News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Senate OKs budget plan that includes $275B in healthcare cuts
Modern Healthcare

An exhausted Senate gave pre-dawn approval Saturday to a Democratic $3.7 trillion budget for next year that embraces nearly $1 trillion in tax increases over the coming decade but shelters domestic programs targeted for cuts by House Republicans.

While their victory was by a razor-thin 50-49, the vote let Democrats tout their priorities even as the plan contained an additional $275 billion in unspecified healthcare cuts over the next 10 years. The plan doesn’t resolve the deep differences the two parties have over deficits and the size of government.

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Hospitals Rethink the Service Line
Health Leaders Media

Amid economic turbulence and regulatory changes, service lines are becoming more integrated into hospital strategic plans, where these areas of specialization can thrive—although many healthcare leaders are checking the vitals of their service lines to see what treatment may be needed.

While general surgery, cardiovascular care, and orthopedics still head the list of service lines with strong positive margins, more areas of specialization are popping up or expanding, such as geriatrics or plastic surgery, depending on the demographics and needs of a region.

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Systems move to boost pricing ‘defensibility’
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare systems are taking steps to address the “defensibility” and transparency of the way they bill for services—an issue that came into the spotlight earlier this year in the wake of a controversial Time magazine cover story.

But it’s not only uninsured patients—whose stories were much of the focus of Steven Brill’s 24,000-word article, “Bitter Pill”—who are asking questions about why their hospital bills are running in the tens of thousands of dollars for short stays and simple procedures.

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Report card on healthcare reform
New York Times

Republican leaders in Congress regularly denounce the 2010 Affordable Care Act and vow to block money to carry it out or even to repeal it. Those political attacks ignore the considerable benefits delivered to millions of people since the law’s enactment three years ago Saturday. The main elements of the law do not kick in until Jan. 1, 2014, when many millions of uninsured people will gain coverage.

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CVS threatens to fine employees who refuse to take health assessment
Silicon Valley Business Journal

CVS employees with company health plans will have to take a free health exam – measuring such metrics like weight, blood pressure, and body fat – or watch their monthly premiums increase $50, according to a report in Bloomberg Businessweek. CVS Caremark said they hope to provide an incentive for employees to become aware of their numbers, which could lead to healthier lifestyle choices.

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How the Media Portrayed the CVS Wellness Program-and Got It Wrong
The Health Care Blog

On March 20, 2013, the media picked up a story about CVS Caremark’s latest wellness program. In summary, CVS will be requiring all of its employees to complete a health screening in order to qualify for a reduction in their health insurance premium. For those employees who participate, the employee’s screening data goes to a third party, and CVS never sees it. Such wellness financial incentives are commonplace and have been around a long time. And if that is how the media had described the CVS program, it’s doubtful anyone would have even paid any attention to it.

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California health exchange to create 500 call center jobs in Rancho Cordova
Sacramento Bee

California’s emerging health care exchange will bring a new call center – and 500 local jobs – to Rancho Cordova. City and state officials confirmed Friday that Covered California, the organization instrumental to carrying out the federal health insurance overhaul in California, has signed a local lease to open a state service center on White Rock Road in Rancho Cordova.

“We welcome them,” said city economic development director Curt Haven. “They complement our other companies located in Rancho Cordova. We have a ready and willing workforce that will easily fill those jobs.”

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A Hint Of Bipartisanship On This Obamacare Tax?
KALW

Anyone looking for a glimmer of bipartisanship in Washington might want to pay attention to the medical device tax that is part of Obamacare. It took a notable, if largely symbolic, hit this week from the left and the right.

The 2.3-percent excise tax on devices ranging from MRI machines to pacemakers to stethoscopes was meant to raise $20 billion over 10 years to help pay for extending health care coverage to the uninsured under the Affordable Care Act.

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Obamacare at age 3: Why political battles are exploding anew
Yahoo! News

On March 23, 2010, amid much fanfare, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act – a law aimed at taking the nation a long way toward universal health-care coverage. Three years later, “Obamacare” remains a work in progress. At least 13 states have opted not to accept federal money to expand access to Medicaid, federal health insurance for the poor, after the Supreme Court’s ruling last June that made participation in the expansion of Medicaid optional.

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Obamacare’s five biggest challenges
Washington Post

The Affordable Care Act’s third year wasn’t an easy one. The law faced two obstacles, a Supreme Court challenge and a presidential election, that threatened to dismantle it altogether. What’s more, Obamacare’s architects didn’t have much space in which to influence the outcomes. They could put their top lawyers on the legal challenge or try to run an excellent reelection campaign.

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Fremont’s Washington Hospital: Patients, doctors excluded from new facility
Inside Bay Area

When Robert Cantley needed both knees replaced in August, he was expecting to recover from the surgery at Washington Hospital’s fancy, new $42.7 million Center for Joint Replacement. According to hospital marketing brochures, the center offered “A Higher Level of Care” in a 20,000-square-foot space featuring 25 private patient rooms, a “breathtaking physical therapy space” and a beautifully landscaped therapy garden.

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UCLA may be among bidders for St. John’s Health Center
Los Angeles Times

UCLA and the nation’s largest Catholic healthcare system are teaming up on a potential acquisition of St. John’s Health Center, a storied Santa Monica hospital up for sale after a recent management shake-up.

The partnership between UCLA Health System and Ascension Health Alliance in St. Louis is one proposal under consideration by St. John’s and its nonprofit Catholic owner, the Sisters of Charity Leavenworth Health System in Denver, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Kaiser offers screenings for free cataract surgeries
Sacramento Bee

Kaiser Permanente physicians and staff members in Sacramento will offer screenings April 13 for area residents who may be eligible for free cataract surgeries.

The screenings, available by appointment, will be held at Kaiser’s Point West Medical Offices, 1650 Response Road, Sacramento.

This is the 18th consecutive year in which surgeries have been offered as part of Mission Cataract USA.

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Mammograms every other year OK for women 50 or older
Visialia Times-Delta

Some women 50 and older may be able to have a mammogram every other year without increasing their risk of developing an advanced breast cancer, according to a large new study on nearly 1 million women.

The findings are published online March 18 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study conclusions drew mixed reactions, including criticism for its methods, from other experts.

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Heart repair breakthroughs replace surgeon’s knife
Yahoo! News

Have a heart problem? If it’s fixable, there’s a good chance it can be done without surgery, using tiny tools and devices that are pushed through tubes into blood vessels. Heart care is in the midst of a transformation. Many problems that once required sawing through the breastbone and opening up the chest for open heart surgery now can be treated with a nip, twist or patch through a tube.

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Outreach effort aims to get uninsured enrolled in healthcare
Los Angeles Times

Ana Soltero arrived at La Placita Church on Sunday holding an envelope filled with documents and hoping for one thing: to get health coverage.

She and her 20-year-old son, Alan Servin, had been receiving Medi-Cal but were mistakenly cut off last year. Now she was uninsured, feeling ill and wanting to see a doctor. “I came to see if you can help me with insurance,” she told a volunteer.

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Bachmann’s Killer Health Care Claims
Yahoo! News

Rep. Michele Bachmann claims that “vulnerable women, vulnerable children, vulnerable senior citizens” will all “pay more” under the federal health care law and get “less” in return. The law actually provides free preventive services for women, increases prescription drug coverage for seniors and extends funding for the children’s health program for two more years.

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Just say ‘no’ to rate hikes
Sacramento Bee

“There you go again.” That famous phrase was uttered in a debate by presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in response to his perceptions of incumbent Jimmy Carter’s mischaracterizations. More than 30 years later, it can just as easily be applied to the latest round of health insurance increases by California companies.

Once again, insurance companies are implementing egregious premium increases, as they have done for the past several years.

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One Medical Group raises $30M in Series F funding
San Francisco Business Times

One Medical Group, the San Francisco-based concierge medical practice headed by Epocrates co-founder Dr. Tom Lee, has landed another $30 million in VC funding. One Medical Group raised $30 million in Series F funding, bringing its total VC haul so far to $77 million, spokeswoman Mara Brazer confirmed late Friday afternoon. Google Ventures led the latest round with prior investors Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures, Oak Investment Partners and Maverick Capital also playing a role, Brazer confirmed.

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Why Only Business Can Save America From Health Care
The Health Care Blog

For a large and growing number of us with meager or no coverage, health care is the ultimate “gotcha.” Events conspire, we receive care and then are on the hook for a car- or house-sized bill. There are few alternatives except going without or going broke. Steven Brill’s recent Time cover story clearly detailed the predatory health care pricing that has been ruinous for many rank-and-file Americans.

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New Alameda County health center seeks to reduce hospitalizations
San Francisco Chronicle

Hervy Luster has congestive heart failure, but isn’t great about remembering his doctor’s appointments or keeping track of his meds. But he has started to get better at managing his disease with the help of the Hope Center, a new program from the Alameda County Medical Center. The Hope Center’s patients generally face problems like poverty or substance abuse that make it harder for them to manage their conditions.

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