News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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CHA Commends State’s Decision to Exempt Rural Hospitals from Some Medi-Cal Cuts
PR Newswire

The following statement is being issued by C. Duane Dauner, President/CEO, California Hospital Association: The California Hospital Association (CHA) commends the decision by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and HHS Secretary Diana Dooley to partially exempt rural hospital-based skilled-nursing facilities from looming Medi-Cal payment cuts.

This announcement will protect the state’s most vulnerable patients who live in rural areas by sparing these hospitals from previously-announced 25 percent or greater cuts, and halting a rate freeze based on 2008-09 payment levels.

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HHS wants photocopy machines examined as part of data security
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare organizations need to consider all kinds of digital devices, including photocopy machines, in examining their data security. That’s the takeaway from HHS‘ Office for Civil Rights announcement that Affinity, a managed-care plan serving the New York metropolitan area, will pay more than $1.2 million in a settlement agreement for a breach of personally identifiable health records under the privacy and security protections of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

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OIG Recommendation ‘Would Kill Rural Health’
Health Leaders Media

Hundreds of small hospitals across the nation could lose their critical access status and the extra funding that goes with it if the federal government acts on a series of recommendations made public this week. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General has recommended that Congress allow the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to strip critical access designation from any hospital that was brought into the program under a state “necessary provider” designation.

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Auditor: California should step up oversight of mental health spending
Sacramento Bee

State agencies have not properly overseen how California counties are spending billions of dollars on mental health care programs generated by Proposition 63, according to a state audit released today. The 2004 ballot initiative, written by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, levies a 1 percent tax on people who make more than $1 million, to be spent by counties on mental health services. The state Department of Mental Health and the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission are supposed to oversee how counties use the funds.

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When patients become consumers, health care costs can be tamed
Sacramento Bee

As the nation frets about unaffordable health care costs and ponders which drastic remedies are called for, economists are reporting a surprising finding: Health care is becoming more affordable. The rate of growth in health care expenditures is slowing dramatically. It now is near historical lows, with only 3 percent annual growth between 2009 and 2011 compared with twice that rate in the previous decade. What is going on? And will it continue?

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$67 Million Awarded to Groups Helping With Health Law
New York Times

The Obama administration on Thursday awarded $67 million to 105 groups around the country that will serve as “navigators” to help the uninsured understand their options under the new health care law and sign up for coverage. The administration had initially planned to spend less — $54 million — on navigators in the 34 states where the federal government will run all or part of new insurance markets created under the law.

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HHS awards $67 million to help uninsured sign up for health coverage
Washington Post

Federal health officials awarded $67 million in grants Thursday to more than 100 organizations around the country to help uninsured consumers sign up for health coverage in new insurance marketplaces this fall. The long anticipated grants — $13 million more than expected — will be used to hire special guides, or “navigators,” who can give individuals face-to-face assistance in shopping for health plans under the federal health-care law, often known as Obamacare.

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As healthcare overhaul nears, many consumers still in the dark
Los Angeles Times

Like many Californians, Scott and Danielle Nelson of Orange County are anxious about what President Obama’s healthcare law will mean for them.

While government officials tout the broad benefits of the Affordable Care Act to drum up enrollment, many consumers are eager to know how the overhaul will affect them personally, from pocketbook concerns to worries about whether their local doctor and hospital will be included.

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Why One Insurer Quit Covered California
KQED Radio

Ventura County Health Care Plan administrators won’t soon forget May 23, 2013. That was the day that Covered California announced that VCHCP — a small, county-run plan — would join Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente and 10 other insurers in next year’s marketplace. VCHCP put out a press release declaring it was “honored” to be part of Covered California’s inaugural crop of insurers. There was a celebratory Facebook post.

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GOP-led states raise security concerns over insurance exchanges
Modern Healthcare

Attorneys general from 13 Republican-led states that have refused to operate their own health insurance exchanges have raised concerns about the security of the personal information of people who enroll on the exchanges. The attorneys general wrote to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Aug. 14 expressing worries that navigators, assisters and other personnel who will help individuals enroll are not receiving adequate training regarding privacy protection.

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Yolo County Children’s Alliance helping to enroll kids in four health plans
Daily Democrat

There is no reason a child should be without health insurance in Yolo County, according to one local health care provider. Organizations such as the Yolo County Children’s Alliance have trained staff to assist local families in finding and enrolling their children in the health coverage that best fits the family’s financial situation, according to Katie Villegas, executive director of The Yolo County Children’s Alliance and Child Abuse Prevention Council.

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Abortion coverage for Congress under health law?
San Francisco Chronicle

It’s an issue lawmakers may not want to have to explain at town hall meetings back home:

An attempt to fix a problem with the new health care law has created a situation in which members of Congress and their staffers could gain access to abortion coverage, something that currently is denied to federal employees who get health insurance through the government’s plan.

Abortion opponents say the Obama administration needs to fix it; abortion rights supporters say the concern is overblown.

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Planned Parenthood To Receive Obamacare Funds For Insurance Enrollment Push
The Huffington Post

Planned Parenthood will get federal funds to help Americans enroll in insurance via President Barack Obama’s healthcare program, U.S. officials said on Thursday, drawing fire from critics who oppose contraception and abortion in such coverage.

Across the country, 105 groups were awarded a total of $67 million in so-called navigator grants, ranging from the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida and AIDS Alabama, Inc. to the Greater Phoenix Urban League and the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County.

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So what is the state health exchange, anyway?
San Francisco Chronicle

The people who get care at the AmeriCares Free Clinic in Danbury are the working poor — people who have jobs that don’t offer health insurance.

For some, there could be a change for the better this year. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — is coming, offering more health insurance to more people. If it reduces the patient load at AmeriCares, the clinic will be thrilled.

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State rolling out Medi-Cal fee cuts, with exemptions
Sacramento Business Journal

State officials will begin rolling out a 10 percent cut in Medi-Cal fees to providers on Sept. 5, but three groups are exempt, subject to federal approval. Skilled nursing facilities that are part of hospitals in rural areas, some nonprofit dental surgery centers that treat kids with severe dental disease and certain categories of high-cost drugs that treat very serious conditions will be exempt, according to information posted this week on the website for the California Department of Health Care Services.

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Medi-Cal cut starts next month, state says
Los Angeles Times

A controversial cut to the California’s healthcare program for the poor will begin next month, according to a bulletin distributed by state officials.

Doctors and other healthcare providers who serve Medi-Cal patients will be reimbursed 10% less once the changes are fully phased in by next January.

The first people to feel the pain will be dentists and medical transporters on Sept. 5. Next come providers of medical equipment and supplies on Oct. 24.

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Mental health spending not properly tracked
Contra Costa Times

The state has failed to properly monitor more than $7 billion in voter-approved money for mental health programs from California’s extra tax on millionaires and cannot reassure the public that it is going to help those most in need, the state auditor reported Thursday. California can offer “little assurance that the counties have effectively and appropriately used the almost $7.4 billion,” Auditor Elaine Howle reported.

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Audit finds funds for mental health services misspent
San Francisco Chronicle

There’s a crisis on California’s streets, and in its back rooms, and it’s one all too familiar to San Franciscans – one they thought would be assuaged with the passage of Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act.

Assuaged, because the 1 percent tax on incomes above $1 million has brought in almost $11 billion to date in funds was supposed to go for increased government services to treat people with serious mental illnesses.

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State providing little oversight for billions in mental health funds
Los Angeles Times

Nearly a decade after California voters approved a multibillion-dollar tax increase to improve mental health programs, the state has failed to provide proper oversight of county programs funded by Proposition 63, a state audit concluded Thursday.

State Auditor Elaine Howle looked at the last six years during which time almost $7.4 billion from the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) was directed to counties for mental health programs.

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California needs more interpreters for patients
San Francisco Chronicle

Within minutes of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash in July, San Francisco General Hospital administrators knew they needed language translation services to help victims of this horrific accident. The hospital’s medical staff put out the call for anyone who could interpret, and hospital personnel were able to communicate with the injured by asking Korean-speaking staff to double as interpreters.

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Autistic kids with math abilities show different brain patterns
The Mercury News

Stanford researchers have unearthed clues about the formidable brains of some autistic children, suggesting that the diagnosis may signal a different cognitive style, not disability.

Superior math skills were found in autistic Bay Area children with average intelligence compared with matched children who were not autistic.

The two group’s brain scans were different, as well. Images of the autistic children’s brains while calculating math problems revealed a different pattern of activity than those of non-autistic children.

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CVS thinks $50 is enough reward for giving up healthcare privacy
Los Angeles Times

Since February, CVS Caremark has been pushing its pharmacists to enroll customers in a prescription-drug rewards program.

The benefit to customers is the opportunity to earn up to $50 a year in store credits that can be used to buy shampoo, toothpaste or other products.

The benefit to CVS is persuading pharmacy customers, through questionable means, to give up federal privacy safeguards for their medical information and permitting the company to share people’s drug purchases with others.

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High-end 120-bed acute-care psychiatric hospital proposed
Sacramento Business Journal

A proposal to build a 120-bed acute-care psychiatric hospital on the south side of Expo Parkway in Sacramento is quietly moving through the city approval process. Corona-based Signature Healthcare Services Inc. wants to build a high-end private facility that will primarily provide stabilization and short-term inpatient psychiatric treatment. The Sacramento region needs inpatient psychiatric beds, said Ryan Hooper, a Sacramento lawyer who represents the company.

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AHA profit rose 11.3% in fiscal 2012
Modern Healthcare

The American Hospital Association posted an $8.7 million margin in fiscal 2012, thanks in part to increased member activity coming from uncertainty surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, officials from the trade group said on Thursday. The profits represented an 11.3% increase from the association’s fiscal 2011. The AHA reported the figures to the Internal Revenue Service Thursday morning on its Form 990. Expenses totaled $109.4 million, a 4% increase from the previous year.

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Adult obesity very high in 13 states; many in the South
Modern Healthcare

Adult obesity still isn’t budging, the latest government survey shows.

The national telephone survey found 13 states with very high rates of obesity last year. Overall, the proportion of U.S. adults deemed obese has been about the same for years now.

“A plateau is better than rising numbers. But it’s discouraging because we’re plateauing at a very high number,” said Kelly Brownell, a Duke University public policy expert who specializes in obesity.

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CFO Exchange: Top Execs Talk Strategy
Health Leaders Media

What do senior finance executives talk about when they meet with their peers from other facilities, away from the daily demands of leading their healthcare organizations through reform-era turbulence? Cost-reduction strategies. The fate of health insurance exchanges. HIT projects.

Thirty seven chief financial officers from some of the most innovative health systems and hospitals around the country have gathered at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs for HealthLeaders Media’s third annual CFO Exchange from Aug. 14-16.

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‘Step therapy’ a prescription for failure
Capitol Weekly

Many Californians face restricted access to health care due to dangerous and expensive health insurer policies that prevent patients from getting timely and effective treatments. Some California health insurers have implemented draconian restrictions in the name of cost containment that place them squarely in the middle of the physician-patient relationship. One such barrier is a policy known as “step therapy” or “fail first.”

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