News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Diabetes Costs Hit $245B in 2012
Health Leaders Media

The nearly 22.3 million Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes cost $245 billion in medical care and lost productivity in 2012, a 41% increase from the $174 billion estimate in 2007, the American Diabetes Association said.

The Association-commissioned study, Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2012, reported that five million more American adults and children were diagnosed with diabetes in the five years since the last estimate was released, a 27% increase from the 17.5 million diagnosed cases in 2007. Another 79 million Americans now have pre-diabetes, which puts them at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

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CMS, ONC seek input to widen info sharing
Modern Healthcare

The CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS are seeking public input on ways to broaden the reach of health information exchange to providers and patients not currently or only marginally sharing healthcare information electronically. A formal notice and request for information about the extra efforts has been published in the Federal Register. In particular, the joint request said, the lack of IT systems and, therefore, interoperability is most prevalent among long-term care, rehabilitation and psychiatric hospitals.

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Hospitals Fight MedPAC Plan to Reduce Outpatient Rates
Health Leaders Media

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission seems intent on issuing a recommendation that would reduce federal payments to hospital-based outpatient departments by nearly $1 billion a year for some 66 procedures. The reason: Those services are now provided in a physician’s office for less cost. But hospital representatives say the controversial “site-neutral payment plan,” would be a disaster for hospitals and patient access alike because hospitals depend on those extra funds to cover the uninsured, meet regulatory requirements, and be constantly equipped for emergencies.

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Medicare to cut device payout
San Diego Union-Tribune

Anyone who watches cable television knows the pitch: Seniors, you can order a fancy new scooter, and don’t worry about the cost. Medicare will foot the bill.

Starting July 1, Medicare will still pay, but less, much less, than it does now. That will save money for the government program, but firms that sell the scooters and other medical devices say it will threaten their businesses.

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Half of states have chosen benchmark insurance plan: report
Modern Healthcare

A little more than six months before open enrollment begins, 24 states and Washington, D.C., have chosen a benchmark plan that will determine what health insurers must cover in health plans sold in the state exchanges and individual and small-group markets, according to a new study from the Commonwealth Fund. In the rest of the country, the snapshot suggests, the federal government will model the minimum benefits on the largest small-group plan sold in the state.

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Judge dismisses Tri-City suit against Scripps
San Diego Union-Tribune

A judge has dismissed a patient poaching lawsuit filed in 2009 by Tri-City Medical Center against Scripps Health.

In a final ruling filed Feb. 22 and announced Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Earl H. Maas stated that Tri-City failed to show “unfair competition” or to “establish the existence of an actual controversy” between the two parties.

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Tri-City doc first in county to use new stent to treat peripheral artery disease
San Diego Union-Tribune

The tough thing about using stents to restore blood flow in the upper legs is that the treatment doesn’t tend to last long.

“I’ve had patients that I have treated seven or eight times,” said Dr. Richard Saxon, an interventional radiologist at Tri-City Medical Center. Saxon is the first doctor in San Diego County to gain access to a new kind of drug-coated stent designed to treat peripheral artery disease and prevent the renarrowing of the femoral artery, the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the thigh.

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UC Davis medical school climbs rankings for primary care
Sacramento Business Journal

The UC Davis School of Medicine made the top 20 in primary care among America’s medical schools in new rankings released Tuesday by U.S. News & World Report. The school ranked No. 19 in primary care, up the scale from No. 24 last year. UC Davis ranked No. 42 for research, the same as last year. “We’re very pleased,” said Dr. Mark Servis, vice dean for medical education at UC Davis.

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Merck Cholesterol Trial Can Continue
New York Times

Merck & Company said on Tuesday that an independent monitoring board would let it continue with a large clinical trial assessing the safety and effectiveness of its Vytorin cholesterol treatment. The panel’s decision suggested that no safety concerns had arisen for Vytorin.

The study, called Improve-It, will continue to its conclusion in September 2014, the drug maker said. The study is looking at whether Vytorin, with annual sales total $1.75 billion, can significantly reduce heart attacks, strokes and heart-related deaths compared with Merck’s older, generically available Zocor.

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Ryan’s budget plan cuts health reform
Modern Healthcare

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) proposed on Tuesday a spending blueprint that would repeal the 2010 healthcare overhaul and make fundamental changes to Medicare and Medicaid as part of an ambitious plan to balance the federal budget in 10 years.

The ideas are familiar ones. Proposals to turn Medicare into a premium-support program and Medicaid into a block-grant program were part of the House GOP’s last two budget proposals, neither of which moved beyond the House floor after the lower chamber passed the measures.

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L.A. Care Health Plan faces challenges of today and planning for ACA
HealthyCal.org

When Steven Sample’s health provider quit accepting Medi-Cal, he didn’t know where to turn until he heard about L.A. Care Health Plan at a meeting near where he lived in downtown Los Angeles at the time. Sample’s health emergency was a broken ankle he suffered stepping off a bus, and the injury required surgery. “They paid for it, everything,” Sample, 63 and unemployed, said while enjoying a cup of tea of at Gold Star Hamburger in Glendale.

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Senate bill leaves out funds for launching reform
Modern Healthcare

A new Senate funding bill omits resources the Obama administration sought to launch healthcare reform. The $984 billion bill, unveiled late Monday, would keep the government funded through Sept. 30 and avert a federal shutdown slated for March 27. The bipartisan measure avoided most provisions that would have drawn a Republican filibuster. That included $1 billion the White House had hoped to steer to the CMS for carrying out provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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ACHE Congress: Change and Caution Abundant
Health Leaders Media

One could be forgiven for mistaking the American College of Healthcare Executives’ 2013 Congress on Healthcare Leadership for a 2008 Obama For President campaign stop, as talk of hope and change have dominated conversations and presentations. More specifically, talk of mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, and the development of strategies to manage the health of populations represents the change hoped for by healthcare’s top leaders.

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F.D.A. Raises Heart Alert on Antibiotic in Wide Use
New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday toughened a warning it made last year about the potential risks of azithromycin, a commonly used antibiotic that can cause changes in the electrical activity of the heart that may lead to a fatal irregular heart rhythm in some patients.

The risks, which have been noted in the warning labels on the drug since March 2012, were quantified in greater detail in a study published last spring in the New England Journal of Medicine that was led by a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University.

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Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging Scripps deal
Modern Healthcare

A California judge has dismissed a lawsuit stemming from a turf war between two San Diego-area healthcare providers. In an order that ended a four-year legal fight, Judge Earl Maas of the Superior Court of California threw out the 2009 lawsuit that Tri-City Medical Center filed against competitor Scripps Health. Tri-City Medical, a 330-bed public hospital in Oceanside, about 40 miles north of San Diego, filed suit against Scripps Health after the four-hospital system based in San Diego acquired the former Sharp Mission Park medical group and subsequently hired 65 Tri-City physicians.

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Obamacare means more funding for Native American clinics
HealthyCal.org

Molin Malicay, director of the Sonoma County Indian Health Project clinic, has read all 976 pages of the Affordable Care Act—the legislation that created what’s become known as Obamacare. His copy has 46 tabs, each marking a point where Native Americans are mentioned. The country’s First Peoples are uniquely affected by the federal reforms. But because of federal responsibility for tribal health is already in place, individual Native Americans may not notice the effects of Obamacare as much as Native American clinic directors.

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Worksite health, medical clinics gaining ground with employers: Mercer
Modern Healthcare

Since the passage of the 2010 healthcare reform law, worksite health and medical clinics have seen modest but steady increases in popularity among large U.S. employers, according to a new study published Tuesday by Mercer.

New York-based Mercer’s most recent National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, released in November 2012 indicated 37% of firms with 5,000 or more employees reported they offer occupational and/or primary care services through an on-site clinic, compared with 32% in 2010.

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FDA adds heart risk warning to popular antibiotic
Modern Healthcare

The Food and Drug Administration is warning doctors and patients that a widely used antibiotic from Pfizer can cause rare but deadly heart rhythms in some patients.

The agency said Tuesday that it is adding new warnings to the label of Zithromax, which is commonly used to treat bronchitis, pneumonia and other infections.

Doctors should consider prescribing other antibiotics to patients at risk of heart problems, including those with irregular heartbeats or low levels of potassium or magnesium in their blood.

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California campaign pushes health care for undocumented immigrants
Sacramento Bee

A television advertising campaign was launched in Sacramento, Los Angeles and the Bay Area this week to include undocumented immigrants in California’s coming health-care reform. The 60-second ad is the first in a yearlong, multimillion-dollar campaign by the California Endowment, a statewide health-care foundation, to push for preventive care and a strong safety net for undocumented immigrants or other residents who cannot afford private health insurance.

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Feinstein fighting outrageous health insurance rate hikes
The Mercury News

Thirty three states have laws regulating insurance rates. Private insurers have had ample opportunity to get behind fair regulation in California to allow reasonable rate increases and profits, but they have fought it at every turn. Instead, for years they have been pounding customers with double-digit rate increases far beyond the rise in medical costs and raking in record profits.

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