News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Covered California gets $1 billion from feds
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California, the Golden State’s Obamacare exchange, has nabbed another $155 million in federal funding, giving it nearly $1.1 billion in overall support from the federal government. The new funds, from a supplemental grant, will be used primarily for outreach, marketing, “enrollment assistance,” staffing and technology, the Sacramento-based entity said late Thursday. Prior to this, it had received federal grants totaling about $910 million.

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AHA Eyes ‘Extremely Challenging’ 2014
Health Leaders Media

Protecting Medicare reimbursements from further cuts, the “two-midnight rule,” RACs run amok, and monitoring the SGR phase-out top a busy 2014 agenda on Capitol Hill for the American Hospital Association, lobbyists for the association said in a telephone conference with media Thursday.

“For us globally, we are facing pressures to maintain access that communities have come to expect of our members and this environment we are dealing with out there in the real world and here in Washington is extremely challenging,” AHA lead lobbyist Tom Nickels said, noting that hospitals have absorbed $113 billion in funding cuts since 2010.

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Little-known aspect of Medicaid now causing people to avoid coverage
Washington Post

Add this to the scary but improbable things people are hearing could happen because of the new federal health-care law: After you die, the state could come after your house. The concern arises from a long-standing but little-known aspect of Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health coverage to millions of low- income Americans. In certain cases, a state can recoup its medical costs by putting a claim on a deceased person’s assets.

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Will Californians have access to medical care?
Sacramento Bee

You may have health care coverage under the new health care law, but what happens if you can’t get medical care? We cannot simply take for granted that hospitals and care providers can meet the need. Moreover, what happens if government enacts new health care regulations?

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that there will be 1.86 million more MediCal enrollees and 1.42 million more privately insured individuals in California because of the new law.

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HL20: Laurent Gueris—Creating a Patient Experience Environment
Health Leaders Media

Laurent Gueris, as manager of environmental services, oversees cleaning and sanitation at the 283-staffed-bed Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in San Pedro, Calif. But a few years ago, Gueris noticed his staff walking in and out of patient rooms, quietly moving throughout the hospital while not making eye contact with the patients, barely looking at them. No “hello.” No “how-are-you?”

Gueris wasn’t happy about it. “When it comes to being courteous in a hospital by staff, there’s no excuse. This is not a courthouse,” he says.

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Chris Jennings, White House adviser on health care, steps down
Washington Post

Chris Jennings, the White House’s coordinator of health reform, has resigned six months after he was recruited to try to iron out the implementation of major aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

Jennings said in an interview Thursday that he decided to leave after he landed in the hospital last month with a health scare after working the long, intense hours typical of senior White House aides.

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Moody’s downgrades outlook for health insurers
Washington Post

Major credit-rating firm Moody’s on Thursday downgraded the outlook for health insurers from stable to negative, citing the new health-care law’s botched rollout as a significant factor.

Moody’s highlighted the relatively low sign-up rate among young adults and a slew of last-minute regulatory changes by the Obama administration as posing risks to health insurers selling policies on the new exchanges.

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Target dropping part-time workers from health care plan
Fox News

A health care law that’s got us sick and a recovery that’s got many of us wishing we were stoned, but, attention shoppers, all that is about to change. Unfortunately, for the worse. Eh? Welcome, everyone. I’m Neil Cavuto. And why should Target shoppers have all the fun? Now Target workers are feeling sick, at least most of Target’s part-time workers, the company just yanking their health care coverage, apparently because the new health care law just makes it so damn expensive.

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Uninsured rate dips as health care law rolls out
San Francisco Chronicle

It may just be the start of a new trend. The uninsured rate dropped modestly this month as expanded coverage rolled out under President Obama’s health care law, a major survey released Thursday has found.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that the uninsured rate for U.S. adults dropped by 1.2 percentage points in January, to 16.1 percent. That would translate to roughly 2 million to 3 million people gaining coverage.

The closely watched poll combines the scope and depth found in government surveys with the timeliness of media sampling.

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Covered California gets federal money to improve service, enrollment
Los Angeles Times

California’s health exchange said it would use an additional $155 million in federal grant money to address customer service woes and to boost low enrollment among the key market of uninsured Latinos. The Covered California exchange announced the injection of money from the Obama administration Thursday as it faced growing criticism for dismal service and a disappointing sign-up rate among Latinos.

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Covered California clients have trouble finding doctors
San Francisco Chronicle

Think signing up for health insurance through Covered California is hard? Some consumers say the real battle starts when it comes to finding a doctor or hospital that will take a plan purchased through the state-run health exchange.

Sue Kearney of Oakland thought she did her homework. She found the policy she thought was right for her – one from Anthem Blue Cross – and checked the plan’s directory of doctors and hospitals to make sure she could get the specialist she wanted. Assured of that, she signed up for the plan in October.

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Calif. health exchange criticized for sign-ups
San Francisco Chronicle

After celebrating its enrollment numbers earlier this week, California’s health-insurance exchange came under heavy criticism Thursday for its lackluster efforts to sign up Latinos and for continued paperwork problems that have left untold numbers of consumers in limbo.

Members of Covered California’s board of directors also questioned some of the exchange’s spending priorities. Specifically, they wondered whether millions of dollars planned for a ramped-up marketing and advertisement campaign was the right approach when consumer advocacy groups and insurance agents say systematic problems persist and are discouraging thousands of people from getting coverage.

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California health exchange acknowledges ‘unacceptable’ service
Sacramento Bee

In a moment of public soul-searching, Covered California officials on Thursday described the health exchange’s level of service in its first three months as “completely unacceptable” and said they would apply the lessons to the next three months of enrollment.

“We know that thousands didn’t have a good experience,” Yolanda Richardson, deputy chief operations officer, told the exchange’s board of directors. “We’re not satisfied with that. And we know we have a lot of work to do.”

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A conservative case for universal health care coverage?
DeseretNews.com

In California, a maverick millionaire is making a conservative case for raising the minimum wage. Now the other side of hell is threatening to freeze over as well. Avik Roy, a prominent Obamacare critic and free market advocate based at the Manhattan Institute, is making the conservative case for universal health coverage. In a Washington Examiner piece this week, Roy argues, first, that politically conservatives need to move beyond attacking Obamacare, and instead look for politically viable alternatives.

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Some Predictions on How Medicare Will Release Physician Payment Data
The Health Care Blog

The federal government’s announcement last week that it would begin releasing data on physician payments in the Medicare program seems to have ticked off both supporters and opponents of broader transparency in medicine.

For their part, doctor groups are worried that the information to be released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will lack context the public needs to understand it.

“The unfettered release of raw data will result in inaccurate and misleading information,” AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, said in a statement to MedPage Today. “Because of this, the AMA strongly urges HHS to ensure that physician payment information is released only for efforts aimed at improving the quality of healthcare services and with appropriate safeguards.”

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Making San Francisco data open
San Francisco Business Times

San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell is determined to make city hospitals more transparent on cost and quality. He plans to introduce legislation “within the next few months” that would permit San Francisco’s Health Service System to require providers who do business with the city to provide more data. That department is in charge of health coverage to city employees, retirees and their dependents.

Details are sparse and, as Farrell acknowledged, “the devil is in the details.”

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Monterey County report disagrees with Natividad on projected profits for trauma center
Monterey Herald

Natividad Medical Center could lose as much as $788,000 a year providing advanced trauma care, under a cost analysis conducted by the County Administrative Office, varying widely from projections by the hospital and its trauma care consultant.

But Natividad CEO Harry Weis suggested the analysis reflected a lack of understanding of health care finance, and he argued the hospital’s own projections are more supportable.

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Emanuel Medical Center, Tenet working to close $131M sale of Turlock hospital
Modesto Bee

Emanuel Medical Center and Tenet Healthcare Corp. are working to close a $131 million purchase of the 209-bed hospital, having won state approval of the acquisition.

The state attorney general gave approval this month for sale of the nonprofit, church-owned hospital to Tenet, a Dallas-based company that owns Doctors Medical Center of Modesto and Doctors Hospital of Manteca. The state signed off on condition that health care services are maintained and expanded within Emanuel’s service territory in southern Stanislaus County and northern Merced County.

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St. Helena Hospital to offer midwifery services in Napa
Napa Valley Register

St. Helena Hospital in Deer Park will be expanding its midwifery services to Napa in the wake of Clinic Ole eliminating that service as it reduces the scope of practice of its offshoot, Napa Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical Group.

Beginning April 1, the Napa Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical Group will refer pregnant patients in their third trimester to Queen of the Valley Medical Associates or St. Helena Hospital for prenatal care and delivery.

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UCSF’s School of Medicine dean named interim chancellor
San Francisco Chronicle

The UC regents on Thursday appointed an interim chancellor for UCSF.

Dr. Sam Hawgood, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine, will take over from outgoing Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann on April 1. Desmond-Hellmann announced last month that she was leaving the campus to become chief executive of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Hawgood, 61, came to UCSF as a research fellow in 1982. His research and clinical focus is in pediatrics, and he was physician in chief of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital before being named dean of the medical school in 2007.

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Hospital welcomes new chief medical and quality officer
Visialia Times-Delta

Kaweah Delta Medical Center introduced its new chief medical and quality officer Thursday night at a town hall forum at the Visalia Marriott, 300 South Court St.

Dr. James Paskert, who arrived in Visalia about two weeks ago, addressed the small crowd regarding patient safety initiatives and quality improvements currently underway at the hospital designed to improve infection rates he said are already considerable better than the state average.

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UCSF Medical Center Executive Elected 2014 Board Chair of California Hospital Association
Sacramento Bee

Mark R. Laret, CEO of UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, has been elected 2014 chair of the California Hospital Association (CHA) Board of Trustees.

Laret is a nationally recognized health care executive, having just completed a term as chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges, the national trade association for the nation’s medical schools and academic medical centers.

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