News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Medi-Cal cuts threaten California
Sacramento Business Journal

The governor and legislative leaders are rightly proud to have enacted a state budget, meeting the constitutional deadline. But that doesn’t mean their financial responsibilities to the people of California are complete. Absent immediate action by lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown, the 2013-14 state budget might also be remembered for the damage it caused to California’s most vulnerable residents. Medi-Cal is the safety net that keeps our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children healthy.

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HHS report says 2014 premiums coming in lower than expected
Modern Healthcare

Despite critics’ predictions that health insurance premiums would be higher in 2014 compared with 2013 because of provisions of the healthcare reform law, proposed 2014 premiums for individual-market and small-group plans offered on state insurance exchanges in 11 states have come in 18% lower on average than HHS had projected, according to an HHS report released today. “In the 11 states for which data are available, the lowest cost silver plan in the individual market in 2014 is, on average, 18% less expensive than (HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation’s) estimate of 2014 individual market premiums derived from CBO publications,” according to the report.

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Hospital Compare site adds PCI readmissions data
Modern Healthcare

Data revealing how many patients are readmitted within 30 days of undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, are now publicly available through Medicare’s Hospital Compare website. Developed through a partnership with Yale New Haven Health Services Corp.-Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation and the CMS, and using information from the American College of Cardiology’s National Cardiovascular Data Registry, the site’s newest measure compares hospitals by showing how often patients were readmitted within a month following a PCI procedure.

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State suspends 16 Medi-Cal drug centers
San Diego Union-Tribune

State officials are temporarily suspending 16 California alcohol and drug treatment centers suspected of violating health care laws – from hiring people who were convicted of abusing patients to bilking Medi-Cal for services they never performed.

Department of Health Care Services Director Toby Douglas said Thursday he is referring the centers to the state Department of Justice for further investigation. Douglas oversees Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid health insurance program for the poor.

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The selling of Obamacare: President uses rebates to get public behind law
San Francisco Business Times

The day after the House once again voted to slam the brakes on health care reform, President Barack Obama made a sales pitch for his signature legislative accomplishment at the White House. He was joined by Morgan Theriot, a self-employed human resources consultant from Silver Spring, Md., who talked about getting a $257 rebate check from her insurance company last year. Theriot was one of 13 million Americans who got rebates last year thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of their customers’ premiums on health care.

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Obama touts ACA benefits amid GOP efforts to dismantle provisions
Modern Healthcare

President Barack Obama today touted two positive developments to have come out of his healthcare reform law. Consumers will receive millions of dollars back from insurers that took too much in profit and administrative costs. And a new HHS study found that 2014 premiums on the state insurance exchanges will be 18% cheaper than rates for comparable plans this year.

At a news conference earlier today from the White House’s East Room, Obama bragged about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has benefited the American people.

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Obama Health Care Speech Touts Rebates For Health Insurance Customers
The Huffington Post

Flanked by health insurance customers who received rebates because of Obamacare, President Barack Obama on Thursday highlighted his health care reform law’s benefits for people who already have coverage. Over the past two years, 21.5 million health insurance consumers have gotten $1.6 billion in rebates because their providers spent less than 80 percent of the premiums they paid on medical care, rather than overhead or profit, as the Obama administration announced last month.

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Obama: Health insurance rebate checks are in the mail
Sacramento Bee

The Obama administration is pushing back against the Affordable Care Act naysayers.

One day after House Republicans passed legislation to delay enforcement of the health care law’s individual mandate, President Obama will take to the airwaves to announce that checks are in the mail for 8.5 million Americans who’ll split more than $504 million in rebates from their heath insurance company, thanks to a provision of the health law that penalizes insurers for wasteful spending.

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Obama boasts of health care savings, but costs likely to rise for many
Sacramento Bee

President Barack Obama assailed Republicans on Thursday for trying to dismantle his signature health care law, saying it’s already providing a benefit of one kind or another to millions of Americans, including a drop in projected premium costs in nearly a dozen states.

But experts predict that premiums on individual plans will increase in most states because of the new consumer protections the sweeping legislation requires.

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Obama Spins Health Insurance Rebates
Associated Press

Another year, another round of exaggeration from President Barack Obama and his administration about health insurance rebates.

In his speech defending his health care law Thursday, Obama said rebates averaging $100 are coming from insurance companies to 8.5 million Americans. In fact, most of the money is going straight to employers who provide health insurance, not to their workers, who benefit indirectly.

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House votes to delay two critical components of healthcare reform
FierceHealthPayer

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to delay for a year the requirement that Americans obtain health insurance under the provisions of the 2010 healthcare reform law, The New York Times reported. The House also voted to codify the Obama administration’s recent and shocking decision to delay for a year the mandate for larger employers to offer health coverage.

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10 million Latinos qualify for Obamacare. Is there funding to get the word out?
Washington Post

The Obama administration is counting on Latinos to help make the Affordable Care Act a success, but there may be troubles ahead: Hispanic health centers and community organizations say they don’t have the funding or resources to carry out the complicated sign-up process for the 10 million Latinos who will be eligible for new public and subsidized health coverage options.

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The battle over universal health coverage is basically over
Washington Post

Barack Obama is going to bat for the Affordable Care Act in a series of speeches. Today, he focused on the regulation that insurers must devote 80% of premiums to care — not to overhead or advertising. And he took a bit of a victory lap over the rebate checks that health insurance companies sent out last summer and this summer. The key point in today’s speech, however, was this:

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VIP subsidiary lands Covered California contract
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California has selected a subsidiary of Folsom-based Visionary Integration Professionals to provide the software platform to deliver training to 40,000 grantees and state workers who will educate consumers about the Affordable Care Act and urge them to apply for insurance coverage. VIP develops learning and performance management systems; its Herndon, Va.-based subsidiary Meridian Knowledge Solutions is in the software business and will provide the platform and software for the news state health benefits exchange.

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Health Insurance Exchange Rates Surprisingly Low
Health Leaders Media

Ready or not, state health insurance exchanges are due to launch open enrollment just three months from now. Some states are scrambling to meet that deadline, but others have already released a list of tentative rates that offer a surprising glimpse into how healthcare reform will work.

And though millions of individuals are expected to purchase insurance in 2014—many for the first time ever—the big question is how many people will actually follow through and make a purchase via the exchanges.

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WellPoint’s Anthem Blue Cross spurns Calif. small-business exchange
Los Angeles Times

Health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross said it won’t participate in California’s new insurance market for small businesses. Anthem, a unit of WellPoint Inc., is California’s largest insurer for small employers. This surprising move could hamper the state’s ability to enroll businesses in its new exchange called Covered California that opens Jan. 1 as part of the federal healthcare law. Instead, Anthem said it will keep selling coverage to small firms outside the exchange in direct competition with the state-run market. Anthem also remains one of 13 health insurers that will offer policies to individuals in Covered California.

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AIDS Healthcare Foundation asks judge to delay LA county audit
Southern California Public Radio

The fight between the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Los Angeles County took another turn Thursday. The Foundation asked a federal court to delay a county audit of the agency, claiming it would jeopardize patient care. AHF also accused the county of pursuing the audit in retaliation for the Foundation’s criticism of the county’s handling of its AIDS programs. The county rejected AHF’s claims about compromising patient care as “bogus,” and said the audit is “routine.”

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Timing is crucial for stroke patients
KSBY

It’s been four years since Jessie Stone of Arroyo Grande had a stroke.

The details are hard for her to recall, but she does remember feeling off.

“What I know is that I was trying to get up and I couldn’t. I wanted to answer the phone, but I couldn’t get there,” she said.

The next thing she remembers is waking up in the hospital feeling weak and confused.

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Open house aims to improve health of Yolo County residents
Sacramento Business Journal

Healthy Yolo, an effort to improve community health, engage local residents and strengthen the public health system in Yolo County, will hold an open house July 24. The event will be held from 4:30-8:30 p.m. at the Davis Farmers Market, located at 4th and C Streets in Davis. The idea is to bring community members together to share information about health concerns and strengths, prioritize issues and develop strategies to achieve a healthier county.

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HPV Vaccine Found to Help With Cancers of Throat
New York Times

A vaccine that protects women against cervical cancer also appears to protect them against throat cancers caused by oral sex, and presumably would protect men as well, according to a study released Thursday. Rates of this throat cancer have soared in the past 30 years, particularly among heterosexual middle-aged men. About 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancers are now caused by sexually transmitted viruses, up from 16 percent in the 1980s.

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The EHR Debate: Fighting the Last War?
The Health Care Blog

Right now there’s a fierce debate going on for the hearts and minds of health IT. Finally American health care (well, half of it anyway) is using electronic medical records. But it’s not the panacea we were lead to believe. Costs haven’t gone down, health hasn’t markedly improved and the taxpayer/Chinese government is poorer. So too are many doctors and hospitals, and the main beneficiaries appear to be construction companies in Madison, Wisconsin.

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AIDS Healthcare Foundation accuses L.A. County of ‘retaliatory’ audit
Los Angeles Daily News

Amid an escalating war between the two organizations, the nation’s largest AIDS/HIV care provider is seeking to block Los Angeles County from launching an audit of its finances on Monday.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation on Thursday asked a federal court to postpone the scheduled audit, which the group called “illegitimate” and “retaliatory.”

The audit had been scheduled after the county concluded that AHF overbilled the Department of Public Health by $1.7 million in fiscal year 2008-09, by charging for costs already covered by Medi-Cal, Medicare, private insurance, grants and fees.

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Natividad warns of infection risk
The Californian - Salinas

Natividad Medical Center representatives said Thursday the hospital will offer patients free testing for infection after it was discovered that a disinfecting process for a specific diagnostic instrument may not have been followed properly.

The precautionary action comes after a review of the disinfecting process used on flexible endoscopes unveiled inconsistencies in the documentation, said Dr. Gary Gray, chief medical officer for Natividad.

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Blue Cross program cut price of knee, hip surgery for CalPERS
Sacramento Business Journal

Faced with wide variation in hospital charges for total knee- and hip-replacement surgeries — with no measurable difference in quality — the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and Anthem Blue Cross tried steering patients to hospitals that offer the best bang for the buck. The program lowered the cost of surgeries by 19 percent, saving CalPERS $2.8 million in 2011 and $2.7 million in 2012. Employee costs stayed the same or dropped slightly.

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Eden Township board still reviewing their San Leandro Hospital options
The Mercury News

The board of the Eden Township Healthcare District is still examining its options for how to properly give millions of dollars to San Leandro Hospital, district CEO Dev Mahadevan said Thursday. The board took no action Wednesday during a closed session discussion with their legal counsel about a nearly resolved legal battle with the hospital’s current owner, nonprofit Sutter Health. An arbitrator recently ordered Eden Township to pay Sutter $17 million in damages following the district’s lost effort to retain hospital ownership.

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UCSF-Children’s Oakland affiliation talks delayed by “complexity” and regulatory issues
San Francisco Business Times

Affiliation talks between UCSF Medical Center and financially challenged Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland, formalized with a letter of intent in late November, are dragging on due to “the complexity of the transaction, including regulatory approvals,” according to UCSF officials. The talks have been going on since at least last June 2012, however, or at least 13 months now. The transaction “remains on track,” but is taking longer than expected due to those unspecified complexities and regulatory issues, UCSF Medical Center spokeswoman Karin Rush-Monroe said in a July 17 statement to the Business Times.

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Mayor’s response to concerns about Healthy San Francisco’s future: Not to worry, we’re working on it
San Francisco Business Times

As the Business Times reported earlier this week, a big battle is brewing in town over the city’s Healthy San Francisco program, which many business leaders say will be overly costly and possibly not necessary once key elements of Obamacare take effect Jan. 1. In fact, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and small business leader Scott Hauge suggest the city’s program may be on shaky legal ground come January, because it doesn’t constitute insurance and thus can’t meet the demands of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

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UnitedHealthcare, Tenet Healthcare contract clock ticking
The Desert Sun

Unless a deal is reached by the end of the month, Coachella Valley residents who have UnitedHealthcare insurance will have to pay more to use two of the three local hospitals.

The health care provider has about two weeks left to negotiate a new three-year contract with Tenet Healthcare, which operates Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs and owns John F. Kennedy Hospital in Indio.

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