News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Massive Sacramento rally challenges Medi-Cal cuts
Sacramento Bee

In the dispute over whether Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget should do more to repair the state’s tattered safety net, the fate of a planned cut in Medi-Cal payments to providers has taken a prominent role.

A coalition of health insurance firms (among them Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California), medical professional associations (including the California Hospital Association and the California Medical Association) and the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West is busing thousands of advocates to Sacramento today for a huge Medi-Cal rally.

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California Coalition seeks to eliminate cap on pain-and-suffering damages
Sacramento Bee

A West Sacramento billboard featuring an infant who died from whooping cough marks a formal declaration of war by groups targeting elimination of a cap on pain-and-suffering damages in medical negligence suits.

Bankrolled by trial lawyers, the billboard features Mia Chavez, a 6-week-old Los Angeles County child who died in July 2010, allegedly after a doctor examined her numerous times but failed to detect whooping cough in time to save her life.

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Bill would narrow rate secrecy provisions at Covered California
Sacramento Business Journal

When California lawmakers set up the California health benefits exchange in 2010, they gave the state agency authority to keep all contracts confidential for a year and the rates paid under them secret indefinitely. The initial legislation — Assembly Bill 1602 — also exempts from the California Public Records Act the deliberative processes, communications and other parts of negotiations with parties seeking to contract with the exchange, as well as recommendations, meeting minutes, board or staff strategy and instructions or training to employees.

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Study highlights cost benefit of expanding Medicaid
Modern Healthcare

An independent study released today on the economic impact of Medicaid expansion under healthcare reform found that states’ share of the cost of expanding Medicaid under reform would be lower than the cost of providing uncompensated care to their uninsured residents.

The RAND Corp. looked at the 14 states considered least likely to support or allow for the expansion of Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.

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Datapalooza: HHS Unveils Medicare Outpatient Costs
Health Leaders Media

The Obama administration made government transparency a campaign promise and on healthcare data it is delivering in a big way. On Monday, Medicare data including estimates for average charges for 30 types of hospital outpatient procedures was released. This follows the release last month of pricing information data for the 100 most common Medicare inpatient DRGs or diagnostic related groups.

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Kaiser making big push for health care rally at Capitol
Sacramento Business Journal

Kaiser Permanente rarely goes at it alone when it takes a public stance on an issue, but it’s bringing in the buses for a Sacramento health care rally Tuesday. Thousands of health care providers, health plan execs and health care workers are expected to participate in what’s being billed as the “largest ever health rally at the state Capitol.” More than 100 buses will converge on Sacramento from all parts of the state, but a third of them are starting at Kaiser facilities.

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Health Reform’s Uncertain Impact on HIV Patients
PBS

It’s an uncertain time for most HIV patients in the United States. A full two-thirds of them rely on government-subsidized health insurance — or else have none — and the health care reform law is about to shake things up.

Starting in 2014, when the major provisions of the law kick in, many of the HIV-positive patients who currently receive medication through state-based AIDS Drug Assistance Programs will be shifted onto the Medicaid rolls; others will receive subsidized coverage through their state’s health insurance exchange.

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Reform provisions could increase number of self-employed, study says
Modern Healthcare

Health insurance provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could significantly boost the number of self-employed individuals next year, according to findings released last week from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms and one of the study’s authors, said that existing research has shown how linking health insurance coverage to employment status often leads to “job lock,” where people stay in their positions mostly because of the insurance benefits.

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Proposed Individual Rates, Plan Providers Announced For State Healthcare Marketplace
Long Beach Business Journal

The 2014 proposed rates for individual health insurance plans, available through the state’s health insurance marketplace Covered California, are lower than expected. While healthcare reform advocates welcomed this news, implementation of the marketplace infrastructure and access to care remain a top priority. As the healthcare marketplace established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Covered California revealed last month its proposal for individual plan costs with 13 selected health insurance providers.

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New Health Affairs: Medicaid Expansion And Vulnerable Populations
HealthAffairs Blog

Health Affairs’ June issue, released today, examines the challenges and benefits for states deciding whether to embrace the law’s Medicaid expansion or opt out. Several studies in the issue also look at population disparities in health care, especially during the recent recession. Selected content in the issue is supported by grants from the New York State Health Foundation and Blue Shield of California Foundation.

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Study: Medicaid expansion a good deal for states
The Hill

States would save money by accepting the Medicaid expansion in President Obama’s healthcare law, according to a new study. The research, published in the journal Health Affairs, said states that reject the Medicaid expansion will end up paying more for healthcare coverage than states that participate — and covering far fewer people. Together, 14 states that have rejected the expansion will spend $1 billion more on uncompensated care than they would under the expansion, and they’ll lose out on $8.4 billion in federal payments, researchers from the Rand Corporation said.

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Obama puts spotlight on mental health
Modern Healthcare

In what amounted to an all-day public relations affair on Monday, the Obama administration sought to heighten the national discourse on both the understanding and awareness of mental health in America. Now, mental healthcare professionals are wondering what comes next.

President Barack Obama underscored the need for enhanced mental healthcare services when he made it a core element of his gun-reform proposal this year.

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Medical Board reform bills pass through Senate
Sacramento Business Journal

All four bills dealing with reform at the Medical Board of California and related issues passed out of the State Senate last week. The state agency that regulates doctors is facing sunset review this year, meaning it will cease to exist if lawmakers and the governor don’t reauthorize it. An oversight hearing in Sacramento in March raised the issue of lax controls over doctors who overprescribe pain medications, spurring three bills in addition to the core legislation to overhaul the program to make it more effective.

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Execs worry Gilfillan’s CMS exit will slow reform
Modern Healthcare

Outgoing CMS Innovation Center chief Dr. Richard Gilfillan was praised by health system executives for his flexibility and deep knowledge of healthcare delivery. His exit plans came as a surprise, they said, and raised concerns that a leadership disruption could slow healthcare reform efforts. His departure, scheduled for the end of the month, was announced internally by CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. Dr. Patrick Conway will work as acting director of the CMS Innovation Center while continuing to serve as CMS chief medical officer and director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, the memo noted.

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Blue Shield, Anthem owe small firms millions of dollars in rebates
Los Angeles Times

Blue Shield of California owes $24.5 million in rebates to thousands of small-business customers, and rival Anthem Blue Cross will return $12 million to small firms under requirements of the federal healthcare law.

The annual rebates were disclosed in reports to state regulators, and the final tally from some companies may change before they are paid out by Aug. 1.

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Why does U.S. pay so much for basic medicine?
Sacramento Bee

Trying to find out how much a hospital stay or any medical procedure costs requires “an advanced university degree in Dante’s Circles of Hell,” wrote Joe Livernois in an April 7 piece in The Bee’s Forum section.

He was trying to compare the cost of his father’s nine-day hospital stay in Mexico – including all the lab work, drugs, anesthesia and specialists – with an equivalent stay in California. In Mexico, the cost was $6,375. Here, the cost was nigh impossible to pin down, but after considerable tracking, Livernois estimated it would be about $125,000.

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