News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Bill Clinton Defends Health Care Law
The Huffington Post

Bill Clinton urged opponents of the federal health care law Wednesday to stop trying to repeal it and instead work to improve it, as the White House enlisted the former president to make the case for its signature domestic accomplishment.

Speaking at his presidential library in downtown Little Rock, Clinton offered a detailed defense and explanation of the law as a key part of its implementation nears.

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Clinton Urges Americans to Sign Up for Health Care Exchanges
New York Times

He chose his home state as the venue, and did not refrain from ticking off several problems he saw with the law. But former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday made a meticulous, if wonkish, case for Americans of all political leanings to embrace the Obama health care law. “The health of our people, the security and stability of our families, and the strength of our economy are all riding on getting health care reform right and doing it well,” he said.

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Bill Clinton urges unity for Obama’s health care law
USA Today

Bill Clinton wore his “Secretary of Explaining Stuff” hat Wednesday to defend President Obama’s health care law, arguing that it’s time to drop opposition to what Republicans slam as “Obamacare.”

“We need all hands on deck here. The health of our people, the security and stability of our families and the strength of our economy are all riding on getting health care reform right and doing it well,” Clinton said in remarks at his presidential library in Little Rock. “That means we have to do it together.”

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Healthcare reform expert: Next phase will be rockier than the first
FierceHealthcare

Although the country is still struggling with the challenges of the first phase of healthcare reform, a leading health economist and policy expert predicts the next phase will be even more difficult as the market demands accelerated changes that involve paying for neccessary care and forcing pricing transparency into every facet of health system operations.

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Studies take early look at health law’s premiums
San Francisco Chronicle

Coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law won’t be cheap, but cost-conscious consumers hunting for lower premiums will have plenty of options, according to two independent private studies.

A study released Thursday by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found that government tax credits would lower the sticker price on a benchmark “silver” policy to a little over $190 a month for single people making about $29,000, regardless of their age.

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Study indicates potential Obamacare premiums
San Francisco Chronicle

The No. 1 question about President Obama’s health care law is whether consumers will be able to afford the coverage. Now the answer is coming in. The biggest study yet of premiums posted by states finds that the sticker price for a 21-year-old buying a mid-range policy will average about $270 a month. That’s before government tax credits that act like a discount for most people, bringing down the cost based on their income.

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Healthcare Reform: How the Poor Continue to Fall Through the Cracks
Healthline

Under new healthcare guidelines, roughly 48 million Americans without health insurance will be shopping for insurance in state and federal exchanges next year. But as many as 6.4 million people in certain states will still fall through coverage cracks.

The “coverage gap” is an unintended consequence of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The law calls for an expansion of benefits under Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for the poor.

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The Medi-Cal mess: Will ’Obamacare’ fix things?
Sacramento News and Review

About 160,000 people in the Sacramento area are uninsured, even though they could be signed up for the state’s low-income health-care plan, Medi-Cal. Instead, they are paying bills from their own pockets, or incurring costs on overburdened county clinics and hospitals. The same problem exists statewide: Nearly 3 million low-income Californians eligible for Medi-Cal have not signed up—a monumental failure rate of a program that guarantees low-cost coverage for about 11 million Golden State residents, plus some level of reimbursement for their medical providers.

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Wider health-care coverage in California
Lompoc Record

The California Universal Healthcare Act (SB 810) will provide Californians with a single-payer system, similar to Medicare, that will enable all residents of the state to receive comprehensive health-care services, including prescriptions, hospice, mental health treatment, vision and dental care. A single-payer agency will pay all health-care bills using reasonable, tax-supported financing that would replace premiums, co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses currently being charged by insurance companies.

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NIH will award $25 million to projects looking at babies’ health
Modern Healthcare

The National Institutes of Health will award $25 million to four research projects that plan to look at how genomic sequencing in newborns may improve the health of babies.

In one of the projects, two researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital plan to analyze the risk and benefits of providing genome sequencing to newborns and then form clinical protocols addressing how physicians and other healthcare providers should use a baby’s genomic information.

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Shorter waits for angioplasty do not lower death rates, study says
Los Angeles Times

An intense nationwide push to speed hospital treatment for heart attack patients has been a success, cutting by 20% the average time people waited before getting their clogged arteries opened between 2005 and 2009. But in a twist cardiologists called “disappointing,” the improvement did not translate into lower death rates, according to a study published in Thursday’s edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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RAC Oversight Lacking, OIG Charges
Health Leaders Media

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services needs to tighten up the oversight of its recovery audit program to evaluate its effectiveness in terms of improper payments identified, the referral of potential fraud cases, and the implementation of corrective action, according to a report from the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition, the OIG report notes that recovery audit contractor performance metrics and evaluations are sorely lacking. “Given the critical role of identifying improper payments, effective oversight of RAC performance is important.”

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Lack of network restrictions source of trouble for some ACOs
Modern Healthcare

As more hospitals and physicians have money on the line for healthcare quality and cost, their attempts to control costs have grown more intense and ambitious. This would be good news if the path to more effective and less costly care were clear, but it’s not. That has transformed many of the nation’s health systems into high-stakes laboratories where theories on how to deliver the best value care are underway.

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Clout, not costs, drives higher charges from hospitals, study says
Modern Healthcare

Bargaining leverage, not the cost of providing complex care, is the main reason why some hospitals can demand prices twice as high as their competitors’ and still get contracts to treat privately insured patients, according to a new study. The analysis by the Center for Studying Health System Change of actual payments to hospitals and physicians by private insurers in 13 U.S. cities found that the most expensive hospitals got rates as much as 60% more than the lowest-priced competitor for inpatient care, and prices that were double the competition for outpatient care.

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Why Nurse Practitioners Will Not Solve the Primary Care Crisis
The Health Care Blog

In coming years the US could see growing shortages in the availability of primary care physicians (PCPs). With the number of individuals seeking care increasing and the current medical system continuing to incentivize physicians to specialize, the number of available PCPs will decline proportional to the population. To fill that gap, Ezra Klein and others have asserted that expanded scope of practice will allow nurse practitioners (NPs) to serve as viable substitutes for primary care shortages.

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Union seeks to block Kaiser from health benefit exchange
Sacramento Business Journal

The National Union of Healthcare Workers filed a lawsuit against Covered California in Sacramento County Superior Court on Wednesday, seeking to block Kaiser Permanente from participating in California’s health benefit exchange due to substandard care that violates exchange rules. The lawsuit points to a $4 million fine levied against Kaiser in June by the California Department of Managed Health Care for serious deficiencies in providing access to mental health services — and alleges state and federal law exchanges can only contract with plans in good standing with regulators.

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Cancer Care for Dying Patients On The Rise
Health Leaders Media

Cancer care for seniors at the end of life has become more aggressive—and less in line with patients’ desires—than it was between 2003 and 2007, according to the latest edition of the Dartmouth Atlas Project. There are, however, some encouraging signs, noted the project’s David Goodman, MD, co-principal investigator, said during a news teleconference Wednesday.

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UC Davis sponsors ‘Mini-Medical School’ for Spanish speakers
Sacramento Bee

On Saturday morning, Spanish-speakers have an opportunity – the only one of its kind in the nation – to speak with experts on various health and medical issues at UC Davis’ Sixth Annual Spanish Mini-Medical School.

Attendees will have a chance to learn about critical care issues in their native language and to discuss these topics in Spanish with health care professionals from UC Davis and the community.

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UCSF Receives $4.5M to Study Value of Gene Sequencing in Newborns
UCSF Today

UC San Francisco will receive $4.5 million over the next five years for a pilot project to assess whether large-scale gene sequencing aimed at detecting disorders and conditions can and should become a routine part of newborn testing.

The study is one of four projects launched today by the National Institutes of Health to identify the accuracy and feasibility of providing genetic sequencing as part of, or instead of, the current newborn screening that relies on biochemical changes in the blood.

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John Muir Health to sell MuirLab business to LabCorp, lay off 540
San Francisco Business Times

John Muir Health, a two-hospital system in Walnut Creek and Concord, is selling its MuirLab clinical lab business to LabCorp. Terms were not disclosed, but the sale would result in 540 MuirLab jobs being eliminated, although roughly one in three of them may move over to LabCorp, also known as Laboratory Corporation of America (NYSE: LH).

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River City Medical Group COO Fong stepping down
Sacramento Business Journal

Ted Fong, chief operating officer at River City Medical Group since January 2012, will step down in early October to explore other opportunities. Kendrick Que, a former regional director for Dignity Health in Sacramento, will take his place. Que has been in health care management for 15 years, most recently as interim executive for a large health system in Pennsylvania.

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