News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Providers hang back on pushing for sequester fix
Modern Healthcare

Despite two months of pain induced by Medicare cuts under the deficit-reduction law triggered this year, advocates for hospitals and physicians are waiting until fall to push a legislative fix.

The dire warnings before the 2% cuts in Medicare payments hit April 1 have given way to watchful waiting.

“In terms of mainstream policymaking, we’re in a quagmire right now until we get to event-making policies that have to be dealt with, like the debt ceiling and government spending for 2014,” said Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federal of American Hospitals.

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Insurance giant WellPoint agrees to pay $6 million in L.A. case
Los Angeles Times

Insurance giant WellPoint Inc. has agreed to pay $6 million to resolve allegations that the company improperly dropped policyholders after they got sick and needed treatment.

The settlement announced Thursday by Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich caps a long-running investigation into so-called rescissions by several insurers in the state.

“Patients with health insurance have a right to expect meaningful coverage when they need it most — when they are ill and in need of medical treatment,” Trutanich said.

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CDC: Nearly 15 percent were uninsured in 2012; South LA rate is more than double
Southern California Public Radio

More than 45 million people in the U.S. had no health insurance in 2012, and the number of people who’d spent at least part of the previous year uninsured approached 58 million. That’s according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also noted that when the data was gathered, more than 34 million people had been uninsured for more than a year.

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In Search of the Health IT Experts
Health Leaders Media

The lack of IT staff with expertise represents the top challenge leaders face regarding their IT group. Healthcare industry leaders discuss the shortage of staff with information technology expertise, the impact on hospitals and health systems, and what can be done to address the situation.

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Docs fear Sunshine Act data may be misread
Modern Physician

CMS officials are reassuring physicians that the burdens of reporting their connections to drug and devicemakers under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act would fall almost entirely on industry. But some of the doctors who got that message at the American Medical Association’s recent House of Delegates meeting were more concerned about protecting their reputations after details of their business relationships get publicized.

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With Health Exchanges Poised To Open, PR Push Draws Scrutiny
capital public radio

This weekend marks 100 days until people can begin signing up for new health insurance coverage under the federal health care law. It also marks another milestone: the launch of an enormous public relations effort to find people eligible for new coverage and urge them to sign up when the time comes. But like everything else about the health law, even this seemingly innocuous effort has been touched by controversy.

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As Congress tackles immigration reform, Obama’s health care overhaul looms over the debate
Washington Post

President Barack Obama has championed two sweeping policy changes that could transform how people live in the United States: affordable health care for all and a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants illegally in the country.

But many immigrants will have to wait more than a decade to qualify for health care benefits under the proposed immigration overhaul being debated by Congress, ensuring a huge swath of people will remain uninsured as the centerpiece of Obama’s health care law launches next year.

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Insurance exchanges running late
Healthcare IT News

Two GAO reports reveal that health insurance exchanges – websites where consumers and employers can shop for healthcare insurance – could miss their Oct. 1, 2013 deadline. However, Department of Health and Human Services officials said in a response published in the reports they were confident the exchanges would be open and functioning in every state by the target date.

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Will healthcare reform overwhelm primary care docs?
FierceHealthcare

With healthcare reform adding millions of people to insurance rolls, New York doctors fear the federal overhaul will overwhelm primary care physicians, the Associated Press reported. “Primary care in New York is already at crisis level,” Alan Diaz, an internist and past president of the Bronx Medical Society, told the AP. “When we get another million insured, I tell my residents, colleagues and patients, there will be no physician in New York to serve them.”

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Insight – It takes an army: Tens of thousands of workers roll out Obamacare
Reuters

From the chief actuary at the California health insurance exchange that President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law established to the legions of call center staffers who will help people trying to buy insurance through such state exchanges, the number of people working to implement “Obamacare” has reached the tens of thousands, a Reuters analysis has found.

No one said that overhauling healthcare, which accounts for 17 percent of all national spending, was going to happen with a skeleton crew.

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John Kerry’s ObamaCare Boondoggle
The Wall Street Journal

A bipartisan backlash is growing against another section of President Obama’s health-care law. The president can blame this latest embarrassment on none other than Secretary of State John Kerry.

Everyone remember the origins of the so-called Affordable Care Act? The Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, Gator-Aid, and other buyoffs for the votes of key Senate Democrats?

Three years on, yet another sweetheart deal has declared itself, this one inserted by the then-senator for Massachusetts.

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Business guide to health law is in Spanish
Sacramento Business Journal

A business guide to new federal health care rules published in Spanish will be distributed this week. The guide, “Sólo Los Hechos: La Ley del Cuidado de Salud y su Empresa,” will be inserted in a dozen Spanish publications across the state, including Vida en el Valle in the Sacramento area. The insert provides Spanish-speaking business owners with a guide to the Affordable Care Act and Covered California, the state’s health care insurance exchange that rolls out next year.

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Medical-loss ratio rules have saved consumers billions, but will it last?
Modern Healthcare

The health reform law’s provision requiring insurers to spend at least 80% of their premium dollars on medical expenses was a major factor in helping consumers save $3.9 billion in premiums last year, according to an analysis released today from the CMS. But whether that will translate into lower premiums for 2014 is up for debate. Consumers saved more than $3.4 billion from lower premiums in 2012, and another half a billion in rebates they received if their carrier did not clear the so-called medical-loss ratio.

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CalPERS health plan rate increase slows, choice grows
Sacramento Business Journal

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System spent a lot of time and money shaking up its health-care purchasing program to get more bang for the buck. The result: premiums will increase an average of 3 percent in 2014 — the lowest average increase since 1998 and well below the 9.6 percent average hike in 2013. Exactly how the rates got there is unclear. More plans were added to the program, increasing competition.

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LA settles health insurance lawsuit for $6M
Southern California Public Radio

The Los Angeles city attorney has settled a lawsuit that alleged health insurer Anthem Blue Cross illegally dropped more than 6,000 policyholders from coverage.

Thursday’s $6 million settlement is far less than the $1 billion in fines and restitution former City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo threatened when the lawsuit was filed in 2008.

Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter says none of the people who initially worked on the case for Delgadillo still work in the office and the current staff is satisfied with the settlements.

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LA Settles Health Insurance Lawsuit With Anthem Blue Cross For $6M
CBS News

The city attorney announced a $6 million settlement Thursday to resolve a lawsuit that alleged health insurer Anthem Blue Cross illegally dropped more than 6,000 policyholders from coverage.

The settlement is far less than the $1 billion in fines and restitution former Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo threatened when the lawsuit was filed in 2008.

At the time, Delgadillo said some of the dropped policies affected elderly patients and patients with health costs that topped $100,000.

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Can Consumers and Health IT Find a Business Model?
iHealthBeat

Two health conferences held on opposite coasts of the U.S. in June both addressed the role of consumers in health from two very different vantage points: the government’s Open Data Initiative vis-à-vis Silicon Valley’s opportunities for investing in consumer health. Taken together, the discussions flowing from these two quite separate agendas drive toward one major question: Is there a business model for consumers in health IT?

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Parents reject vaccine that protects against cancer
HealthyCal.org

Parents may not want to think about their child being sexually active. But in the case of the vaccine for human papillomaviruses (HPV), the issue isn’t whether or not a child is sexually active now—it’s whether or not they will be protected in the future. Even though the HPV vaccine is one of the only vaccines that prevents cancer, fewer than 50 percent of adolescent girls in California were fully vaccinated against HPV in 2011. Vastly fewer boys are protected.

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With FDA approval, fight ends over morning-after pill
Los Angeles Times

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step for use without a prescription or age restrictions, effectively ending more than a decade of legal and regulatory wrangling over the controversial morning-after pill. In a statement, the FDA said its action complied with an order by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York, who had openly criticized the George W. Bush and Obama administrations for imposing restrictions on the sale of the pill for political reasons.

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Nurses rally on GG Bridge to decry pipeline
San Francisco Chronicle

Calling a proposed oil pipeline across the nation’s midsection a threat to public health in California, more than 1,000 nurses streamed across the Golden Gate Bridge on Thursday to urge that President Obama block its construction.

It might not have seemed like an obvious target for nurses who had gathered for a convention in San Francisco, but the protesters – clad in red scrubs – said the connection between health problems and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is real.

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Medical group adds travel services
Sacramento Business Journal

Pulmonary Medicine Associates is adding travel medicine to services offered at its offices in Roseville and Sacramento, effective July 1. Travelers can schedule appointments now. Vaccinations and information about travel safety and disease precautions will be available at 5 Medical Plaza, Suite 190 in Roseville and 1485 River Park Drive, Suite 200 in Sacramento. Follow-up care after travel is available, if needed.

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Campaign reaches out to Asians at risk of hepatitis B
Los Angeles Times

Wade Gong’s sister was 28 when she first felt a deep pain near the side of her stomach. Then she noticed the lump. The Chinese immigrant was uninsured, so she didn’t go to the hospital right away. When she finally did, it was too late. She was in the late stages of liver cancer caused by hepatitis B, a silent virus that had been assaulting her liver since she was born. An Amherst graduate and math whiz who lived with her brother and parents in Rosemead, she died six months after being diagnosed. During his sister’s illness, Gong, 27, learned he also was infected. “It was scary,” he said.

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Dignity Health names new chief executive
Sacramento Bee

The Rancho Cordova-based Dignity Health Medical Foundation has a new CEO.

The foundation, which operates 13 medical groups and imaging centers throughout California, announced that Dr. Joseph Jasser is taking over the job, effective immediately.

Prior to joining Dignity Health, Jasser was vice president of operations and chief medical officer for Cigna HealthSpring Point of Care. Prior to that, he worked for Texas-based Concentra Health Services in medical director roles.

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Cottage, Sansum deal signals M&A wave
Pacific Coast Business Times

The two largest health care providers in Santa Barbara are in talks to merge just weeks after the city’s only free clinic system said it may shut down, potentially marking the emergence of a dominant market player with unprecedented power in price negotiations with private insurers and the government.

Sansum Clinic and Cottage Health System said June 18 that they are exploring options to combine the two organizations, which each employ thousands of people and see tens of thousands of patients a year.

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NAPH changes name to America’s Essential Hospitals
Modern Healthcare

After an 18-month brand evaluation, the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems has changed its name to America’s Essential Hospitals. That branding assessment convinced the organization that it needed to identify awareness of the essential services—including trauma and burn care, disaster response and emergency psychiatric services and research—that its member hospitals provide in their communities. The group also renamed the National Public Health and Hospital Institute, its research arm since 1988, to the Essential Hospitals Institute.

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