News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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AMA declares obesity a disease
Los Angeles Times

The American Medical Assn. voted Tuesday to declare obesity a disease, a move that effectively defines 78 million American adults and 12 million children as having a medical condition requiring treatment. The nation’s leading physicians organization took the vote after debating whether the action would do more to help affected patients get useful treatment or would further stigmatize a condition with many causes and few easy fixes. In the end, members of the AMA’s House of Delegates rejected cautionary advice from their own experts and extended the new status to a condition that affects more than one-third of adults and 17% of children in the United States.

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Despite ACA, report predicts decline in medical-cost trend for 2014
Modern Healthcare

Despite the influx of millions of new Americans gaining coverage next year because of the healthcare reform law, the projected percentage cost increase to treat patients is expected to decline as consumers become savvier in how to spend healthcare dollars, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute report.

Institute researchers expect a medical-cost trend of 6.4% for 2014, less than the 7.5% for 2013 PwC predicted last year.

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Improved medication use could have saved $200 billion, IMS study shows
Modern Healthcare

An estimated $200 billion could have been saved last year if patients and clinicians improved the way they use medications, according to a new study from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Medication nonadherence, misuse of antibiotics and other so-called “avoidable costs” lead to millions of unnecessary hospital admissions, outpatient and emergency room visits and prescriptions.

“Access to medications is a very important priority,” Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, said during a call with reporters.

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Long term care: a scary abyss
HealthyCal.org

The exploding number of older adults in the United States – over 8,000 people turn 65 each day according to the U.S. Census Bureau – means Baby Boomers are staring into a terrifying abyss as a faltering economy wreaks havoc with retirement funds and the ability to pay for long-term care. In an admission of defeat, the Obama administration threw up its hands long before January 1st when Congress officially scuttled plans for a new, voluntary long-term care insurance program, once part of the Affordable Care Act.

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Aetna to stop selling individual plans in California
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Aetna Inc. has notified state regulators that it will stop selling individual health insurance policies in California, just weeks after opting out of the exchange that is being established as part of the national health care reforms.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said Tuesday that Aetna’s decision is “not good news” because consumers need more choices. The decision does not affect people who have Aetna insurance through their employer.

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AMA votes to classify obesity as a disease
Modern Physician

Despite concerns that doing so will “medicalize” a condition that affects up to one-third of the nation, the American Medical Association House of Delegates at its annual meeting in Chicago approved a resolution to recognize obesity as a disease.

Delegates voted 276-181 (60.4% to 39.6%) to classify obesity as “a disease state with multiple pathophysiological aspects requiring a range of interventions.”

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Physicians at AMA meeting rip call for maintenance of certification
Modern Physician

Rather than test physicians every six to 10 years to certify whether they have kept current with their training, the American Board of Medical Specialties has sought to make it a continuous, ongoing process through maintenance of certification programs, but physicians at the annual American Medical Association House of Delegates meeting in Chicago pushed back hard and criticized the program as too time consuming, too expensive and having too little value.

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Wah wins vote to become AMA president-elect
Modern Physician

Dr. Robert Wah, a former deputy national coordinator for health information technology at HHS, was elected president-elect of the American Medical Association, defeating Dr. Joseph Annis, an anesthesiologist from Austin, Texas. “I greatly appreciate the trust my colleagues have placed in me during this important time for our profession and our healthcare system,” Wah said in a news release. “Working together I know we can make significant strides in reducing chronic disease, educating future physicians and improving how care is provided to our patients.”

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CalPERS committee unveils health premium rates for 2014
Sacramento Bee

A CalPERS committee today recommended 2014 health insurance rates that collectively increase premiums by 3.03 percent, the lowest benefit increase since 1998. The Pension and Health Benefits Committee’s recommendations include an average increase of nearly 6 percent for some plans while lowering prices for some Medicare coverages by almost 9 percent. Premiums for the fund’s Basic HMO coverage will increase by a combined average 3.81 percent next year while Medicare HMO plans will see a 5.76 percent hike.

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CalPERS health plan rate hike is lowest in years
Sacramento Business Journal

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is poised to raise overall health premiums an average of 3 percent in 2014 — the lowest average increase since 1998 and well below the 9.6 percent average rate hike in 2013. The CalPERS Pension and Health Benefits Committee approved the increase Tuesday; the matter goes before the full Board of Administration Wednesday. The increase will affect nearly 1.3 million members in the pension fund health benefits program.

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CalPERS sees its health premiums rising average of 3% next year
Los Angeles Times

California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the country’s third-largest purchaser of health benefits, said its health premiums next year would increase 3%, on average, for nearly 1.3 million members.

The giant pension fund said that would mark its lowest rate increase since 1998. Premiums at CalPERS rose 9.6% this year and 4.1% in 2012.

These recommended rates from the CalPERS pension and health benefits committee require full board approval Wednesday. If adopted, the rates for various health plans would take affect Jan. 1.

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Healthcare Costs ‘An Abomination’ Says Senate Finance Committee Chair
Health Leaders Media

The Senate Finance Committee spent more than two hours Wednesday discussing the relationship between healthcare costs and transparency with a panel of witnesses that included Steven Brill, the author of a March 2013 Time magazine cover story titled “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.”

Brill proved to be a provocative witness and directed much of the discussion. Throughout his testimony and during the question and answer period, he often took direct aim at the chargemaster, or what some call the “sticker price” for the 100 most common Medicare inpatient diagnostic related groups or DRGs.

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‘Obama-Snares’: 4 bad Health Care Reform Scams
Fox News

Would you fork over your bank account number to a caller who claims to be a federal employee peddling a new mandatory national care health card? Or buy a health plan through a sketchy online health insurance exchange months before the real ones open? Or fall for “death panel” insurance? There’s an army of con artists and opportunists out there hoping to convert your confusion over President Barack Obama’s landmark health care reform law, casually known as Obamacare, into ready cash by any means possible.

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Being aware of the options in health care reform
Capitol Weekly

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, California’s healthcare system is undergoing some of the biggest changes since Medicare was introduced in 1964. While this is an exciting development that promises to improve the overall quality of health for all Californians, it is sure to bring some challenges for people as they begin to purchase new types of health insurance coverage in new marketplaces.

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Gov’t report: Smooth launch unsure for health law
Sacramento Bee

There’s no guarantee that President Barack Obama’s health care law will launch smoothly and on time, congressional investigators say in the first in-depth independent look at its progress.

But in a report to be released Wednesday, the congressional Government Accountability Office also sees positive signs as the Oct. 1 deadline approaches for new health insurance markets called exchanges to open in each state – in many cases over the objections of Republican governors. Additionally, the report discloses that the administration had spent nearly $400 million as of March to set up the infrastructure of a sprawling system involving major federal agencies, every state, hundreds of insurance companies, and millions of citizens, among them many individuals seeking coverage for the first time.

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Enroll America kicking off its ACA push, but hospitals and insurers have their own campaigns
Modern Healthcare

The not-for-profit group responsible for spreading the word to the nation’s uninsured about health insurance options under the health reform law is keeping tight-lipped about how much money it has raised—or budgeted—to educate tens of millions of Americans and help them enroll in coverage. On Tuesday, Anne Filipic, the former Obama administration official who now serves as president of Enroll America, announced the organization will host more than 50 events in 18 states this week to kick off “Get Covered America,” a campaign focused on targeting individuals who are unaware of the health insurance benefits available to them in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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Groups launch multimillion-dollar push to promote health-care law, sign up the uninsured
Washington Post

The race is on to sign up uninsured Americans for health-care coverage this fall, with a number of large national advocacy groups launching aggressive, multimillion-dollar campaigns this summer aimed at promoting President Obama’s health-care law. The groups are buying television ads, tapping social networks, training hundreds of new workers and volunteers and developing online and on-the-ground efforts akin to an enormous, months-long get-out-the-vote campaign.

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Covered California to decide on vision and dental plans
Sacramento Business Journal

VSP Vision Care has advice for board members from Covered California when they meet Thursday to decide how and when to offer stand-alone vision and other supplemental benefits in the new health insurance marketplace: look at Colorado. Last week, Connect for Health Colorado voted to provide direct access to stand-alone vision plans for consumers via a link during the health insurance enrollment process that starts Oct. 1.

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California health care exchange cleared to hire in Rancho Cordova
Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to allow the hiring of hundreds of call-center employees in Rancho Cordova and elsewhere to assist in selling medical insurance through California’s new health care exchange.

“Most definitely, it’s going to allow us to move forward with hiring,” said Dana Howard, spokesman for Covered California, the health exchange. “This was the key thing we needed to have resolved.” Senate Bill 509, which Brown signed Monday, lays the groundwork for hiring by requiring criminal background checks of potential call-center employees who would have access to clients’ personal, medical, tax or financial information.

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Slow start predicted for expanded Medicaid enrollment
Modern Healthcare

Officials hoping to enroll millions more beneficiaries into Medicaid programs this fall are signaling the possibility of a slow start. Ultimately, they hope to use some past success to overcome obstacles that have long left uncovered millions of Medicaid-eligible enrollees.

Cindy Mann, Medicaid director for the CMS, said at a recent Washington ACO Summit that she is confident that states will be ready by October to enroll millions who will gain access to the safety net insurer under healthcare reform.

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Public health director wants California to be healthiest state
Sacramento Business Journal

What keeps state public health director Ron Chapman up at night? Obesity in California, he told a group of family doctors Monday night. Obesity rates in the state have gone “straight up” since the early 1980’s, he said during remarks at a dinner meeting of the Sacramento chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians. More than 60 percent of California residents are overweight today; 24 percent are obese, state figures show.

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Hospital prices inch higher after nose dive last month
Modern Healthcare

Hospital consumer prices barely budged upward last month, just one month after they recorded the largest one-month drop since the federal government began recording the price indices 16 years ago. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that consumer hospital prices climbed 0.1% in May, which followed the 0.7% decline in April. One year ago in May, the agency reported an increase in hospital consumer prices of 0.5%. The figures are part of agency’s Consumer Price Index.

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Sutter Health network rolls out HMO plan
Sacramento Bee

The Sacramento-based Sutter Health network of doctors and hospitals has named its new HMO health plan Sutter Health Plus.

Initially, Sutter Health Plus will offer a range of HMO plans to individuals and small and midsize employers in the greater Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley regions. Sutter plans to hold open enrollment this fall, with coverage to begin Jan. 1.

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Doc practices concerned about cost, burden of ICD-10 rollout, survey shows
Modern Healthcare

A new survey of more than 1,000 office-based physician practices expressed widespread and significant concern about the cost and the workflow burden perceived to be coming their way from the planned, nationwide rollout of the ICD-10 diagnostic and procedural codes.

More than 55% of respondents from 1,200 office-based practices surveyed by the MGMA-ACPME indicated they were “very concerned” about the overall cost of converting to ICD-10, which is scheduled by federal rule to launch Oct. 1, 2014.

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Healthcare Consolidation: M&A Not the Only Way
Health Leaders Media

It’s difficult not to notice that healthcare is undergoing a consolidation boom. For years, waste and danger to patients in healthcare has been blamed on decentralized and antiquated operations. Many experts say the industry has been long overdue for a period of consolidation that countless other industries routinely and regularly undergo. But healthcare, perhaps among the most regulated of industries, has always effectively resisted this pressure, at least until recently.

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Despite Promises, Key Autism Therapy Cut from Medi-Cal
KQED Radio

If you don’t have a child with autism, you might not know about Applied Behavioral Analysis. ABA is widely regarded as a necessary and effective treatment. Now many poor children will lose access to this therapy under deals reached in Sacramento last week. Meanwhile, other kids — including those who become insured under the state’s new Obamacare marketplace — may well continue to have access to this therapy.

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Building Cost and Quality Into the Electronic Medical Record
The Health Care Blog

Trends in US healthcare expenditures are financially unsustainable (1). I would like to propose two tweaks of the healthcare delivery process that may, in a small way, help rectify this problem. Although there is a widespread impression that health information technology (HIT) will eventually “bend” the cost curve and put healthcare spending on a sustainable course, there is, as of yet, little data that convincingly supports this hypothesis (2).

Commands