News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Bipartisan group pushing to undo Medi-Cal cuts
Sacramento Bee

Lawmakers from both parties are joining a press conference this morning to back Assembly Bill 900, by Democrat Luis Alejo of Watsonville, which would undo Medi-Cal cuts to hospital-based skilled nursing services. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway of Tulare, Assemblyman Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, and Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, are also expected to attend the event, which starts at 10 a.m. in the Capitol’s room 317.

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Moody’s: Sequestration Threatens Not-For-Profit Hospitals
Health Leaders Media

The 2% Medicare reimbursement cuts mandated by the federal sequestration over the next 10 years pose a big threat to not-for-profit hospitals, says a report from Moody’s Investors Service. In its report, “The Sequester Series: Sequestration’s Medicare Reductions Present New Headwinds for Not-for-Profit Hospitals,” Moody’s finds that not-for-profit hospitals are generally vulnerable to the cuts because they rely heavily on Medicare reimbursements. Hospitals are especially at risk if they have not already budgeted for the cuts or made spending adjustments in preparation for reduced Medicare payments.

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Health care coverage affordability will vary across wide range of incomes
Modesto Bee

Here’s the good news: Everyone in America should have health insurance starting in January. The bad news: It’s not going to be cheap. Only large employers will be forced to offer health benefits to employees. Small companies won’t have to, though many of them will continue to do so. What’s new is an option for individuals to purchase their health insurance — often at government-subsidized rates — from a health care exchange called Covered California.

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Federal grants available for exchange ‘navigators’
Modern Healthcare

Organizations and individuals that want to help consumers register for health coverage in federally run or state partnership exchanges can apply for $54 million in grant funding, the CMS said today. The grants are available to self-employed individuals, as well as private companies and public organizations that will serve as “navigators” for the new exchanges.

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CMS awards thousands of DME contracts as bidding program grows
Modern Healthcare

The CMS awarded thousands of new contracts in Medicare’s competitive-bidding program for medical supplies, an initiative growing substantially in its reach amid persistent criticism from many companies that distribute the products. On Tuesday, the CMS announced 13,126 contracts with 799 suppliers for the program’s second round, which will take effect on July 1.

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Are Hospitals Truly Non-Profit?
KMJN

A new bill which would require hospitals to justify their tax-exempt status is moving forward. AB-975 has passed the California Assembly Committee on Health by a 12-to-7 vote. The proposal would mandate that hospitals prove that they’re charitable organizations, by showing that revenue does not exceed 10% of spending; facilities would also be fined, if timely reports are not submitted outlining charitable care.

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Kaiser scores $1.9 billion low interest loan from state to build replacement hospitals
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer announced Tuesday the approval of $1.9 billion in bonds to aid in the construction of six Kaiser hospitals, including several in Southern California.

The transaction is the largest ever approved by the California Health Facilities Financing Authority, a state entity that helps nonprofit hospitals with construction financing, officials said Tuesday.

The newest bond issuance brings the total amount borrowed by the nonprofit health care provider to about $9.5 billion since 2006, according to the authority’s meeting documents.

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Working Californians Eligible For Tax Credits To Buy Health Insurance Next Year
KPBS

If you make between $47,000 and $94,000 a year, you may be eligible for a federal subsidy to buy health insurance beginning in 2014. More than 237,000 San Diegans will be eligible for federal subsidies to buy health insurance next year. The non-profit advocacy group Families USA has spelled out what that assistance will look like under Obamacare. Under the Affordable Care Act, families of four that make up to $94,000 a year will be eligible for federal tax credits to buy insurance.

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Health reform could cost county
Monterey Herald

Monterey County’s public health system will still be responsible for providing care for the largest ratio of uninsured residents in the state — most of them in the country illegally — even after implementation of national health care reform begins next year.

That is a major reason county health officials say they are so concerned about the debate in Sacramento about how to implement the Affordable Care Act, which would require most adult residents to have health insurance starting in 2014.

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Tavenner hearing marked by spirit of good will
Modern Healthcare

Amid a generally warm bipartisan welcome today, Marilyn Tavenner fielded questions and concerns over implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from members of the Senate Finance Committee.

Much of the partisan rancor that has dominated health policy discussions in Congress since it began considering the ACA in 2009 died away during Tavenner’s confirmation hearing as administrator of the CMS.

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Tavenner sails through confirmation hearing
Modern Healthcare

Acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner weathered her confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee without taking much of a beating from the committee’s Republicans, who remain opposed to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and have raised concerns about the way the CMS is implementing its provisions. Here’s a blow-by-blow of this morning’s hearing from Modern Healthcare reporter Rich Daly.

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Futures At Risk: Preventing Children’s Exposure to Violence
HealthyCal.org

Picture yourself walking through a forest. Now, imagine that you’ve come face to face with a large bear. Instantly, your emergency response system kicks into gear, flooding your body with stress hormones. Your pupils dilate, your heart starts beating fast, and your skin becomes cold and clammy. The executive, cognitive portion of your brain shuts off so you can focus only on two options—-fight or flight. Your body’s emergency response system could save your life—-if a bear in the forest really is confronting you.

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Cancer survivor rates, costs increase
San Francisco Chronicle

More people in the United States are surviving cancer – and the survivorship numbers will rise in the next decade. That’s according to a March report from the American Association for Cancer Research, which says the number of cancer survivors has reached 13.7 million and is expected to grow to 18 million by 2022. Researchers credit some of the increase to better cancer detection and treatment, but say that, as the U.S. population ages, the number of cancer survivors – and cancer cases – will naturally increase. The report also shows that life after cancer is expensive.

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Gene technology may offer new weapon against disease outbreaks
Modern Healthcare

Gene-sequencing technologies may help providers identify and characterize bacterial pathogens during an outbreak, such as the E. coli outbreak in Germany that sickened thousands of people in 2011. Using metagenomics, which is the direct sequencing of DNA extracted from microbiologically complex samples and has been used to identify the cause of outbreaks of viral infections, researchers reconstructed the genome sequence of that outbreak strain without using laboratory culture, according to a study published in JAMA.

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State diabetes program focuses on regional hot spots
HealthyCal.org

Stopping the rise of diabetes is an ongoing effort in California, especially in counties such as Monterey, where the rates of the illness are higher than the state average. In Monterey, local and regional programs are working to prevent the chronic illness, which carries a hefty price tag and toll on health, with support from statewide efforts. In Monterey County, diabetes prevalence increased by 83 percent between 2003 and 2009, according to California Department of Public Health Statistics.

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How health tech can support the aging baby boomer population
VentureBeat

Advancements in medicine and treatments have increased the life expectancy for baby boomers. Almost 87 million Americans, or one in four, will be 65 or older by 2050, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Both these trends have many implications for hospitals and healthcare organizations. Over the next decade, the healthcare system will need to adapt to the influx of baby boomers, many of whom will have chronic diseases and need continued care.

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Student group takes stand against AMA’s sale of prescribing data
Modern Physician

Stating that physicians should base prescribing decisions on evidence and “not carefully packaged advertising,” the American Medical Student Association is sponsoring National Opt Out Day on April 10—a new event aimed at blocking drug and medical company access to physicians’ personal information and prescribing data. “We want our members—the nation’s future physicians—to understand what this information is being used for so they can make their own decision to remain in the database or opt out,” Dr. Elizabeth Wiley, AMSA president, said in a news release.

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State agency OKs sale of $1.9 billion in tax-exempt bonds to help Kaiser build new hospitals
The Mercury News

A state agency on Tuesday approved the sale of $1.9 billion in tax-exempt bonds to help Kaiser Foundation Hospitals build six new medical centers, expand an existing one and construct a specialty medical office. It was the largest transaction ever approved by the California Health Facilities Financing Authority. The authority was created in 1979 to enable the state to assist public and nonprofit health care providers such as Kaiser through loans funded by tax-exempt bonds.

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Hospital chain CEOs exercise stock options as shares rebound
Modern Healthcare

As acute-care hospital chains saw their stock prices climb last year, more CEOs exercised stock options—leading to a boost in overall compensation despite more modest pay packages.

At 132-hospital Community Health Systems, Franklin, Tenn., President and CEO Wayne Smith saw a 19.7% decrease in annual compensation (excluding the value of option awards), but nevertheless saw his total compensation rise after exercising stock options of $4.5 million.

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FDA approves return of drug for morning sickness
Modern Healthcare

Talk about a comeback: A treatment pulled off the market 30 years ago has won Food and Drug Administration approval again as the only drug specifically designated to treat morning sickness.

That long-ago safety scare, prompted by hundreds of lawsuits claiming birth defects, proved to be a false alarm.

Monday’s FDA decision means a new version of the pill once called Bendectin is set to return to U.S. pharmacies under a different name — Diclegis — as a safe and effective treatment for this pregnancy rite of passage.

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New NCQA tool to assess diabetes, heart care
Modern Healthcare

The National Committee for Quality Assurance says it is developing a new outcomes-based measurement tool aimed at more accurately assessing the care delivered to patients with heart disease and diabetes.

In a Tuesday news release, Washington-based NCQA, well-known for its performance measure set for health plans and for its patient-centered medical home program, said the tool will extract electronic health-record data to provide a more complete picture of how patients’ risks of adverse outcomes are reduced, based on individualized treatment.

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Santa Cruz County prepares as health care changes near
Santa Cruz Sentinel

Santa Cruz County is set to hire dozens of new workers to prepare for sweeping health care changes that will bring new insurance coverage for thousands of residents.

Those state-funded workers will handle an expected rush of people signing up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the controversial 2010 bill that includes a vast Medicaid expansion going into effect Jan. 1. The county Board of Supervisors heard an update Tuesday on local efforts to prepare for that day.

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Small businesses tackle health care reforms
San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego business owners are bracing themselves for health care reform and what it will mean for them in coming years, as evidenced by the 50 or so business representatives who turned out for an informational workshop on the issue Tuesday.

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted the meeting, and Blue Shield sales representatives Sharlene Beltran and Laura Noyes co-led it with Diana Twadell, a principal at Barney & Barney specializing in small- and mid-sized group benefits. The workshop was held at Barney & Barney on Towne Centre Drive.

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Bill to let non-doctors perform early abortions clears committee
Sacramento Bee

A proposal to let medical professionals other than doctors perform an early abortion procedure advanced Tuesday in the California Legislature. Assembly Bill 154, by Democratic Assemblywoman Toni Atkins of San Diego, authorizes nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants who undergo training to conduct aspiration abortions, a procedure that uses a suction method to remove a fetus early in a pregnancy.

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After 14-year study, Kaiser finds chickenpox vaccine highly effective
San Francisco Chronicle

A recent study by Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center found that the Chickenpox vaccine is 90 percent effective in reducing a child’s chance of catching Chickenpox. Doctor designed by Andrew McKinley from the Noun Project, Medical clip board designed by Douglas Nash from the Noun Project, Syringe designed by Richard Pasqua the Noun Project A rash followed by itchy, fluid-filled blisters all over a child’s body, usually tells parents their child has chickenpox.

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Decisions critical to make health reform work
Sacramento Bee

The hope of health reformers, myself included, is that putting the Affordable Care Act into place will resemble the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” After a bumpy transition, everything will be just as it was but better. Zuzu’s petals will be in our pockets, and the whole neighborhood will have shown up to help those in need.

This happy ending would be virtually guaranteed if Congress had passed the law Democrats originally introduced.

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