News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Guide offers help enrolling in Covered California
Sacramento Business Journal

A nonprofit patient-advocacy organization based in Sacramento has prepared a guide to help consumers navigate open enrollment through Covered California this fall. “Healthcare Coverage in 2014: Five Things Californians Should Know” was released Wednesday by Californians for Patient Care. Designed to be simple and user-friendly, the guide frames key issues for people interested in buying insurance under the new state health benefit exchange.

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‘Physician champions’ needed to increase payer, provider collaboration, execs say
Modern Healthcare

It’s no surprise that collaboration between payers and providers will continue to increase as the launch of health insurance exchanges in October approaches. But sustaining that cooperation will require “physician champions” to work closely with payers and more simplified contracts between the two sides, according to two health insurance executives.

Speaking at America’s Health Insurance Plans Institute 2013 in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Vice President Lori Nelson said that in her state, one of the key reasons for the success of programs like accountable care organizations and medical homes is the active role that providers play in quarterly meetings with the carrier.

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Employers up estimated costs of reform law, survey finds
Modern Healthcare

Employers are upping their estimates of how much the healthcare reform law will increase costs, according to a Mercer survey released Wednesday.

Two years ago, 25% of employers thought that complying with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would increase their health care plan costs by less than 1%. But now, just 9% of nearly 900 employers surveyed by Mercer expect a cost increase that small.

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Survey links quality problems, drug shortages
Modern Healthcare

Multiple factors contribute to drug shortages, but issues within the quality systems of manufacturing appear to be the primary cause, according to a survey conducted by the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering. Through the ISPE’s 2013 Drug Shortages Survey, the not-for-profit organization asked industry professionals and companies about the technical, engineering, quality, governance and regulatory issues that may affect drug shortages, in hopes that the data can be used to develop methods for mitigating these events.

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Surgery Patients Embrace New-Age Wonder Drug: The iPad
Wired News

When 10-year-old Charlie Cagann went to Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago to have his adenoid removed, he was nervous about the surgery. But when he arrived at the hospital, there was something to help take his mind off things: an iPad. Charlie — who already owns an iPhone touch — picked up the Apple tablet and started playing one of his favorite games, Subway Surfers. Soon, he was completely at ease. “It was fun to use it,” he remembers. “It makes you focus on the iPad, and it takes your mind off the surgery.”

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Healthcare reform shows early signs of success
FierceHealthcare

Backing up President Obama’s claim that healthcare reform is working as planned, hospitals already are achieving cost savings and improved care under the law, Bloomberg reported. For instance, more than 250 hospitals and physician groups joined the Obama administration’s accountable care program and have shown early success.

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Senators introduce a bill to give churches tax credit under ObamaCare
The Hill

Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced a bill Thursday that would allow churches to get small employer tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. Pryor and Coons said the way the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, is currently written churches are unable to participate in the new healthcare exchanges or receive tax credits and reduced cost-sharing that make coverage more affordable.

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Latinos more in favor of health care reform: Poll
Marketplace

Nationwide, skepticism over the Affordable Care Act is persistent. A recent Wall Street Journal-NBC poll showed 49 percent of people think it is a “bad idea.” But according to a poll conducted by the Spanish language broadcaster Univision, Latinos in California have a much more positive take new health care law. Only a small minority — 7 percent — of respondents have an unfavorable view of health care reform.

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New Budget Fills In Dental Coverage Gaps for Poor Californians
capital public radio

For four years, Karen Wadsack has been struggling to get the dental care she says she needs. “I have jagged teeth, sometimes food gets caught in it and it causes excruciating pain,” says Wadsack. “So I try to get by… There are some things I don’t eat anymore.” Wadsack has health coverage through Medi-Cal, but most dental benefits were cut from the program when the state had a budget deficit.

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California insurance chief: Keep Anthem out of small-biz exchange
Los Angeles Times

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, in an unusual move, wants Anthem Blue Cross barred from the state’s new health exchange for small businesses because of the company’s excessive rate hikes in the past.

Thursday, Jones asked Covered California, the state agency implementing the federal healthcare law, to prevent Anthem Blue Cross from participating in a new market for employers with fewer than 50 workers.

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California Insurance Commissioner Wants Anthem Locked Out of Group Exchange
capital public radio

Insurance commissioner Dave Jones says his office has determined that Anthem Blue Cross’s small group rates this year overproject health cost growth and would draw in unreasonable profit for the company.

Jones says the Affordable Care Act calls on state insurance commissioners to make recommendations about insurers in the health exchanges.

He says Anthem – and its sister company Blue Cross of California – should not be allowed in the market for small employers.

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S.F. officials blast Kaiser for hiking rates for public workers
Los Angeles Times

Officials who oversee the healthcare plans of San Francisco public employees and their families excoriated Kaiser executives Thursday for failing to adequately explain a proposed rate increase, but ultimately voted to back it as the clock ran out.

Public workers have seen their healthcare costs spiral while accepting pay cuts and furlough days at the bargaining table. In an unusual move, labor unions teamed up with San Francisco’s Health Service System earlier this year to demand greater transparency from Kaiser.

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AHIP: Kaiser CEO Advocates for Quality of Care
Health Leaders Media

The healthcare reform train has left the station but health insurers, providers, and even employers are still figuring out the specifics of their roles in transforming the delivery and financing of healthcare services.

That was the central message delivered Thursday during the first day of the 2013 annual conference of America’s Health Insurance Plans in Las Vegas. Here are some of the highlights:

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California lawmakers tussled over payments for spinal implants
Sacramento Bee

Lifting boxes. Pushing machinery. Falls from ladders and scaffolding.

Each year, thousands of Californians hurt themselves on the job and end up with back surgery – small but expensive piece of the state’s workers’ compensation system.

The vast majority of California workers with injured backbones wind up with spinal implants – some 71 percent of them in 2010, research shows.

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MGMA: Physician Compensation Increasingly Based on Quality Measures
Health Leaders Media

Quality measures are emerging as components in physicians’ compensation, a trend is expected to grow as value-based reimbursements gradually supplant fee-for-service, volume-based models, a new survey from the Medical Group Management Association shows.

The Physician Compensation and Production Survey: 2013 Report Based on 2012 Data examined data on more than 60,100 physicians, and found that primary care physicians and specialists reported that 3% and 2%, respectively, of their total compensation was based on quality measures.

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Eating disorders plague teenage boys, too
Los Angeles Times

Bryan Piperno was just 9 years old when he began keeping his secret.

The Simi Valley youngster tossed out lunches or claimed he ate elsewhere. As he grew older, he started purging after eating. Even after his vomiting landed him in the emergency room during college, he lied to hide the truth.

Piperno, now 25, slowly fended off his eating disorder with time and care, including a stay in a residential treatment facility.

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Patients Put at Risk By Computer Viruses
The Wall Street Journal

The Food and Drug Administration is warning makers of heart monitors, mammogram machines and myriad other medical devices that their gear is at risk of being infected with computer viruses that can endanger patients. “We are aware of hundreds of medical devices that have been infected by malware,” or dangerous computer software, said Bill Maisel, a senior official at the FDA’s device unit. Though the agency doesn’t know of deaths or injuries resulting from this, he said, “it’s not difficult to imagine how these types of events could lead to patient harm.”

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Feds issue letter on hepatitis B discrimination
Modern Physician

Reacting to a settlement in March over the rejection of two medical school students who have hepatitis B, HHS and the Justice and Education departments have sent letters to medical, dental and nursing schools to emphasize updated nondiscrimination policies released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Education share responsibility for protecting the rights of students and applicants with disabilities, including those who have hepatitis B, in medical, dental, nursing and other health-related education programs,” the letter read.

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UCD Health System to include sexual orientation, gender identity in e-records
Sacramento Bee

The UC Davis Health System said today that it will become the first academic health system in the nation to incorporate sexual orientation and gender identity as standard demographic elements within the electronic health records of its patients.

Beginning today, the health system is emailing a questionnaire that invites patients to share their sexual orientation and gender identity with their UC Davis physician.

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UC Davis Health asks LGBT patients to share info for tailored care
Sacramento Bee

There’s a groundswell of concern in the medical community that lack of sexual orientation and gender identity information might be impacting care of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients.

The UC Davis Health System responded to those concerns Thursday, saying it will become the first academic health system in the nation to incorporate that information as standard demographic elements within the electronic health records of its patients.

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Washington Hospital enters partnership with UC San Francisco
The Mercury News

Citing the demands of a changing health industry, Washington Hospital and UC San Francisco have entered a partnership aimed at expanding services to patients and medical students. The board of directors of the Washington Township Health Care District unanimously approved the “strategic relationship” on Wednesday night, saying it would create a regional health care network that enhances local specialty services and aids the transfer of patients to and from UCSF Medical Center.

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Study: Two area hospitals fare better than average on certain procedures
Sacramento Business Journal

A new state report showed mixed results for California hospitals on the quality of care they provide to patients who received 12 different treatments. Released this week by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, the report compares 2011 mortality rates for various procedures and conditions. It’s part of a larger effort to make health care more transparent and accountable in California.

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Washington Hospital has “strategic relationship,” but no merger, with UC San Francisco
San Francisco Business Times

Washington Hospital Healthcare System’s board of directors yesterday voted to approve a strategic relationship with UC San Francisco, according to officials at the Fremont health care system. The move is part of a wider scramble in the Bay Area, Northern California, the Golden State and beyond to link hospitals, clinics, doctors and other far-flung parts of the health care world into more integrated systems to prepare for health reform and the coming onset of aging baby boomers and other challenging demographic trends.

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