News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Urban, Rural Local Elected Officials Urge California Lawmakers to Support AB 900
PR Newswire

Local elected leaders from rural Northern California to San Diego are calling on state lawmakers to enact legislation that will help preserve access to vital health care services for California’s most vulnerable patients.

AB 900, authored by Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D – Salinas), would partially reverse Medi-Cal payment cuts approved by the Legislature in 2011 (AB 97), but placed on hold until recently due to legal challenges. On average, the cuts total 25 percent or greater for hospital-based skilled-nursing facilities, as opposed to a 10 percent reduction for doctors and most other health care providers.

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Medical orgs put up $7.5m against MICRA measure
Inside Bay Area

As predicted, California’s medical establishment is starting to put up big money to oppose a proposed ballot measure that would lift the cap on non-economic damages that can be awarded in medical-negligence lawsuits.

The California Medical Association, California Hospital Association, California Dental Association, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and Central Valley Health Network recently created a “Patients and Providers to Protect Access and Contain Health Costs” committee to oppose the measure.

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California looks for a new generation of culturally sensitive health care workers
Sacramento Bee

At 18, Tria Vue already has a world of experience in health care. For her Hmong parents, she’s been translator, prescription drug dispenser, navigator, patient advocate and cultural broker. After years of this, Vue has come to see the fallacy of Western medicine: the doctor-knows-best premise. “When I heard about this new idea of patient-centered care, I got so excited,” said Vue, a sophomore at California State University, Sacramento. “I was surprised to learn there’s people in the health care field who care about patients.”

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Weaker Finances Seen for Not-for-Profit Hospitals
Health Leaders Media

Not-for-profit hospitals and healthcare systems struck a careful balance in 2012 with improved operational efficiencies that offset growing costs, lower volumes, and other financial pressures. However, that balance may be harder to sustain in 2013 and beyond, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services says.

With that in mind, S&P analyst Kenneth T. Gacka says the not-for-profit healthcare sector will likely see weakened median ratios in 2013 in the face of those continuing and growing incremental pressures that include healthcare reform.

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Clinical informatics critical to reform
Healthcare IT News

The growth and maturity of clinical informatics over the past decade has been a prime catalyst in positioning the healthcare industry for the changes posed by reform measures. By understanding the process of analytics, clinical informatics specialists say healthcare providers have the insight necessary to make the process adjustments in the future.

“Clinical informatics will serve as the foundation for all aspects of successful healthcare reform initiatives as they are instituted,” said Greg Chittim, director of analytics and performance improvement for Burlington, Mass.-based Arcadia Solutions.

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Obama accuses Republicans of ‘fixation’ against healthcare law

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday launched an aggressive defense of his landmark healthcare law, attacking Republicans for seeking its repeal without offering a substitute for the millions of Americans who would be left uninsured.

With enrollment set to begin on October 1 for individuals who want to receive health insurance under the 2010 law, Obama used a White House press conference to counter a massive Republican campaign to discredit and destroy the new program, including a threat by some Congressional Republicans to insist on repeal as a condition of funding the government.

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Obama discusses challenges of reform law implementation
Modern Healthcare

President Barack Obama referred to Republican efforts to repeal the healthcare reform law as an “ideological fixation” during a White House news conference Friday.

While most of his comments focused on the ongoing issues associated with the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, Obama briefly discussed the political and operational challenges the administration has faced in implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It was Obama’s first news conference since April.

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Covered California taking preregistration from insurance agents
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California is accepting online preregistration from licensed insurance agents interested in receiving training and certification to help educate and enroll millions of consumers in health plans offered by the state health benefits exchange.

Only licensed insurance agents trained and certified by Covered California will be able to sell coverage in the new marketplace. Preregistration lets Covered California prequalify agents for training and to identify locations best suited to meet the training needs of the agent community.

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12 insurers will participate in California’s exchange

Twelve insurers have officially signed contracts with California to sell policies through Covered California, the state-run health insurance exchange. Six of those insurers will also sell plans through the small business exchange.

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5 Bills, 1 Month: AHA Urges Outreach to Legislators Out on Recess
Health Leaders Media

Federal lawmakers packed up and left town last week for the start of the traditional August recess. The month-long break was mandated 43 years ago because the Capitol dome could not protect lawmakers from the worst of Washington’s infernal summer climate.

This year, the American Hospital Association is urging acute care organizations to seize the opportunity of the visit their representatives in Congress and invite these elected officials into their local hospitals for a visit. That way, lawmakers can see the organizations’ progress, and presumably their operational problems, first hand.

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Autism’s Unexpected Link to Cancer Gene
New York Times

Researchers studying two seemingly unrelated conditions — autism and cancer — have unexpectedly converged on a surprising discovery. Some people with autism have mutated cancer or tumor genes that apparently caused their brain disorder.

Ten percent of children with mutations in a gene called PTEN, which causes cancers of the breast, colon, thyroid and other organs, have autism. So do about half of children with gene mutations that can lead to some kinds of brain and kidney cancer and large tumors in several organs, including the brain. That is many times the rate of autism in the general population.

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CMS seeks comment on how to release doc pay data without compromising privacy
Modern Physician

The CMS is seeking public comment on how best to make physician-specific Medicare payment data publicly available while also protecting the privacy of patients. Physician organizations have vigorously opposed the release of physician-specific data but the dike appears to be crumbling.

Since 1979, public release of payment information had been prohibited by a court injunction resulting from a Florida Medical Association lawsuit. But, on March 31, the injunction was vacated by U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard in Jacksonville, Fla.

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Immigration bill no help for uninsured on path to citizenship
Modern Healthcare

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is vowing to prevent a vote on immigration reform even though the latest reports from Capitol Hill suggest as many as 40 or 50 Republicans are willing to back some version of the legislation that passed the Senate last June.

But even if that bill were to come to a vote in the House, a new analysis of the legislation suggests that even if millions of undocumented immigrants start on the path to citizenship, they’re likely to continue relying on safety-net healthcare programs for many years to come.

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UC Riverside welcomes students to SoCal’s latest medical school
Southern California Public Radio

Fifty students will receive their white coats Friday from UC Riverside’s brand new medical school, the first to open in the region in more than 40 years.

“Our students are not only great students, but they really wanted to come to this medical school because they really believed in our mission,” founding dean and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs G. Richard Olds, M.D. told KPCC.

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High overtime among UC medical care workers may indicate understaffing
The Daily Californian

According to UC payroll data, medical care workers continue to receive large amounts of overtime pay, which workers have pointed to as an indicator that staffing levels at medical centers are below what is necessary to provide adequate patient care.

Workers say the numbers point to understaffing, as they often must work overtime and through breaks to care for patients and complete other essential tasks.

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Older Americans face tough health care decisions
NBC News

When the Affordable Health Care Act goes into effect on Oct. 1, many Americans around retirement age will have some challenging choices to make: should they switch to a new kind of health care coverage? And if they do, will that mean changing doctors?

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Cellular repair switch found, may prolong life
San Diego Union-Tribune

Scientists say they have discovered a key aspect of how the aging process works, raising prospects of new treatments for aging-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and potentially leading to significantly increased life expectancy.

A study led by scientists at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute found how to rev up a cellular repair mechanism associated with increased longevity.

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Kaiser Permanente’s Q2 and first half profits soar
San Francisco Business Times

Obamacare here we come, with profits aplenty at Northern California giant Kaiser Permanente.

Kaiser’s net income soared in Q2 and the first half, on a modest 6 percent operating revenue jump to $13.4 billion for the quarter, and 5.5 percent for the first two quarters of 2013. The Oakland-based health care giant posted first-half operating revenue of $26.7 billion.

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Beyond the Affordable Care Act: A Framework for Getting Health Care Reform Right
The Health Care Blog

The following was drafted quite a few months ago, and had its genesis in a list of recommendations for improving the health care system that David Dranove solicited from a number of academics for an issue of Health Management, Policy and Innovation. I’ve dawdled in finishing and polishing it up, but seeing the stimulating reform proposal posted recently by Jay Bhattacharya, Amitabh Chandra, Mike Chernew, Dana Goldman, Anupam Jena, Darius Lakdawalla, Anup Malani and Tom Philipson motivated me to return and finish it; so here it is finally.

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A Second Look at the Link Between Obesity and Mortality
The Health Care Blog

A controversial study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that overweight people have significantly lower mortality risk than normal weight individuals, and slightly obese people have the same mortality risk as normal weight individuals.

This meta-analysis, headed by statistician Katherine Flegal, Ph.D., at the National Center for Health Statistics, looked at almost 100 studies that included 3 million people and over 270,000 deaths.

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What the Recent Data Breach Says About the State of Health IT
The Health Care Blog

Earlier this month officials at Oregon Health Sciences University discovered that residents in several departments were storing patient information on Google Drive, and had been doing so for the past two years. They treated this discovery as a breach of privacy and notified 3000 patients about the incident.

While I don’t condone the storage of patient information on unapproved services like Gmail or Google Drive, this incident pretty much highlights the sorry state of information systems within the hospital and the unfulfilled need by physicians for tools that facilitate workflow and patient care.