News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Sacramento-Based Community Benefit Programs Say AB 975 Would Threaten Funding For Vital Services
The Wall Street Journal

In a new online video released today, representatives from two Sacramento-based community benefit programs that receive funding from local non-profit hospitals shared how their patients and clients would be impacted under proposed legislation that threatens charity care funding. “I think the basic safety net would be devastated,” said Dr. Jonathan Porteus, CEO of WellSpace Health. “What communities need is to transform their safety net into a safety blanket. And most communities like Sacramento County lack a real blanket of care for low-income people. Community benefit is the thing that has helped us build that blanket of care more than anything else.”

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Hospital Compare Adds Interactive Data
Health Leaders Media

Gradually, over recent months, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has expanded its quality of care website tool, Hospital Compare.

The latest upgrade includes embedded spreadsheets containing data on a variety of measures, including readmissions and value-based purchasing scores for nearly 3,000 hospitals, through a new interface called Socrata. The tables are interactive, allowing users to customize the way they sort columns of data. For example, it is now possible to see the scores of all hospitals in a certain zip code range. Previously, the data was available by downloading Hospital Compare database files and opening them in a spreadsheet program such as Excel.

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Senate finance panel backs Tavenner to head CMS
Modern Healthcare

The Senate Finance Committee voted Tuesday to advance Marilyn Tavenner’s nomination to be CMS administrator, clearing the way for a Senate vote. Fourteen bipartisan members of the panel gave voice vote approval to her nomination. “This committee will work with Mrs. Tavenner, as she will work with us because the challenges facing CMS are daunting,” said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee.

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Help for ‘uninsurables’ mired in political battle
San Francisco Chronicle

Republicans are offering to bail out a financially strapped program in the federal health overhaul, one that’s a lifeline for uninsured people with medical problems. Truce in the health care wars? Not! The GOP bill, headed for a vote Wednesday in the House, would divert billions from another program under President Barack Obama’s signature law, a transfer Democrats say would undermine broader goals. The White House is threatening a veto of the measure.

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Governments may push workers to health exchange
Modern Healthcare

In a move that would capitalize on provisions under President Barack Obama’s health care law but could cost the federal government millions of dollars, Washington state lawmakers have found a creative way to pass a large chunk of their health care expenses along to Washington, D.C. — and analysts say others are likely to follow suit.

The plan threatens to affect the federal budget and the pocketbooks of some part-time workers, as it would push a group of employees out of their current health care plans and into an exchange developed under the Affordable Care Act.

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White House threatens veto on GOP health bill
San Francisco Chronicle

The White House is threatening to veto a Republican bill that would shore up one part of President Barack Obama’s health care law by siphoning funds from another part. The House bill would add billions to a temporary program to help uninsured people with pre-existing medical problems. Obama’s health care law requires companies to cover those people, but that provision doesn’t kick in until Jan. 1. The cash-strapped program has stopped taking new applicants to ensure it doesn’t run out of money.

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A Health Provider Finds Success in Keeping Hospital Beds Empty
New York Times

On a stormy evening this spring, nurses at Dr. Gary Stuck’s family practice were on the phone with patients with heart ailments, asking them not to shovel snow. The idea was to keep them out of the hospital, and that effort — combined with dozens more like it — is starting to make a difference: across the city, doctors are providing less, but not worse, health care. For most health care providers, that would be cause for alarm.

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Covered California hires replacement IT chief away from CalPERS
Sacramento Business Journal

The state’s health benefits exchange announced Tuesday that Karen Ruiz has been hired as new program director for the computer system that will handle eligibility, enrollment and retention in the new insurance marketplace. Ruiz replaces James Joseph Brown Jr., who was arrested March 15 and left employment at Covered California on March 25, the day he was arraigned on charges of felony conflict of interest and perjury for allegedly failing to disclose personal ties related to a contract award in his previous job at the Justice Department.

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Healthcare reform architect Baucus won’t seek re-election
Modern Healthcare

The lead author of the 2010 healthcare overhaul confirmed Tuesday that he will not seek re-election when his term expires next year. In his role as chairman of the Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) shepherded the legislation that became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act over united Republican opposition. Since then, he has conducted oversight of the implementation of the complex law. Last week, Baucus told HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius he feared the administration is headed for a “huge train wreck” with the launch of the health insurance exchanges this year given the lack of information available to the public and policymakers.

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Bypass surgery mortality rates drop sharply
Sacramento Business Journal

Mortality rates for patients who get heart bypass surgery have declined 31 percent since 2003, a new report shows. The mortality rate in 2010 was 2 percent, down from 2.91 percent in 2003, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. There were 251 deaths among 12,548 heart bypass surgeries performed in 2010. The report shows expected outcome ranges for hospitals that do a lot of the procedures.

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Trading for healthcare services
Healthcare Finance News

If there is one sure way to beat the high cost of offering healthcare benefits, it is to not pay for it. At least, not directly.

That is the strategy for a growing number of small businesses that are bartering to get healthcare services they otherwise couldn’t afford. It’s a strategy that also offers benefits for the healthcare businesses providing the services.

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Bypass report questions three local hospitals
San Diego Union-Tribune

The state’s latest heart bypass report, which seeks to assess performance on the state’s largest single source of adult hospital admissions, says three local hospitals and two local surgeons had higher mortality or stroke rates than their peers statewide. The report, published by the Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development, rated 120 hospitals and 271 surgeons against the statewide average for coronary artery bypass graft surgeries performed in 2010.

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County agencies readying for health care reform deluge
Ventura County Star

Nearly 50,000 more Ventura County residents people could receive Medi-Cal services under federal health care reform in a deluge starting Jan. 1, county officials projected Tuesday.

The expansion of the state and federally funded program for low-income residents means Medi-Cal in the area could grow from 113,000 residents to 150,000 or 160,000 by the middle of 2015, officials told the county Board of Supervisors in a session on the Affordable Care Act.

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Health insurer WellPoint’s 1Q profit rises 3 pct
San Francisco Chronicle

WellPoint Inc.’s first-quarter earnings rose about 3 percent to trump analysts’ expectations, as the nation’s second largest health insurer saw a revenue gain from an acquisition. It also raised its 2013 net income forecast.

Shares of the Indianapolis company rose more than 2 percent Wednesday before markets opened. The Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer closed its $4.46 billion acquisition of Medicaid coverage provider Amerigroup Corp. late last year, and the acquisition added more than 2 million members to its enrollment in the first quarter. That helped boost the insurer’s total membership more than 6 percent in the first quarter to 35.8 million people, a total that trails only UnitedHealth Group Inc.

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Kaweah Delta heart surgery death rates worse than California average
Fresno Bee

Kaweah Delta Medical Center was one of four hospitals in California with a death rate from heart bypass surgery that was worse than the average, according to a state report issued Tuesday. Three other hospitals in the central San Joaquin Valley where the heart procedure is performed — Community Regional Medical Center, Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital and Saint Agnes Medical Center — were rated average.

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Nurses Fighting State By State For Minimum Staffing Laws
Kaiser Health News

How many nurses does it take to run a hospital? Legislatures in at least seven states and the District of Columbia are trying to answer that question as they debate bills that would require hospitals to have a minimum number of nurses on staff at all times. So far, only one state has such a law. California’s state legislature passed a minimum nurse staffing law in 1999.

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New SVMH CEO looks at hospital with optimism
Monterey Herald

New Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital CEO Pete Delgado wants to make the public district health care system his “last stop” at the end of a lengthy career, and retire locally.

Delgado, a 28-year veteran of health care administration, recently completed a decade at the helm of the giant Los Angeles County-USC Healthcare Network and flirted with other large-scale health organizations before settling on relatively small Salinas Valley Memorial.

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New rules needed to bring Obamacare to California
San Francisco Chronicle

Health care in America will be a whole new ballgame as of Jan. 1, 2014. That’s when the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare, goes into full effect. Getting there, however, requires remaking the health care landscape to change not only who is eligible for health care but who delivers it. Wednesday’s Open Forum offers opposing views on what the medical profession calls “scope of care.” Should your pharmacist be able to offer medicines other than those prescribed by a doctor if the prescription is causing deleterious side effects?

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Ever-fewer California employers offering health insurance
Sacramento Bee

As the federal Affordable Care Act begins to take effect, ever-fewer California employers are offering medical insurance to their workers, according to an annual survey by the California Healthcare Foundation. From 2002 to 2012, the proportion of employers offering such coverage declined from 71 percent to 60 percent. Meanwhile, the costs of health care insurance have risen by just under 170 percent since 2002, more than five times the overall inflation rate.

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How Physician Practices Can Prepare for a Health Care Marketplace
The Health Care Blog

What is the path forward for physicians who want to remain in private practice, outside the constraints of health system employment? How will the environment change and what new demands will that place on practices and physicians? What follows are the observations of one industry-watcher who has worked on all sides of health care, but who now spends most his time focused on the interests of those who pay for it. No crystal ball, but several trends are clear.

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