News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospital industry submits ballot signatures to stabilize Medi-Cal funding
San Francisco Business Times

The California Hospital Association, which represents most of the state’s hospitals, is submitting 1.3 million signatures this week to put a measure on the ballot to stabilize hospitals’ Medi-Cal funding — and keep the state government from diverting federal matching funds to other purposes. The complex measure is known as the Medi-Cal Funding and Accountability Act of 2014.

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NFP Hospitals’ Revenue Growth Outpaced by Expense Growth Rate
Health Leaders Media

Expense growth for the not-for-profit hospital sector outpaced revenue growth in fiscal year 2013, says a Moody’s Investors Service report released Wednesday.

In its report, “Revenue Growth and Profitability Drop in US Not-for-Profit Hospital Preliminary Medians,” Moody’s says FY 2013 marks the second year in a row that the annual expense growth rate (4.6%) was higher than the annual revenue growth rate (4.1%).

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CDC: Try Drug Stewardship to Curb Antibiotic Overuse
Health Leaders Media

More than half of all hospital patients receive an antibiotic. These drugs are not only overprescribed in hospitals, but also poorly prescribed, which can put patients at risk.

A Centers for Disease Control report released in March shows that some clinicians prescribe antibiotics three times as much as clinicians in other hospitals, even when patients were receiving similar kinds of care.

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FDA proposes first regulations for electronic cigarettes
Modern Healthcare

The federal government wants to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

While the proposal being issued Thursday won’t immediately mean changes for the popular devices, the move is aimed at eventually taming the fast-growing e-cigarette industry.

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FDA proposes program to speed approval of medical devices
Reuters

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday proposed speeding up medical device approvals for patients who have no other treatment options through a new program focused on earlier and more frequent interactions between companies and FDA staff.

The Expedited Access Premarket Approval Application program is a response to criticisms by policymakers, patient groups and industry that the FDA process for approving medical devices is inefficient and slow, delaying patients’ access to new, helpful products.

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Obamacare Observations from the Marketplace
The Health Care Blog

A few observations from my travels and conversations in the marketplace: About half of the enrollments are coming from people who were previously insured and half are not. When I try to gauge this, I go to carriers who had high market share before Obamacare and have maintained that through the first open enrollment. Some carriers have said only a small percentage of their enrollments had coverage before but health plans only would know who they insured before.

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The ObamaCare Jobless
The Wall Street Journal

A new survey demonstrates the Affordable Care Act’s negative impact on employment. According to the Journal, “nearly half of small-business owners with at least five employees, or 45% of those polled, said they had had to curb their hiring plans because of the health law, and almost a third—29%—said they had been forced to make staff cuts, according to a U.S. Bancorp survey of 3,173 owners with less than $10 million in annual revenue that will be released Thursday.”

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How California Took the ‘Lead’ on Obamacare — and Why It’s Too Early To Take a Victory Lap
California Healthline

Joel Ario says he meant it as a compliment. It was January 2011, and Ario — the White House’s point man on exchanges at the time — was having dinner with Diana Dooley, California’s newly installed HHS secretary. And seeking to praise California, Ario told Dooley that her state had emerged as one of the nation’s “pace cars” when it came to implementing the Affordable Care Act. Dooley quickly corrected him, Ario recalled in an interview with California Healthline this week. “[Dooley] told me, ‘Pace cars don’t actually win the race,’” Ario said. “‘We want to be the lead car.’”

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San Diego Enrollment In Covered California Beats Projections
KPBS

Back in October, officials predicted 43,000 San Diegans would enroll in Covered California health plans. The final number was 121,900 — nearly triple that projection. Almost 1.4 million people enrolled statewide. 1.2 million were eligible for federal subsidies. In addition, San Diego County officials report more than 100,000 residents signed up for the expanded Medi-Cal program.

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Anthem Leads in Covered California Signups
San Fernando Valley Business Journal

In the race to sign up new customers on the Covered California health insurance exchange, Anthem Blue Cross has emerged as the winner with more than 30 percent of the market.

The Thousand Oaks insurer, a unit of WellPoint Inc. in Indianapolis, signed up 425,058 people, or 30.5 percent of all policies sold on the exchange, according to data from Covered California through April 15.

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Panel: It makes sense to extend health coverage to undocumented immigrants
Sacramento Business Journal

State officials say 3.3 million more Californians have insurance today thanks to the Affordable Care Act. But another 3 to 4 million still lack coverage. “The numbers are changing all the time, but that’s still a heck of a lot of people,” Richard Figueroa, program manager for health reform at The California Endowment, said during a panel discussion in Sacramento on California’s remaining uninsured. The Wednesday event was sponsored by the California Primary Care Association, whose members serve as the safety net for the poor and indigent.

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Palm Drive weighs options for survival
North Bay Business Journal

The Palm Drive Healthcare District, which oversees the financially embattled Palm Drive Hospital, is expected to consider and possibly vote Wednesday on two proposals from prominent physicians and the Palm Drive Health Care Foundation that aim to save the facility ahead of its impending closure next week.

The district board is set to meet at noon Wednesday to discuss the proposals.

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Palm Drive Hospital board OKs nonprofit talks (w/video)
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The Palm Drive Hospital board voted Wednesday to proceed with its plans to close the Sebastopol hospital on Monday, even as it entered into last-ditch negotiations with a nonprofit foundation that is desperately seeking to keep the facility open.

The decision came after a two-hour board meeting that drew more than 150 people to the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. During the meeting, board members heard impassioned pleas from local residents, emergency personnel, Palm Drive physicians and hospital supporters to keep the facility’s doors open.

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Free health care clinics fill gaps in Bay Area
San Francisco Chronicle

Chris Joslyn arrived in San Francisco four months ago in a van. He brought his son Christopher, 6, and daughter Charley, 2, and little else.

Anxious to find a place to live and a way to support the kids, the 27-year-old who lost his job repairing foreclosed homes on the East Coast hadn’t made health care a priority for his family – until Wednesday.

Joslyn rushed his children from a homeless shelter in the Tenderloin to a free health clinic that was set up in the Mission to see needy patients for two days.

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The ICD-10 Extension: For Whatever Reasons, Congress Did the Right Thing.
The Health Care Blog

Did you hear the one about the CMS administrator who was asked what it would take to delay the 2014 ICD-10 implementation deadline? An act of Congress, he smugly replied, according to unverified reports. Good thing he didn’t say an act of God. So, now that CMS has been overruled by Congress, who wins and who loses? Who’s happy and who’s not? The answers to those questions illustrate the resource disparity that prevails in healthcare and, mirroring the broader economy, threatens to get worse.

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Report: Ambulances Slowed by Filled-to-Capacity Hospitals
Patch

Hospital bed shortages delayed Los Angeles Fire Department ambulance crews nearly 37,000 hours last year, costing the city about $6 million, according to a report presented to the Fire Commission today.

Ambulance crews aim to spend no more than 20 minutes dropping patients off at hospitals, but often must wait longer due to a lack of beds, fire officials said. The number of hours wasted in 2013 — 36,627 — is equivalent to parking four or more ambulances at one hospital every day, they said.

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Blum Latest Leader to Exit HHS
Health Leaders Media

In its third high-level departure this spring, HHS has announced the resignation of Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Blum, a former Office of Management and Budget program analyst, was the White House’s first political appointee at CMS, serving as director of the Center for Medicare from 2009 to 2013. As principal deputy administrator over the past year, he concentrated on payment reform and cost reduction efforts across the agency.

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Aetna’s 1Q profit jumps 36 pct, forecast climbs
San Francisco Chronicle

Aetna’s first-quarter net income soared 36 percent, fueled by gains from a multi-billion-dollar acquisition, and the health insurer hiked its 2014 earnings forecast above Wall Street expectations.

Its results breezed past analysts’ expectations, and Aetna shares jumped more than 4 percent in premarket trading.

The Hartford, Conn., insurer closed a $6.9 billion acquisition of fellow insurer Coventry Health Care last May, and it said Thursday that deal was the main factor behind its growth in this year’s first quarter.

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El Camino Hospital to build new $50M health center
Silicon Valley Business Journal

At a time when many hospitals are cutting their psychiatric facilities, El Camino Hospital expects to break ground in 2015 on a new, 52,000-square-foot behavioral health services building on its Mountain View campus. The $50 million project will replace an outdated facility that was built in the 1960s, Michael Fitzgerald, director of behavioral health for the hospital, told me. The new building will have 36 beds, a significant boost over the existing 25, and provide outpatient and inpatient care.

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