News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Let’s Not Pick and Choose Which Seniors Have Access to Quality Health Care
Fox & Hounds

Protecting our seniors is the right thing to do from both a health care and economic perspective. That is why Republicans and Democrats are working together to reverse Medi-Cal cuts to hospital-based skilled-nursing facilities. Here’s some background and history demonstrating why we must act. Skilled-nursing care tied to hospitals is different from that of a traditional nursing home.

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Bill to speed up licensing for doctors in underserved areas
Sacramento Business Journal

A bill to speed up license approvals for doctors who will practice in medically underserved areas passed out of the California Legislature on Friday. Assembly Bill 1288 by Democratic Assemblyman Manuel Perez from Coachella is pending on the governor’s desk. The bill requires the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California to develop a priority review process for applicants who can show plans to work in a medically underserved area or with a medically underserved population.

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Covered California to delay quality rating system
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California has decided not to include a quality rating system for health plans when the new insurance marketplace kicks off enrollment in October. The issue has been controversial because some plans have complained there is not enough time to prepare their reporting systems to track the requested data. But efforts will be made to post a couple of measures that health plans already report as soon as possible in cases where the provider networks for Covered California have at least an 80 percent overlap to current ones on the market.

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NFIB creates insurance affordability tool
Sacramento Business Journal

The National Federation of Independent Business launched an online tool Friday to help small-business owners estimate whether the insurance they offer is “affordable” as defined by the national health reform law. If the insurance is not affordable, employees may turn down employer-sponsored coverage, buy insurance through the state health benefit exchange — and qualify for subsidies. For large employers, this will lead to a $3,000 penalty for each employee.

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Health centers join to seek special Medicare designation
North Bay Business Journal

A prominent group of health centers in the North Bay has applied to form what is known under the new federal health law as an “accountable care organization” serving thousands of Medicare patients that, if approved, would be one of the first of its kind in the nation.

Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, Petaluma Health Center, West County Health Centers, Alliance Medical Center in Healdsburg, Clinic Ole in Napa County and Coastal Health Alliance in Marin County are all combining efforts to form the Redwood Community Care Organization.

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Surgical Risk Calculator Aims for Accurate Pre-Op Assessment
MedGadget

In order for a patient to make an informed decision on whether surgery is appropriate, doctors and patients must be on equal ground regarding the specific risk factors involved. In some instances, such as with elderly patients, perhaps surgery is more dangerous than leaving a condition untreated. Surgery can have unwanted effects on the patient, such as post-op infection, and can lead to other complications requiring further treatment. The ACS Surgical Risk Calculator is a free-to-use tool, compiled from statistical data collected from just under 1.5 million patients, that allows surgeons to adjust risk factors for a more personalized risk estimate.

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Storefronts for Obamacare’s health exchanges
San Francisco Chronicle

If you’re trying to grab the attention of a diverse, hard-to-reach population, why not imitate one of the most successful marketing strategies on the planet?

That’s what Access Health did when it decided to open user-friendly storefronts — like those of the tech giant Apple — to sell uninsured consumers on the state’s complicated health insurance exchange.

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Online health-care shopping takes some skill
KERO

There’s a learning curve with all online transactions — banking on the Web, buying songs from iTunes. So how long will it take America to warm up to shopping for health insurance online?

And, more importantly, how long will it take us to shop wisely?

That depends largely on the architecture of the websites through which America will do its shopping, according to a new paper written by a University of Pennsylvania Law School health insurance expert and several other colleagues.

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Health reform’s hard sell: State’s diverse middle class
Los Angeles Daily News

Health outreach worker Maureen Tsang combed the supermarket parking lot in this Asian neighborhood in Rosemead, where the details of health reform can get lost in translation.

A grocery clerk blew smoke in her face during his cigarette break. A customer with one arm in a sling dismissed her with the other. A security guard rousted her.

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Businesses seeing self-funded plans as way to dodge ACA
Modern Healthcare

The rate of self-funded health insurance among smaller businesses has remained relatively stable during the past decade, but that may change soon. Many businesses see self-funding as a way to skirt requirements of the healthcare reform law. In response, carriers are offering self-insured plans to much smaller groups than the larger groups that have historically marketed such plans. UnitedHealth Group has even dropped its minimum size for self-insured products from 100 employees to as low as 10.

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Health insurance marketplaces are not for seniors
USA Today

While the Obama administration is encouraging uninsured Americans to enroll in health coverage on the new online insurance marketplaces, federal officials are planning a campaign to persuade millions of seniors to please stay away — don’t call and don’t sign up.

“We want to reassure Medicare beneficiaries that they are already covered, their benefits are not changing and the marketplace doesn’t require them to do anything,” said Michele Patrick, Medicare’s deputy director for communications.

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Covered California Postpones Some In-Person Enrollment Help
capital public radio

Sixteen thousand people will be working through community organizations starting this October. They’ll help sign people up for health coverage when open enrollment starts under the Affordable Care Act.

But there were supposed to be more helpers called “navigators” in January. Now those assisters won’t be deployed until July.

Dana Howard of Covered California says it’s a ‘heavy lift’ to get the new marketplace up and running.

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Covered California can be an important vehicle for democracy
Sacramento Bee

Only fools rush in. But that’s exactly what Rush Limbaugh did when he lambasted Covered California, our state’s health exchange, for its plans to help people looking for affordable insurance also register to vote. Here’s what he said on “Fox & Friends” about Covered California: “You show up to get your health insurance, they’re going to register you as a Democrat; they’re going to get you to the polls to vote on Election Day as a Democrat; they’re using Obamacare and these exchanges to grow the Democratic Party.”

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State orders audit of Medi-Cal-funded rehab program
San Francisco Chronicle

California lawmakers have ordered an audit to examine the extent of fraud in the state’s taxpayer-funded drug rehabilitation program and to assess why measures weren’t taken to stop it sooner.

The review was spurred by an investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting and CNN that found widespread forgery and fabrication at alcohol and drug counseling clinics, as well as wide gaps in state and county oversight.

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Amgen buying cancer drug maker Onyx for $10.4B
Modern Healthcare

Biotech drugmaker Amgen will buy cancer drug maker Onyx Pharmaceuticals for about $10.4 billion in cash in a deal that will add several cancer drugs to Amgen’s stable and add to its pipeline of new drugs.

Amgen Inc. said Sunday it will acquire Onyx for $125 per share, and it expects to complete the deal at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The companies value the deal at $9.7 billion excluding Onyx’s cash, and Amgen said it will use $8.1 billion in committed bank loans to finance the deal.

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Amgen to buy Onyx for $5 per share more than initial bid
San Francisco Business Times

Amgen Inc. will buy Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $10.4 billion cash, or the equivalent of $125 per share — picking up $5 per share from Amgen’s initial bid. The deal, announced Sunday and expected to close in the fourth quarter, will bring three on-the-market cancer drugs into the world’s largest biotech company. But it also marks the end of one of the Bay Area’s biotech jewels just as South San Francisco-based Onyx (NASDAQ: ONXX) appeared to be leveraging its growing stature to reshape the regional biotech industry.

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5 questions after Amgen’s $10.4 billion Onyx buyout
San Francisco Business Times

Amgen Inc.’s $10.4 billion cash buyout of Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. leaves a bunch of unanswered questions. The answers may come soon, however, as leaders of Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN), the world’s largest biotech company, and South San Francisco-based Onyx (NASDAQ: ONXX) climb on a Monday morning conference call.

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Hospital district taxpayers save $7M
Santa Maria Times

Thanks to a recent — and timely — refinancing, taxpayers in the Lompoc hospital district will save a total of more than $7 million on repayment of bonds that were used to build the new Lompoc Valley Medical Center.

The construction of the hospital, which opened in June 2010, was funded primarily through $74 million in general obligation bonds that were approved by an overwhelming 87 percent of voters in 2005.

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Making sure HIV-positive women get the care they need
Los Angeles Times

In the back of a skid row community health center, a woman with teardrop tattoos under her eyes begins to tell her story.

To a circle of other women, she says she ran away from home and joined a gang at 13. She started injecting PCP, and as a teen spent time in jail. By 22, she worked as a prostitute. At 37, she was diagnosed with HIV.

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Why Doctors Should Stay Out of the Business of Building EHRs
The Health Care Blog

The original Hipoocratic Oath states:
I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

One modern version reads:
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

The idea here is that a doctor needs to recognize when another practitioner has a skill that they do not, and that they must refrain from “practice” when another person has demonstrable expertise in that area of practice. It is now 2013. It is time for doctors to stop “writing their own EHR” from scratch. They need to bow out of this in favor of people who have developed expertise in the area.

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UC Davis surgeons resign after bacteria-in-brain dispute
Sacramento Bee

Two UC Davis neurosurgeons who intentionally infected three brain-cancer patients with bowel bacteria have resigned their posts after the university found they had “deliberately circumvented” internal policies, “defied directives” from top leaders and sidestepped federal regulations, according to newly released university documents.

Dr. J. Paul Muizelaar, 66, the former head of the neurosurgery department, and his colleague, Dr. Rudolph J. Schrot, violated the university’s faculty code of conduct with their experimental work, one internal investigation concluded.

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UC Davis exec associate dean Meyers next in med school chief forum
Sacramento Business Journal

UC Davis School of Medicine’s own executive associate dean is the third candidate to be featured in a series of public forums showcasing finalists for the job of medical school dean and vice chancellor of health and human sciences. Dr. Fred Meyers is up Monday from 4 to 5:30 in Room 1222 in the Education Building at 4610 X St. in Sacramento. Like other candidates, he’ll discuss the future of academic health centers in an era of unprecedented change in medicine.

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