News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Confirmation decision on Tavenner at CMS comes at crucial time
Modern Healthcare

The agency overseeing implementation of most of the 2010 healthcare overhaul may finally be getting a confirmed leader, and it comes at a critical time for that complex effort and the future of Medicare and Medicaid. Acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner’s April 9 confirmation hearing as CMS administrator puts her on course to become its first Senate-approved leader in more than six years.

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California health report card shows lower rates for most diseases
Southern California Public Radio

California is reporting statewide improvements in key public health measures, including rates for many chronic diseases, sexually-transmitted infections, motor vehicle crashes and accidental deaths, according to the County Health Status Profiles 2013 report released today.

Overall, the 20th annual report shows a statewide drop in the rate of most illnesses, including all cancers, heart disease, stroke and diabetes from 2009-2011, compared with 2006-2008.

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California insurance commissioner hits Anthem’s rate hike on small businesses
Sacramento Bee

California’s insurance commissioner Tuesday criticized another rate increase by Anthem Blue Cross, even while acknowledging he’s powerless to stop it.

Commissioner Dave Jones ripped Anthem for raising rates 5.2 percent, effective Monday, on small businesses. He said Anthem’s rates on those customers have jumped 10.5 percent in the past year, which he called “excessive and unreasonable.”

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Reversal sought for delay to small-business exchanges
Modern Healthcare

Small business groups and some lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to reverse course on plans to wait one year to give employees of small businesses a choice among health plans obtained through new exchanges. HHS in March proposed delaying the requirement in the 33 states where the federal government will operate insurance marketplaces either alone or in partnership with state officials next year. The comment period on the draft regulations for the small business health options program, known as SHOP, ended April 1.

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California Insurance Commissioner slams Anthem Blue Cross

The California Department of Insurance issued a statement today condemning Anthem Blue Cross’s latest rate increase in the small group market as “excessive and unreasonable.”

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones cited the return on equity for Anthem, which is a for-profit organization unlike affiliated Blue Shield of California. The department also accused Anthem of charging taxes and fees in 2013 that are to be imposed in 2014.

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State insurance commissioner calls 5.2 percent health-care premium increase overly excessive
Los Angeles Daily News

State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones on Tuesday chastised Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Company for levying a 5.2 percent health premium increase on its small business customers — companies with two to 50 employees.

Jones called the increase, which took effect on Monday, “excessive and unreasonable. “

He made the same claim in January after the company raised rates by 6.5 percent. The increases set rates for 12 months for customers who’s policies renew during each quarter.

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Pacific Health Corporation closes 3 hospitals
The Mercury News

Pacific Health Corp. officials said they will close the doors of their three remaining hospitals this week, in part because of legal costs associated with federal prosecutors’ allegations that the hospitals recruited homeless people to wrongly charge Medicare and Medi-Cal for care. Emergency rooms will close Wednesday at Bellflower Medical Center, Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center and the Hawthorne campus and Newport Specialty Hospital, according to spokesman Gary Hopkins. The rest of the hospitals’ services will cease as soon as all patients can be transferred.

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Cloverdale man leads national autism foundation
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

A Sonoma County resident has been chosen to head the California Autism Foundation, a Bay Area nonprofit that provides services, creates opportunities and engages in advocacy for people with autism and other disabilities.

John David Rockefeller, a California native who grew up in the East Bay and now lives in Cloverdale, replaces outgoing CEO John Visbal, who had been at the helm of the foundation for five years.

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John D. Rockefeller takes helm at California Autism Foundation
San Francisco Business Times

John D. Rockefeller has been tapped as the new CEO for the California Autism Foundation. Rockefeller is taking the helm from John Visbal, who held the role for five years. He’s joining CAF — a 30-year-old organization in Richmond that provides resources, services and advocacy for people with autism and other developmental disabilities — from the global arm of the William Jefferson Clinton Foundations, where he was director for social venture initiatives.

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State hires consumer group to help it review healthcare rates
Los Angeles Times

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones lashed out Tuesday at another double-digit rate hike for thousands of small businesses getting their health insurance from industry giant Anthem Blue Cross.

But this time Jones got some help from a surprising source. He has quietly tapped Consumer Watchdog, his political ally and the state’s most outspoken industry critic, to help review health insurance rate increases under a one-year contract worth as much as $88,000.

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Mortality rates rise at critical-access hospitals: study
Modern Healthcare

Faced with tight budgets and aging patient populations, critical-access hospitals have seen their mortality rates increase during the past decade, even as such rates have dropped at other acute-care hospitals, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health assessed risk-adjusted 30-day mortality rates for heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia at critical-access and non-critical access hospitals using Medicare fee-for-service data from 2002 through 2010.

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JAMA EHR Study: Misdiagnosis Poses Significant Potential for Harm
The Health Care Blog

An important study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that misdiagnosis is more common than you might think. According to the study, almost 40% of patients who unexpectedly returned after an initial primary care visit had been misdiagnosed. Almost 80% of the misdiagnoses were tied to problems in doctor-patient communication, and more than half of those problems had to do with things that were missed in the patient’s medical history.