News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Better HCAHPS Scores Protect Revenue
HealthLeaders Media

It has always been a moral imperative for hospitals and health systems to provide a high-quality patient experience, but now that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is tying reimbursements to HCAHPS scores, it’s becoming a financial priority, as well.

Through the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey, patients rate their inpatient stay in 27 categories, ranging from communication with doctors and nurses to pain management to facility cleanliness and quietness.

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Hospitals see ‘chilling effect’ in A.G.’s power over mergers
Capitol Weekly

State Attorney General Kamala Harris wants unprecedented authority over contracts dealing with nonprofit hospitals, after a deal in Southern California caused abortion-rights activists to cry foul.

A bill that recently cleared the Legislature and now awaits action from Gov. Brown allows Harris to reopen already approved contracts involving nonprofit health facilities after five years, if they are deemed to have involved significant misrepresentations.

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Medi-Cal chief Toby Douglas stepping down
Sacramento Business Journal

State Medi-Cal chief Toby Douglas has announced plans to step down by the end of the year. His message Friday comes amid huge expansion of the government health-care program for the poor.

A Schwarzenegger appointee kept on by Gov. Jerry Brown, Douglas has held leadership positions at the California Department of Health Care Services since 2005. During his four-years as director, Medi-Cal grew by 3.5 million new members to current enrollment of 11 million. He also guided expansion of Medi-Cal managed care into every county in the state.

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Antibiotics Prescribed For Children Twice As Often As Needed
National Public Radio

When your child has an earache or a bad cold, it’s hard to think that there’s not much you can offer beyond Tylenol and sympathy. But most of those infections are mostly caused by viruses that don’t respond to antibiotics, a study finds.

Just 27 percent of acute respiratory tract infections are caused by bacteria, researchers at Seattle Children’s Hospital found. That means that more than two-thirds are viral and antibiotics don’t help.

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Covered California’s Obamacare exchange to spend $94 million on advertising, outreach
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California, the Obamacare exchange in the Golden State, said Monday it plans to spend $46 million on advertising in its second year of operation and another $48 million on community outreach efforts, for a total of $94 million.

Executive Director Peter Lee announced the new spending plans Monday at a Los Angeles press conference. Officials expect 1.7 million people to sign up this time around, about 500,000 more than filled out applications in the first open enrollment period last fall and winter.

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Covered California launches $94 million community outreach campaign
Los Angeles Business Journal

Covered California launched its community outreach campaign for 2015 on Monday, including $14.6 million in new grants to community groups and $46 million in advertising to attract new customers.

This new funding, combined with $33.4 million in funds community groups will spend on renewal and outreach, brings the total to $94 million for 2015. Open enrollment for the individual marketplace runs Nov. 15 through Feb. 15, 2015.

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Tens of Thousands Likely to Lose Health Insurance at End of September
The Wall Street Journal

Tens of thousands of people are likely to lose their health insurance at the end of this month because they missed a deadline to confirm they are legally residing in the U.S., the Obama administration said Monday.

In all, 115,000 people whose citizenship or immigration status wasn’t verified by HealthCare.gov hadn’t contacted the federal government by a Sept. 5 deadline to send additional documents, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said.

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California health insurance exchange unveils ad campaign and outreach
Los Angeles Times

Preparing for the second year of Obamacare enrollment, California unveiled new television ads and handed out $14.6 million to community groups for consumer outreach.

The state-run insurance exchange, Covered California, said the new grant funds are in addition to $33.4 million that has already been given to clinics, unions, schools and nonprofit groups helping with enrollment.

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California broadens autism therapy coverage for children on Medi-Cal
Los Angeles Times

California children enrolled in public healthcare will regain access to an expensive form of autism therapy after the state Monday became the first in the country to comply with new federal guidelines.

The therapy, called applied behavior analysis, was at the center of controversy last year when state officials phased out the Healthy Families program, which covered the treatment, and shifted poor children into Medi-Cal, which did not.

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Autism Benefit Finally a Reality for Children on Medi-Cal
KQED Radio

California health officials Monday are launching a new benefit for thousands of children with autism who are covered by Medi-Cal, California’s low-income health program. That makes California the first state in the nation to implement new federal standards on autism care.

The new benefit includes coverage of the clinical standard of care for autism treatment — Applied Behavior Analysis, also known as ABA therapy. That treatment has shown significant results for a cross-section of children with autism.

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Some consumers risk losing health law tax credits
San Francisco Chronicle

Thousands of consumers risk losing financial aid for health care premiums under President Barack Obama’s law unless they clear up lingering questions about their incomes, administration officials said Monday.

The Health and Human Services Department said some people who got coverage have reported incomes that don’t square with what the government has on record. At least 279,000 households with income discrepancies face a Sept. 30 deadline to submit documentation. If not, their premiums will be adjusted up or down in November.

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CalPERS health insurance open enrollment starts today
Sacramento Bee

Health insurance open enrollment for CalPERS members begins today and ends on Oct. 10. During that period, members can sign up for insurance, add eligible family members and make changes to their existing plans for the 2015 calendar year.

The fund offers six health maintenance organization plans and three preferred provider organization plans, although availability is based on geography.

CalPERSopen enrollment page has information and resources to help members find what plans are available where they live, assess the plans’ benefits and costs and select one.

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CalPERS launches open enrollment for 2015
Sacramento Business Journal

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System kicked off open enrollment Monday for almost 1.4 million state, local government and public school employees, retirees and their families.

This is the four-week period each fall when employees choose health care coverage for the upcoming year. The enrollment period ends Oct. 10; coverage changes take effect Jan. 1, 2015. The stakes are huge for health plans because the program spends more than $7.5 billion annually.

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Narrow Networks Cut Costs, Not Quality, Economists Say
Health Leaders Media

A pair of Massachusetts economists has conducted research that casts narrow healthcare provider networks in a favorable light.

“In our study, the evidence suggested that narrow network plans reduced costs by both reducing the prices paid per visit and reducing the quantity of certain services, notably emergency room visits and specialist visits,” Robin McKnight, an associate professor of economics at Wellesley College, said last week.

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Concerns raised over ‘Obamacare’ abortion coverage
San Francisco Chronicle

A nonpartisan congressional agency is raising new questions about compliance with a key compromise on abortion that allowed the federal health care law to pass in 2010.

The Government Accountability Office said in a report released late Monday that only 1 of 18 insurers it reviewed was separately itemizing a charge for coverage of elective abortions on enrollees’ bills.

That detail is important because the original compromise that President Barack Obama sealed with anti-abortion Democrats stipulated that no federal funds would be used to pay for elective abortions.

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New hospital CEO kept St. Helena health system pumping
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Dr. Steven Herber’s 16-year journey from private plastic surgeon in 1998 to his current job as president and CEO of St. Helena Hospital was punctuated by a stand he took in 2007 to save the hospital.

He had served on the board of Adventist Health for four years, getting to know the relationship between the community and the hospital, when it was recommended that the 136-year-old hospital be closed.

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Desert Regional hospital unveils emergency phone system
The Desert Sun

Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs unveiled a new satellite system Monday that will back up existing hospital phones and communication tools in case of an emergency, natural disaster or downed phone lines.

The first hospital in Riverside County to have the technology, the satellite system would help to avoid situations like when a cut fiber line in San Bernardino knocked out phones at Desert Regional in April.

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Medical device company Avinger raises $35M toward $49M target
San Francisco Business Times

Avinger Inc., a Redwood City medical device company developing ways to help doctors see inside arteries in real time, has raised $34.8 million toward a $48.9 million target.

Some 65 investors have bought into the offering, which started selling Sept. 2, the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday.

Avinger, founded in 2007 by cardiologist and medical device entrepreneur Dr. John B. Simpson, raised $22.5 million in a Series C round in 2012.

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Health care players spending big bucks at Levi’s Stadium
San Francisco Business Times

The San Francisco 49ers’ financial health is being aided by two not-for-profit health insurers.

Blue Shield of California and Dignity Health each own luxury suites at Levi’s Stadium that go for at least $2.5 million apiece, according to a story in the Matier & Ross column in the San Francisco Chronicle. In addition, Dignity Health, formerly known as Catholic Healthcare West, is also the 49ers’ exclusive health industry sponsor.

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Hospital drops plan to reopen Palm Drive rehab center
North Bay Business Journal

Sonoma Valley Hospital on Monday said it has withdrawn its proposal to assume management of Palm Drive Hospital’s West County Hand and Physical Therapy Center, which was closed in April along with the Sebastopol hospital.

Sonoma Valley Hospital was to reopen the rehabilitation therapy service this month and rehire previous staff members.

“It’s an excellent facility in all respects, and we wanted to bring it back for the Sebastopol community,” said Michelle Donaldson, chief revenue officer at Sonoma Valley Hospital.

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Kaiser’s chief information officer nabbed by giant AIG
San Francisco Business Times

Philip Fasano, Kaiser Permanente’s nationally known chief information officer, has been nabbed by giant American International Group Inc.

Fasano, 56, will start at AIG next month, replacing Robert Dickie, who left in February to join Zurich Insurance Group, according to a story Monday in the Wall Street Journal. The move leaves Kaiser looking for a new top tech leader. Fasano joined the Oakland-based health care nonprofit in 2007.

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Gilead hints at price of next-generation hepatitis C treatment
San Francisco Business Times

If you think Gilead Sciences Inc.’s blockbuster hepatitis C drug Sovaldi costs a lot, wait for this: A next-generation treatment that could win approval next month will cost even more, but under $100,000. The company points out that the new price tag is roughly as much as today’s Sovaldi treatments when all is said and done.

Although Gilead Executive Vice President Gregg Alton told Reuters that the Foster City-based company (NASDAQ: GILD) won’t give an exact price of the oral treatment, which combines Sovaldi with the Gilead-developed ledipasvir, he said it won’t carry a significant

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Genentech targets blinding disease in new late-stage trials
San Francisco Business Times

Targeting a blinding disease with no known treatment, Genentech Inc. is taking an experimental drug into late-stage trials aimed at slowing progression of the disease and discovering if patients with a specific mutation will benefit more.

Each of the two trials of Genentech’s lampalizumab will enroll about 936 patients with geographic atrophy, the advanced form of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, South San Francisco-based Genentech said Monday.

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‘Early Offer’ Malpractice Programs May Spur Reform
Health Leaders Media

Hospitals and health systems—not state lawmakers—will have to review their malpractice resolution programs in response to a recent Health and Human Services Department opinion on malpractice laws in Oregon and Massachusetts.

Both state programs encourage doctors to disclose medical errors, and to apologize and work with patients on potential out-of-court settlements.

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