News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Doctor Panels Recommend Fewer Tests for Patients
New York Times

In a move likely to alter treatment standards in hospitals and doctors’ offices nationwide, a group of nine medical specialty boards plans to recommend on Wednesday that doctors perform 45 common tests and procedures less often, and to urge patients to question these services if they are offered. Eight other specialty boards are preparing to follow suit with additional lists of procedures their members should perform far less often.

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Lawmakers to Consider Health Care Districts’ Future
The Bay Citizen

After an investigation by The Bay Citizen revealed that many of California’s taxpayer-funded health care districts no longer run hospitals — a departure from their original mission — the state Assembly’s top watchdog committee plans to take a closer look at how those districts are using their resources.

The Bay Citizen found that some districts have stockpiled tens of millions of public dollars and diverted precious resources to administrative and overhead costs, while health care needs in their communities go unmet.

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Coding changes may have shifted pneumonia figures: study
Modern Healthcare

A significant dip in costly and dangerous pneumonia hospitalizations and inpatient deaths from 2003 to 2009 may have been a result, at least in part, of changes in diagnostic coding rather than advances in healthcare quality. That’s according to a study published in the April 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Using data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, researchers found that during the six-year period, the hospitalization rate of patients with a principal diagnosis of pneumonia fell by more than 27%, from 5.5 per 1,000 to 4 per 1,000.

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Healthier Hospitals pushes for hospital sustainability
Modern Healthcare

Eleven health systems with a total of more than 500 hospitals have partnered with three healthcare-related environmental groups to improve environmental health and sustainability within the healthcare sector. Called the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, the effort brings together providers such as Bon Secours Health System, Inova Health System, Tenet Healthcare, Catholic Health Initiatives, Kaiser Permanente and Hospital Corporation of America with Health Care Without Harm, Practice Greenhealth and the Center for Health Design to create the new group as a guide for hospitals to reduce energy use and waste, buy environmentally responsible products, choose safer and less toxic products, and serve healthier foods.

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Daly City’s Seton Medical Center has interim CEO
San Francisco Business Times

The Los Altos Hills-based Daughters of Charity Health System said late last week it’s named a 40-year health care veteran as interim president and CEO at its Seton Medical Center in Daly City. The nonprofit Catholic system named James Schuessler as Seton’s interim chief executive March 30, filling a gap left by the abrupt departure late last year of former CEO Lorraine Auerbach.

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Wealthy counties top the list of California’s healthiest
Sacramento Bee

In Northern California and across the nation, wealth seems to translate into good health, a comprehensive new report affirms.

But the factors behind that trend are complicated, public health experts said following the release of the report Tuesday by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report ranks counties across the nation based on a wide variety of factors including premature death, smoking and drinking, and access to healthy foods and medical care.

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Marin, Santa Clara, San Mateo counties are healthy
San Francisco Chronicle

The Bay Area is home to three of the five healthiest counties in the state, with Marin County topping the list, according to a national study released Tuesday. A health report card of sorts, the study ranks more than 3,000 U.S. counties in more than 30 categories, including smoking and obesity rates, education and income levels, birth weights and access to both medical care and healthy foods. The third annual report from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation does not compare states, but looks at counties within states.

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Healthiest California counties ranked in new study
The Mercury News

The healthiest place to live in California is upscale Marin County, followed by Santa Clara County in the No. 2 spot. San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties also made the top 10 list, while other Bay Area counties fell in the average range. Contra Costa County came in 17th among the state’s 58 counties, Alameda County at 21 and San Francisco at 24. And the least healthy places? Those include Trinity and other sparsely populated, rural areas in the northernmost reaches of the state.

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Health care debate splits congressional delegation
San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego’s congressional delegation split along party lines Tuesday over whether the Supreme Court should overturn the Obama administration’s federal health care overhaul, wading into the fractious debate that could take center stage come November.

Speaking at the annual San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Marriott Marquis & Marina, each of the region’s five representatives touched on what their preferred outcome would mean to businesses struggling to keep up with spiraling health care costs.

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Judge upset by Obama’s comments on health care law
San Francisco Chronicle

A federal appeals court judge on Tuesday seemed to take offense to comments President Barack Obama made earlier this week in which he warned that if the Supreme Court overturned his signature health care overhaul it would amount to overreach by an “unelected” court. The Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling later this year on whether to strike down some or all of the historic health care law.

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Looking Ahead, Republicans Examine Options in Health Care Fight
New York Times

Republican lawmakers who have spent two years railing against President Obama’s health care law are beginning to devise alternatives so they can be ready if the Supreme Court forces the issue of the uninsured back into the center of political debate. “If Obamacare goes away, it doesn’t mean that the problem of how you deliver health care affordably and get good access goes away,” Representative Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon, said. “Those are the issues that are back before us.”

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Los Robles Hospital welcomes Anthem Blue Cross patients after reaching an oral agreement
Ventura County Star

There is no signed contract, but Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks is welcoming back patients insured by Anthem Blue Cross.

“We have reached a verbal agreement and we look forward to having a signed contract,” said Anthem Blue Cross spokesman Darrel Ng.

Greg Angle, Los Robles president and CEO, ran an open letter in the Ventura County Star on Tuesday announcing Los Robles Hospital and Anthem Blue Cross had “agreed on a new contract effective April 1, 2012.”

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State launches smaller program for adult day health care
HealthyCal.org

Monday’s launch of California’s new, smaller adult day health care program unleashed an emotional torrent of relief and anger for thousands of current clients and their providers after more than a year of threatened closures, lawsuits, patient assessments, rushed timelines and maddening uncertainty. Over the weekend, center administrators phoned frustrated clients still in limbo about their eligibility for the new Community-Based Adult Services (CBAS) program, telling them “Stay home” or “Come in until further notice” after a contempt motion against the state aimed at including more

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WellPoint CEO compensation slipped in 2011
San Francisco Chronicle

WellPoint Inc.’s earnings sank last year, as the health insurer struggled with losses in its Medicare Advantage business, and the total compensation delivered to Chairwoman and CEO Angela Braly slipped as well. Braly, 50, received 2011 compensation valued at $13.2 million, according to an Associated Press analysis of the Indianapolis company’s annual proxy statement. That represents a 2 percent drop compared to 2010.

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Health plan prepared to pay to resolve Medicare, Medi-Cal fraud probes
California Watch

A Long Beach-based health plan seeking new contracts to serve 54,000 Southern California low-income seniors has set aside $125 million to resolve claims by state and federal authorities that it overbilled Medi-Cal and Medicare.

In applications submitted in February to California’s Medi-Cal agency, the SCAN Health Plan detailed the course of civil and criminal investigations by the California attorney general’s office, saying they could lead to “substantial financial payments.” Federal authorities from the Health and Human Services and Justice departments also are investigating, the

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Supreme Court Should Allow ‘Obamacare’ To Stand
Neon Tommy

The challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known by detractors as Obamacare, is probably the most important decision facing the Supreme Court since the 5-4 vote in 2000 that handed the presidency to George W. Bush. If the Supreme Court decides to overturn and invalidate the law, the court will lose a great deal of credibility and have committed a blunder of epic proportions.

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Obama’s Supreme Court comments off the mark
Los Angeles Times

Borrowing a line from conservative critics of the judiciary, President Obama declared that the Supreme Court would be engaging in “judicial activism” if it threw out the 2010 healthcare reform law. Responding to a question at a news conference Monday, Obama said it would be “an unprecedented, extraordinary step” if the court overturned “a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” He added that such a move would be a good example of the lack of judicial restraint that conservative commentators have bemoaned for years.

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California’s Health: County by County Rankings
KQED Radio

In the third year of rankings of the health of each county–across the country–Marin came in as the “most healthy” county in California. Trinity County in far northern California ranked as the least-healthy county. Below is a snapshot of how California’s counties fared. What you see above is a screen grab, because I can’t capture the interactivity of the map, but if you click on the image or right here you can look at your own county.

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HCA hospitals, Anthem Blue Cross reach verbal agreement
San Jose Business Journal

A tentative contract agreement has been reached between the Anthem Blue Cross and Good Samaritan Hospital and Regional Medical Center of San Jose. Contract talks had broken off the first week of March between the health insurance giant and eight California hospitals owned by Hospital Corp. of America, including the two San Jose hospitals. Leslie Kelsay, vice president of marketing and communications for Good Samaritan, said an agreement took effect April 1, but offered no other details on the pact.

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