News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Study: Single-Payer Health System Feasible, Could Save $1.8 Trillion in 10 Years
Becker's Hospital Review

A new study shows that expanding Medicare to every American citizen would not only achieve universal coverage and trillions in savings, but it’s also feasible to implement based on legislation that has already been proposed.

Gerald Friedman, PhD, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, released his study today in Washington, D.C., at a congressional briefing. The basis of Dr. Friedman’s research is HR 676 — the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act — which is a bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) in February that would establish a single-payer healthcare program. The bill has been proposed for 11 straight years.

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Docs being called to use more effective treatments
Modern Healthcare

Physicians could do far more to use prescription drugs more cost-effectively—in some cases, by recommending exercise or better nutrition before prescribing them in the first place, say a team of Dartmouth University researchers. The researchers are calling for more nuanced measures of prescribing performance that can be tied to physician compensation as part of payment reform. Dr. Nancy Morden, an associate professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, and Dartmouth professors Dr. Lisa Schwartz, Dr. Elliott Fisher and Dr. Steven Woloshin, say that widely used measures of quality do too little to encourage physicians to use the most effective therapies or treatment options.

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Congress should consider clarifying FDA’s authority over compounding, GAO says
Modern Healthcare

Congress should think about clarifying the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to oversee drug compounding, the Government Accountability Office concluded in a report released on Wednesday.

A deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to contaminated compounded drugs in 2012 led to a series of federal hearings on Capitol Hill last fall. In those heated discussions, FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg implored lawmakers for more clarity on her agency’s authority over compounding, a process in which a pharmacist combines, mixes or changes ingredients to create a drug that is tailored to an individual’s needs.

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Sausalito-based company using ozone to kill antibiotic-resistant super bug found in hospitals
Marin Independent Journal

A Sausalito-based company has developed a way of harnessing ozone — referred to as smog when it occurs in the lower atmosphere — to kill a host of hospital-acquired infections, including a strain of bacterium that is resistant to many types of antibiotics. The company, Medizone International, has developed a device that delivers a mixture of ozone gas and hydrogen peroxide vapor to zap the growing list of super bugs turning up in hospitals and nursing homes.

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Managing Physician Skepticism About the Affordable Care Act
The Health Care Blog

Let’s play a game. Today we are going to pretend you are a Vice President for Medical Affairs, or a Chief of Staff, or a health system CEO about to announce a collaboration with a major health insurer like CMS or a regional Blues Plan. You’ve done your homework, read the journals, listened to the experts, anticipated the future and haven’t applied enough skepticism in reading all those pro-EHR and pro-bundled payment posts on THCB. You really believe payment reform and the EHR are the way to go.

You’ve called a meeting of your organization’s physician staff – the professionals you are counting on, caring for all those patients – and your job is go to the front of the auditorium and convince them that the success of your new venture relies on lowering health care costs with new payment arrangements that align incentives, in tandem with the launch of a new EHR.

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Covered California’s small-biz liaison resigns
Sacramento Business Journal

Michael Lujan, the man responsible for marketing California’s new health care exchange to small businesses, submitted his resignation Wednesday. Lujan was head of sales and marketing for Covered California’s Small Business Health Options Program, the state’s insurance marketplace for businesses with fewer than 50 people. He was charged with traveling around the state and explaining to employers the massive changes expected with the Affordable Care Act when it kicks off. Covered California plans to begin enrollment in October.

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Conservative group launches national attack on Obamacare — in progressive bastion of SF
San Francisco Chronicle

The conservative Americans for Prosperity, which calls itself “the nation’s largest grassroots free market group,” will use the liberal bastion of San Francisco as a stage Thursday — for the launch of a national campaign against Obamacare, organizers say. AFP, aiming to push the message that “big insurance” — not taxpayers — will be the big beneficiaries of Obamacare, will kick off its event at 10:45 a.m. in front of Blue Shield headquarters in San Francisco.

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City ponders future of health care
Bay Area Reporter

The coming implementation of national health care reform is sparking some concern about what will happen with the coverage San Francisco already provides for thousands of people. But according to at least one city official, there shouldn’t be a problem. At a recent hearing of the Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee, Deputy City Attorney John Givner said the Affordable Care Act “includes some language that says it does not pre-empt local laws” such as the health care security ordinance, and that the ordinance actually complements the national law.

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Lift health care reform’s deductible cap
USA Today

The Obama administration recently announced that it would delay until 2015 the Affordable Care Act’s “employer mandate,” which will require all companies with at least 50 full-time employees to offer health insurance or pay a fine.

The delay represents a big help to large firms. Now it’s time for the administration to throw a similar lifeline to small businesses — by lifting the law’s cap on annual deductibles. Doing so would make insurance more affordable for smaller firms — and thereby help the White House meet its goal of expanding access to coverage.

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Treatment for mental health patients to expand at Community Hospital
Long Beach Press-Telegram

Community Hospital has launched a new outpatient psychiatric clinic to provide evaluations and treatment for those with mild to moderate depression and other mental health illnesses.

The program — part of the MemorialCare Center for Mental Health & Wellness at Community Hospital Long Beach — introduces a new, noninvasive treatment for depression, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

Dr. Todd Hutton, a psychiatrist at Community Hospital, said the TMS procedure is more humane than shock treatment.

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Inpatient or outpatient? It makes a difference with Medicare
Santa Ynez Valley News

When you go to a hospital, does it make any difference if you’re considered an “inpatient” or an “outpatient?”

Yes, it does.

Your hospital status (whether the hospital classifies you as an inpatient or outpatient) affects how much you pay for hospital services like X-rays, drugs and lab tests.

It also may affect whether Medicare will cover care you get in a skilled nursing facility.

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Online courses prepare docs for new informatics certification
Modern Healthcare

Online courses are now being offered for physicians preparing to take the first-ever American Board of Medical Specialties certification exam for clinical informatics. Approved as a subspecialty in 2011, clinical informatics certification will be offered through the ABMS’ preventive medicine and pathology boards. The certification exam will be given between Oct. 7 and 18.

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EHealth online health exchange signs preliminary agreement with feds
San Francisco Business Times

Mountain View’s eHealth Inc., an online health exchange that offers access to individual and family insurance coverage, says it’s reached a preliminary agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that puts it on the path to enroll residents of 36 states as part of Obamacare. Signing the so-called “Web-broker entity agreement” gives eHealth access to the federal electronic data hub, a critical first step in enrolling “subsidy-eligible consumers online” through federally facilitated health exchanges, officials at eHealth (NASDAQ: EHTH) said July 31.

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Bill Would Require Kaiser Permanente to Disclose Details on Rates, Spending
Becker's Hospital Review

A California bill would require Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente to disclose details on how it calculates health plan rates and spends money, according to a Los Angeles Times report. The system offered the most affordable insurance option in 2007, but some of its customers are now complaining the company is no longer a bargain and cannot fully explain why premiums continue to rise. The legislation is seen as a sign of pushback from some interest groups, including city officials, large labor unions and the AARP.

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‘Morning after’ pill goes on sale Thursday in pharmacies and grocery stores, available to anyone
Inside Bay Area

The “morning after” pill can be bought today from the shelves of most pharmacies and grocery stores, available to anyone of any age without restrictions, in a step that profoundly eases access to emergency contraception.

This simple relocation of the once-controversial “Plan B One Step” — next to condoms, tampons and sanitary napkins, instead of behind pharmacy counters — represents the final step in a complex decadelong legal battle to make it more easily available to women who want to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.

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Weight prejudice shows up in doctors’ practices
Sacramento Bee

Stigma, prejudice and bias have been themes in the news. Recently, commentators speculated about the Supreme Court decisions about affirmative action and gay marriage – policies that seek to assure equal treatment under the law. But biases cannot be legislated or outlawed – they are, after all, how we feel.

One group that suffers greatly from bias and discrimination is fat people. By the way, I would normally not call a large person “fat” because it sounds pejorative, but I am told by my fat friends that they prefer the term “fat” to medical terms like obese, or to euphemisms like large-size, overweight, chubby or “of great proportions.”

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New hospital surgery rankings released for L.A. area hospitals
Los Angeles Times

Consumer Reports issued a new ratings guide Wednesday showing how hospitals across California and the U.S. do in caring for patients during and after surgeries. Two Los Angeles area hospitals – Centinela Hospital Medical Center and St. John’s Health – earned the highest rating overall. Citrus Valley Medical Center’s Inter-Community Campus, Huntington Memorial Hospital and Northridge Hospital Medical Center-Roscoe Boulevard Campus earned the lowest.

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Insurer Cigna’s 2Q profit jumps 33 percent
San Francisco Chronicle

Cigna Corp.’s second-quarter net income jumped 33 percent, propelled by its core Global Health Care segment, and the health insurer raised its earnings forecast for 2013.

The Bloomfield, Conn., company’s stock edged up in premarket trading Thursday after it announced the results, which trumped Wall Street expectations for earnings.

Cigna said it earned $505 million, or $1.76 per share, in the three months that ended June 30. That compares to earnings of $380 million, or $1.31 per share, in last year’s quarter.

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Healthcare Reform: Natividad Looks To Prepare Central Coast

Central Coast News got a first-hand look at Natividad Medical Center’s new high tech clinics that are ready now and for when next year rolls around.

Next January, of course, is when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will fully be in use.

“So to give you an idea how busy the emergency department is, we see about 4,000 patients a year,” Natividad’s Andrea Rosenberg said.

The amount of patients could be on the rise when the ACA comes into play.