News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospital group warns of ‘health care dominoes’ falling with Medi-Cal cuts
Sacramento Business Journal

As California lawmakers settle back down to business following their summer recess, California hospital leaders warn the state’s health care safety net is threatened by looming Medi-Cal budget cuts. In July, the 96-bed Palomar Continuing Care Center in Escondido announced plans to close this fall. This could be the first of many “health care dominoes” likely to fall unless lawmakers and the Brown Administration reverse the cuts, warned Duane Dauner, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association.

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Against Expectations, Health Care Reform Shows Signs Of Working
Forbes

U.S. attempts at health care reform, centered on the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “ObamaCare”) have created controversy and evoked much criticism and cynicism. I and others have observed that the ACA is much stronger on coverage extension than on cost control. But, we are now seeing evidence that cost growth is moderating.

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Supply chain decisions become more strategic as costs, outcomes are weighed
Modern Healthcare

The hospital supply chain is becoming more strategic and taking a more prominent role in guiding decisions that weigh clinical outcomes against the costs of medical supplies, devices and prescription drugs. But it still has a long way to go.

That sentiment was front and center at last week’s Association for Healthcare Resource and Materials Management conference in San Diego. AHRMM, which is part of the American Hospital Association, represents healthcare supply chain professionals.

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Hospital HIE Use Up 41%, ONC Says
Health Leaders Media

Health information exchanges between hospitals and other providers jumped 41% from 2008 to 2012, according to federal government research published this week in Health Affairs. The study, led by National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Farzad Mostashari, MD, examined national surveys and found that six in 10 hospitals routinely swapped electronic health information with providers and hospitals beyond their walls in 2012.

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A lot of unions are going to end up hating Obamacare
Washington Post

In 2018, the Affordable Care Act will begin levying a tax on unusually expensive health-care plans. The tax will be 40 percent on each premium dollar over $10,200 for individual plans and $27,500 for family plans.

It’s one of the most powerful cost control provisions in the bill. It’s so powerful, in fact, that there’s real evidence that it’s already working, despite the fact that it won’t go into effect for four years. But because it’s working, it’s going to make a lot of people who get good employer-based benefits really unhappy — including some of the law’s supporters, like labor unions.

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Citing Obamacare, Employers Tell Retirees To Seek Their Own Coverage
Forbes

Employer retiree health care coverage, which has been deteriorating for years amid high health care costs and waning employer interest, is headed for bigger changes thanks to the Affordable Care Act, a new study shows. More than 40 percent of employers have eliminated their traditional group health coverage for retirees over the age of 65 in favor of giving these former employees a defined amount of money for them to buy their coverage on the individual Medicare plan market, according to a new survey of more than 540 companies by employee benefits consulting firm Aon AON -0.22% Hewitt (AON).

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Gaming new health exchanges won’t be that easy, backers say
Sacramento Bee

The Obama administration is trying to quiet growing concern that people will lie about their incomes and other personal information in order to land larger health insurance-premium tax credits, the cash assistance that will help millions pay for coverage next year.

Once health plan enrollment begins on new state insurance exchanges in October, an estimated 7 million people are expected to purchase individual and small-group coverage by the end of March.

The tax credits aim to help low– and moderate-income people pay for big chunks of their premiums.

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Obamacare May Be Headed Back to the Supreme Court
Bloomberg.com

The legality of the Affordable Care Act appeared settled when the Supreme Court upheld the law last year. Not so, it turns out. Scores of lawsuits around the country are targeting parts of Obamacare, making another high court showdown all but inevitable and raising the possibility that some provisions in the health-care overhaul could be dismantled. “This law is going to be litigated up and down for years,” says Jonathan Adler, who directs the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve School of Law.

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Sebelius pans ObamaCare ‘rate shock’ predictions
The Hill

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius criticized state predictions that insurance rates will rise under ObamaCare, calling them “just factually incorrect.” President Obama’s top health official panned projected rate increases in states like Ohio and Indiana and promised to release complete information on the rates in September.

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Employers urge more clarity on ObamaCare mandate delay
The Hill

A group of service-industry employers is asking the Obama administration for more clarity on the delay of ObamaCare’s employer mandate, specifically how the decision will affect past guidance on the policy. The Employers for Flexibility in Healthcare (E-FLEX) Coalition wrote to three Cabinet secretaries on Monday asking for details on how previously released transition rules will apply in light of the mandate deferral.

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A Health Plan for Rugged Individualists
The Health Care Blog

In his “The Great American Health Care Divide,” Brad DeLong laments the great ideological divide that has so long prevented this great country from developing a coherent national health policy. I am glad to have Brad’s company, because I have whined about the same divide for several decades now, as evidenced by my “Turning Our Gaze from Bread and Circus Games,” penned in 1995 and “Is there hope for the uninsured?”

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Exchanges ‘on target’ for Oct. 1, Sebelius says
Modern Healthcare

Health insurance exchanges in every state are set to go live in 18 weeks, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promises that open enrollment will begin as scheduled.

“We are on target and ready to flip the switch on Oct. 1,” Sebelius said during a conference call with reporters. Thirteen states, she noted, recently have announced that approved rates on the exchanges will be about 20% lower than previously estimated, and lower than what consumers were paying for comparable plans before.

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Closure, Cutbacks in Hospital-Based Skilled- Nursing Facilities Hit Patients, Families Hard
PR Newswire

As state lawmakers return to Sacramento today after a month-long summer recess, California’s hospital leaders have warned that the state’s health care safety net is on life-support because of looming Medi-Cal budget cuts. According to the California Hospital Association (CHA), last month’s announcement that the 96-bed Palomar Continuing Care Center in Escondido will close this fall due to pending Medi-Cal cuts is “the first of many health care dominoes that are likely to fall” unless legislators and the Administration reverse course and prevent the deep payment reductions from being implemented.

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ONC guide gives advice on EHR software, services
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals and office-based physicians not yet using an electronic health-record system can get some free help from the federal government on what to expect when contracting to buy EHR software or services. The 25-page guide, “EHR Contracts: Key Contract Terms for Users to Understand”, was prepared by Westat, a Rockville, Md., research organization under contract with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS.

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eHealth reaches 36-state agreement
Sacramento Business Journal

eHealth Inc. has reached a written agreement with the federal government that sets the stage for the company to help enroll residents in 36 states who are eligible for tax subsidies and want insurance coverage through the new federal health benefits exchange. The Mountain View online health insurance company has a large call center and executive office in Gold River. eHealth will become a “web-broker entity” recognized by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees government health care programs.

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‘Perverse Incentives’ Perpetuate Use of Disproven Medical Treatments
Health Leaders Media

Flawed research too often prompts doctors and hospitals to rush in technologies or practices which subsequent studies resoundingly refute. Yet despite solid contradicting evidence, some doctors take years to change their recommended care, and others just don’t.

That’s the conclusion of researchers who looked at 146 medical practices based on studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, whose conclusions were reversed by subsequent scientific trials within the next 10 years.

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Sutter uses smaller heart pump to help patient waiting for transplant
Sacramento Business Journal

Ron Walters, 67, is expected to head home later Monday with a small heart pump in his chest that eventually will allow him to resume normal activity while he waits for a transplant. The new ventricular assist system by HeartWare was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November. Walters is the first patient to be implanted with the device at Sutter Memorial Hospital, which houses the only heart transplant program in the region. Because of its small size — the device fits into the palm of the hand — the pump is easier to install and the patient recovers faster.

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Sutter Health’s new Shared Services Center keeps office spaces open
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Health’s new back office services center in Roseville has 560 employees, but another 275 will join them over the next six weeks. By the end of 2015, Sutter expects to employ more than 1,300 administrative staff at the 300,000-square-foot building formerly occupied by Hewlett Packard Co. Several business service departments are consolidating at what Sutter is calling its Shared Services Center, including finance, human resources, supply management, bill coding and processing, credential verification and a patient call center.

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MemorialCare to stay in Fountain Valley
Los Angeles Business Journal

MemorialCare Health System has plans to buy the Fountain Valley City Center, the building that houses its corporate headquarters. Financial terms were not disclosed. The deal includes 15 acres and 300,000 square feet of property. MemorialCare is also looking to acquire property nearby for additional parking. MemorialCare said it has 1,500 employees at that location.

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Mountain View’s El Camino Hospital Cancer Center’s brighter walls help patients heal
The Mercury News

Offering light amid gloom, freshly painted forests of birch trees adorn the once-bland walls of El Camino Hospital Cancer Center.

The art — soothing and serene — is an effort by 25 volunteer artists, organized by the nonprofit Rooms That Rock 4 Chemo, to ease the wrenching experience of malignant disease.

“The beauty will add some smiles and comfort, to make you feel more at home, on a scary journey,” said San Carlos breast cancer patient Amanda Cardenas, 35, who completed 12 rounds of chemotherapy at the hospital last week.

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Stanford drops plan for medical offices
San Francisco Business Times

Stanford University has agreed to drop plans for medical offices on an eight-acre site along El Camino Real in Menlo Park, the Palo Alto Daily News reports. The concession to neighbors concerned about traffic was in tended to move plans along for the site, currently occupied by car dealerships. Stanford also agreed to a number of other requirements, such as funding a pedestrian tunnel under CalTrain tracks.

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Health care alliance begins to pay off for S.F.
San Francisco Chronicle

While the future of Obamacare is far from settled, at least one model of payment and care promoted under the law is starting to pay off for San Francisco and thousands of patients. A formal alliance of seven health organizations – a major health insurer, San Francisco’s health system for its employees and the hospitals and medical groups that care for them – saved the city $10 million in premiums over the course of a year. The alliance was an outgrowth of the federal Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, which encourages the formation of so-called accountable care organizations to try to cut health costs without sacrificing quality.

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Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, Natividad Medical Center again talk collaboration
Monterey Herald

Two of the area’s largest health care providers have announced they will begin formal discussions to see if they can work together.

Monterey County officials “expressed concern for the future of Natividad Medical Center” during a meeting with Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital officials in mid-July, and asked if the public health care district would “consider some form of collaboration,” according to a “fact sheet” from Salinas Valley Memorial.

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Salinas prostate controversy: Government report recommends doctors report financial interest in treatment
Monterey Herald

A nonpartisan congressional watchdog agency has spoken out on a controversial medical billing practice that rocked Monterey County medical circles last year. In a lengthy report released this week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommends Congress take action to require doctors to disclose their financial interest in X-ray treatments for prostate cancer sufferers.

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California Pacific names Dr. Vernon Giang as chief medical executive
San Francisco Business Times

California Pacific Medical Center, one of the city’s and the region’s largest hospitals, has named Vernon Giang, M.D., as its new chief medical executive. Giang, who had been president and medical director of Pacific Inpatient Medical Group, a 51-physician group of hospitalists who provide inpatient coverage at CPMC, succeeds Dr. Allan Pont. Pont has retired, according to California Pacific spokesman Dean Fryer.

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