News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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After 2 Years of Cal eConnect, What’s Next for HIE in California?
California Healthline

The first thing to understand, according to Cal eConnect board member Don Crane, is that the work is the most important thing. Over the two years that Cal eConnect has been operating, “We created an improved climate for health information exchange in California,” he said. “Programmatically, we’re pretty good. But clearly the management picture hasn’t settled the way we’d like, and that’s been frustrating.”

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Physicians Ask Congress for SGR Alternatives
Health Leaders Media

Physicians’ advocates have asked Congress to scrap Medicare’s widely reviled sustainable growth rate (SGR) payment scheme and replace it with flexible payment options that reward quality and efficiency.

The House Ways & Means Committee in April had asked the American Medical Association and the Medical Group Management Association to suggest alternatives to the SGR, which is scheduled for a 30.9% reduction on Jan. 1, 2013.

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Obama’s health care aid to small firms disappoints
San Francisco Chronicle

It seemed like a good idea at the time. But a health insurance tax credit for small businesses, part of President Barack Obama’s health care law that gets strong support in public opinion polls, has turned out to be a disappointment. Time-consuming to apply for and lacking enough financial reward to make it attractive, the credit was claimed by only 170,300 businesses out of a pool of as many as 4 million potentially eligible companies in 2010.

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Hospitals lower prices for patients paying cash

Many hospitals and physicians are offering large discounts if patients pay in cash and don’t use their health insurance, the Los Angeles Times reported.

For example, a CT scan of the abdomen costs about $2,400 for patients insured by Blue Shield of California, while the Los Alamitos (Calif.) Medical Center cash price is only $250, according to the article. Another local California hospital charges insured patients $415 for blood tests that cost only $95 in cash.

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Patients crusade for access to their medical device data
Southern California Public Radio

Each year, tens of thousands of Americans are implanted with tiny battery-controlled devices that regulate the beating of their hearts. Those devices transmit streams of medical data directly to doctors.

But some patients, like Hugo Campos of San Francisco, fear they’re being kept out of the loop.

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New study sounds warning on hormone replacement therapy
Los Angeles Times

Women who are past menopause and healthy should not use hormone replacement therapy in hopes of warding off dementia, bone fractures or heart disease, says a new analysis by the government task force that weighs the risks and benefits of screening and other therapies aimed at preventing illness.

The recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force does not necessarily apply to women who use hormone replacement therapy to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness.

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Med student has her finger on pulse of community, culture
U.C. Berkeley News

Future physician Maria Garcia-Jimenez was planning a nutrition class for at-risk Latina teens when it became clear, in discussions with her community partner, that the girls had other, equally pressing needs. Which is how García, 23 at the time, found herself designing an eight-week sex-education workshop. Health was Garcia’s area of expertise — she’s a medical and masters-degree student, after all, in the UC Berkeley-UC San Francisco Joint Medical Program (JMP).

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Latest insurance news repeatedly shows most personal coverage isn’t up to legal standards
Live Insurance News

A the most recent insurance news report published in Health Affairs has shown that over 50 percent of all individual policies that are currently being sold would not qualify for the health care reform overhaul’s required health exchanges because they do not meet the coverage criteria of the Affordable Care Act. Some of those publications have included the following articles:

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States wait on Supreme Court ruling over health care reform
Live Insurance News

The state based health insurance exchange marketplaces have already faced a stream of roadblocks as they are considered and created in order to comply with the health care reform law of 2010, and now they face yet another hurdle that will need to be overcome. The Supreme Court is expected to give its ruling about the constitutionality of the heart of the law in June.

The future of all of the decisions that have been made so far in order to comply with the overhaul are now hanging in the balance of whether or not the law is overturned.

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Consumer Power Report: If You Like Your Plan You Can Keep It, Less than Half the Time

A new report from the Commonwealth Fund shows more than half of insurance plans for individuals won’t survive Obamacare. The research was published in Health Affairs and conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and Towers Watson.

The fine folks at Stateline report:

The study analyzed individual and group insurance data from 2010 for more than 2,000 public and private employers in five states: California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah and Michigan. These states make up about 31 percent of enrollment in the U.S. insurance market.

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Kaiser will pay for therapy and reimburse members denied treatment
Sacramento Business Journal

Kaiser Permanente must provide medically necessary physical, occupational and speech therapy to members denied treatment since January 2009 — and reimburse those who paid for the services themselves — according to a settlement with state managed-care regulators. Announced Friday, the settlement gives Kaiser 60 days to contact members who have filed complaints about denial of this kind of care since that date. The California Department of Managed Health Care received about 100 complaints, but there may be more members eligible for treatment and payment, state officials said.

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Tri-City board to revisit vote on expanding its power
North County Times

Tri-City hospital directors are set Thursday to reconsider a controversial vote last month in which the board granted itself the power to remove its own members from elected office.

Director Charlene Anderson confirmed Tuesday that she asked the board to revisit the changes it made to its code of conduct in a 4-2 vote on April 26.

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Snakelike robots help surgeons delve deeper into human body
The Mercury News

Imagine a tiny snake robot crawling through your body, helping a surgeon identify diseases and perform operations. It’s not science fiction. Scientists and doctors are using the creeping metallic tools to perform surgery on hearts, prostate cancer, and other diseased organs. The snakebots carry tiny cameras, scissors and forceps, and even more advanced sensors are in the works. For now, they’re powered by tethers that humans control. But experts say the day is coming when some robots will roam the body on their own.

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Dentist shortage leading to more emergencies

The lack of dentists and specialists in rural Californian counties is leading to high rates of tooth decay and preventable dental emergencies, especially among low-income residents. Someone living in Eureka would have to drive 3 hours to Redding or 4 hours to Santa Rosa to get to an oral surgeon who accepts Medi-Cal. There are no dentists in Alpine County, and the nearest dentist accepting Medi-Cal is at the Washoe Tribal Health Center in Nevada, a half-hour away.

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Pelosi predicts court will uphold health-care reform
Daily Democrat

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that she expects the U.S. Supreme Court next month will uphold President Obama’s signature legislation: the Affordable Care Act.

“We believe that this bill constitutionally is iron-clad,” she told a crowd of about 550 at a Commonwealth Club event in the Fairmont Hotel. “I expect a 6-3 ‘aye’ verdict from the Supreme Court.”

Pelosi, whose discussion with the club was meant to commemorate her 25th anniversary in Congress, said the bill is among her proudest legislative accomplishments.

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Can we all get healthy together?
Los Angeles Times

No one sees the connection between unhealthy lifestyles and rising medical costs more clearly than healthcare workers, and yet they’re hardly models of vim and vigor — a Thomson Reuters Healthcare report last year found hospital employees to be “generally sicker than the rest of the U.S. workforce.” Now the giant healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente and a coalition of unions led by the United Healthcare Workers are trying to tackle this problem.

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A Health Care Setup Both Sides Could Live With
The Health Care Blog

Before long the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the health care reform law, a decision that will have tremendous policy ramifications and could reshape the presidential election. But even if the court overturns the Affordable Care Act, as some observers predict, that won’t change the reality that our country’s health care system is seriously broken.

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Groundbreaking Study Shows Why Fixing Healthcare Costs Is Still a Top Priority

The greatest rip-off in the world is getting worse.