News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Provision in new law will boost Medicare payments in 14 Calif. counties
News10.net

Doctors who treat Medicare patients in 14 California counties will get paid more by the federal retiree health-insurance program under a bill President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday. The measure includes a provision Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel) has been pushing for 15 years to increase Medicare reimbursements to doctors in Monterey, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, Santa Cruz, Marin, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Sonoma, Placer, El Dorado, Yolo, San Luis Obispo and San Bernardino counties.

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Patient Volumes, Patterns Shifting
Health Leaders Media

That rumbling sound you hear is the seismic shift of patient volumes for hospitals. Inpatient volumes and readmissions are shrinking. Newly insured are knocking at the door. A bundle of contradictions is at hand. Hospitals are bracing for the possibilities and the what-ifs.

At the Beaumont Health System, officials are working hard to anticipate shifting patient populations. Beaumont is a regional healthcare system with 1,728 licensed beds at three locations in the metropolitan Detroit area.

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Benefits and risks of mammography are substantial; women need to make more individual decisions on whether to be screened, new study says
Washington Post

I just spoke with Michael L. LeFevre, chairman of the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, about the JAMA study. As I noted below, that panel is preparing to update its 2009 guidelines on breast cancer screening, probably within the next 12-18 months.

For now, its policy is that the benefits of mammograms outweigh their harms, especially for women aged 50 to 75. For women aged 40-49, it’s a closer call, but the task force still tips in favor of mammography, LeFevre said.

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MSPB Adds Nuance to Readmission Rates
Health Leaders Media

The federal government’s new efficiency measure, the latest effort to incentivize higher-quality, less-costly care, is one that has surprised, confused, and frustrated many hospital leaders whose payments will soon be impacted by the new rule.

One of the questions they ask in their letters of protest: How can hospitals be held accountable for services their patients receive after they’re discharged or even before they’re admitted?

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More Than Seven Million Sign Up for Health Coverage, Obama Says
The Wall Street Journal

President Barack Obama, applauding the news that 7.1 million people signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, set the stage Tuesday for Democrats to move beyond the law’s rocky rollout and go on the offense.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, the president offered one of his most forceful defenses of the law in months after a surge in sign-ups Monday pushed enrollment past the seven million mark. That figure generally was viewed as unattainable after technical problems with HealthCare.gov impeded sign-ups for weeks after the Oct. 1 launch.

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More than 7 million have enrolled under Affordable Care Act, White House says
Washington Post

President Obama announced Tuesday that 7.1 million Americans have signed up for health plans under the Affordable Care Act, the most ambitious federal effort in nearly half a century to widen access to coverage. The tally, which signified a sharp turnaround from the troubled beginnings of enrollment last fall, was driven upward by a late rush of consumers seeking coverage in the days and hours before the deadline of midnight Monday to select health plans for 2014.

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7.1 Million. Will the Obama Administration Regret Today’s Announcement?
The Health Care Blog

Politics is about expectations. The Obama administration blew the doors off Obamacare’s enrollment expectations this week and scored big political points. But in doing so, they may have set Obamacare’s expectations going forward at a level that can only undermine their credibility and that of the new health law. What happens when the real number––the number of people who actually completed their enrollment––comes in far below the seven million?

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Obama celebrates 7.1 million health care sign-ups
San Francisco Chronicle

After facing a rocky start and chorus of naysayers who declared his health care law a failure, President Barack Obama on Tuesday celebrated a better-than-expected 7.1 million sign-ups for health coverage that he said should end the debate over whether the law should be repealed.

“The Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” Obama declared in a feisty Rose Garden speech the day after the deadline for Americans to enroll.

Obama announced the 7 million threshold that once was seen as unattainable, even as the number still could climb.

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Obamacare passes first big test
Los Angeles Times

The Affordable Care Act has passed its first big test, but the law’s distribution of winners and losers all but guarantees the achievement will not quiet its political opposition. White House officials, who had a near-death experience with the law’s rollout six months ago, were nearly giddy Tuesday as they celebrated an open-enrollment season that ended on a high note.

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Healthcare reform sends uninsured rate falling
FierceHealthPayer

Roughly 9.5 million people have gained health insurance coverage through healthcare reform’s Medicaid expansion, health insurance exchanges and private plans, according to national surveys and enrollment data.

In particular, a new survey from Rand Corporation showed Medicaid accounts for about 4.5 million previously uninsured consumers, reported the Los Angeles Times, which received a copy of the unpublished survey data. Those figures are similar to analyses from Avalere Health, which found up to 3.5 million people had signed up for Medicaid as of January.

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Self-Employed Artists Flock to ACA Healthcare Exchanges
Nonprofit Quarterly

Described in an article in Politico as a “typically a well-educated but lower-earning demographic,” many American artists have historically struggled to obtain affordable healthcare coverage, whether on their own, through the nonprofit cultural organizations that employ them or, in some instances, through unions or other membership organizations.

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Obama signs ‘doc-fix’ bill
Modern Healthcare

President Barack Obama Tuesday signed into law legislation to give doctors temporary relief from a flawed Medicare payment formula that threatened them with a 24% cut in their fees.

A 64-35 Senate vote Monday cleared the measure through Congress. The law also delays nationwide implementation of the ICD-10 diagnostic codes until 2015.

The $21 billion bill would stave off a 24% cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors for a year and extend dozens of other expiring health care provisions, such as higher payment rates for rural hospitals.

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Healthcare advocates push for medical services for uninsured
Los Angeles Times

Healthcare advocates Tuesday urged the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to set aside at least $11 million in additional funding for free medical services for low-income residents — including immigrants lacking legal status — who remain uninsured under Obamacare. Members of the faith-based coalition One L.A., labor groups and community healthcare organizations told reporters and board members that failing to expand a county program to serve thousands more poor and undocumented residents would endanger public health.

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New Report Finds Dramatic Racial Disparities for California Kids
KQED Radio

Many children of color in the state face different health and education opportunities from the earliest years.

That’s according to a new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The report looked at factors like birthweight, access to preschool and, later, reading and math proficiency. The researchers then created an index that weighted these and other social markers to measure a child’s opportunity to thrive later on.

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Palm Drive Hospital board authorizes bankruptcy
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The Palm Drive Health Care District board voted unanimously Tuesday night to authorize a Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the first step in a plan urged by management to close the emergency room and cease acute inpatient services at the Sebastopol hospital.

“We’re out of money. We can’t pay our vendors on a regular basis,” said hospital CEO Thomas Harlan. “Given these sets of what I would call alarming and very depressing facts, the chronic and extreme financial distress, we’re faced with a position of insolvency.”

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Inland Empire doctors in for a Medicare pay raise
Southern California Public Radio

Doctors in San Bernardino and Riverside counties will finally be getting full Medicare reimbursement. President Obama is expected to sign into law a measure to amend a funding formula that hasn’t taken into account California’s population explosion in the Inland Empire.

The “Geographic Practice Cost Index Fix” would change the “rural” label given to 14 California counties. The difference means big money to doctors from Sacramento to San Diego. Rural physicians are paid as much as 10 percent less than “urban” doctors each year. California doctors practicing in those rural counties have lost out on more than $50 million in Medicare funding each year.

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San Francisco hospital asks recent patients to get tested for HIV
San Ramon Express

Anyone who was a patient recently at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco may want to get tested for HIV and other infectious diseases after hospital officials learned some equipment was improperly sterilized.

Instruments, used to examine the lungs and digestive tract, were washed by hand and processed through a decontaminator reaching temperatures of more than 200 degrees, hospital spokesman Dean Fryer said Friday.

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Sonoma County doctors cheer Medicare payment fix
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

President Barack Obama signed a bill Tuesday fixing an outdated Medicare payment formula that made it difficult to recruit doctors to Sonoma County and caused many local physicians to shut their doors to new Medicare patients.

The legislation could increase Medicare reimbursements to Sonoma County doctors by up to 9 percent. That, in turn, is expected to boost payments to doctors across the county because private insurance often is tied to Medicare rates.

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