News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Health care database will post negotiated prices
Sacramento Business Journal

Three of the nation’s biggest health insurance companies — Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare — are working with a nonprofit research institute to develop and post detailed information online about health care prices and quality.

The new database is expected to go live early next year. UnitedHealthcare has about 127,500 members in the Sacramento region, but others can use the database, too.

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Advocates push for restoration of higher Medi-Cal reimbursement rates
Southern California Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown’s updated budget proposal includes more than $1 billion in additional spending on Medi-Cal, yet health advocates are criticizing the governor’s plan because it does not restore a 2011 cut the state made to the reimbursement rate for doctors who treat Medi-Cal patients.

“Right now the amount we pay doctors to serve people with Medi-Cal coverage is 49th in the nation,” said Anthony Wright, director of the nonprofit Health Access California.

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HHS Nominee Burwell Aces Senate Finance Hearing
Health Leaders Media

For the second time in a week, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services emerged unscathed from a Senate confirmation hearing.

For the most part, Sylvia Mathews Burwell was subjected to high praise from Senate Finance Committee members from both parties during the two-and-a-half-hour hearing on Wednesday afternoon.

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Study of California hospitals shows a third of patients have diabetes
Los Angeles Times

Patients with diabetes represented 31% of hospitalizations among people 35 and older in California in 2011, according to a new report from researchers and healthcare advocates.

The disproportionate numbers of diabetic patients — overall, only 11.6% of Californians in that age group have diabetes — have resulted in significant added hospital expenses, study authors said. The average cost of hospitalization for a person with diabetes was about $2,200 more than that for a person without the disorder, said study lead author Ying-Ying Meng, a researcher at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

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Throughput and Satisfaction in the ED
Health Leaders Media

While many functions of the emergency department must be reactive in nature, with proper preparation, an effective response can ensure optimal outcomes.

Much of what happens in the emergency department is related to how many and what kind of patients come through the doors. And while patient volume and acuity may be predictable, to an extent, for the most part, those are factors that the ED team cannot fully control.

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A third of patients hospitalized in California suffer from diabetes, study finds
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

One out of three patients admitted to California hospitals has diabetes, which adds $1.6 billion to health care costs a year, a study released today found.

Researchers looked through patient discharge records of those 35 and older as well as hospital financial data from 2011 and found that an average 31 percent — or about 730,000 people — who were hospitalized had diabetes. That translates to $225 million in costs paid out by Medi-Cal, researchers said.

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San Joaquin Valley hospitals filled with diabetes patients
Fresno Bee

More than one in three patients in San Joaquin Valley hospitals has diabetes, according to a study released Thursday.

Health professionals in the Valley said the study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research confirms what they already know: Diabetes is epidemic here and in the state. “When I do admissions at the hospital, I would say virtually every other patient has diabetes,” said Dr. Kirnan Reddy, a Fresno internist.

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Study: Diabetes adds extra cost to hospital stays
Southern California Public Radio

Researchers at UCLA have found that one out of every three hospital beds in California is occupied by a person with diabetes, and that those patients end paying more.

Diabetes is not always the main reason for a hospitalization, but the researchers found that people with diabetes end up paying an average of $2,200 more for their stay in the hospital than people without the disease.

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Health secretary nominee faces cordial senators
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama’s pick to be the nation’s new health secretary faced some pointed questions Wednesday over the health care law, but she also won praise as Republican senators largely passed up the chance for an all-out assault on “Obamacare.”

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the White House budget director, pledged under questioning from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to try to recoup any federal taxpayer dollars that have been misused on failed health law sign-up websites in states including Maryland and Oregon.

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Cancer researcher describes breakthrough
San Diego Union-Tribune

Dr. Carl June, a pioneer in a new cancer therapy that alters a patient’s own immune system to defeat the disease, brought his story to an audience of about 500 in La Jolla Wednesday evening. And he asked them to become partners in fighting cancer.

With federal funds for cancer research becoming harder to get, private charity will be increasingly important in getting the therapy to patients, said June, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

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Successful ACO has second venture in the works
Sacramento Business Journal

Buoyed by success in the Sacramento market, the founder at Golden Life Healthcare has a second accountable care organization in the works.

Dr. Venu Kondle is working with Keely Smith, CEO of Sierra Nevada Medical Associates in Grass Valley, on the venture. The plan is for a group of 170 doctors to manage care for some 15,000 Medicare patients in 10 counties. Unlike the initial Sacramento venture, this one hopes to work with hospitals, too.

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Medi-Cal to cover nearly one-third of Californians
California Health Report

California now expects enrollment in the Medi-Cal program to grow by 46 percent by the end of the 2014-15 budget year, with 800,000 of those new enrollees not part of the Affordable Care Act.

The ACA provided nearly full federal funding — starting at 100 percent and then phasing down to 90 percent — for those low-income people who were given coverage for the first time under the rules included in the health reform law.

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‘Woodwork effect’ fuels Medicaid growth and cost increases for non-expansion states
Sacramento Bee

Seventeen states that chose not to expand eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act ended up with more program beneficiaries – partly because of all the hoopla surrounding the health law, according to a new analysis by Avalere Health.

More than 550,000 people in these 17 states signed up for Medicaid coverage between October and March, even though they were already eligible for the program but were not previously enrolled.

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Campos tries again to plug loophole in S.F. health care law
San Francisco Chronicle

As San Francisco Supervisor David Campos tries yet again to close a loophole in the city’s universal health care ordinance that has allowed employers to take back tens of millions of dollars earmarked for workers’ heath care, he will point to residents such as Brent Sanchez.

Sanchez, a 38-year-old Tenderloin resident, works more than 40 hours a week bartending and serving food at Tacolicious and Daniel Patterson Group restaurants.

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Insurance Agents Were Central To The Health Care Reform Successes In California
Live Insurance News

From the time that the Affordable Care Act truly went into full swing, last October, insurance agents played a key role in making sure that the people who required coverage would be able to find the health plans that they needed, at the best available prices. Both the officials from California and President Obama, himself, had been telling consumers that it would be very easy to purchase their health plans.

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Women and Health Care in the Early Years of the ACA
Kaiser Family Foundation

The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 heralded a new era in health care coverage, with major implications for women’s health and access to care. Provisions such as the mandatory inclusion of maternity care, coverage without cost sharing for preventive services such as contraceptives, and a prohibition on charging women more than men for the same plan were all designed to address gaps and inequities in women’s health insurance.

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Rate Regulation Battle Lines Drawn
California Healthline

One side says health insurers are gouging California consumers and need to be regulated. The other side says adding more government oversight in the early stages of health care reform will muddy the waters and could damage the new system before it has a chance to work.

The battle over a ballot initiative to give the state insurance commissioner authority to reject health insurance rate increases picked up steam last week.

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S.F. AIDS Foundation ready to ‘pivot’ to wellness, with less than one new HIV infection per day in town
San Francisco Business Times

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has come a long way from the early 1980s when San Francisco was ground zero for a mystery epidemic that was killing thousands of gay men without explanation.

So far, in fact, that the nonprofit foundation is ready to “pivot” to a new emphasis on health and wellness, symbolized by a new wellness center in the Castro District that will centralize several existing outposts there when it opens in early 2015.

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Gilead HIV drug recommended by CDC to prevent AIDS virus
San Francisco Business Times

People at high risk of contracting HIV should pop Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Truvada pill once a day to decrease their chances of contracting the AIDS virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

Truvada was approved in July 2012 by the Food and Drug Administration as the first drug to prevent HIV infection in combination with safe sex and regular testing. But the CDC’s announcement is one of the first formal government endorsements of the Foster City-based company’s drug as part of a strategy known as PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis.

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Kaiser pharmacists may go on strike Monday
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Some 1,430 pharmacists working for Kaiser Permanente facilities across Southern California may go on strike starting Monday, a top official with the Guild for Professional Pharmacists said this week.

The union has taken a strike vote and if progress is not made in negotiations, the pharmacists will strike effective at 7 a.m., said president of the guild Robin Borden in a telephone interview.

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With November Elections Six Months Away Obamacare Is Up for Grabs
The Health Care Blog

House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans seemed surprised last week when representatives of the insurance industry reported that they didn’t have enough data yet to forecast prices for next year’s health insurance exchanges, the market was not about to blow up, and that so far at least 80% of consumers have paid for the health insurance policies they purchased on the exchanges.

The executives also reported there are still serious back-end problems with HealthCare.gov––particularly in being able to reconcile the people the carriers think are covered and the people the government thinks are covered.

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Lung cancer screening could cost Medicare billions
Modern Healthcare

Every person covered by Medicare would shell out an additional $3 a month if the government agreed to pay to screen certain current and former smokers for lung cancer, a new study estimates.

It would cost Medicare $2 billion a year to follow recent advice to offer these lung scans — and fuel angst about rising health costs that are borne by everyone, not just smokers, the study found.


 

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