News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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State of the Union guests include those who benefited from health care law, want an immigration overhaul
McClatchy

Guests of the White House at the State of the Union address Tuesday include a fourth-grader from Puerto Rico who likes to cook, the chief executive officer of General Motors and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. Some of the guests, who will join First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, and Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, in the first lady’s box represent those who have benefited from the new health care law or lobbied for an immigration overhaul.

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Hospital Federation: No Link Between Consolidation, High Prices
Health Leaders Media

A Federation of American Hospitals-commissioned report claims, not surprisingly, that hospital consolidation improves care quality and access and that the critics who claim these “hospital realignments” drive up healthcare costs are relying on old data that does not consider the sweeping effects of healthcare reform.

“Consolidation has probably always been a good thing, but in terms of today, it actually is the mother of necessity,” says Chip Kahn, president/CEO of FAH, the Washington, DC-based group representing investor-owned and managed community hospitals and health systems.

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Could Digital Rights Management Solve Healthcare’s Data Crisis?
The Health Care Blog

Today, academic medicine and health policy research resemble the automobile industry of the early 20th century — a large number of small shops developing unique products at high cost with no one achieving significant economies of scale or scope. Academics, medical centers, and innovators often work independently or in small groups, with unconnected health datasets that provide incomplete pictures of the health statuses and health care practices of Americans.

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Hospitals struggle with intravenous saline shortage
Visalia Times-Delta

In one of the most far-reaching shortages ever to hit American hospitals, the saline IV bags that are a mainstay of surgical units and patient rooms everywhere are in short supply across the country, according to the Food and Drug Administration and hospital pharmacists. Though patients probably haven’t noticed the shortfall, pharmacists are scrambling to make sure they don’t.

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Pledges Reduce Inappropriate Antibiotic Prescribing Rates
Health Leaders Media

Clinicians are less likely to inappropriately prescribe antibiotics if they sign and display “commitment” pledges—with photos of themselves—on their exam room walls, says a paper by researchers in Boston and Los Angeles.

“We found this is a new way to improve healthcare through medicine,” says one of the authors, Jason N. Doctor, a health economist at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy.

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Senate Republicans pitch ObamaCare alternative on eve of presidential address
Fox News

Seizing on the public’s continued anxiety over the ObamaCare rollout, a trio of Republican senators on Monday unveiled a sweeping alternative proposal they say would gut the law’s mandates and taxes while preserving consumer protections.

Sens. Orrin Hatch, of Utah; Tom Coburn, of Oklahoma; and Richard Burr, of North Carolina, announced their plan one day before President Obama delivers his State of the Union address. It is his first such address since the launch of the state and federal health care exchanges.

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Healthcare leaders dig into reform’s business opportunities
FierceHealthPayer

Healthcare reform presents a big opportunity for insurers to boost membership–as long as they can increase efficiency and embrace trends such as retail healthcare, leaders at this year’s JP Morgan Healthcare Conference said. The San Francisco conference brought companies and investors together to discuss shifts in the healthcare landscape and strategies to address them. Several key themes emerged, according to the Forbes report:

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Negative view of healthcare reform rollout eases, but troubles persist, poll finds
Modern Healthcare

Memo to the White House: The website may be fixed, but President Barack Obama’s new health insurance markets have yet to win over most consumers.

Negative perceptions of the healthcare rollout have eased, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds. But overall, two-thirds of Americans say things still aren’t going well.

Of those who’ve tried to sign up, or who live with someone who has, 71% have encountered problems. But the share reporting success jumped to 40% from a meager 24% in December.

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Three Republicans back healthcare alternative
Modern Healthcare

Three Senate Republicans on Monday proposed repealing the nation’s controversial healthcare law in favor of a replacement that eliminates most of the government coverage mandates it imposed and offers tax breaks to help those with lower income obtain coverage.

The supporters of the proposal, Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina, said in a written statement that their goal was to “reduce healthcare costs and increase access to affordable, high quality care.”

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People With Canceled Health Insurance Policies Shifted to New Ones Without Permission
KQED Radio

When Kevin Kingma received a letter last fall notifying him that his high-deductible health plan was being canceled because of the Affordable Care Act, he visited Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace and chose another plan beginning Jan. 1.

Thanks to a subsidy, Kingma’s monthly premium went down, from about $300 to $175, and his benefits improved.

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New health care law: Hospitals pressured to slash costs, improve quality of care
Contra Costa Times

The new federal health care law is giving millions of uninsured Americans health coverage — and many of them are expected to get long-delayed surgeries and seek other crucial medical care.

So why are some hospitals up for sale or desperately seeking to align with others?

One reason is that the health law pressures hospitals to reduce costs and offer better value through new rules that reward them more for the quality of care they deliver than for the number of patients they treat.

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California health exchange locks down six-figure consultants
Sacramento Bee

The state’s health insurance exchange is handing out six-figure contracts to a pair of consultants and a new marketing director that officials say will enhance the sustainability and help expand the program.

Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the consulting contracts would give the agency the “the exceptional staff and resources we need to make history.”

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Covered California hires former state finance director
Sacramento Business Journal

Former state finance director Ana Matosantos has been hired as a consultant to Covered California on financial and budget matters. Matosantos started her new job on Jan. 15. Chief fiscal adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown while the state closed an annual budget gap of more than $200 million, she’s stepping in to advise the state health benefit exchange at a crucial time.

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American Families Are Being Crushed By Medical Debt [CHARTS]
San Francisco Chronicle

While not everyone agrees that the Affordable Care Act is the solution, there’s no denying that there’s a problem: Americans are being crushed by medical bills. More than 1 in 4 families were burdened by medical expenses in 2012, 1 in 5 were paying off medical debt, and 9 percent had bills that they could not pay at all, found a Jan. 28 analysis of data from a large CDC survey.

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State improves emergency patient support
Martinez News-Gazette

California moved into the top half of the nation with a rank of 23rd and a grade of C-minus in the 2014 American College of Emergency Physicians’ state-by-state report card on America’s emergency care environment (“Report Card”). The state still ranked near the bottom of the country at 42nd with an F in the category of Access to Emergency Care, the same grade it received in 2009. In 2009, California received a D-plus and ranked 37th in the nation.

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UC Davis Health email compromised by phishing scam
Sacramento Business Journal

Emails containing personal or medical information on about 1,800 patients at the UC Davis Health System may have been compromised by a phishing scam last month. The scam compromised the email accounts of three doctors in mid-December. Malicious software used by scammers may potentially provide access to their emails, some of which contained patient health information.

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UC Davis Health System emails compromised
Sacramento Bee

Hackers compromised the email accounts of three UC Davis doctors last month, potentially gaining access to personal or medical information on as many as 1,800 patients, the university announced Monday.

The UC Davis Health System said it has begun notifying the 1,800 patients who may have been affected.

The university said the hackers weren’t able to penetrate patients’ electronic medical records or gain access to any credit card or Social Security numbers.

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Natividad forecasts almost $14 million profit for first year of trauma center
Monterey Herald

Natividad Medical Center expects to earn an annual $13.6 million profit on treating the most seriously injured patients if, and when, it establishes the area’s first Level II trauma center.

According to a report to the hospital board’s finance committee, Natividad expects annual revenues of about $40.5 million and expenses of about $26.9 million per year under full trauma center operation starting next year, leaving it with a healthy bottom line.

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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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Salinas Valley Memorial proposes partnership with Natividad, but wants to hold off on trauma center
Monterey Herald

Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital is proposing a partnership with Natividad Medical Center, while urging the Board of Supervisors to hold off moving ahead on a trauma center at Natividad.

The proposal for “an integrated healthcare delivery system” with the two Salinas hospitals was outlined in a letter of intent approved unanimously Thursday by SVMH directors and sent to county board chairman Supervisor Lou Calcagno on Friday.

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Imperial Valley’s sole geriatric specialist aims to expand services
Imperial Valley Press Online

In the two years Dr. Unnati Sampat has been practicing medicine in the Valley, she has become keenly aware of the health challenges facing the local senior citizen population. As a result, the Valley’s sole geriatric specialist has made efforts to expand medical services for this often vulnerable group. “Overall I think we have very good care in the Valley,” she said. “It’s just not enough.”

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