News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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GOP backs prevention cuts to fund high-risk pool
Modern Healthcare

House Republicans moved to divert money from the healthcare reform law’s prevention and public health fund to shore up a program the law created to give temporary relief to Americans who can’t otherwise afford health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. The committee voted 27 to 20 along party lines to approve H.R. 1549, known as The Helping Sick Americans Now Act.

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Baucus sees insurance exchange ‘train wreck’
Modern Healthcare

The primary author of the 2010 healthcare overhaul is worried that the health insurance exchanges planned for launch this year are headed for a “train wreck.”

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, said Tuesday that the lack of details provided to him and the amount of confusion he had heard from constituents indicate that the Obama administration will not launch health insurance exchanges in all 50 states on time.

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Why Surgical Complications May Actually Hurt Profits Despite What You’ve Just Read
The Health Care Blog

There’s a high-profile and important paper in JAMA this week by Sunil Eappen and colleagues. The study looked at surgical discharges during 2010 from a single 12-hospital system and came to the conclusion that admissions that include a surgical complication were associated with a higher profit (defined as the contribution margin) than admissions without complications. The authors conclude that this creates a disincentive for hospitals preventing surgical complications since they might see reduced profits as a result. This is a very provocative finding and it’s getting a lot of well-placed media attention, as you might expect. There is an important caveat with the study that I would like to highlight.

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Hospitals Crack Down on ED Repeat Users
Health Leaders Media

They come into the emergency department as if it’s their second home; indeed, they often are on a first-name basis with the medical personnel who are there to greet and treat them. On this particular Sunday night in a suburban Washington, D.C., hospital, a patient is in the ED, smiling but with a bloodied face. A nurse whispers in the hallway: “Mary’s alcohol level is high again.” Just as the bartenders at the local taverns do, the ED nurses know Mary.

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U.S. infant mortality rate declines
Los Angeles Times

Infant mortality in the U.S. has declined 12% since 2005 after holding steady for many years, according to data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The infant mortality rate in 2011 was 6.05 deaths per every 1,000 live births, down from 6.87 in 2005, according to the report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

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U.S. Infant Mortality Rate Fell Steadily From ’05 to ’11
New York Times

The nation’s infant mortality rate fell by 12 percent from 2005 through 2011, a promising pattern that researchers say may be due in part to a decline in premature births. The decline came after a period of stalled progress. Although the infant mortality rate dropped significantly over the 20th century, it remained static from 2000 to 2005, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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CalPERS picks four new HMO plans for 5-year contracts
Los Angeles Times

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System picked four new HMO plans for five-year health insurance contracts starting next year, a blow to incumbent carrier Blue Shield of California.

The giant pension fund voted Wednesday to split up Blue Shield’s statewide HMO contract and offer additional plans from Anthem Blue Cross, UnitedHealth Group Inc., Sharp Health Plan and Health Net Inc. alongside Blue Shield.

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CalPERS divides HMO contract between 5 plans, diluting Blue Shield’s role
San Francisco Business Times

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System said late Wednesday that it’s splitting the HMO contract now held by Blue Shield of California among five health plans, including San Francisco-based Blue Shield. The move, though not unexpected, is a big blow to Blue Shield and new CEO Paul Markovich. CalPERS is looking to create more competition among health plans, with a view toward keeping costs low and quality high.

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Health Net added to CalPERS list of potential HMO plans
Sacramento Business Journal

Health Net got a reprieve Wednesday, when the California Public Employees’ Retirement System board added the health plan into the line-up of potential HMO plans in its health benefits program next year. The Pension and Health Benefits Committee left Health Net out on Tuesday, when members approved Blue Shield of California, Anthem Blue Cross, UnitedHealthcare and Sharp Health Plan for the program in 2014 if contracts can be negotiated successfully. The Board of Administration added Health Net without comment.

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Patient-centered care by doctors tied to better outcomes
Los Angeles Daily News

Patients tend to do better when their doctors pay attention to their individual needs and circumstances, according to a new study.

“In a sense that sounds sort of obvious, but no one has ever showed that before,” said Dr. Saul Weiner, the study’s lead researcher.

Weiner, a physician and health services researcher at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago, said doctors are often focused on meeting recommended guidelines, such as prescribing certain medications for a condition like high blood pressure.

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Bills head to the Senate on behalf of EPHC
Plumas County News

The drastic MediCal cuts to skilled nursing facilities in California are faced with an army of protests and legislative blockades. For Eastern Plumas Heath Care this could mean the difference between life and death.

“We’re feeling positive about things,” said EPHC Public Relations Coordinator Linda Satchwell. “The huge amount of effort we’re putting in is really going somewhere. It’s all starting to register.”

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Big Data Contest Looks to Solve Healthcare Puzzles
Health Leaders Media

Healthcare innovators looking to fuel their big data analytics dreams have a new source of inspiration – and money. The Care Transformation Prize Series will provide at least three quarterly prizes of $100,000 to the teams that develop the best solutions to challenges to be selected by the public and vetted by a panel of judges.

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Can smartphones solve the healthcare crisis? 4 startups say yes
VentureBeat

Demo Mobile kicked off this morning with presentations from four mobile health startups. Each of these companies is applying mobile technology to the medical field to give people more control over their bodies, or to streamline the clinical process for physicians. “Mobile computing is just getting bigger and bigger,” said Demo’s executive producer Erick Schonfeld in an interview before the event.

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UnitedHealth’s 1Q profit falls 14%
Modern Healthcare

UnitedHealth Group’s first-quarter net income dropped 14%, as the nation’s largest health insurer paid out more for medical claims and booked a smaller gain due to leftover insurance claims.

The Minnetonka, Minn., company also said Thursday it still backs a forecast it made last November for 2013 earnings to range between $5.25 and $5.50 per share, but it expects less revenue because a big client changed its insurance coverage.

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Calif. medical group partnering with UCSF
Modern Physician

Pacific Partners Management Services and its 803-physician Individual Practice Association Medical Group of Santa Clara County have agreed to collaborate with UCSF Medical Center and create an integrated healthcare system in the San Francisco area, according to a news release.

The parties signed a letter of intent on March 22 and could finalize the deal by the end of June. Individual Practice Association Medical Group of Santa Clara County is physician-owned with more than 60 medical specialties.

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Kaiser Permanente celebrates 70 years of service to Fontana region
San Bernardino Sun

It all began in 1943.

That’s when industrialist Henry J. Kaiser decided to build a hospital for Kaiser Steel Mill employees and their families.

Kaiser asked Dr. Sidney Garfield to establish the hospital and medical care program in Fontana, just as he had done at Kaiser shipyards in Richmond and in Vancouver, Wash.

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Stereotyping in medical settings – ouch
Sacramento Bee

‘Could you help me get the cirrhotic liver in bed 403B down for his CT scan?” “I need to go order medications for the AIDS patient in room 5320.” “She’s an epileptic, so she needs to have padding placed on her bed rails.” “You know what the sheik admitted yesterday morning? Well, he needs some additional blood tests.”

Hearing comments such as these is not uncommon in hospitals across the nation. The people who speak them are probably not biased, nor are they bad people. They are selecting these quick descriptors as short cuts in language to quickly convey a message to a co-worker. But to many of those people being assigned these labels, the descriptors are stigmatizing and even offensive.

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FDA advisory panel says Theravance COPD drug should be approved
San Francisco Business Times

An inhaled lung drug developed by Theravance Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline plc moved a step closer to approval Wednesday after getting a positive recommendation from an FDA advisory panel. The treatment, a once-a-day inhaled combination of a corticosteroid (fluticasone furoate) and bronchodilator (vilanterol), abbreviated as FF/VI and branded as Breo Ellipta, got a 9-4 vote in favor of approval from the Food and Drug Administration’s Pulmonary-Allergy Drugs Advisory Committee, or PADAC.

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