News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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IPAB Has to Go, Providers and Advocates Urge
Health Leaders Media

Some 500 healthcare provider groups and companies, patient advocates and employers on Thursday signed a letter to Congress urging repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board in fear that not only will its cost-cutting powers hurt patients’ access to care, but that it will also raise costs for employers, and actually raise costs in the long run. “Beneficiaries should have access to high quality care that emphasizes wellness and prevention (and…) programs should be sustainable, so today’s working households know it will be there for them in the future,” said Mary Grealy, president of the non-partisan Healthcare Leadership Council, a Washington, D.C. group that organized the letter.

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ONC revokes firm’s EHR certifications
Modern Healthcare

For the first time, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS has revoked certifications for two electronic health-record systems, raising troubling questions about how physicians and hospitals should react if the government nixes a system they’re already using.

Federal officials require that doctors and hospitals use certified EHR systems in order to receive federal money to defray the cost of converting to EHRs.

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Medical Board of California could lose investigative powers
Los Angeles Times

The Medical Board of California would be stripped of its power to investigate physician misconduct under a sweeping reform plan by legislators who say the agency has struggled to hold problem doctors accountable.

The medical board has come under fire for failing to discipline doctors accused of harming patients, particularly those suspected of recklessly prescribing drugs.

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Will Obamacare Turn America Into a Nation of Part-Time Workers?
San Francisco Chronicle

In eight months and a hair over one week the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will go into full effect. The PPACA is a sweeping reform of our current health-care system aimed squarely at keeping premiums from skyrocketing; holding insurance companies accountable for the premiums they bring in by insuring they spend at least 80% of those dollars on patient care; and mandating that individuals and large businesses take responsibility for themselves and their employees by carrying health insurance or providing group coverage.

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Matsui calls for probe into Nevada patient busing
Sacramento Bee

Saying she is “gravely concerned” about Nevada’s long-standing practice of busing mentally ill patients from its primary state psychiatric hospital to cities across the country, Rep. Doris Matsui is asking for a congressional investigation.

In a letter to ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over health matters, the California Democrat asks for investigative and oversight hearings into the discharge practices of Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas.

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The truth about workplace wellness programs: Everybody wins
The Hill

Workplace wellness programs have been critical elements of many employer sponsored healthcare coverage offerings for over a decade. Recently however these programs have come under groundless criticism as nefariously motivated discrimination which some argue allow employers to illegally invade the privacy of their employees and unfairly underwrite premiums based on identified conditions. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Wellness programs pick up the pace
Sacramento Business Journal

When Lionakis moved into its midtown headquarters in the early 1990s, president Tim Fry wanted to incorporate a healthy element. He started by getting some commuter bikes for the staff to use. As time went on, the architectural firm added other wellness benefits, such as annual flu shots. Then five years ago, the company made its wellness program official by forming a committee to oversee it. Like many aspects of running a business, wellness programs often grow in complexity over time.

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Obamacare Uncertainty Presents Opportunity
San Francisco Chronicle

Health care companies have been caught in a state of limbo since the passage of Obamacare. The market is still sorting out who wins and who loses from the landmark health care overhaul. Meanwhile, Congress has plans to repeal or amend parts of the law. All of this leads to uncertainty about these companies’ futures. However, the market’s indecisiveness poses as an opportunity for enterprising investors to scoop up bargains. The market is right to be uneasy in that the impact of the overhaul is not yet clear for many health care-related companies.

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Benefits in federal health reform may not entice small businesses
HealthyCal.org

The federal Affordable Care Act kept the nation’s employer-based health insurance system intact – and that decision may leave small business struggling to provide health care to their employees. The Affordable Care Act tries to fill cracks in the employer-based system, so that more people will have insurance and care will become more affordable for everyone. But critics say provisions in the Affordable Care Act aren’t enough to ensure that small businesses can provide coverage to their employees.

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In search of affordable health care
Capitol Weekly

Affordable, quality health care is a mainstay topic in today’s media and will continue to be, especially here in Sacramento. As a dentist, cancer survivor and former member of the California Assembly, I know the importance of creating policy that is patient-centered. The delivery of optimal health care for patients is constantly evolving and recent developments are some of the most profound I’ve witnessed in my career. However, these futuristic changes are also bringing concerning consequences related to patient safety and welfare.

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Pelosi: Healthcare reform was worth any Dem defeats
The Hill

Passage of healthcare reform was worth any defeat the Democrats might have suffered at the polls as a result, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday.

Democrats passed President Obama’s signature healthcare law in early 2010 and were walloped in the midterm elections roughly eight months later. Pelosi, who shepherded the bill through the House as Speaker, rejected the idea that the legislation contributed to any Democratic losses.

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Consumers unprepared for health care reform
LifeHealthPRO

Health care reform is designed to bring consumers more health care options, but many are not necessarily prepared to take more control and lack the proper education to make these choices.

Those are the major findings of the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report, which reveals that 72 percent of workers have never heard the term “consumer-driven health care,” and that 54 percent of workers do not want more control over their health care because they do not have the time or knowledge to manage these decisions.

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Small hospitals get more bad news from Moody’s
Modern Healthcare

The bad news keeps getting worse for small hospitals.

A report from Moody’s Investors Service shows that five out of the six not-for-profit hospitals that had their credit ratings downgraded in the first quarter were facilities with under $500 million in revenue. The agency also downgraded twice as many providers as it upgraded (six compared with three). Of the systems that were upgraded, two had annual revenue topping $500 million, are considered dominant in their respective markets and are bucking the trend of shrinking patient volume.

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Midlevel Health Jobs Shrink
The Wall Street Journal

The health-care sector, one of the last redoubts of stable and well-paying jobs for less-educated workers, is beginning to look less secure. A variety of factors, from technological advances to increased attention on both costs and patient outcomes, are driving hospitals and other health-care providers to demand more from both the most- and least-skilled workers, while gradually eroding opportunities for those in the middle.

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Doc associations wary of linking pay, quality measures
Modern Physician

U.S. House of Representatives committee chairmen asked for guidance on replacing the sustainable growth-rate Medicare physician payment formula, and healthcare associations were happy to comply.

And, while there was general support for the still-developing plan, the responses reflected the concerns of each responding association’s constituency—particularly their financial concerns.

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Lawmakers urge national drug-tracking system
Modern Healthcare

House lawmakers pressed a Food and Drug Administration official on the need for a federal “track-and-trace” system that would boost the security of the pharmaceutical supply chain in the U.S. at a time when counterfeit or substandard drugs are increasingly of concern.

States, for the most part, regulate the drug supply chains in their regions, with some requiring paper or electronic transaction histories of drugs, which are called pedigrees.

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ACA helping to curb ranks of uninsured: Commonwealth survey
Modern Healthcare

Between 2010—the year the healthcare law was signed—and the end of 2012, the number of uninsured adults leveled off, reversing a seven-year trend of rising numbers of uninsured, according to a survey released today by the Commonwealth Fund. Between 2003 and 2010, the number of uninsured rose to 29 million from 16 million. However, from 2010 to 2012, the figure increased by only 1 million to 30 million. Commonwealth attributed the leveling off to slower growth in healthcare costs, lower overall spending on healthcare and declining incomes, but also to provisions in the 2010 healthcare law to increase the affordability of health coverage.

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Disabled Children Caught in Middle of Obamacare Switch
Voice of OC

Just a month into a special therapy program, Daniel, a 4-year-old with autism, was playing at his Huntington Beach home when he shocked his mother by asking two older cousins, “What’s your favorite dinosaur?” “I almost fell out of my chair,” said Rachel Harris, Daniel’s mother. “It was the first time he had ever initiated such a question and waited for answers.” Harris attributes her son’s dramatic progress to ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy, which he started in January through the Healthy Families program, a state-subsidized private insurance plan for children.

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Reverse Medi-Cal rate cuts, health providers say
Sacramento Business Journal

An unlikely coalition of doctors, dentists, hospitals, health plans and a health care union launched a statewide campaign Wednesday to support the successful rollout of federal health care reform and oppose further rate cuts in Medi-Cal, the government health care program for the poor. The “We Care California” coalition came together at the State Capitol to announce support for Senate Bill 640 and Assembly Bill 900, which would reverse cuts to California’s Medi-Cal rates, already the lowest in the nation.

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PPACA Implementation Pending, Health Insurance Coverage Gaps Persist
Health Leaders Media

Nearly half of all working-age adults, about 84 million people, went without health insurance at some point in 2012 and another 30 million people had out-of-pocket costs that were so high, they were underinsured, a survey released by The Commonwealth Fund shows. The results found in the survey, Insuring the Future : Current Trends in Health Coverage and the Effects of Implementing the Affordable Care Act, were not all bad, however.

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TRMC in the red by $5.8 million
Visialia Times-Delta

Tulare Regional Medical Center lost $685,855 in March, bringing its total operating loss for the year starting July 1 to more than $5.8 million, according to income statements.

The hospital had projected a $1.2 million gain up to this point in the year.

As the loss was revealed at the monthly TRMC board meeting Wednesday, the sale of the district’s public pharmacy was also announced. The board voted to sell the pharmacy, which serves outpatients and the public, to the CVS national chain.

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Health reform starts hiring spree for Valley benefits firms
Silicon Valley Business Journal

A majority of the employee benefits consulting companies on this Friday’s top 25 list gave a resounding “YES, we are hiring!” About 80 percent, or 20 out of 25 of the firms on the list, told me they are planning to hire this year. The execs I spoke to gave several reasons for the uptick. Ron Filice, president and CEO of Filice Insurance in San Jose, told me health reform has inspired his hiring spree.

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Hospital Seeks an Upgrade for Patients
The Laguna Beach Independent

Mission Hospital will seek permission of state Public Health Department regulators to allow admitted patients to recover in under-used private rooms of the intensive care unit in the Laguna Beach campus.

City officials who last week learned of the initiative initially feared that hospital administrators intended to close the unit altogether, which would also trigger the closure of the emergency room, a service city officials have staunchly demanded remain intact.

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Kaiser Roseville gets national recognition for its green practices
Sacramento Business Journal

Kaiser Permanente’s Roseville Medical Center is one of three facilities around the country named to the “Environmental Leadership Circle” by Practice Greenhealth, a national organization that supports green practices and resource conservation in health care. To qualify for this honor, health facilities must meet a series of benchmarks, including a waste-recycling rate of at least 25 percent, an 8 percent or lower rate for regulated medical waste generation and complete eradication of mercury use.

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Healthcare reform provides consumer protection
Camarillo Acorn

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently issued a final rule that implements five key consumer protections from the Affordable Care Act, which makes the health insurance market work better for individuals, families and small businesses.

Under these reforms, all individuals and employers have the right to purchase health insurance coverage regardless of health status.

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ObamaCare will boost, not cut, the cost of health care
Victorville Daily Press

Three years after passage and about nine months before it takes full effect, reviews are in on the Affordable Care Act. In some cases, reviewers come close to flunking ObamaCare. The prognosis, say many, doesn’t look promising, and could get worse.

A recent Manhattan Institute study used a report-card format to measure how well the law has reduced costs. “(W)e give ObamaCare’s cost-cutting efforts a grade C,” with the notation: “Weak evidence that reforms will achieve their intended goals or growing evidence of unintended consequences.”

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8 ASC Administrators on Healthcare Reform
Becker's Hospital Review

Here eight ambulatory surgery center administrators discuss healthcare reform and how it has affected their centers.

Q: What are the biggest changes that you have implemented in your ASC since the onset of healthcare reform? What changes are you still in the process of making? Keith Smith, MD, Administrator, Surgery Center of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City). We have worked to eliminate leverage of all kinds from our practices. We have never taken federal money and this has insulated us from many of the requirements and regulations many facilities must endure.

Commands