News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Former Medicare administrators asked to offer doc-pay ‘fix’
Modern Healthcare

The senior Democratic senator overseeing Medicare legislation directed four of the program’s former administrators to develop within a month both a short-term and a long-term “fix” to the program’s physician payment system, which faces a 30.9% cut in January.

The directive by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, followed a discussion by his panel of the chief barriers and opportunities to overhauling that much-maligned payment system.

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HHS moves to streamline reporting, update e-prescribing requirements
Modern Healthcare

HHS issued final rules to streamline reporting requirements for hospitals and update technical requirements for electronic prescribing that the Obama administration says could save more than $5 billion in federal funding over five years. One regulation eliminates outdated hospital management requirements —and some reporting rules—in the Medicare Conditions of Participation for those hospitals that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients, which is expected to save about $940 million annually.

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AHIMA to HHS: Don’t delay ICD-10 upgrade
Modern Healthcare

In an eight-page letter to HHS (PDF), the American Health Information Management Association called on HHS to stay the course and keep to the original schedule for the federally mandated upgrade to the International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision of diagnostic and procedural codes ICD-10 upgrade, which had been set for Oct. 1, 2013.

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Pill to prevent HIV gets an FDA endorsement
Los Angeles Times

The first drug shown to prevent HIV infection won the endorsement of an FDA advisory panel Thursday, clearing the way for a landmark approval in the 30-year fight against the virus that causes AIDS.

The Food and Drug Administration panel recommended approval of the daily pill Truvada for healthy people who are at high risk of contracting HIV, including gay and bisexual men and heterosexual couples with one HIV-positive partner.

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Unintended Consequence for Dialysis Patients as Drug Rule Changes
New York Times

A shift last year by the federal government in how it pays for drugs to treat dialysis patients may have had an unintended and potentially dire consequence, according to new research: a significant jump in blood transfusions for patients who now may not be getting enough of the medications.

The findings are seen by some experts as a stark illustration of how the government’s reimbursement policies can drive the practice of medicine.

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FDA advisers recommend approving Arena weight-loss drug
USA Today

The diet drug choices available to desperate dieters may be expanding soon. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted (18 to 4) Thursday to recommend approval of the new prescription diet drug lorcaserin. It marks the second obesity drug this year that the FDA advisory committee has recommended for approval. The agency often follows the panel’s advice but doesn’t have to.

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FDA warns against multiple sclerosis treatment
Los Angeles Times

An experimental treatment for multiple sclerosis has caused death, strokes, nerve damage and abdominal bleeding and has no proven benefits for sufferers of the disease, the Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday.

Known as liberation therapy, the treatment targets chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency — or CCSVI — a narrowing of the veins in the head and neck. It involves inserting balloons or stents into veins to widen them in an attempt to relieve the symptoms of MS.

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House panel OKs FDA user-fee legislation
Modern Healthcare

The House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously voted to approve the Food and Drug Administration Reform Act, which will reauthorize the drug and device user-fee programs and authorize new generic and biosimilar user-fee programs.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted to approve legislation that would also reauthorize and authorize previous and new user-fee programs in April.

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Chinese Hospital plan wins healthy approval hase of hospital project
San Francisco Examiner

Part of the Chinese Hospital’s grand vision was approved unanimously Thursday with glowing support from the Planning Commission.

The commission signed off on a special permit for the hospital to provide medical services at 827 Pacific Ave. as a complement to its main campus at 835 Jackson St. The move frees up needed space at the main facility.

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Diet Drug Wins Panel’s Approval
New York Times

Government advisers recommended approval on Thursday of a weight-loss drug developed by Arena Pharmaceuticals, making it likely that a new obesity treatment will reach the market this year. An advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted 18 to 4, with one abstention, that the benefits of the drug, lorcaserin, outweighed the risks.

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Hospital upgrade breaks ground
Sonoma Valley Sun

The long awaited — and debated — seismic retrofit and remodel of Sonoma Valley Hospital begins Thursday, May 10, with a ceremonial groundbreaking from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“We are and have been, thanks to our wonderful community, well on our way to our new, upgraded, state-of-the-art hospital, “ said CEO Kelly Mather.

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F.D.A. Advisory Panel Backs Preventive Use of H.I.V. Drug
New York Times

A drug already used to treat H.I.V. infection should also be approved to prevent it, an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration said on Thursday. The recommendation is the first time that government advisers have advocated giving antiviral medicine to healthy people who might be exposed through sexual activity to the virus that causes AIDS.

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Children’s hospitals saw rise in liquidity, operating margins: Fitch
Modern Healthcare

A Fitch Ratings analysis of not-for-profit children’s hospitals found that liquidity and operating margins improved between 2009 and 2011.

The analysis included 21 tax-exempt, stand-alone children’s hospitals, including 10 with ratings from Fitch. The median days’ cash on hand, one measure of liquidity, increased to 278.3 days in 2011 from 215.6 days in 2009, the report said. The median operating margin climbed to 6.9% last year from 4.1% in 2009.

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Itemized medical bills should be standard operating procedure
Los Angeles Times

It’s tough enough to be without health insurance. But do healthcare providers have to make it even worse by treating you like a moron?

Santa Monica resident Tom Wilde recently received bills from a downtown Los Angeles clinic and the L.A. County/USC Medical Center totaling almost $2,500. What exactly were the charges for? The bills didn’t say.

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Health Care Heroes award winners named
San Jose Business Journal

The Business Journal on Thursday morning honored top doctors, nurses, researchers and other health practitioners in the Silicon Valley health scene at our annual Health Care Heroes awards breakfast. About 215 people attended the event at the Computer History Museum to cheer their colleagues at valley hospitals and health clinics including Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Palo Alto Medical Center, Hospice of the Valley and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

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Sonoma Valley Hospital gets $3 million gift for emergency wing
North Bay Business Journal

Staffing company founder Gary Nelson and his wife, Marcia, are making a $3 million gift toward an extensive upgrade of Sonoma Valley Hospital, including a new emergency department and other improvements, it was announced today.

The announcement of the largest gift in the hospital’s history was made this afternoon at the groundbreaking for the $39 million project.

The gift comprises nearly half of what the Sonoma Valley Healthcare District, which oversees the hospital, is hoping to raise in capital funding for a portion of the upgrade.

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Top 5: Silicon Valley Medical Groups
San Jose Business Journal

This week the Business Journal published a list of the top 25 local medical groups. The list was ranked by the number of physicians in Silicon Valley*. Information was obtained from hospital representatives and company websites. Here is a sneak peek of the top five medical groups. In order for a medical group to be considered for the list, the total number of physicians must be provided or available.

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Hearing slated on not-for-profit financial disclosure
Modern Healthcare

Financial disclosure by not-for-profit hospitals will be one subject of a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on oversight of tax-exempt organizations.

The hearing, scheduled for May 16, will be one in a series on the tax-exempt sector to be scheduled by the Oversight Subcommittee, Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) said in a news release.

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CMS Cuts Red Tape, Providers to Save $5B
Health Leaders Media

Health providers and payers stand to save $1.1 billion in one year and $5 billion over five years because of relaxed regulatory red tape specified in two final Medicare rules released Thursday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The numerous changes are designed to eliminate or reduce what Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called “unnecessary, obsolete, or burdensome regulations” imposed on hospitals and other healthcare providers.

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