News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Affordable Care Act Reduces Costs for Hospitals, Report Says
New York Times

The Obama administration increased the pressure on states to expand Medicaid on Wednesday, citing new evidence that hospitals reap financial benefits and gain more paying customers when states broaden eligibility.

In states that have expanded Medicaid, the White House said, hospitals are seeing substantial reductions in “uncompensated care” as more patients have Medicaid coverage and fewer are uninsured.

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IV Fluids Shortage Continues in Hospitals
HealthLeaders Media

As flu season looms, materials management and pharmacy teams are anxiously watching their IV fluid supplies. Despite hopes that the months-long saline solution shortage would clear up over the summer, the situation has not improved and there are indications that it has worsened.

“The [saline shortage] has not resolved, and has actually expanded into other IV solutions, including lactated ringers solution, which is almost universally used during surgical procedures,” says David Jaspan, RPh, director of pharmacy and materials management at Union Hospital of Cecil County in Elkton, MD. He estimates that three out of every four patients require IV solutions of some sort during their hospital stay.

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To Prevent Repeat Hospitalizations, Talk To Patients
National Public Radio

Kevin Wiehrs is a nurse in Savannah, GA. But instead of giving patients shots or taking blood pressure readings, his job is mostly talking with patients like Susan Johnson. Johnson, 63, is a retired restaurant cook who receives Medicare and Medicaid. She has diabetes, and has already met with her doctor. Afterward, Wiehrs spends another half hour with Johnson, talking through her medication, exercise and diet.

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Under Affordable Care Act, 25 Percent Increase in Health Insurers Is Predicted
New York Times

Consumers in much of the country will have a broader selection of health insurance plans next year, the Obama administration said Tuesday, as it predicted an increase of about 25 percent in the number of insurers that are expected to compete in federal and state marketplaces.

More competition will help hold down premiums, federal health officials said. The administration released preliminary data on insurers that have indicated they want to participate next year in the insurance exchanges, where the federal government subsidizes premiums for millions of people.

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Health care coverage reaches Latinos

The percentage of Latinos who lack health insurance has fallen by more than a third since the Affordable Care Act kicked in this year, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Fund, a health care policy group.

Historically, Latinos have been one of the least-covered groups in the U.S. when it comes to health insurance. Michelle Doty, the lead author of the report, says the low coverage has a lot to do with employment trends.

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Number of Latinos with insurance coverage surges under healthcare law
Los Angeles Times

The federal healthcare law has dramatically increased coverage among Latinos, according to a new report that provides a comprehensive look at the effects of the Affordable Care Act on a historically underinsured community.

Overall, the percentage of Latinos ages 19 to 64 lacking health coverage fell from 36% to 23% between summer 2013 and spring 2014.

That parallels a broader increase in coverage that has taken place since insurance marketplaces opened last fall and states began expanding Medicaid under the healthcare law.

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Why One Pioneer ACO Quit the Program — and What It Reveals About the ACA
California Healthline

Allison Fleury is the CEO of Sharp HealthCare’s accountable care organization. She’s a senior vice president at the health system, but was trained as a CPA.

And the more she looked at Medicare’s Pioneer ACO program — arguably the government’s most ambitious accountable care pilot — the more she worried that the numbers weren’t adding up for her organization, one of the 32 original Pioneers.

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Hospitals’ uncompensated care will drop $5.7 billion this year: HHS
Modern Healthcare

The Obama administration has a new projection of the benefit hospitals will enjoy this year as they provide less care that no one pays for: $5.7 billion. Hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid are getting most of it.

According to a report HHS posted Wednesday, hospitals in the 26 states that raised Medicaid eligibility under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will save about $4.2 billion because of lower costs of uncompensated care, while those in states that resisted the Medicaid expansion will save $1.5 billion.

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Proton Beam Therapy Center Closure Illuminates Costs
HealthLeaders Media

The planned closure of the Indiana University Health Proton Therapy Center early next year is unlikely to derail investments in the costly cancer-fighting technology across the country, according to officials at the university and the National Association for Proton Therapy.

IU officials announced the decision to close the Bloomington facility for financial reasons last month based on the recommendation of an independent review panel.

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Finding specialists tough for rural patients under managed care
San Francisco Chronicle

Diane Kantoff’s job is to find specialists who will treat patients of the Plumas District Hospital Clinic in this quaint little town in the woods 80 miles northwest of Reno.

These days, she said, when it comes to patients on Medi-Cal, doctors’ offices frequently tell her “no” before she is even done speaking.

“It’s just been kind of a nightmare,” she said.

Her lament feels all too familiar to other health workers in rural Plumas.

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Blue Shield, Cigna Accused Of ACA Plan ‘Bait And Switch’
Law 360

Blue Shield of California and Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co. policyholders filed putative class actions in California state court on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, alleging the companies engaged in “bait and switch” schemes by misrepresenting doctor availability in their Affordable Care Act plans. The complaints accuse Blue Shield and Cigna of delaying customers’ enrollment in new health service plans for months, effectively blocking access to physicians and hospital services, and forcing them into inadequate networks after ACA enrollment deadlines had passed.

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Sutter County provides residents drive-thru access to flu shots
Sacramento Bee

Sutter County residents can get vaccinated for influenza almost as quickly as they can pick up a Whopper this Saturday at the annual drive-thru vaccine clinic in Yuba City.

The clinic, open from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 27 at Riverbend Elementary School, aims to vaccinate as many residents as possible for influenza, which killed more than 202 people statewide last flu season.

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Sutter HMO tops 7,000 enrollees, looks to hire staff
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Health is up to more than 7,000 enrollees in its new HMO — prompting the organization to hire more staff, look for additional office space and prepare to expand to new markets. Sutter Health Plus kicked off coverage in the Sacramento and San Joaquin region in January. Small employer sales started in March. Enrollment was 5,000 in May; it now tops 7,000, the initial target set by the Sacramento-based health system.

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Sutter finalizes donation of Warrack Hospital to SAY
North Bay Business Journal

Sutter Health on Wednesday announced that it had completed the donation of the former Warrack Hospital to Social Advocates for Youth (SAY), which provides education and housing for at-risk youth in Sonoma County.

In 2008, Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa closed the Warrack Hospital at 2449 Summerfield road in order to consolidate services at its Chanate facility.

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Quilt auction brings life, funds to Sutter Cancer Center halls
Sacramento Bee

The Sutter Cancer Center is looking more like a blanket fort than a medical facility these days, with 475 vibrantly handcrafted quilts monopolizing wall space on six of the hospital’s floors.

Smiling turtles trot across fabric squares while pink ribbons display messages of hope and strength. The patchwork of images floods the building with a sense of warmth and whimsy seen only once every three years at Sutter – during the quilt auction, its biggest breast cancer fundraiser.