News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Bills on nurse practitioners, pharmacists advance in Assembly
Los Angeles Times

Measures that would expand the roles of nurse practitioners and pharmacists advanced in the Assembly on Tuesday, setting the stage for a fierce lobbying battle in the session’s final weeks.

Both measures wade into the so-called scope of practice debate over what type of medical care can be administered by non-physicians, setting off a turf war between doctors and other medical providers.

The more contentious of the two bills is SB 491, which would allow nurse practitioners to practice without physicians’ supervision.

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2012 may have been ‘high water mark’ for hospital finances, Fitch says
Modern Healthcare

The operating performance of not-for-profit hospitals and health systems rated by Fitch Ratings improved in 2012. But last year may be the “high water mark” for hospital finances as demand from patients grows increasingly weak and reimbursement cuts continue, a Fitch analyst warns.

The median operating margin among Fitch Ratings’ portfolio of not-for-profit hospital operators was 3% in 2012. That’s compared with 2.7% the prior year and 2.7% on average since 2006. Tight control over expenses and efforts to reduce operating waste helped bolster hospital margins, Fitch said in a newly released report. Profits also grew as hospitals did more to collect bills. Some benefited from market clout as well, the report said.

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How Prehabilitation Can Improve Outcomes and Reduce Hospital Costs
Health Leaders Media

A study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation points to the results of several recent pilot programs involving cancer patients that show prehabilitation programs helped patients recover more quickly from surgeries and pursue follow-up care. The study suggests that taking advantage of a small “window of opportunity” before surgery can “improve patient outcomes and reduce direct and indirect healthcare costs.”

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Health care bill would protect patients from high out-of-pocket costs
Sacramento Business Journal

California may go ahead of the feds on health care reform, again. The Assembly Health Committee passed legislation Tuesday to implement consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act against high out-of-pocket costs. If Senate Bill 639 by Sen. Ed Hernandez is passed by the Legislature this year and signed by the governor, it will implement key protections despite a decision by the Obama administration to provide a one-year delay for some plans.

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Half who now buy own health coverage to get aid, study finds
Modern Healthcare

About half the people who now buy their own health insurance—and potentially would face higher premiums next year under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law—would qualify for federal tax credits to offset rate shock, according to a new private study.

Many other people, however, earn too much money to be eligible for help, and could end up paying more. The estimate, released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, tries to answer one of the biggest remaining questions about the impact of Obama’s law on American families: Will consumers wince — or even balk — when they see the premiums for the new plans?

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Agents will get access to health reform market
San Diego Union-Tribune

California’s new health insurance exchange allows anyone with a computer to shop for a policy with a few clicks of their mouse, but consumers who are confused by all of the available options will be able to turn to a licensed broker for help.

Covered California, the state agency operating the new exchange, announced last week that it is accepting online preregistration from licensed insurance agents interested in selling policies in the new venue.

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Providers protest rule putting them at financial risk if patients don’t pay premiums
Modern Healthcare

Provider groups say a CMS rule interpreting the healthcare reform law that gives consumers a grace period for unpaid health insurance premiums will put them at significant risk of delivering services for which they won’t get paid.

The CMS rule gives consumers a 90-day grace period if they don’t pay their premiums before their insurer can drop their coverage. The rule applies to people in all states who obtain subsidized coverage through the new insurance exchanges.

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Nurses Will Play a Vital Role in the Enactment of the Affordable Care Act
The Health Care Blog

While in the care of a nurse, patients have a champion: a health care professional working to assure timely tests, procedures, and rehabilitative activities that foster better and faster recovery. Prior to discharge from a health facility, it is often the nurse who assesses a patient’s self-care ability (or access to home caregivers) to provide the type of treatments and medications needed to prevent relapse or even costly return to a hospital.

Responsibility for optimal recovery is of course shared by all health team members, but the unique position of nurses at the patient’s bedside (literally and metaphorically) gives us many avenues to influence care and cure.

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Nurse practitioner bill moves forward
San Diego Union-Tribune

An amended version of a bill that would allow nurse practitioners to see patients without doctor supervision cleared a critical hurdle Tuesday, moving one step closer to a full vote of the state Assembly.

With eight yes votes, the Assembly Committee on Business, Professions and Consumer Protection approved Senate Bill 491, which allows nurse practitioners to perform primary care services like prescribing some medications and making a diagnosis without the supervision of a doctor.

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California nurse practitioner bill, with major changes, advances in Legislature
Sacramento Bee

A watered-down bill allowing nurse practitioners to operate independently of physicians passed during reconsideration in an Assembly committee Tuesday after failing to earn enough votes last week.

Senate Bill 491 by Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, would increase nurse practitioners’ scope of practice by allowing them to practice independently of physicians in certain medical facilities, such as hospitals, clinics and skilled-nursing facilities.

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Scope of practice bill for nurse practitioners revived
Sacramento Business Journal

A controversial bill that seeks to allow nurse practitioners to work independently of physician supervision moved out of the Assembly Business, Professions & Consumer Protection Committee on Tuesday. It looked doomed a week ago. Senate Bill 491 by Sen. Ed Hernandez failed to get out of the committee last Tuesday, but was granted reconsideration. Supporters applauded the committee for keeping the bill alive, saying it will help millions of Californians gain access to safe, high-quality health care services despite a physician shortage.

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Salary survey says Modesto RNs are nation’s 2nd-highest earners
Modesto Bee

Who says you have to leave town to earn top pay and have a stimulating career? According to a salary survey, registered nurses in Modesto earn the second-highest pay in the nation when the local cost of living is factored into the equation.

The research revealed that $100,780 was the average annual pay for registered nurses in Modesto, where the annual cost of living is $67,380 for a family of three. That means 67 percent of a nurse’s income goes to housing, food and other monthly bills, leaving plenty of extra cash for fun and investing in a child’s education.

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Hospital workers picket over wages
Santa Maria Times

Health care employees and their friends and family from Santa Maria to San Luis Obispo protested poor wages Saturday during a rally outside Arroyo Grande Community Hospital.

The informational picket was against Dignity Health, which some hospital workers believe is putting patient care at risk through potential layoffs, outsourcing of jobs and lower-than-market wages.

The rally was also held to draw attention to the 300-plus new Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West members, many of whom are employed at Arroyo Grande, French or Marian hospitals.

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1 in 2 Employers Link PPACA to Cost Increases
Health Leaders Media

Many employers have waxed eloquent about the effect of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on their business costs. Their statements often include dire warnings about layoffs and large premium increases. But when employers actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) they are discovering that the impact may actually be less dramatic.

Survey results show that 69% of employers who offer health insurance benefits have analyzed the impact of healthcare reform on those benefits.

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Business plans get a thumbs up
RecordNet

Like most small-business owners I’ve come across in the past couple of years, Scott Hauge is frustrated by the very nature of the Affordable Care Act and its implementation. He sees both good and bad parts of the law but prefers not to nitpick at the sections he doesn’t agree with.

Hauge runs an independent insurance agency with 29 employees. That’s less than the 50-full-time-employee minimum at which point the law requires employers to offer employees and their dependents the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential health coverage starting Jan. 1.

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Sebelius open to talks on care for poor
Modern Healthcare

As political debate continues in nearly half of the states in the country over whether to expand their Medicaid programs, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that her agency was open to discussing with state leaders their proposals on how to provide healthcare to their poorest residents. Speaking before an annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures, according to published reports, Sebelius urged state lawmakers to move past political debate of the plan that has been a focal point for opposition since the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010.

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Stanford spinout takes new angle against Alzheimer’s, MS, other diseases
San Francisco Business Times

A Stanford University spinout, backed by fresh research on how a common protein in the brain is involved in Alzheimer’s disease, is aiming at a new target for drugs to block a range of neurodegenerative diseases. Annexon Inc., started two years ago by Stanford neurobiology professor Dr. Ben Barres and Rinat Neuroscience founder Arnon Rosenthal, already has interest from potential Big Pharma partners.

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