News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospitals file ballot initiative to protect Medi-Cal pay
Sacramento Business Journal

The California Hospital Association filed a ballot initiative Thursday aimed at ensuring hospital funds intended to pay for care provided to Medi-Cal patients are not diverted by lawmakers for other purposes. About 800,000 signatures will be needed to qualify the measure for the November 2014 ballot. If approved by voters, the measure would prohibit the governor and the Legislature from imposing a provider fee on hospitals unless the money and matching federal funds are used to pay for hospital care provided to Medi-Cal patients.

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Federal exchanges also likely to see lower rates
Modern Healthcare

President Barack Obama last week touted an HHS report that found 2014 premiums for individual-market health plans in state-run insurance exchanges will be lower than those for comparable, currently available plans. But that HHS report didn’t address rates in the federally run exchanges in 34 states.

Although those states with “federally facilitated” exchanges have until July 31 to submit rates from insurers to HHS for approval, indications are that FFEs also will see lower rates. The issue of rates in the federally run exchanges was raised Monday when congressional Republicans sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking for information on the rates in the exchanges that will be run by the feds.

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Poll: Even Supporters of Obamacare Are Ambivalent About the Law
National Journal Magazine

Opponents of President Obama’s health care law overwhelmingly believe the Affordable Care Act will worsen the quality of their care, and even a plurality of the law’s supporters don’t think it will improve their health care, though they think it will benefit the poor and uninsured. These findings from this week’s United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll underscore why the law has become so politically precarious for the White House.

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HPV Vaccine Not Reaching Enough Girls, C.D.C. Says
New York Times

The very low vaccination rate for teenage girls against the human papillomavirus — the most common sexually transmitted infection and a principal cause of cervical cancer — did not improve at all from 2011 to 2012, and health officials on Thursday said a survey found that doctors were often failing to bring it up or recommend it when girls came in for other reasons. Only 33 percent of teenage girls had finished the required three doses of the vaccine in 2012, officials said, putting the United States close to the bottom of developed countries in coverage.

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Leapfrog Group online tool helps purchasers calculate cost of hospital errors
Modern Healthcare

Slightly more than a year after the Leapfrog Group unveiled its letter grades for hospital safety, the employer-driven not-for-profit organization has introduced an online tool to help purchasers calculate the annual costs of hospital errors, accidents and infections. The hidden surcharge calculator, developed by a team of experts in patient safety, hospital finance and policy, is designed to allow employers to determine how much they pay each year in unnecessary medical-related costs.

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Ads for health care law to cost at least $684 million
San Francisco Chronicle

It will make you stronger. It will give you peace of mind and make you feel like a winner. Health insurance is what the whole country has been talking about, so don’t be left out.

Sound like a sales pitch? Get ready for a lot more. As President Obama’s health care law moves from theory to reality in the coming months, its success may hinge on whether the best minds in advertising can reach one of the hardest-to-find parts of the population: people without health coverage.

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Healthcare fight a major obstacle to averting shutdown
Modern Healthcare

There hasn’t been a government shutdown in nearly two decades, but top lawmakers on Capitol Hill are finding trickier-than-usual obstacles in their path as they try to come up with must-do legislation to keep federal agencies running after Sept. 30.

Conservatives making a last stand against President Barack Obama’s new healthcare law and Senate Democrats’ resistance to a $20 billion spending cut wanted by many, if not most, Republicans are two of the major problems confronting House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other GOP leaders.

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Obamacare enrollment efforts, and message wars, heat up
Sacramento Bee

Amid a resurgent effort by critics to attack the new health care law, the Obama administration and its allies are focusing on getting millions of Americans enrolled in coverage next year and making sure the new state health insurance exchanges will be ready for open enrollment in October.

But convincing a skeptical public to heed the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” will be a major challenge when the bulk of the health care overhaul is fully implemented next year.

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HPV vaccination rate stalls. ‘We’re dropping the ball,’ CDC says
Los Angeles Times

Although HPV vaccinations can reduce the risk of cancer-causing infections in adolescent girls by half, immunization rates across the United States have stalled over the last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At a Thursday press briefing, health officials said they were alarmed to find that despite the vaccine’s proven effectiveness and safety, both parents and doctors were failing to ensure that teens received the three-dose human papillomavirus vaccine along with other recommended shots.

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Report: Teen HPV vaccination rate still lagging
San Francisco Chronicle

Only about half of U.S. teenage girls have gotten a controversial cervical cancer vaccine — a rate that’s changed little in three years.

“We’re dropping the ball,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This is a huge disappointment.”

About 54 percent of teenage girls have received at least one of the three HPV shots. Only a third was fully immunized with all three doses.

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California Hospitals File Ballot Initiative To Protect Medi-Cal Funding
PrimeNewswire

In a move aimed at ensuring that hospital funds intended to pay for care provided to low-income Californians are not diverted by lawmakers for other, non-hospital patient care purposes, the California Hospital Association (CHA) today filed ballot initiative language with the state Attorney General’s (AG) office. The initiative, called the Medi-Cal Funding and Accountability Act of 2014, will prohibit the Legislature and the Administration from imposing a provider fee (tax) on hospitals unless the monies and matching federal funds are used to pay for hospital care provided to Medi-Cal patients, which include the elderly, the disabled and children.

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Ballot measure seeks to raise cap on medical negligence damages
Sacramento Business Journal

Trial attorneys and a bereaved dad who lost two children to medical negligence filed a proposed ballot measure Thursday that seeks to raise the $250,000 state cap on pain and suffering damages. Proponents must gather 750,000 valid signatures to place the measure before voters in November 2014. If successful, it would adjust the noneconomic damages cap in the California Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act — better known as MICRA — to account for inflation and provide annual adjustments in the future.

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Initiative to lift California medical malpractice cap filed
Sacramento Bee

The drive to raise the amount victims can recover in medical malpractice lawsuits may be going to California’s ballot box. A coalition that includes the Consumer Attorneys of California, an organization representing trial lawyers, has been lobbying the Legislature aggressively this year to lift a $250,000 ceiling on pain and suffering damages in malpractice cases. They argue that the current cap, enacted by the 1975 Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, is outdated and insufficient to cover the prolonged effects of doctor negligence or a botched medical procedure.

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Ballot measure targets doctors overprescribing pain meds
Sacramento Business Journal

California’s low medical malpractice cap is the hot item in a proposed ballot initiative filed Thursday, but the measure also seeks to stop physician drug abuse and keep doctors from over-prescribing pain medications. Dubbed the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, the measure seeks to address the reasons for a family tragedy caused when a drugged driver who doctor-shopped for painkillers killed the two children on a roadside nine years ago.

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Doctors, hospitals join to fight changes to malpractice awards
Los Angeles Times

The fight to raise the cap on awards in medical malpractice cases was officially joined on Thursday with groups backed by litigators filing a ballot initiative that could be before voters next year, and a coalition of doctors and hospitals responding with a new political committee to defeat the proposal.

At issue is a 38-year-old California law that limits the amount of money that juries can award for non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000.

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IOM Rejects Geography-Based Value Index for Medicare
Health Leaders Media

The Institute of Medicine spoke out strongly this week against the federal government’s use of geographically based value indexes as a way to address the significant variations in Medicare payments across regions of the nation. “Geographies don’t make decisions. Providers and provider organizations do,” said Doug Hastings, a Washington, DC-based attorney and a member of the IOM committee that drafted the report: Geographic Variation in Health Care Spending and Promotion of High-Value Care.

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Medical Error Cost Calculator Riles AHA
Health Leaders Media

The Leapfrog Group’s new “Hidden Surcharge Calculator,” a web-based tool, enables employers to add up how much of their health premium dollars go to manage hospital medical errors that harm their employees. The tool determines the costs based on the safety track records of each hospital where their workers received care. “Employers already know they’re spending a lot of money on hospitals when their employees need acute care,” says Leah Binder, Leapfrog President and CEO.

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Cigna to require counseling prior to some genetic tests
Modern Healthcare

The health insurer Cigna Corp. will begin requiring patients who are at risk for breast cancer, colorectal cancer syndromes or Long QT syndrome and are considering genetic testing to first receive genetic counseling, in an effort to reduce inappropriate utilization of genetic tests.

By first requiring genetic counseling, which is much less expensive than some genetic tests, Cigna said it hopes to reduce inappropriate utilization and limit some of the anxiety and physical harm that can sometimes occur when a patient receives a genetic test that is not appropriate.

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Laws expand birth control access
HealthyCal.org

Recent federal and state laws strive to make it easier for women to access birth control in California, but clinics and insurers say that the changes have not increased demand for contraceptives. A state law that took effect earlier this year allows registered nurses to dispense hormonal contraceptives to expand access to women in rural areas, where doctors and nurse practitioners are harder to come by than in urban areas.

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Nevada mental hospital accepts loss of accreditation
Sacramento Bee

A Nevada state psychiatric hospital under fire for busing hundreds of mentally ill patients to cities across the nation over the past five years will not appeal a decision stripping it of its accreditation.

A committee of the Joint Commission, an independent agency that accredits hospitals nationwide, last week issued a preliminary denial of accreditation for Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas, citing multiple violations of quality care standards, many related to patient safety.

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HCA’s Perlin named chair-elect designate of AHA Board of Trustees
Modern Healthcare

Dr. Jonathan Perlin, chief medical officer and president of clinical and physician services at Nashville-based HCA, was elected chair-elect designate of the American Hospital Association Board of Trustees during the AHA Health Forum and Leadership Summit in San Diego. He will take over as chairman in 2015. Earlier this year, another HCA official, Senior Vice President Victor Campbell, took over as chairman of the board for the association that represents for-profit hospitals, the Federation of American Hospitals.

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Fight brews over mandates under HealthySF law
San Francisco Examiner

Business leaders are raising concerns about possible conflicts between San Francisco’s landmark health care law and President Barack Obama’s federal Affordable Care Act, pressuring city officials to re-examine required employer-spending mandates. As the federal law commonly known as Obamacare goes into effect next year — requiring individuals to have health insurance — the old debates over San Francisco’s Health Care Security Ordinance, often referred to as Healthy San Francisco, have resurfaced.

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S.F. Mayor Ed Lee appoints group to reconcile Obamacare, Healthy S.F.
San Francisco Business Times

Let’s take another, closer look at health reform, says Mayor Ed Lee, and see what makes sense. Following recent controversy over how San Francisco’s Healthy San Francisco program and citywide employer mandate interacts with Obamacare, Mayor Lee is reconstituting the city’s Universal Healthcare Council to review implementation of the federal law in San Francisco. But Lee insisted that the city remains committed to universal access within San Francisco’s city limits, and that Healthy San Francisco will continue, “funded largely through our own general fund support in addition to the financial support of our many provider partners [meaning local hospitals] and will remain for those ineligible for federal benefits.”

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Natividad seeks funding for design changes
The Californian - Salinas

Natividad Medical Center this morning will ask for $450,000 for an interior design makeover, but it won’t be the run-of-the-mill new curtains and drapes.

The nearly half-million dollars is the price tag to hire Gallun Snow Associates, billed by hospital officials as experts in efficient hospital design, to draw up plans for upgrades among key diagnostic and treatment areas of the Salinas hospital.

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Kaiser nurses protest at First 5 meeting
Sacramento Business Journal

Registered nurses from Kaiser Permanente and other advocates showed up at a meeting of the First 5 California commission meeting in Sacramento Thursday to protest appointment of their boss to the group. Kaiser CEO George Halvorson was appointed to the commission by Gov. Jerry Brown in May. At the helm at Kaiser since 2002, he plans to retire at the end of the year. The protesters are members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

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Teaching lab at Kaiser’s Modesto hospital makes learning hands-on
Modesto Bee

It wasn’t quite a royal birth, but the simulated delivery of a newborn caused a lot of excitement for high schoolers at Kaiser Permanente’s Modesto Medical Center. Lucy Vang, 17, of Stockton hopes to become an obstetrician and said time in the simulation lab Thursday was inspiring. “We got to see the baby coming out. It was the first time I’ve seen a birth,” she said. As often happens in the teaching lab, the simulation went south as soon as the newborn arrived, giving students practice they need without any lives on the line.

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Use a card, lose your privacy?
Los Angeles Times

“Good news — you’ve been accepted!” the letter says. “Get up to 75% off when you use these free cards at your favorite pharmacy!”

Enclosed are two plastic cards from National Prescription Savings Network that include personal “member identification numbers” and the pledge that “you will not be turned down for a pre-existing condition.”

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