News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

 

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AHA releases updated billing guidelines
Modern Healthcare

The American Hospital Association released updated guidelines for hospital billing and collection practices. The trade group expanded the guidelines to address rules under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for tax-exempt hospitals, an AHA spokeswoman said. Under the health reform law, hospitals must adopt and publicize patient financial aid policies; conduct community needs assessments; and adhere to limits on billing and collections. Hospitals must adhere to the rules to maintain tax exemption.

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Blue Shield, John Muir Health to launch Contra Costa ACO
San Francisco Business Times

Blue Shield of California and Walnut Creek-based John Muir Health said Wednesday they’re launching an accountable care organization or ACO to provide integrated health care to 16,000 Blue Shield HMO enrollees in Contra Costa County. About 6,600 of those enrollees are members of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System or CalPERs, the partners said May 30.

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1 in 3 Medi-Cal Enrollees Delay Care on Cost Concerns
Health Leaders Media

Medi-Cal, the largest Medicaid program in the nation with 7.5 million beneficiaries—and 10 million by 2014—may be a good program overall, but one in five patients don’t think it provides access to high quality medical care and another 10% aren’t sure.

Nearly half of Medi-Cal patients in fair or poor health (46%) say it is difficult to find a specialist for needed care, compared with 23% of patients in excellent health.

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CMS Identifies Recovery Auditor Findings
Health Leaders Media

For the first time since it began publishing a quarterly Medicare compliance newsletter, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has released official guidance on problematic billing errors.

Unlike all of the preceding releases, the April issue of the Medicare Quarterly Provider Compliance Newsletter, CMS’s seventh issue, contains comprehensive error rate testing (CERT) findings in addition to recovery auditor findings.

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California Senate bill on masks, flu vaccine advances
Sacramento Bee

Legislation to require nurses, doctors and other hospital staff who decline to get a flu shot to wear a mask while working passed Wednesday, 23-9, in the California Senate.

Supporters of Senate Bill 1318 argue that the proposal would protect patients by pushing more medical professionals to get the influenza vaccines and reduce the potential of exposure from those who decline.

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Childhood cancer genomes now available for study
Los Angeles Times

Noting that “children are not just small adults,” researchers at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Washington University have released the complete genomes of 260 St. Jude pediatric cancer patients — as well as the genomes of their tumors — for scientific study.

In a statement released Tuesday, the researchers said that the data “more than doubles the volume of … whole genome data from all human genome sources combined.”

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Blue Shield of Calif., John Muir announce ACO plans
Modern Healthcare

Blue Shield of California announced it entered into an accountable care organization with John Muir Health, a three-hospital system in Walnut Creek, Calif.

The accountable care organization, Blue Shield’s seventh, will include about 16,000 health plan members and continue for at least 36 months, according to a news release (PDF). The ACO will start July 1 but preliminary work is under way. In the first year, healthcare costs are expected to stay largely flat, the release said.

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Medi-Cal works for most enrollees, survey finds
Los Angeles Times

As California gears up for a major expansion of its publicly funded health program for the poor, a statewide survey released Thursday shows that Medi-Cal enrollees have more trouble finding doctors and use the emergency room more frequently than people with other health coverage.

But overall, perceptions of the program were positive, with more than 70% of all recipients reporting that Medi-Cal provided high-quality care.

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UnitedHealth to rebate $3.5 million to California small businesses
Los Angeles Times

Nearly 4,400 small businesses in California will share in $3.5 million in rebates from insurance giant UnitedHealth Group Inc. this summer as insurers nationwide prepare to return millions of dollars to customers as a key benefit of the federal healthcare law kicks in.

The first of these California rebates, amounting to about $98 each for nearly 36,000 small-business employees and dependents covered by UnitedHealth, comes because the company’s spending on medical care fell short of new government requirements.

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ER throughput measures may hit urban hospitals unfairly: study
Modern Healthcare

Emergency-department throughput measures endorsed by the National Quality Forum may penalize urban hospitals, according to a study published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Hospitals’ performance on the four measures—median wait times, median lengths of visits for nonadmitted patients, median lengths of visit for admitted patients and rates of patients who left without being seen—vary widely based on factors such as age mix, case mix, teaching-hospital status and hospital location, researchers said.

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Emergency Departments Focus on Flow
Health Leaders Media

Contributing forces, from the primary care shortage to the rise in the uninsured, are contributing to overcrowded emergency departments and deep concerns about patient safety. Hospital leaders, uncertain about their systems’ preparedness, as well as how healthcare reform will further affect the flow of patients, are strategizing to reduce congestion, cut wait times, and improve care coordination.

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A tablet may help ease the way with cancer
Los Angeles Times

After your doctor says the word “cancer,” muting all other sound from your ears, the best medicine to help in that moment might just be a tablet — computer, that is. Technology, it seems, isn’t all brain; it can also have heart.

“There’s something about the distance that a machine gives you that’s different from a person and different from paper,” said Matt Loscalzo, co-creator of the SupportScreen.

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Antioxidants and chemotherapy
Sacramento Bee

Inflammation, and the use of antioxidants to put out inflammatory fires, is a hot topic these days. What do we mean by inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural and necessary response in the body whenever we are accosted by harmful germs or when we injure ourselves. When this occurs, our immune system steps in to fight foreign invaders and to bring our body back into balance so that we can heal.

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HSA, high-deductible plans growing: AHIP
Modern Healthcare

The number of people covered by high-deductible health plans paired with health savings accounts increased 18.4% in 2012 to 13.5 million, according to a survey by Americas Health Insurance Plans, a trade group.

In 2011, 11.4 million people had high-deductible health benefits with a health savings account. The survey (PDF), conducted by e-mail in January, included 97 responses from 97 health insurance companies and their subsidiaries.

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CA request to take over inmate health care denied
San Francisco Chronicle

A federal judge rejected a request by California prison officials Wednesday to regain control of inmate health care, which has been under court-supervised receivership for six years, and said the state must first show it can provide adequate medical treatment. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco appointed a receiver to manage health care at California’s 33 prisons in February 2006, saying the lack of proper care was killing an average of one inmate a week, and overall conditions violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

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If ACA Stands, What California Stands To Gain (or Lose)
California Healthline

Rumor has it that the Supreme Court’s ruling on ObamaCare is due … oh, any day now … although regular court-watchers don’t expect a decision until the end of June. Many analysts have already focused on what happens if the law is partly or fully struck down — a range of public programs will be in flux, patients will face significant upheaval and states will deploy patchwork contingency plans.

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The President’s Health Care Law is Hurting Our Economy, and Must Be Fully Repealed
The Health Care Blog

It’s no secret that our nation’s economy is struggling, and the president’s health care law, enacted in 2010, is making things worse — raising health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire workers. The only way to change this is by repealing ObamaCare in its entirety. There has been much renewed media focus on the president’s health care law in recent months because the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in June on the question of whether the law is constitutional.

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Is Prostate Cancer Screening Truly Harmful?
The Health Care Blog

Dr. Timothy Wilt, a member of the United States Preventive Services Task Force, stood in front of the American Urological Association audience and explained why the task force could not recommend that men undergo routine PSA screening. At most, he explained, the test had been shown to benefit one out of 1000 men. Meanwhile, the test would cause hundreds of men to experience anxiety, and scores of them to experience impotence and incontinence from unnecessary treatments.

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UC San Francisco finds possible new HIV vaccine or treatment target
San Francisco Business Times

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco studying a virus similar to HIV that infects monkeys found a possible new target for vaccines or treatment in humans. Dennis Hartigan-O’Connor, M.D., of UCSF led the study, which found that rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) with more of a certain type of immune cell, called Th17, in their gut, had lower virus levels in their blood for six months after infection with SIV, or simian immunodeficiency virus.

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Awaiting the Court’s Decision on Healthcare
The Health Care Blog

The Supreme Court has already decided the fate of the health reform law, and in a few short weeks the rest of us will know whether it is upheld, struck down entirely, or badly damaged. Of the possible decisions, four are the most likely and each would have significant ramifications. 1) The Court could uphold the law. Prior to oral arguments, this was the conventional wisdom. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s stinging questions led many to change this view, but he has surprised Court watchers before.

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