News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Sebelius insists insurance exchanges will be ready
Modern Healthcare

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius again assured federal lawmakers that the health insurance exchanges will be ready for enrollment this fall, and also said her department does not have a contingency plan in place if HHS doesn’t achieve that goal.

Sebelius told members of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee that HHS is focused on getting the exchanges—a major provision of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—”up and running” after Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), the panel’s vice chairman, asked if HHS has a back-up plan in place.

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Bill Aims To Reverse 10% Provider Rate Reduction
California Healthline

Assembly member Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) yesterday said he wants to undo the 10% Medi-Cal provider reimbursement rate cut passed by the Legislature in 2011. The across-the-board reductions were challenged in a lawsuit still pending in federal court and have not taken effect. California lawmakers in 2011 faced a huge budget shortfall, and this particular cut was made to save the state an estimated $50 million a month, health officials say.

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Big ACO push at heart of policy group’s healthcare overhaul plan
Modern Healthcare

Medicare providers could see both bigger pay increases and bigger cuts than offered in the current system under a high-profile, bipartisan overhaul proposed Thursday. The single largest provider benefit in a proposed overhaul from the Bipartisan Policy Center—founded in 2007 by former Republican and Democratic congressional leaders—is the elimination of the sustainable growth-rate formula. That payment system has required congressional patches to avert Medicare physician pay cuts every year since 2002, including a 24.4% cut required at the end of this year.

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The Affordable Care Act: Like It Or Not, It’s Catalyzing a Golden Age In Health Care Investing
The Health Care Blog

Now that President Obama has been re-elected and the Supreme Court has upheld the Accountable Care Act, healthcare reform is here to stay. So what does reform mean for healthcare investors? I believe it will usher in a new fertile period for innovative,venture‐backed companies that can navigate the brave new world of healthcare delivery and management. The Accountable Care Act impact on healthcare IT investing is already being felt. Venture investment in 2013 is showing significant growth from last year.

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New Health Care Law Tax Surprise
NBC Bay Area

The US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration says that the IRS needs to do more to educate American taxpayers about the implications of the new Federal Affordable Care Act that will extend health care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans beginning in 2014.

J. Russell George says he’s concerned that the Internal Revenue Service is making plans to implement the new changes but hasn’t adequately informed the general public about what’s coming and how it could directly affect them, especially potential tax returns uninsured taxpayers might be due.

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Session to focus on EHR-billing controversy
Modern Healthcare

The controversy over the appropriate use of health information technology systems to streamline workflow while not fraudulently increasing healthcare claims will get a public airing early next month.

The CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS have scheduled a public, live and online “listening session” May 3 on “Billing and Coding with Electronic Health Records.”

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Finding a cure for California’s acute doctor shortage
The Mercury News

California doesn’t have enough primary care physicians. Forty-two of its 58 counties fall short of the federal government’s most basic standard. The state needs another 2,000 doctors, and the situation will get dramatically worse next year when 2 million to 4 million Californians obtain health insurance under Obamacare and go looking for a doctor. The California Medical Association wants to build more medical schools and expand opportunities for young doctors.

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Advocates fear long delay for rule on home-care worker pay
Modern Healthcare

Those awaiting the Obama administration’s decision on whether to guarantee home-care workers at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay could be in for a long summer.

The Office of Management and Budget’s 90-day window to review a final rule on the matter passed without action on April 15. It has been more than a year since President Barack Obama announced he would work toward ensuring workers in the $84 billion-a-year home-care business would receive minimum wage and overtime protections.

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CA Senate Health Committee approves bill to expand training in use of EpiPens against extreme allergic reactions
Orange County Breeze

The Senate Health Committee took action today to approve legislation authored by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) that will better protect children and adults who suffer from serious and potentially life-threatening allergies. SB 669 enables California to join a growing group of states that provide training in the proper use of emergency epinephrine auto-injectors – otherwise known as EpiPens – by making these auto-injectors available by prescription to individuals who have successfully completed specified training and certification.

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UC health care union schedules strike vote for late April
San Francisco Business Times

AFSCME local 3299 says its 13,000 patient care technical workers at five University of California medical centers, including UCSF Medical Center and UC Davis Medical Center, will hold a strike vote April 30 through May 2. The threatened strike vote follows 10 months of negotiations before and after expiration of a prior contract last Sept. 30.

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UC hospital workers to hold strike vote
Sacramento Business Journal

After 10 months at the bargaining table with the University of California, the union that represents 13,000 patient care technical workers has called for a strike vote at the end of April. The last contract expired in September 2012. Contract negotiations hit impasse three months ago and mediation proceedings have failed to produce agreement on more than a dozen major issues, according to officials at Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299.

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Consumer Reports Expands Hospital Ratings List
Health Leaders Media

Consumer Reports has nearly doubled the number of hospitals that fall under the updated hospital safety ratings that the magazine first published last August. However, the expanded review that began with 1,159 hospitals last year and has grown to include 2,031 hospitals still shows low scores across five measures: readmissions, complications, communication, the overuse of CT scans, and infections. The data from federal and state governments cover different time ranges, depending on the specific measure.

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Former ACP President: ‘We Have to be More Efficient’
Health Leaders Media

David L. Bronson, MD, is immediate past president of the 133,000-member American College of Physicians—the largest medical specialty group in the nation.

During an interview Monday, Bronson, who also is president of Cleveland Clinic Regional Hospitals, explained why he thinks attendance was up at the organization’s annual meeting this month in San Francisco. He also discussed what he views as internal medicine’s biggest concerns.

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UnitedHealth blames Medicare Advantage, client move for fall in profits
Modern Healthcare

Falling Medicare Advantage payments helped contribute to UnitedHealth Group posting a year-over-year first-quarter decline in profits on Thursday, with the nation’s largest health insurer saying it was also hampered by a large public-sector customer switching from fully funded to self-funded benefits. Although UnitedHealth’s earnings still beat analysts’ earnings per share expectation by 2 cents a share, its results were not as stellar as some analysts had anticipated, with comments made by management during a same-day earnings call indicating profit pressure may remain a theme for the remainder of the year.

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Blue Shield loses quasi-monopoly on CalPERS health insurance
Sacramento Bee

In a bid to curb health care inflation, CalPERS is splitting up its multibillion-dollar HMO contract among five different companies.

The decision Wednesday by CalPERS’ governing board ends a quasi-monopoly enjoyed by Blue Shield of California. The company will continue to run CalPERS’ HMO plan but will now have to share the business over the next five years with Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net, Sharp and United Health Care. About 400,000 members, one-fourth of the CalPERS population, will be affected.

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CalPERS adds more HMO providers to health offerings
Sacramento Business Journal

The largest health benefits purchasing pool in the state has decided to shake things up next year by adding more competition. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System board voted Wednesday to add Anthem Blue Cross, UnitedHealthcare, Health Net and Sharp Health Plan to its HMO lineup in 2014. Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield of California, which have had exclusive statewide contracts since 2009, will remain in the program. All are contingent on successful contract negotiations.

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Why are prices for medical care such a mystery?
Los Angeles Times

Ted Kamp wanted to make sure his daughter received the medical treatment she needed. That was his first priority.

His second was making sure his insurance would cover things and that he’d pay a fair price for any procedures.

The fact that this proved so difficult highlights one of the crazier aspects of the U.S. healthcare system: the inability of patients to know how much their treatment really costs.

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