News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Health Care Reform: A Time for “Long-termism”
The Huffington Post

A 2005 survey of 401 chief financial officers revealed that CFOs of publicly traded firms are routinely willing to sacrifice shareholder value to meet earnings per share (EPS) targets and smooth reported earnings. This includes passing on valuable new projects and scrimping on R&D. According to the study, CFOs of private firms are equally willing to sacrifice long-term value to preserve credit worthiness and to establish a stable track record of earnings for possible future IPOs.

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Outpatient Preventive Care Efforts Lower Costs Only Marginally
Health Leaders Media

Aggressive preventive care efforts in outpatient settings have little effect on spiraling hospital costs in the most expensive patients, says a surprising Harvard study. Rather, hospital payments must be reduced for certain procedures if the campaign to lower healthcare costs has any chance of success. “The big ticket items (in hospital care) are not for the diabetics who come in for a couple of days to get their blood sugar controlled,” says Karen Joynt, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health and the report’s principal author.

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California Measure Would Prevent Cuts To Hospital-Based Nursing Care
KPBS

Efforts to stop California’s across-the-board cut to Medi-Cal provider payments did not make it into the state budget agreement. But one bill moving through the legislature would stop those cuts to some nursing facilities. The bill would prevent the state from reducing payments to nursing facilities within hospitals. The Medi-Cal cuts were approved two years ago but were held up in court until now. Proponents of the bill said the impending cuts would reduce hospital nursing ward payments by 25 percent.

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Doctor-specific Medicare claims data could be released
Modern Healthcare

For decades, the CMS has kept secret its records on Medicare claims payments to individual physicians. But Justice Department statements in a recent lawsuit and the first-ever releases of other provider charge data this year suggest the federal government’s position on keeping doctor-specific information secret may be changing.

Proponents of releasing the data say it could help identify patterns of waste and fraud and help patients and insurance companies find doctors who deliver the most efficient and highest quality care.

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Study: One in five U.S. children have mental disorder
HealthyCal.org

As many as one in five children in the United States suffer from a mental disorder in a given year, according to national data recently compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC study released last month was the first comprehensive report to assemble data on specific mental health illnesses among children ages 3 to 17 in the United States. The report, “Mental Health Surveillance Among Children,” included statistics on everything from autism to alcohol abuse and relied on data collected from various agencies between 2005 and 2011.

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Getting a much-needed handle on their healthcare
Los Angeles Times

They arrived with tooth decay, out-of-control blood sugar levels and a variety of infections that had gone untreated for months or, in some cases, years.

Doctors said one man didn’t know he had diabetes. Another woman knew she was diabetic but was unable to afford medication, so was taking a friend’s insulin. Then there was the woman who learned that the months of blurry vision she had been experiencing was a sign she was permanently losing her sight.

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Promise of price cut on hospital bills in limbo
San Mateo Daily Journal

Huge list prices charged by hospitals are drawing increased attention, but a federal law meant to limit what the most financially vulnerable patients can be billed doesn’t seem to be making much difference.

A provision in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul says most hospitals must charge uninsured patients no more than what people with health insurance are billed.

The goal is to protect patients from medical bankruptcy, a problem that will not go away next year when Obama’s law expands coverage for millions.

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Legislature Cuts Funding for Autism Therapy From the State Budget
Voice of OC

State lawmakers this month delivered a blow to families with children suffering from autism by cutting from the budget a $50-million fund for a therapy that can be life changing for those with the disorder. The money was cut from the proposed 2013-14 budget package in recent weeks during conference committee negotiations between the Senate and Assembly in Sacramento. Earlier the Senate Budget Committee had included the money for the state Medi-Cal program to cover applied behavior analysis or ABA, which helps children suffering from autism develop social, mobile and verbal skills.

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Better mortality measures for some conditions bode well for others
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals that perform best on mortality measures for heart attack, pneumonia and congestive heart patients also have lower mortality rates for other types of medical and surgical patients, an analysis of performance across more than 2,300 hospitals shows.

The results suggest that a limited set of mortality measures may be enough to identify high- and low-performing hospitals for patients and policymakers, said study co-author Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor of health policy and management at Harvard University and one of the authors of the study.

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EHR systems pose serious concerns, groups say
Modern Healthcare

Electronic health-record systems used in emergency departments are beset with poor data displays, loaded with so many alerts warning of potential patient-safety issues that they can lead to user alert fatigue, and may be generating incorrect physician orders, according to a report by two emergency physicians’ study groups.

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Providers to discuss RAC program with finance committee
Modern Healthcare

Providers upset about what they say are unintended effects of Medicare’s main overpayment recovery program will get a chance to air their grievances Tuesday on Capitol Hill and perhaps garner support for legislation to change it. Two providers are expected to tell members of the Senate Finance Committee about their organizations’ experiences with the Medicare Recovery Audit Contractor program.

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Pharmacists would be allowed to provide more care to Californians under SB493
Southern California Public Radio

With the federal health care law requiring millions of uninsured Californians to buy health insurance starting in January, the resulting influx of new patients could exacerbate the shortage of primary care doctors. That’s prompted state legislation to expand the role of certain health professionals, such as nurse practitioners, optometrists, and physician assistants. It has also sparked a push to give pharmacists greater freedom to provide certain types of medical care.

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Major grant funds UCSC researchers using big data to predict cancer outcomes
Santa Cruz Sentinel

Despite some successes, predicting cancer outcomes based on the molecular signatures in cancer cells remains a major challenge. A new effort, funded by the National Cancer Institute and led by researchers at the UC Santa Cruz, aims to clear several key roadblocks that have stymied progress in this field. The $3.5 million project will use the latest in “big data” technology to bridge the gap between the petabytes of raw genomic data in centralized repositories like UCSC’s Cancer Genomics Hub and the higher levels of interpretive information that can lead to clinically useful predictions, such as which drugs are most effective against tumors with certain mutations.

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Enloe Medical Center in Chico and Oroville Hospital honored for value
Chico Enterprise Record

Enloe Medical Center and Oroville Hospital were both awarded for providing value by Cleverley + Associates, a health care financial consulting firm. The hospitals were recognized with a Community Value Five-Star award. The health care financial consulting firm benchmarks organizations and provides strategies to improve performance. A hospital receives the Five-Star rating if it scores in the top 20 percent of hospitals based on having low-cost structure and low charges, using its financial stance to reinvest in the provision of care at its facilities and offering high-quality care.

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Sutter eyeing Stanislaus Surgical Hospital partnership
Modesto Bee

Sacramento-based Sutter Health is in negotiations to acquire majority ownership of Stanislaus Surgical Hospital of Modesto.

In a joint statement Monday, the organizations said they’re in exclusive talks that could lead to a partnership. Sutter is a nonprofit health system that’s affiliated with Memorial Medical Center and the Sutter Gould Medical Foundation clinics in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

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Lodi Health at a crossroads
Lodi News-Sentinel

Fred Hoffman recently spent some time in the new cardiac unit at Lodi Memorial Hospital. After open-heart surgery at a Sacramento hospital last year, the Herald resident drove to the center on South Fairmont Avenue and rode a stationary bicycle or walked on a treadmill while nurses monitored his heart rate, three days a week for 12 weeks. But it was the nutrition class created to keep patients healthy that Hoffman credits with changing his life.

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eHealth makes deal with Aon Hewitt for enrollment services
Sacramento Business Journal

An online health insurance company with a large call center and executive office in Gold River is working with Aon Hewitt to provide enrollment services to employees of clients who choose to enroll in individual health insurance coverage. ehealth Inc. also wants to sign up consumers for Covered California, the state health benefit exchange, but has not reached an agreement with the state.

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Quest Diagnostics finishes acquiring Dignity Health testing stations
Sacramento Business Journal

Quest Diagnostics has completed its acquisition of nonhospital clinical laboratory draw and testing stations from Dignity Health, company officials announced Monday. The sale includes more than 50 clinical laboratories and related entities in California and Nevada. Testing will shift to Quest labs Sacramento and West Hills, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. Terms were not disclosed.

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Tenet to Acquire Vanguard in Surprise $4.3B Deal
Health Leaders Media

Tenet Healthcare Corp. jolted the hospital industry this week with the surprise announcement that it will acquire smaller rival Vanguard Health System in a deal the two for-profit hospitals chains valued at $4.3 billion.

This latest high-profile consolidation in the hospital industry is expected to be finalized by the end of this year, just as millions of people gain health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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Tenet Healthcare buying Vanguard Health for $1.8B
The Mercury News

Tenet Healthcare Corp. plans to buy fellow hospital operator Vanguard Health Systems Inc. for about $1.8 billion, in a deal that will expand its reach into new markets as millions of patients start to gain insurance coverage through the health care overhaul. Tenet said Monday that it will pay $21 per share, a 70 percent premium to Vanguard Health’s Friday closing price of $12.37. The companies said the transaction also includes $2.5 billion in debt, and they value the entire deal at $4.3 billion.

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Tenet to Buy Vanguard Health Systems for About $1.8 Billion
San Francisco Chronicle

Tenet Healthcare Corp. agreed to buy hospital operator Vanguard Health Systems Inc. for about $1.8 billion in cash to grow in new markets as the U.S. health-care overhaul promises to expand insurance coverage to more Americans starting next year.

Tenet, the third biggest publicly traded U.S. hospital chain, will pay $21 a share, the companies said in a statement today. That’s 70 percent above the June 21 closing price of $12.37 for Nashville, Tennessee-based Vanguard Health on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Hoag’s underhanded abortion ban
Los Angeles Times

In a most underhanded and insidious way, women’s reproductive health rights in California were dealt a significant blow last month. That was when the availability of elective abortions at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, one of Orange County’s elite medical centers, was abruptly ended.

The ban on abortions was imposed by Hoag administrators effective May 1, shortly after the hospital entered a corporate partnership with St. Joseph Health System, a Roman Catholic chain with five hospitals in Orange County.

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A bill from the blue
Los Angeles Times

Flavio de Pecol hit the trifecta after taking his daughter to the emergency room for a horse-riding injury: hours of waiting, a 16-mile ambulance ride to a different facility and bills for more than $40,000.

At least, he thought, that was the end of it.

But nearly two years after his daughter’s whirlwind tour of the U.S. healthcare system, De Pecol, of Newport Beach, has received yet another bill, this time for $1,054.53 that UC Irvine Medical Center failed to charge him the first time around.

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Why Affirmative Action Still Matters in Medicine. And Probably Always Will…
The Health Care Blog

I am an emergency room physician who has worked at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital for 17 years. I am also the first black woman to ever be hired as a faculty member, and thus have had the opportunity to teach students and doctors in training. Given that 85% of the patients of the 120,000 patients that cross our threshold annually are black, my hiring carried enormous symbolic weight. Beyond the symbolism, I’ve found a real effect on patient care. There are a few earlier studies which suggest that patients prefer doctors who look like them if given the opportunity.

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