News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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More doctors are ditching the old prescription pad
San Francisco Chronicle

Doctors increasingly are ditching the prescription pad. The latest count shows more than a third of the nation’s prescriptions now are electronic. The government has been pushing doctors to e-prescribe, in part because it can be safer for patients. Drugstores don’t have to decipher messy handwriting. And ordering via computer lets the doctor see if the new drug will interact badly with one the patient already takes. Starting this year, Medicare is cutting payments to certain doctors who stick with paper.

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5 Keys to California ACO’s Early Success
Becker's Hospital Review

Leaders in an accountable care model in Sacramento, Calif. — including Blue Shield of California, the California Public Employees Retirement System (the purchaser), Hill Physicians Medical Group and Sacramento-area hospitals owned by San Francisco-based Dignity Health (formerly Catholic Healthcare West) — recently shared insight into how they established their integrated care model in a Health Affairs interview. Originating before President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, the integrated care model in northern California is a pioneer in the commercial ACO arena.

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OIG Uncovers Flaws in CMS Processes, Programs
Health Leaders Media

A recent spate of Office of Inspector General audit reports calls into question some programs from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It remains uncertain why the release of these audit reports have come within such a short window of time, but the fact that they are occurring should be an indication that CMS’s methods and processes are far from perfect.

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Insurance exchanges could mean savings for some, researcher says
Modern Healthcare

People who purchase health insurance policies on the individual market may save an average of $280 annually under the healthcare overhaul’s coming insurance exchanges, according to projections by a federal researcher.

Steven Hill, a senior economist in the Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, analyzed costs for the 11 million beneficiaries in the individual insurance market in recent years and projected their future costs under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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HHS Exchange Funding Tops $1B
Health Leaders Media

The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday announced the award of $181 million in new grants to help states establish health insurance exchanges. HHS also issued two guidance documents to help states build exchanges.

Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee received Level One exchange establishment grants, which provide one year of funding to states that have begun the process of building their exchange.

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California proposes $190M Medicaid cuts to hospitals
FierceHealthcare

Facing a state budget deficit that has ballooned to $15.7 billion, California is proposing major cuts to hospitals and nursing homes to reduce healthcare costs, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Monday, California Healthline reported. “It is disappointing that the revised budget includes a rake-off of $150 million from private hospitals and more than $40 million from public hospitals,” California Hospital Association President C. Duane Dauner said in a statement.

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Antipsychotic medication relieves chemo-related nausea
USA Today

New research presented Wednesday highlights drugs to make cancer therapy easier but also underscores the difficulties that patients may encounter after treatment. A commonly used schizophrenia drug, Zypraxa, reduced the number of patients suffering from chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting by more than half, according to a study of 80 patients presented in advance of the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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Antibiotic linked with rare but deadly heart risk
San Francisco Chronicle

An antibiotic widely used for bronchitis and other common infections seems to increase chances for sudden deadly heart problems, a rare but surprising risk found in a 14-year study. Zithromax, or azithromycin, is more expensive than other antibiotics, but it’s popular because it often can be taken for fewer days. But the results suggest doctors should prescribe other options for people already prone to heart problems, the researchers and other experts said.

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Paralysis victims use brain signals to control robotic arm
USA Today

A fully paralyzed man and woman have demonstrated the ability to hold a ball or grab a cup of coffee using their brain signals to control a robotic arm, researchers report Wednesday. The demonstrations, reported in the journal Nature, mark yet another significant step in efforts by researchers to connect severely paralyzed patients to prosthetic devices that they can maneuver with their own thoughts.

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Wellpoint will lay off 92 employees
The Acorn

WellPoint is preparing to lay off 92 employees in one of its two Newbury Park offices next month.

Seventy-three layoffs effective June 4 will eliminate positions in the customer care and medical review departments at the health insurance company’s 2100 Corporate Center Drive location. Another 19 layoffs affecting employees in several departments will happen in June and July.

Darrel Ng, a spokesperson for the health insurance company, said employees were given 60 days’ notice.

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Protesters disrupt WellPoint annual meeting
San Francisco Chronicle

WellPoint Inc. shareholders rejected a call for more disclosure about the health insurer’s political contributions Wednesday during a shout-filled, contentious annual meeting. Union representatives and other protesters repeatedly interrupted Chairwoman and CEO Angela Braly after she opened the meeting and introduced proposals for shareholder voting. One person presented a petition she said was signed by 15,000 people asking the Indianapolis company for more disclosure.

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River City Medical chooses COO
Sacramento Business Journal

River City Medical Group, a 500-doctor Sacramento-based group that serves Medi-Cal patients, has appointed Ted Fong as chief operating officer. Hired as administrator in January, Fong added staff and made improvements in claims management and processing, contracting and internal controls, Loren Douglas, chief executive officer at the medical group, said in an appointment announcement Wednesday.

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Why do drug shortages persist?
USA Today

Carey Fitzmaurice, a mother of two in Bethesda, Md., was battling ovarian cancer last spring with Doxil, a key part of a chemotherapy mixture that looked as if it was working. But last summer, supplies of Doxil dried up. When we spoke to Fitzmaurice in October, she was on a waiting list. The drug never came through. She continued therapy without it. Since then, the markers for her cancer have risen.

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Generic Pharmaceutical Association: We’re stepping up
USA Today

As the manufacturers of 80% of the prescription drugs dispensed in the U.S., the generic pharmaceutical industry is committed to providing patients with the safe and effective medicines they need at a price they can afford. This commitment has never been more evident than in our work to address shortages of critically needed medications.

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