals, including top-ranked orthopedic centers and community hospitals, could provide any sort of price estimate, despite repeated calls. Those that could gave quotes that varied by a factor of more than 10, from $11,100 to $125,798.

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Hip surgery prices hard to obtain: study
Modern Healthcare

Hip replacement surgery prices varied by more than $110,000 across the U.S.—at least, for hospitals and physician offices that provided prices when asked, a newly published survey shows. Not all hospitals surveyed provided prices, and among those that did, not all could quote the price for hospital and physician fees, and some did so only after repeated phone calls, researchers wrote in Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine online.

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Hospitals failing to curb readmissions: study
Modern Healthcare

Hospital readmission rates among Medicare patients held stubbornly steady from 2008 to 2010, despite increasing federal attention and attempts by providers to address the issue. That’s according to a report from the Washington-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which found that 30-day readmission rates had remained “virtually unchanged” throughout the two-year period. The 60-page report, produced by researchers from the Dartmouth Atlas Project, used Medicare data to conclude that the national readmission rate in 2010—15.9%—was the same as it was in 2004.

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$4.2B recovered in probing healthcare fraud
Modern Healthcare

The government says it recovered almost $8 for each dollar it spent investigating healthcare fraud over the past three years, including a record $4.2 billion last year.

The $7.90 average return on investment is the highest in the 16-year history of the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Program. Since 1997, the program — a joint effort of the departments of Justice and HHS—has returned more than $23 billion to the Medicare trust funds.

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DOJ, HHS Announce $4.2B in Medicare Fraud Recoveries
Health Leaders Media

For every dollar spent investigating Medicare fraud and abuse in the last three years the federal government recovered $7.90. That return on investment is the highest three-year average in the 16-year history of the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Program, federal officials announced on Monday.

“Our historic effort to take on the criminals who steal from Medicare and Medicaid is paying off: We are gaining the upper hand in our fight against healthcare fraud,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in prepared remarks.

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In Medicaid, a New Health-Care Fight
The Wall Street Journal

Employers in several states are bracing for higher health-care costs as some governors, worried about the impact on state budgets from the federal overhaul, resist a planned Medicaid expansion. Under the new law, lower-paid workers at companies such as the Nashville, Tenn.-based chain of Captain D’s seafood restaurants could qualify for the national expansion of Medicaid set to begin in 2014.

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Conflict policies vary for Medicaid drug panels: study
Modern Healthcare

Some state policies may not protect Medicaid drug selection decisions against conflicts of interests and industry influence, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study’s authors found that conflict-of-interest policies vary among the state committees that make decisions about what drugs are included on a state’s formulary. Thirty-three percent of the states had written policies, while seven states did not address conflicts of interest at all in their drug-selection policy documents.

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Baby boomers in worse health than their parents at the same life stage, study says
Washington Post

Members of the baby boomer generation are in worse health than their parents were at the same stage of life, with obesity and lack of exercise taking a toll, according to a new study. About 13 percent of baby boomers — the generation born in the two decades after World War II — reported being in “excellent” health in middle age. That compares with 32 percent of the previous generation who said the same thing at the same stage of life, researchers reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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ER crowding may spur PTSD symptoms in heart patients: study
Modern Healthcare

A crowded emergency department may be causing problems beyond the logistics of triaging and treating those patients. It may be causing new medical conditions for some patients that lead to readmission or death, researchers found. The chaos of a crowded ED may be giving heart-attack patients symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which in turn may lead to more heart attacks or other problems, according to a research letter published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

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Federal medical inflation slows
Sacramento Bee

A sharp and surprisingly persistent slowdown in the growth of health care costs is helping to narrow the federal deficit, leaving budget experts trying to figure out whether the trend will last and how much the slower growth could help to alleviate the country’s long-term fiscal problems.

In figures released last week, the Congressional Budget Office said it had erased hundreds of billions of dollars in projected spending on Medicare and Medicaid.

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Tax help comes with health insurance advice
Los Angeles Times

Derrick Bean filed his income taxes at an H&R Block office in Los Angeles this month, and the 26-year-old left with something unexpected: a price quote on federally subsidized health insurance.

Using the information from his 2012 return, a tax advisor told the actor and waiter that he would qualify for significant government help and pay only about $65 a month in premiums under the federal healthcare law. If he skips coverage, H&R Block warned him, he faces a $95 tax penalty next year and $356 the following year.

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SLO County Democrats to host California’s insurance commissioner
San Luis Obispo Tribune

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones will come to the Central Coast on March 8 to meet with local Democrats and talk about how the state intends to implement the federal Affordable Care Act.

The state’s top environment official, Resources Secretary John Laird, also will be on hand at the Democrats’ second annual “Dining with the Stars” event at the Gardens of Avila Restaurant at Sycamore Mineral Springs in Avila Beach.

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Dartmouth Readmissions Report Shows Scant Progress
Health Leaders Media

Despite widespread acknowledgement of the need to reduce hospital readmissions, only slight progress was made in reducing rates of 30-day readmissions among Medicare patients between 2008 and 2010. That’s according to “The Revolving Door Syndrome,” the latest report on hospital readmissions from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, which again points to the highly variable rates even within types of patients within a hospital, or hospitals within a city or state.

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SVMH decides on new CEO but won’t disclose his name
The Californian - Salinas

The Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System board voted to hire a new chief executive officer Monday night but would not disclose his identity.

Earlier Monday, however, The Californian identified through sources familiar with the search process that Pete Delgado, chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County-USC HealthcareNetwork, and Matt Gerlach, vice president and chief operating officer at Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, were the two finalists for the SVMH chief executive job.

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Midtown Medical changes name to Elica Health Centers
Sacramento Business Journal

Midtown Medical Center for Children and Families, a nonprofit clinic that became Sacramento’s newest federally qualified health center last year, has changed its name to Elica Health Centers. One reason the clinic changed its name is that it currently has two sites — one on J Street in midtown and the other in West Sacramento — and is poised for more growth to meet demand when hundreds of additional patients gain access to care under federal health reform in 2014.

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UC Davis names interim replacement for Pomeroy
Sacramento Business Journal

Tom Nesbitt has agreed to serve as interim vice chancellor of human health sciences and interim dean of the School Of Medicine when Dr. Claire Pomeroy steps down June 2, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi announced Monday. A board certified family physician, he oversees the telemedicine program at UC Davis as associate vice chancellor for strategic technologies and alliances. Nesbitt will step down from the interim position when a new executive is selected.

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Health care is hot!
Times-Standard

Changes in our health care system are a hotly debated topic of discussion. Laws are being passed and then repealed, programs are being created and then canceled, as politicians bicker about whose side is going to win. Strong opinions are held and loudly proclaimed. Are any of them speaking with your voice? Are your opinions being sought and considered by those in power? Is there any way you, as a patient, can influence the way your care is delivered? This is a very emotional issue. These changes affect you and your doctor. Do you have a say in what goes on in your doctor’s office?

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The Patient Is In: Listening To Low-Income Californians
HealthAffairs Blog

The dramatic expansions in health insurance coverage included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will give millions of low-income Americans greater choice in where and how they receive their health care. Until now, most of the discussion around our changing healthcare landscape has focused on the goals of payers and providers, rather than the needs and desires of patients. Although policymakers have emphasized the importance — and necessity — of engaging patients differently under reform, there have been few data to inform these discussions.

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