News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Tacking Health Care Costs Onto California Farm Produce
New York Times

Farm labor contractors across California, the nation’s biggest agricultural engine, are increasingly nervous about a provision of the Affordable Care Act that will require hundreds of thousands of field workers to be covered by health insurance. While the requirement was recently delayed until 2015, the contractors, who provide farmers with armies of field workers, say they are already preparing for the potential cost the law will add to their business, which typically operates on a slender profit margin.

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HIMSS seeks six-month extension of Stage 2 deadline
Modern Healthcare

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society has asked HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and other federal officials to extend the deadline by six months for hospitals, physicians and other eligible professionals to meet Stage 2 meaningful-use criteria for the federal electronic health-record incentive payment program.

Under current rules, provider organizations that have met Stage 1 requirements for at least two consecutive years need to step up to Stage 2 to remain compliant with the program created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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Good nutrition after a hospital stay is crucial for seniors
Times-Standard

According to the Senate’s 2011 Older Americans Act report, “Senior Hunger: The Human Toll and Budget Consequences,” people between the ages of 60 and 69 have the highest risk of hunger among older adults in America. The report also found that about 6 percent of all older adults in America today are not sure they will always have enough to eat.

Another report, “Impact of Nutritional Status on Hospitalization Outcomes of Patients and Elders,” points out that as many as 53 percent of older adults admitted to a hospital are undernourished.

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Attention Medicaid Patients: The Doctor Won’t Be Seeing You
Forbes

With its expansion of Medicaid eligibility, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) was supposed to go a long way towards providing healthcare coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. That accomplishment was dealt a large blow by the Supreme Court, when it forbade the federal government from requiring states to expand Medicaid coverage. Nevertheless, many states plan to offer Medicaid to anyone with incomes at or below 138% of the Federal Poverty Limit (FPL).

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What the Death of American Medical News Says About the Future of American Medicine
The Health Care Blog

If you wanted to know what doctors thought about money and medical practice, including plumber envy, you’d read American Medical News (AMN). That’s the biweekly newspaper the American Medical Association just announced it’s shutting down. Unlike JAMA, in which doctors appear as white-coated scientists, AMN focused on practical and political issues, not least of which was the bottom line. For outsiders, that’s provided a fascinating window into the House of Medicine.

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Five Things You Don’t Know About Health-Care Reform
BusinessWeek

Insurance sign-ups are just around the corner for millions of Americans under health care reform, yet there’s still much people don’t know about this landmark legislation, particularly those changes occurring over the next decade inside hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices. It’s a workforce thing. All the attention is on politics or who will receive what benefits and where the money will come from.

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Phone problems plague Covered California insurance broker registration
Sacramento Business Journal

Frustration among insurance brokers was palpable Monday as long waits and abrupt phone disconnects riddled online registration for training to sell to insurance through Covered California. “Epic failure” is what Fremont broker Jeff Bell called it. Covered California had computer problems and got 2,000 calls in the first couple of hours Monday morning, exchange spokesman Dana Howard said. There were 96 call lines going to 20 call center representatives.

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Poll shows Californians know little about state health insurance exchange, benefits
Sacramento Bee

Less than two months before California’s health insurance exchange opens for enrollment under the federal health care overhaul, three-quarters of voters under age 65 say they’ve heard little or nothing about the exchange, according to a new Field Poll. Only 6 percent of registered voters under 65 say they have heard a lot about the exchange, and many people who are eligible for benefits don’t know it. The demographic is significant to the exchange, Covered California, because it includes people who are not yet eligible for Medicare and because the exchange’s success relies on broad participation, especially among young, relatively healthy adults.

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Survey: Coverage, premiums holding steady for employer health plans
The Hill

Health insurance premiums are growing slowly and employers aren’t dropping coverage, according to a new survey of employer-based healthcare coverage. The survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation pours cold water on some criticisms of ObamaCare, namely that it is already causing costs to skyrocket and employers to stop offering healthcare coverage.

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Field Poll: Low Awareness Of Health Coverage Opportunity
The Press-Enterprise

Covered California, the state’s new health insurance exchange, has budgeted $85 million over the next 16 months to spread the word about benefits available under the federal healthcare law. A new survey suggests it will need every penny. A Field Poll released today shows that only a quarter of voters under the age of 65 have heard a lot, or some, about Covered California.

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Debate centers on whether exchanges should offer voter registration
Modern Healthcare

Policy and election experts are debating whether the new public insurance exchanges should offer voter registration as well as enrollment in health insurance plans. Some say the exchanges are required by federal law to offer voter registration, while others say the law is unclear and that combining voter registration with insurance sign-ups would add major political difficulties to implementing the already-controversial healthcare reform law. The issue could wind up in court.

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California health care reform: Better access to what?
The Californian - Salinas

The great health care reform countdown has begun, with nearly every American required to have some level of health insurance by the end of this year. That much we know for certain. What remains to be seen, however, is whether simply adding more people to the insurance pool will translate into better health for policyholders.

Increased access to quality, affordable care – even if compelled by government mandate – has long been a goal of health care reform advocates.

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Premiums for employer-sponsored coverage moderating, Kaiser study finds
Modern Healthcare

Premiums paid by employers this year for their employees’ family health coverage rose 4%, a relatively modest rate by historical standards, according to a survey released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Since 2003, premiums have climbed 80%. The results indicate that the U.S. is “continuing to see striking moderation in premium increases by historical standards,” Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman said in a conference call with reporters.

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Eligibility changes in four states could leave thousands without coverage
Modern Healthcare

As many states prepare to add millions of new recipients to their Medicaid programs under the healthcare reform law, four states are planning to roll back eligibility in a move that could leave thousands of low-income people without insurance coverage. Maine, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Vermont are all expected to cut people from Medicaid coverage, though some will be eligible for federally subsidized private coverage through state insurance exchanges starting in January.

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Affordable Care Act: Creating Health Access for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
The Huffington Post

Every one of us knows someone — a friend, a relative, or maybe a patient — who couldn’t receive the care they needed because they lacked insurance. Thankfully, this will start to change on October 1, 2013, when people can sign up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, with benefits beginning as early as January 1, 2014.

The Affordable Care Act — what some may know as Obamacare, health reform, or the health care law of 2010 — is a historic piece of legislation that can reduce health disparities in our nation.

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Health Plan Premiums Rise Moderately
Health Leaders Media

Commercial payers don’t make much of a scapegoat for climbing healthcare costs based on the current trajectory of health insurance premiums.

Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage increased by 4% in 2013 to $16,351, according to the 2013 Employer Health Benefits Survey released Tuesday by Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust.

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Health insurance costs rise for employers and workers, survey finds
Sacramento Bee

American workers and their employers saw another rise in health insurance premiums this year, as the total cost of employer-provided health benefits ticked up 4 percent for family plans and 5 percent for individual plans, according to a closely watched national survey. The 2013 increases are lower than in many previous years, undercutting claims by critics of President Barack Obama’s health care law that the 2010 legislation is dramatically driving up costs. Nor is there much evidence that many employers are dropping coverage – 57 percent of firms with at least three employees offered health benefits in 2013, according to the report by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.

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Health Care Costs Climb Moderately, Survey Says
New York Times

Premiums for employer-provided health insurance have increased by relatively modest amounts this year, according to a new survey, a further sign that once-torrid health care inflation has abated for now. The average annual premium for a family rose 4 percent in 2013, to $16,351, according to the survey results released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Annual premiums for individual policies purchased through an employer rose 5 percent, to $5,884.

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No copays, easier pills may reduce blood pressure
Sacramento Bee

New research suggests giving patients easier-to-take medicine and no-copay medical visits can help drive down high blood pressure, a major contributor to poor health and untimely deaths nationwide.

Those efforts were part of a big health care provider’s eight-year program, involving more than 300,000 patients with high blood pressure. At the beginning, less than half had brought their blood pressure under control. That increased to a remarkable 80 percent, well above the national average, the researchers said.

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What to Watch for in the PPACA’s Exchanges
The Heritage Foundation

Open enrollment in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA’s) exchanges begins on October 1, 2013, with coverage taking effect on January 1, 2014. While the federal government has announced that it will not release official information on plan participation and premiums until September, some information has been released by the states. Although the information is limited and each state is unique, there are several key considerations that are relevant in assessing the exchanges. Specifically:

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Patient data at their fingertips
RecordNet

San Joaquin County is among the first in the state to successfully launch a safety net Health Information Exchange among its public and private health agencies.

A kickoff event was held Tuesday evening for the San Joaquin Community Health Information Exchange, or HIE, that will serve the working-class and poor residents. The safety net HIE evolved thanks largely to the historic ability of those agencies to collaborate and obtain an outside funding source.

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S.F. threatens to sue Nevada over alleged ‘patient-dumping’
Sacramento Bee

The San Francisco city attorney on Tuesday accused Nevada health officials of improperly busing two dozen mental patients from Las Vegas to San Francisco in recent years, and threatened to file a class-action lawsuit if Nevada doesn’t repay the cost of caring for them and hundreds of other patients shipped via Greyhound to California during that time.

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L.A. supervisors agree to pay $29 million in new King hospital costs
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles County leaders on Tuesday approved $29 million in new spending on the rebuilding of a hospital in South Los Angeles, bringing the total price tag of the long-awaited Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital to $281.4 million.

The funding will pay for “unforeseen” problems in the inpatient tower, such as bringing utilities up to seismic codes and rebuilding deteriorating sewer pipes. Some of the money could be used to fund overtime and weekend work to meet the Oct. 31 deadline to complete construction of the hospital, which is scheduled to begin accepting patients in late 2014 or early 2015.

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Second UC Davis medical school dean candidate to be showcased
Sacramento Business Journal

Dr. Norman Beauchamp Jr., a professor and chair of the radiology department at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, is the second candidate to be featured in a series of public forums showcasing finalists for the job of new medical school dean and vice chancellor of health and human sciences at UC Davis. The event will be held Thursday from 4 to 5:30 in Room 1222 in the Education Building at 4610 X St. on the UC Davis Health System and medical school campus in Sacramento.

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Sutter Health among ‘Best Places to Work’
Sacramento Bee

Sacramento-based Sutter Health placed three facilities on Modern Healthcare journal’s 2013 top-100 “Best Places to Work” in health care list.

Sutter Medical Foundation, Sutter Davis Hospital and the Sutter Center for Psychiatry in Sacramento made this year’s list – accounting for three of the five California-based workplaces making the grade.

Sutter Davis made the list for a fifth consecutive year.

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Kaiser study yields big progress for hypertension
San Francisco Chronicle

In just a decade, and using a deceptively simple approach, Kaiser Permanente doubled the percentage of Northern California patients whose blood pressures were brought down to healthy levels.

The Kaiser program relied on close monitoring by a team of health care workers and the use of cheaper, more efficient drugs to treat high blood pressure. Over the course of an eight-year study, the percentage of patients with high blood pressure who had it under control increased from 44 percent in 2001 to 80 percent in 2009.

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