News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Pitfalls Seen in a Turn to Privately Run Long-Term Care
New York Times

Even as public attention is focused on the Affordable Care Act, another health care overhaul is underway in many states: an ambitious effort to restrain the ballooning Medicaid cost of long-term care as people live longer and survive more disabling conditions.

At least 26 states, including California, Florida, Illinois and New York, are rolling out mandatory programs that put billions of public dollars into privately managed long-term care plans, in hopes of keeping people in their homes longer, and expanding alternatives to nursing homes.

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Estimate of how much state owes for retiree healthcare keeps rising
Los Angeles Times

While lawmakers begin discussing ways to fix California’s cash-strapped teacher pension system, another long-term financial problem continues to fester. The cost of providing healthcare to retired state workers is $64.6 billion more than state leaders have set aside to pay, an increase of $730 million from the previous year. The new numbers, calculated as of last June, were released by state Controller John Chiang on Thursday.

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Actually, High-Tech Imaging Can Be High-Value Medicine
The Health Care Blog

Lub-SHHRRR. Lub-SHHRRR. Lub-SHHRRR.

“Can you hear it?” she asked with a smile. The thin, pleasant lady seemed as struck by her murmur as I was. She was calm, perhaps amused by the clumsy second-year medical student listening to her heart. “Yes, yes I can,” I replied, barely concealing my excitement. We had just learned about the heart sounds in class. This was my first time hearing anything abnormal on a patient, though it was impossible to miss—her heart was practically shouting at me.

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The Secret to Physician Engagement? It’s Not Better Pay
Health Leaders Media

More doctors are leaving private practice for positions in hospitals and health systems—and they report the new model of doing business looks promising. The benefits of being an employed physician are anticipated to include “improved communication, greater transparency, better physician job satisfaction and a more patient-centered focus,” says a survey by the American College of Physician Executives.

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New health insurance marketplaces signing up few uninsured Americans, two surveys find
Washington Post

The new health insurance marketplaces appear to be making little headway in signing up Americans who lack insurance, the Affordable Care Act’s central goal, according to a pair of new surveys.

Only one in 10 uninsured people who qualify for private plans through the new marketplaces enrolled as of last month, one of the surveys shows. The other found that about half of uninsured adults have looked for information on the online exchanges or planned to look.

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Obamacare extension of nonconforming health plans won’t affect many Californians
The Mercury News

The Obama administration’s announcement Wednesday that allows a two-year extension for individual health insurance policies that don’t conform to the health care law applies nationwide — but only to states that agree to the plan, according to a spokeswoman with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

In California, even if the state Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown approve the extension by changing current law, most of the 1.1 million Californians whose nonconforming plans were canceled last year wouldn’t likely benefit, a state Insurance Department official said Thursday.

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Canceled health insurance plans extended – again
Sacramento Bee

Americans whose 2013 health insurance policies were supposed to be canceled this year because they don’t meet tough new standards under the Affordable Care Act can now renew those noncompliant policies for another two years if their home states allow it, the Obama administration announced Wednesday. The administration’s second canceled-policy “fix,” following a one-year extension granted in November, was the most notable and controversial of several new executive branch tweaks made to the health law for next year.

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Obamacare delays not created equal: Our view
USA Today

Another day, another Obamacare delay? Really?

On Wednesday, the administration announced it would allow some people two more years to keep insurance policies that don’t fully comply with the Affordable Care Act, feeding the impression that the White House changes the law whenever it feels like it for political reasons.

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Political games prompt delays
USA Today

Every week, it seems, we learn of some new way the administration and its congressional allies plan to put political imperatives ahead of the rule of law and the rights of ordinary citizens. We’ve seen it with the IRS scandal, and we saw it yet again this week with another politically motivated Obamacare delay. With this latest move, the president is basically now telling Americans: If you like your plan, some of you can keep it — but only until the next election.

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Stanislaus residents among nearly 30,000 enrolled in Covered California health insurance exchange
Modesto Bee

In the first four months of enrollment, almost 30,000 consumers signed up for health insurance through the Covered California exchange in a five-county region that includes Stanislaus.

Of the 29,696 people who enrolled in the health plans through Jan. 31, 91 percent, or 27,157, are eligible for subsidies to reduce their premiums. The remaining 9 percent are required to pay the full premium.

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Unfunded debt of state worker health care continues to climb
Sacramento Business Journal

$64.6 billion. That’s how much the state of California is not paying — but is expected to owe — state workers for health and dental benefits over the lifetimes of current and future retirees. The debt, known in wonk speak as the actuarial accrued liability, grew by $730 million in June 2013 from the prior year. The rate of those increasing costs have been significantly reduced due to the combination of declining health care claims and falling health care inflation rates, plus cost-savings strategies by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

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Nurses revive effort to beef up, regulate hospital charity care
Sacramento Business Journal

Legislation to regulate nonprofit hospital charity care, one of the most hotly debated issues before California lawmakers last year, is back in 2014. Nonprofit hospitals give millions back each year to the communities they serve. But there’s no standard definition of what’s applicable and not — or how much should be given back in exchange for tax-exempt status. Over the years, unions and others have bristled at what they see as excess profits and high executive pay by nonprofit hospital chains.

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Spotlight: Pam Lane, California Health and Human Services
Sacramento Business Journal

Pam Lane knows what it’s like to know nothing about a patient in front of her: She served as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy, where she routinely saw patients with no medical records. Years later, Lane was tapped to help solve these kinds of problems with initial help from a $38.8 million federal stimulus grant. She now heads California’s initiative to create an online linkage of patient medical records statewide.

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Personal data on L.A. County medical patients stolen from contractor
Los Angeles Times

As many as 168,500 patients of Los Angeles County medical facilities may have had their data stolen in a break-in at a county contractor’s office last month, county officials said Thursday. A Torrance office of Sutherland Healthcare Solutions, which handles billing and collections for the county’s Department of Health Services, was broken into on Feb. 5 and computer equipment was stolen, according to a statement from the county.

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Sutter Health reports first operating loss in 14 years
Sacramento Business Journal

Sacramento-based Sutter Health lost money on day-to-day operations in 2013, its first operating loss since 1999. The nonprofit company reported a $22 million operating loss Thursday, a huge drop from operating revenue of $549 million in 2012. Operating revenue rose about 1 percent to $9.65 billion, while operating expenses jumped 7 percent to $9.67 billion.

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Sutter Health 2013 income of $300M a sharp drop from 2012
Sacramento Bee

Sacramento-based Sutter Health said today that its 2013 income totaled $300 million, a sharp decline from $735 million in 2012.

Sutter said combined 2013 systemwide losses from the day-to-day operations of its hospitals, care centers and other services totaled $22 million, compared with a gain of $549 million in 2012.

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Natividad hospital program connects with Salinas’ indigenous community
Monterey Herald

It began about five years ago, when Angélica Isidro of Greenfield was asked by neighbors to translate medical instructions they received at the Natividad Medical Center emergency room.

Isidro, a native of Oaxaca, México, who speaks the Mixteco indigenous language, would drive neighbors back to Natividad so she could interpret for them. Isidro, in turn, told hospital officials what her neighbors were saying.

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Scripps celebrates $130M groundbreaking
San Diego Union-Tribune

Scripps Health moved another notch forward in its $2 billion renovation plan for Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla Wednesday with the ground breaking of a six-story $130 million medical office building on the Genesee Avenue medical campus.

When complete in 2016, the 175,000-square-foot building will house medical specialists from cardiologists and gastroenterologists to neurologists and endocrinologists. It will also include four cardiac catheterization labs used to perform various outpatient angioplasty procedures.

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Sierra Health Foundation CEO describes “a moving moment” at the White House
Sacramento Bee

The nationwide statistics are brutal: By fourth grade, 86 percent of African American boys and 82 percent of Latino boys are reading below proficiency levels. (That compares to 54 percent of white fourth-graders.)

And African American and Latino young men are more than six times as likely to be victims of murder than their white peers. The two groups make up almost half of the country’s murder victims each year.

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Surgical floor final piece of Mission Hospital’s neuroscience institute
Orange County Register

The surgical floor of Mission Hospital’s new Neuroscience and Spine Institute is slated for completion this fall. Mission Hospital president and chief executive Kenneth McFarland said the hospital is spending about $22 million to build the floor, which will feature three operating rooms, its own dedicated nursing staff and eight private pre/post-operation recovery rooms.

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