News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Task force recommends reimbursement for low-dose CT scans for lung cancer
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare providers who have been using low-dose CT scans to screen patients at high risk for lung cancer are a step closer to receiving Medicare and private insurance reimbursement for their services, thanks to the recent recommendation of an independent panel that found such screenings helpful in reducing the disease’s mortality rate. In its draft recommendation statement released Monday, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force determined there was sufficient evidence to establish that the benefits that come with screening certain patients outweighed the potential risks, a change from its position in 2004.

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‘A critical moment’: Officials talk preparations for implementation of health care reform
Southern California Public Radio

Congresswoman Maxine Waters convened federal, state and county leaders on Monday morning to discuss the status of health care reform implementation in California and, more specifically, Waters’ congressional district.

The verdict? There’s still a whole lot of work to be done. “Getting the word out is perhaps the greatest challenge we face over the next six months,” said Waters, speaking to representatives from a host of agencies and groups, including the California Endowment, Covered California, the Insure the Uninsured Project and the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County.

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Aug. 1 brings deadline to report physician payments
Modern Healthcare

While much attention was given to the decision to delay the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate by one year, another ACA deadline quietly arrives this week.

As of Aug. 1, group purchasing organizations and drug and medical-device manufacturers will have to report any “transfers of value” of $10 or more they make to doctors and teaching hospitals. The new requirement is contained in Section 6002 of the ACA and was known as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, but was rebranded by the CMS as the “Open Payment Program.” Drug samples for patient use or coupons to receive a sample will not need to be reported.

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Experts warn of dangers of overdiagnosis and treatment of cancer
Washington Post

Improved screening has resulted in the overdiagnosis and overtreatment of cancers that are not life-threatening, without significantly reducing the death rate from the disease, and the time has come to alter how cancer is detected, treated and defined, a panel of medical experts said Monday.

“Screening and patient awareness have increased the chance of identifying a spectrum of cancers, some of which are not life threatening,” a working group of the National Cancer Institute wrote in a commentary in the online version of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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The economics of nursing

Since the federal budget sequester became a reality on April 1, there has not been an immediate effect on nursing and healthcare organizations. No hospitals or long-term care facilities reported nursing layoffs directly related to the cuts, according to state and national industry organizations. But sequestration, which cuts about 5% from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ budget and 2% from Medicare reimbursements to healthcare providers in an effort to reduce the federal budget deficit, comes on top of a recent recession and a spate of state and federal belt-tightening.

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Obama Isn’t Too Worried That Delaying the Employer Mandate Is Illegal
The Atlantic

Part of what makes a seasoned politician successful is the ability to talk for a long time and say nothing. You can usually assume that anyone who makes it as far as the White House will be especially adept, and President Obama displayed that talent in an interview with the New York Times last week, a transcript of which the paper posted over the weekend. Complain about House Republicans? Check. Disavow the sequester? Check. Name-drop a Harvard professor? Check. Refuse to divulge anything about his plans for Keystone XL or the next Fed chair? Check and check.

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White House touts slow increase in health care costs
Visialia Times-Delta

Personal health care costs rose in the 12 months ending in May at the slowest rate in the last 50 years, as spending on hospital and nursing home services declined, the White House announced Monday.

Personal consumption spending rose 1.1%, Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said. Hospital readmissions rates dropped from an average of 19% to 17.9% for Medicare patients since the passage of the 2010 health care law, Krueger said.

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Wrinkle in Health Law Vexes Lawmakers’ Aides
New York Times

As President Obama barnstorms the country promoting his health care law, one audience very close to home is growing increasingly anxious about the financial implications of the new coverage: members of Congress and their personal staffs. Under a wrinkle that dates back to enactment of the law, members of Congress and thousands of their aides are required to get their coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.

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The real dollar effect of Obamacare on one California family
Long Beach Press-Telegram

How will the Affordable Care Act affect me and my family? The answer, like the law itself, is complicated. There will be as many stories about health reform as there are families. But I’m confident that most of these stories will be good.

I say this both as a health-policy wonk, with my own health policy consulting firm, and as a husband and father. My wife and I live in Sacramento and we have a 5-year-old son. My wife also happens to have a pre-existing health condition.

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Medi-Cal dental coverage to be partially restored, but not until May
Contra Costa Times

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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AMA: Medicare gains from physicians’ advice
USA Today

The success of Medicare depends on accurately assessing the impact of constant advances in science and technology on patient care. There is simply no substitute for physicians’ clinical expertise when gauging how much work and resources go into one medical service compared with another. No one knows more about what is involved in providing services to Medicare patients than the physicians who care for them.

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Bay Area Doctor Wants Cancer Out of Certain Diagnosis
NBC Bay Area

When you hear the word cancer, you automatically fear the worst. But as modern medicine has proven, that’s not always the case.

Anyone’s who ever waded through the world of medicine has probably tripped over the confusing terminology of medical jargon.

Still there’s one medical word that’s universally understood.

The word is Cancer. “Most people when they hear the word cancer, assume they’re going to die without aggressive treatment,” Dr. Laura Esserman said. But the UCSF cancer surgeon knows that’s certainly not always the case.

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There is something in the water: Pharmaceutical group rated most effective trade association by D.C. policy makers
Sacramento Business Journal

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA, is the most effective trade association in Washington, D.C., according to a survey of 456 policy leaders by APCO Worldwide. PhRMA ranked No. 1 in the four characteristics that are most important for trade associations: lobbying, multilateral impact (working effectively across executive, legislative and regulatory branches of government), local impact and membership mobilization.

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Back pain: Doctors increasingly ignore clinical guidelines
Los Angeles Times

Doctors have increasingly ignored clinical guidelines for the treatment of routine back pain by prescribing powerful and addictive narcotics instead of other recommended painkillers and by recommending unwarranted diagnostic imagery, according to a new study. Researchers at Massachusetts’ Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School based their conclusion on an examination of roughly 24,000 cases of spine problems in national databases from 1999 to 2010. Their findings appeared online Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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Hollywood workers get health care brought to them
Los Angeles Daily News

Gary Dion climbed aboard a long, sleek van one recent morning and emerged minutes later with a bandaged finger, a little less blood in his veins and a big smile.

The 55-year-old special-effects supervisor who works on the hit show “Bones” said he’s been feeling a little weak lately and wanted to know why. So when he heard that the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s mobile health clinic was stopping at Fox Studios in Century City where he works, he signed up for the chance for a physical, a blood test and an examination of a smashed-up finger.

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Health insurer Aetna’s 2Q profit rises 17 percent
San Francisco Chronicle

Aetna Inc.’s second-quarter earnings jumped 17 percent, and the health insurer raised its 2013 forecast as it reaped revenue and enrollment gains from its acquisition of fellow insurer Coventry Health Care.

The Hartford, Conn., company said Tuesday that it earned $536 million, or $1.49 per share, in the three months that ended June 30. That’s up from $457.6 million, or $1.32 per share, in last year’s second quarter.

Adjusted earnings totaled $1.52 per share, excluding capital losses and one-time items such as costs tied to the Coventry deal.

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Marin General managers want most nurses to begin working 12-hour shifts
Marin Independent Journal

Nurses at Marin General Hospital say managers there notified them earlier this month that they want most nurses to begin working 12-hour shifts.

Currently, nurses at the county’s largest hospital work a mixture of 8-, 10- and 12-hour shifts. The push for longer shifts is one of several proposed changes affecting nurses that management wants to implement.

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Prescription Drug Discount Card Saves San Diegans $11.5 Million

San Diegans have saved more than $11.5 million on prescriptions since the county launched its free drug discount card two years ago. The Coast2Coast RX program also rebates a portion of each sale back to the county. The free card is available at San Diego County libraries and at most pharmacies. County residents can use it to get discounts of up to 75 percent off the retail price of prescription drugs.

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Telegraph Hill Partners targets med-tech, health care, more with new $310 million fund
San Francisco Business Times

Telegraph Hill Partners raised a $310 million fund, the San Francisco venture capital firm said Monday, aiming the cash at expanding life sciences and health care companies. The fund, called THP III, is the firm’s largest since it was formed in 2001. “Capital commitments exceeded our target and represent a new record for THP,” said Chairman Matt Mackowski in a press release.

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When doctors set their own pay: Our view
USA Today

Some of the most important players in setting the rates that Medicare and private insurers pay doctors are — surprise — doctors themselves. And — no surprise — certain procedures end up costing more than they should.Here’s how the system works: A little-known committee run by the American Medical Association, the trade association for doctors, analyzes thousands of procedures that doctors perform and recommends “relative values” to Medicare. More often than not, Medicare accepts the AMA data for its own complex process of setting doctor reimbursement rates.