News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Medi-Cal cuts in skilled nursing blasted by advocates
Sacramento Business Journal

A nonpartisan group of legislators joined union and health care leaders at the State Capitol on Wednesday in support of legislation to stop a retroactive 10 percent cut in Medi-Cal funding for hospital-based skilled nursing services they say will hurt patients, workers and hospitals. The cuts, which are based on funding levels in fiscal year 2008-09, translate to a 25 percent reduction to services already in short supply, advocates say.

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Report: Fewer Californians get health care at work
San Francisco Chronicle

Far fewer Californians are getting health insurance through their employers compared to a decade ago, a change that comes as the nation is about to undergo major reforms in the health care system, according to a report released Wednesday. The report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funds health research and programs, found that the number of Californians receiving employer-sponsored insurance dropped by 1.3 million, or 8.4 percent, over the past decade.

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Obama proposes $5.6B in Medicare payment cuts for FY 2014
Modern Healthcare

President Barack Obama’s highly anticipated fiscal 2014 budget released Wednesday proposes $5.6 billion in Medicare payment cuts for that year and about $400 billion in total federal healthcare savings over the next decade. In a news conference at the White House, the president called his budget—which aims to reduce the deficit by nearly $1.8 trillion over 10 years and would eliminate the sequester cuts—“a fiscally responsible blueprint for middle-class jobs and growth.”

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California’s per capita spending on health care relatively low
Sacramento Bee

California may have high housing, fuel and electric power prices, but Californians’ spending on health care is below the national average, according to a new data compilation by the Wall Street Journal. California was spending $6,258 per resident on health care – doctors, hospitals, prescription drugs – in 2009, the latest year for which complete data were available, the Wall Street Journal study found.

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Employer health coverage declines
San Francisco Chronicle

Fewer New Yorkers are getting health insurance through their employers, according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Over the past decade, the percentage of state residents getting employer-based health coverage fell to 60 percent from 66 percent, which means 770,000 fewer people received such coverage in 2011 than in 2000. Nationally, the decline was steeper, with coverage from employers shrinking to 59.5 percent from 69.7 percent, a drop of more than 10 percentage points.

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More employers dropping insurance: study
Modern Healthcare

Rising premiums have driven a steady decline in employer-sponsored health insurance since 2000, according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study released today. In 2011, the number of Americans with employer-sponsored insurance stood at 159 million, a decline of 11.5 million from 2000. The 2011 figure represented 59.5% of the U.S. population, a drop of 10 percentage points from a decade earlier.

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Employer-based health coverage on the decline, study finds
The Hill

The number of people who receive healthcare coverage through their work has dropped sharply over the last ten years as costs have risen, according to a new study. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) reported Thursday that the share of people with employer-based coverage fell from about 70 percent in 2000 to about 60 percent in 2011. These figures mean that about 11.5 million people who once received health insurance through their jobs no longer do.

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Most employers to continue offering health care coverage: Survey
Business Insurance

The overwhelming majority of employers say they will keep offering health care coverage to their employees when key provisions of the health care reform law take effect in 2014, according to a new survey.

Sixty-nine percent of benefit professionals responding to an International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans survey said their employers “definitely will” continue coverage next year for full-time employees, while 25% said continuation of coverage was “very likely.”

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Health Care Affordability Still Confusing to Employees and Employers Alike, Study Finds
Workforce Management

Participation in employer-offered health benefits plans is contingent on an employee’s wages, according to a recent survey published by Automatic Data Processing Inc. Single-coverage-eligible employees who earn about $45,000 per year, which is about 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, were found to participate in health coverage plans 81 percent of the time, according to the study. As incomes decline from the $45,000 mark, however, participation rates begin to fall as well.

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Health Insurance Exchanges Looking Costlier To Set Up
The Huffington Post

Buried in the $3.8 trillion budget President Barack Obama sent to Congress Wednesday is a small item of potentially big significance. The White House now says it spent more than double what they thought they would carrying out a key element of health care reform. A couple billion dollars isn’t much in the context of a health care law that will spend about $1 trillion over a decade to provide tens of millions of people with health care coverage.

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Obama Pulls Back on Health Law Promises as Exchange Costs Double
San Francisco Chronicle

The $1.3 trillion U.S. health-care system overhaul is getting more expensive and will initially accomplish less than intended. Costs for a network of health-insurance exchanges, a core part of the Affordable Care Act, have swelled to $4.4 billion for fiscal 2012 and 2013 combined, and will reach $5.7 billion in 2014, according to the budget President Barack Obama yesterday sent to Congress. That spending would be more than double initial projections, even though less than half the 50 U.S. states are participating.

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Tracking Obama’s health law in budget isn’t easy
Modern Healthcare

Next year is the year President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law goes into high gear, covering millions of uninsured Americans by a mix of private plans and government programs infused with tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money. You’d think there’d be a chapter in the new 2014 budget that lays it all out. Wrong. Well, maybe a table? Wrong again. A box? Nope.

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Nearly 3 million Californians will be eligible for health insurance tax credits, study says
Southern California Public Radio

Federal tax credits designed to make health insurance more affordable, starting next year, will help nearly 3 million Californians buy health insurance, according to a study issued Tuesday.

The report commissioned by Families USA — a supporter of President Obama’s health care reforms — says that more than 85 percent of all Californians who qualify for the federal tax credits live in families with at least one full- or part-time worker who doesn’t receive employer-sponsored health insurance.

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Hope for health reform
Washington Times

A curious thing happened the other night at the Commonwealth Club of California. Smack-dab in the middle of an all-star panel discussion on the need to improve the ethics and practice of medicine – a conversation that included the usual and expected litany of all things gone wrong with the American healthcare system – there came a glimmer of hope. That’s right. Hope. It began with something said by Dr. Robert Pearl, executive director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, the largest medical group in the nation.

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Health care coverage coming to valley
Merced Sun-Star

An estimated 20,110 residents in Merced County will be among nearly 3 million uninsured or poorly insured Californians eligible for tax credits to help them buy insurance before the federal health care law kicks in next year, according to a report released Tuesday. In the Northern San Joaquin Valley, almost 40 percent of those people are young adults, ages 18 to 35, who have no insurance or are offered substandard coverage by employers.

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Marin General Hospital gets 10-year extension on seismic safety deadline
Marin Independent Journal

The state has extended by 10 years, to 2030, its deadline for Marin General Hospital to build a new, earthquake-safe complex.

Hospital officials say the need for Marin General to build a new, state-of-the-art hospital as soon as possible remains despite the extension.

“We really need to bring the hospital into the 21st century; so much of the facility is outdated,” said Jennifer Rienks, president of the Marin Healthcare District board.

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Food trucks keep it local and healthy in Fresno
HealthyCal.org

By the historical Water Tower in downtown Fresno, four colorful food trucks lined up along with two netted food booths to sell fresh gourmet food, from fruit cobbler to tamales. Unlike Los Angeles or San Francisco, Fresno isn’t known as a foodie haven, but that may be changing. Hundreds of people flock to the Friday food truck event, called CArt Hop because art is on display too. And that’s just one way that a new generation of food trucks are emphasizing fresh, local and health foods in the Central Valley city.

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SGR fix may be coming soon, senator says
Modern Healthcare

Legislation that provides a permanent fix to Medicare’s controversial sustainable growth-rate formula used in calculating physician reimbursement could be introduced in the Senate this year, according to a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Responding to a reporter’s question, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said that a number of senators have been discussing legislation that would repeal the SGR.

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Former medical director alleges groups prioritized profits over care
Bakersfield Californian

The ousted medical director of local medical groups is suing his former employer claiming he was wrongfully fired because he raised concerns that administrators and employees who were not doctors overruled medical decisions because they were more concerned about costs then patient care.

An amended complaint filed in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court last month alleges that Dr. John S. McGee was fired from his job as medical director for Bakersfield Family Medical Center and Coastal Communities Physician Network medical groups “in retaliation for recommending and approving appropriate and necessary medical care, his insistence on properly performing his statutory duties as medical director, and his refusal to participate in an unlawful scheme to compromise patient care for corporate profits.”

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Undocumented workers deserve health care
San Diego Union-Tribune

As if in a perfect storm, the politics of health and immigration reform have suddenly and unexpectedly clashed, creating a contentious atmosphere to debate the arguments for and against certain health reform initiatives. Within this context, as a public health advocate for underserved and vulnerable people, I believe that, as a society, we have an ethical and social responsibility to provide health care coverage to the undocumented immigrant community.

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State Health Agency Directs Insurers to Stop Discriminating Against Transgender People
KQED Radio

The state’s Department of Managed Health Care has issued a letter to “remind” health care plans that discrimination against transgender people is in violation of anti-discrimination laws passed in 2005. The DMHC regulates HMOs in California. In a release, the Transgender Law Center called the directive “groundbreaking” and said it will save lives.

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No takers for expedited ACO reviews
Modern Healthcare

Just two potential Medicare accountable care organizations so far have asked federal officials for expedited antitrust reviews through a special avenue created to make sure antitrust uncertainty didn’t create a drag on the government’s attempts to get the model off the ground. Both of those ACOs later withdrew their requests, the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Justice Department said in a new report on their enforcement guidance.

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Much-revised hospital expansion plan headed for new approvals
San Francisco Chronicle

A year after plans for Sutter Health’s $2.5 billion hospital expansion project got the green light from the City Planning Commission, the commissioners Thursday will get its first look at a much-revised — and seriously scaled back — version of the effort to make some of the city’s most important health facilities earthquake safe.

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Health Reform Should Include Legal Care for Patients
The Health Care Blog

If the country is serious about reforming the healthcare system, then it needs to look beyond just improving access to medical care. Reforms must acknowledge and address the underlying causes of poor health, many of which cannot be adequately treated by healthcare professionals alone. Indeed, for some 50 million low-income Americans, the barriers to getting healthy represent unmet legal needs better remedied by a lawyer than a healthcare professional.

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