News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Soap, ointment for all ICU patients best for fighting MRSA: study
Modern Healthcare

Using ointment and germ-killing soap on all intensive-care unit patients proved more effective than screening patients in reducing bloodstream infections and lowering the presence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. In the large study, a team of researchers from the University of California, Irvine, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Care Institute, HCA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined the results of three MRSA-prevention practices, including routine care that involves detecting MRSA and isolating it; providing the ointment called intranasal mupirocin and cholorhexidine, a germ-killing soap, to those patients with MRSA; and providing the ointment and soap to all patients in the ICU.

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How to Get a Handle on ED Overcrowding
Health Leaders Media

These days, hospitals are trying to make things quick, quicker, and quickest for beleaguered emergency departments and their patients, who often face delays in treatment after they enter the hospital’s automated doors. By establishing streamlined throughput systems, hospitals hope to prevent frustrated patients from walking out, bolting without getting care.

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Study: Immigrant workers ‘heavily subsidize’ Medicare
Washington Post

As Congress mulls changing America’s border and naturalization rules, a study finds that immigrant workers are helping buttress Medicare’s finances, because they contribute billions a year more than immigrant retirees use in medical services. “Immigrants, particularly noncitizens, heavily subsidize Medicare,” the researchers wrote in the journal Health Affairs.

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Bill aims to ease problems for mental health patients
Sacramento Business Journal

The state Senate has approved a measure that would give counties more options for individuals with severe mental illness who are facing involuntary treatment — and could relieve overcrowded local emergency rooms struggling to cope with the issue. Senate Bill 364 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg sailed out of the Senate Tuesday by unanimous bipartisan vote of 39-0.

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Immigrants pay billions more to Medicare than they use, study says
Sacramento Bee

Immigrants have contributed billions of dollars more to Medicare in recent years than the program has paid out on their behalf, according to a new study, a pattern that goes against the notion that immigrants are a drain on federal health care spending. The study, led by researchers at Harvard Medical School, measured immigrants’ contributions to the part of Medicare that pays for hospital care, a trust fund that accounts for nearly half of the federal program’s revenue.

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Study: Immigrants give more to Medicare than they get
Modern Healthcare

Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor of public health at the City University of New York, remembers a 48-year-old Hispanic immigrant and father of three who died of a heart attack several years ago at Cambridge (Mass.) Hospital—a death she says could have been prevented if her patient had sought and received the proper care earlier.

Woolhandler has seen similar cases throughout her career as a primary-care physician, but she said this was one of the worst outcomes.

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Decontaminating patients cuts hospital infections
Sacramento Bee

Infections in U.S. hospitals kill tens of thousands of people each year, and many institutions fight back by screening new patients to see if they carry a dangerous germ, and isolating those who do. But a big study suggests a far more effective approach: Decontaminating every patient in intensive care.

Washing everyone with antiseptic wipes and giving them antibiotic nose ointment reduced bloodstream infections dramatically in the study at more than 40 U.S. hospitals.

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Simple strategy works best to reduce infections, study finds
Washington Post

Using germ-killing soap to wash the sickest patients every day and applying antibacterial ointment inside their noses turns out to be the most effective way to reduce deadly hospital bloodstream infections, according to a study published Wednesday that has broad implications for practical use. The findings suggest the simple strategy could save lives, researchers said.

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Better MRSA Strategy: Treat All ICU Patients
Health Leaders Media

The relatively rare practice of universally treating all intensive care unit patients as if they were infected, and not screening them for pathogens first, reduces positive bacterial cultures and bloodstream infections dramatically more than screening patients and isolating those who test positive, according to a surprising study published Thursday. “We now have a very large trial with strong evidence that universal decolonization is better, and it would behoove many hospitals to consider moving to that strategy,” says Susan Huang, MD, principal investigator and medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention at the University of California Irvine Health.

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Federal Court Rejects Appeal of 10% Cut to Medicaid in California
Becker's Hospital Review

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals won’t hear a request led by the California Hospital Association for a full-court review to overturn an injunction that blocked the state Medicaid program from cutting provider reimbursement rates 10 percent, or $600 million each year, according to a report by California Healthline. California passed the cuts as part of its 2011 budget when it faced a major deficit.

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Covered California ‘not a reduction’ re: Healthcare costs
One News Now

California’s health exchange has released bottom line prices on insurance policies and rates and 13 companies, including Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente, and Blue Shield of California, that will sell policies through the marketplace. Peter Lee, director of Covered California, feels the insurance marketplace hits a “home run” for consumers, as he claims it features affordable rates and better coverage.

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State-run health insurance market and its effect on you
Los Angeles Times

With enrollment starting in four months, California’s new state-run health insurance market unveiled proposed rates last week that came in better than what many experts predicted. Still, some consumers who don’t qualify for premium subsidies under the federal healthcare law could see substantially higher rates for their health coverage next year. Join us for a live video chat about these issues at 2 p.m. with reporter Chad Terhune. You can join in on the conversation with your questions or comments.

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How 3 Small Firms Are Coping With Health Law
The Wall Street Journal

Small employers across the U.S. are struggling to get a handle on their health-care costs under the Affordable Care Act. Many of them say they expect their operating expenses to jump in 2014, when the law’s employee health-insurance requirements take effect. But they acknowledge that their forecasts are back-of-the-envelope calculations based on only partial information.

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In Healthcare Reform Fight, Sebelius is Latest Target
Health Leaders Media

The 37th attempt by the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed earlier this month. But this bill, like its predecessors, is unlikely to be passed by the Senate. Frustrated House Republicans trying another angle, are now holding Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in their crosshairs as they look into reports that she may have solicited funding or assistance from the healthcare industry to help implement some of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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Reform Update: Medicare managed care linked to overall savings, study finds
Modern Healthcare

Hospital visits are shorter and less costly for all patients in markets with more of them enrolled in Medicare managed care, according to new research. The results suggest hospitals make far-reaching changes to delivery as incentives to better manage care increase.

Incentives to coordinate care prompt investments, such as information technology, and widespread adoption of new delivery models that ultimately benefit all patients, regardless of insurance, a trio of Harvard University researchers wrote in a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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Medicare charges higher in valley
The Desert Sun

The amount Coachella Valley hospitals charged Medicare in 2011 fluctuated greatly depending on the treatment, but was generally higher than the state average across the board, recently released data show.

On the other hand, Loma Linda University Medical Center in San Bernardino County, where some desert residents commute for hospital services, charged significantly less.

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Local hospitals say proposed Assembly Bill is flawed
The Acorn

Local nonprofit hospitals have taken a stance against a proposed bill that aims to standardize the definition of charity care and community benefits in California. According to the California Nurses Association (CNA), which is sponsoring the proposed legislation, the goal of Assembly Bill 975 is to hold nonprofit hospitals accountable for providing charity care in their communities in exchange for tax-exempt status.

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Scope of practice bills sail out of Senate
Sacramento Business Journal

Legislation to allow licensed nurse practitioners and optometrists expand their practices and provide more primary care sailed out of the State Senate Tuesday on bipartisan votes. A third scope-of-practice bill to expand what pharmacists can do faced a final vote in the Senate Wednesday. One of the most controversial bill packages of the year, the legislation seeks to use the existing workforce of medical professionals to bridge a shortage of physicians in many parts of the state at a time when a huge influx of new patients is expected.

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FDA takes action to ease neonatal drug shortage
Modern Healthcare

Federal health regulators are allowing overseas imports of critical intravenous drugs used to nourish premature infants, amid a shortage that has affected hospitals nationwide.

The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday new supplies of drugs used in total parenteral nutrition, a ubiquitous hospital staple, will be available to U.S. patients this week. The injectable formula is used to feed newborn infants, cancer patients and other vulnerable groups who are unable to eat or drink by mouth.

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ACA wellness rule called too flexible by some
Modern Healthcare

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides incentives and flexibility for employees to participate in workplace wellness programs offered by their group health plans. But some employer groups are objecting to certain provisions of a final rule issued today by HHS, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Labor and Treasury departments that provides incentives for nondiscriminatory wellness programs.

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New federal rules prevent firms from discriminating through wellness programs
Washington Post

The Obama administration issued final regulations Wednesday designed to prevent companies from discriminating against sick employees through corporate wellness programs.

The programs, which have gained in popularity in recent years, provide incentives for employees to improve their health. Some give medical insurance discounts to workers who meet specific metrics for blood pressure and body-mass index.

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GOP solicits insurers for info about conversations with HHS
FierceHealthPayer

House Republicans have expanded their investigation into the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, requesting that some of the biggest insurance companies provide them with information about the agency’s fundraising efforts. To further explore whether HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius inappropriately solicited health insurers for financial donations to help the agency implement the reform law, GOP lawmakers sent letters to 15 insurers, including Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealth and WellPoint, according to a statement.

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When It Comes To Healthcare Issues, Paul Krugman Is Wrong 100% Of The Time
Forbes

Writers sometimes worry if a day will come when they have nothing more to say. As long as Paul Krugman is around, I will never have that worry.

Boston University professor, Lawrence Kotlikoff has suggested that Krugman return his Nobel Prize. I hope he doesn’t.

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Will California consumers buy into health reform?
Contra Costa Times

When Covered California, the state’s new health insurance purchasing exchange, announced last week the prices of policies that will be offered through the exchange next year, the people who have been working hard to make federal health care reform work in California exhaled and celebrated. The prices came in higher than some might have liked, but lower than most of the Doomsday predictions from skeptics of the Affordable Care Act.

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