News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Legislative Committee Orders Audit of Medi-Cal Directories After Reports of Inaccuracies

A state legislative committee ordered an audit Thursday of provider directories that are given to people in California’s low-income health program, after reports of major inaccuracies.

The state audit, proposed by Sen. Ricardo Lara, will examine the managed-care directories, whether they list enough doctors who are accepting new patients and whether state regulators have done their jobs overseeing that aspect of the Medi-Cal program.

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Depression itself can be a symptom of Parkinson’s, experts say
Los Angeles Times

Patients with Parkinson’s disease often suffer from depression, medical experts said Thursday, after Robin Williams’ widow revealed that the comedian was in “early stages” of the neurological disease at the time of his apparent suicide.

The same biochemical changes in the brain that cause the hallmark physical symptoms of Parkinson’s — tremors, slowed movement, rigidity, balance loss — can also affect mood, said Dr. Jeff Bronstein, a neurologist in the Movement Disorder Program at UCLA.

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CFO Exchange: Top Hospital Revenue Growth Opportunities ID’d
HealthLeaders Media

Healthcare providers are growing their top line revenue by investing in behavioral health, medical office buildings, even athletic rehabilitation facilities – although often as minority investors, according to a gathering of hospital and health system CFOs convened by HealthLeaders Media. In roundtable discussions held Thursday morning, the senior finance executives not only discussed growth opportunities, they also tackled cost containment, health reform, insurance exchanges, risk-based payments, care continuum coordination, IT needs, revenue cycle pressure, and other complex financial challenges.

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Health Care Reform 2.0. In Search Of Credible Alternatives

President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) marks the single biggest change to the U.S. health care system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid nearly five decades ago. And while the law has expanded insurance coverage in 2014, it has also unleashed a stampede of new costs and regulations.

Republicans, for their part, have proposed serious alternatives to Obamacare—but until recently have mostly focused on voting to repeal the law, rather than substantively correct it.

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Obamacare: With One-Third of Californians Now on Medi-Cal, Can State Manage?
KQED Radio

California is coming face to face with the reality of one of its biggest Obamacare successes: the explosion in Medi-Cal enrollment. The numbers — 2.2 million enrollees since January — surprised health care experts and created unforeseen challenges for state officials.

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Solving a 2014 Obamacare problem pushes premium hikes in 2015

The Obama administration’s effort to end one political crisis during the 2014 Obamacare rollout may have sown the seeds of another controversy: potential double-digit rate hikes in 2015. If insurers have their way, some residents in politically key states like Florida, North Carolina and Iowa would face hikes of 11 percent to nearly 18 percent — far beyond the average 7.5 percent increase in proposed rates for much of the country.

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Covered California to Request Evidence of Lawful Presence in U.S.
KQED Radio

Some enrollees who get their health insurance through Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange, will be getting notices in the next few weeks requesting evidence that they are lawfully in the country.

Yesterday, many news outlets reported on the Obama administration’s announcement that it was sending letters to about 310,000 people who have signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act, but whose documentation of citizenship or legal immigration status was at odds with government records.

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Large Employers Trimming Healthcare Spending
Health Leaders Media

Large employers are facing a balancing act next year, simultaneously shifting healthcare costs to their workers and ramping up healthcare consumer engagement efforts, according to a National Business Group on Health survey of 400 companies.

During a press briefing Wednesday that unveiled the survey, NBGH President and CEO Brian Marcotte said 2015 marks a healthcare cost-cutting turning point for employers and workers. “If there is any year the employee is going to focus on the healthcare packet, this is the year,” he said of the benefits enrollment season leading up to Jan. 1.

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Report: Medicare agency not doing enough to stop duplicate audits
The Hill

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) must do a better job of ensuring its auditors aren’t conducting duplicate reviews of payments to healthcare providers, according to the Government Accountability Office.

While the CMS has improved its oversight of contractors, the accountability office said the agency still can’t reliably ensure that payments aren’t reviewed twice.

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DMHC Fining More Reluctant Payers
Payers and Providers

For years, health plans in California have been required to pay providers in a timely manner for services that have been rendered. After a years-long lull, the agency regulating such payments has been issuing significant penalties and fines. The Department of Managed Health Care has issued an average of six penalties a year since the late 1990s. So far this year, the DMHC has issued seven penalties against health plans for not making payments in a consistently timely manner – usually within 45 days of receiving a claim or five days within determining a dispute of a payment. Those penalties have also been accompanied by $172,500 in fines.

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Assisted living fine increase approved
San Diego Union-Tribune

The maximum fine for health and safety violations at assisted-living centers would grow 100-fold under overhaul legislation approved by a key Senate committee on Thursday.

The top fine is currently $150, even for violations resulting in the death of elderly residents, an amount criticized as too low in U-T Watchdog’s “Deadly Neglect” series last year.

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Heads Still Dry, Scientists Try New Approach With ALS
National Public Radio

While your Facebook friends douse themselves with buckets of ice-cold water to raise money to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an international team of scientists said they’d taken a small step toward drowning out the deadly disease.

Researchers from the Scripps Research Institute and the Mayo Clinic developed a new drug that combats molecular contributors to ALS, which currently afflicts more than 30,000 Americans.

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More power: 8 Bay Area trials leading the pancreatic cancer pack
San Francisco Business Times

The hunt for ways to stop pancreatic cancer is very much a Bay Area expedition. At least seven local companies — in San Francisco, along the Peninsula, the East Bay and the North Bay — are developing pancreatic cancer treatments. What’s more, institutions such as Stanford University, the University of California, San Francisco, and California Pacific Medical Center are involved in several clinical trials.