News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Building a Better Healthcare Board
Health Leaders Media

For decades, healthcare has been a complex, highly regulated enterprise. However, senior leaders and the boards that supervise their work could at least count on an industry of relative stability and predictability. In 2013, that’s no longer the case. With unprecedented upheaval in reimbursement and changes in quality and safety standards already under way, with more to come, organizations are under pressure to either remake their business and clinical processes themselves or find a willing partner that can help.

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Bill would regulate ‘biosimilar’ drugs
Los Angeles Times

Two of the nation’s largest biotech companies — Amgen Inc. of Thousand Oaks and Genentech Inc. of South San Francisco — are fighting in Sacramento to keep a tight grip on some of their most lucrative drugs.

At stake is a potential market worth tens of billions of dollars for pricey biological medicines they make from human blood, serums, bacterial cultures, viruses and other microorganisms. They are used to treat cancers, immune disorders and many other complex diseases.

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Reform Update: Obama touts reform law’s benefits for women
Modern Healthcare

Just ahead of Mother’s Day, President Barack Obama on Friday spoke from the White House about the ways his signature healthcare law will help millions of American women and their families.

“In a country as wealthy as this one, there was no reason why a family’s security should be determined by the chance of an illness or an accident,” said the president, flanked by women who had written to him about how the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has affected them. “We decided to do something about it.”

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AFSCME Local 3299 issues 10-day strike notice at UC hospitals
San Francisco Business Times

AFSCME Local 3299, which represents nearly 13,000 technical workers at five University of California medical centers, issued a 10-day strike notice. The Oakland-based union filed the notice with the UC Office of the President. The threatened strike, scheduled for May 21 and 22, would affect UCSF Medical Center, UC Davis Medical Center and three UC medical centers in Southern California, at UCLA, UC Irvine and UC San Diego.

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Obama Says Public Doesn’t Know Benefits of His Health Care Law
Bloomberg Record

President Barack Obama gathered women and their families at the White House two days before Mother’s Day to promote benefits in his signature health care law such as free mammograms and birth control. “Moms take care of us,” Obama said at the White House today. Women “know the unfairness of being charged more for their health care just because they are a woman,” and the law makes that illegal, he said. One part of the law bans gender discrimination in insurance premiums.

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Obama declares health care law ‘is here to stay’ as he steps up defense
Fox News

Caught between nervous Democrats and emboldened Republicans, President Obama on Friday stepped up the sales pitch on his health care overhaul as the final elements of his top domestic achievement go into effect. With his legacy and the law’s success at stake, Obama said: “The law is here to stay.” Behind the scenes, the White House readied a campaign-style effort to get healthy young people to sign up for the insurance “exchanges” in order to keep premium costs from skyrocketing. On Capitol Hill, House Republicans are planning yet another vote to try to try to repeal the law.

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Obama uses 2012 campaign tactics to sell healthcare law
Los Angeles Times

Seeking to ensure his landmark healthcare law is successfully implemented, President Obama is reprising his 2012 election strategy in hopes of enrolling millions of uninsured Americans in health plans this fall. The new campaign, whose outcome could largely shape the president’s legacy, is targeting young people, Latinos and women — groups that were crucial to Obama’s victory in November.

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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.

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Covered California exchange set to make $30M in outreach grants, some potentially controversial
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California, the Golden State’s health benefits exchange set up as a key part of implementing the Affordable Care Act, is set to announce $30 million in grants next week. Officials at the Sacramento-based exchange said Friday they’ll announce “the first 48 organizations that have been selected” for the federal grants next Tuesday, May 14. The grants are meant to provide “culturally relevant education and outreach” about the exchange’s coverage options to uninsured and low-income Californians and Golden State small businesses.

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UC Medical Centers: Nearly 13,000 technical workers plan strike on May 21-22
The Mercury News

Nearly 13,000 technical workers have announced plans to strike the five University of California medical centers, including UC San Francisco, on May 21 and 22. But UC officials said they will seek a restraining order to block the strike, arguing that it poses a threat to public health and safety and that the union has not exhausted all other options.

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New program to curb hospital return visits may burden smaller ones in poorer areas
Southern California Public Radio

Eight California hospitals — including four in the Los Angeles area — are among the institutions paying the maximum fine under a new Medicare program designed to reduce high patient readmission rates. Under the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act, the federal government has started fining hospitals with high readmissions rates as much as 1 percent of the money that Medicare would normally reimburse them.

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Healthcare puts Jerry Brown, Capitol Democrats on different sides
Los Angeles Times

With California’s deficit wiped out and its economy starting to hum, this was to be a year when Gov. Jerry Brown was free of the budget logjams that have paralyzed the Capitol.

But instead, the governor has a fight on his hands — with his fellow Democrats. He is on a collision course with them over how to reshape the state’s sprawling, complicated healthcare system to conform with President Obama’s national overhaul.

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Coalition Supports Bill to Impose Penalties on Big Businesses With Medi-Cal Workers
Southern California Public Radio

The federal Affordable Care Act will impose financial penalties on large companies whose workers seek health care coverage through one of the newly formed health insurance exchanges.

But Democratic Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez says there’s a loophole that would allow large companies with California workers who enroll in Medi-Cal to avoid those penalties.

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Patient is out of network, out of luck
Los Angeles Times

A worrisome abdominal pain drove Jalal Afshar to seek treatment last year at healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente.

The Pasadena resident and Kaiser member had lived for years with a rare condition known as Castleman’s disease, which affects the lymph nodes and the body’s immune system. But this was the first time he experienced such severe symptoms.

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GOP senator says Sebelius’ fundraising may violate federal law
Modern Healthcare

The ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Saturday said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius may be violating federal law in her fundraising efforts to help implement the 2010 healthcare overhaul.

Recently Sebelius has asked businesses and charitable organizations to donate money to organizations that are helping to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but an HHS spokesman said in an e-mail the department has not solicited funds from entities that HHS regulates, such as hospitals, insurers and pharmaceutical companies. In a statement Saturday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Sebelius’s fundraising for private entities to help implement the law should stop immediately. He also said those efforts may be illegal and should be the subject of a congressional investigation.

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Health insurance tax ‘scares the daylights’ out of some small-business owners
Washington Post

Many small-business owners worry that a new tax on insurance providers in the health-care law will mean higher premiums for them, undermining the law’s capacity to lower their health-care costs.

Starting next year, the federal government will charge a new fee on health insurance firms based on the plans they sell to individuals and companies, known as the fully insured market. Meanwhile, the provision exempts health-insurance plans that are set up and operated by businesses themselves (the self-insured market).

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Medicare drug program lacks oversight; seniors, disabled at risk
Oroville Mercury-Register

Ten years ago, a sharply divided Congress decided to pour billions of dollars into subsidizing the purchase of drugs by elderly and disabled Americans. The initiative, the biggest expansion of Medicare since its creation in 1965, proved wildly popular. It now serves more than 35 million people, delivering critical medicines to patients who might otherwise be unable to afford them. Its price tag is far lower than expected.

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Medical program helps Sacramento County caregivers take a break
Sacramento Bee

With the rate of Alzheimer’s disease projected to rise as baby boomers age, more people will face the problem of caring for loved ones with dementia.

A program funded by the Sierra Health Foundation offers these caregivers a break.

It is one of four newly funded programs announced by the Respite Partnership Collaborative, a private-public partnership of the Sierra Health Foundation, Center for Health Program Management and Sacramento County Division of Behavioral Health Services.

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Huge Drug Cost Disparities Seen In Health Overhaul
San Francisco Chronicle

Cancer patients could face high costs for medications under President Barack Obama’s health care law, industry analysts and advocates warn. Where you live could make a huge difference in what you’ll pay. To try to keep premiums low, some states are allowing insurers to charge patients a hefty share of the cost for expensive medications used to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other life-altering chronic diseases.

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Sutter Health has HMO license ready to go
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Health quietly received its HMO license from the California Department of Managed Health Care on April 5. The Sacramento-based health system is focused on building the plan, with an eye toward providing coverage in the greater Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley region starting in January, Sutter spokesman Bill Gleeson said. “We are thrilled to have reached this milestone.

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Kaiser Permanente posts $13 billion Q1 operating revenue
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente had a generally healthy first-quarter financial checkup, posting $13.3 billion in operating revenue and $765 million in Q1 profits. But the Oakland-based health care giant saw investment income dip by $43 million in the quarter ending March 31, from $263 million in 2012 to $220 million this year. As a result, net income for the quarter dipped slightly, from last year’s $770 million.

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