News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Oncology Service Line: A Change in Focus
Health Leaders Media

The prognoses delivered in hospital oncology departments around the country are decidedly less grim than they were a decade or even five years ago. The rate of technological innovations in cancer care is speeding forward like never before, leading to better results, fewer treatment side effects, and an improved quality of life for patients.

From genetic testing to advanced chemotherapy procedures, hospitals and health systems are changing the focus of oncology from merely ensuring survival to, in many cases, providing comprehensive long-term care and even cures.

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Health care reform increases emergency department use in Massachusetts

The implementation of health care reform in Massachusetts – principally the expansion of health insurance coverage to nearly everyone in the state – was associated with a small but consistent increase in emergency department use, according to the findings of a study to be published online today in Annals of Emergency Medicine (“Increased Use of the Emergency Department After Health Care Reform in Massachusetts”).

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UC Medical Centers plan to slash up to $150 million from annual budgets
San Francisco Business Times

The University of California and its five medical centers, including UCSF Medical Center and UC Davis Medical Center, are embarking on an effort to shave up to $150 million from their collective annual budgets. The UC Regents approved the so-called “Leveraging Scale for Value” project at its meeting at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus Thursday, officials said. The effort will focus on cutting costs in three main areas: supply chain, revenue cycle and clinical laboratories.

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Health care law has uneven impact on companies
San Francisco Chronicle

The health care overhaul affects businesses both big and small in ways that are as wide-reaching as the law itself.

Walmart, the largest U.S. private employer, expects $330 million in additional health care costs this year in part because it thinks more employees are signing up for its insurance to meet the law’s requirement that most Americans have coverage.

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Reform Update: Obamacare’s insurance mandate could be toothless in 2014
Modern Healthcare

The Obama administration has made the individual mandate its line in the sand for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Despite delaying or tweaking numerous provisions—most notably the requirement that businesses with more than 50 employees provide coverage—federal officials have refused to yield on the insurance requirement for individuals.

The financial penalty isn’t particularly onerous in the first year. It’s 1% of income or $95, whichever amount is higher. The penalty rises to 2.5% of income, or $695, in 2016.

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53 percent disapprove of Affordable Care Act, 43 percent approve, new poll finds
Sacramento Bee

On the Affordable Care Act’s fourth anniversary, a new Pew Research Center poll released Thursday found strong disapproval of the controversial law. Fifty-three percent disapprove, while 41 percent approve. At the same time, the poll found, “when opponents of the health care law are asked about the law’s future, more want elected officials to try to make it work than to make it fail.

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We Must Keep Coverage Affordable
New York Times

For the first time, millions of Americans across the country have the peace of mind that health insurance provides. But more needs to be done to ensure coverage is affordable so that the expanded access to health insurance is sustained. First, policymakers need to address provisions in the health care reform law that are at odds with the goal of affordability.

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With health law, workers ponder the I-Quit option
San Francisco Chronicle

For uninsured people, the nation’s new health care law may offer an escape from worry about unexpected, astronomical medical bills. But for Stephanie Payne of St. Louis, who already had good insurance, the law could offer another kind of escape: the chance to quit her job.

At 62, Payne has worked for three decades as a nurse, most recently traveling house to house caring for 30 elderly and disabled patients.

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Half of callers to Covered California give up as deadline looms
Los Angeles Times

Nearly half of callers to California’s health insurance exchange in February and March couldn’t get through and abandoned their call, state figures show. Those service woes could worsen as more people try to beat the March 31 deadline to get Obamacare coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Also Thursday, the Covered California exchange reported progress on another front: low enrollment among the state’s large Latino population.

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Sacramento Kings players help push the message for Covered California, Kaiser
Sacramento Business Journal

With the deadline to enroll in a health insurance plan through Covered California 10 days away, Kaiser Permanente significantly boosted traffic at the company’s two retail shops in the region this week, thanks to Sacramento Kings players DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Kaiser doctors provide medical services to the basketball team, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to get the players to greet fans, sign autographs — and create some buzz about the place.

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Leading cancer killer has new effective enemy in CT scans
Orange County Register

Most of the time, when a smoker feels the first severe symptoms of lung cancer, it’s already too late. Wheezing, chest pain or coughing up blood might be the beginning of the end. Only 15 percent of lung-cancer diagnoses are made in time to do anything about it. The fact that lung-cancer lesions are so tough to find is a big reason why the disease is the No. 1 cancer killer in the United States, with 159,480 deaths last year. That’s a higher toll than for breast, prostate and colon cancer combined (120,170).

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s health care proposal angers city workers
Los Angeles Daily News

Sanjuana Salas’s workday at Los Angeles City Hall begins at dusk, when most city employees head home. The 56-year-old South L.A. resident dons a gray uniform to vacuum floors and scrub toilets at City Hall, working past midnight.

A broad-shouldered woman with a wide grin, Salas earns $43,400 a year as a city custodian. Taxes, pension contributions, and other deductions chip away at her paycheck, leaving little left over.

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Blue Shield Sued Over Surgery Coverage Denials
Law 360

Blue Shield of California was hit with a putative class action Thursday in California state court by a group of insureds who claim it has unlawfully refused to cover reconstructive surgeries that restore patients to a “normal appearance.”

Named plaintiffs Sabra Akmal and Deborah Portillo allege Blue Shield has violated California’s Unfair Competition Law by failing to comply with a state law requiring health insurance providers to cover reconstructive surgery where the procedure would resolve a functional problem or create a normal appearance.