News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Health differences key to variation in Medicare costs: analysis
Modern Healthcare

An analysis of the dramatic geographic variation in U.S. healthcare spending contends that the health of the patients—not what doctors and hospitals do—accounts for most of the differences. The new research is the latest to seek an explanation beyond demographics or the cost of living for why Medicare costs differ so much from one community to another. Because the answer could identify waste and unnecessary Medicare spending, the question has prompted contentious debate and ongoing research by the Institute of Medicine at the request of Congress.

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Senate OKs bills addressing medical provider gap
San Francisco Chronicle

Over the objection of doctors, the state Senate on Tuesday passed two of three health reform-related bills intended to address California’s medical provider gap. Lawmakers passed SB491 by Democratic Sen. Ed Hernandez of West Covina, which will expand the role of nurse practitioners. The 21-12 vote was the bare majority needed for the bill to move to the Assembly. The Senate also passed SB492, which is intended to expand medical services provided by optometrists.

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Panel airs draft of new doc payment system
Modern Healthcare

Republican House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders have revealed a draft of a bill that would repeal Medicare’s contentious physician payment formula and replace it with a payment system that places greater emphasis on quality and efficiency. Away from Washington this week, panel members announced the latest step in overturning Medicare’s sustainable growth-rate formula that began with their framework in February and was revised in April.

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CMS audit examines Medicare payments for hospice care
Modern Healthcare

With Medicare spending on hospice skyrocketing in recent years, the program’s watchdog office says tying hospital payment more closely to the timing of patient transfers from the hospital to the hospice could have cut federal spending by as much as $600 million over two years. But those savings would come out of hospitals’ pockets. That’s prompting CMS officials to wonder whether making that payment change would drive hospitals to needlessly prolong acute care in order to guarantee full payments, an audit report published today says.

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Federal Court Upholds 10% Medi-Cal Provider Cut
California Healthline

The United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld the right of California to impose a 10% rate reduction on providers of Medi-Cal services. The long-awaited ruling is the last judicial step, short of the U.S. Supreme Court, for the controversial cut to hospitals, physicians, emergency transport and dentists. Provider groups have said they would likely appeal the rate reduction to the Supreme Court.

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Health care safety net: County leaders protest governor’s proposal to remove $300 million statewide
Contra Costa Times

Alarmed at the threat of a big tear in their health care safety nets, leaders of Bay Area counties and public hospitals are opposing Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to take an estimated $2.5 billion from county health programs over the next three years. Brown argues that the counties will no longer need this money for indigent care because several million Californians will become newly insured as major provisions of the national health reform law take effect beginning Jan. 1.

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Artists put faces to uninsured
Healthcare Finance News

It was a couple of pieces of art that prompted Julie Sokolow to look to artists as a vessel to campaign for universal healthcare. Sokolow had never been very politically engaged until she saw Michael Moore’s Sicko and then, shortly after, read T.R. Reid’s book The Healing of America. These works brought the extent of the issue home. “Other countries take care of everyone and we spend more, but we don’t take care of everyone,” Sokolow said. “It’s the great injustice of America.”

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A Second Chance at Insuring the Masses
The Wall Street Journal

Years ago, Peter V. Lee presided over a failed effort to help California small businesses buy health insurance by pooling their purchasing power. Now he is getting another shot at expanding health-care access as executive director of Covered California, the largest state exchange spawned by the 2010 federal health-care law. The exchanges are marketplaces through which individuals and small businesses will buy insurance starting next year. California is one of 16 states running its own exchange; elsewhere, the federal government will run some or all of the operation.

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California considers expanding role for nurse practitioners
Los Angeles Times

Addressing an expected shortage of doctors in California, the state Senate approved a measure Tuesday that would allow nurse practitioners to independently perform more medical functions now within the domain of physicians.

The measure would allow nurse practitioners to have stand-alone practices to provide primary healthcare services independent of physicians including certification of disability claims, prescription of drugs and approving many treatments.

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Hospitals Thinking Beyond 30-Day Readmissions
Health Leaders Media

When asked why their efforts to prevent 30-day readmissions focus only on patients with heart failure, pneumonia, or heart attack, many hospital leaders shrug: because those readmissions are the only ones for which hospitals suffer a stiff reimbursement penalty. While many hospitals intend to target all-cause readmissions eventually, for now, it represents a steep front-end expense their budgets are not yet ready to absorb in a fee-for-service world, especially for readmissions that are not yet at risk for penalties.

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‘Largest ever health rally at Capitol’ planned
Sacramento Business Journal

Health care providers, health plans execs and health care workers are planning the “largest ever health rally at the state Capitol” for June 4. More than 100 bus loads of hospital administrators, doctors and frontline health care workers from every region of the state will converge on the Capitol to declare “We are Medi-Cal” and decry cuts to the government health care program for the poor.

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Small business owners offer health perks
San Francisco Chronicle

Small business owners continue to struggle to provide traditional health care benefits to their workers, but some are providing other unusual perks, as an alternative, to help attract and retain employees. A new report released Wednesday by Bank of America found that only 33 percent of the small business owners it surveyed provide traditional health benefits. But 31 percent offer additional amenities in the workplace, such as healthy snacks or massages. About 45 percent offer flexible work or work-from-home options for employees.

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Senior health care crisis looms; report ranks states
News10.net

An aging nation that’s living longer but with growing rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases points to an emerging health care crisis, says a report out Tuesday that analyzes seniors’ health status state-by-state.

Just two years ago, the first Baby Boomers turned 65, setting into motion a “tremendous demographic shift in the U.S. population,” said physician Rhonda Randall, a senior adviser to the not-for-profit United Health Foundation, which released America’s Health Rankings Senior Report Tuesday.

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ObamaCare Health Insurance Exchanges Are A Downgrade
Investor's Business Daily

If you live in California and purchase health insurance on the newly created exchange called Covered California, don’t expect care at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the prestigious academic hospital in Los Angeles. That top-drawer care won’t be covered by exchange plans. Many Californians will have to give up doctors and hospitals they currently use if they want subsidized coverage.

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Assembly backs expanded abortion access
San Diego Union-Tribune

With the San Diego County delegation split along party lines, the Assembly approved legislation Tuesday that would allow more medical professionals to perform a certain type of first-trimester abortion rather than only licensed physicians. The legislation seeks to expand abortion services, mostly in rural areas, by permitting nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to perform what’s called the aspiration procedure. They would have to undergo specialized training.

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Assembly Expands Who Can Perform Early Term Abortions
capital public radio

The bill would allow some trained medical clinicians to perform first term, surgical abortions. Democratic Assemblywomen Toni Atkins says it would increase access for women.

“In California,” she says, “women in many medically underserved and rural areas who choose to terminate a pregnancy must leave their communities and travel long distances, delaying access to care, to find a clinician who provides the service.”

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Calif. bill would expand who can perform abortions
The Mercury News

Women could go to a medical professional other than a doctor to end some pregnancies under a bill advancing through the state Legislature. The bill by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, would allow nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician’s assistants to perform so-called aspiration abortions during the first trimester. The method involves inserting a tube and using suction to terminate a pregnancy.

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L.A. Council rejects plan for city health department
Los Angeles Daily News

A threat to create a new Los Angeles city health department, separate from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, drew opposition from the City Council on Tuesday even as signatures on an initiative petition are being reviewed.

The council voted 11-1 to oppose the proposal from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, after county Chief Executive Officer Bill Fujioka and health director Jonathan Fielding cautioned the city would be facing initial costs of more than $50 million to replicate the services the county now provides.

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Obamacare is facing death by a thousand cuts
Boston Globe

Outright repeal is one way to sabotage health care reform, but most opponents recognize they don’t have the votes for that, let alone enough to override a certain presidential veto. Of course, this has not prevented House Republicans from voting three dozen times to repeal health care reform. A 37th attempt took place earlier this month. All of this represents nothing more than political grandstanding. Since they haven’t been able to achieve an outright repeal, Republicans are also working to thwart implementation.

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South LA program will attempt to fill ‘gaping hole’ between hospital and primary care
Southern California Public Radio

A new program will attempt to help bridge the gap between primary and hospital care for South Los Angeles patients, who all too often “get lost in the system.” That’s according to Nina Vaccaro, the executive director of the Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers. The group, which is comprised of eight federally-qualified health centers in South L.A., is developing a program that would place two “care coordinators” at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood.

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LA City Council opposes creation of its own public health department
Southern California Public Radio

A proposal to create a city-operated Public Health Department was opposed by the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is backing the proposal for a municipal public health unit that would assume duties managed by Los Angeles County for nearly 50 years. The group claims the county’s Public Health Department has become too big and ineffective.

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Rate Shock and Awe in California
The Health Care Blog

I have to say I was surprised with the press reports last week that there wasn’t “rate shock” in California when the California exchange offered preliminary information about their new plans and rates. At least one prominent health actuarial group had predicted a 30% baseline increase in costs for California’s new health insurance exchange plans under the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare”).

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