News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Most employers could shift healthcare coverage to exchanges by 2020, report says
Medical Economics

A new report is gaining attention for its prediction that U.S. companies could save trillions of dollars over the next decade by using the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) healthcare exchanges, and eliminating employee health plans.

The report, prepared for the financial services industry by S&P Capital IQ Global Markets Intelligence, predicts that companies could shift 90% of their workers from employer-based healthcare to individual coverage on insurance marketplaces by 2020.

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Feds give new health cost controls go-ahead
San Francisco Chronicle

The Obama administration has given the go-ahead for insurers and employers to use a new cost-control strategy that puts a hard dollar limit on what health plans pay for some expensive procedures, such as knee and hip replacements. Some experts worry that such a move would surprise patients who pick more expensive hospitals. The cost difference would leave them with big medical bills that they’d have to pay themselves. That could undercut key financial protections in President Obama’s health care law that apply not just to the new health insurance exchanges, but to most job-based coverage as well.

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With Saline in Short Supply, Hospitals Look for Alternatives
Health Leaders Media

As director of pharmacy and materials management at Union Hospital of Cecil County in Elkton, MD, David Jaspan, RPh, MBA, is used to dealing with shortages of pharmaceutical products. He’s not, however, used to supply problems affecting one of the most basic hospital staples—intravenous saline solution. “It’s not just saline solution, it’s all IV solutions in general,” says Jaspan. Since saline is a key ingredient to administering drugs to hospital patients, this is an especially tough shortage to face.

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Medical malpractice initiative qualifies for California ballot
Fresno Bee

A decades-long fight among powerful California interests is finally coming before voters, as the proponents of a push to increase the sum victims can recover in medical malpractice lawsuits announced Thursday that they’ve qualified for the November ballot.

Supporters including Consumer Watchdog want to raise the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in malpractice cases.

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MICRA battle heads to ballot
Capitol Weekly

California voters will decide in November whether to raise the decades-old, $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.

The secretary of state’s office announced that the ballot initiative, which also calls for drug and alcohol testing for doctors, will join four other measures that already have qualified for the ballot. The initiative, backed by Consumer Watchdog, would increase the cap to account for inflation.

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Another Opponent of Obamacare Starts to Soften
New York Times

Another die-hard opponent of the Affordable Care Act may be finding a way to expand Medicaid. Few have stood as firm against Obamacare as Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, but on Thursday he announced a new proposal that would accept federal funds for increased coverage of low-income state residents — though by giving them access to private insurance plans rather than standard Medicaid.

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California consumers say duped by Blue Shield’s limited Obamacare plans

Consumers who purchased new health plans from Blue Shield of California have sued the insurer, claiming they were misled into thinking the insurance would cover their desired doctors and hospitals.

In their complaint filed in California state court on Wednesday, San Francisco residents John Harrington and Alex Talon accused Blue Shield of misrepresenting that their plans, sold on California’s health exchange, would cover the full provider network advertised on the company’s website.

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Covered California offers limited open enrollment for folks on COBRA
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California kicked off a special 60-day open enrollment period Thursday for people with COBRA coverage who would like to switch to an exchange plan.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act — better known as COBRA — allows workers who lose or leave their jobs to continue coverage they used to have at work if they pay the tab themselves. COBRA is generally available for up to 18 months, but California allows an extension for another 18 months for a total of 36 months.

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Survey Documents Women’s Experiences With ACA
insurance newsnet

A comprehensive survey released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation provides a snapshot of women and their health coverage and care during a time of transition as important Affordable Care Act insurance market changes began to take root. These include many changes that affect women including a prohibition on using gender in setting premiums, as well as broadening access to a more comprehensive range of preventive services benefits without cost sharing.

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Simi Valley Hospital leads in patient safety among Ventura County medical centers
Moorpark Acorn

Simi Valley Hospital has been ranked as the safest hospital in Ventura County by a ratings survey published in the March 2014 issue of Consumer Reports, the largest independent product testing organization in the world.

SVH had the highest safety score among six Ventura County hospitals listed in the online version of Consumer Reports. The magazine compiled its safety scores based on five criteria: avoiding infections, avoiding readmissions, communicating about medications and discharges, appropriate use of chest and abdominal scanning, and avoiding medical and surgical mortality.

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Kaiser Permanante pharmacists threaten strike
Los Angeles Business Journal

Get your drugs now. It might be a little bit harder come Monday.

Kaiser Permanente issued a warning to its insured members that they might have to shut down most of its Southern California pharmacies starting Monday, as its 1,400 pharmacists have threatened to strike, the Orange County Register reported Thursday.

So, what do these pharmacists want (and when do they want it)? They seek the restoration of a pension plan they lost three years ago (they didn’t technically lose it – it was taken from them); health benefits for part-time workers; and new procedures designed to ensure patients’ safety, Robin Borden says.

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Kaiser faces pharmacist strike starting Monday
Orange County Register

Kaiser Permanente has warned insured members that it might have to shut down most of its pharmacies in Southern California starting Monday because its 1,400 pharmacists in the region are threatening to walk off their jobs.

The pharmacists are demanding the restoration of a pension plan they lost three years ago, health benefit guarantees for part-time workers, and changes in work procedures that they believe endanger patients’ safety, said Robin Borden, president of the Guild for Professional Pharmacists, which represents the group.

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St. Helena Hospital names new president and CEO
Lake County Record-Bee

David Santos, previously the vice president of operations for St. Helena Hospital, Clear Lake, has been promoted to president and CEO for the hospital and its clinic services in Lake County.

As a part of the restructuring, Dr. Steve Herber has been named president and CEO of St. Helena Hospital, Napa Valley, which includes its Center for Behavioral Health in Vallejo, according to Joshua Cowan of Adventist Health, Northern California Network.

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Study: Diabetes common, expensive issue among hospital patients
Monterey Herald

Three out of every 10 people hospitalized in Monterey County have diabetes, a little more than the one in four people in neighboring Santa Cruz County’s hospitals, driving up health care costs according to a study released Thursday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research recommending prevention efforts.

The study, based on 2011 data from the Office of Statewide Health and Planning Development, reports 6,700 hospitalizations that year of people with diabetes in Monterey County, 3,900 in Santa Cruz County and 729,000 for California.

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Diabetes linked to a third of California hospitalizations
San Francisco Chronicle

One in three people aged 35 or older who are hospitalized in California have diabetes, according to a study released Thursday.

The study, by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy in Davis, sheds a stunning light on the strain the disease causes on California’s health care costs, providers, patients and taxpayers.

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California Doctors Among Those Charging Medicare the Most for Office Visits
KQED Radio

When people think of seeing a doctor, generally the first thing that comes to mind is an office visit. But not all visits are the same. Frequently, patients have minor problems, which can be dispensed with quickly. Other problems are much more complex and require more of a doctor’s time and expertise. Not surprisingly, doctors get paid more for these more complex visits. Office visits for established patients are billed across five levels.

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Cost-control plan for health care could cost you
San Francisco Chronicle

You just might want to pay attention to the latest health insurance jargon. It could mean thousands of dollars out of your pocket.

The Obama administration has given the go-ahead for a new cost-control strategy called “reference pricing.” It lets insurers and employers put a dollar limit on what health plans pay for some expensive procedures, such as knee and hip replacements.

Some experts worry that patients could be surprised with big medical bills they must pay themselves, undercutting financial protections in the new health care law.

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Sutter HMO signs up 5,000, eyes Bay Area expansion
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Health has enrolled more than 5,000 people in its new HMO and plans to expand to the Bay Area next year.

Approved by state regulators in 2013, Sutter Health Plus kicked off coverage in eight counties in the Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley region on Jan. 1. The Sacramento-based health system had projected initial enrollment of about 7,000, but health plan CEO Steve Nolte says the bar was set pretty high.

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AcelRx triples jobs, doubles space as pain drug nears FDA decision
San Francisco Business Times

Awaiting FDA approval by the end of July of its automated pain drug system, AcelRx Pharmaceuticals Inc. is doubling its Redwood City space and more than tripling its workforce.

AcelRx (NASDAQ: ACRX) starting Aug. 1 will pay $23 per square foot on an annualized basis — minus tenant improvements — for 12,106 square feet in a building next to its headquarters at 351 Galveston Drive, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. It also extended the lease of its current 13,787-square-foot building, where its rent will be $31.30 per square foot in May 2016.

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Contra Costa Times editorial: Solution to Doctors Hospital crisis must be a partnership
Contra Costa Times

The expected closing of Doctors Hospital in San Pablo is, indeed, a critical problem that will ripple throughout the Bay Area, particularly in the East Bay. It demands urgent attention. But, to do that, all involved must stop, take a deep breath and vow to be part of a thoughtful community solution.

Hyperbole, turf protection, wild claims and poison verbal darts will solve nothing. Not that such ever does, but that kind of nonsense is particularly unhelpful in this case. Drama won’t get the job done.