News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Analysis: Obama, GOP see no need to stop the cuts
Modern Healthcare

Unlike in earlier rounds of budget brinkmanship, President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans both seem content to fight out their latest showdown on the current terrain, let across-the-board spending cuts take effect on March 1 and allow them to stay in place for weeks if not much longer.

This time, there is no market-rattling threat of a government default to force the two sides to compromise, no federal shutdown on the short-term horizon and no year-end deadline for preventing a tax increase for every working American.

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Final reform-law insurance regs released
Modern Healthcare

Final rules implementing individual and group insurance market reforms under the healthcare reform law were issued Friday.

The highly anticipated regulations generally will bar insurance companies from charging higher rates or denying coverage to applicants with pre-existing conditions. The final rules for insurance plans providing coverage in 2014 were little changed from a proposed rule published Nov. 26 in the Federal Register.

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HHS braces for sequester cuts
Modern Healthcare

HHS is bracing itself for the automatic federal budget cuts set to take effect next week, but it does not have a projection of how many department employees will be affected by the spending reductions.

Unless Congress reaches a budget agreement by March 1, $85 billion in spending cuts to defense and nondefense programs will kick in for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends in September. Known as sequestration, the budget reductions are part of the $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts to federal programs over 10 years that Congress agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

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Jerry Brown wants wiggle room from feds on healthcare
Los Angeles Times

Gov. Jerry Brown said implementation of the new federal healthcare law is at the top of his agenda as he meets with other governors in the nation’s capital this weekend. In particular, Brown hopes to coordinate with other state leaders about how to expand coverage to the poor under the federal Medicaid program. Speaking to reporters at the National Governors Assn. winter meetings in Washington on Saturday, Brown said he wants to “build support among the governors for an appropriate state rule in the Medicaid expansion.”

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Jerry Brown presses Washington for ‘broad authority’ on health care
Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown said today that he remains concerned about California’s ability to control costs as the state moves to expand health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, seeking assurances from the Obama administration that California will have “broad authority” to curb future spending.

“We need to be able to control costs, period,” the Democratic governor told reporters at a meeting of the National Governors Association. “And the federal government has the tendency to send out broad mandates and limit the state’s authority, and then we have to come hat in hand and say, ‘Please, let us manage this thing that you have thrust on us.’”

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California will test new health-care model
Sacramento Business Journal

California has been awarded a federal grant of $2.7 million to design a new model of government health care payment, state health officials announced Thursday. The grant will be used to produce a state plan to improve health care quality and reward value instead of volume by changing the payment structure.

One possible method is to bundle payments to cover an entire episode of care rather than paying for each treatment and test.

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Rate of employer health insurance coverage stabilizes
Yahoo! News

Less than half of adults received health insurance through their employer in 2012, but the market showed signs of stabilizing after three years of decline, according to a poll released on Friday. The Gallup survey said employer-sponsored insurance, long a pillar of the $2.8-trillion U.S. healthcare system, covered just under 45 percent of U.S. adults last year, down from about 49 percent in 2008, when the economy was engulfed by recession.

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Long-term care rate hike stuns retirees
San Francisco Chronicle

When Marie Benedetto opened her mail last week and learned her long-term care premium was going up a stunning 85 percent, she did what a retired math teacher would do. She made a spreadsheet. Benedetto calculated she’d have to spend $1,328 a month or $15,936 a year for the policy after the increase goes into effect. That added up to a 415 percent increase in premiums since she first purchased the policy in 1997.

For Benedetto, the rate increase makes her policy unaffordable. “It’s not like Social Security or my teacher retirement is going to increase to cover those costs,” said Benedetto, 69, of San Francisco.

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S.J. medical scene seeing big changes
RecordNet

Dramatic changes are on the horizon for San Joaquin County’s medical landscape. Health care is a dynamic industry and new developments are ramping up – fast.

It’s not a stretch to think that, a year from now, we could look back on 2013 as the year that kicked off the most monumental transformation in health care in the county since Dr. Christopher Grattan opened Stockton’s first hospital in 1849. Consider these facts:

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Healthcare Imaging Strategies Not Exactly a Snap
Health Leaders Media

Talk about enterprise imaging, and you’re likely to witness some pained expressions from healthcare CIOs.

In recent years, the healthcare information technology industry has been particularly innovative when it comes to creating images. Picture archiving and communications systems are in every radiology department, and mini-PACS have proliferated in many other specialty departments, everywhere from cardiology to pathology to dermatology. Meanwhile, tablet computers equipped with 5-megapixel cameras are in the hands of a large number of shutter-happy clinicians.

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Panel on Health Care Work Force, Lacking a Budget, Is Left Waiting
New York Times

One of the biggest threats to the success of President Obama’s health care law comes from shortages of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. But a 15-member commission created to investigate the problem has never met in two and a half years because it has no money from Congress or the administration.

“It’s like ‘Waiting for Godot,’ ” said Dr. Richard D. Krugman, the dean of the University of Colorado Medical School and a member of the commission. “We are sitting on a park bench, waiting for Godot. We’ll see if he shows up.”

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California hospitals report fewer early deliveries, data show
Los Angeles Times

California hospitals, under pressure to improve patient safety and cut unnecessary costs, reported a lower rate of early-elective deliveries last year, a new report shows.

Hospitals in the state reported that 8.8% of deliveries in 2012 were early by choice, including elective inductions or caesarean sections between 37 and 39 weeks without a medical reason, according to the Leapfrog Group, an employer-backed nonprofit group focused on healthcare quality.

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More than 1,000 receive free healthcare
The Press-Enterprise

They started lining up before midnight with severely decayed teeth, untreated diabetes and blurry vision. By the time a free one-day dental, health and vision clinic opened at 8 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, there were at least 500 people queued up outside the César Chávez Community Center on Riverside’s Eastside.

Inside, dentists, doctors, optometrists, nurses, acupuncturists and other volunteers — some who flew in from as far away as the Bay Area — were preparing for the onslaught of patients.

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Insurance official discusses health-care reform in Yuba-Sutter
The Appeal-Democrat

It’s complicated, it’s coming and it involves the federal government.

Daniel Kopti, compliance consultant with Wells Fargo Insurance Services, reviewed employer and employee challenges under federal health care reform, also called Obamacare, at a business breakfast Friday in Linda hosted by the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce.

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Medi-Cal history may be repeating
Sacramento Bee

Nearly 50 years ago, then-Gov. Pat Brown and the California Legislature took a giant leap of faith with an expansive new health care program for the state’s low-income residents that became known as Medi-Cal.

It was a leap of faith because, in reality, nobody knew how, or even whether, it would work. “No one in the world thought it through,” Gordon Duffy, who was then a freshman assemblyman and later became chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, recalled in a 2008 interview.

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F.D.A. Approves a New Drug for Advanced Breast Cancer
New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a new type of drug that combines the widely used breast cancer medicine Herceptin with a powerful toxin to more effectively kill cancer cells while potentially reducing side effects. The drug, which will be called Kadcyla but was known as T-DM1 during its development, extended the median survival of women with advanced breast cancer by nearly half a year in a clinical trial.

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Q&A: Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada looks at long-term care insurance
Sacramento Bee

Long-term care doesn’t come cheap – up to $72,000 a year in California nursing homes, a steep price tag that will provide sticker shock for the more than 70 percent of people age 65 and older who will require care at some point as they grow older.

So it’s not surprising that long-term care insurance was a hot, if costly, topic even before the California Public Employees’ Retirement System last week announced an 85 percent rate hike at the top tier for its current policy holders.

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Medicare spending makes me ill: Column
USA Today

I’m no expert on Medicare, but I’ve seen enough recently of what it’s paying for to gain a clear and troubling insight into why it’s projected to go broke in just 11 more years. What I’ve witnessed makes me want to scream a plea that when the politicians in Washington debate entitlement reform in the coming weeks, they’ll muster enough backbone to do something about it.

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Big health insurance rate hikes are plummeting
Washington Post

The number of double-digit rate increases requested by health insurers has plummeted over the past four years, according to a Friday report from the Obama administration.

Researchers combed through data available from the 15 states that publicly post all requests for rate increases in the individual market. They found that, in 2009, 74 percent of all requests came in above 10 percent.

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