News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Cancer clinics are turning away thousands of Medicare patients. Blame the sequester.
Washington Post

Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts. Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially. Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them.

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Walgreen clinics expand care into chronic illness
San Francisco Chronicle

Walgreen Co. has expanded the reach of its drugstore clinics beyond treating ankle sprains and sinus infections to handling chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure. The company, based in Deerfield, Ill., said Thursday that most of its 370 in-store Take Care Clinics now will diagnosis, treat and monitor patients with some chronic conditions that are typically handled by doctors.

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Civilian doctors wary of accepting military’s Tricare
News10.net

An estimated 620,000 Pentagon health care recipients — a group that includes military retirees, National Guard members and reservists and the children of some active-duty troops — struggle to find private doctors who will accept them as patients, according to a new government study.

Many doctors reported that they turn away these patients because they are unfamiliar with the Pentagon health care program known as Tricare. Others say they did not like how little they are compensated or how long it takes Tricare to reimburse them.

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Closure of three Southland hospitals may be part of a trend
Los Angeles Times

Hospital owner Pacific Health Corp. said it will close its three remaining Southern California hospitals, citing the fallout from a federal fraud case last year in which the company admitted paying to recruit homeless people off skid row in Los Angeles and billing the government for unnecessary care.

The Tustin company said the three hospitals shutting down are Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center, Bellflower Medical Center and Newport Specialty Hospital. Last week, Pacific Health announced the closure of Anaheim General Hospital.

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Obama administration hits pause on health exchanges for small businesses
Southern California Public Radio

The Obama administration is delaying the start of a key piece of the Affordable Care Act. Workers in small businesses will have to wait an additional year to be able to choose from more than one plan in the marketplaces that start next January. The delay – first proposed in regulations issued last month and confirmed earlier this week – is the first acknowledgment by the administration that it won’t be able to meet the tight timetable it has set to get these health exchanges up and running by October 1, when enrollment is set to begin.

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House GOP releases revised proposal for replacing SGR
Modern Healthcare

House Republican leaders released a revised proposal to replace Medicare’s sustainable growth-rate physician payment formula. The proposed system would include specialty-specific performance measures, payment rates partly based on patient experience, and development of an appeals process to contest or reconsider a provider’s quality score.

Chairmen of the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees along with their respective health subcommittees issued the revised proposal on April 3 with a letter to the “provider community” requesting comments on the new draft by April 15. It follows up on the first version, released Feb. 7, which outlined a plan to replace the SGR formula with a system featuring predictable payment rates and rewards for delivering high quality and efficient care.

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Will health care reform raise insurance premiums?
MSNBC

A big part of the pitch for President Obama’s health care reform was that it would make health care insurance more affordable–heck, it was even in the name of the bill. But more than three years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, top Republicans say it’s making premiums more expensive. A recent report by the Society of Actuaries showed health care costs per person were expected to go up an average of $1,200 a year.

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HHS sets course for exchange ‘Navigators’
Modern Healthcare

Tens of thousands of employees who will guide consumers in the new health insurance exchanges can help people with the enrollment process but can’t steer them toward a particular plan, according to draft regulations. HHS and state officials running insurance exchanges will distribute federal grants to companies and not-for-profit organizations that step forward to be “Navigators” for the new coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

A proposed rule issued Wednesday defines who is eligible to provide the assistance and describes the role, the training required and the standards Navigators must follow.

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Drug shortages spur debate over role of compounding pharmacies
Modern Healthcare

Persistent drug shortages have led healthcare providers, pharmacists and others to debate the role of compounding pharmacies as alternative sources of drugs in short supply.

In a letter released April 2, the National Community Pharmacists Association urged the Food and Drug Administration to “preserve the role” of compounders in providing access to scarce drugs.

The advocacy group Public Citizen took the opposite stance, arguing that allowing patients to use those drugs puts them at a safety risk.

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United Healthcare awards grant to Grass Valley hospital
Sacramento Business Journal

Dignity Health’s Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley has been awarded a grant of almost $700,000 by United Healthcare to provide rural clinics in its area with access to health information technology. The funding follows a $334,000 grant from United Healthcare in 2008 that helped the hospital start its own health information technology program.

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Dementia care’s cost exploding
Sacramento Bee

The most rigorous study to date of how much it costs to care for Americans with dementia found that the financial burden is at least as high as that for either heart disease or cancer, and is probably higher. And both the costs and the number of people with dementia will more than double in 25 years, skyrocketing at a rate that rarely, if ever, occurs with a chronic disease.

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Study: Dementia tops cancer, heart disease in cost
San Francisco Chronicle

Cancer and heart disease are bigger killers, but Alzheimer’s is the most expensive malady in the U.S., costing families and society $157 billion to $215 billion a year, according to a new study that looked at this in unprecedented detail. The biggest cost of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia isn’t drugs or other medical treatments, but the care that’s needed just to get mentally impaired people through daily life, the nonprofit RAND Corp.’s study found.

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Former WellPoint CEO quit last year, still earned $20.6 million
Los Angeles Times

Angela Braly, the former chief executive of insurance giant WellPoint Inc., earned $20.6 million last year despite resigning under pressure in August.

Braly quit the Indianapolis company, which runs Blue Cross plans in California and 13 other states, after major shareholders expressed dissatisfaction with her leadership and the company’s performance.

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Cigna Hits CAC Milestone
Health Leaders Media

Cigna is more than halfway to its goal of having 100 collaborative accountable care (CAC) initiatives with healthcare providers by next year. The insurer announced seven additions to its roster as of April 1.

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Hips, knees and spines
Chico News and Review

Enloe Medical Center was recognized by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California for its quality of spine surgery, and knee and hip replacement. Enloe earned a Blue Distinction Center+ award in both categories, an award based on general quality and safety metrics as well as program-specific criteria, according to an Enloe Medical Center press release. The hospital is one of 31 in California to receive a Blue Distinction Center+ designation for knee and hip replacement since 2006, and one of 21 to receive it for spine surgery.

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Californians getting healthier, county-by-county data show
Sacramento Bee

Californians appear to be getting healthier in many respects, with drops in deaths attributable to cancer and many other major illnesses, as well as homicide and auto accidents, a new statistical report from the state Department of Public Health indicates. However, the state also is seeing an uptick in deaths from Alzheimer’s disease, as well as suicide and chronic liver disease. The report covers three years — 2009-2011 — with comparisons to 2006-2008.

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