News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

News Headlines Article

Committees offer detailed plan to repeal SGR
Modern Healthcare

Before taking off for the July 4 recess, the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees released a more detailed legislative framework to repeal Medicare’s sustainable-growth rate formula. On May 28, the Energy and Commerce committee released a draft bill and sought comment from stakeholders until June 10. The revised draft legislation unveiled Friday incorporates that feedback. The bill would repeal the troublesome formula used to calculate payments for Medicare-participating physicians and replace it with a fee-for-service system in which providers would develop quality measures.

News Headlines Article

Public Health Nurse Recruitment Barriers Detailed
Health Leaders Media

Hospitals and health systems are not the only organizations grappling with the challenge of attracting and keeping nurses on staff. Public health departments are also struggling to fill vacant jobs.

Nurses are critically important to public and population health efforts, making up 24% of that workforce and providing much-needed clinic-based care and disease prevention services to individuals in roughly half of all state and local health departments.

News Headlines Article

Several Pioneer ACOs may exit program
Modern Healthcare

Medicare’s most ambitious test of accountable care could lose a substantial number of its participants after the first year. As many as nine of 32 Pioneer accountable care organizations—the name given to Medicare’s first and highest-risk test of the payment model—may exit the program, according to the CMS, and at least four have started to notify providers. At least four of the departing ACOs tentatively say they will join Medicare’s lower-risk ACO alternative, the Shared Savings Program, the CMS said. Pioneers must decide by July 31.

News Headlines Article

Would We Be Better Off If Employers Stopped Paying for Health Insurance?
The Health Care Blog

In his “Are Employers to Blame for Our High Medical Prices?,” David Dranove takes issue with my statement in a New York Times blog post: “One reason for the employers’ passivity in paying health care bills may be that they know, or should know, that the fringe benefits they purchase for their employees ultimately come out of the employees’ total pay package. In a sense, employers behave like pickpockets who take from their employees’ wallets and with the money lifted purchase goodies for their employees.”

News Headlines Article

California Leading from the Left in ACA Implementation
MedPage Today

The Affordable Care Act hasn’t really hit home yet for physicians in California, but the state is one of the most prepared for the next phase of implementation coming in January.

“Thus far, the actual impact has been very modest,” Joshua Adler, MD, chief medical officer of UCSF Medical Center and its Benioff Children’s Hospital, told MedPage Today. “The big wave of change hasn’t happened yet. We’re all sort of waiting, not knowing exactly how it’s going to go.”

News Headlines Article

ACA Anniversary Coverage: Healthcare After the Supremes Ruled
MedPage Today

What a year this has been: the Supreme Court tells the nation that it is within constitutional bounds for the federal government to mandate healthcare coverage for all Americans, but not within the law for it to tell states, effectively, that they must expand Medicaid to provide some of that coverage. Thus, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare, moved from flash-in-the-pan to law-of-the-land.

News Headlines Article

Panel of Doctors Brief Screenwriters On ‘Obamacare’
Neon Tommy

Doctors and medical providers are not the only ones who require detailed knowledge of the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping healthcare reform President Obama signed into law in 2010. Writers of medical television dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy and Under the Dome are learning about these changes so their storylines can stay relevant. On Thursday night, “Hollywood, Health and Society,” a program at USC’s Norman Lear Center, hosted a panel to brief screenwriters on the Affordable Care Act.

News Headlines Article

Large companies dodge Medi-Cal proposal
Sacramento Business Journal

Business leaders no doubt breathed a sigh of relief when the California Legislature rejected a bill late last week that would have forced large companies to subsidize Medi-Cal insurance for employees that work more than 12 hours per week. Assembly Bill 880, introduced earlier this year by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, a Los Angeles Democrat, needed to pass by a two-thirds majority but fell eight votes short.

News Headlines Article

Medicaid’s balancing act
Modern Healthcare

For four months, an Indianapolis hospital has put Illinois Medicaid on the spot. It wants the state’s health care program for low-income patients to pay for multi-organ transplants for two women, risky and rare operations that can cost as much as $1 million.

Approving the transplants could improve the lives of the Illinois women, though perhaps only temporarily: About 40 percent of patients who receive a new intestine, which both women need, don’t survive past five years.

News Headlines Article

Medicare doctor comparison site gets revamp
Sacramento Business Journal

A federal website that allows consumers to search and compare information collected by Medicare about thousands of doctors and other health care professionals has been redesigned to make it easier to use and provide new information. Part of federal improvements under the Affordable Care Act, Physician Compare is now connected to a more consistently updated database so consumers get the most accurate information available, officials at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Thursday.

News Headlines Article

Closure threat looms over small, rural Coalinga hospital
Modesto Bee

Inside his barber shop on Coalinga’s main street, Mayor Ron Lander snips and buzzes hair as the conversation turns to the city’s hospital and the threat of closure hanging over it.

His 97-year-old mother- in-law would have died of internal bleeding except for the hospital emergency department, he says. Now she is one of dozens of residents in the hospital’s nursing home, and he wonders what would become of all the patients without the hospital.

News Headlines Article

‘Reverse vaccine’ for Type 1 diabetes seems to pass human test
Los Angeles Times

A “reverse vaccine” that allows people with Type 1 diabetes to produce their own insulin has passed its first test with human subjects, according to a new study. The success points to a potential new strategy for treating those in the early stages of the disease, experts said. The therapy is designed to protect cells in the pancreas that make insulin, a hormone the body needs to convert sugars and starches into energy.

News Headlines Article

C-Section Rates Reductions Panned
Health Leaders Media

After more than a decade of alarming and persistent growth in cesarean sections, the procedure appears to have leveled off in the past three years, but still is used for nearly one-in-three deliveries, new federal data shows. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total U.S. cesarean delivery rate reached a high of 32.9% of all births in 2009, rising 60% from 20.7% in 1996. However, since 2009 the rate has held at 31.3%.

News Headlines Article

Law prevents cuts in retiree health care costs
Calpensions

A Senate committee last week approved two bills that free the city of Carson and the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District from limits in a CalPERS-run health care program, allowing cuts in retiree health costs bargained with labor unions.

The health care program operates under a state law that can allow new hires to qualify for lifetime health care from the new employer after just one day on the job, if they have worked five years at a previous employer in CalPERS.

News Headlines Article

Immigration bill draws quick response from providers
Modern Healthcare

The nation’s healthcare providers quickly weighed in on the sweeping immigration bill that the Senate passed on Thursday, with some applauding the measure’s healthcare workforce provisions and others criticizing the bill for not addressing healthcare coverage for undocumented immigrants and their children. “The bill has really positive provisions that we think are going to help the healthcare workforce shortage issues for physicians but also for nurses and other allied health,” such as physical therapists and occupational therapists, said Samantha Burch, vice president of legislation and health information technology at the Federation of American Hospitals, in an interview.

News Headlines Article

Insurers Duck Claims of Giving Quest a Monopoly
Courthouse News Service

Several medical labs cannot pursue claims that a competitor conspired with three health insurers to corner the market on diagnostic testing, a federal judge ruled. Rheumatology Diagnostics Laboratory had been the lead plaintiff in a November 2012 complaint against Blue Shield of California Life & Health Insurance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Aetna, and Quest Diagnostics. The action alleged a conspiracy of licensing agreements that made it impossible for independent laboratories such as those that the plaintiffs run to obtain in-network status with each insurance plan licensed by Blue Cross, known as a Blue Plan.

News Headlines Article

Battle brews ahead of debut of health care reform
Santa Cruz Sentinel

This health center on California’s Central Coast serves as a laboratory for the issues facing health reform’s rollout: The working poor come not only for treatment, but to navigate the intricacies of the new public health system.

Carol Ann Huboi, 57, is among the fortunate, already signed up for a state-administered precursor to health reform’s coverage expansion called the Bridge to Reform.

News Headlines Article

Putting big health insurers in their place
The Center for Public Integrity

Aetna made the wrong kind of headlines in California a few days back. The health insurance giant said it plans to stop selling individual coverage in the state and would not renew the individual policies it currently has in effect. That decision means about 50,000 Californians will have to find another insurer by the end of the year.

State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said Aetna’s decision was disappointing because it will reduce competition, but Aetna—the third largest insurer nationally—has never been able to muster much of a market share in California’s individual insurance market.

News Headlines Article

Can Hospitals be Sued for Excessive Markups on Medications and Devices?
The Health Care Blog

Steven Brill’s TIME MAGAZINE blockbuster article, Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us, uncovers the CHARGEMASTER: a publicly undisclosed pricelist accountable for what we see in hospital bills.

What we see there doesn’t look good: it includes acetaminophen sold for $1.50 a tablet (you can buy 100 of those for the same price at Amazon); $77 for a box of sterile gauze pads (Amazon’s prices vary between $6 and $11); $18 for a single diabetes test strip (sold for 54 cents by Amazon); $108 for antibacterial Bacitracin ointment (Amazon’s prices vary between $2.50 and $6.50); and so forth. Charges for stay, scans, surgeries, canes, and wheelchairs skyrocket as well.

News Headlines Article

Yes. Employers Really Are to Blame For Our High Medical Prices
The Health Care Blog

I welcome Leah Binder’s earlier post on this blog, written in response to my blog post in The New York Times. To be thus acknowledged is an honor. As an economist, I am not trained to respond to Ms. Binder’s deep insights into my psyche, dubious though it may be. Nor, alas, can I delve into hers, fascinating though that might be. Let me therefore concentrate instead just on substance.

News Headlines Article

Exclusion of pediatric dental care from health care plans could make it more expensive
Southern California Public Radio

California’s Insurance Commissioner wants the state’s new health care exchange to include dental care for kids as a primary benefit in plans that will be sold to the public next year. The board of Covered California, the agency that is managing the health care exchange, recently decided to exclude that service from the plans, and offer it in a separate policy.

Commands