News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Calif. governor signs health insurance protections
San Francisco Chronicle

Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a pair of consumer protection bills that prevent health insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions and limit how much insurers can charge older residents as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. Brown signed ABx1-2 by Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento and SBx1-2 by Democratic Sen. Ed Hernandez of Covina.

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California health exchange poised to hand out millions in outreach grants
Sacramento Bee

Tens of millions of dollars in outreach grants are set to be awarded next week in a massive campaign to persuade uninsured Californians to buy coverage as a linchpin in the looming health care overhaul. Applicants include community-based nonprofits, social service centers, huge labor unions and school districts – including Los Angeles Unified School District and Service Employees International Union, one of the state’s largest health care unions. The awarding of two-year grants, from $250,000 to $1 million apiece, will push a nationwide health care program from blackboard planning into a vital new phase of face-to-face contact with families.

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How hospital CEOs see future: More home monitoring
Sacramento Business Journal

Facing a shortage of doctors and other providers as millions more people gain health coverage next year under the Affordable Care Act, local hospital CEOs see promise in patients doing their own monitoring from home — and better use of mid-level providers to the full extent of their license. Not all patients need to be seen by a doctor, and the health care system is going to have to be a lot more efficient than it is now if new folks with high expectations are going to get the care they need at a competitive cost, speakers said at a health care CEO roundtable Wednesday sponsored by Drexel University Sacramento.

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U.S. unveils $150 million healthcare enrollment initiative
Yahoo! News

The Obama administration said on Thursday it is making $150 million available to community health centers to enroll uninsured Americans in healthcare coverage under President Barack Obama’s reform law.

The new funds would help about 1,200 health centers hire and train staff, conduct community outreach efforts and assist consumers in applying for benefits under the law, which provides coverage through subsidized insurance markets and an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.

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Obama Sees Health Law as Legacy Too Worthy to Resist in New Push
San Francisco Chronicle

Just weeks after his re-election, President Barack Obama summoned about 20 senior administration officials to the White House’s Roosevelt Room for an hour-long meeting on the implementation of his health-care law. Obama began by reminding his staff that the Affordable Care Act would be one of his major legacies and its execution among the highest priorities of his second term, according to a Democrat familiar with the gathering.

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California Bill Would Penalize Large Companies That Don’t Provide Health Coverage
KPBS

As California gears up for Obamacare, a bill in the assembly would penalize large companies for not providing health coverage to their workers. Supporters say the measure would close a big loophole. The Affordable Care Act penalizes companies whose refusal to provide coverage prompts workers to buy insurance on the open market. But it doesn’t punish employers whose workers are forced to apply for public programs like Medi-Cal. The Assembly bill would fine companies with more than 500 employees who fall into the latter category.

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California Health Advocates Say State Money Should Stay for Uninsured
capital public radio

Right now, counties use some state funds to pay for the treatment of uninsured patients.

But Governor Jerry Brown’s budget suggests the administration is reassessing how that funding is directed to counties in anticipation of the new costs associated with enrolling more people in Medi-Cal next year.

A coalition of health advocates want to keep that money for counties. They say three to four million people may still be uninsured even under the Affordable Care Act.

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Medi-Cal Cuts Will Impact Alameda
Alameda Sun

Many of us know what it’s like to see a loved one grow older. We see the joys that a grandparent experiences, but also the hardships of becoming more dependent. Often, we ride the “roller coaster of health” with them and ask, “How can we help?”

The answer often lies in fi nding the best care close to home and family. Family members who live nearby often lend support during this process. That’s why we are concerned about pending state budget cuts in Medi-Cal reimbursements to certain skilled nursing facilities.

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Reform Update: More training, certification urged for navigators
Modern Healthcare

Individuals who act as navigators assisting consumers in applying for health coverage through state insurance exchanges should have extensive training and exam-based certification, the trade association for brokers and agents has told the CMS. In comments submitted May 6 regarding a proposed CMS rule on standards for navigators and other assistance personnel, National Association of Health Underwriters Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jessica Waltman writes that navigators will also need recertification and that appropriate steps must be taken to guard against conflict-of-interest issues impacting navigators’ work.

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AMA saw membership rise 3.2% in 2012
Modern Healthcare

The American Medical Association is reporting that its membership grew by 3.2% last year to 224,503, nudging its ranks almost back to the size it enjoyed prior to its endorsement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The latest membership information is included in the AMA Board of Trustees’ report on “Performance, Activities and Status in 2012.” The report, however, is not considered official until it is approved by the AMA House of Delegates, which will meet June 15-19 in Chicago.

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Home health, hospice firms see earnings slide
Modern Healthcare

Home health and hospice companies weathered a tough first quarter that was evident in bottom-line results that could not keep pace with last year.

While companies saw an increase in admissions, they faced challenges including reimbursement cuts as well as decreases in re-certifications from doctors to continue care.

As earnings season comes to a close, LHC Group, Lafayette, La., joined its peers Wednesday in reporting a decrease in net income; in its case, its first quarter net income of $6.3 million represented an 18.2% decrease compared to the same period last year.

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Obama to tout access to mammograms, cancer screenings under healthcare reform
FierceHealthcare

President Obama’s health plan will take center stage tomorrow when he meets with women who will tell their personal stories of how the law has already helped them and he promotes benefits available to women, including mammograms and cancer screenings, under the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Obama is also expected to urge mothers to sign up their uninsured children for coverage when healthcare exchanges roll out in October.

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Proposed cuts threaten Barton skilled nursing facility
Tahoe Daily Tribune

Barton Memorial Hospital’s Skilled Nursing Facility faces capacity reductions — and possible closure — if a California bill making its way through the legislature doesn’t pass.

Assembly Bill 900 would reverse cuts to Medi-Cal reimbursement for skilled nursing facilities proposed in another bill, AB 97. The planned budget reductions would affect hospitals in rural communities throughout the state, Barton Health Vice President of Ancillary Services Mary Bittner said.

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California calls for more disclosure of medical costs
Los Angeles Times

California officials are looking to build on a federal effort to disclose more healthcare pricing information to consumers. Medicare officials released new data this week that showed wildly different hospital charges across the nation for 100 of the most common inpatient surgeries and procedures. Federal regulators said they don’t see any justification for why prices for the same treatment differ as much as 40 times among nearby hospitals, and that medical centers charging the highest amounts warrant greater scrutiny.

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How much for that operation? Depends on where, and who’s paying
Sacramento Business Journal

Medicare got a big buzz Wednesday when it announced new pricing information about how much hospital bills vary across town and the nation. The figures are eye-popping. The UC Davis Medical Center charges, on average, $185,506 for a major joint replacement, while Sutter General charges $89,351 and Mercy General charges $85,236. But there’s a whole lot more to pricing than these figures.

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How much does that hospital procedure cost? Depends on where you go
San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Data released this week by the federal government that show a wide variation of what hospitals charge Medicare for everything from pacemakers to hip replacement to obstructive pulmonary disease may bolster a discussion on fair pricing but does little to help the average consumer understand what they are paying for, health policy experts said. As part of an effort to be more transparent, the Department of Human Health Services released the massive database to show disparities across the country and within communities of what hospitals charged for common inpatient procedures in 2011.

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Interactive graphic: Sacramento region health procedure costs
Sacramento Bee

The average amount charged for common procedures varies widely by hospital, according to data released by the federal government Wednesday for hospitals serving Medicare patients. Here are the average charges for hospitals in the Sacramento region for the 100 most common treatments in 2011. Public and private insurers pay lower negotiated rates, shown below as “average payments.”

Search for specific types of procedures by typing into the search box, or scroll through the list. Hover over or click on abbreviated procedures, hospital names or bars to see more information.

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The Rest of the Story About Hospital Pricing
The Health Care Blog

The recent Medicare report on variation in hospital “prices” is not exactly news. In fact, I wonder why anyone (including the NY Times and NPR) covered it, let alone make it a lead story. As you probably know, Medicare reported that hospital charges for specific treatments, such as joint replacement surgery, greatly vary from one hospital to another. (This includes charges for all services during the hospitalization, including room charges, drugs, tests, therapy visits, etc.)

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Is $1,721.75 the bill you’d expect for treating a cut?
Los Angeles Times

It was your basic, run-of-the-mill accident. Kim Haselhoff’s 9-year-old son got nipped in the finger by one of the family dogs. It didn’t seem too serious, but there was a bit of blood.

Unfortunately, the pediatrician’s office had just closed, and the local urgent-care clinic hadn’t yet opened. So Haselhoff did what most parents would do: She drove her son to a nearby emergency room — in this case, Encino Hospital Medical Center.

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For Wal-Mart, should healthcare be a cost of doing business?
Los Angeles Times

Big employers beware — some California lawmakers want to pressure you to extend health insurance to virtually everyone who lands on your payroll, even part-timers who work less than two hours a day. That’s one of the effects that a bill by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Echo Park) would have on companies and nonprofits that employ 500 or more people in the state. But it’s not the one that Gomez, a former labor leader, emphasizes when talking about the measure, which the Assembly Health Committee approved on a party-line vote April 30.

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Viewpoints: Expanding Medi-Cal: An opportunity not to be wasted
Sacramento Bee

Under the new federal health care law, California has an unprecedented opportunity to use enhanced federal funding to provide Medi-Cal coverage to 1.4 million uninsured eligible Californians, drastically reducing the number of uninsured.

Beginning in 2014, low-wage working adults, including parents, throughout California could benefit from this opportunity, but only if Gov. Jerry Brown makes the decision to move the Medi-Cal expansion forward very soon.

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