News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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North State Hospital Leaders Urge Lawmakers to Spare Patients from Damaging Medi-Cal Cuts
PR Newswire

Citing the devastating impact that pending Medi-Cal payment cuts would have on the North State’s most vulnerable patients, local hospital leaders in Redding today joined with patient families to call on state lawmakers to enact new legislation that would preserve the state’s health care safety net.

Two bills now making their way through the state Legislature – Assembly Bill 900 by Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) and Senate Bill 640 by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) – would reverse Medi-Cal cuts that were enacted by the passage of AB 97 in 2011.

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Rule lets Medicaid fraud-control units tap federal funds for data-mining
Modern Healthcare

With states bracing for rapid enrollment growth in their Medicaid programs, HHS‘ inspector general’s office has given state-based fraud-control units more power to use sophisticated data-analysis tools to recover an estimated $60 million in the next decade. The final rule published Friday allows state Medicaid fraud control units to use federal funding to pay for data-mining in search of trends in claims data that could show patterns of fraudulent Medicaid billing.

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Primary Care Docs Average More Hospital Revenue Than Specialists
Health Leaders Media

Primary care physicians have emerged as key money makers for their affiliated hospitals and for the first time are generating more revenues on average than their specialist colleagues, a survey data from Merritt Hawkins shows. “For the first time in the survey’s history we have primary care overtaking specialties on an average basis,” says Travis Singleton, a senior vice president at the Irving, TX-based physician recruiting firm.

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69% of Employers Plan to Offer Healthcare Coverage After 2014
Health Leaders Media

Despite ominous predictions that employers would drop healthcare coverage en masse in response to the strictures of the healthcare reform law, that has not come to pass. Instead, employers are largely are planning to keep offering health plans to their workers and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is having little effect on workforce strategies, employer survey data shows.

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Hospitals cancel elective surgeries ahead of strike
Sacramento Bee

Sacramento’s UC Davis Medical Center and four other large University of California hospitals have begun canceling elective surgeries because of a two-day strike planned by some workers next week. UCDMC has postponed 48 elective surgeries – including some for major cancers – and rescheduled 519 radiological examinations, a spokesman said.

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As Strike Looms, UC Medical Centers Cancel Elective Surgeries
KPBS

University of California Medical Centers across the state are canceling elective surgeries scheduled for early next week. The move is in preparation for a possible strike by nearly 13,000 union workers. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees represents surgical techs, respiratory therapists, and other patient care workers. Union members are set go on strike next Tuesday and Wednesday to protest stalled contract negotiations.

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UC hospital strikers’ numbers to be decided by court
Los Angeles Times

Patient care workers at the University of California’s medical centers plan to stage a two-day strike next week, but the number taking part will be decided Monday in Sacramento County Superior Court.

A judge is expected to rule on a request for a temporary restraining order limiting the number of workers who may take part in the walkout. According to UC officials, the focus is on workers considered essential for patient care.

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UC goes to court to stop medical-worker strike
Sacramento Business Journal

While the California Public Employment Relations Board will seek a court injunction Monday to stop University of California medical center workers from striking Tuesday and Wednesday, university officials are gearing up for a massive strike. Thousands of patient care, service, professional and technical workers in two unions plan to walk off their jobs May 21 and 23.

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Immigrants’ health worsens living in U.S.
Sacramento Bee

Becoming an American can be bad for your health.

A growing body of mortality research on immigrants has shown that the longer they live in this country, the worse their rates of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. And while their U.S.-born children may have more money, they tend to live shorter lives than the parents.

The pattern goes against any notion that moving to America improves every aspect of life.

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Reform Update: ACA foes, supporters trade volleys
Modern Healthcare

Democrats and Republicans played another game of political tennis this week when House Republicans served up another vote to fully repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Democrats returned a litany of reasons why the 2010 law is good for Americans. Hours before the House of Representatives voted 229-195 to approve overturning the entire Affordable Care Act for a third time in a little more than two years, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) used a tower of the law’s regulations—rising more than 7 feet tall—as a prop to emphasize the GOP view that the incredibly complex law is damaging the economy, hurting patients’ access to care, and preventing job growth.

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Obamacare allies eye ballot initiatives
POLITICO

Obamacare backers stymied by conservative legislatures in red states may have a new approach: letting the voters break logjams with state ballot initiatives in 2014. Frustrated by conservative opposition to extending Medicaid even in states where Republican governors have embraced it, the president’s allies are strategizing about asking voters to do what their elected leaders have not: accept billions of federal dollars to cover millions of poor people under Obamacare.

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Covered California to release list of health plans, rates
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California, the new state health benefit exchange, will release a tentative list of health plans and rates for the program at a board meeting in Sacramento Thursday. The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the auditorium at the Office of the Secretary of State, 1500 11th Street in Sacramento. The open session is expected to begin about 12:30.

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CBO’s Medicare estimates on par with White House figures
Modern Healthcare

Falling closely in line with the Obama administration’s analysis last month, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the policies in President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal would reduce Medicare spending by about $364 billion over 10 years, compared with the administration’s estimate of $371 billion. Released Friday, the CBO’s analysis said the president’s budget proposal for next year would total $5.2 trillion in deficits between 2014 and 2023, or about 2.4% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product projected for that period.

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Hospitals, companies push unnecessary screenings
Monterey Herald

Hospitals hoping to attract patients and build goodwill are teaming up with medical-screening companies to promote tests they say might prevent deadly strokes or heart disease.

What their promotions don’t say is that an influential government panel recommends against many of the tests for people without symptoms or risk factors.

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Increase in doctors’ pay for Medicaid services off to a slow start
Washington Post

The Obama administration’s strategy of enticing more ­primary-care doctors to treat the poor by raising Medicaid reimbursement rates is off to a slow start.

Only a handful of states, including Maryland, have begun paying doctors at the higher rates, which average a 73 percent increase nationally. That’s because the administration did not issue the rules until November, and state officials say they haven’t had time to make changes and get the federal government to approve them.

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Antioch toddler’s wait for transplant raises awareness
The Mercury News

Photographer Mandi Raymond senses she is onto something. All she needs is for Matthew Ouimet, a relentless, adorable, undeniable 2-year-old, to hold a pose. He cuts a riveting picture, seated on a wooden chair in the middle of a field, backlit by the setting sun. His shirt is off, revealing implanted catheters that dangle from his little torso. They are lifelines for Matthew, who suffers from the genetic condition Primary Hyperoxaluria Type 1.

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UCSD facility built to make better doctors
San Diego Union-Tribune

The patient groaned, grasped his chest and slumped forward in Exam Room 6.

A nurse quickly moved to the man’s side, coaching him to take deep breaths while another nurse increased the flow to his oxygen mask. Two doctors waited to administer a critical dose of nitroglycerin, which would help restore blood flow to the heart.

Watching the scene unfold via video feed from a nearby conference room, Dr. Peggy Wallace couldn’t contain her excitement.

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City of San Francisco, worker unions protest Kaiser premium hike
Los Angeles Times

It’s a trend many public employees can relate to: Health insurance premiums climb year after year, while at the bargaining table workers have agreed to kick in more for pensions, take salary cuts and sign on to furlough days.

But when Kaiser Permanente — which insures 45,000 public workers here — proposed another hike for 2014, San Francisco’s Health Service System teamed up with labor unions to say “no more.”

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UC Davis will use Covered California grant for Spanish-language outreach
Sacramento Business Journal

University of California Davis will use a $1 million grant announced Tuesday by Covered California to work with El Concilio, the council for Spanish speakers, to educate almost 133,000 primarily Spanish-speaking residents in the Central Valley about the new state health benefit exchange. The grant runs from July 1 though December 2014.

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Health care eats up big chunk of retiree savings
Boston Globe

When it comes to how much money we all need to retire comfortably, it gives us a headache. I just need to say that upfront before telling you about the latest news that is sure to scare you even more .

You probably already know that health care is likely to be among your largest expenses. But how much?

In its annual look at medical expenses for retirees, Fidelity Investments said a couple both 65 retiring in 2013 would probably need $220,000 to cover health care costs if the husband lives to 82 and the wife to 85, their average life expectancies.

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Employers will keep coverage, despite PPACA, survey finds
LifeHealthPRO

Health insurance in the workplace won’t go away because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But it will be different. That’s the latest word from roughly 1,000 employers surveyed by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Though the new report found that employers are concerned about cost increases to health benefits next year as a result of reform, virtually all employers intend to keep their coverage for full-time workers.

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Walgreens planned
Petaluma360.com

The Petaluma Health Care District is teaming up with a Walnut Creek-based developer to build a Walgreens on a piece of land it owns across from Petaluma Valley Hospital.

If approved, rent from the development could bring in an extra $200,000 to $250,000 a year to support the district’s community-based health initiatives.

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UCSD surgeons test drive future tools
San Diego Union-Tribune

Across the hallway from the Center for the Future of Surgery’s largest operating room is a door marked “007” — along with the faint outline of a gun.

This cloak-and-dagger moniker references the fact that the room houses projects often jointly developed with companies under strict confidentiality, said the center’s director, Dr. Santiago Horgan.

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Big Capitol fight on Medi-Cal looms among Democrats
Sacramento Bee

As he presented his revised 2013-14 budget to the Legislature last week, Gov. Jerry Brown warned against expanding spending beyond his administration’s conservative revenue estimates.

Citing darkening economic and revenue forecasts, Brown called on fellow Democrats in the Legislature to restrain themselves – and indirectly threatened to veto anything he considers to be too expansive.

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Drug testing for California doctors?
San Francisco Chronicle

They’re calling it the “Pee in the Cup’’ initiative — a proposed state ballot measure that would require doctors to be randomly subjected to drug and alcohol testing, the same way bus drivers are. It’s being pushed by a tech mogul who’s on a very personal crusade to clean up the state’s medical practices. Bob Pack is a former AOL and NetZero exec whose 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter were struck and killed a decade ago near their Danville home by a driver under the influence of alcohol and prescription pills.

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If You Want to Stop Hospital Harm, Don’t Call a Capitalist
The Health Care Blog

The Leapfrog Group has just released its latest report grading the safety of hundreds of individual hospitals, but the real news isn’t the“incremental progress.” It’s how a group started by some of the most powerful corporations in America has quietly devolved into just one more organization hoping press releases produce change. Amid the current enthusiasm for “value-based purchasing” by employers and possible privatization of Medicare, it is worth examining why Leapfrog’s initial notion that corporations would spearhead a crackdown on crummy care failed and what we can learn from that publicly unacknowledged failure.

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