News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Calif. Senate OKs bill pushing health worker vaccinations
Modern Healthcare

The California Senate passed a bill requiring all healthcare workers to either be vaccinated against influenza or wear a mask in patient-care areas during flu season. The bill, which would go into effect Jan. 1, 2015, is supported by a number of state healthcare organizations, including the California Hospital Association and the California Medical Association. The bill is opposed by a number of labor groups, including the California Nurses Association.

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California health insurance exchange awards operational contract
Los Angeles Times

California’s new health insurance exchange awarded a contract worth nearly $360 million to create a website and enrollment system to help Californians shop for health coverage and determine whether they are eligible for subsidies under the federal healthcare law starting late next year.

The California Health Benefit Exchange said it would start enrollment Oct. 1, 2013, for coverage that would take effect in January 2014.

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Health Savings Accounts, High-Deductible Plans Jump 18%
Health Leaders Media

Some 13.5 million Americans had health savings account/high-deductible health plans in 2012, an increase of 18% from 2011, according to the latest annual census from America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry lobbying group.

The large group market, which dominates HSA/HDHP enrollment, grew by 26% to 7.9 million members. The individual and small group markets posted enrollment gains of 5% to 2.5 million members and 9% to 3 million, respectively.

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Public hospitals target of new state cash grab
San Bernardino Sun

Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, the county’s hospital, stands to lose millions of dollars, if proposals under Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget become reality, county officials said.

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Josie Gonzales said the proposals are “horrendous” because they could end up causing some to be denied care at a time when they need it most, after losing health insurance because they had become unemployed in the sagging economy.

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‘Historically’ Low Healthcare Spending Growth Predicted for 2013
Health Leaders Media

Healthcare spending is forecasted to grow at a historically low rate of 7.5% in 2013, PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLC estimates.

PwC’s Health Research Institute in a survey and report released Thursday attributes much of the projected slower growth on the tepid economy, the healthcare industry’s broad focus on cost containment, higher out-of-pocket costs and, therefore, lower utilization for healthcare consumers, and efforts by employers to keep their health insurance expenses down.

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Two out of three Americans are overweight or obese
Capitol Weekly

The audience at the Crest Theatre last night wasn’t your typical movie-going crowd: elected officials, neurosurgeons, nutritionists, community organizers, and even the occasional organic farmer. No, they weren’t there for a Hollywood blockbuster, but for a screening of “The Weight of the Nation,” an eye-opening four-part documentary series presented by HBO and the Institute of Medicine.

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A New Class of Cancer Drugs May Be Less Toxic
New York Times

Fern Saitowitz’s advanced breast cancer was controlled for about a year by the drug Herceptin and a toxic chemotherapy agent. But her hair fell out, her fingernails turned black and she was constantly fatigued. She switched to an experimental treatment, which also consisted of Herceptin and a chemotherapy agent. Only this time, the two drugs were attached to each other, keeping the toxic agent inactive until the Herceptin carried it to the tumor. Side effects, other than temporary nausea and some muscle cramps, vanished.

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Report Finds Health Care Costs All Over The Map

What you pay for medical procedures can vary drastically from city to city, hospital to hospital, even doctor to doctor – and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it, according to a new report in Consumer Reports magazine. Nancy Metcalf, the magazine’s senior program editor and author of the article, says she was stunned by some of the numbers.

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House GOP releases documents on health care deals
San Francisco Chronicle

The White House played political hardball with drug industry honchos to get a 2009 deal that helped keep health care overhaul legislation from bogging down in Congress, according to internal emails released Thursday by House Republicans. Obtained from the industry by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the emails and documents shed light on the saga of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul as its fortunes shifted back and forth in Congress.

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Interim Oak Valley Hospital District CEO made permanent
Modesto Bee

The Oak Valley Hospital District has promoted its interim chief executive officer to the permanent job. John McCormick, 55, had been interim CEO since October. The district’s governing board reached a unanimous consensus at last week’s meeting to give McCormick a three-year contract, board President Dan Cummins said Wednesday. “John has proved himself to be very knowledgeable, not only on hospital operations but he comes to us with a heavy financial background,” Cummins said.

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Western Health has big plans for growth
Sacramento Business Journal

Sacramento’s home-grown HMO is adding staff and office space and will offer individual insurance plans beginning July 1. Western Health Advantage hopes to test the market and build loyalty among individuals who buy their own insurance before the California Health Benefit Exchange launches in 2014. Part of the national effort to expand health care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, the exchange is meant to provide individuals and small employers access to quality care at affordable rates.

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Calif bill would let nurses prescribe the pill
Sacramento Bee

California women would no longer have to make an appointment with a doctor to get birth control pills under a bill approved by the state Assembly.

Lawmakers on Thursday approved AB2348, which would allow registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives to give out and administer hormonal contraceptives at primary care clinics.

Democratic Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles said she wrote the bill to give women better access to birth control.

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Report predicts moderate health care spending rise
The Mercury News

Health care spending in the United States is expected to continue climbing at a more moderate pace next year, and that may help contain hikes in the price of insurance coverage for people with employer-sponsored plans. The cost to deliver health care—which counts spending on everything from doctor visits to prescriptions or surgeries—will climb 7.5 percent per person in 2013, according to a study from the Health Research Institute of benefits consultant PwC.

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Legislators demand changes to county’s dental program for poor children
Torrance Daily Breeze

Legislators are demanding changes to Los Angeles County’s managed care dental program for poor children after reports revealed that fewer than one in four saw a dentist last year.

“Obviously, I’m concerned,” said state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, who chairs the Senate health committee. “The most needy population needs to absolutely have access to health care.”

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Drug industry was at center of reform dealing, GOP investigators say
Modern Healthcare

Among all health industry groups with which the White House was negotiating deals leading up to passage of the 2010 healthcare law, drugmakers were seen by Washington Democrats as the key group, according to a yearlong investigation by House Republican staff (PDF).

The details of the still-murky deal between health industry groups and Democrats leading up to enactment of the law has been the subject of an investigation by Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans.

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Tulare Local Health Care District narrows interim CEO search
Visialia Times-Delta

The Tulare Local Health Care District has revealed the names of three people it is considering as temporary replacements for former chief executive officer Shawn Bolouki, said Kris Pedersen, legal counsel for the hospital.

She also said the district’s board of directors will likely consider other candidates supplied by the two placement firms the district has hired.

Bolouki left at the end of April for reasons the hospital has not explained.

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Health care district reforms on hold
The Bay Citizen

An effort to impose spending restrictions on California’s taxpayer-funded health care districts is on hold until next year.

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, said he plans to introduce a bill in January requiring more “transparency” and more “accountability” from those districts. The new legislation would mandate how much tax revenue districts must spend on community health care programs.

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Professional Liability Risks Evolve with Changes in Healthcare System
Insurance Journal

National healthcare reform legislation passed by Congress in 2010 may or may not survive consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the healthcare system already has been evolving in ways that are likely to proceed regardless of the success or failure of national reform efforts, experts say.

The evolutionary pressures on the nation’s healthcare delivery system and the liability exposures that go along with those changes have not been unnoticed by insurance companies, either.

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Merced doctor’s theory links autism to flood of electronic devices
Merced Sun-Star

Subjecting infants to electronic devices is another theory on what causes autism. This one comes from Dr. Leonard Oestreicher, a longtime Merced family practitioner, and is explained in his new eBook: “The Pied Pipers of Autism.” His theory, while laying some blame on genetic factors, maintains that the leading cause of autism and related disorders is the electronics — televisions, video devices and talking toys — many infants are exposed to today.

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The beauty of our capitalist health insurance system
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

A few weeks ago, a notice came in the mail from my health insurance carrier. The first line, in large, bold letters, informed, “Rates are going up but you do have choices.”

Be still, my heart.

I’ve had group health insurance through my employers for most of my adult life. But last year, when I decided to become self-employed, I dove into the “individual” insurance market. After surviving the initial sticker shock without needing hospitaliz

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A sports injury leads to a big foul in medical billing
Los Angeles Times

It’s amazing how easily the smallest healthcare mix-up can spin out of control and leave the patient on the hook for thousands of dollars in medical bills.

In Jim Furlan’s case, his journey into the healthcare Twilight Zone began in September when his then-15-year-old daughter injured her knee playing in a volleyball tournament in Las Vegas.