News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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E.R.’s Account for Half of Hospital Admissions, Study Says
New York Times

Emergency rooms account for about half of the nation’s hospital admissions and accounted for virtually all of the rise in admissions between 2003 and 2009, according to a study released on Monday.

Although emergency rooms are widely considered expensive places for diagnostic care, physicians are increasingly relying on them to determine whether a patient needs to be hospitalized.

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Lawmakers’ bills keep spotlight on ICD-10 debate
Modern Healthcare

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has introduced a Senate version of the Cutting Costly Codes Act of 2013, a bill aimed at blocking HHS from implementing the ICD-10 diagnostic and procedural codes, which it is scheduled to do on Oct. 1, 2014. Given the Obama administration’s support for ICD-10, the chances that the bill will kill implementation efforts once and for all appear unlikely. But what it will most certainly do is keep alive the healthcare industry’s debate on ICD-10 implementation.

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Calif. bill would strip secrecy from health agency
Southern California Public Radio

Two lawmakers are pushing legislation to strip broad secrecy provisions from the state agency overseeing health care reforms in California that could shield from the public how hundreds of millions of dollars are spent, officials said Monday.

The bill by Republican Sen. Bill Emmerson and Democratic Sen. Mark DeSaulnier was introduced in the state Senate less than two weeks after The Associated Press reported the degree of privacy granted Covered California appears unique among states attempting to establish their own health insurance exchanges under President Barack Obama’s signature law.

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Judge allows thousands of UC medical workers to strike
Sacramento Bee

A Sacramento judge Monday refused to stop a strike today by thousands of employees at the UC Davis Medical Center and four other UC hospitals – but ordered a limited number of critical care employees to stay on the job. The union for nearly 13,000 workers, including nursing assistants, pharmacists, medical technicians, operating room scrubs and other health care workers, was to begin a two-day strike at 4 a.m. today. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees announced the walkout of workers at the UC Davis Health System and University of California hospitals in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Irvine.

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Court lets UC strike go on; 447 ordered to report for work
Sacramento Business Journal

A Sacramento Superior Court Judge David Brown has ordered 447 technical, patient care and professional employees to report for work during a two-day strike Tuesday and Wednesday at five University of California medical centers. UC officials initially asked the state Public Employment Relations Board for a temporary injunction to stop a massive strike unions that represent nearly 30,000 workers at the five hospitals.

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UC hospital strike will cause major disruptions, officials say
San Diego Union-Tribune

University of California hospitals from San Diego to Sacramento will experience significant service delays due to a two-day worker strike set for today and Wednesday, UC system officials said Monday.

Service will not return to normal until next week, they said in a press conference.

The last contract with AFSCME Local 3299, the union calling the strike, expired in September and negotiations for a new contract have stalled. The union, which represents about 13,000 employees, set the strike date on May 10.

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UC hospitals say patients safe despite strike
San Francisco Chronicle

Thousands of workers at University of California medical centers began a two-day strike on Tuesday that prompted the postponement of dozens of surgeries amid reassurances that patients were safe.

A union representing some 13,000 hospital pharmacists, nursing assistants, operating room scrubs and other health care workers began the walkout at 4 a.m. at medical facilities in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, San Francisco and Sacramento.

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Second union to strike UC med centers in ’sympathy’ with AFSCME on Tuesday; unions face limits
San Francisco Business Times

Members of a second union, UPTE-CWA, are expected to join picket lines along with AFSCME Local 3299 at five University of California medical centers Tuesday, including UCSF Medical Center and UC Davis Medical Center. The University Professional & Technical Employees/Communications Workers of America Local 9119 represents roughly 3,400 workers at UC medical centers in San Francisco, Davis, Los Angeles, Irvine and San Diego.

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Some could have gaps in medical coverage under new law
Los Angeles Times

When the national healthcare law takes full effect next year, millions of Americans risk disrupted health coverage because of common life events: getting married or divorced, having children or taking on a second job. As their family incomes change, so too will their eligibility for public insurance programs. And if nothing is done, policymakers warn, many low-income patients will lose access to their doctors and medications during this massive game of health coverage pingpong.

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Bill would bring sunshine to California health-care reform
The Reporter

Two lawmakers are pushing legislation to strip broad secrecy provisions from the state agency overseeing health-care reforms in California that could shield from the public how hundreds of millions of dollars are spent, officials said Monday. The bill by Republican Sen. Bill Emmerson and Democratic Sen. Mark DeSaulnier was introduced in the state Senate less than two weeks after The Associated Press reported the degree of privacy granted Covered California appears unique among states attempting to establish their own health insurance exchanges under President Barack Obama’s signature law.

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Reform Update: Research targeting post-acute costs applauded
Modern Healthcare

The CMS center charged with testing new payment and delivery models has pinpointed post-acute care as a high-cost area in dire need of novel new approaches, and experts in the field are applauding the move. When the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation last week announced its second wave of Health Care Innovation Awards funding opportunities, totaling nearly $1 billion, it called specifically for projects that are “designed to rapidly reduce Medicare, Medicaid and/or CHIP costs in outpatient and/or post-acute settings.”

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Study: Romney’s Healthcare Reform Law Did Not Increase Hospital Use, Costs
Becker's Hospital Review

Massachusetts’ 2006 healthcare reform law, signed by former Gov. Mitt Romney and often considered the model for President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, did not cause increases in hospital use or costs, according to a report from U.S. News & World Report. The findings are based on a new study led by Amresh Hanchate, PhD, an economist with the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, and presented at an American Heart Association conference.

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Analysis: Some Republicans see new scandal in Sebelius fundraising
Reuters

With the White House already reeling from three major controversies, some Republican lawmakers are zeroing in on what they perceive is another possible scandal tied to President Barack Obama’s landmark health reform law just as it nears implementation. On top of the troubles the administration is facing over its handling of the attack on the Benghazi mission, the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, and the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records, Republicans hope to target Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

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Democratic analysis questions validity of insurance premium ‘rate shock’
Modern Healthcare

Where consumers live and their state’s previous insurance rules may determine whether they experience “rate shock” this fall in their small business and individual plans. One of Republicans’ key arguments opposing the health reform law has been that its insurance regulations will cause rates to go through the roof. House Democrats looked at recent insurer filings for 2014 premium rates in five states and found that “in many cases, the Affordable Care Act appears to be reducing rates even before tax credits are taken into account.”

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California’s Brown Losing Favor As Budget Talks Draw Closer
International Business Times

At the beginning of 2013, Californians couldn’t stop singing Gov. Jerry Brown’s praises. But now, just a few months later, Brown seems headed for a crash on the rocks. With the state budget deadline looming ever closer, Brown proposed a deal including healthcare cuts so wildly unpopular that insurers, doctors and union leaders — groups that are typically, and notoriously, at odds with one another — have formed a coalition to fight them.

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How Chargemaster Data May Affect Hospital Revenue
Health Leaders Media

Some hospital industry executives dismiss the release of the federal chargemaster list of prices for 100 types of hospital care, saying it bears little relation to the charges that are actually negotiated and paid. But that may not be the whole story. This now transparent database could make a big difference right away for the uninsured, the underinsured, and for some Medicare Advantage patients, perhaps impacting hospital financial assistance offices that will need to write more flexible policies if they want to get paid.

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California study: Treatments for prostate, breast cancer vary widely, depending on where people live
The Mercury News

Tracy has agricultural roots and affordable homes, but a new study reveals a less obvious distinction for this Central Valley city: Doctors use internal radiation to treat men for prostate cancer at the highest rate in California, more than four times the state average. By comparison, men living just 60 miles away near Stanford University are much less likely to undergo the procedure known as brachytherapy, or radiation seeds — only about half as often as the state average.

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New pneumococcal vaccine as safe as older one
San Diego Union-Tribune

The new pneumococcal vaccine appears to be as safe as the previously used vaccine, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published Monday in the journal Vaccine.

The new 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) shows no significant risks compared with the previous version used prior to 2010, the 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7).

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Study finds jump in ER-related admissions
Modern Healthcare

Efforts to shift patients to lower-cost healthcare settings appear to flounder as the emergency department continues to play a larger role in where and how care is delivered. A RAND Health study found that hospital emergency rooms are now the point of access for nearly half of all hospital admissions in the U.S. and account for almost all of the growth in admissions between 2003 and 2009.

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ED Physicians Key to Half of Hospital Admissions
Health Leaders Media

Jay A. Kaplan, MD, has been an emergency physician for more than 30 years and over the decades he has witnessed firsthand what he says is the evolving role of the emergency department in providing frontline healthcare.

“When I first started practicing we called it the emergency room,” Kaplan says. “Then we got called the emergency department. We have morphed again. We are no longer an emergency department. We are an emergency care and acute diagnostic center.”

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Prices for anesthesia units up 14% over past year
Modern Healthcare

The average cost for anesthesia units is 14% higher than it was a year ago, according to the Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index. The TPI index looks at monthly and annual price data for about 30 supply and capital items purchased by hospitals and other healthcare providers, based on three-month rolling averages. The average cost for a basic anesthesia unit is $45,884, falling in the middle of the expected cost range of $40,000 to $50,000.

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Palliative care is a key part of Berkeley forum’s health care prescription
Times-Standard

The Berkeley Forum, a task force of private and public sector health care leaders convened by UC-Berkeley’s School of Public Health, is taking what it calls a new “bottom-up” approach to addressing health care costs and population health in California. ”We support risk-adjusted, global health budgets to pay for integrated care,” said Stephen Shortell, chair of the Berkeley Forum and dean of the School of Public Health. “We want to pay by the package, not by the piece.”

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