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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Long-Fought Medi-Cal Provider Rate Cuts Take Effect
KQED Radio

A long-awaited and much-feared ten percent rate cut goes into effect Thursday for doctors and clinics reimbursed through Medi-Cal –- the state’s health insurance for low-income patients. This comes at the same time the federal health overhaul is expanding that program to as many as 2 million Californians. Provisions of the Affordable Care Act will protect primary care doctors from the cuts for the next two years, but specialty doctors that treat the poor are bracing for the hit.

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NFP Groups Release CA Patient Experience Rankings
Health Leaders Media

Any day now, physician groups with 100 or more eligible practitioners will see for the first time how their practices score nationally on patient experience when survey responses are uploaded to the federal website, Physician Compare.

But Consumer Reports, the California Healthcare Performance Information System (CHPI), and the California Healthcare Foundation this week beat CMS to the punch. The organizations released patient experience score rankings for more than 30,000 physicians in 170 practices in California. The project is similar to other smaller projects in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Massachusetts launched in 2012 and 2013.

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FDA approves new diabetes drug
San Diego Union-Tribune

There’s a new drug for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the marketing of Farxiga, which is expected to help some of the estimated 24 million Americans who suffer from the most common form of the disease. The agency says clinical trials indicate that Farxiga “blocks the reabsorption of glucose by the kidney, increases glucose excretion, and lowers blood glucose levels.” This is the second type 2 diabetes drug approved in less than a year. Last March, FDA cleared the marketing of Invokana.

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House back to Obamacare votes in week 1
POLITICO

House Republicans are back in town — and immediately getting back to the business of anti-Obamacare votes. It’s a notable change from the opening week of Congress in the past two years, when Republicans had somewhat relaxed their Obamacare game. In 2012, they were waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the law and in early 2013 they’d just watched President Barack Obama win reelection — after which Speaker John Boehner temporarily declared the Affordable Care Act “the law of the land.”

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ObamaCare’s Rude Awakening for the Young
The Wall Street Journal

President Barack Obama won PolitiFact’s 2013 “Lie of The Year” for claiming, that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” Instead of being ashamed, members of his administration appear to have been inspired by the award.

Take the statement by Department of Health and Human Services’ National Press Secretary for Health Care, Joanne Peters. On Jan. 2, the Journal quoted her as saying ObamaCare “is making health insurance more affordable for young adults.”

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Will Obama’s Hillarycare be orphaned?
USA Today

In all the furor over the Affordable Care Act, one person has largely escaped public scrutiny for her role in the matter: likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.

In the 2008 presidential election, when Clinton campaigned on individual and employer mandates, Barack Obama successfully attacked her on those positions. Clinton was the one, in campaigning for her mandate-based plan, who repeatedly said that if you like your plan, you can keep it.

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Answers to 3 questions can shape healthcare reform success
FierceHealthPayer

The healthcare reform law aims to provide access to healthcare to more people. Whether it can achieve that goal still remains to be seen, but the answers to some key questions raised in The Atlantic could determine whether reform will succeed or fail. Here are three questions raised in the article:

1. Will consumers have access to the doctors they want when they want them?

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Covered California shunting callers to website due to high volume
Sacramento Business Journal

When local insurance broker Cerrina Jensen called Covered California’s customer service line Wednesday morning with a question from a small employer client, she got a message about high call volume, was told to go to the website — and “goodbye.” “I’m totally blown away,” she said. “All the millions we’ve invested in this thing and we can’t even get through to one of the new state-of-the art call centers?”

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Massachusetts Wastes Third of Health Spending, Report Says
The Wall Street Journal

More than a third of health-care spending may be wasteful in Massachusetts, where costs are among the highest in the nation, a state report released on Wednesday said.

Main drivers of excess spending included patients returning to hospitals for preventable reasons and emergency-room visits that better primary care could have warded off, the state’s Health Policy Commission concluded, citing 2012 data.

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No big changes on horizon for Mercy under ACA
Mount Shasta Herald

The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has already set off significant change and uproar around individual insurance plans. As the ACA settles into place in 2014, more change is coming to small rural hospitals. Under the ACA, small rural hospitals like Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta will see reductions in traditional Medicare payments, and some will see new payment requirements for patient care. Rural hospitals rely on Medicare payments – which primarily cover older people – for almost 45 percent of their annual income.

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Preventive care can be man’s best friend
San Diego Union-Tribune

It’s a running joke that men only seek medical advice when they’re having male performance issues or when a loved one has finally worn them down to seek help for an issue. There is a lot of truth in that, but there may be many reasons and factors why men won’t see a doctor on a regular basis. It could be fear, pride or they simply don’t believe they need a doctor if they’re healthy. The bottom line is that if you’re a man, you should be going to a doctor on a routine basis, healthy or not, to assess your health and begin charting your health care and to plan for the future.

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Recently formed Medi-Cal plan opens Sacramento headquarters
Sacramento Bee

California Health & Wellness, a Medi-Cal plan that started operations in November, is hosting grand opening ceremonies Wednesday for its new headquarters site in Sacramento.

The 20,381-square-foot offices are at 1740 Creekside Oaks Drive, suite 200. There are 130 employees at the site.

CHW says it is serving more than 112,000 Californians in 19 counties, most of those in Northern California.

CHW is a wholly owned subsidiary of Centene Corp., based in St. Louis.

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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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Brain dead teen gets feeding, breathing tubes
San Francisco Chronicle

A 13-year-old California girl who was declared brain dead after suffering complications from sleep apnea surgery has been given the feeding and breathing tubes that her family had been trying to obtain for weeks.

Christopher Dolan, the attorney for the girl’s family, said doctors inserted the gastric tube and tracheostomy tube Wednesday at the undisclosed facility where Jahi McMath was taken Jan. 5. The procedure was a success, Dolan said, and Jahi is getting the treatment that her family believes she should have gotten 28 days ago, when doctors at Children’s Hospital Oakland first declared her brain dead.

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Blue Shield Disagrees With Jones’ Assessment of Premium Rate Hike
California Healthline

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones yesterday strongly condemned a recent rate hike by Blue Shield of California. The 9.8% rate hike will affect about 81,000 grandfathered individual market policies, according to Jones. “We think these rates are excessive,” Jones said. “The Department of Insurance cannot reject rate filings, but we do review them very carefully. In this case, we find them to be unreasonable and excessive.”

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Blue Shield agrees to Acquire tri-county Physicians Choice Health Plan
Pacific Coast Business Times

Blue Shield of California has entered into an agreement to acquire Bakersfield-based GemCare Health Plan, which operates as Physicians Choice Health Plan in the Tri-Counties, the company announced Tuesday. GemCare is active in the commercial and Medicaid markets in Kern County and in Ventura, North Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. With the planned acquisition, Blue Shield will add Medicare members in these counties, with the exclusion of Ventura, for the first time.

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Kaiser Permanente tech unit Archimedes sold
San Francisco Business Times

Archimedes, a San Francisco-based health care data modeling company owned by Kaiser Permanente, has been sold to Evidera, a health care software company owned by private equity firm Symphony Technology Group. Financial terms were not disclosed in a joint statement released Wednesday. Dr. David Eddy, Archimedes’ co-founder, said the sale “opens up an exciting new chapter” in its 20-year campaign to use quantitative methods to improve health care quality and control costs.

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HL20: Steven Sonenreich—Talking Transparency
Health Leaders Media

From Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla., Steven Sonenreich isn’t afraid of making waves. He shocked many, including another health system CEO, during a radio talk radio show a few months ago by announcing that his health system would start publishing what it charges commercial insurers for procedures—something new that might make healthcare better or at least more affordable.

“We will post our prices relative to Blue Cross and Aetna, our contractual prices,” said Sonenreich, during an appearance on WLRN 91.3-FM. He challenged other hospitals to do the same.

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$20K donated to Lompoc Hospital Foundation
Santa Ynez Valley News

Representatives of St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church visited Lompoc Valley Medical Center and presented a $20,000 donation check to board members and staff of the Lompoc Hospital Foundation recently. The donation was a portion of funds raised at the fourth annual St. Mark’s Cellar Classic: An Auction of Rare and Fine Wines on June 29. The Lompoc Hospital Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission it is to provide community education, public relations and funds for capital improvements for the Lompoc Valley Medical Center.

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Palm Drive hospital nurses expecting layoffs
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Nurses at Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol are bracing for significant layoffs after meeting with hospital officials Tuesday and learning of detailed plans that would reduce the size of the hospital from 37 inpatient beds to 14.

Prior to the meeting, nurses were hoping hospital administrators would agree to offer severance packages to nurses willing to retire. But that request was denied, said Debra Hurst, a registered nurse in the hospital’s medical surgical unit.

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