News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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AHA Objects to New Patient Experience Surveys
Health Leaders Media

The American Hospital Association has a message for the federal government on the topic of patient experience surveys: Enough already! In a letter this week to Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, AHA suggested that plans to add a new survey about patient experiences in hospital outpatient surgical departments and ambulatory surgical centers would be a lesson in overkill that would confuse patients and prove burdensome and expensive for hospital administrators.

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Access at Issue in Provider Cut
California Healthline

A new Assembly bill would exempt one type of skilled-nursing provider from state-imposed Medi-Cal reimbursement cuts. The 10% reduction is being challenged in federal court and has not taken effect. The new bill, AB 900 by Assembly member Luis Alejo (D-Salinas), would exempt hospital-based, acute-care skilled nursing facilities from the cut. Other providers could be included in the legislation, but so far the bill deals only with one kind of provider.

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AHRQ releases revised discharge toolkit aimed at curbing readmissions
Modern Healthcare

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released a revised toolkit hospitals can use to lower their rates of preventable readmissions, particularly among patients with limited English proficiency and patients from diverse backgrounds.

The Re-Engineered Discharge Toolkit is based on Project RED, or Re-Engineered Discharge, a 12-step intervention developed at Boston University Medical Center, which incorporates medication reconciliation, plain-language discharge instructions, patient education and telephone follow-up to improve transitions of care and decrease the likelihood of readmissions.

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Support seen for ditching ACA shift on Medicare wage index
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals pushing to reverse a payment provision of the healthcare reform law scored two victories recently, but the war appears far from over. The Coalition of America’s Hospitals, a group of 20 state hospital associations, successfully pushed for an amendment to the Senate budget bill reversing a change to the hospital wage index by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Federal law previously required that wage-index adjustments to Medicare payments produce no new net costs to the program within each state.

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California issues annual ratings for health plans, physician groups
Los Angeles Times

Kaiser Permanente was the only HMO to earn a top four-star rating for providing recommended care on California’s annual report card, while Cigna and UnitedHealthcare led the way with three-star ratings among PPO plans.

The report issued Wednesday on California’s biggest HMOs and other health insurance plans showed improvement in care for children, but mixed results for treating adults with chronic medical conditions.

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California health care report cards: Getting in to see a doctor isn’t easy
Daily Breeze - Los Angeles

If you’re having a hard time getting an appointment to see your doctor, you’re not alone.

California’s Office of the Patient Advocate on Wednesday released its annual report cards rating health care providers in the state, and it revealed that access is a trouble spot, said Barbara Marquez, the group’s deputy director.

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Sutter/CPMC agrees to a contract with its nurses in SF, clearing the path for its hospital deal

Ending a long and contentious labor impasse and setting the stage for the city to approve the pair of new hospitals that Sutter Health and its California Pacific Medical Center affiliate want to build in San Francisco, the California Nurses Association today announced that it has reached a tentative contract agreement with the hospital corporations. As we’ve reported, reaching a deal with its nurses seemed to be the last major hurdle for Sutter/CPMC to overcome before the community-labor coalition would fully support the compromise hospital deal that a city-CPMC negotiating team announced on March 5.

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CNA says it has a long-delayed contract deal with California Pacific Medical Center
San Francisco Business Times

The California Nurses Association said on its web site Wednesday it’s reached a contract deal for its 800 RNs at California Pacific Medical Center that reportedly provides 6 percent pay increases over the next 34 months, plus additional pay for veteran RNs. The deal, in the works for years, actually covers CPMC and St. Luke’s Hospital in the Mission District, which is part of California Pacific, Sutter Health’s flagship hospital in the region — and the Oakland-based CNA’s long-time bete noire.

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The Secret Republican Plan to Repeal ‘Obamacare’
National Journal Magazine

A few minutes after the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision upholding President Obama’s health care law last summer, a senior adviser to Mitch McConnell walked into the Senate Republican leader’s office to gauge his reaction. McConnell was clearly disappointed, and for good reason. For many conservatives, the decision was the death knell in a three-year fight to defeat reforms that epitomized everything they thought was wrong with Obama’s governing philosophy.

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Obamacare Affordability Glitch Prices Millions Of Americans Out Of Health Care, Advocacy Group Says
The Huffington Post

Millions of Americans will be priced out of health insurance under President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul because of a glitch in the law that adversely affects people with modest incomes who cannot afford family coverage offered by their employers, a leading healthcare advocacy group said on Tuesday.

Tax credits are a key component of the law and the White House has said the credits, averaging about $4,000 apiece, will help about 18 million individuals and families pay for health insurance once the Affordable Care Act takes full effect, beginning in January 2014.

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Obamacare’s Other Benefit
The Health Care Blog

If it is done right, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) may well promise uninsured Americans a lot more than cheap, reliable medical care.

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Promises, Promises: Obama On Health Care
San Francisco Chronicle

The issue: Health care was the defining political battle of President Barack Obama’s first term, and — after the economy— it remains his most complicated policy challenge at home, central to his place in history. Fixing the system is a tall order as “Obamacare’s” major coverage expansion takes effect this year and next. The U.S. is projected to spend $2.9 trillion on health care in 2013, approaching one of every five dollars in the economy, much more than any other advanced country.

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Healthcare Reform: Reshaping Physician Relationships for Good
Becker's Hospital Review

The recent enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act served as a call to action for health plans to tackle the tremendous cost pressures facing healthcare (which are not directly addressed by the legislation) and to take on the structural components of our care delivery and compensation systems that sustain systematic inefficiencies. At the core of this is health plans’ efforts to address the lack of alignment between fee-for-service medicine and the significant waste created by rewarding providers for the “volume of care” rather than for the “value of care.”

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Health care reform to create more than 100 local jobs
Vallejo Times-Herald

Gearing up for health care reform, Partnership HealthPlan of California is holding a job fair next month in Fairfield for all levels of medical personnel, organizers announced. The partnership is the public nonprofit agency that administers Medi-Cal benefits in six Northern California counties, including Solano and Napa. Its job fair will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 9, at 4665 Business Center Drive, Fairfield.

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Health Care Reform Call Center Will Help Answer Yuba County Residents’ Questions
CBS News

Across the country call centers are being set up to help ready people for when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, goes into effect next year.

Yuba County says 18,000 people don’t have health insurance in the county, and soon they are going to have coverage questions. The call centers aim to answer those questions, but at a cost.

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Fringe therapy may help heart patients, study finds
Los Angeles Times

A treatment that removes heavy metals from the body has long been touted as an alternative therapy to combat hardening arteries. Now a 10-year, $31-million clinical trial has found that chelation therapy does help heart attack patients slightly reduce their risk of serious heart problems — but not enough for the researchers to encourage mainstream cardiologists to offer it to their patients.

The trial revealed a very modest benefit for patients who took chelation therapy rather than a placebo, according to results published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

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Insurance costs debated ahead of ACA coverage expansion
Modern Healthcare

As health insurers prepare to submit 2014 premium rates to state regulators next month, some stakeholders are questioning whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be affordable after all.

The worry is that some of the mandates in the law could drive up the cost of coverage so much that many consumers may choose to pay a penalty for failing to get coverage rather than pay steep insurance premiums.

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Study: Health law to raise costs in California
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Medical claims costs filed by individual policy holders could rise as much as 62 percent by 2017 in California under the Affordable Care Act, according to a study released Tuesday by the nation’s leading group of financial risk analysts.

The costs are the biggest driver of health insurance premiums, and that could mean higher prices for residents who will buy individual policies through California’s health benefit exchange.

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HMOs in California earn good grades, except for access to care
Ventura County Star

Patients give their HMO insurance plans good, even excellent scores, for overall care. But when it comes to access, grades plummet, according to a statewide report card.

Of 10 HMOs graded in a report released Wednesday by the California Office of the Patient Advocate, seven received grades of “poor” from patients for the ability to get care easily. Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente Northern California and Western Health Advantage were the only plans graded “fair” for access.

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State gives Kaiser health system high marks for patient satisfaction
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Kaiser Permanente was rated California’s top health care plan on report cards issued Wednesday by a state agency that has been assessing health plans and providers for more than a decade.

Kaiser’s Northern and Southern California HMOs received “excellent” ratings, the highest of four scores, for quality of care and for patient satisfaction in the Health Care Quality Report Cards issued by the state Office of the Patient Advocate.

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California launches pilot program to improve care for those enrolled in Medi-Cal and Medicare
Southern California Public Radio

California health officials announced Wednesday that the state has won federal approval for a pilot program designed to improve health care quality and coordination for those enrolled in both Medicare and Medi-Cal.

Right now, the more than 1.1 million low-income Californians eligible for both government health programs must navigate a labyrinth of rules, benefits and medical providers from each program.

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Buzzed in Sacramento
Clovis Independent News

We wear lanyards, clip-on’s or sticky labels. This day, our names show affiliations with the California Hospital Association, the Central California Sikh community and a West Coast petroleum association.

Like swarms of worker bees, we festoon the honeycomb of the Capitol building in Sacramento, clustering in the tiny offices of assembly members and senators, spitting out cautions and exhortations about legislative proposals, vying to be understood in the 20-minute, idea-breeding period we are allowed before the next swarm descends and we are channeled into the hallways to other hives.

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After weight-loss surgery, new gut bacteria keep obesity away
Yahoo! News

The logic behind weight-loss surgery seems simple: rearrange the digestive tract so the stomach can hold less food and the food bypasses part of the small intestine, allowing fewer of a meal’s calories to be absorbed. Bye-bye, obesity. A study of lab mice, published on Wednesday, begs to differ. It concludes that one of the most common and effective forms of bariatric surgery, called Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, melts away pounds not – or not only – by re-routing the digestive tract, as long thought, but by changing the bacteria in the gut.

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Temecula hospital plans job fair for nurses
San Diego Union-Tribune

Temecula Valley Hospital is holding a job fair to recruit applicants for a graduate nurse training program.

The job fair is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 5 at the Riverside County Workforce Development Center, 30135 Technology Drive in Murrieta.

Applicants are asked to bring a resume, two letters of reference and a one-page essay incorporating answers to the following questions:

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Tight battles under way for inpatient EHR dominance
Modern Healthcare

Four developers of electronic health-record system are in a tight battle to become the most popular developer of complete, inpatient EHR systems that hospitals use to achieve meaningful use and receive Medicare EHR incentive payments, an analysis of federal program data shows. The Big Four vendors providing hospitals with complete, inpatient EHRs used in the federal incentive payment program are Epic Systems, with 370 hospital customers, or 17.9% of the 2,071 hospitals that have attested as meaningful users with one of these systems; followed by Meditech with 323 hospitals, 15.6%; Computer Programs and Systems (CPSI), 313 hospitals, 15.1%; and Cerner Corp., 208, 10%.

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California Health Officials Announce ‘Cal MediConnect’ Program

California health officials announced a new health program for hundreds of thousands of elderly and disabled adults.

The federal government approved a pilot program called “Cal MediConnect,” which will be available to people in eight counties who are covered by both Medi-Cal and Medicare. State officials said the new program will offer more coordinated services for the high needs and high cost consumers of health care.