News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Press Conferences, Rhetoric Don’t Change Facts About AB 975, SB 718
PR Newswire

Governor Jerry Brown will be issuing his May Revision to the state budget today, making this a day to focus on important and substantive fiscal and policy issues. Instead, the California Nurses Association is focused on two flawed measures, AB 975 and SB 718, which needlessly attack hospitals while also threatening successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

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California Hospitals Disappointed that May Revise Doesn’t Reverse Deep, Damaging Medi-Cal Cuts
PR Newswire

The California Hospital Association (CHA) is disappointed that the Brown Administration has not reversed deep and damaging Medi-Cal rate cuts in its May revision of the state’s proposed 2013-14 budget.

These cuts are ill-timed and will devastate vital health care services to some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. Hospitals that operate skilled-nursing facilities in both rural and urban parts of the state will face the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, jeopardizing access to care for thousands of elderly, frail patients, more than 70 percent of whom are covered by Medi-Cal.

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How Medical Debt Forgiveness Benefits Hospitals
Health Leaders Media

Working with cash-strapped patients to restructure or forgive their medical debts could provide an excellent return on investment for hospitals that probably aren’t going to recover the money anyway, one analyst says.

The biggest hurdle, however, is getting the federal government to agree with the idea, says Brian Haile, senior vice president of Health Care Policy at Nashville-based Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.

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Not-for-profit systems back support for ACA
Modern Healthcare

If HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was indeed calling healthcare executives to solicit donations, she didn’t dial the leaders of some of the largest not-for-profit hospital systems or their national trade group. She didn’t need to. Republican lawmakers are gunning for Sebelius over reports that she contacted health industry executives to raise funds for organizations campaigning on behalf of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s insurance expansion.

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Is the Online Health Clinic the Wave of the Future?
The Health Care Blog

HealthPartners argues that the answer is yes. In a 2013 Health Affairs article, they argue the following: HealthPartners in Minnesota launched an online clinic called virtuwell in late 2010. After more than 40,000 cases, we report an average $88 lower cost per episode compared with care received in traditional settings, strong indicators of clinical effectiveness, and a 98 percent “would recommend” rating from customers. The possibility of extrapolating such savings to larger volumes of cases is compelling.

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Revised Brown Budget Calls For State-Based Medi-Cal Expansion
capital public radio

Governor Brown says expanding Medi-Cal will mean the state will be relieving counties of a financial burden: paying for health care for the uninsured. “We don’t want to pay twice. So where there is funding that is now properly… something the state outta use, we’ll do it,” said Brown during his brief speech on Tuesday. California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley says the budget also proposes a way the state will seek to capture money counties currently use to treat the uninsured.

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Governor’s budget revision gets mixed Medi-Cal reviews
Sacramento Business Journal

Gov. Jerry Brown drew applause Tuesday from health care advocates and providers for his continued commitment to Medi-Cal expansion under federal health reform, but there was widespread disappointment that the governor did nothing in the May revision of the state budget to reverse Medi-Cal rate cuts in previous years. “The 37,000 members of the California Medical Association remain concerned about the continued effort to build reform on the broken backbone of Medi-Cal,” CMA president Paul Phinney from Sacramento said in a news release.

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Governor’s Deep Medi-Cal Cuts Hurt Vulnerable Patients, Compromise Access to Quality Care, and Undercut the Recovering Economy
Fort Mill Times

“Governor Jerry Brown’s inclusion of deep Medi-Cal cuts in his revised budget is an ill-timed move that will hurt the poorest and most vulnerable patients in California, compromise access to quality health care, and put the brakes on a recovering economy. “Economic conditions have shown encouraging signs of revival, with billions of dollars in new revenue.

The governor’s proposed cuts, totaling $1 billion to Medi-Cal providers, come at the worst possible time, when California is working to successfully implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

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Brown endorses state-run Medi-Cal expansion
HealthyCal.org

Gov. Jerry Brown committed Tuesday to a state-based expansion of subsidized health care for low-income Californians, abandoning a proposal he had floated that would have required each of the state’s 58 counties to provide care for the low-income people in their communities. But Brown, in his revised budget for the coming year, said he still wants to redirect the lion’s share of the money the state now gives the counties to provide care to the uninsured.

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Medi-Cal funds would go to state, not counties
San Francisco Chronicle

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday said that the state should oversee the expansion of its Medi-Cal program as encouraged by the Affordable Care Act but that counties will have to give up funding used to care for low-income residents. The state now sends about $1.5 billion annually to counties for health care for indigent Californians, many of whom are not currently eligible for Medi-Cal. But about 1.4 million residents will become eligible for Medi-Cal in January as the health law is implemented, reducing the cost burden on the counties for medical care, state officials said.

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Reform Update: No clear map for Medicaid expansion in red states
Modern Healthcare

Republican governors backing an expansion of Medicaid continue to hit headwinds in those efforts, and it is unclear what lessons can be drawn from the outcomes experienced by two of their colleagues.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple were among five Republican governors who were pushing expansion of Medicaid in Republican-led legislatures. Scott’s high-profile failure to get conservatives to support a Medicaid expansion likely to clear CMS scrutiny contrasts with a relatively quiet successful effort by Dalrymple.

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House to Vote Yet Again on Repealing Health Care Law
New York Times

The 37th time won’t be the charm. But House Republicans are charging forward anyway this week on a vote to repeal President Obama’s signature health care overhaul, which will put the number of times they have tried to eliminate, defund or curtail the law past the three-dozen mark. “This is what, the 40th time they’re going to do it?” scoffed Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, confessing that she had lost count. “Thirty-eight? 39? 40? 41?” She eventually settled on “high 30s” as her best guess.

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Two big Covered California outreach grants land in Sacramento
Sacramento Business Journal

The Sacramento Employment and Training Agency and University of California Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities are $1 million winners in Covered California’s outreach and education grant award program, officials at the state health benefit exchange announced Tuesday. SETA will provide on-site, one-on-one education and assistance in Sacramento to individuals of limited English proficiency, low-wage and part-time workers, self-employed, families transitioning from welfare to work, individuals who have lost coverage due to employment or pre-existing conditions and young people under 30, including college students.

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Health exchange awards $37 million in outreach grants
Sacramento Bee

The UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities and the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency have a million reasons to celebrate after the state agency overseeing a federal health care overhaul Tuesday announced 48 winners of education and outreach grants.

The two Sacramento-area groups were among 16 winners of million-dollar grants by Covered California, which is implementing federally mandated changes to health care by creating an exchange for buying health insurance.

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Could the IRS Tea Party Scandal Harm the Healthcare Reform Law?
Becker's Hospital Review

The Internal Revenue Service is under fire this week, as news broke of the agency’s targeting conservative political groups for tougher scrutiny in their applications for tax-exempt status. The ordeal has prompted a storm of political controversy, and it may pose problems down the road for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as well, according to a Fiscal Times report.

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Senate Finance Committee Hears More ‘Doc Fix’ Testimony
Health Leaders Media

The sustainable growth rate formula’s days may be numbered, but the SGR won’t be repealed until an alternative system for making Medicare payments to physicians is found. Media reports that the IRS targeted conservative political groups prompted leaders of the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday to call for an investigation, but did not prevent the committee from holding its scheduled hearing on the matter of Medicare payments to physicians.

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Healthcare Leaders Sound Off on Organized Labor
Health Leaders Media

Reduced reimbursements, healthcare reform, and the future role of safety-net hospitals rank way higher for us than do issues related to organized labor. Southern states are big into right to work and are not very organized labor–friendly. I prefer that. It’s not that I am anti-union, but I don’t want to work in an environment where I have to go through a representative to interact with employees who are providing care to the patients. That isn’t good for patient care or safety or workforce relationships, and I personally prefer not to work in that environment.

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Santa Rosa center offers free skin cancer screening
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

May is skin cancer awareness month and the Vista Health Center in Santa Rosa will offer a free skin cancer screening this weekend.

The screening is a new joint effort between the Vista Health Center and the Northern California Dermatology Society.

More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year, and it’s estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Melanoma Foundation.

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Dignity Health cutting 148 Sacramento-area lab workers
Sacramento Bee

San Francisco-based Dignity Health’s imminent departure from the outpatient lab business will result in 148 layoffs in the Sacramento area next month.

However, there is a chance that some or all of those workers could be absorbed into the Dignity Health system or end up working for Quest Diagnostics, the soon-to-be new owner of the local laboratories.

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St. John’s bidding war escalates
Los Angeles Times

A high-stakes bidding war has erupted for St. John’s Health Center, a storied Santa Monica hospital, with a local billionaire teaming up with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles on an unsolicited offer.

The latest bid, expected to be formally announced Wednesday, comes from former drug-company executive and healthcare entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, who said in a statement the bid has the support of the archdiocese. This offer is competing against at least two other bidders’.

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St. Helena receives Blue Ribbon designation
Lake County Record-Bee

St. Helena Hospital’s Coon Joint Replacement Institute received designation as a Blue Distinction Center for knee and hip replacement.

The Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care program is a national designation awarded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to medical facilities that have demonstrated expertise in delivering quality specialty care. The designation expanded recently to include more robust quality measures focused on improved patient health and safety.

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Sutter deal transfers East Bay hospital
Sacramento Bee

Alameda Health System of Oakland says it has signed a letter of intent with Sacramento’s Sutter Health to take over Sutter’s San Leandro Hospital.

San Leandro Hospital is a 93-bed facility, part of the Sutter Health Eden Medical Center campus in San Leandro.

AHS said the proposed transfer depends on both parties developing a definitive agreement by July 1. That agreement would then be submitted to the AHS board for approval. AHS officials hope to conclude the transaction this fall.

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Sutter Health to transfer control of San Leandro Hospital to Alameda County’s medical system
Inside Bay Area

Sutter Health will transfer control of San Leandro Hospital and $22 million to the Alameda Health System in order to prevent the collapse of the 93-bed facility and free Sutter of a financial albatross once and for all. The county on Tuesday signed a nonbinding letter-of-intent to take ownership of the hospital, according to Sutter officials. The deal would end years of legal battles, as well as the near shutdown of San Leandro Hospital’s emergency room, the only such facility in the city.

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Alameda Health System confirms signing San Leandro Hospital deal
San Francisco Business Times

Alameda Health System, formerly known as Alameda County Medical Center, said late Tuesday it has officially signed a letter of intent to gain ownership of San Leandro Hospital from current owner Sutter Health. San Leandro Hospital is now operated as a 93-bed facility by Sutter. The public health system said the transfer is subject to due diligence and signing a definitive agreement by July 1, when the deal would go to its board of directors for final approval.

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Alameda County officials confirm San Leandro Hospital deal
San Francisco Business Times

Alameda County officials belatedly confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Sutter Health has agreed to donate San Leandro Hospital to Alameda Health System and pay $22 million to help the hospital transition to the new system. The transaction deadline is July 2013, according to a statement by County Supervisor Wilma Chan, who has been leading efforts to put pressure on Sutter to sweeten the deal. But regulatory approvals for the deal aren’t expected until October, the planned transfer date.

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California’s Health Insurance Exchange Builds Critical Outreach Network
KQED Radio

Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, announced the recipients of $37 million in education and outreach grants on Tuesday. It’s a critical step in the drive toward the full implementation of the federal health law on Jan. 1. “This program now belongs to California … and to Californians, and we have to make it work,” said Dr. Robert Ross, a Covered California board member.

The grants were awarded to 48 lead organizations, which will be supported by 226 community partner groups. They will focus on education and outreach to the 5.3 million Californians the exchange seeks to enroll, with an estimated 2.6 million of those people eligible for subsidies to help them afford insurance. Five of the recipients will target their outreach to small businesses.

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