News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

 

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Viewpoints: Prop. 46 will raise health costs
Sacramento Bee

I have been a pediatrician in Sacramento for more than 30 years. I chose this line of work because I believe few things are more important than keeping children healthy and keeping health care accessible and affordable for every family.

That’s why I oppose Proposition 46, a deceptive measure that would have real costs for all Californians. Proposition 46 was drafted by trial lawyers seeking more profit from lawsuits against doctors and hospitals.

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Telemetry Overuse Cost Health System $4.8 Million in One Year
HealthLeaders Media

Analysis of one large healthcare system’s care practices has found that 70% or more of non-ICU, non-cardiac patients were tethered to telemetry monitors even though they didn’t have conditions requiring it. “The wires get tangled all the time, people trip over them, and in elderly patients their center of balance is disturbed by the box, [onto] which they roll over in their sleep and endure a big metal thing crushing their chest,” says Andrew Doorey, MD, a cardiologist at Christiana Care Health System, in Newark, DE.

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Innovation, Primary Care Style
The Health Care Blog

On a recent evening at Harvard Medical School, the Primary Care Innovation Challenge and Pitch-Off brought together six finalists, primary care luminaries and trainees, and a host of hangers-on and camp followers for a couple of hours of demos and discussions. The tenor of the evening, which was in many ways a pep rally for primary care – not that there’s anything wrong with that — was best captured by the rhetorical question posed by Asaf Bitton to the primary care practitioners and trainees in the hall, “Are you going to be a playwright or a critic?”

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Underinsured ACA enrollees strain community health centers
Modern Healthcare

Obamacare enrollees are straining the finances of community health centers around the country, some health center leaders say.

The issue is that many lower-income patients with insurance coverage through the federal and state exchanges bought bronze-tier plans with lower premiums but high deductibles, coinsurance and copayments and no federal cost-sharing subsidies. When these patients face high out-of-pocket costs for care that falls below the deductible, they can’t afford it.

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3 More Pioneer ACOs Say They Will Quit
HealthLeaders Media

Three more Pioneer ACOs have resigned from the federal shared savings model’s third year, bringing to 13 the number of defections from the original 32, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services acknowledged Thursday. The three now bowing out of the third year of the three-year program are Genesys Physician Health Organization based in Southeastern Michigan; Franciscan Alliance of Indianapolis and Central Indiana; and Renaissance Health Network of Southeastern Pennsylvania. A fourth Pioneer ACO, Sharp Healthcare System, announced last month it had dropped out.

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SHOP health plans unveiled
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California will continue offering the same six health plans next year in its Small Business Health Options Program — better known as SHOP. But employers will have more flexibility, and employees will have more choice. Four health plans will be available in the Sacramento region: Blue Shield of California, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente and Western Health Advantage. Two other plans — Chinese Community Health Plan and Sharp Health Plan — will be available elsewhere but not in the Sacramento area.

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CMS seeks to clarify coverage for autism treatment under CHIP, Medicaid
Modern Healthcare

The CMS has moved to clarify confusion about a bulletin it released in July on coverage for comprehensive autism treatment under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Uncertainty centered on whether the CMS was mandating coverage for applied-behavior analysis therapy, a costly treatment.

ABA treatment, believed to be the most effective for people with autism, involves behavioral specialists leading patients through drills to help with speaking and social skills.

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Medicare’s Pioneer program down to 19 ACOs after three more exit
Modern Healthcare

Three years after CMS carefully selected 32 accountable care organizations deemed best able to manage the Pioneer program’s financial risks, three more decided they no longer want to. The new departures—the program is now down to 19 ACOs—suggest even the most sophisticated health systems may be unwilling to take losses as policymakers test new payment and delivery models.

Franciscan Alliance in Indianapolis, Genesys PHO in Flint, Mich., and Renaissance Health Network in Wayne, Pa., have exited the program, which is now in its third year.

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Medi-Cal Application Backlog Will Be ‘Down Significantly’ Within Six Weeks
California Healthline

At an Assembly Committee on Health hearing yesterday, Department of Health Care Services Director Toby Douglas said the backlog of Medi-Cal applications — at one point in March topping 900,000 unprocessed eligibility claims — now is down to about 250,000 applications and will be “down significantly” from that by the start of November. Douglas answered a number of concerns at the hearing, including announcing a shift in DHCS policy regarding asthma and allergy testing, as well as Denti-Cal and special-needs dental care issues.

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Gov. Brown vetoes bill limiting estate recovery for Medi-Cal enrollees
The Mercury News

In a blow to tens of thousands of low-income Californians newly enrolled in Medi-Cal under a provision in the Affordable Care Act, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have limited the state’s seizure of assets from their estates after they die — a legal wrinkle that most only discovered after they had signed up for the health care plan for the poor.

“It is shocking that Gov.

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Does Vitamin D fight pancreatic cancer?
San Diego Union-Tribune

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla says it might have found a way to fight pancreatic cancer, a usually fatal disease that has killed such people as Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and actor Patrick Swayze.

In a study on mice, researchers used a synthetic form of Vitamin D to knock down the wall of cells that form around pancreatic tumors, opening a path for chemotherapeutic drugs.

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Cough, cough … it’s the time of year to get your flu shot
Orange County Register

Flu fatigue isn’t just when you’re sick and can’t get out of bed. It can also come from tiring of hearing the same message every fall to get the flu vaccine.

But public health officials say an annual flu shot can offer life-saving protection. The 2013-14 flu season – during which 19 adults under age 65 died from the virus – was particularly severe in Orange County, according to the county’s Health Care Agency.

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Parents choosing to skip vaccinations? That worries O.C. health care workers
Orange County Register

At Journey School in Aliso Viejo, 60 percent of last year’s kindergartners didn’t have all their vaccinations – by their parents’ design.

Journey, which has 89 children in its kindergarten classes, had Orange County’s highest rate of parents who signed “personal belief exemption” waivers to opt out of the state’s vaccination requirements.

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Lawsuits Allege Insurance Companies Misrepresented Coverage
NBC Los Angeles

As Sheila Davidson recovers from surgical complications, she said it’s her Cigna healthcare policy that’s making her sick. “It’s a nightmare,” Davidson said. “I fought this hard to get my health back. I’m not letting it go yet.” Sally Greer suffers from heart disease, but calls her policy with Blue Shield “heartless.” “I don’t know what to do,” Greer said. “There’s nowhere to turn because they’re offering no options.”

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Cigna, Blue Shield Sued For Misrepresenting Coverage
ABC News

A Santa Monica-based advocacy organization filed two separate class-action lawsuits against Blue Shield and Cigna, claiming the health insurance companies misrepresented their coverage in order to make a larger profit.

The lawsuits, filed by Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, alleges the two insurance companies delayed enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans, violating state law and misrepresenting doctor and hospital networks to boost sales during Covered California’s open enrollment, which ended on March 31.

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Dignity Health sees healthy growth in profit margin
Sacramento Business Journal

Dignity Health, parent company to local Mercy hospitals, generated a profit margin of 8.3 percent in fiscal 2014 amid massive changes in the marketplace due to federal health reform. That’s up from 7.8 percent last year. Net income at the nonprofit San Francisco-based health system hit $885 million, up 9 percent from $812 million in fiscal 2013, according to financial documents released Thursday. Operating income dropped to $227 million from $311 million, but investment income rose sharply to $686 million from $528 million.

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Dignity Health 2014 profits rise 9 percent to $885 million
San Francisco Business Times

Dignity Health, the 39-hospital nonprofit hospital system based in San Francisco, saw its net income for fiscal 2014 soar to $885 million, 9 percent more than the prior year’s $812 million. As recently as 2012, profits were a relatively measly $135 million.

The surge in profits was fueled by a 30 percent jump in investment income, from $528 million in 2013 to $$686 million for the fiscal year ending June 30.

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Dignity Health to add 35,000-square-foot office at Woodland Gateway
Sacramento Business Journal

Dignity Health will build a 35,000-square-foot medical office building in Woodland as part of the half-million-square-foot Woodland Gateway development. Woodland Gateway developer Paul Petrovich of Petrovich Development Co. said the medical office building will complement existing retail at the center, though it will be slightly separate. He said the lease took 10 months to come together, but it’s an arrangement that should benefit everyone involved.

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Stanford licenses cancer-fighting drug to S.F. biotech startup
San Francisco Business Times

A San Francisco biotech startup will work with Stanford researchers in their development of a drug that could help stop the spread of cancer throughout a patient’s body.

Ruga Corp. has been granted the license to the Stanford team’s technology, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle. The new treatment has only been tested so far on mice, but it appears to disrupt metastasis, the process by which cancer cells break away from original tumor sites and grow elsewhere.

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Health care venture-capital fund launches in Davis
Sacramento Business Journal

Two longtime health-care consultants announced they have formed a venture-capital fund to invest in promising startups. Almond Tree Capital LLC reached $1 million in investments in August, and aims to double that amount. The fund is based in Davis. The fund will be managed by Cary Adams, a longtime local attorney, and Christian Renaudin, managing partner of the MarkeTech Group LLC in Davis.

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