News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Medicare Advantage Program Standards Tightening
Health Leaders Media

In addition to a widely anticipated cut to the Medicare Advantage payment rate in 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are expected to announce Monday several changes to the MA five-star ratings program.

The most significant ratings change on tap to the ratings system is expected to be an increase in the star threshold for bonus payments to health plans, based on a wide array of quality standards.

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What we need to do about antibiotic-resistant infections
Washington Post

The emergence of organisms resistant to commercially available antibiotics has created a public health crisis, and a gap has emerged between the clinical and perceived value of antibiotics. The subject of hospital acquired infections (HAIs) also has become a frequent topic for discussion among patients, families, clinicians, and hospital administrators. The emotional and financial burdens associated with HAIs are deeply felt, by patients and infection control specialists.

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State Medicare reimbursements to rise
San Diego Union-Tribune

An additional $14,300 per year in his pocket sounds downright delightful to Dr. Mo Bidair.

He is one of about 7,000 doctors in San Diego County affected by a bill that President Barack Obama signed this week. The legislation alters the way Medicare payments are adjusted for the cost of living in California. Since such adjustments were created in 1989, San Diego has been lumped in with other “rural” counties such as Imperial and Yuba while regions considered to have higher costs of living, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have received their own special designations.

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Inmates getting coverage under ObamaCare, as states shift cost to feds
Fox News

The Obama administration often touts that people with pre-existing conditions and countless others can now get covered under ObamaCare. But there’s another group that’s starting to benefit from the law — prison inmates.

Cash-strapped state and local prisons increasingly are using the Affordable Care Act to pay for their inmates’ medical costs, taking advantage of a little-known provision that lets them shift some of those expenses to the federal government.

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Health care coverage advocate touts Obamacare
insurance newsnet

While the general deadline has passed for new sign-ups at HealthCare.gov, those who began the enrollment process can finish it, and under certain circumstances a few might still be able to start. Bill England, state director for Enroll America, came to Reading on Friday to discuss how the new health care law fared during the enrollment period and to get the word out that people who started applications can finish them.

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Computer glitches hamper healthcare delivery to California’s poor
Los Angeles Times

Reginald Clarke is someone Obamacare was designed to help. The 55-year-old, who was homeless for a time, now has an apartment in Gardena and a street-cleaning job that pays him $14,000 a year. He hadn’t visited a doctor in four or five years. Then, last fall, his girlfriend told him he would be eligible for Medi-Cal starting Jan. 1. “I was excited. I could go get a physical,” he said. “There are a few things I need.”

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Last-minute sign-ups overwhelm system, lead to one last extension
Redding Record Searchlight

Why not put off until tomorrow what you can do today? Apparently that is the motto of about 150,000 folks in California.

Sunday — the next to last day of the six-month open enrollment period, saw that many enrollments. In fact, there is a report that there were 420,000 unique visitors to the site. As expected, there was an overload to the system and there is now another extension of sorts for California. As of this writing the extension for those seeking to purchase insurance on the exchange, Covered California, not off the exchange.

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Obamacare Premiums Are Going To “Skyrocket”? Forget About It.
The Health Care Blog

Being against Obamacare has been the keystone, the capstone, the mighty sledgehammer, the massive metaphor of your choice for the right for five years now. They couldn’t stop it from being passed. They couldn’t stop it at the Supreme Court.

They weren’t able to choke it off by “defunding” it. They rejoiced at the rubber-meets-the-sky rollout of Healthcare.gov, but then the kinks got worked out of that.They railed at the administration using discretionary powers built into the law to help it work better. Every horror story of Obamacare ruining people’s lives they came up with turned out to be false.

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Now that you have a health plan, how do you get the most out of it?
Los Angeles Times

Now that open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act is over for this year, healthcare consumers can begin to put their insurance policies to work. For many, it may be a challenge. A year ago, Norm Wilkinson, 61, retired after 35 years as a Teamster and signed on to a retiree health plan. He figured he’d enjoy the same comprehensive coverage he’d had for years, but soon learned that prescription drugs weren’t covered.

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Number of Americans without health insurance reaches new low
Los Angeles Times

The share of Americans without health insurance has dropped to the lowest level since before President Obama took office, according to a new national survey that provides more evidence the healthcare law is extending coverage to millions of the previously uninsured.

Just 14.7% of adults lacked coverage in the second half of March, down from 18% in the last quarter of 2013, the survey from Gallup found.

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ObamaCare makes it more difficult to buy insurance year-round
Fox News

Here’s more fallout from the health care law: Until now, customers could walk into an insurance office or go online to buy standard health care coverage any time of year. Not anymore.

Many people who didn’t sign up during the government’s open enrollment period that ended Monday will soon find it difficult or impossible to get insured this year, even if they go directly to a private company and money is no object. For some it’s already too late.

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Can Democrats change the politics of health care?
Washington Post

The debate over the Affordable Care Act has entered a new stage, one that will challenge Republicans and Democrats alike. But the burden still falls more heavily on the Democrats to show that the law can become something other than a political weight on vulnerable incumbents this year.

With 7 million people now signed up under the health-care law, and more likely to join during future enrollment periods, the act is rapidly becoming embedded in the nation’s health-care system.

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GOP seeks coverage choices in health law they hate
San Francisco Chronicle

At the prodding of business organizations, House Republicans quietly secured a recent change in President Barack Obama’s health law to expand coverage choices, a striking, one-of-a-kind departure from dozens of high-decibel attempts to repeal or dismember it.

Democrats describe the change involving small-business coverage options as a straightforward improvement of the type they are eager to make, and Obama signed it into law. Republicans are loath to agree, given the strong sentiment among the rank and file that the only fix the law deserves is a burial.

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Los Angeles County audit finds backlog of nursing home complaints
Los Angeles Daily News

A lack of central oversight of nursing home investigations in Los Angeles County has contributed to a backlog of hundreds of complaints, according to an audit.

The Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller determined that there were 3,044 open investigations as of March 14, including 945 that have been open for more than two years. The auditor found that there is no central management of the investigations and that surveyors within the Health Facilities Inspections Division do not have set deadlines for completing cases.

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Monday vote expected to close Palm Drive Hospital, at least temporarily
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Even as nurses and doctors launch a last-ditch effort to keep Palm Drive Hospital open, its board of directors is poised this week to shut down the core of the money-losing Sebastopol hospital.

On Monday, the board is scheduled to vote on resolutions that would cease acute inpatient services, close the emergency department by April 28 and “suspend,” but not terminate, the hospital’s license.

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Even Small Medical Advances Can Mean Big Jumps in Bills
New York Times

Catherine Hayley is saving up for an important purchase: an updated version of the tiny digital pump at her waist that delivers lifesaving insulin under her skin.

Such devices, which tailor insulin dosing more precisely to the body’s needs, have transformed the lives of people with Type 1 diabetes like Ms. Hayley. But as diabetics live longer, healthier lives and worries fade about dreaded complications like heart attacks, kidney failure, amputations and blindness, they have been replaced by another preoccupation: soaring treatment costs.

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How public health advocates are trying to reach non-vaccinators
Southern California Public Radio

Whooping cough made a comeback in California last year, which researchers have linked to vaccine refusals. And with new measles outbreaks in Southern California, New York and British Columbia, the debate over vaccination is also spreading.

Forty-eight states allow parents to sign a vaccine exemption form — only West Virginia and Mississippi don’t. California now requires a doctor’s signature on the school form, but parents are still able to find doctors who will sign.

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Baby Bummers
Mail Tribune

Insurance coverage for maternity care is required in most individual and small group plans under the federal health law, extending such coverage to plans where it used to be rare. But for women who are interested in services provided by midwives and birthing centers, there are no coverage guarantees, despite the law’s provisions that prohibit insurers from discriminating against licensed medical providers.

Most women give birth in hospitals and are attended by obstetricians, but a growing number choose to deliver their babies at birth centers.

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California hospital can continue elective abortion ban
Modern Healthcare

An Orange County hospital where a ban on elective abortions provoked a state investigation can keep refusing to perform the procedure, it was reported Friday.

Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach reached an agreement with the state attorney general’s office last month that permits it to continue the ban as long as it helps women access such services elsewhere, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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Hoag Hospital can refuse elective abortions, state rules
Los Angeles Times

The state attorney general’s office has found that Newport Beach’s Hoag Hospital can continue to refuse to provide elective abortions as long as the hospital helps women access those services elsewhere, according to an agreement released Friday.

The agreement, approved by the state and Hoag last month, closes an investigation sparked by allegations that the hospital had misrepresented the effects of its partnership with a Catholic healthcare provider and was limiting women’s access to a full array of reproductive health services.

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Nurses’ Calm and Compassion Ease Patient Suffering
Healthline

There’s an art to telling someone it’s going to be OK, and for those who master it, this empathy and kindness can have a significant impact on a patient’s recovery.

Nurse-guided mindfulness could help decrease the pain of an uncomfortable procedure, according to research presented April 5th at the EuroHeartCare 2014 conference in Stavanger, Norway. Researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark found that patients who were told by nurses to imagine that they were in a safe place during cardiac ablation experienced less pain than those who had no mindfulness intervention.

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ACOs Show Uneven Progress
Health Leaders Media

The first numbers for Medicare’s biggest accountable care experiment under the Affordable Care Act show mixed results for improving quality and reducing costs.

Just over half of the 114 organizations to join one of two Medicare accountable care organization (ACO) efforts in 2012 report no decrease in health spending below targets during their first 12 months trying to do so, according to newly released CMS data. Another 29 reduced spending enough during the first 12 months to keep some of the savings.

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