News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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California health insurers propose raising rates for small firms
Los Angeles Times

Some California health insurers are proposing to raise small-business rates more than 10% next month, drawing scrutiny from state regulators.

Aetna Inc., which drew the ire of state insurance officials for a rate hike earlier this year, wants to increase premiums 10% on average, and as high as 24% for some employers. Anthem Blue Cross, the state’s largest for-profit insurer and a unit of WellPoint Inc., has proposed boosting rates 13%. Blue Shield of California is looking to charge some small employers up to 6% more.

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Lab’s Non-Coverage Notice Deters Medicare Patients
Health Leaders Media

The national blood testing lab Quest Diagnostics has been handing thousands of Southern California Medicare patients with diabetes a “non-coverage” notice that physicians say is provoking patients to reject their essential A1c tests, which federal officials say violates Medicare rules.

“This is a terribly ill-conceived administrative move that was done without consideration of the tremendously negative impact it is having on patient care,” says Paul Speckart, MD, a San Diego endocrinologist.

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Medical malpractice insurer rolls back rates
Sacramento Business Journal

The largest medical malpractice insurer in California has agreed to roll back rates overall by 10 percent, saving doctors, dentists and other medical providers $21 million annually in premiums, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced Monday. The Doctor’s Company is the last of six medical malpractice insurers targeted by the commissioner. Last year, Jones asked the six largest medical malpractice insurers in California to justify their rates. After review of the filings, Jones called for reductions.

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Noisy hospitals need Rx for quiet as patients rest
San Francisco Chronicle

Anyone who’s had a hospital stay knows the beeping monitors, the pagers and phones, the hallway chatter, the roommate, even the squeaky laundry carts all make for a not-so-restful place to heal. Hospitals need a prescription for quiet, and new research suggests it may not be easy to tamp down all the noise for a good night’s sleep. In fact, the wards with the sickest patients — the intensive care units — can be the loudest.

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UnitedHealth, Aetna, Humana Retain Some U.S. Health Law Benefits
San Francisco Chronicle

UnitedHealth Group Inc., Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. plan to retain some benefits created by the U.S. health-care overhaul even if the Supreme Court strikes down the law. The exception: Those involving people with pre-existing illness.

Customers of UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer, can keep children on plans until age 26, get free preventive care and won’t face lifetime benefit limits, the Minnetonka, Minnesota-based company said yesterday in a statement.

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Romney: Overturning health care law ‘right thing’
San Francisco Chronicle

Mitt Romney says he hopes the Supreme Court does “the right thing” and strikes down President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee tells donors at a fundraising reception in Atlanta that the health care law hurts small businesses and costs too much. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the law’s constitutionality later this month.

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Enloe Medical Center finds work for transcriptionists
Chico Enterprise Record

The 22 medical transcriptionists who work at Enloe Medical Center are well aware of the trend that threatens their jobs, but for now they have plenty of work, said Donna Lohse, director of health information management/medical records at Enloe. The trend is for doctors to enter their evaluations of patients, orders for treatment and other information directly into electronic medical records. Until now, it’s been common for doctors to record or write out the information, which was then transcribed by hospital employees.

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As CT scans become more common for children, concerns about radiation grow
Washington Post

Isabel Doran is only 4 years old, but she’s already had about 15 CT scans — and every one comes with a dose of radiation.

“I think there’s always that part of you that thinks it’s too much,” said her mother, Veronica Doran of Burke. Doran is glad the scans have allowed doctors at Children’s National Medical Center to monitor Isabel’s progress while they treat her for a kidney cancer called Wilms’ tumor. But she’s worried about the long-term effects of the scans, which could put Isabel at risk for another cancer down the road.

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As state revenues recover, health costs remain a burden
Washington Post

State revenues are finally returning to pre-recession levels, but the growing cost of providing health care for the poor is leaving most governments in dire fiscal straits, according to a report to be released Tuesday.

States are finally seeing a bit of revenue growth in a turnaround from the economic downturn that devastated budgets in fiscal 2009 and 2010, according to a survey by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO).

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WellPoint’s buying 1-800-Contacts may portend a troubling trend
Los Angeles Times

At first glance, there doesn’t seem anything untoward about WellPoint, the insurance giant that owns Anthem Blue Cross, buying contact-lens retailer 1-800-Contacts.

The deal “further diversifies the company’s revenue stream” and enhances “our efforts to build trusted relationships with consumers across the entire country,” said Angela Braly, WellPoint’s chief exec.

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Kaiser Permanente names chief diversity officer to fill vacant position
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente has named Ronald Copeland, M.D., head of its Ohio medical group, as its new Oakland-based chief diversity officer, effective Jan. 1. Copeland, who is currently president and executive medical director of Kaiser’s Ohio Permanente Medical Group, will stay in that post until early next year, officials said June 11. On Jan. 1, he becomes senior vice president of national diversity strategy and policy at the parent organization in Oakland, as well as chief diversity officer.

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Kaweah Delta approves $438m budget
Visialia Times-Delta

The Kaweah Delta Health Care District expects to spend 3.5 percent more during the next 12 months compared to the past 12 months. And employees are getting a raise.

On Monday, a $438 million budget with an operating margin of $12.4 million was unanimously approved by hospital trustees.

In the new budget, employees will get a 3 percent raise after July 1. The last time employees received a raise was two years ago and it was only 2 percent, said Gary Herbst, chief financial officer.

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Future leaves Feather River Hospital’s transcriptionists behind
Chico Enterprise Record

Feather River Hospital has contracted with an outside company for medical transcription as it moves to comply with health care reform, said Maureen Wisener, the ridge hospital’s assistant vice president for foundation and communication. As a result, later this month, about a dozen medical transcriptionists will no longer have jobs with Feather River Hospital. Instead they have been offered work with the outside company, Transcend Services, which has contracts with more than 250 hospitals.

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