News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Fresh Take on Hospital Discharges Cuts Readmissions
Health Leaders Media

The caregivers at Detroit Medical Center’s hospitals no longer use the word discharge to describe the process of getting their patients out safely.

“Now the word we use is transition, a much more refined process, to get our patients back into their community,” says Suzanne White, MD, the eight-hospital system’s executive vice president and chief medical officer.

In fact, White and her colleagues have detailed descriptions of more than 30 steps or checks, with potential interventions, that now take place at specified points within the acute care stay.

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Blue Shield of California rate hike is excessive, regulator says
Los Angeles Times

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones criticized Blue Shield of California for an “unreasonable” rate hike affecting about 81,000 individual policyholders. Tuesday, Jones said the nonprofit health insurer’s 10% average increase effective Jan. 1 was excessive. But he and other state officials don’t have the authority to reject changes in premiums. Jones said the latest rate hike amounted to an average increase of 32% over a two-year period.

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Swine flu is back in California — and it’s starting to kill again
The Mercury News

Swine flu is back — and it’s starting to kill Californians again.

As Contra Costa County health officials on Tuesday announced the second recent Bay Area death this month from the virulent H1N1 flu strain, local counties reported an uptick in the number of people showing up in emergency rooms with flu-like symptoms.

Officials said the peak of the flu season is just beginning and the numbers are relatively small compared to other parts of the country, but they reminded the public that there is still time to get vaccinated.

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New California physician group ratings unveiled by Consumer Reports
Los Angeles Times

Californians searching for a doctor have new ratings from Consumer Reports on 170 physician groups statewide.

The scores released Wednesday are intended to help consumers see how different medical offices measure up on providing care and dealing with patients.

Consumer Reports said the ratings showed all California physician groups had room to improve and that patients’ experiences vary widely.

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Cancer study finds lower death rates
San Diego Union-Tribune

Cancer deaths continue to decline across the nation and are dropping most precipitously among black men, especially those age 40 to 49, according to a report released Tuesday by the American Cancer Society. The report examines new data from 2010, the most recent year available, to paint a picture of cancer rates nationwide and make predictions about how many cases and deaths are likely in the coming year.

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California Department of Insurance finds Blue Shield 9.8 Percent Increase on Grandfathered Policies Excessive and Unreasonable
Sierra Sun Times

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced today that the 9.8 percent health insurance premium increase Blue Shield is imposing on the 81,000 members in grandfathered plans regulated by the Department of Insurance and sold to individuals and families is excessive and unreasonable. This 9.8 percent January 1, 2014 rate increase for Blue Shield’s grandfathered policyholders is an average rate increase of 22.6 percent over 12 months. Over the last 24 months Blue Shield has raised rates on these grandfathered policyholders an average of 32.3 percent.

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Blue Shield Life and Health imposes excessive rate increase on over 80,000 Californians
News-Medical.net

Blue Shield Life and Health is imposing an unreasonable rate increase on over 80,000 Californians with individual health insurance policies, an average of 9.8% that adds up to a 22.8% increase for the year.

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Insurance commissioner calls Blue Shield rate increases ‘excessive and unreasonable’
Sacramento Business Journal

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones used the bully pulpit Tuesday to rail against Blue Shield of California for imposing “excessive and unreasonable” rate increases on 81,000 Californians. Jones doesn’t have authority to regulate rates, but he can draw attention to them. The 81,000 policyholders have plans that don’t meet standards under the Affordable Care Act, but existed before the health reform law was enacted in March 2010.

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State official slams Blue Shield rates
Orange County Register

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said Tuesday that a 9.8 percent January 1 premium increase by Blue Shield of California was “excessive and unreasonable.” The increase affects 81,000 Blue Shield members in health plans that were grandfathered in under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Jones said the rate hike amounts to an average increase of 22.6 percent over 12 months and 32.3 percent over two years.

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Blue Shield of California to buy GemCare Health Plan in Bakersfield
Los Angeles Times

Blue Shield of California said it has agreed to acquire GemCare Health Plan, expanding its presence in Kern County and the Central Coast area. Blue Shield, one of the state’s largest health insurers, said Tuesday that GemCare customers should see minimal changes at first. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. GemCare, based in Bakersfield, is owned by hospital chain Dignity Health and the physicians of GemCare IPA.

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Blue Shield to buy 20,000-member GEMCare health plan
San Francisco Business Times

Blue Shield of California has agreed to buy the 20,000-enrollee GEMCare Health Plan from San Francisco-based Dignity Health and select doctors in the GEMCare IPA physicians group. GEMCare, based in Bakersfield, has 8,000 Medicare enrollees and 12,000 commercial or group health enrollees in Kern County and the Central Coast area, where it’s marketed as Physicians Choice Health Plan, according to the parties.

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Consumer Reports ranks doctors, with Sutter group at top
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Medical Group tops the rankings of patients’ experiences with their doctors in the Sacramento region that appear in a special insert in the February edition of Consumer Reports. Kaiser Permanente Medical Group’s North Valley doctors rank second, followed by Kaiser’s South Sacramento doctors. Hill Physicians and UC Davis tie for fourth, Mercy Medical Group is fifth and Sutter Independent Physicians, sixth.

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Healthcare Reform Info Session coming to Barstow
Desert Dispatch

The Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau plans to conduct a “Healthcare Reform Info Session” Saturday, with the aim of providing the public with information regarding the Covered California health insurance plan.

The seminar is planned for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, located at 512 E. Williams Street. The Healthcare Reform Info Session is open to the public, with reservations required.

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Survey Finds Wealthier Patients In California More Satisfied With Their Health Care
Kaiser Health News

Money may not buy happiness, but patients with more money to spend tend to be happier with their health care providers, a statewide survey sponsored by the Blue Shield of California Foundation found. Based on responses from 1,500 California residents, researchers found that among those whose household incomes fell below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, only about half said the quality of their care was excellent or very good, compared to almost 70 percent of those with household incomes above 200 percent of the poverty line.

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Health data company Zephyr snags $15 million from Kleiner Perkins, Jafco
San Francisco Business Times

Zephyr Health Inc., the latest in a line of software companies aimed at helping drug developers and researchers make sense of an abundance of disparate data, scored $15 million in its first round of institutional funding. The round, which the 40-employee San Francisco company will use to increase sales of its software as a service offering and double its workforce over the next year, was led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers of Menlo Park and Jafco Ventures of Palo Alto.

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Marin General Hospital reaches tentative agreement with United Healthcare
Marin Independent Journal

Marin General Hospital has reached “an agreement in principle” with insurer UnitedHealthcare, hospital officials said this week. Jon Friedenberg, the Greenbrae hospital’s chief administrative officer, said Monday that Marin General and UnitedHealthcare have agreed to extend the existing contract until Jan. 17 to enable them to finalize details.

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Redwood Memorial deliveries to continue; recruitment due date in 36 months
Times-Standard

The maternity ward at Redwood Memorial Hospital in Fortuna will remain open, for now.

”The hospital’s intent is to collaborate with the community to successfully recruit new ob physicians into the program,” St. Joseph Health spokeswoman Leslie Broomall said Tuesday.

St. Joseph Health officials said they looked into closing the ward because it has struggled to obtain and retain new physicians.

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