News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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AHA Defends Hospital Consolidations
Health Leaders Media

The American Hospital Association contends that “the overwhelming majority” of hospital consolidations are “pro-competitive,” improve quality and access to healthcare at a lower cost for the communities they serve. And despite the seemingly daily accounts of mergers and acquisitions in the hospital sector, an AHA-commissioned report from FTI Consulting found that only 551 community hospitals—about 10% of all community hospitals—were involved in consolidations from 2007-2012 with an average of one or two hospitals acquired in most transactions.  The report was published Monday.

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Congressional delegates worried about managed care move for seniors
Los Angeles Times

Several members of the Los Angeles congressional delegation asked the federal government Tuesday to postpone moving hundreds of thousands of chronically ill seniors and disabled patients into managed care. In a letter, signed by 14 U.S. representatives, the officials raised concerns about whether the health plans would be ready for the transition and whether patients would have access to the care they need.

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More patients accepting treatment from nonphysicians
Modern Physician

As predictions of a looming doctor shortage become more severe, two recent surveys find that more family physicians are working with nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse midwives. They also found that patients increasingly are accepting treatment by nonphysicians—particularly when the alternative is to wait a day or longer to see a doctor. According to a policy brief published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, nearly two-thirds (59.8%) of the 5,818 family physicians surveyed said they routinely worked with an NP, PA or CNW.

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Health Care Reform: Analytics May Offer a Cure
Yahoo! News

Here’s a typical scenario in health care: When a patient undergoes testing to rule out a stroke, the diagnostic code used on medical records may ambiguously suggest the patient actually suffered one. Is this accurate? No. Is it a serious problem? Perhaps. It depends whether the information is used to help decide a patient’s need for treatments or for billing purposes.

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Thousands Gather at State Capitol To Protest Medi-Cal Cuts
capital public radio

The west side of the Capitol building looked like a summer street fair. Musicians took a large stage and small tents lined a side of the building. But the coalition of doctors, health care workers, unions and health insurers was there with a message. “Stop the cuts!” yelled a man on stage, leading the audience in a chant against the pending Medi-Cal cuts. Sharon Spurgeon came on a bus from Coalinga. She says even the current Medi-Cal rates are a burden on her medical center’s budget.

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Providers Rally At Capitol Over Medi-Cal Cuts
CBS13

Health care providers rallying at the Capitol on Tuesday warned that a Central Valley medical center could shut down and doctors throughout California could stop accepting Medicaid patients if a state funding cut is not reversed.

Thousands of people representing doctors, hospitals and unionized health care workers filled the Capitol grounds to rally against a 10 percent reduction in the amount the state pays for Medicaid reimbursements.

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Thousands chant ’stop the cuts’ at health care rally
Sacramento Business Journal

The Brown Administration has doggedly pursued cuts to the Medi-Cal program. The feds support the move. The justice system gave the go-ahead last month unless there’s an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court — but thousands of Californians showed up at the state Capitol Tuesday to chant “stop the cuts.” An enthusiastic crowd of health care execs, providers, home care workers and others jammed the west side of the Capitol to show “We are Medi-Cal” and convince lawmakers to approve legislation to roll back cuts estimated at $1 billion.

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Doctors, hospitals, unions push to stop Medi-Cal cuts
Sacramento Bee

Thousands of doctors, nurses, unionized health care workers and Medi-Cal patients flocked to the Capitol on Tuesday to protest possible cuts to the Medi-Cal program.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget calls for a 10 percent reduction in payment to Medi-Cal providers, a move that opponents say would reduce the poorest patients’ access to health care. So far, Brown has shown no signs of backing down from the proposed cut.

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Kidney Care Advocates Fight Medicare Cuts
Health Leaders Media

A coalition of kidney care advocates is the latest disease interest group to push back against financial cuts required by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. In April, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and other cancer care groups projected that ATRA requirements would reduce access to cancer treatment and boost the cost of cancer drugs. The Washington Post reported that cancer clinics had started turning away ” thousands of Medicare patients” because of the budget cuts tied to the sequester.

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Reagan for Health Care Reform
New York Times

With many right-wing politicians dead set against expanding Medicaid, the Republican governor of Ohio, John Kasich, needed cover for going along. Facts and figures and kindness surely weren’t enough, what with his colleagues comparing health care reform to a “hostage” situation. But in an op-ed for USA Today he settled on a great excuse: It’s what Ronald Reagan would have done.

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Critics of Health Care Law Outspending Its Supporters on Ads
New York Times

Seven months before the core provisions of President Obama’s health care law are to take effect, most television advertising that mentions the law continues to come from its opponents. Since the law’s passage in March 2010, critics have spent a total of about $400 million on television ads that refer to it, according to a new analysis by the Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media, which tracks such spending. Supporters have spent less than a quarter of that — about $75 million — on ads that cast the law in a positive light, according to the analysis.

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Health secretary asks J&J, other companies to promote health care reform
New Jersey Star Ledger

U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she talked with health care companies she regulates, including Johnson & Johnson, about helping a nonprofit group publicize the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Ascension Health, a Catholic health-care system, and the nonprofit hospital and insurance company Kaiser Permanente were also urged to lend support, though no financial contributions were requested, Sebelius told lawmakers at a hearing today in Washington.

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Consumer-directed plans see drop in primary care
Modern Physician

Visits to the doctor and pharmacy dropped among workers whose employer switched their health insurance to a high-deductible plan with a health savings account, a newly released Health Affairs study found.

The results supported concerns raised by previous studies, including a 2011 study by the RAND Corp., that members of consumer-directed plans reduce their use of both medically appropriate and inappropriate services because of the prospect of increased out-of-pocket costs.

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Bill would stop transfer of health costs to workers
The Desert Sun

When it comes to any kind of wholesale changes in government, such as the Affordable Care Act, there are bound to be bumps and glitches along the way. But California has an opportunity right now to fix a loophole in the new law that will cost taxpayers more than they should have to pay.

As it is written, the act allows large corporations to shift their obligation to provide health insurance to employees onto California taxpayers rather than fulfill the obligation themselves.

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Geography affects premiums on California health insurance exchange
Sacramento Bee

For the same health coverage from the same insurer, a 40-year-old Sacramentan will pay $78 more per month than a Los Angeles County resident through the state’s new insurance exchange.

In rural Mono County, the disparity will be even larger: $150 per month, nearly 60 percent higher than for identical benefits and co-pays offered in Los Angeles County. The premiums provide relatively basic coverage from Anthem Blue Cross, but similar regional differences exist in plans proposed by other insurers.

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Uninsured most vulnerable to financial strain
Modern Healthcare

The financial strain of getting sick or injured leaves roughly one out of five U.S. households with medical debt, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.

The data include children and working-age adults, but not those older than 65. The uninsured were most vulnerable to financial hardship from illness. But more than one in 10 privately insured households reported unpaid family medical bills in the first half of 2012, and one out of four publicly insured households could not pay all their healthcare expenses during the same period.

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CMS unveils charges for outpatient hospital procedures
Modern Healthcare

Less than a month after the CMS released data on what hospitals charge for inpatient procedures, the agency has released similar information about the prices hospitals submit and are paid on the outpatient side.

The greater transparency comes as hospitals have pushed back against the initiative, arguing that the data isn’t meaningful to consumers because of the gulf between what hospitals charge and the bottom line for patients.

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House Republicans focused on SGR fix
Modern Healthcare

With a House panel preparing to discuss physician payment reforms on Wednesday, healthcare providers and industry groups remain hopeful that 2013 will be the year lawmakers repeal the troublesome formula the CMS uses to reimburse Medicare-participating doctors. Momentum has been building in the lower chamber this year to overturn Medicare’s sustainable growth-rate formula. The Republican majority staffs of the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Committees jointly released a framework that would serve as the foundation to repeal the SGR.

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RWJF Launches Hospital Pricing App Challenge
Health Leaders Media

The federal government’s unprecedented release of hospital pricing data for inpatient and outpatient procedures with the last month comes with one overriding question: How will the information be used?

To find out, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has launched a competition among technology developers to improve consumer understanding and use of data that compare hospital prices.

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Kaiser to open medical offices in San Ramon
The Mercury News

Kaiser Permanente members in San Ramon will soon have a new spot closer to home for doctor appointments. Kaiser will open the doors to a new three-story, 67,000-square-foot medical office building in the Bishop Ranch office park Nov. 14 in an effort to bridge the 17-mile divide between the organization’s Walnut Creek and Pleasanton offices, officials said. While no surgical services will be provided in San Ramon, a laboratory, pharmacy and X-ray services will be located on site.

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We need to understand why health care costs vary so much
The Desert Sun

Greater transparency in medical procedures is essential to keeping costs down.

That’s the position of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a public health charity based in New Jersey. The Desert Sun agrees.

Recently released data show that the Coachella Valley’s three hospitals charged Medicare more in 2011 for certain treatments than the state average.

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State can’t take risks with county public health
Sacramento Bee

Protecting public health is a basic government function. County health officers track illnesses and deaths from West Nile virus to hospital infections to food-borne contamination. They conduct vaccination campaigns and restaurant inspections. They respond to outbreaks and disasters.

Unfortunately, this essential public health function is being lost in the budget battle between Gov. Jerry Brown and the counties in the jostling over preparing for the federal Affordable Care Act.

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A SEC for Health Care?
The Health Care Blog

If you have ever tried to choose a physician or hospital based on publicly available performance measures, you may have felt overwhelmed and confused by what you found online. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Joint Commission, the Leapfrog Group, and the National Committee for Quality Assurance, as well as most states and for-profit companies such as Healthgrades and U.S. News and World Report, all offer various measures, ratings, rankings and report cards. Hospitals are even generating their own measures and posting their performance on their websites, typically without validation of their methodology or data.

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UCSF and Duke University lead fight against antibiotic resistance
San Francisco Business Times

The University of California, San Francisco and Duke University will lead a $62 million national project to fight antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Duke, in Durham, N.C., will spend $2 million in initial money from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) setting up a nationwide research network for the work. Research will focus on two resistant bacterial strains — methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Escherichia coli.

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