News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Federal health reform involves a series of trade-offs

California has led the nation in implementing President Obama’s health reform law, and Californians are among its biggest supporters. Will that support be sustained as voters learn more about how the law will work? That’s a tough question. But the answer may help determine the ultimate fate of the law as its still-vague promises become reality. If Californians turn against the Affordable Care Act, the rest of the nation, which is already more skeptical, will likely be in full revolt.

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Insurance commissioners propose ideas to minimize ‘rate shock’
Modern Healthcare

A group of insurance commissioners is sharing ways states can minimize the likelihood of large premium increases, particularly for young adults, as major provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act go into effect in 2014.

Several provisions of the law affecting the individual and small-group markets—such as essential health benefits, limits on age-rating factors, guaranteed issue and single risk-pool ratings—could make claims costs spike for insurers, leading to premium hikes, according to a draft paper titled “Rate Increase Mitigation Strategies” presented today at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ annual spring meeting in Houston.

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Three bills could bring broader medical practice
San Diego Union-Tribune

A trio of bills under consideration by the state Senate would allow nurse practitioners to see patients without supervision of doctors and would significantly expand the ability of optometrists and pharmacists to provide primary care to patients.

The bills are being promoted as a way to help increase treatment capacity at a time when federal health reform is poised to provide coverage to millions of currently uninsured Californians and some organizations have predicted a doctor shortage.

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How Californians die
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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Debate Intensifies Over California Hospital Charity Care Requirements
Becker's Hospital Review

California, seen by many as a policy trendsetter for other states, continues to debate a bill that would require non-profit hospitals and health system to provide a specific amount of charity care to patients, according to a California Healthline report. In February, two Democratic Assemblymembers — Rob Bonta and Bob Wieckowski — authored Assembly Bill 975. The bill would require private, non-profit hospitals to provide charity care “in an amount equal to at least 8 percent of [their] operating margins” by Jan. 1, 2015.

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Legislation questions California hospitals’ nonprofit status
Fox News

Some of California’s most powerful unions are pressuring nonprofit hospitals to prove that they provide enough charitable care to justify their tax-exempt status.

The California Nurses Association is pushing legislation that would set statewide standards for what hospitals can count as charity care.

Under the bill, a hospital would have to show why it should keep its nonprofit status if revenue exceeds spending by more than 10 percent.

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Two Bay Area lawmakers seek to hold tax-exempt hospitals accountable
Contra Costa Times

Nonprofit hospitals in California, which take millions of dollars in tax breaks annually, would face greater scrutiny of the charity care and other community benefits they provide under legislation sought by two Bay Area lawmakers. AB975 would require the hospitals to justify their lucrative, tax-exempt status if their operating revenues exceed their operating expenses by more than 10 percent.

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Healthcare job growth dips in March
Modern Physician

Healthcare wasn’t immune to a slowdown in overall U.S. job creation in March. The sector created 6,900 fewer jobs compared with the previous month, according to preliminary, seasonally adjusted figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 23,400 jobs the healthcare sector created for the month was close, however, to the 12-month average. The total healthcare jobs created in March represent 27% of the 88,000 U.S. jobs added in overall nonfarm employment.

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Healthcare Sector Props Up March Jobs Report
Health Leaders Media

Solid job growth in the healthcare sector in March continued to prop up national job creation numbers during an otherwise anemic month. Healthcare accounted for 23,400 of the 88,000 new jobs created in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Within the healthcare sector, 15,000 jobs were created in ambulatory services, which includes physicians’ offices, and 8,000 jobs were created in hospitals.

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Ballots go out for re-run union vote at Kaiser
Modern Healthcare

The National Labor Relations Board today began mailing ballots to Kaiser Permanente service, clerical and technical workers who will vote in a do-over election to determine which union will represent more than 45,000 healthcare employees.

Workers will have until April 29 to send their completed ballot to the NLRB’s regional office in Oakland, Calif. The ballot count is scheduled May 1-3, NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland said.

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Dental franchises show steady growth
USA Today

At some 60 Great Expressions dental offices in Michigan — and 140 more nationwide — the profits from filling cavities and getting braces for the kids ultimately help to fund the retirement of hundreds of thousands of municipal workers in Canada.

Great Expressions Dental Centers, founded in Michigan and headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, is an impressive growth story, with about $275 million in annual revenue and a spot on Inc. magazine’s list of America’s fastest-growing private companies.

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Vaccine fails to protect against staph
Monterey Herald

Staph infections remain a significant problem for hospital patients, and scientists are trying to develop vaccines to prevent Staphylococcus aureus bacteria from establishing itself in vital areas like the heart, lungs or blood. But it’s turning out to be a difficult task: A promising vaccine intended to protect heart-surgery patients from staph infections worked no better than a placebo, a new study reported.

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Sutter nurses at two Bay Area hospitals ratify contract
Sacramento Business Journal

Registered nurses at two Sutter Health hospitals in San Francisco have ratified a new collective bargaining contract after a protracted fight over terms and working conditions. For the first time, the new contract at California Pacific Medical Center and St. Luke’s Hospital covers both hospitals, which are operated under one license but reflect two different campuses.

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Health care reform, Teeter program on Board of Supervisors agenda
Ukiah Daily Journal

A presentation on federal health care reform, continued discussion about cutting the Brooktrails subdivision from the county’s Teeter program and a change to the county’s fee schedule are items on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors’ Monday and Tuesday meeting agendas. At 1:30 p.m. Monday, the board will hear a presentation on implementing the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barrack Obama just over two years ago.

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Staffing agencies, employers examine impacts of health reform
North Bay Business Journal

Employers large and small are bracing for the full implementation of health care reform, but smaller businesses with at least 50 employees are especially anxious when it comes to a key question: do they provide benefits for full-time workers or pay a fine for each full-time worker not covered?

The employment sector could stand to benefit, particularly staffing agencies already adept at providing leaner workforces for employers in a number of industries, employment experts said.

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Ex-Obama administration healthcare official joins lobby firm
The Hill

A top Obama administration official who has helped implement the president’s healthcare reform law is joining a lobby firm. Yvette Fontenot will join Avenue Solutions as a partner. The firm is a boutique Democratic lobby shop with a specialty in healthcare, representing some of the country’s biggest insurers and healthcare providers.

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The True Collaborative Health Record
The Health Care Blog

I’ve been going about this all wrong. It’s not my dumping of the payment system so I can focus on care over codes, my use of technology to connect better with patients, or my vision of the “collaborative record” that is wrong. It’s the fact that I am doing this without my most important resource: my patients. I realized this while driving in to work this past week. My first patient was a tech-savvy guy I’ve known for a long time.

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Teaching Value: Medical Educators Need to Take Charge and Help Deflate Medical Bills
The Health Care Blog

At a time when one in three Americans report difficulty paying medical bills, up to $750 billion is being spent on care that does not help patients become healthier. Although physicians are routinely required to manage expensive resources, traditional medical training offers few opportunities to learn how to deliver the highest quality care at the lowest possible cost. While the gap is glaring the problem is not new. In 1975, the department of medicine at Charlotte Memorial Hospital initiated a system to monitor medical costs generated by house officers.

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Health care reform’s turf war
San Francisco Chronicle

It takes about 12 years to educate and train a doctor. With the influx of millions of newly insured patients created by the federal health law, the Affordable Care Act, it’s clear we’re going to need more doctors to treat those patients. But we don’t have 12 years. We don’t even have a year. The main provisions that expand coverage to more people go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.