News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Healthcare Spending Trend to Accelerate, Says CMS
Health Leaders Media

The lingering effects of the economic recession and a modest growth in personal income are expected to continue to constrain healthcare spending through 2013. But look for a jump in spending as more provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are enacted. Those are among the findings of the latest national health expenditure projections released Tuesday by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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Safety Net Hospitals Raise Concerns on DSH Cuts
Health Leaders Media

The nation’s safety net hospitals are concerned that the proposed cuts to disproportionate share payments that take place next year under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may not be on the same timetable as the expansion of health insurance coverage. Beth Feldpush, vice president for advocacy and policy at the National Association of Public Hospitals, says that specific cuts to DSH payments were written into the ACA regardless of whether or not healthcare coverage is extended to an additional 50 million people who are currently uninsured.

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CalPERS hike sets off alarm
Sacramento Bee

When the nation’s second largest purchaser of health care gets socked with a big rate hike, lots of people pay the price. CalPERS‘ governing board approved an average 9.5 percent increase in premiums Wednesday, a move that will hurt taxpayers and public employees statewide. Given CalPERS’ size and influence, it could affect health care premiums in the private sector, too. The new rates will cost the average CalPERS member an extra $30 a month starting in January. State and local agencies will pay millions more, too.

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Healthcare billing, payment changes could save billions: report
Modern Healthcare

Health insurance companies, hospitals, physicians and other providers could trim $149 billion to $160 billion a year from the country’s healthcare bill by implementing administrative reforms such as electronic processing, according to a new report. According to the Center for American Progress’ 48-page report, “Paper Cuts: Reducing Health Care Administrative Costs,” (PDF) private payers in 2009 spent $105 billion, or 12.3%, of their revenue on administrative costs for billing transactions. For public payers, the administrative load was $42 billion, or 3.5% of revenue. Combined, the payers could save $44 billion to $52 billion, according to the report.

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Special hospital units for elderly could cut costs
San Francisco Chronicle

Hospital units specifically tailored to care for elderly patients could cut national health care costs by up to $6 billion annually, according to a new UCSF study. Researchers analyzed a pilot program that provides individualized care to 100,000 older patients in hospital units specifically designed for them in 200 hospitals nationwide. The findings were published this month in Health Affairs.

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Mt. Diablo Health Care District board will go away ‘one way or another,’ warn regulators
The Mercury News

Contra Costa regulators urged the embattled Mt. Diablo Health Care District, whose elected board is targeted for elimination, to quickly cut a deal with the city scheduled to take over the district’s small pot of money or face even more unpleasant consequences. “Do everything you can,” said Local Agency Formation Commissioner Dwight Meadows during the agency’s Wednesday afternoon meeting. “One way or the other, this district will end. I can guarantee it. Let’s get it resolved quickly.”

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Blue Shield sued over ‘death spiral’ allegation
The Mercury News

A consumer group has sued Blue Shield, accusing the health insurer of using big rate hikes to force older and sicker people into low-benefit and high-deductible plans, a tactic the group calls a “death spiral.” Consumer Watchdog announced the suit Wednesday during a news conference in front of Blue Shield’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco. The group accuses Blue Shield of closing certain policies to new customers, then sharply raising rates for those remaining in the plans.

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Win, Lose or Draw, Health Care Reform Pushes Forward States, insurers stand firm on benefits
Black Voice News

In the hands of the nine Supreme Court justices, the fate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ‘Obamacare’, is arguably one of the most anticipated legal verdicts in recent U.S. memory. A decision by the Court is expected any day now. The decision will be controversial no matter what direction the Court goes, as the public is fairly evenly split on the law.

In the meantime across the nation the health care landscape is changing at breakneck speed. Many states, healthcare providers and some major insurers aren’t waiting.

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AMA delays premium-support debate
Modern Healthcare

A report recommending that the American Medical Association back the transition of Medicare toward a premium support system has been withdrawn before it can be voted on at the upcoming AMA House of Delegates meeting June 16-20 in Chicago.

The report was prepared by the AMA Council on Medical Service, which serves as an AMA advisory panel on socio-economic issues, but it has been taken off the agenda.

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Report shows FTC’s focus on healthcare
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare found itself a prominent target of antitrust enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission last year, as all three of the new cases litigated by the agency related to hospitals or life-science companies.

An annual report of the FTC and Justice Department’s Antitrust Division (PDF) said that although the total number of hospital mergers reported for antitrust review remained essentially flat for the year, regulators took a hard line on some of the healthcare provider deals.

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UnitedHealthcare, aetna, Humana to uphold reform provisions
FierceHealthPayer

UnitedHealthcare is leading an industry-driven effort to uphold some health reform provisions, regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the law’s constitutionality later this month. After the country’s biggest insurer made its announcement Monday, aetna and Humana followed suit later that day.

In separate announcements, UnitedHealthcare, aetna and Humana vowed to preserve some of the law’s most popular provisions that have already taken effect.

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Wellness plan built on reform-law programs
Modern Healthcare

Many of the programs launched by the 2010 federal healthcare overhaul comprised the bulk of the government-wide wellness and prevention plan (PDF) announced Wednesday.

The 17 federal departments, agencies and offices that comprise the National Prevention Council released their first action plan, which outlines the ways they will encourage healthy behaviors by federal employees and society, in general.

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Help available for small-business health insurance woes
North County Times

While many small-business owners in San Diego have heard about the health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most lack a clear understanding of how the law will affect their business.

In San Diego County, 95 percent of all companies employ 50 or fewer workers and more than a third of the city’s workforce is employed by firms with fewer than 50 employees. These businesses value their employees and work to retain them by providing competitive benefits —- more than 44 percent of local small businesses offer some form of health care coverage.

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If UCSF Med Center and Children’s Oakland merge, will Children’s get a new hospital? Or disappear?
San Francisco Business Times

Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland and UCSF Medical Center are engaged in talks that theoretically could result in an affiliation or merger, according to a report Wednesday morning in the San Francisco Chronicle. The Chron’s Andrew Ross quoted a letter sent last week from Children’s CEO Bert Lubin to his medical staff as saying the talks, “have progressed with great enthusiasm and respect on both sides.”

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