News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Study identifies patients at high risk of hospital readmissions
Modern Healthcare

How often patients land in the hospital—and how long they stay—were better indicators of which patients would return to the hospital unnecessarily than types of illnesses, number of prescriptions and other factors, a study found. The results, published by JAMA Internal Medicine, are among the latest in a growing body of research that seeks to identify patients at high risk for avoidable hospital stays by sifting through patient data in search of flags that predict who will make a repeat hospital visit.

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Not-for-Profit Hospitals Tighten Oversight as Revenues Fall
Health Leaders Media

Not-for-profit hospitals are better managed and are learning to do more with less revenue. Now the question is whether or not the sector can continue to find savings in the coming years with much of the low-hanging fruit plucked and an aging demographic increasingly straining resources, Moody’s Investors Service says. Mark Pascaris, vice president and senior analyst at the bond rating agency, says that not-for-profit hospitals will continue to endure a negative credit outlook for the near future because of challenges to top-line revenues.

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Medical Error Risk Rises Under Shorter Medical Intern Shifts
Health Leaders Media

The 2011 decision to limit from 30 to 16 hours the time hospital internal medicine trainees can continuously work may be making patients less safe, because it leads to far more hand-offs and perceptions by nurses and residents that quality of care suffers.

The new rules also didn’t do what they were intended to accomplish, which was to significantly increase the amount of time trainees would sleep each week.

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Corcoran hospital closes ER, beds
Fresno Bee

Corcoran’s hospital has closed its emergency room and is keeping its 32 hospital beds empty to save money, forcing the city’s 11,500 residents to go elsewhere for major medical care. The closure, announced last week, resulted in 25 layoffs. Corcoran District Hospital likely will seek state approval to open an urgent care clinic in the former emergency department, which would bring back 24-hour physician coverage and allow the hospital to take patients again, hospital CEO Jonathan Brenn said.

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Supreme Court weighs deals to delay generic drugs
Los Angeles Times

A government attorney urged the Supreme Court to allow authorities to crack down on cash deals among prescription drug makers that delay the introduction of generic drugs and keep consumer prices high.

The so-called pay-for-delay deals, which allow brand-name drug companies to keep cheaper generic drugs off the market for a time, violate antitrust laws, the Federal Trade Commission argued Monday.

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High court weighs drug firms’ generics policy
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Supreme Court struggled Monday with whether it should allow federal officials to challenge deals between pharmaceutical corporations and their generic drug competitors that the government says could keep cheaper forms of medicine off the American market for longer periods of time.

Justices heard arguments from the Justice Department against what they call “pay-for-delay” deals or “reverse settlements.”

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Employee health-plan options shrinking to one with a high deductible
Washington Post

Historically, one of the perks of working at a big company has been generous health benefits with modest out-of-pocket costs. But increasingly, large companies are offering their employees only one option: a plan with a relatively high deductible linked to a savings account for medical expenses. According to the annual health benefits survey by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health, 66 percent of companies with 1,000 employees or more offered at least one such plan this year.

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Many states don’t require disclosure of prices for medical procedures
Washington Post

Wonder why you can’t get a straight answer about how much a health-care procedure will cost you? One big reason: state laws that allow hospitals and other providers to keep costs hidden until they send you the bill. A report card on price transparency released last week gives 29 states an “F” and seven states a “D” for policies that keep patients and their families in the dark on prices. The failing grade went to those with practically no transparency requirements.

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State of confusion over healthcare reform
FierceHealthcare

This weekend was the third anniversary of the federal healthcare reform law–and pundits and politicos marked it with cheers and jeers. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius touted cost savings and jobs creation, for example, telling USA Today that Republican governors will ultimately fall into line with public opinion and embrace Medicaid expansion.

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Feminist clinic fights to be included in health care reform
HealthyCal.org

As millions of Californians are projected to gain coverage over the next several years, the independent clinics that have traditionally served the uninsured are in for some big changes. Soon, many more low-income patients are expected to have private insurance, following the roll out of the Affordable Care Act’s signature reforms in 2014. That’s putting some clinics, like those in the Women’s Health Specialists network, in a quandary.

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Health law could boost use of temp workers
Washington Post

The health-care law could prove to be a boon for temporary-staffing companies as employers outsource jobs to sidestep complex requirements for medical insurance. But some experts say the Affordable Care Act’s exceptions for temporary employees could undercut the goal of expanding coverage to more American workers.

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Studies raise questions about limiting intern hours
Modern Healthcare

Limiting first-year medical residents to a 16-hour work shift was intended to improve patient safety while enhancing the educational experience and quality of life for doctors in training. But now, two studies posted on the website of JAMA Internal Medicine suggest the opposite may be occurring.

First-year residents, also known as interns, are now sleeping about the same hours as before, while not seeing an increase in quality of life and actually reporting more errors that harm patients, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the universities of Michigan and Pennsylvania, and other institutions.

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Republican lawmaker: Health care application improperly prompts voter registration
Washington Times

The online draft application for universal health care coverage includes asking the applicant if he or she wants to register to vote, raising speculation that Obama groups being tapped to assist applicants may sway them to register as Democrats, the Washington Examiner reports. Toward the end of the 61-page document, and after a slew of questions regarding the applicant’s qualifications for Obamacare, the questionnaire asks if they would like to register to vote.

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Feds still looking at insurers’ ‘most-favored’ contracts
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Justice Department has closed its antitrust case against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, but the government is expected to remain active in examining how insurers use controversial “most-favored-nation” pricing contracts in other states.

The department opened investigations into preferred-pricing contracts by other Blues plans in several other states about the same time that it filed its antitrust lawsuit against the Michigan Blues plan.

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Radiosurgery system prices rise nearly 80%
Modern Healthcare

The average cost of stereotactic radiosurgery systems has increased by about 78% during the past year, according to the most recent Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index. The index gathers monthly and annual price data for about 30 supply and capital items purchased by hospitals and other healthcare providers, based on three-month rolling averages.

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Hospital groundbreaking is a major milestone
Tehachapi News

To say that the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District marks a major milestone with the groundbreaking for the new Tehachapi Hospital on Thursday is an understatement.

For anyone who has lived through the years of preparation, you undoubtedly know the sweat and tears it has taken to get to this point — and if you don’t, you will when you get your property bill showing a charge for paying off the bonded indebtedness.

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An insider’s view of generic-drug pricing
Los Angeles Times

Bob Toomajian worked for 16 years as Kaiser Permanente’s drug purchasing manager for Southern California, giving him an insider’s knowledge of how medications are priced before reaching consumers.

When it comes to patented name-brand drugs, he told me, pharmaceutical companies try to get away with the highest prices possible. On the other hand, they’re typically recovering millions of dollars in research and development costs, so those sky-high prices are perhaps understandable.

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