News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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California given mixed reviews on preventing disease outbreaks
Los Angeles Daily News

California’s public health system lacks the capability to test large numbers of the public over a two-month period if an outbreak of disease occurs, researchers have found. A report released Tuesday shows that the Golden State achieved only half of 10 indicators that researchers chose to ensure that the public is protected against various infectious disease including influenza, tuberculosis, antibiotic-resistant superbugs or salmonella.

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Does ICD-10 Pilot Forecast a Perfect Storm for Healthcare?
The Health Care Blog

Let me concede from the outset that, in this blog post, I lean toward the negative—dire predictions, worst-case scenarios, a bit of doom and gloom, etc. But I ask you, oh gentle, patient reader, how could I not? Let’s go to the satellite. You can see warm air from a low-pressure system (Meaningful Use Stage 2, not changed dramatically by the one-year extension) collide with cool, dry air from a high-pressure area (the turmoil of Obamacare) and tropical hurricane moisture (ICD-10). Tell me you don’t see the Perfect Storm yourself.

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More than half of U.S. hospitals aim for ACOs by 2015, execs say
Modern Healthcare

The momentum around accountable care organizations is growing, although the pace might be slower than imagined given the buzz around the emerging payment and delivery model.

Less than a quarter of providers are expected to have formed or joined an ACO by the end of 2013, even though participation quadrupled since last year, according to data from Premier’s 2013 Economic Outlook, which drew on responses from 115 C-level executives in 35 states.

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Intelligence Report: Cost-Containment Expertise
Health Leaders Media

Conventional wisdom is that cost-cutting is a painful, even futile, way to respond to reduced reimbursements. One can only cut so far before placing sustainability in jeopardy. Nonetheless, healthcare executives are very much focused on reducing the costs of providing care, with 39% saying their cost-cutting programs have resulted in savings of at least 6% every year for the past three years. More than half (56%) say they expect total cost reductions over the next three years to be 6% or more, as well.

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Obama, first lady meet with moms on health care
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are meeting with mothers in the Oval Office to promote the president’s health care law.

The White House says Wednesday’s meeting will focus on ways the law can benefit families. White House spokesman Jay Carney says moms are a key part of the administration’s outreach because they play a major role in helping their family members, peers and adult children sign up for health insurance coverage.

Mrs. Obama will also appear on three African-American radio shows to encourage Americans to enroll.

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How many people signed up for health coverage in region?
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California and the federal government have both released enrollment figures for insurance plans. Now Covered California has broken down those numbers for the Sacramento region.

About 14,008 people started applications for health insurance in the state’s new health care exchange between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30, according to Covered California. And of those, 7,031 people in Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer and Yolo Counties actually enrolled in health plans, subsidized or otherwise. That’s about 6 percent of the state wide enrollment, according to Covered California.

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Health providers gear up for health care reform
Porterville Recorder

On Jan. 1, 2014, thousands of Californians, including more than 1,000 in Tulare County, will have selected insurance through Covered California, the state’s insurance marketplace under the Health Care Reform Act. Family HealthCare Network, a designed site to sign people up, has completed more than 570 applications, said FHCN president and chief executive officer Kerry Hydash. FHCN was named an outreach center, receiving a $429,000 grant to enroll the uninsured in new health coverage options made available by the ACA.

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Covered California releases Northern California enrollment numbers
Lake County News

Covered California and the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) announced Tuesday that from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30, as a benefit of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, an estimated 8,726 individuals in mostly rural Northern California counties started applications for Covered California health insurance plans.

Cumulatively, 4,393 individuals in the Northern California counties of Butte, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity and Yuba have enrolled in subsidized or nonsubsidized Covered California health insurance plans, which reflects about 4 percent of the statewide enrollment (the counties make up 4 percent of those eligible for subsidies statewide).

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Covered California adds service hours to beat deadline
Sacramento Business Journal

Many people may be still shopping for the holidays, but another important rush is coming to a head: the deadline for enrollment in Covered California’s health insurance exchange. Consumers must pick a plan by Dec. 23, and to help get people enrolled, Covered California is extending its service center hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 22. The enrollment date deadline is for coverage beginning Jan. 1, but the health insurance exchange notes that as long as payment is received by Jan. 6, coverage will be retroactive to Jan. 1.

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Could charity premium-paying undercut health reform economics?
Los Angeles Business Journal

A dispute between a Los Angeles charity and health insurance companies is raising questions about the balance of power between hospitals and insurers, and it’s raising issues for the economic principles behind the Affordable Care Act. A Better LA said last week it was signing up 50 low-income people for health insurance on California’s exchange, paying the $50 or $100 premium that remained after the people received government subsidies.

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The 97 best hospitals for hip and knee replacements, according to Medicare
Los Angeles Daily News

Medicare has begun tracking the outcomes of hip and knee replacement surgeries, identifying 95 hospitals where elderly patients were more likely to suffer significant setbacks. The government also named 97 hospitals where patients tended to have the smoothest recoveries.

The analysis, which was released last week, is the latest part of the government’s push to improve quality at the nation’s hospitals instead of simply paying Medicare patients’ bills.

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Study: Multivitamins don’t protect aging men’s brains or help heart attack survivors
10News.com

There’s more disappointing news about multivitamins: Two major studies found popping the pills didn’t protect aging men’s brains or help heart attack survivors.

Millions of Americans spend billions of dollars on vitamin combinations, presumably to boost their health and fill gaps in their diets. But while people who don’t eat enough of certain nutrients may be urged to get them in pill form, the government doesn’t recommend routine vitamin supplementation as a way to prevent chronic diseases.

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Concierge medicine on the rise in San Diego
San Diego Union-Tribune

Paying extra for better access to a doctor, often called concierge medicine, is growing in San Diego County.

Experts say the reasons range from a long-standing dissatisfaction with traditional managed care to more immediate worries about a possible doctor shortage driven by federal health reform.

While local specialists have mixed opinions on what is driving the growth, many said they believe the practice of charging a yearly membership fee in exchange for direct access to primary care doctors is on the rise.

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Monterey Peninsula Foundation invests $800,000 for health care in Santa Cruz County
Santa Cruz Sentinel

The Monterey Peninsula Foundation, which puts on the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Golf Tournament, is investing $800,000 to bring health and dental services to people in Santa Cruz County who could not afford that care before.

The Santa Cruz Women’s Health Center will receive $450,000, with $300,000 toward a $3.4 million project to open a second clinic in Live Oak and $150,000 for operations.

Dientes Community Dental Care will receive $350,000, with $250,000 toward building a $3 million clinic expansion in Mid-County and $100,000 for operations.

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University of California, healthcare workers’ union strike deal, end pensions standoff
Los Angeles Business Journal

The University of California appears to have reached an end to its two-year battle with the University Professional & Technical Employees union, agreeing to a framework for healthcare workers and researchers. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, those 15,000 workers are in line for up to 13 percent increases in pay for cost-of-living over the next four years. The primary issue had been pension reform, and UC had sought to split existing benefits from the ones offered new employees, the Times said, but the union negotiated to keep the same arrangement in exchange for a 1 percent wage cut.

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Fewer than 20% of Blue Shield customers extend health coverage
Los Angeles Times

Given the choice, fewer than 20% of Blue Shield of California customers with canceled policies opted for a three-month extension of their current health plans. The San Francisco insurer said about 15,000 policyholders out of 80,000 who were affected chose to keep their health plans until March 31. Blue Shield offered the three-month extension last month to avert a lawsuit from California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. He said the company failed to give these customers ample warning about the year-end cancellation.

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S.F. program pushes immediate HIV treatment
San Francisco Chronicle

A San Francisco program to get people newly diagnosed with HIV infection immediately into treatment – as in, taking antiretroviral drugs the same day they test positive – hadn’t even officially begun when Dr. Hiroyu Hatano got her first patient in July.

The patient had been tested at a city clinic and same-day results revealed he had an acute infection, likely acquired within the past few weeks. Most worrisome was that his viral load, the amount of virus in his blood, was extremely high, making him extraordinarily infectious.

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St. Joseph Hospital plans cuts, layoffs
Orange County Register

St. Joseph Hospital plans to cut up to $30 million, and some jobs, to curb losses resulting from a “loss of substantial patient volume” and other declines in revenue.

In an email sent to physicians last week, chief executive officer Steven Moreau said that the nonprofit Catholic hospital in Orange had a $7 million loss in the first four months of the fiscal year. He said a plan to save $25 million to $30 million will be developed by Jan. 1.

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Judge rules in favor of Tulare hospital
Merced Sun-Star

A federal judge has ruled in favor of Tulare Regional Medical Center in a contract dispute with Harris Construction, the medical center said.

Harris is building a 115,000-square-foot hospital in Tulare, a project that has been delayed due to delaminating concrete on two floors that led to cost overruns, according to TRMC.

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill in Fresno on Friday denied Harris’ request for a temporary restraining order to stop work. The company said the hospital might have trouble paying the contractor, TRMC said in a statement.

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CSUS therapist aim for special needs children: Have treadmill, will walk
Sacramento Bee

Michael Cimino, just 2 1/2 years old, put one step forward on a tot-sized treadmill and squealed with joy.

Cimino, who has cerebral palsy, normally finds walking a challenge. But on the treadmill, he repeatedly aimed his foot at the hand puppet his mother slid in front of him. The monkey-faced puppet darted away before his foot landed, bringing another pair of steps, another shriek of excitement, another measure of progress.

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Santa Cruz County enrollment in Covered California: Fewer than 2,626
Santa Cruz Sentinel

Covered California reported Tuesday that 2,626 people in Region 9 — Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties — enrolled in health insurance during October and November, with 87 percent eligible for a subsidy.

That is about 1 percent of the Santa Cruz County population of 266,776.

Of the 341 non-subsidized enrollees, 44 percent picked the least expensive bronze plan. Of the 2,285 enrollees eligible for subsidy, 69 percent picked a midpriced silver plan.

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