News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Providers Awaken to Day One of Sequestration
Health Leaders Media

The deadline has passed and the doomsday scenario of federal budget cuts that were designed to be too painful to contemplate are about to kick in. The across-the-board cleaver cuts will lop $1.2 trillion off the federal budget over the next nine years, averaging more than $109 billion each year. This includes $11 billion in Medicare funding in 2013 in the form of 2% reimbursement cuts that started March 1.

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Hoag, St. Joseph complete alliance
Orange County Register

St. Joseph Health and Hoag Hospital have formalized a partnership to streamline health care in Orange County with the creation of Covenant Health Network, hospital officials announced Thursday. The state attorney general’s office has approved the so-called “affiliation” that will bring together the resources of Hoag’s hospitals in Newport Beach and Irvine with St. Joseph’s hospitals in Orange, Mission Viejo, Fullerton and Laguna Beach.

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Another Big Step in Reshaping Health Care
The Wall Street Journal

Hospitals and health insurers are locking horns over how much health-care providers will get paid under new insurance plans that will be sold as the federal health law is rolled out.

The results will play a major role in determining how much insurers will ultimately charge consumers for these policies, which will be offered to individuals through so-called exchanges in each state.

The upshot: Many plans sold on the exchanges will include smaller choices of health-care providers in an effort to bring down premiums.

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30-Day Readmission Rates Fell in 2012
Health Leaders Media

The threat of penalties as high as 3% of a hospital’s Medicare reimbursement has prompted encouraging reductions in costly readmissions, a top representative of the Obama administration told the Senate Finance Committee yesterday. Jonathan Blum, acting principal deputy administrator and director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in prepared remarks, touted “a decrease in the rate of patients returning to the hospital after being discharged.

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Hoag, St. Joseph finalize deal to create new system
Modern Healthcare

A Southern California health system and a nearby hospital have finalized a deal to create a new health system. Executives with St. Joseph Health, Orange, Calif., and Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, in Newport Beach, Calif., said some details of the deal were not yet final, but the transaction would consolidate control over operations and strategy for five St. Joseph Hospitals and two Hoag hospitals under the new system, Covenant Health Network.

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Health law’s rules help hospitals cut patient readmission rate
Washington Post

Over the past several months, America’s hospitals have achieved a feat that long seemed beyond reach: substantially reducing the share of patients who must return for treatment almost as soon as they are discharged.

According to statistics compiled by the Obama administration, the nationwide rate of hospital readmissions of Medicare patients within 30 days of discharge declined to about 17.8 percent by last November after remaining stuck near 19 percent over the five years that the data has been collected, and likely for decades prior to that.

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Reform is curbing readmissions, CMS says
Modern Healthcare

The Obama administration says provisions of the healthcare reform law have led to fewer Medicare patients returning to hospitals within 30 days of discharge.

Readmission rates fell to 17.8% of Medicare hospitalizations in November 2012 after averaging 19% in the past five years, according to the CMS. The improvement meant 70,000 fewer readmissions last year, the agency said.

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Calif. lawmakers moving on health insurance rules
San Francisco Chronicle

California lawmakers took the first step Thursday toward passing new consumer protections, such as guaranteeing coverage even with pre-existing conditions, under the federal health care overhaul. Democrats in both houses of the Legislature passed bills dealing with individual insurance regulations that would prevent insurers from discriminating and overcharging customers.

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Annual Medicare, Medicaid spending in California tops $100 billion
Sacramento Bee

Government health spending in California now exceeds the size of the entire state general fund budget.

The federal and state government spent $46 billion on Medicaid (Medi-Cal), a health care program for the poor, and the federal government spent $59 billion on Medicare, a health care program for the elderly, in 2011, according to recent estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s roughly $2,800 per California resident.

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Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital loses another potential CEO
Monterey Herald

Forgive Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital officials if they feel a little like a jilted lover.

For the third time in the past three months, a prospective top administrator has rejected the hospital, this time with just hours to go before the board was set to consider final approval of the new CEO hire. Wednesday night, officials’ pick to run the 60-year-old public district hospital — Southern California hospital executive Matt Gerlach — called to say thanks, but no thanks.

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New Legislation Defining Hospital Charity Care Spending Draws Immediate Response From Advocacy Groups
Long Beach Business Journal

The California State Assembly began reviewing this week a bill that is sparking controversy among healthcare advocacy groups though it is still in the drafting process. Assemblymembers Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) and Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced to the chamber on February 22 Assembly Bill (AB) 975, which would establish a standard definition of charity care upon implementation of President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2014.

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Local health assessment finds health gaps
Tahoe Daily Tribune

Analysis of the Community Health Needs Assessment indicated that substance abuse, limited health care access and mental health are the top three medical issues in the South Shore, according to a presentation by Barton Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Clint Purvance.

Barton Memorial Hospital posted the assessment online in September 2012 as a way to identify health gaps throughout South Lake Tahoe and portions of El Dorado and Douglas counties.

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California is rebuilding health care midflight
Sacramento Business Journal

If you think that the business community has a ton of questions about Covered California, the state’s health benefit exchange that goes into effect Jan. 1, you should see what health officials themselves are wondering. The frenzied pace of building the state’s cornerstone of health care from scratch was bared to all who attended the Business Journal’s “The Future of Health Care” event Thursday morning at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento.

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O’Connor Hospital in San Jose stages open house at its wound care clinic
The Mercury News

O’Connor Hospital is marking the 20th anniversary of its wound care clinic on March 7 with an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. When the clinic opened its doors in 1993, the staff welcomed a single patient. Two decades later they see some 700 people per month and boast a successful healing rate of more than 90 percent. Care has changed dramatically as well from the days when amputations were common in the field.

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Dedication of Community Health Centers’ new Nipomo clinic set for Friday
San Luis Obispo Tribune

Community Health Centers of the Central Coast will hold a grand opening Friday for a new 28,000-square-foot facility in Nipomo, which will offer internal medicine specialists, a full-time pediatrics team, vision and optometry services and dental care. At the same time, the nonprofit is introducing a new approach toward its patient care by putting more services in one location, CEO Ron Castle said Thursday.

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Students, Congressmembers Call for UC Healthcare Reform
Daily Nexus

University of California President Mark Yudof stated that the UC is considering removing the cap on UC student health insurance, after Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Lois Capps and eight other congressional representatives submitted a request last Friday. As a self-funded insurance plan, UC SHIP is precluded from a ban on health insurance caps mandated by the U.S. Affordable Care Act. However, over 7,000 students have signed a petition calling for the cap’s removal after a story surfaced about a UC Berkeley student who was almost forced to stop chemotherapy sessions when he reached the maximum amount of care.

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San Francisco surgery program marks 20 years of providing free services
San Francisco Examiner

Two decades ago at the Mel’s Drive-In on Geary Boulevard, two doctors began meeting weekly to discuss how empty hospitals could be used on weekends to provide health care for people in need. Eventually, the surgeons sketched out a business plan on a napkin.

Since then, Doug Grey and William Schecter’s rough concept has become a solid reality that has provided free surgeries for thousands of people across the Bay Area.

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Sutter hospitals lauded as tops in the nation
Daily Democrat

Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento and Sutter Davis Hospital has been named two of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitalsby Truven Health Analytics, formerly the health-care business of Thomson Reuters. The two Sutter hospitals were the only winners of the 100 Top Hospitals award in the Sacramento region. Truven Health Analytics is a leading provider of information and solutions to improve the cost and quality of health care.

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State must ease sign-up for health coverage
Sacramento Bee

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, requires individuals to have health insurance starting in January 2014. Yet with just eight months to go before an October online launch to get people signed up, much remains to be done to revamp an enrollment system that is antiquated and heavy on paperwork. By January 2014, Californians who currently don’t get insurance through an employer or can’t afford individual market insurance will be able to apply for coverage through the state.

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Big Data: Kaiser Permanente Ventures invests in health care data warehouse company
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente Ventures and CHV Capital participated in an $8 million “extension” of an earlier Series B investment round in Health Catalyst, the Salt Lake City-based company said Thursday. Kaiser Permanente Ventures is a venture fund affiliated with Oakland health care giant Kaiser Permanente; CHV Capital is linked to Indiana University Health, and Health Catalyst helps health companies sift through vast amounts of data to isolate relevant trends and opportunities.

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