News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospital Disaster Preparedness Conference Focuses on Community Planning, Teamwork
Market Watch

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing one fact became exceedingly clear – responding to a disaster requires teamwork, open communication and thorough planning. This understanding also carries over to lessons learned from the recent Asiana plane crash in San Francisco and the fire at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond. Recognizing the importance of learning from past disasters and from one another, California’s health care leaders have gathered in Sacramento to discuss emergency preparedness.

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California Hospitals Face ‘Hard Decisions’ Under Medicare Payment Changes
capital public radio

A hospital group in the San Francisco Bay Area recently announced its intention to cut its staff by four percent due to financial pressures. And more structural changes may be to come for other California hospitals under the Affordable Care Act, according to one hospital trade group. The California Hospital Association says Medicare payment changes under the Affordable Care Act will mean billions fewer dollars will flow into medical facilities over the next decade.

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Calif. docs argue Medicaid pay cuts will undermine expansion
Modern Healthcare

In an effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to block California’s Medicaid pay cuts, doctors in the state are arguing that the lower rates will undermine the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program next year under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The California Medical Association filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling allowing the 10% cut to go forward.

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Matsui introduces federal ‘anti-dumping’ bill for mental hospitals
Sacramento Bee

Spurred by concerns that a Nevada hospital bused hundreds of mental patients across the country, in some cases to cities where they had no support system or treatment arrangements, Rep. Doris Matsui has introduced federal legislation that would impose hefty fines on facilities that engage in so-called “Greyhound therapy.” Matsui, a Sacramento Democrat, introduced the House bill last week; it would be the first federal law to specifically address “dumping” of mentally ill people by psychiatric hospitals onto other facilities or jurisdictions without a discharge plan.

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Federal health officials announce Valley fever study
Modesto Bee

Two of the nation’s health leaders on Monday announced a clinical trial to study the best way to treat Valley fever, a fungal disease that has risen by alarming rates in the last decade.

The randomized clinical trial will be based in large part in Bakersfield, an epicenter for Valley fever, and will involve 1,000 patients.

“We don’t exactly know what the best treatment is for Valley fever and this is why we need a clinical trial,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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State Insurance Exchange Blind Spots: Unknown Risks and Unintended Consequences
The Health Care Blog

October 1st marks the first ever public exchange open enrollment season. This means some of the speculation around consumer awareness and understanding, enrollment/uptake, premiums, and payer participation (not to mention the technical readiness of the exchanges) will finally subside and give way to a clearer picture of the PPACA’s initial success in mandating individual health coverage. Despite this approaching level of clarity, however, several very significant “blind-spots” will continue to persist, principally for the health insurance carriers that choose to participate by offering PPACA compliant plans in the exchange.

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Health care law reuniting Obama, Bill Clinton
San Francisco Chronicle

Health care is reuniting President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

The two are set to appear together Tuesday to discuss Obama’s health care law at a session sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative, the former president’s foundation.

The joint appearance comes exactly one week before people who don’t have health insurance can start signing up on Oct. 1 for coverage plans through new insurance marketplaces.

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Affordable Care Act coverage starts soon
ABC News

Beginning Jan. 1, all Americans will be required to have health care coverage. It’s the law. Starting next week, you can sign up for health care coverage if you don’t already have it. ABC7 News wants to make sure you understand your choices, and beginning today, we’ll take a look at what you can expect from health care reform. President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act back in 2010, but it’s just now becoming a reality. It hasn’t been without controversy.

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Most Americans oppose defunding Obamacare, poll finds
Sacramento Business Journal

Is defunding Obamacare worth the risk of shutting down the government? Most Americans don’t think so. A new poll by CNBC found that 59 percent of Americans oppose defunding Obamacare if that leads to a government shutdown. Only 19 percent favor defunding Obamacare in this case. The House passed legislation Friday that funds the government through Dec. 15, but eliminates funding for implementing health care reform.

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Americans Oppose House GOP’s Obamacare Strategy
National Journal Magazine

Republicans, take note. Americans might not like President Obama’s signature health care law, but they don’t dislike the massive program enough to risk a government shutdown over efforts to unravel it. According to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, a solid majority of Americans said Congress should consider legislation that might delay or defund the program known as Obamacare separate from any government funding or debt-limit measure.

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Could healthcare reform shut down the government?

The House of Representatives on Friday voted 230-189 to pass a bill that would fund government operations but strip healthcare reform spending. The stopgap measure introduced last week by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) 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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Ted Cruz’s Defense of His Obamacare Battle Was Jaw-Droppingly Misleading
The Atlantic

In a relatively brief statement from the floor of the Senate on Monday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for the first time presented his case for how a vote to fund the government should proceed. It was a stunning presentation, largely divorced from how most people — his colleagues included — understand the reality of his quixotic fight.

First, the reality. Cruz, backed by conservative activists, spent the summer arguing that the key to defunding Obamacare (technically, the Affordable Care Act) was to refuse to pass any legislation funding the government unless it didn’t include money for the program.

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5 consequences if the GOP manages to kill healthcare reform

The possibility our government will shut down and default on our borrowings in order to kill the Affordable Care Act should bring the Yeats poem “The Second Coming” to mind. But I believe I have found a more relevant comparison: “Pepi Longsocks.” The skit was broadcast as part of the brilliant Canadian comedy show SCTV and was a dead-on parody of the Swedish “Pippi Longstocking” movies kids growing up in the 1970s watched on weekend television.

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Turns Out Obamacare Is Going to Limit Your Choices

Prices on the insurance exchanges that will make their debut on Oct. 1 will, by broad consensus, mostly be higher than you were paying before,* but lower than some studies had projected. And why is it lower? The answer, it appears, is that state and federal regulators have been pushing insurers to hold the cost down. In some cases, insurers have simply pulled out of the market, as Aetna did when Maryland asked it to lower prices by 29 percent.

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Not Affordable Care Act: Opposing view
USA Today

Imagine that Congress passed a law requiring all cars sold in America to use hybrid engines. If you’re concerned about our consumption of fossil fuels, such a law might sound great. However, as anyone who has shopped for a car knows, hybrid cars are much more expensive than conventional ones. ObamaCare is doing something similar to health insurance, especially for people who buy it on their own.

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Senators, Staff Told Not to Enroll in Obamacare Exchanges Yet
Roll Call

A memo to Senate employees circulated late Monday is telling members and staff not to sign up for health care benefits with the new Obamacare exchanges until they receive more guidance. “As the [Office of Personnel Management] Regulations are not final and we are awaiting further information, Members and staff are advised that they should delay enrolling in health insurance plans until we are able to offer further guidance as to how they should enroll in these insurance plans for 2014,” the Senate Disbursing Office said in an email blast obtained by CQ Roll Call.

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Affordable care in 7 days: Our view
USA Today

Most Americans are at least vaguely aware that ObamaCare will require almost every citizen to have health insurance, but that starts to get real a week from Tuesday. The mandate itself doesn’t take effect until January, but anyone who doesn’t already get insurance at work or through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid will be able to start signing up for private policies under the new law on Oct. 1.

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Consumers spending more out-of-pocket, despite slow healthcare spending growth, report shows
Modern Healthcare

Health spending by privately insured patients increased 4% last year, with households picking up more of the cost, new data show.

Spending per person among the privately insured increased $181 to $4,701 last year from the prior year, an analysis by the not-for-profit Health Care Cost Institute found. Institute researchers analyzed medical bills submitted to insurance giants Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare for 2012 and three previous years in the report, which found slow growth continued last year among the commercially insured across all payers.

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Is a high-deductible health plan right for you?
USA Today

If you’re looking to cut your health care insurance premium, one route is a high-deductible insurance plan. But the downside is this: If you become seriously ill, you’ll realize why it’s called a high-deductible plan.

For that reason, proponents like to call high-deductible plans “consumer-directed health care plans.” No matter what you call it, here’s how they work: In exchange for a relatively low annual premium, your insurance doesn’t kick in until you’ve met your deductible — often $3,000 or more.

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Judge rules retiree health protected like pension

A superior court judge overturned a freeze on retiree health care for Los Angeles city attorneys this month, citing some of the same case law that made public pensions a vested right that can only be cut if offset by a new benefit.

The court ruling is a blow to the view that state and local governments, when looking for cost savings, may be able to make cuts in promised retiree health care that are not allowed for tamper-proof pensions.

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City to revamp ambulance rules
The Press-Enterprise

Long-awaited new rules for ambulance companies in Riverside would overhaul the city’s permit system for non-emergency medical transport, but they came with an unexpected twist: They also would apply to 911 ambulance response within its boundaries. Any move by Riverside to give permits for 911 service would be at odds with a state-approved plan that gives Riverside County oversight of emergency ambulance service.

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Putting a price tag on contacting your medical specialist
Los Angeles Times

So-called concierge medicine — doctors asking their patients to pay an extra fee just to remain under their care — has been around for a while.

It’s an offensive idea, but I get it, especially when it comes to family practitioners who look after a patient’s general well-being. The medical marketplace has room for both Corollas and Cadillacs.

Yet when it comes to medical specialists, such as cardiologists, things seem different.

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Heart Attack Patient Costs Skyrocket Beyond 30 Days
Health Leaders Media

Medicare’s system for paying for heart attack care based on diagnosis has led to relatively low cost increases during the first 30 days after patient admissions, but from the 31st day to the 365th day, costs under the fee-for-service system skyrocketed. That’s according to a report analyzing Medicare cost trends from 1998 to 2008, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine by University of Michigan and Dartmouth Institute researchers. The finding comes even though fewer Medicare beneficiaries required hospital admission for heart attack.

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Study shows generic drug use kept rising in 2012
USA Today

A move by Americans to use more generic drugs and shop for cheaper health care options kept the increase in overall medical spending stable in 2012, according to a report released Tuesday.

In 2012, health care costs for an average person insured through work were $4,701, a $181 increase over 2011, according to the Health Care Cost Institute, a non-profit group that conducts health research. The growth rate for per capita costs slowed from a 4.1% increase in 2011 to 4% last year.

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NorthBay financing plan gets hearing
The Reporter

NorthBay Healthcare Group is asking Solano County Supervisors to facilitate a $2.3 million lease obligation bond with the Association of Bay Area Governments to pay for energy-efficient equipment. NorthBay Healthcare Group, according to county staff, has asked the county to conduct a Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act hearing, as required by the Internal Revenue Code before ABAG can issue the bond.

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SY Valley hospital to hold health fair
Lompoc Record

Featuring free flu shots, more than 40 vendors and health screenings, the 31st annual Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital Health Fair is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5 at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott , 555 McMurray Road in Buellton. Admission is free and all ages are welcome.

More than 40 vendor/display booths, giveaways and refreshments will be available along with free seasonal flu shots on a first come, first vaccinated basis (pregnant women and children under age 18 ineligible).

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Riverside County hospital under microscope
The Desert Sun

Riverside County supervisors heard suggestions Monday from a health care consulting firm on a new direction for the county’s regional medical center and voted to begin talks with the consultant on implementing that strategic plan.

The board previously hired Huron Consulting to conduct a thorough review of the county’s health and mental health delivery systems.

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Union contract: Santa Clara County pact puts community service first
The Mercury News

Unlike other regions of the state and country, Santa Clara County has not had a full-blown strike by its public workforce for nearly four decades. The last time was in 1975, and we are proud that on our watch, one was recently averted.

But it got mighty close. Negotiations lasted four long months, many sessions running into the wee hours and over weekends, with a deal tentatively struck only hours before a strike vote.