News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Business Roundup: M&A Activity Down Slightly in First Half of 2014
HealthLeaders Media

Hospital and health system mergers and acquisitions dropped slightly in the first six months of 2014 but not enough to suggest any stalling of the industry-wide trend toward consolidation, KaufmanHall consultants say. In the first of 2014, 43 hospital/health system M&As were announced, compared with 46 in the first half of 2013, says Kit Camholz, managing director with Kaufman Hall.

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Antibiotic Overuse a ‘Huge Threat’ to Patient Safety, Says CDC
HealthLeaders Media

With half of hospitals thought to lack an antibiotic stewardship program to prevent emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, the American Hospital Association has teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help hospitals start these programs.

“We know that antibiotic overuse is a major contributor to huge threats to patient safety in our hospitals,” the CDC’s Arjun Srinivasan, MD, said during an AHA “Town Hall” webcast last week.

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New Goals, New Alliances
HealthLeaders Media

It’s taken for granted that Batman will always hate the Joker. Beatles fans may never quite trust fans of the Rolling Stones. Republicans and Democrats will never agree on much of anything. And hospitals will always hate health insurance companies. Except when they don’t.

As incentives slowly change in healthcare, a sort of détente is emerging between some health systems and health insurers. And as collaborative arrangements evolve, payers and healthcare organizations are finding that they need each other in order to ensure their relevance in an industry that is remaking itself in an attempt to become more affordable and less dangerous to its end consumers.

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Hospitals reassess charity as Obamacare options become available
Washington Post

As more Americans gain insurance under the federal health law, hospitals are rethinking their charity programs, with some scaling back help for those who could have signed up for coverage but didn’t.

The move is prompted by concerns that offering free or discounted care to low-income, uninsured patients might dissuade them from getting government-subsidized coverage. It also reflects hospitals’ strong financial interest in having more patients covered by insurance as the federal government makes big cuts in funding for uncompensated care.

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California Health Insurance Exchange Is Shrinking
Live Insurance News

Insurance exchanges in some states are adding new carriers that will be supplying coverage to consumers beginning in November of this year. This coverage will go into effect on January 1, 2015. California is one of the only states whose exchange did not welcome a new carrier this year. Covered California, as the state’s exchange is called, is experiencing a somewhat unique problem in the availability of health insurance coverage. The state’s exchange is becoming smaller.

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A blood test can cost from $10 to $10,000 in Calif. hospitals, according to a study
Washington Post

Imagine walking into a hospital and being charged more than $10,000 for a blood test to check your cholesterol level. Imagine then going to another hospital in the same state and being charged $10 for the same test.

That’s what a team led by a researcher at the University of California at San Francisco found when it looked at the prices California hospitals charge for 10 common blood tests.

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Have insurers found new ways to avoid the sick?
Modern Healthcare

Ending insurance discrimination against the sick was a central goal of the nation’s healthcare overhaul, but leading patient groups say that promise is being undermined by new barriers from insurers.

The insurance industry responds that critics are confusing legitimate cost-control with bias. Some state regulators, however, say there’s reason to be concerned about policies that shift costs to patients and narrow their choices of hospitals and doctors.

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A Medicare scam that just kept rolling
Washington Post

In the little office where they ran the scam, a cellphone would ring on Sonia Bonilla’s desk. That was the sound of good news: Somebody had found them a patient.

When Bonilla answered the phone, one of the scam’s professional “patient recruiters” would read off the personal data of a senior citizen. Name. DOB. Medicare ID number. Bonilla would hang up and call Medicare, the enormous federal health-insurance program for those over 65.

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Disabilities in kids rise; not physical problems
Sacramento Bee

Disabilities among U.S. children have increased slightly, with a bigger rise in mental and developmental problems in those from wealthier families, a 10-year analysis found.

Disadvantaged kids still bear a disproportionate burden.

The increases may partly reflect more awareness and recognition that conditions, including autism, require a specific diagnosis to receive special services, the researchers said.

Meantime, physical disabilities declined, as other studies have suggested.

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Why I Am Still Optimistic About the Future of HIT
The Health Care Blog

MU stage 2 is making everyone miserable. Patients are decrying lack of access to their records and providers are upset over late updates and poor system usability. Meanwhile, vendors are dealing with testy clients and the MU certification death march. While this may seem like an odd time to be optimistic about the future of HIT, nevertheless, I am.

The EHR incentive programs have succeeded in driving HIT adoption. In doing so, they have raised expectations of what electronic health record systems should do while bringing to the forefront problems that went largely unnoticed when only early adopters used systems.

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New York Outpaces California in Reducing Black/White Life Expectancy Gap
HealthyCal.org

A new study by researchers at McGill University finds that more needs to be done to reduce the wide variability among U.S. states in life expectancy between blacks and whites.

While racial differences in longevity have dropped across the country, the study authors say there are still sharp differences in how long blacks and whites live in many of the states and the District of Columbia.

The researchers used data from the National Vital Statistics System, which is administered by the National Center for Health Statistics and collects information on all deaths occurring in the United States each year. During the twenty-year study period, the national life expectancy gap between blacks and whites dropped by 2.7 years for men and by 1.7 years for females. The estimated state-specific racial gap in life expectancy among males in 1990 ranged from 14.4 years the District of Columbia to 0.0 years in New Hampshire. (no similar comparison data in the study for females.)

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How Much Market Power Do Hospitals Really Have?
The Health Care Blog

Sometimes big game hunters find frustration when their prey moves by the time they’ve lined up to blast it. That certainly appears to be the case with the health policy target de jour: whether providers, hospital systems in particular, exert too much market power. A recent cluster of papers and policy conferences this spring have targeted the question of whether hospital mergers have contributed to inflation in health costs, and what to do about them.

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