News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Jails look to ACA to insure inmates
HealthyCal.org

When the signature reforms of the Affordable Care Act go into effect on January 1st, millions of Californians will have expanded access to government subsidized health-care benefits. Counties, some of which saw their jail populations and health-care costs swell since prison reforms took effect in 2011, want to make sure that jail inmates will be among the newly insured. Inmates tend to be younger and sicker than the general population, and the poor health care offered in prisons was the reason that courts ordered California to reduce their prison populations.

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‘Silent epidemic’ of valley fever afflicts thousands of Californians
Sacramento Bee

In 36 years with the Los Angeles police, Sgt. Irwin “Joe” Klorman faced many dangerous situations, including one routine call that ended with Uzi fire and a bullet-riddled body sprawled on a living room floor.

But his most life-threatening encounter has been with coccidioidomycosis, or valley fever, for which he is being treated. Coccidioidomycosis, known as “cocci,” is an insidious airborne fungal disease in which microscopic spores in the soil take flight on the wind or even a mild breeze to lodge in the moist habitat of the lungs and, in the most extreme instances, spread to the bones, the skin, the eyes or, in Klorman’s case, the brain.

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Too much noise from hospital alarms poses risk for patients
Washington Post

Walk into a hospital intensive-care unit and hear the din: A ventilator honks loudly. An infusion pump emits a high-pitched beep-beep every six seconds. A blood pressure monitor pushes out one long tone after another. This particular racket, at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, comes from medical devices and equipment that scans for potentially dangerous ­changes in patients’ heart rhythm, blood pressure and other vital signs.

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Children’s Hospital L.A. makes discoveries on autism, ADHD
Los Angeles Business Journal

Researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles said they have made two separate discoveries that could improve treatments for children with autism and those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. In an effort to explore biological influences on the varying appearance of autism spectrum disorder, Children’s scientists have discovered a possible underlying cause of gastrointestinal problems in children with autism, which is a step towards understanding biological factors that can lead to more personalized therapies.

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Hospitals Lost Jobs Last Month. Should We Be Surprised?
The Health Care Blog

An old data series got new life on Monday, when the Brookings Institution issued a report that compared health care jobs growth versus all other industries. It’s “a truly astonishing graph,” according to Derek Thompson at The Atlantic. “I knew health care had been the most important driver of national employment over the last few years, but I had never seen the case made so starkly.” Thompson wasn’t alone in his surprise. (Hopefully, readers of The Health Care Blog would be less astonished.)

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Law prevents cuts in retirees’ health care costs
Capitol Weekly

A Senate committee has 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 them to make cuts in retiree health costs bargained with labor unions. The CalPERS program operates under the limits of a state law that can permit new hires to qualify for lifetime health care from their new employer after just one day on the job, if they have worked five years at a previous employer in CalPERS.

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Yes, workers, you can still get health coverage in 2014 despite employer mandate delay
Modern Healthcare

Workers who find themselves out of luck, at least in 2014, in getting health coverage as a result of the administration’s one-year delay in the employer mandate, don’t have to fret. That’s because they will be able to get insurance through each state’s individual insurance exchange, with the added bonus that if their annual income falls below 400% of the federal poverty level, they are eligible for subsidies.

Not only does an exchange give these employees more choice then they would likely have with their employer, but they may end up paying less depending on how much in income tax credits they receive.

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Health insurers fear young people will opt out
San Francisco Chronicle

Dan Lopez rarely gets sick and hasn’t been to a doctor in 10 years, so buying health insurance feels like a waste of money.

Even after the federal health overhaul takes full effect next year, the 24-year-old said he will probably decide to pay the $100 penalty for those who skirt the law’s requirement that all Americans purchase coverage.

“I don’t feel I should pay for something I don’t use,” said the Milwaukee resident, who makes about $48,000 a year working two part-time jobs.

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Pro-Obama group unveils new ad touting healthcare reform law
The Hill

The nonprofit political advocacy group spun off from President Obama’s reelection campaign is pressing forward with efforts to highlight the benefits of his signature healthcare reform law with a new national ad. In the new spot from Organizing for Action (OFA), their second touting ObamaCare, a mother, Stacey Lihn, speaks about her ill daughter Zoe’s medical treatment and praises the law for eliminating lifetime caps on health insurance.

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Clinton Aide Joins Obama on Health Care
New York Times

In an effort to put President Obama’s health care program back on track, the White House has recruited Chris Jennings, a respected veteran of the Clinton administration, to join the Obama team as a health policy coordinator and strategist, the White House said on Sunday night. The White House expects to announce the hiring of Mr. Jennings and other health care personnel later this week.

“We are excited to have someone with the depth of knowledge and expertise that Chris has join us,” said Denis R. McDonough, the chief of staff for Mr. Obama. “He will be an invaluable addition.”

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Conservatives’ Aggressive Ad Campaign Seeks to Cast Doubt on Health Law
New York Times

Though many of its rules will not take effect for months, President Obama’s health care law is already the subject of an aggressive advertising campaign by Republicans to sow doubts about how it will work. In one of the largest campaigns of its kind, Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group financed in part by Charles and David Koch, will begin running television commercials this week asserting that the law will limit Americans’ health care choices.

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U.S. relaxes health law income, insurance status rule for exchanges
Yahoo! News

Days after delaying health insurance requirements for employers, the Obama administration has decided to roll back requirements for new state online insurance marketplaces to verify the income and health coverage status of people who apply for subsidized coverage.

President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law is slated to begin offering health coverage through state marketplaces, or exchanges, beginning October 1.

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What the health care mandate delay means locally
Visialia Times-Delta

The recent news from Washington that the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act will be postponed until after the 2014 midterm election prompted a widespread sigh of relief for businesses across the nation and in Tulare County.

Even still, local businesses remain cautiously optimistic, unsure of how the policy will affect the long-term transition to the much-debated health care overhaul. Business leaders also expressed concern about how the delay will affect consumers.

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Physician Payment Disclosure Under Health Care Reform
Medscape

Pharmaceutical marketing has been an American health care issue from as early as the 1950s, when Senator Estes Kefauver first questioned the relationship between large marketing expenditures and high drug costs. Since then, the debate regarding drug marketing has continued, along with increased industry spending. Analysis has shown that, from 1996 to 2005, drug company marketing expenditures more than tripled, from $11.4 to $29.9 billion.

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Understanding the new health care act
Napa Valley Register

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA, (aka ‘Obamacare’) is ushering in options for America’s 28 million small businesses. ACA is due to be implemented January 2014, but many employees are still unsure what this will mean for their businesses. (Editor’s note: The Ohama administration announced Tuesday that compliance for this aspect of ACA will begin in 2015.) According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), when the new plan is implemented employers with 50 or more full-time employees that are currently not offering affordable health insurance may be required to pay an “assessment” if at least one of their full-time employees is not covered.

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Healthcare deals top 90 in June
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare deals accelerated in June, a month that saw more than 90 transactions across all sectors and the proposed $4.3 billion acquisition of Vanguard Health Systems by Tenet Healthcare Corp., according to Modern Healthcare’s Healthcare M&A Watch.

Tenet, based in Dallas, would gain scale and reach in Arizona, Illinois, Michigan and Massachusetts with the deal for Nashville-based Vanguard. The proposed acquisition, which includes $2.5 billion in debt, easily eclipsed other large healthcare deals announced in June, including the $1.3 billion deal for the clinical research company PRA International by private equity firm KKR & Co.

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Health insurance marketplaces will not be required to verify consumer claims
Washington Post

The Obama administration announced Friday that it would significantly scale back the health law’s requirements that new insurance marketplaces verify consumers’ income and health insurance status. Instead, the federal government will rely more heavily on consumers’ self-reported information until 2015, when it plans to have stronger verification systems in place. The delay comes after a Tuesday announcement that the federal government would postpone for one year a requirement that employers with 50 or more full-time workers provide health coverage.

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Medi-Cal dental coverage to be partially restored, but not until May
The Mercury News

LeAna Powell, already missing two front teeth, has so much pain from several molars that she pops pain pills routinely and tries to eat only soft food. She thought it would be OK to munch some popcorn, but when she tried it a few days ago, a chunk of a back tooth fell out. “That’s the most embarrassing thing,” said the 29-year-old Oakland resident. “The first thing you want to do is cover your mouth and go home. You think, ‘Oh my god, what do my teeth look like now?’”

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Court: Medi-Cal must cover podiatrists, dentists
Modern Healthcare

California lawmakers improperly stopped funding certain medical services that rural and other specialized health clinics provided to low-income residents under the state’s Medicaid program, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the finding of a trial judge and said federal law requires states participating in Medicaid to reimburse clinics serving migrant workers, homeless people and other poor populations for “a panoply of medical services to under-served communities” that includes chiropractic care, dental care, optometry, podiatry and speech therapy.

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Pioneer ACOs Seen Defecting to MSSP Program
Health Leaders Media

At least four accountable care organizations are in the process of notifying their providers that they intend to move out of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Pioneer ACO program and into the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

As many as nine of the 32 Pioneer ACOs may eventually shift, but only four are known to be actively pursuing a change now. They have until July 15 to notify CMS of their intentions.

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Barnidge: Why an $11,596 emergency room visit costs only $1,100
Inside Bay Area

The 85-year-old Orinda resident couldn’t believe the size of her bill from John Muir Health. For an emergency room visit that spanned three hours, charges on her statement came to $11,596.27. It wasn’t as if she had a lung transplant. She’d suffered severe stomach pains and overheating after exercising. She was examined, an X-ray was taken, tests were done, and then she was sent on her way.

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An autism treatment lost in California’s shift from Healthy Families
Los Angeles Times

Evan Kim was 2 years old when he was diagnosed as autistic last year, and his parents searched for some way to curb his head-banging tantrums.

Using a state-financed healthcare program for low-income families, they found therapists who could provide a specific kind of autism treatment aimed at analyzing and improving behavior. The therapists spent 40 hours a week with Evan at the family’s home in the Los Angeles area, coaxing him to stop the tantrums and improving his communication skills.

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Breast-feeding rates largely depend on hospital where a woman gives birth
Inside Bay Area

Whether a mother breast-feeds exclusively during the first two days of her baby’s life largely depends on the hospital in which she gives birth. A review by this newspaper of data from the California Department of Public Health’s newborn-screening program shows that in some hospitals — such as Kaiser Oakland — more than 90 percent of new moms breast-feed without giving their infants any baby formula. In some California hospitals, however, that figure is less than 10 percent — despite decades of evidence showing the benefits of feeding newborns only breast milk.

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California midwives push to scrap doctor-supervision requirement for home births
Sacramento Bee

For her first child, Amanda Adams went the conventional route: She checked into a hospital.

Young Hannah arrived without incident, but Adams found the setting intrusive and unyielding for such a private moment.

“The hospital has their standard procedures that you have to fight to get what you want,” Adams said, adding that she was unsettled by there being “so many people in and out of the door, and you don’t know their names.”

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Blue Cross Is no Nonprofit, So Tax It, Citizen Tells California
Courthouse News Service

A taxpayer demands that California tax Blue Cross and Blue Shield as the profit-making organizations they are, not, as they fictionally describe themselves, as nonprofits. Michael D. Myers sued the State Board of Equalization et al. in Superior Court, seeking writ of mandamus for them to “perform their respective ministerial duties.” Defendants include Insurance Commissioner David Jones and state Controller John Chiang. Defendants as real parties in interest are California Physicians’ Service dba Blue Shield of California, and Blue Cross of California dba Anthem Blue Cross, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wellpoint.

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Mad man
New York Post

Even as the Obama administration was coming to the belated realization that ObamaCare’s employer mandate was a job-killing blow to the economy — postponing its implementation until after the 2014 midterm elections — it was signing an $8 million contract with the New York firm of Weber Shandwick to promote the legislation.

The new advertizing effort, the latest installment of a campaign that so-far has cost $31 million, is designed to feature your favorite sports star or Hollywood celebrity touting the wonders of ObamaCare

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Paying Physicians for Quality: Lessons from Employers
The Health Care Blog

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health recently held hearings on how to replace the broken sustainable growth rate (SGR) tool for controlling Medicare spending on physician services. I was asked to speak for major employers about their efforts to improve health care quality while containing cost. Why did the subcommittee invite a business group representative to testify? And why should businesses care about how Medicare pays physicians?

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