News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Sacramento County gets funds to improve psych care
Sacramento Business Journal

Sacramento County’s psychiatric facilities, as well as its emergency rooms, could soon get much-needed relief from a shortage of psych beds eligible for federal funding. The federal government picked Sacramento as one of two California counties to study whether mental health patients in crisis get better, lower-cost care if acute psychiatric hospitals collect can Medicaid funding for their treatment.

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California Gov. Brown wants health care changes regardless of Supreme Court decision
Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration vowed Thursday to continue pushing forward elements of the federal health care overhaul in California, even if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes it down.

If the court does rule the federal law unconstitutional, state Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley said California should at least consider enacting its own universal health care legislation, including requiring every Californian to buy insurance.

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UC-Berkeley releases ACO readiness survey
Modern Healthcare

The University of California at Berkeley has released an accountable care organization readiness survey for safety net providers.

The survey, which was pilot-tested in two California counties, includes 90 questions across nine categories. It was published in a policy brief (PDF) from the university’s School of Public Health and School of Law and is geared toward safety net providers, “which generally lack capital resources needed to create more-integrated, cost-effective systems of care,” according to the brief’s authors.

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Regardless of Court Ruling, Reform Under Way
Health Leaders Media

Will health leaders revamp their organizations if the constitutionality of the individual mandate portion, or even if the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, are rejected by the Supreme Court?

Will they, perhaps, cancel expansion plans needed to take care of 30 million newly insured, or withdraw resources from improving patient experience scores? Might they scale back efforts to improve discharge planning to reduce readmissions, since the sections requiring penalties will be invalidated?

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Deal on hospitals blasted
San Francisco Chronicle

Well, that didn’t take long. The same day that Mayor Ed Lee publicly announced he had struck a deal with California Pacific Medical Center to build a massive 555-bed hospital on Van Ness Avenue, rebuild St. Luke’s hospital in the Mission and overhaul their medical facilities around the city, more than 70 people took to the steps of City Hall to denounce the controversial deal as a giveaway that, among other things, fails to create enough local jobs.

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SVMH mammography unit receives state health citation
The Californian - Salinas

California Department of Public Health officials have issued a citation to Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital over a procedural concern in the medical center’s mammography department.

The citation did not indicate any patient testing was compromised. The hospital indicated that the citation involved a contracted worker holding a national license in mammography and not a California license.

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7 in 10 Ambulances Positive for Staph Isolates
Health Leaders Media

Drug-resistant strains of infectious bacteria are hitching a ride into hospitals through an under-appreciated path—the ambulance—according to a sample of 71 Chicago-area emergency response vehicles.

The researchers, led by James Rago of the Lewis University Department of Biology in Romeoville and members of the Orland Fire Protection District in Illinois, obtained samples from 26 sites in 71 ambulances from 34 Chicago area municipalities.

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Justices meet Friday to vote on health care case
San Francisco Chronicle

While the rest of us have to wait until June, the justices of the Supreme Court will know the likely outcome of the historic health care case by the time they go home this weekend. After months of anticipation, thousands of pages of briefs and more than six hours of arguments, the justices will vote on the fate of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul in under an hour Friday morning.

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Blue Shield CEO: Uphold individual mandate
FierceHealthPayer

Blue Shield of California CEO Bruce Bodaken said he believes that the Supreme Court, which just finished hearing arguments about the constitutionality of the healthcare reform law, should uphold the individual mandate. “I’m no lawyer and the Court will decide whatever they decide,” Bodaken told KQED. “But I do know this–we mandate many things in this society. … I have to send my children to school, at least to a certain age. If you want to drive a car, you have to have auto insurance. I don’t think this is all that different.”

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After Supreme Court’s healthcare hearings, experts rate arguments
Los Angeles Times

Whether the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold President Obama’s landmark healthcare overhaul or scrap at least the most controversial part — the requirement that most Americans have health insurance — won’t be known until probably this summer, when the justices are expected to rule.

But after three days of oral arguments concluded this week, four constitutional law experts weighed in on the strengths and weaknesses of the cases made by the administration’s top lawyers, Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli Jr. and his deputy, Edwin Kneedler, and Paul D.

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Will Parts Or All Of Health Care Law Stand?
KERO

After three days of very public debate, the U.S. Supreme Court now retreats from the spotlight to make decisions that could topple some or all of the the sweeping health care reform bill championed by President Barack Obama. Oral arguments concluded Wednesday on legal challenges to the 2010 Affordable Care Act. In their final sessions, the justices tackled the question of what would happen if they ruled that the heart of the law, the individual mandate that is its key funding mechanism, was unconstitutional.

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O.C. experts react to skyrocketing autism rate
Orange County Register

Orange County advocates for children with autism said they hope alarming new figures about the prevalence of the disorder will result in more research and services for families. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released figures Thursday estimating the rate of autism at 1 in 88 children. The figure was previously about about 1 in 110.

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Sutter Lakeside Hospital to begin staff reductions
Lake County News

Facing a continued drop in revenue and higher numbers of uninsured patients, Sutter Lakeside Hospital notified staff on Wednesday that staff cuts are beginning immediately.

Lake County News obtained a two-page “Turn-Around Progress Report” sent to all Sutter Lakeside Hospital staff, community advisory committee and foundation board members in which Chief Administrative Officer Siri Nelson announced the layoffs.

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Tulare hospital’s mobile workstations arrive
Visialia Times-Delta

Tulare nurses can leave paper-charting behind with the delivery of 31 new wireless mobile workstations that are used to dispense medications at Tulare Regional Medical Center.

At Wednesday’s Tulare Local HealthCare District board meeting, nurse Charlene Dawson pushed the Workstation on Wheels, called WOW, in front of hospital trustees and explained how it works.

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Golden State Physicians Medical Group closes
Sacramento Business Journal

Golden State Physicians Medical Group Inc. — one of the largest independent practice associations in the Sacramento region with 475 doctors — quietly went out of business in December. While the group had a troubled past marked by a series of management companies, it was popular with doctors and patients. Three months out, some doctors still privately chafe at the change and wonder what happened.

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Hospital’s Mammography receives National Accreditation
Gridley Herald

A superior “Pink Passion” fund raising campaign for Digital Mammography supported by the community, not only made the dream come true for Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital but it also made it possible for national recognition. The hospital is pleased to announce that the Mammography Department located in the Donald E. Sullivan Medical Specialty Center has been recognized by the American College of Radiology (ACR) as a center of excellence in mammography.

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Doc associations warn CMS about coming ‘storm’ of overlapping regulations
Modern Healthcare

The American Medical Association joined with other physician specialty groups to urge the CMS to consider the “imminent storm” of overlapping regulations going into effect next year.

In a letter to acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, the groups expressed concern that the timeline for transitioning to ICD-10 overlaps with other program deadlines, such as e-prescribing, electronic health records and the physician quality reporting system.

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Justices Roberts, Kennedy key to health ruling
San Francisco Chronicle

Chief Justice John Roberts will probably ask each of his eight Supreme Court colleagues gathered in an oak-paneled room today where they stand on the law that would expand health insurance to at least 30 million Americans and affect one-sixth of the economy. The secret, preliminary vote, following the court’s standard practice, will kick off three months of behind-the-scenes deliberations on the fate of the law.

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High court has options on health care law
San Francisco Chronicle

The arguments are done and the case has been submitted, as Chief Justice John Roberts says at the end of every Supreme Court argument. Now the justices will wrestle with what to do with President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. They have a range of options, from upholding the law to striking it down in its entirety. The court also could avoid deciding the law’s constitutionality at all, although that prospect seems remote after this week’s arguments. Here is a look at six potential outcomes, from the simpler to the more complicated possible rulings:

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Biden confident high court will affirm health care
San Francisco Chronicle

Vice President Joe Biden says he’s confident the Supreme Court will uphold the constitutionality of the health care law. Biden says in an interview taped for CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “we think the mandate and the law are constitutional and we think the court will rule that way.” Asked about the chances it would be overturned, he replies, “I don’t believe it will happen.” Biden says “I think we should focus on what is the law doing for people now and what would happen if Republicans should repeal it.”

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Hospital now has Electronic Health Records
Gridley Herald

The latest and greatest change and new technology at Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital will begin on Monday, April 2, 2012. The Prognosis fully certified ChartAccess Electronic Health Records (EHR) system is engineered for speed and is a big step for the hospital.

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Panel Recommends More Testing for Obesity Drugs
New York Times

Obesity drugs should undergo clinical trials to ensure that they do not cause heart attacks, federal advisers said Thursday, a requirement that could make it harder for such drugs to gain approval.

An advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted 17 to 6 to require such studies, even if there were no apparent signs that a drug increased cardiovascular risk.

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CDC: Autism is more common than previously thought
USA Today

New research showing one in 88 U.S. children have autism spectrum disorders is focusing national attention on the need for earlier diagnosis and treatment, especially in rural and minority communities. Figures released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a 23% increase in autism spectrum cases from 2006 to 2008, and 78% increase since 2002.

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Tulare hospital’s financials show signs of progress
Visialia Times-Delta

Good news on the financial front was offered by Interim Chief Financial Officer Michael Bernstein at Wednesday’s board of directors meeting for Tulare Regional Medical Center.

The cash balance is up, costs are going down and indigent patient payments are on the rise.

Various methods of payment are now offered to patients. Indigent patients are now offered a discounted hospital bill up to 70 percent off, depending on their circumstances, so the hospital can break even.

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Editorial: Individual mandate vs. ‘do not treat’
USA Today

What a difference a week makes. Before Monday morning, Supreme Court experts seemed confident the justices will uphold the health reform law and its controversial requirement that uninsured Americans buy medical coverage or pay a penalty. A panel put together by the American Bar Association had predicted, 85%-15%, that the court will approve the health law and forecast a 6-3 split in favor of the so-called individual mandate.

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A few words could spell doom for healthcare reform law
Los Angeles Times

For wont of the right word, will “Obamacare” be lost?

Some analysts are predicting the demise of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, saying the Supreme Court will declare unconstitutional the law’s requirement to buy insurance, then find the measure unsustainable without it. This is purely speculation, of course; the justices aren’t expected to release their decision until the end of the current term in June.

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On healthcare, not what the doctor ordered
Los Angeles Times

Mitt Romney marked the second anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by calling for its repeal. Referring to the act as “an unfolding disaster,” he advocated free-market initiatives to improve access to care. Yet Romney never explained how the free market could help uninsured individuals like my longtime patient Joyce.

Joyce, a diabetic in her 60s, works for a Los Angeles church and spends much of her time doing charitable work in Africa. The church does not offer health insurance.

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CDC announces new autism rate: 1 in 88. Does this worry you?
Orange County Register

What would you do if you saw 1 in 88 children walking around with their hair on fire? It would likely unnerve you, to say the least, and you’d probably be compelled to search for an explanation, asking everyone from doctors to scientists and even your next door neighbor: “What’s going on with our children?! Why are so many of them walking around with their hair on fire? Why haven’t we found a way to extinguish the flames yet?”

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Scrapping Obamacare Would Be an Rx for Chaos
The Health Care Blog

Sharp questioning in oral arguments before the Supreme Court raised serious questions about whether the “individual mandate” — the requirement that people carry health insurance — will survive. At issue is Obamacare’s central requirement that every American buy health insurance or pay a penalty. Critics say this is an unprecedented expansion of federal power — that if the government can force people to buy insurance, it can force them to buy anything.

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