News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Chris Jennings Hired By White House For Health Care Reform Push
The Huffington Post

Amid questions about the future of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, the White House has hired a widely respected policy expert from the Clinton administration to help coordinate final implementation of “Obamacare.”

Chris Jennings, a lobbyist who spent six years as a senior adviser to former President Bill Clinton, is among a group of new healthcare-related staff expected to join the Obama White House formally later this week, an official said.

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New Health Affairs Issue Examines The States And Medicaid Expansion
HealthAffairs Blog

With nearly half the states planning to expand Medicaid eligibility in 2014, Health Affairs’ July issue, released today, includes several articles that reflect, in the words of founding editor John Iglehart, “various cross currents of federalism.” Medicaid, as seen in this issue, says Iglehart, “is not the uniform national health program envisioned by Democrats, but one that reflects the heterogeneity of the United States and the Republican imperative for decentralized policy making.”

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10-Point ONC Safety Plan Seeks to Improve EHR Use
Health Leaders Media

Providers will make fewer medical errors that can harm patients—at least in theory—after implementation of a federal health IT safety plan unveiled this month. The plan recommends prohibitions of so-called vendor contract gag clauses and says demonstration of electronic health record systems’ safety features should be a prerequisite for certification.

The 10-point plan, issued by the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT, seeks to resolve problems highlighted in the Institute of Medicine’s November, 2011 report, Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care, by allowing electronic health record system users to report on problems using the Common Formats protocol, under development by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

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CMS mulls payment policy changes on chronic care, telehealth
Modern Physician

In an important first, the CMS is considering paying primary-care physicians for complex chronic care management services of Medicare patients without an in-person patient visit. The change would start in 2015. It’s just one of several policy changes included in the CMS-proposed Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for 2014. Other proposed changes include adjustments to some 200 “misvalued” fee-schedule codes and expanded payment for telehealth services—particularly for identified rural “health professional shortage areas.”

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Obamacare Delay Increases Costs and Complications
TIME Online Edition

For a massive law that will reorganize nearly the entire U.S. health care system, the one-year delay of a relatively minor provision would seem a mere blip. But the Obama Administration’s recent announcement that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) employer mandate will kick in a year late could ripple beyond the brief extension, increasing costs and complicating implementation of other vital parts of the law.

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Obamacare delay will have ’some impact’ on South LA patients, says clinic CEO
Southern California Public Radio

Large and medium companies will have one more year until they’re required to provide their employees with health insurance under Obamacare, the Obama Administration announced last Tuesday, which gives those companies until 2015 to fulfill the requirement or face fines. The requirement — which is part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and was originally set to go into effect on the first day of 2014 — means that companies with 50 or more workers must provide affordable health insurance to their full-time employees or else risk tax penalties.

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White House scrambles to get ready for ObamaCare implementation
The Hill

The White House is trying to heal what has been ailing the implementation of ObamaCare. Three months before the most sweeping parts of the law are scheduled to go live, the administration has hired Chris Jennings, a veteran of the Clinton administration, to help lead the massive effort. Jennings, a widely respected expert who can read the political winds, was a critic of then-Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) healthcare plan in 2008.

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Health Insurance is Wasted on the Young
The Health Care Blog

There has never been a time in my life when I’ve owed a lot of money. That certainly has changed these past two years as my husband and myself find ourselves with medical debt that we may never pay off . As you can guess, we have no health insurance – we can’t afford it and even if we did have an extra $650 a month we couldn’t obtain it due to our pre-existing conditions. Briefly, I had emergency surgery to remove a cyst on my ovary in 2010, a diagnosis of an auto-immune disease in 2011 and two bladder cancer surgeries in 2012.

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Bump in the road for health reform but not a detour
Sacramento Bee

Most people in California and across the nation get health insurance coverage from their employer. In the United States, 98 percent of firms with 200 or more workers provide health insurance coverage (97 percent in California).

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CMS Releases Proposed OPPS, Physician Fee Rules
Health Leaders Media

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services late Monday took several steps to make the way it pays for outpatient and physician services in 2014 more like the way it pays for inpatient care, with episode-based rates, and more “packages” of services.

The agency is striving to streamline payments in ways that “will remove incentives hospitals may have to provide medically unnecessary services or expend additional, unnecessary resources to achieve a higher level of visit payments.”

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CMS proposal would boost some Medicare payments
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals would get a 1.8% boost in their outpatient Medicare payments next year while the increase for ambulatory surgery centers would total 0.9%, under a proposed rule issued Monday by the CMS. The 718-page rule sets the Medicare pay rate for more than 4,000 hospitals and 5,000 ASCs in 2014.

The hospital rate was based on a projected inpatient market basket increase of 2.5% minus a proposed multifactor productivity adjustment of 0.4% and a 0.3% adjustment required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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Rural hospitals’ EHR adoption rate up 257%
Modern Healthcare

The digital divide is still there among rural providers but it appears to be closing, according to a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and new research it references.

The percentage of rural hospitals with a basic electronic health-record system was 33.5% in 2012, up 257% from 9.8% in 2010, the year before payments started to flow from the federal EHR incentive payment program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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Groups dismayed by decision not to cover Alzheimer’s test
Reuters

Alzheimer’s experts are set to protest after Medicare issued draft guidelines last week saying it would only pay for an Eli Lilly and Co diagnostic test for the disease if patients were taking part in clinical trials for it.

Both Lilly and the Alzheimer’s Association have released statements expressing disappointment with the decision by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which cited “insufficient” evidence that the tests improve patient care.

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Costs expected to rise with practice acquisitions, survey finds
Modern Physician

Hospital employment of physicians and acquisition of physician practices could be factors in increasing the costs of healthcare, according to nearly one-third of the respondents in an online membership poll of American College of Physician Executives members.

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Obamacare Nears, but Hurdles Remain for the Needy in OC
Voice of OC

Beginning in January, about 280,000 lower-income, medically uninsured residents of Orange County could qualify for coverage under Obamacare, but it’s unclear whether the clinics serving poor residents will be ready to accommodate an influx of new patients or even whether the people who qualify will sign up. Implementing the next step of the new health care reform law, officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or ACA, “is a huge endeavor,” said Isabel Becerra, CEO of the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers, whose 67 clinics form the county’s medical safety net.

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Low-income patients prefer hospitals for primary care
Modern Healthcare

Federal healthcare reform efforts have focused on keeping people out of the hospital and getting them into primary-care offices for preventive care and health management. Projects to achieve this include the Federally Qualified Health Center Advanced Practice Primary Care Demonstration and the Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative. But some low-income patients strongly prefer going to the hospital for primary care, and they give some good reasons for this. That’s reason to think reformers may be pushing a rock uphill to try to change patient behavior.

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CT Scans and Kids: Parents Often Unaware of Risks
KQED Radio

Mary Kathryn Lynch stood next to her young son in a Lake Tahoe emergency room. The Oakland resident had rushed her 9-year-old to the hospital after a ski accident left him groggy, curled up in the fetal position, and speaking incoherently. Nurses and hospital staff told Lynch that her son needed a CT scan of his head right away, she recalled. While Lynch and her husband were both worried the accident may have caused brain damage, her husband was also weighing risks of the scan’s radiation.

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Sutter digs in to bigger Turlock health center
Modesto Bee

The first few shovels of dirt toward constructing Sutter Gould Medical Foundation’s new 37,000-square-foot Turlock Care Center were moved Monday.

Sutter management broke ground on the $23 million project to replace and upgrade its 63-year-old clinic on East Main Street. The new site, at North Golden State Boulevard and West Christoffersen Parkway, will have up to three times the medical staff and expanded services.

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