News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Weak Link Found Between Readmissions, Mortality
Health Leaders Media

Hospital and policy leaders who complain that federal penalties for higher 30-day readmissions may have the unintended consequence of leading to more patient deaths, or that liberal readmissions practices actually prevent mortality, are largely incorrect. That’s the conclusion from Yale University School of Medicine readmission expert Harlan Krumholz, MD, and colleagues, as reported in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Moody’s: Nonprofit Healthcare Debt Sees Record Downgrade
Health Leaders Media

Moody’s Investors Service’s dollar value downgrade of not-for-profit healthcare debt increased by 213% in 2012—the largest one-year drop by the rating agency since it began tracking the sector in 1995.

In total, a record $20 billion in not-for-profit debt was downgraded in 2012 by Moody’s compared with a $6.4 billion downgrade in 2011.

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EHR pay boosts revenue but it’s beginning to ebb
Modern Healthcare

Incentive payments for electronic health records continued to rev up earnings reports last quarter, but the train may be slowing.

Analysts who cover for-profit health systems pointed out that in many cases, EHR incentive payments came in higher than expected, but the impact was not as great as the previous year. In addition, the guidance from publicly traded providers anticipates even smaller payments for 2013.

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Hospitals see gains against some infections: CDC
Modern Healthcare

The latest infection-tracking report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought encouraging news on some fronts but less progress on others. According to the 40-page report, released Feb. 11, U.S. hospitals reported 18,113 central line-associated bloodstream infections during 2011, far fewer than the 30,616 infections that were expected for that year, based on previous data. Additionally, central line infections have fallen 41% since 2008, the CDC said.

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Government says it recovers billions in health fraud crackdown
Los Angeles Times

The federal government recovered a record $4.2 billion in the last fiscal year from medical providers and others who fraudulently billed government healthcare programs such as Medicare, the Obama administration announced Monday.

The 2012 tally — which surpassed the $4.1 billion the government reclaimed the previous fiscal year — extends a years-long trend and reflects efforts by the Obama administration to crack down on healthcare fraud.

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No strong link between readmissions, mortality: study
Modern Healthcare

Researchers have failed to find evidence of a strong link between hospital readmission rates and mortality rates, calling into question concerns that the two might be inversely related.

For the study, which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers examined three years of Medicare data, assessing 30-day readmission and mortality rates among patients hospitalized with heart attack, pneumonia and heart failure. They found no relationship between readmissions and mortality for heart attack and pneumonia patients and only a weak association for heart failure patients.

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Record number of debt downgrades for not-for-profits in 2012: Moody’s
Modern Healthcare

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded a record amount of debt held by not-for-profit healthcare providers last year as concerns mounted about weakening inpatient volume and reimbursement. The downgrades on the not-for-profit side contrast with more optimism seen among publicly-traded hospital operators, which have recorded significant gains in their share prices over the past 13 months. Yet Moody’s noted that it downgraded $20 billion in not-for-profit healthcare debt in 2012, more than twice in the previous year, when it downgraded $6.4 billion.

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California reveals details of health-law insurance plans
Los Angeles Times

Consumers are getting their first glimpse at what health insurance will look like in California as the state prepares to implement the federal healthcare law.

On Wednesday, state officials will spell out the details on policies available next year to people buying their own coverage. In January 2014, most Americans will be required to have health insurance or face a penalty.

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UC Irvine students protest health insurance cap
Orange County Register

In the six months that Beck Wehrle has been a student at UC Irvine, he’s racked up nearly $50,000 in medical bills. Wehrle was treated four times for strep throat in fall, and then on Christmas Day, underwent emergency surgery for appendicitis at a cost of $41,000. “I’ve been really unlucky lately; it feels like pretty much every weekend, I’ve been sick,” said Wehrle, 26, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology. “I hope I’ll be healthier, not just for the sake of, it’s nice to be healthy, but because of the lifetime limit.”

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Rally pushes for single-payer, universal health care
Sacramento Business Journal

“Everybody in, nobody out” was the chant by a couple hundred people gathered at the Capitol at noon on Monday to rally for a single-payer, universal health care system in California. Some have unsuccessfully rallied in Sacramento for eight years, only to see the initiative flounder before lawmakers or be vetoed. In the meantime, focus has turned to President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul.

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WellPoint Picks New CEO
San Francisco Chronicle

On Tuesday, the nation’s second biggest health insurer, WellPoint , announced that several months after Chief Executive Officer Angela Braly’s resignation last year, it’s settled upon a new CEO to lead the organization. Effective March 25, 61-year-old Trinity Health President and CEO Joseph Swedish will move to WellPoint to take the helm from current interim CEO John Cannon. Cannon, in turn, will return to his former role as executive vice president of legal and public affairs.

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WellPoint names hospital executive Swedish new CEO
San Francisco Chronicle

Health insurer WellPoint Inc. surprised analysts and investors Tuesday when it announced that a veteran hospital executive who has never run a public company will become its next CEO. The Indianapolis company said after markets closed that Trinity Health Corp. CEO Joseph Swedish will take over March 25, replacing interim CEO John Cannon. Swedish, 61, will be charged with guiding the nation’s second-largest health insurer through sweeping changes, as the industry prepares to cover millions of newly insured people who gain coverage under the health care overhaul.

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Health insurer WellPoint names Joseph Swedish as CEO
Yahoo! News

WellPoint Inc named Joseph Swedish, the top executive in a large non-profit hospital system, as the health insurer’s new chief executive officer after a half-year search that began when former CEO Angela Braly abruptly stepped down in August. The No.2 U.S. health insurer faces a challenging year in healthcare reform as the Affordable Care Act brings more changes in 2014, including the introduction of electronic marketplaces where insurers will sell directly to consumers.

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Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital names new CEO
Santa Cruz Sentinel

After months of searching, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital announced Tuesday it has hired a new CEO after the hospital’s previous chief left in a cloud of controversy.

Matt Gerlach, 57, is a career health care administrator whose background includes top positions at several Southern California hospitals, most recently as vice president and chief operating officer at Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center.

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Hospital to get permanent oversight
RecordNet

The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to create a new governing board to oversee San Joaquin General Hospital, a move county officials said would help keep the public hospital financially sound in the rapidly shifting and ever-competitive world of health care.

“We have to build a better mousetrap,” Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller said. “We just have to be smarter, quicker, and we have to be able to react to the changes that are going to be coming at us.”

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Norovirus suspected of sickening dozens of seniors in care facilities
Sacramento Bee

A possible norovirus outbreak has sickened almost 40 older adults at two assisted living facilities in Sacramento, county public health officials have confirmed. One patient was sent to an emergency room.

Only three of the older adults remained ill Tuesday, says Lisa Schumann, executive director of the Carlton Plaza Sacramento and the Crown Plaza Sacramento, the two Fulton Avenue facilities where the potential outbreak occurred.

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Can accountable care organizations reign in health-care costs?
HealthyCal.org

Coordination and effective use of existing resources can save money. That’s the idea behind the push for innovations built into the health care reform law, like electronic health records, pay for performance and accountable care organizations. But it’s unlikely that any of these innovations will be a silver bullet in the battle against rising health care costs, including accountable care organizations. Those familiar with the provider conglomerates say they may not be as much of a cure-all as health-care reform suggests.

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Obama address light on details for reforming Medicare
Modern Healthcare

In the first State of the Union address of his second term, President Barack Obama acknowledged the biggest driver of the nation’s long-term debt is the rising cost of healthcare for an aging population, but proceeded to offer very few specifics on the type of Medicare reforms he’s willing to make to sustain the decades-old federal program.

Vowing to “reignite the true engine of economic growth—a rising, thriving middle class,” the president said that task must start with making basic decisions about the nation’s budget, which in turn will have a significant impact on the economy.

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Adults not keeping up with vaccinations
San Francisco Chronicle

Americans seem to be putting their children’s health ahead of their own – at least when it comes to keeping up with vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 90 percent of children under age 3 have received the recommended inoculations for diseases like polio, measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis. But far fewer adults are up to date on vaccines, including tetanus shots, which are recommended for everyone, and vaccines against hepatitis A and B, pneumonia, HPV and shingles, which are recommended for people of certain ages or certain risk factors.

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Classy gowns for cancer treatment
San Francisco Chronicle

When Maria Lucas underwent radiation for breast cancer, she said her doctors, the hospital and the radiation center had everything covered. Except her back end. “I had counseling and nutritional counseling. I got three free months at the local fitness center,” said Lucas, 52, of Napa, who was diagnosed in late 2010 and underwent a lumpectomy to remove the tumor, follow-up surgery to take out any remaining cancer cells in surrounding tissue and radiation in 2011. “They just give you everything, but then they give you this crappy, open-in-the-back hospital gown.”

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Help wanted: California exchange product guru
LifeHealthPRO

The California Health Benefit Exchange board is looking to hire a director of product development and sales for the Web-based health insurance supermarket program.

The product development chief would be in charge of managing contracts with the participating health plans, setting quality and performance standards, and overseeing sales and marketing of both individual and small group plans.

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$2 billion Medicaid program helps mostly illegal immigrants
Modesto Bee

During the debate over the 2010 federal health care overhaul, Democrats promised that illegal immigrants wouldn’t be among the 27 million people who’d gain coverage. President Barack Obama repeated that pledge last month when he outlined his immigration plan. But while federal law generally bars illegal immigrants from being covered by Medicaid, a little-known part of the state-federal health insurance program for the poor pays about $2 billion a year for emergency treatment for a group of patients who, according to hospitals, mostly comprise illegal immigrants.

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Mislabeling Medical Illness
The Health Care Blog

Many readers of my previous blog listing the 10 worst suggestions in DSM 5 were shocked that I failed to mention an 11th dangerous mistake — that DSM-5 will harm people who are medically ill by mislabeling their medical problems as mental disorder. They are absolutely right. I apologize for my previous failure to attend to this danger and hope it is not now too late to influence the process. Adding to the woes of the medically ill could be one of the biggest problems caused by DSM-5.

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