News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Breakthrough Deal for Nursing Facilities
California Healthline

State officials yesterday agreed to a deal that will reverse the 10% Medi-Cal provider reimbursement cut for hospital-based, distinct-part skilled nursing facilities. The reversal was tucked into the language of SB 239 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), the bill to extend the hospital quality assurance fee. That bill yesterday cleared the Assembly Committee on Health with a unanimous vote, and is headed to the Legislature floor for votes over the next two days.

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Commonwealth Fund to track reform’s progress
Modern Healthcare

The head of the Commonwealth Fund announced that the 95-year-old foundation will adopt a new direction, including tracking the progress of the federal healthcare reform law and the performance of the nation’s healthcare system. “Our refocused programs will look for ways to engage consumers and healthcare providers in improving care, and also draw in other stakeholders with the ability to effect change, including policymakers, employers, entrepreneurs, software developers, insurers, health system leaders and many more,” Dr. David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund, said in a news release. He said, “Promoting a high-performing health system will remain the foundation’s touchstone.”

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More healthcare CIOs trust cloud computing, survey finds
Modern Healthcare

A new survey sponsored by Detroit-based Covisint shows 58% of 50 senior level executives give high marks for exchanging health information online.

Over the past several years, hospitals, physicians and other providers have been spending billions of dollars nationally to install electronic medical records and other information technologies. The EMRs, which also can be shared online through secure networks, help to reduce duplication of services, improve quality, lower readmission rates and improve chronic care delivery.

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Vaccine seems to clear monkeys of HIV-like infection; humans next?
Los Angeles Times

Scientists have developed a vaccine that protected monkeys against simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, offering fresh hope that a similar vaccine can save humans from HIV. When the monkeys were intentionally infected with SIV, the new vaccine cleared the infection and kept the animals virus-free for up to three years, according to a report this week in the journal Nature. Although there are medications to keep HIV in check for long periods of time, they can’t eliminate the virus altogether.

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Financial incentives prompt doctors to step up care for patients
Los Angeles Times

How do you get doctors to do a better job of controlling their patients’ high blood pressure? Pay them, according to the results of an unusual clinical trial.

For a typical doctor treating 1,000 patients for hypertension, extra payments of $1,648 were enough to get blood pressure under control – or at least get doctors to prescribe the right drugs and recommend the right lifestyle changes – for 84 additional patients. Those payments (distributed over 20 months) amounted to about 1.6% of the doctor’s annual salary.

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Reports say ACA saves consumers billions, but cuts insurers’ profits
Modern Healthcare

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act saved consumers $1.7 billion on health insurance premiums last year, an HHS report found. Meanwhile, a separate study found that ACA provisions squeezed insurers’ profits. The HHS report cites two provisions directly affecting health plan premiums—a rate review for premium increases that top 10% and the medical-loss ratio standard that caps how much of premium revenue insurers can use for administration, marketing and profits. In its report Thursday, HHS cites an analysis from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, which found that in 2012, insurers requested smaller rate increases in the individual and small group markets.

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Healthcare And Tax Reform
Forbes

From 1998 through 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the population grew by 32 million. However, the private insurance market failed to meet the needs of this increased population. In 2011, nearly 1 out of every 6 Americans lacked healthcare coverage. The number of individuals covered by government programs for the military, the poor, and those over 65 grew by 32.4 million, while 10.9 million were added to the ranks of the uninsured.

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Republicans clash over efforts to defund healthcare reform
FierceHealthcare

Republican threats of a government shutdown to defund healthcare reform has caused a rift between GOP leaders and conservative Republicans. Those threats could turn into reality now that House Republican leaders delayed a vote on a bill that would avert a government shutdown in order to take more time to build support for a new proposal to defund the law, NBC News reported. House Republicans’ proposal would fund all government agencies through Dec. 15 but also would include a measure to cut off funds to the Affordable Care Act.

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Covered California targets uninsured Hispanic, Asian American communities in Oakland
Oakland North

In Oakland’s Chinatown, Michael Tran has been talking to young people in the Asian community about the importance of healthcare – a complex topic in which they aren’t readily interested.

“Folks in our community, they’re not totally engaged in the process. There are a lot of cultural barriers and many of them work long hours. They also don’t want to draw a lot of attention to themselves,” said Michael Tran, a program coordinator at The Spot, a multi-service center that promotes health of young Asian Pacific Islanders through the Chinatown Youth Center Initiative.

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AFL-CIO pushes for tougher health care reform law penalties
Business Insurance

Congress should amend the health care reform law to make more employers liable for a big financial penalty if they do not offer coverage to their part-time employees, the AFL-CIO says.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers with at least 50 full-time employees — defined as employees working at least 30 hours a week — are liable for a $2,000 per employee penalty if they do not offer qualified coverage and one employee obtains a federal premium subsidy to purchase coverage in a public insurance exchange. That employer mandate takes effect in 2015.

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Medical identity theft a growing problem, report says
Modern Healthcare

Medical identity theft is a growing problem, but many of the victims know the thief and do not want to report him or her, says a survey released Thursday. The number of victims affected by medical identity theft increased by an estimated 19% over the past year, to 313,000 new victims, and generated more than an estimated $12.3 billion in out-of-pocket expenses in 2013, according to the 2013 Survey on Medical Theft, which also reflected data from government agencies.

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F.D.A. Panel Backs Pre-Surgery Drug for Breast Cancer
New York Times

A federal advisory committee cleared the way on Thursday for the first approval of a cancer drug that would be used to treat patients before surgery to remove their tumors.

The advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted 13 to 0, with one abstention, that Perjeta, a Genentech drug approved last year for late-stage breast cancer, could also be used at the disease’s earliest stage.

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Policymakers to take another shot at patient-record matching
Modern Healthcare

Federal health information technology policymakers, aided by a number of healthcare IT organizations, will take another stab at achieving industry consensus on how to best match patients to their electronic health records to improve patient safety and care coordination. The goal is to make sure healthcare providers have the right EHR for their patient and aren’t mistakenly looking at the record for another person with the same name or birthday. How best to identify patient records has been controversial at least since passage of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in 1996.

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Bill to regulate doctors’ prescription power loses teeth
Sacramento Business Journal

A bill to suspend licenses for physicians accused of overprescribing medication has passed the California Legislature, but supporters aren’t happy. Senate Bill 670, authored by Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, would have temporarily restricted doctors who are accused of harming patients by improperly prescribing medicine. But last-minute changes to the proposal stripped out that provision after a flurry of lobbying from the California Medical Association.

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Is CVS rewards program complying with California law?
Los Angeles Times

CVS Caremark insists that it’s just complying with federal law by informing customers that their medical information could be “redisclosed” if they sign up for the company’s prescription-drug reward program. Privacy experts, though, question whether CVS is complying with state law. “California’s privacy law is stricter than federal law,” said Charles Googooian, a La Canada Flintridge lawyer who specializes in medical-privacy issues. It doesn’t seem like CVS is complying with either the spirit or the letter of state law.”

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Woodland Healthcare had lowest number of septic patients in area
Daily Democrat

Woodland Memorial Hospital recorded the lowest number of septic patients among acute care facilities in the Sacramento area in 2012, according to the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Woodland Memorial also had the second lowest incidence of sepsis-related deaths among infected patients. These two statistics reflect the success of adherence to evidence-based guidelines Woodland Healthcare has instituted to combat the nationwide problem of infection among in-patients, according to a statement.

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Stanford Hospital names new CIO and new chief medical information officer
San Francisco Business Times

Stanford Hospital & Clinics has named Pravene Nath, M.D., as its chief information officer and Christopher Sharp, M.D., as chief medical information officer, officials said late Thursday. Nath joined the Palo Alto hospital five years ago as chief medical information officer and has been interim chief information officer since Carolyn Byerly left in January to become managing partner at Platinum Advisory Services LLC, a consulting firm she heads.

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Enloe employees, physicians, volunteers raise $88,000 in single day
Chico Enterprise Record

Enloe Medical Center employees, physicians and volunteers rallied to try and reach a goal of $100,000 in donations in one day Friday. Although the goal wasn’t reached, rally attendees donated $88,200 to the Enloe Foundation, which aims to better patient care, said Jolene Francis, Enloe’s director of advancement.

“Most people were here because they wanted to give back to the organizations and make a difference in how we care about our patients,” Francis said.

The event ran from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. so hospital affiliates, employees and volunteers could attend.

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