News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obama’s budget to spare Medicaid from deep cuts
Modern Healthcare

President Barack Obama’s budget next week will steer clear of major cuts to Medicaid, including tens of billions in reductions to the health care plan for the poor that the administration had proposed only last year. Big cuts in the federal-state program wouldn’t go over too well at a time that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is wooing financially skittish Republican governors to expand Medicaid coverage to millions who now are uninsured.

That expansion in the states is critical to the success of Obama’s health overhaul, which is rolling out this fall and early next year.

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HIT Errors ‘Tip of the Iceberg,’ Says ECRI
Health Leaders Media

Healthcare systems’ transitions from paper records to electronic ones are causing harm and in so many serious ways, providers are only now beginning to understand the scope. Computer programs truncated dosage fields, leading to morphine-caused respiratory arrest; lab test and transplant surgery records didn’t talk to each other, leading to organ rejection and patient death; and an electronic system’s misinterpretation of the time “midnight” meant an infant received antibiotics one dangerous day too late.

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Proposed rule offers leeway on community needs assessments
Modern Healthcare

Tax-exempt hospitals that must conduct community needs assessments under the health reform law would get some leeway from penalties for minor missteps and got clarification about how to satisfy new rules under new draft regulations from the Obama administration.

Julie Trocchio, senior director of community benefits and continuing care for the Catholic Health Association, said the trade group’s membership welcomes the latitude to collaborate on needs assessments. She said the proposed rule appears to emphasize transparency and allows providers some welcome flexibility.

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Should Calif. Set Charity Minimum for Not-for-Profit Hospitals?
California Healthline

The California Legislature is considering a proposal to establish a minimum amount of charity care that private hospitals must provide to earn not-for-profit status and the tax benefits that go with it. AB 975 — by Assembly members Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) — would more tightly define charitable care and stipulate that private not-for-profit hospitals may not have operating revenue exceeding 10% of operating expenses, which includes charity care, community benefits and all other normal business expenses.

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Obamacare edges economic uncertainty as top concern for small businesses
The Business Journal

Health care reform now tops economic uncertainty as the biggest concern for small businesses, according to a quarterly survey conducted for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. More than 75 percent of the 1,332 small business owners/executives surveyed by Harris Interactive said health care reform will make insurance coverage for their employees more expensive. More than 70 percent said the law makes it harder for them to hire more employees.

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Experts Discuss Health Care Act Sign-ups
The Independent

More than 100 residents heard a panel of experts talk about the opportunity beginning Oct. 1 to sign up for California’s health care insurance marketplace, a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The panel on March 28 at the Pleasanton Library was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, whose district includes Pleasanton. She said the community informational meeting was the first such in the state concerning the topic.

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Generic Drugs Leave Rite Aid Feeling Sick
San Francisco Chronicle

Generic drugs are good for consumers’ wallets, but they aren’t good for many other players in the medical industry. Pharmaceutical companies that spend billions of dollars to develop brand name drugs feel the pinch when patents run out, and generics flood the market. Apparently, so do drug stores. Rite Aid said today that same store sales fell 2% in March from a year earlier, driven by a decline in drug sales. Sales in the pharmacy, which accounts for 67.6% of overall revenue at Rite Aid, fell 4.5%, despite prescriptions rising slightly.

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How one hospital is using video games to manage kids’ pain
The Mercury News

New video-gaming technology is fundamentally changing the way doctors measure children’s pain.

The just-launched program at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., swaps traditional physical therapy for high-tech video games. This technology isn’t for couch potatoes. The hospital is using proprietary software with Kinect, the motion-sensing device that powers active games like Wii Bowling and Just Dance.

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Inspectors like what they see at San Joaquin Community Hospital
Bakersfield Californian

San Joaquin Community Hospital received some good news this week after the latest in a string of visits from inspectors.

Investigators representing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, were back at the nonprofit hospital Tuesday for another survey after finding fault with the facility on multiple previous visits. But this time San Joaquin received a clean bill of health, according to hospital spokesman Jimmy Phillips.

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Hospitals Re-Think Neurological Services to Meet Geriatric Needs
Health Leaders Media

Six years ago, the 1,239-bed Cleveland Clinic began to systematically take on one of the biggest challenges looming in healthcare: an increasing aging patient population that needs neurological care.

In 2007, the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio had only “a handful of neurologists in our regional hospitals” who treated perhaps 1,000 elderly patients with neurological conditions a year, recalls Stephen Samples, MD, vice chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Institute.

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Walgreen clinics add care of chronic illnesses to boost sales
The Mercury News

Walgreen, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, is expanding into treatment of diabetes, asthma and other chronic illnesses to lure new customers including millions gaining insurance under the Affordable Care Act. More than 330 of Walgreen’s roughly 370 Take Care Clinics in stores are now offering chronic-care services as well as advising consumers on whether to seek preventive care such as laboratory tests, the Deerfield, Ill.-based company said Thursday in a statement.

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Paper Offers Options on Limiting Higher Health Rates
New York Times

State regulators are looking for ways to protect consumers against increases in health insurance rates that they expect to occur next year as major provisions of the new health care law take effect. A paper drafted by a panel of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners analyzes steps that states can take to “mitigate expected premium increases.” The options include tighter regulation of premiums, forcing insurers to cut costs or operate at a loss; financial assistance to consumers, in addition to subsidies that will be provided by the federal government; and programs to ensure that the costs of the sickest patients are shared by all insurers.

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Top 5 Hospital Construction Projects, with images
San Francisco Business Times

George Hurley, the project manager at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, noted the difficulty of treading carefully around LPCH and Stanford Hospital’s underground utilities. Jay Widdifield recounted how his crew at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center had to reroute doorways and walkways throughout the hospital to keep the still-functioning parts of the site safe for pedestrians. But for my money, the most surprising challenge any of our listmaking projects had to face?

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A Model for Health Care Reform: Would You Guess Medicare Part D?
The Health Care Blog

Every day, over 7,600 baby boomers turn 65. By 2029, this number will rise to over 11,000. As more and more Americans approach senior citizenship, health care for seniors through Medicare becomes increasingly relevant. The question is, how will this affect you? We all have questions about how the current budget battle and resulting spending cuts are going to impact Medicare. It seems unavoidable that Medicare costs will have to be reduced in some manner.

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Should Small to Medium-Sized Practices Use Cloud-Based EHR?
The Health Care Blog

Recently I was asked if SaaS/Cloud computing is appropriate for small practice EHR hosting. I responded “SaaS in general is good. However, most SaaS is neither private nor secure. Current regulatory and compliance mandates require that you find a cloud hosting firm which will indemnify you against privacy breeches caused by security issues in the SaaS hosting facility.

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