News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Healthcare overhaul leads hospitals to focus on patient satisfaction
Los Angeles Times

Now, patients at San Francisco General Hospital are greeted by a smiling face and a helping hand to guide them along the path to getting care. It’s one of a series of customer-friendly touches being added at the 156-year-old institution by a newly named “chief patient experience officer.”

“Saying ‘number 32′ versus ‘Mr. Jones’ is dramatically different,” said Baljeet Sangha, who holds the new position. “We have to remind ourselves these are people.”

Under the national healthcare overhaul, patient experiences matter.

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Bipartisan House bill calls for repealing SGR
Modern Healthcare

Bipartisan leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released the latest iteration of a draft bill to repeal Medicare’s sustainable growth-rate formula. The plan calls for a five-year period of stable payment increases as physicians transition into new payment models. Still to come are ways to pay for the repeal, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost about $139 billion over 10 years. Totaling 70 pages, the bill is still a work in progress, as the panel’s health subcommittee will consider changes to the legislation next week.

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The Affordable Care Act Will Fail Without Patient Engagement
The Health Care Blog

What’s behind the recent EHR public relations blitz and our passionate debate in The Health Care Blog? It’s fear for the Affordable Care Act’s future. Oh, the ACA can weather political challenge in the short term, but in the long run, only health cost containment will matter. EHRs are the ship that institutions are counting on to navigate payment reform and, from the institutional perspective, physicians and patients are just along for the ride.

From the citizen perspective however, cost containment will be seen as rationing unless patients and physicians are appropriately engaged in the most costly decisions.

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The Office Visit Revisited
The Health Care Blog

A patient calls or emails me with a problem. I talk with them over the course of a few days, using whatever form of communication works best. Eventually, they need to come to the office to be seen – either for something needing to be done in-person (examination, procedure, or lab test), or because of the advantages of face-to-face communication. At the visit, I not only deal with one problem, but there are other issues needing to be addressed. Finally, after the visit, follow-up on the problem continues until it is either resolved, or at least is not causing much trouble.

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House GOP on healthcare: For repeal, not replace
Modern Healthcare

Three years after campaigning on a vow to “repeal and replace” President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, House Republicans have yet to advance an alternative for the system they have voted more than three dozen times to abolish in whole or in part. Officially, the effort is “in progress”—and has been since Jan. 19, 2011, according to GOP.gov, a leadership-run website. But internal divisions, disagreement about political tactics and Obama’s 2012 re-election add up to uncertainty over whether Republicans will vote on a plan of their own before the 2014 elections, or if not by then, perhaps before the president leaves office, more than six years after the original promise.

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GOP urges Senate to delay ObamaCare’s individual mandate
The Hill

House Republicans on Saturday called on the Senate to vote to delay ObamaCare’s individual mandate since businesses will not be required to provide healthcare coverage until 2015. Reps. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), sponsors of a bill to delay the mandate that passed the House on Wednesday, delivered the weekly GOP address. Young and Griffin accused Democrats and the White House of ignoring the needs of individuals by opposing their legislation.

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Health care exchanges threatened by delay
USA Today

Less than 90 days before government-run health exchanges are due to open up shop under President Obama’s new health care law, Web insurers are still being locked out of helping sign up uninsured individuals — a lag that threatens to depress enrollments, and jack up insurance rates, experts tell CNBC.

Those experts warned that if dozens of Web-based markets — which already sell insurance online — continue to be shut out of partnering with government exchanges, it could lead to 1 million or more people failing to sign up for insurance under Obamacare.

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National healthcare reform sparks concern about scams
Los Angeles Times

The national health reform law is expected to open the door for identity theft and insurance scams when millions of uninsured Americans begin enrolling in coverage this fall, officials and advocates warn.

The Federal Trade Commission said dozens of consumers have reported fraud since last summer’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the law, and officials predict widespread abuse when enrollment begins in October.

One scam already making the rounds involves a caller promising to send a healthcare card if the person reveals personal and financial information.

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Without changes, California’s health care costs expected to soar
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The average California family will be forced to spend a third of its annual income for health insurance by 2022 if costs continue to spiral upward at current rates, according to recent reports by industry groups.

Obesity, prescription drugs, unnecessary tests and expensive new technology are driving up health care costs in California, according to a report issued this month by the California Association of Health Plans.

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Auditor assesses Covered California health exchange
Sacramento Bee

We’re a little late on this one (call it summer recess-induced lethargy), but the State Auditor has produced a report assessing how the state is faring with Covered California, its insurance exchange mandated under the federal health-care overhaul. California committed to building the exchange early, unlike Republican-controlled holdout states. It also had the largest uninsured population of any state as of 2011, so people are watching this carefully.

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16 Medi-Cal substance abuse treatment centers are under investigation
Los Angeles Times

Sixteen drug and alcohol treatment centers that provide rehabilitative services to Medi-Cal patients are suspected of fraud and of hiring providers with felonies on their records, officials from the California Department of Health Care Services announced this week.

The centers, whose names have not yet been released because of an ongoing criminal investigation by the state’s Department of Justice, are temporarily barred from receiving money from the Drug Medi-Cal program, said Bruce Lim, deputy director of the audits and investigations division at Health Care Services.

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ICD-10 Transition Should be Major Focus Now
Health Leaders Media

With so many challenges and changes coming at physician practices, it can be hard to know where to focus attention. Healthcare reform is reshaping the way healthcare is provided and paid for it, and one of the most fundamental changes involves coding.

Physician practices should be highly focused on the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 code sets, says Peggy Stilley, CPC, CPMA, CPC-I, COBGC, ACS-OB, director of audit services with the AAPC in Salt Lake City.

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Health centers vary widely in quality of medical management
Los Angeles Times

California’s community health centers — a key resource for people without medical insurance — vary widely in their ability to control their patients’ chronic diseases, including diabetes and high blood pressure, according to federal data.

Clinic directors and observers say the variation is due in part to how much time the centers have invested in quality improvement and whether they use electronic medical records to measure patient progress.

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New surgical knife can instantly detect cancer
Monterey Herald

Surgeons may have a new way to smoke out cancer.

An experimental surgical knife can help surgeons make sure they’ve removed all the cancerous tissue, doctors reported Wednesday. Surgeons typically use knives that heat tissue as they cut, producing a sharp-smelling smoke. The new knife analyzes the smoke and can instantly signal whether the tissue is cancerous or healthy.

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How bacteria use private social networks
San Francisco Business Times

Bacteria probably don’t jump to mind when you think of social creatures. After all they do not speak, and they sure don’t post messages or pictures on Facebook. But recent research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that they do, indeed, form their own sort of “social networks.” A single cell bacterium, Myxococcus xanthus, which flourishes in soil, forms connections with others of its kind when in close contact, and uses those links to communicate important information, such as how not to get killed by its enemies.

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How a secretive panel uses data that distort doctors’ pay
Washington Post

When Harinath Sheela was busiest at his gastroenterology clinic, it seemed he could bend the limits of time.

Twelve colonoscopies and four other procedures was a typical day for him, according to Florida records for 2012. If the American Medical Association’s assumptions about procedure times are correct, that much work would take about 26 hours. Sheela’s typical day was nine or 10. “I have experience,” the Yale-trained, Orlando-based doctor said. “I’m not that slow; I’m not fast. I’m thorough.”

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L.A. County wins this round against AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Los Angeles Daily News

A federal judge sided with Los Angeles County in its latest skirmish against the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Friday, allowing it to audit the nonprofit organization next week.

In his ruling, US District Judge Percy Anderson rejected AHF’s bid for a temporary restraining order to delay the audit because it could not back up its claim that the audit was a form of harassment that would harm patients.

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Natividad says surgical scopes might not have been properly cleaned, offers free HIV and hepatitis tests
Monterey Herald

Natividad Medical Center is offering nearly 900 patients free testing for HIV and hepatitis after discovering surgical scopes may have been insufficiently cleaned. Hospital officials said a routine safety audit revealed disinfection of the equipment was inadequately documented on some days over an 18-month period. While the flexible endoscopes may have been cleaned as required, the hospital was “acting in an abundance of caution,” said Chief Medical Officer Gary Gray.

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Modesto health fair delivers dose of compassion
Merced Sun-Star

More than 100 low-income and uninsured people were treated by doctors, dentists and other providers at no cost Sunday at the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation’s 12th annual health fair.

As in past years, the foundation partnered with the Maddux Youth Center in west Mo-desto for the event. Serv-ices included pediatrics, acupuncture, prescriptions for low-cost generic drugs and medical exams.

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Anthem Blue Cross withdraws from Covered California small biz marketplace
Sacramento Business Journal

Anthem Blue Cross has withdrawn its application to participate in the small business marketplace at Covered California, health plan officials announced Friday. The state health benefit exchange used to require that a health plan interested in the program for individuals also had to apply to participate in the small business marketplace. That rule was eliminated in June, Anthem spokesman Darrel Ng said.

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Anthem Blue Cross shuns insurance market for small businesses
Los Angeles Times

Health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross is spurning California’s new insurance market for small businesses, a potential setback in the state’s rollout of the federal healthcare law. Anthem, a unit of WellPoint Inc., is California’s largest insurer for small employers. The company’s surprising move raised concerns about the state’s ability to offer competitive rates and attract businesses to its new Covered California exchange that opens Jan. 1. The federal Affordable Care Act left it up to health insurers to decide whether they wanted to sell in these government-run marketplaces.

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Berkeley orders Sutter Health’s Alta Bates to file details on community benefits
Sacramento Business Journal

The Berkeley City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday night to require Sutter Health’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center to provide an annual report to the council with specific detail on the charity care and community benefits reported on tax returns and the value of these benefits to Berkeley residents. The resolution also includes a provision to schedule a council work session on the topic.

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USC closes deal to purchase Verdugo Hills Hospital
Imperial Valley News

The University of Southern California (USC) has expanded its medical services in the Foothill communities of Los Angeles County with the acquisition of Verdugo Hills Hospital, a 158-bed hospital in Glendale, California.

The deal, which closed July 16, 2013, adds the new USC Verdugo Hills Hospital to Keck Medicine of USC.

USC Verdugo Hills Hospital will provide residents of the Glendale-La Cañada Flintridge areas greater access to world-class specialized care, clinical trials and breakthrough technology while retaining the convenience and personal touch of a community hospital.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?
HealthyCal.org

Below Twin Peaks’ epic views of San Francisco rests a city health icon dating back to the Gold Rush era that today offers high-tech health services for underserved San Franciscans in a glittering facility brimming with art, light and individualized care. The dazzling Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center has proved so inviting after its three-building expansion in 2010 – with spacious hallways, sun-drenched rooms, and sophisticated technology – it has visitors gaping in jaw-dropping admiration.

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