News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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The Face of Future Health Care
New York Times

When people talk about the future of health care, Kaiser Permanente is often the model they have in mind. The organization, which combines a nonprofit insurance plan with its own hospitals and clinics, is the kind of holistic health system that President Obama’s health care law encourages. Kaiser has sophisticated electronic records and computer systems that — after 10 years and $30 billion in technology spending — have led to better-coordinated patient care, another goal of the president.

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CMS innovation center claims big drop in elective preterm births
Modern Healthcare

Use of hospital intensive-care units for newborns appears to be dropping as a result of a federal push to reduce preterm births, according to early evidence cited by federal officials.

Dr. Richard Gilfillan, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation at CMS, attributed much of the improvement to the efforts of his office and other public and private entities.

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EHRs Rush in Where Doctors Fear to Tread
Health Leaders Media

Resistance to new technology may be futile, but it remains an issue for healthcare.

“Physicians do have to spend more time at computers now, which diminishes the amount of time we can spend at the bedside and interacting with patients and actually doing those things like surgical procedures and interventions that only we have the skill and the knowledge and the training to do,” says Steven J. Stack, MD, chairman of the board of the American Medical Association.

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Patients should decide what the end of life is like, study says
Los Angeles Times

Finding out what dying patients want and treating them accordingly leads to happier patients who are in less pain and who use fewer healthcare dollars, UCLA researchers said Tuesday.

“You can improve care while reducing costs by making sure that everything you do is centered on what the patients want, what his or her specific goals are and tailor a treatment plan to ensure we provide the specific care he or she wants,” Dr. Jonathan Bergman, a Robert Wood Johnson clinical scholar at UCLA, said in a statement.

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No, Washington Post, Obamacare is not that complicated
Los Angeles Times

The Washington Post’s “Wonkblog” page is up Wednesday morning with a flow chart showing how to determine eligibility for government help to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The Post describes the chart, which was prepared by the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners and can be seen here or at the top of this item, as “insanely complicated.”

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Health Cost Savings Innovations Need Time: Obama Official
Insurance Journal

The Obama administration on Wednesday said its experiments at controlling healthcare costs could need up to a year to produce results, frustrating congressional lawmakers eager to know if new innovations in care delivery can actually work.

Dr. Richard Gilfillan, who is overseeing the initiative at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told the Senate Finance Committee that his agency is now testing three-dozen care delivery models involving 50,000 healthcare providers and more than 1 million beneficiaries.

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Feds ask firms about HIPAA audit experience
Modern Healthcare

The top federal healthcare privacy and security regulator wants to know what officials from more than 100 organizations that have undergone privacy and security audits thought of the process and what can be done to improve it.

The office will ask leaders from all audited organizations—which included health plans, healthcare claims clearinghouses and providers—to complete an online survey asking them to “measure the effect,” including its costs, on their operations, and “gauge their attitudes towards the audit overall,” according to a notice of an official “information collection” activity to be published in the Federal Register by the Office for Civil Rights at HHS.

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Don’t tie Medicaid to ER discharge diagnoses: researchers
Modern Healthcare

As Medicaid costs surpass all other expenses in states’ budgets, several states are considering legislation or regulations that limit payment for Medicaid enrollee emergency department visits that ultimately don’t qualify as emergencies. But, in a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, University of California at San Francisco researchers found that it’s often difficult to immediately determine whether patients are having a medical emergency based on their initial symptoms. The researchers came to that conclusion after analyzing almost 35,000 ED visits recorded in the 2009 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

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Senate spending plan keeps healthcare sequester cuts
Modern Healthcare

The Senate passed a spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year that retains the so-called sequester cuts that hit federal agencies March 1 and will drain 2% from Medicare reimbursement for services rendered after March 31.

The $984 billion bill approved 73-26 Wednesday afternoon would fund the government through Sept. 30 and avert a shutdown slated for March 27. In order to get that done, lawmakers sought to avoid provisions that would have drawn a Republican filibuster.

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PBS hit brings attention to O.C. midwives
Orange County Register

When midwife Lorri Walker attends a home birth, she packs the trunk of her Lexus with the modern tools of an old-fashioned trade: oxygen tanks, IVs and emergency resuscitative equipment. Walker is an Irvine-based certified nurse midwife, a model based on the British system portrayed in the hit PBS show “Call the Midwife,” which chronicles young midwives who carry medical bags of basic equipment on their bicycles.

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Cutting Anesthesia Costs Starts with a Battle
Health Leaders Media

If your hospital or health system is currently using an all-physician anesthesia group, this might be a ripe opportunity to cut costs without compromising patient safety, say many advocates.

The issue of whether hospitals can be reimbursed by CMS for using unsupervised certified registered nurse anesthetists is a contentious one, but it has been decided since 2001, when a Medicare and Medicaid regulation change allowed states to opt out of a requirement that nurse anesthetists be supervised by an anesthesiologist.

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Deadly cancer reversed in study
Sacramento Bee

A treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer has, for the first time, produced remissions in adults with an acute leukemia that is usually lethal, researchers are reporting.

In one patient who was severely ill, all traces of leukemia vanished in eight days.

“We had hoped but couldn’t have predicted that the response would be so profound and rapid,” said Dr. Renier J.

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AMA picks finalists for medical ed overhaul grants
Modern Physician

The American Medical Association has selected 31 proposals to compete for a portion of $10 million in grants in the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative.

In February, 119 applicants—out of 141 eligible medical schools—submitted letters to the AMA with recommendations for changing the way medical schools train physicians.

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More kids have autism than previously thought
KESQ News Channel 3

The number of children with autism is “significantly” higher than previously thought, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School-aged boys were four times more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis than girls, according to the new data.

The CDC released a report a year ago estimating 1 in 88 American children has a form of autism spectrum disorder – neurodevelopmental disorders that lead to impaired language, communication and social skills.

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Bill to require lifting of SHIP coverage caps moves forward
The Daily Californian

A bill that would forbid lifetime and annual limits on certain benefits of the UC Student Health Insurance Plan passed through a California State Assembly committee with bipartisan support. AB 314 would force health insurance plans run by a university or college to comply with a section of the Affordable Care Act that lifts limits on lifetime and annual coverage of essential health benefits.

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Healthcare reform not without pitfalls
Inland News Today

County Supervisors are warning that Obamacare is plagued with unknowns and could be a potential massive drain on county resources. The ‘supes’ were told in a workshop this week that many of the services touted as ‘free’ under Healthcare Reform would actually come at great cost to taxpayers. The intent of the Affordable Care Act is to decrease the number of uninsured Americans and reduce the overall costs of health care for consumers through mandates, subsidies and tax credits to employers and individuals.

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Healthy Sonoma County Ranks 12th in California
Sonoma County Gazette

This week, the national County Health Rankings, produced in collaboration by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, named Sonoma County as the 12th healthiest County in California. The Rankings report, taken together with a recent Commonwealth Fund report naming the health system in Sonoma County as one of the best in the Nation, continues to demonstrate that Sonoma County is one of the best places to live, work, and play in the State.

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Marin ranked California’s fourth-healthiest; Sonoma ranks 12th
North Bay Business Journal

Marin County has been ranked the healthiest county in the state for the forth year in a row, while Sonoma County earned the No. 12 spot, according to a national survey of more than 3,000 counties released today. Napa County ranked 24th out of 57 in the state, down from previous years, according to the survey by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (countyhealthrankings.org). Solano County came in at No. 32; Mendocino County, 43; and Lake County, last at No. 57.

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Healthcare reform and the incentive to keep spending
Los Angeles Times

Reforming the healthcare system is largely about fixing the incentives it provides for doctors, hospitals and patients to overspend. For example, the “fee for service” payment model that Medicare relies on encourages physicians to do as many things for a patient as they can bill for — the more services provided, the higher the compensation. That’s a model that profits from sickness, not health.

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What will Affordable Care Act mean for California?
Sacramento Bee

It’s been just under three years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and the gradual march toward implementation continues. Covered California, the state’s ACA-mandated insurance exchange, is taking stock of California’s progress with a meeting today. Board members will cover such topics as eligibility, enrollment and proposed federal rules during a day-long meeting at the California Department of Health Care Services Building, 1500 Capitol St.

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Five Things Obamacare Got Right-and What Experts Would Fix
The Health Care Blog

It was one of the most notorious quotes that emerged from the battle over the Affordable Care Act. We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it. – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, March 9, 2010. The line was taken out-of-context, as Pelosi’s office has continued to protest. But more than three years after her quote — and nearly three years after the ACA passed Congress — Pelosi’s accidental gaffe seems pretty apropos.

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The Smarter Healthcare Consumer Myth
The Health Care Blog

If consumers could review and shop for health care coverage as easily as they do television sets, costs would decline and we wouldn’t have as large a health care crisis. At least that’s what some folks would lead us to believe. But the picture isn’t that clear. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reports how companies are using private health insurance exchanges to lower costs and give employees more flexibility.

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