News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Moody’s, S&P: For-Profit Hospitals’ Outlook Stable
Health Leaders Media

Despite looming 2% Medicare reimbursement cuts and other threats to the bottom line, two bond rating agencies this week issued a stable outlook for the nation’s for-profit hospital sector in 2013.

Moody’s Investors Service said its stable outlook reflects expectations for modest earnings growth over the next 12-18 months given the headwinds facing the sector.

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Blue Shield and Aetna to raise healthcare rates over state objections
Los Angeles Times

Despite objections from regulators, health insurers Blue Shield of California and Aetna Inc. are proceeding with double-digit rate increases that state officials said were unreasonable.

Officials at the California Department of Managed Health Care said increases that average more than 11% for about 47,000 individual and small-business policyholders of Blue Shield and Aetna were unreasonable.

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Docs who adopt EHRs may lose money: study
Modern Physician

According to a recent study, physicians who adopt electronic health-record systems risk losing money unless they make other changes to increase revenue and cut costs.

Julia Adler-Milstein, assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s schools of information and public health, along with colleagues from the University of Rochester (N.Y.) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, collected survey data to assess the return on investment in EHRs.

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Recession didn’t spur price increases at most not-for-profit hospitals: study
Modern Healthcare

Most not-for-profit hospitals did not offset investment losses from the Great Recession by raising prices, according to a new study. Its authors say the finding suggests private insurers may not pay the price as hospitals bear new cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.

Hospitals that saw large losses did, however, curtail investment in information technology and unprofitable services, which included trauma care and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, the authors wrote in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper.

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CPMC hospital deals good for San Francisco
San Francisco Examiner

After a long, contentious battle in which both sides walked away numerous times, a deal to build two new hospitals in San Francisco has been brokered, marking a win for everyone in The City.

The need for seismically safe hospitals is not likely to be at the forefront of people’s minds. But after a major earthquake, they will be needed. Some hospitals in San Francisco, such as Kaiser Permanente, already have been seismically upgraded, while other such upgrades are in the works.

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Healthcare costs can be tamed with IT, Clinton says
Modern Healthcare

Former President Bill Clinton told an overflow crowd at the annual Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society convention in New Orleans Wednesday that the main cause of the nation’s long-term budget problem is its healthcare costs, which are rising faster than the rates of growth in both population and economic output.

Healthcare reform was “a big political issue” in 2010 that politically “killed the people who were for it” in that year’s election, but “killed” those against it in 2012, Clinton said in his keynote speech.

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Medical tourism offers travel firms untapped growth
Yahoo! News

A dentist’s office may not be everyone’s idea of a perfect holiday destination. But a growing number of Europeans are travelling abroad for medical treatment to save money, or maybe to combine a visit to the doctor with some sightseeing, creating a fast-growing market that is still largely untapped by traditional tour operators. “It was simply cheaper for me to go to a dentist in Hungary,” said a 42-year-old physical therapist from Berlin, who did not want to give his name.

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Some Californians may seek health coverage outside of employer
Los Angeles Business Journal

Even if you have health insurance through your employer, there’s nothing stopping you from going to California’s health benefit exchange to seek better coverage. Covered California executive director Peter Lee tells Capital Public Radio that hundreds of thousands may sign up for coverage through the benefit exchange during its first few years. That’s likely if an employer’s coverage, which will be required under federal health reform, is not that good.

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The Radical Rethinking of Primary Care Starts Now
California Healthline

In November 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine convened a small roundtable to discuss “Redesigning Primary Care.” U.S. primary care is in crisis, the roundtable’s description reads. As a result … [the] ranks are thinning, with practicing physicians burning out and trainees shunning primary care fields. Nearly five years out — and dozens of reforms and pilots later — the primary care system’s condition may still be acute.

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California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones criticizes Blue Shield rate increases
Southern California Public Radio

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is criticizing Blue Shield of California for “unreasonable” rate hikes, a charge the insurer denies.

Jones will hold a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday to discuss the increases, which run as high as 19.9 percent. The new rates could affect about 268,000 Blue Shield policyholders, according to a statement issued by Jones’ office.

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Hospital agency has two board openings
San Diego Union-Tribune

The Tri-City Healthcare District is taking applications for people interested in filling two vacancies on its elected board of directors.

The open posts were created by different circumstances: Charlene Anderson resigned her post two months into her second term, while a Superior Court judge ordered newly elected board member Wayne Lingenfelter removed after ruling that he did not live in the district when he was elected.

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Breast Cancer Genetic Testing Gets Covered by Health Care Reform
Yahoo! News

Genetic testing for breast cancer will be covered under the Affordable Care Act, potentially saving women who need the test thousands of dollars. Today (March 6), Myriad Genetics, the company that makes the test for the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, said that the U.S. government considers these tests to be preventive services. This means that private insurance plans are required to cover the cost of the tests, including co-pays, deductibles and coinsurance, provided that the plans do not have a “grandfathered” status.

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Covered California’s plan to partner with Wal-Mart is criticized
Los Angeles Times

California officials face mounting criticism from union leaders over plans to let retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. enroll shoppers in President Obama’s healthcare expansion.

The state wants employees at Wal-Mart and other retailers to help consumers learn about their options and assist them in buying federally subsidized private insurance. These plans are part of state efforts to implement the federal healthcare law and reach out to 5 million Californians eligible for new coverage starting in January.

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Deputy Insurance Commissioner to Speak in Santa Barbara About Health-Care Reform
Noozhawk

Health-care reform is looming over state policymakers like a thick fog, and deciphering what the changes will mean for ordinary Californians through the haze remains difficult. South Coast women will get a chance this week to hear some of those details explained from one of the state commissioners working to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is slated to begin next January.

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For-profits expected to withstand Medicare cut
Modern Healthcare

Investor-owned hospital chains are expected to weather the impact of a 2% Medicare payment cut and other reimbursement pressures, according to credit rating agencies, which maintained a stable outlook on the sector.

In two reports released today, both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s highlighted an operating environment filled with payment constraints and challenges to revenue growth. But the for-profit systems are expected to find new ways to reduce costs and gain revenue streams, including through acquisitions.

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Healthy compromise aids S.F. hospitals
San Francisco Chronicle

Two new hospitals, less traffic and side benefits such as labor peace and health coverage for city workers are all covered in a compromise that ends one of San Francisco’s biggest land-use fights. The Sutter hospital chain reached a deal with city leaders that offers balance and moderation amid tricky local politics and the hazy future of health care. It took months of dickering between hospital executives and City Hall, but the result is a worthwhile product.

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ERs must find ways to operate more efficiently
Bakersfield Californian

Smiling faces beckon from the sides of city transit buses. Elaborate, polished marketing campaigns jump from the pages of glossy magazines. They all carry a singular message: We’re the one for you! Choose us.

Yet, when Bakersfield residents find themselves in true need of emergency room services at area hospitals, they — and the ambulance personnel transporting them — sometimes face a starker reality and a far different message: Sorry, we’re closed. You’ll have to go somewhere else.

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Most Online Patient Reviews Rate Doctors Highly. Really.
The Health Care Blog

In a world increasingly dominated by social media, doctors are becoming more concerned about managing their online reputations. Some doctors have even resorted to making their patients sign a gag order before treatment. Despite all the controversy, medical professionals need not fear online reviews: sites like Yahoo!

Local and Insider Pages show that the majority of patients rate their doctors 5 out of 5. At DocSpot, we help patients search across hundreds of different websites to find a doctor who meets their individual needs (for example if they need a primary care doctor who specializes in managing diabetes, or an experienced psychiatrist who accepts Aetna).

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Experts to policymakers: Remember women when you’re setting up insurance exchanges
Southern California Public Radio

Statewide insurance marketplaces will be one of the most visible effects of the Affordable Care Act, and a group of experts hope that policymakers remember women when they’re setting them up. Those experts wrote a report, which is a “checklist” of sorts and the result of a joint effort by the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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