News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Price-comparison services help cut medical costs
San Francisco Chronicle

Surgery to remove your appendix in one California hospital could cost $180,000. Have the operation at a different facility in the same state and the bill might be as little as $1,500. That kind of disparity, typical across the country, combined with escalating medical spending and the increasing amount of data available online, has prompted several startups to get into the business of helping companies and their employees save health care dollars.

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CMS actuaries see higher Medicare costs
Modern Healthcare

Based on the premise that the 2012 Medicare Trustees Report’s projections are “clearly unrealistic,” a new memo (PDF) from the CMS Office of the Actuary lays out hypothetical alternatives that estimate higher expenditures for the federal healthcare program.

The annual Medicare Trustees Report is based on projections under current law; the most recent report was released last month. But the report portrays a view that is too optimistic, the CMS memo contends, as it incorporates mandated reductions for most Medicare services.

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Rising prices drove higher spending among commercially insured: study
Modern Healthcare

Rising prices meant higher health spending for patients with insurance through a job in 2010 even as demand for medical care stagnated, according to the first report generated from a trove of claims data from private insurers.

The report, which analyzed what insurers and households paid for medical care from 2007 to 2010, was released by the Health Care Cost Institute, a not-for-profit with access to insurance claims from Kaiser Permanente, Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare. The project was launched last year.

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Backers of health insurance rate regulation edge closer to ballot
Los Angeles Times

Supporters of a proposed ballot measure seeking tighter regulation of health insurance rates in California turned in 800,000 petition signatures, confident that they will qualify for the Nov. 6 election.

In the coming weeks, county election offices and the California secretary of state will determine whether the measure meets the requirement for 504,760 valid signatures of registered voters. The deadline to qualify is June 28.

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ICD-10 Coding Uncovers Higher Rate of Fatal Falls Among Seniors
Health Leaders Media

The risk of falls among seniors should become an even more important prevention focus for clinicians and discharge planners because of new research that ICD-10 coding shows a 42% increase in falls as a cause of death among those 65 and older between 1999 and 2007.

One subcategory, falls on the same level, which went up 698%, was largely responsible for the overall increase.

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Filling a need for bilingual health care
HealthyCal.org

All of the receptionists at the 11 Ventura County Centers for Family Health speak Spanish — because they have to. About 30 percent of the primary-care centers’ patients don’t speak English and likely wouldn’t have access regular medical care if it weren’t for bilingual offices. Approximately 70 percent of the patients prefer to speak Spanish, said Victor Dominguez, a family practice physician at the Santa Paula clinic and medical director for the centers.

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Petitions to be submitted on health insurance rates in California
Sacramento Bee

Supporters of a proposal to give state regulators power to reject health insurance rate increases say they are submitting 800,000 voter signatures to election officials in hopes of qualifying for the November ballot.

“We will give California voters the chance to decide their own fate in November and stop out-of-control health insurance premiums,” Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court, whose group is sponsoring the initiative, wrote in an email to supporters Friday.

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Memorial Hospital to start ER renovation
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, the North Coast’s only Level 2 trauma center, will begin its long-awaited emergency room renovation Monday.

The $15 million expansion will allow the hospital to see at least 50,000 emergency and trauma patients a year — a 32 percent increase over the current capacity of 38,000 patients annually. The number of ER beds will increase from 19 to 26 private patient rooms and one private triage room.

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Knee surgery stats prompt changes at US hospitals
San Francisco Chronicle

Knee replacement surgeries at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center soon could be handled by a specialized operating room team as the result of a data-sharing project among health systems throughout the U.S. aimed at improving health care and lowering costs. The Lebanon hospital is among the founding members of a collaborative created in 2010 to analyze a range of high-volume, high-cost medical procedures and conditions and quickly spreading the word about which approaches result in the best outcomes and the lowest costs.

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Calif. switches contractors for info exchange
Modern Healthcare

In California, a land renowned for upheaval, the ground has shifted once again under federal and state efforts to promote health information exchange.

The California Health and Human Services Agency is switching contractors for implementation of the exchange programs, according to a CHHS news release (PDF). The agency is the recipient of nearly $38.8 million in federal funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to promote statewide health information exchanges.

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FDA rule clears medical devices without human testing
Orange County Register

Laurie Kelly blinked awake from surgery at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, grateful for the cutting-edge technology that gave her the chance to beat breast cancer in a single day. That June 2010 morning, Hoag doctors removed a tumor from her left breast. Then they positioned their brand-new Xoft Axxent device to deliver a high dose – 20 gray – of electron radiation to her surrounding flesh, eliminating the need for six weeks of treatment. Kelly’s healthy tissue was protected by the Axxent FlexiShield Mini, a malleable metal pad made of silicone-wrapped tungsten.

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The United States deserves a better health care system
San Mateo Daily Journal

Our nation waits with bated breath to learn the verdict on health care reform. If supported by the Supreme Court, access to U.S. health care will be greatly improved. Currently, we have programs to support certain groups — Medicare supports those older than 65 and the disabled, CHIP supports mothers and children, university-mandated health care supports college students, prison health care supports prisoners. The only people not getting health care now are: adults without children who haven’t committed a crime and ended up in prison.

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Waiting for Health Care
New York Times

This Op-Doc video, adapted from my feature-length documentary “The Waiting Room,” presents a composite day in the life of patients at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif. — edited from five months of filming in 2010.

“The Waiting Room” developed from stories my wife, a speech pathologist at Highland Hospital, told me about the struggles and resilience of her patient population.

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Diabetes on the Rise Among Teenagers
New York Times

Nearly one in four American adolescents may be on the verge of developing Type 2 diabetes or could already be diabetic, representing a sharp increase in the disease’s prevalence among children ages 12 to 19 since a decade ago, when it was estimated that fewer than one in 10 were at risk for or had diabetes, according to a new study. This worsening of the problem is worrying in light of recently published findings that the disease progresses more rapidly in children than in adults and is harder to treat, experts said.

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Sleep Apnea Tied to Increased Cancer Risk
New York Times

Two new studies have found that people with sleep apnea, a common disorder that causes snoring, fatigue and dangerous pauses in breathing at night, have a higher risk of cancer. The new research marks the first time that sleep apnea has been linked to cancer in humans. About 28 million Americans have some form of sleep apnea, though many cases go undiagnosed. For sleep doctors, the condition is a top concern because it deprives the body of oxygen at night and often coincides with cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.

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Why is the Federal Receiver for prison medical care $300 million over budget?
Southern California Public Radio

According to figures from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Federal Receiver in charge of California’s prison medical care is running $295.4 million over budget in the current fiscal year. The receivership — essentially an outside individual hired by the federal court to bring the state into compliance with the Constitution — has been in place since 2005. Receiver Clark Kelso, in the job since 2008, is tasked with updating and improving the prison system’s medical care.

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