News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Access to Mental Health Services Strained as Benefits Expand
Health Leaders Media

Federal rules for 2014 give Americans more access to behavioral health coverage, but providers’ ability to meet what may be a pent up demand for services is questionable. That’s because hospitals and health systems are already struggling to meet the needs of a growing number of patients with mental health diagnoses.

There is no shortage of examples that show the limits of mental healthcare in this country. On any given day, there are scores of psychiatric patients waiting in emergency departments for an inpatient bed. Known as boarding, the amount of time a psych patient waits in an ED varies across the country. In California, the average is 10 hours. In central Ohio, it’s 19.

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Sen. Boxer calls on CDC to investigate paralysis incidents
Orange County Register

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to initiate a formal investigation into what has caused polio-like paralysis in about 20 children in California over the past 18 months. Boxer wrote “we need answers” in a letter sent Thursday to CDC Director Thomas Frieden. In particular, Boxer wants the agency to look into whether a virus is the culprit or if environmental factors are involved. She also wants to know if the agency has any way of knowing if there are other unusual reports of paralysis nationally.

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Hospitals coping better as drug shortages persist
San Francisco Chronicle

U.S. hospitals are coping better with ongoing shortages of hundreds of medications, but a new survey indicates that obtaining drugs from alternate sources is costing them a lot of money they can’t spare.

Premier Inc., the hospital group that did the survey, conservatively estimates that cost at $230 million a year for the country’s 5,000 hospitals, on average, from 2011 through 2013.

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Obama seeks more federal spending to train doctors
Modern Healthcare

President Barack Obama will ask Congress to approve spending more than $5 billion on medical training to turn out some 13,000 primary-care providers over the next 10 years.

Obama will include the proposal in the budget he sends to Congress next week. The new funding is aimed at training more doctors who can work in underserved areas, including rural communities.

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Amazon.com as a Delivery Model for Population Health
The Health Care Blog

There’s that line about art, “good artists copy, great artists steal.” There’s some debate about if Picasso said it first, but most of us geeks know it from Steve Jobs. Often, I see things from companies and industries outside of healthcare —processes, products, best practices —which inspire me. I like these little inspirations because they often aren’t rocket science, but nonetheless fuel some creative thoughts about their applicability in healthcare.

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Demands soars for primary-care doctors
Sacramento Business Journal

The federal Affordable Care Act is expected to bring millions of previously uninsured people into the health-care system. As enrollment ramps up, health systems nationwide are scrambling to get enough providers to meet the growing demand. As of Feb. 1, nearly 3.3 million people nationwide had signed up for insurance under ACA. Twenty-two percent of them — 728,086 — signed up through the California exchange.

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Health law fix for state-run websites
San Francisco Chronicle

The Obama administration quietly issued a health law fix Thursday to help states that have had technical problems running their own enrollment websites. It could stir up critics but may help the law’s supporters.

Several Democratic-led states, including Oregon, Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii, are still trying to untangle website woes that have eclipsed those experienced earlier by the federal HealthCare.gov site, now largely repaired.

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California senator seeks review of paralysis cases
Modern Healthcare

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday to initiate a formal investigation into what has caused polio-like paralysis in about 20 children in California over the past 18 months.

Boxer said “we need answers” in her letter to CDC Director Thomas Frieden. In particular, she wants the agency to look into whether the illness can be traced to a virus or environmental factors. She also wants to know whether the agency is aware of similar reports of paralysis nationwide.

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Tavenner: No ICD-10 Delay, But Expect Some MU Relief
Health Leaders Media

Two announcements from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner at the HIMSS 2014 conference in Orlando Thursday will have wide-ranging implications for healthcare providers, insurers, and vendors.

The deadline for implementing the ICD-10 diagnostic coding set, which had already been delayed one year to October 1, 2014, will not be delayed again, Tavenner said.

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Generic drug industry needs to stand up for patient safety
Los Angeles Times

The Generic Pharmaceutical Assn. says a proposed federal regulation that would allow makers of generic drugs to inform people about all known health risks would create “dangerous confusion” and have “harmful consequences for patients.” And why would that be? For the answer, the industry group pointed me toward a recent report from Matrix Global Advisors, an independent consulting firm.

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Medicare Advantage Round Two: Negotiation Will Not Be the Same
The Health Care Blog

Late last Friday after the financial markets closed, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its annual notice of 2015 payments to private insurers who sell Medicare Advantage plans to seniors. Its determination that a 3.55% cut is in order was spelled out in a complicated 148-page explanation of its methodology. The net impact of changes to “coding intensity” adjusted for geographic variation essentially means insurance companies would see a 1.9% cut in their payments per Avalere’s calculations.

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