News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Voters pass Props 1, 2 & 47, reject Prop 45, 46 & 48
San Francisco Chronicle

Voters overwhelmingly passed the two state ballot measures pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown: A $7.5 billion water bond that will pay for water recycling and new storage systems but do little to bring relief to Californians affected by the drought, and a rainy day fund designed to cushion the state during financial hard times.

Prop 1 will pay for water recycling, new storage systems — possibly dams — and groundwater monitoring. It was sold to voters in tandem with Prop. 2, the rainy-day fund, which will set aside millions of dollars in the state budget each year to avoid the kind of financial meltdown that sank California during the recession. Brown made the two ballot measures his key priorities in this election, campaigning more for the two propositions than he did for himself and contributing $3.3 million from his barely-touched campaign coffers toward their passage.

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Solving the Primary Care Shortage
The Health Care Blog

One of the top students at one of the nation’s largest medical schools, Ishan Gohil has made an unusual – and to many of his colleagues – inexplicable decision. Instead of seeking to train in one of medicine’s most highly specialized and competitive fields, he says, “I elected to pursue a career in family medicine.” Many view his choice of primary care as ill-advised, largely because family medicine is one of the least competitive fields and ranks at the bottom for income of all medical specialties.

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Health Care in the Hands of the Court
Op-Ed: New York Times

Two and a half years ago, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act by a single vote. This year alone, between 8 million and 11 million Americans have been able to get health insurance that they did not have before, according to a new analysis by The Times.

But this remarkable success has endured relentless attacks by the law’s dogged opponents, who will not stop until they have destroyed it. They lost in their efforts to gut the law in 2012. They could get another chance as early as Monday. That is when the justices are expected to announce whether they have agreed to hear the latest challenge, which takes aim at four words — “established by the State” — buried deep within the 900-page law.

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More Scrutiny Coming For Medicare Advantage, Obamacare
National Public Radio

Federal officials are planning a wide range of audits into billing and government spending on managed health care in the new fiscal year, ranging from private Medicare Advantage groups that treat millions of elderly to health plans rapidly expanding under the Affordable Care Act.

The Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, which investigates Medicare and Medicaid waste, fraud and abuse, said it would conduct “various reviews” of Medicare Advantage billing practices with an eye toward curbing overcharges. Results are due next year.

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2014 midterm elections: The impact on healthcare reform
Medical Economics

Republicans are predicted to take over the U.S. Senate in this year’s midterm elections, but industry watchdogs aren’t predicting any healthcare shakeups in the next term.

The Washington Post is forecasting that Republicans have an 86% chance of winning a Senate majority in the elections, and that Democrats have less than a 1% chance of taking back the House of Representatives. Specifically, the Post’s model predicts that Democrats will win 193 seats in the House—a drop from the 201 held after the 2012 election and the 199 the party currently holds.

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California Voters Have Their Say on Health Insurance Rates Today
Courthouse News Service

Proposition 45, which would give California’s insurance commissioner authority to modify or deny insurance rate hikes for millions of consumers, is losing support in the polls, but Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is confident that voters will approve it today. “I believe that the voters will be able to see past the lies being spread by the insurance companies about the measure,” Jones said in a telephone interview with Courthouse News.

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California voters reject Propositions 45, 46, 48; pass 47
The Mercury News

California voters soundly rejected two hotly contested propositions Tuesday night — one that would have halted excessive health care insurance rates and another that would have raised the state’s 39-year-old cap on medical malpractice damage awards. An Indian gaming proposal also failed. But voters passed a measure that requires misdemeanor sentences rather than longer felony sentences for six crimes.

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Prop 45, Healthcare Insurance Is Rejected In California
ABC News

California voters have rejected Proposition 45, which would have required the Insurance Commissioner’s approval before a health insurer could change its rates or anything else affecting the charges associated with health insurance. It would have also provided for public notice, disclosure and hearing, and subsequent judicial review and exempting employer large group health plans.

The no vote means state regulators would continue to have the authority to review, but not approve, rates for individual and small group health insurance.

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Voters nix California healthcare initiatives, approve measures in other states
Modern Healthcare

Voters in a number of states decided on a variety of hotly contested state ballot initiatives Tuesday, including measures to regulate health insurance rate increases, hike medical liability damage caps, provide new rights to unborn fetuses, make experimental medical treatments more available to patients, and require health insurers to contract with any willing healthcare provider.

In two of the most expensive ballot initiative campaigns in history, California voters said no to Propositions 45 and 46. Prop 45 would have given the state insurance commissioner new authority to block health insurance rate increases. Prop 46 would have raised the cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases to $1.1 million and required drug testing of doctors. Insurers and provider groups spent tens of millions to defeat the two measures.

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Voters defeat health insurance rate initiative
San Francisco Chronicle

On the heels of an advertising blitz funded by health insurance companies, California voters on Tuesday tanked a proposal to give the state’s insurance commissioner veto authority over health insurance premiums. About 60 percent of voters cast ballots against the plan to give the elected commissioner expanded authority over small group and individual health plans. The measure was one of two initiatives defeated after health insurance companies poured in millions of dollars in opposition.

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Attempt to raise medical malpractice cap is defeated

Voters on Tuesday soundly defeated a proposal to lift a decades-old cap on courtroom damages for medical negligence, after a multimillion-dollar political duel pitting trial lawyers against doctors and insurers.

The defeat of Proposition 46 came after a cascade of negative advertising financed by insurance and physician groups. They warned the change would send medical costs soaring and drive doctors from the state.

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Dave Jones reelected California insurance commissioner, AP says
Los Angeles Times

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has won a second term, AP reports. The Sacramento Democrat ran well ahead of Republican challenger Ted Gaines, a state senator from Rocklin. The commissioner is the state’s top elected consumer regulator, overseeing the $123-billion-a-year insurance industry that includes automobile, homeowner and dozens of other types of coverage.

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ACOs Are Doomed / No They’re Not
The Health Care Blog

A number of pundits are citing the systemic failure of ACOs, after additional Pioneer ACOs announced withdrawal from the program – Where do you weigh in on the prognosis for Medicare and Commercial ACOs over the next several years?”

Whoever thought that by themselves, ACOs would successfully address the problem(s) of [cost] [access] [care coordination] [outcomes] [scurvy] [Sonny Crockett's mullet in Miami Vice Season 4]? The entire history of managed health care is a long parade of innovations that were going to be “the answer” to at least the first four choices above (Vitamin C can cure #5 but sadly there is no cure for #6). Highly praised by pundits who jump in front of the parade and declare themselves to be leaders, each ends up having a place, but only a place, in addressing our problematic health system.

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Hepatitis C patients may not qualify for pricey drugs unless illness is advanced
Washington Post

In the past year, new hepatitis C drugs that promise higher cure rates and fewer side effects have given hope to millions who are living with the disease. But many patients whose livers aren’t yet significantly damaged by the viral infection face a vexing reality: They’re not sick enough to qualify for insurance coverage for the drugs that could prevent them from getting sicker.

An estimated 3.2 million people in the United States have hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Faced with a cost per patient of $95,000 or more for a 12-week course of treatment, many public and private insurers are restricting access to those whose liver damage is already serious. Other strategies that limit access include restricting who can prescribe the drugs and requiring early proof that the drug is working before continuing to pay for treatment. In addition, many state Medicaid programs require that patients be drug- and alcohol-free for months, preventing further liver damage, before they can get one of the new hepatitis C drugs.

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Hospitals Seek Cost Savings in Alternative Fuel Sources
HealthLeaders Media

With winter on the way and energy costs rising, some hospitals are choosing alternative heating fuels and systems to heat and power their facilities.

At Memorial Hospital in North Conway, NH, a 25-bed critical access hospital on the edge of the White Mountain National forest, leadership found the idea of moving to an alternative energy source especially compelling.

“In the Mount Washington Valley, it’s important to have the pollution reduction,” says Scott Gage, director of support services at Memorial Hospital. He first introduced the idea of switching to an alternative energy source to his hospital’s leadership.

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Covered California proposes 5.9% average Sacramento small-biz rate increase
Sacramento Business Journal

Small-business owners in the Sacramento region can expect to see premium increases averaging 5.9 percent in Covered California’s Small Employer Health Options Program next year, exchange officials said Monday. The statewide weighted average is 5.2 percent.

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Less than 17% of Hospitals Demonstrate MU Stage 2 Capabilities, CMS Says
HealthLeaders Media

News Tuesday from the federal government that less than 17% of the nation’s hospitals have reached Stage 2 capabilities under Meaningful Use requirements was met with consternation but not surprise from a coalition of provider associations.

The news came Tuesday during a briefing by the Department of Health and Human Services’ HIT Policy Committee, which also reported that less than 38% of eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals have met either stage of Meaningful Use so far in 2014.

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Doctors Medical Center announces Election Day “Hail Mary” gambit to save San Pablo safety net hospital
San Francisco Business Times

Doctors Medical Center, an embattled safety net hospital in San Pablo that stopped accepting new ER patients by ambulance in mid-August, announced a surprise Election Day gambit to avoid closure, after months of saying its best remaining option would be to convert to an urgent care care or other smaller-scale facility.

But some necessary supporters, namely local hospital systems, haven’t signed on to the proposed solution.

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UCI researchers lead study for drug to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s
Orange County Register

Michelle Jones saw her grandmother suffer the degenerative effects of Alzheimer’s disease for a decade. “When she died (in her mid-80s), she was like a baby in a diaper,” she said. “My grandfather took care of her through it all. But it was a significant challenge.” That motivated Jones’ mother to do her part in helping find a cure.

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Marin General Hospital’s Measure R wins easy victory with 78 percent of vote
Marin Independent Journal

An overwhelming majority of Marin Healthcare District voters Tuesday gave the green light to Marin General Hospital’s two-tier management structure by approving Measure R.

“What it means is that the path that we began on June 30, 2010 is going to continue,” said Jon Friedenberg, Marin General’s chief administrative officer. Measure R asked voters’ approval to lease publicly-owned Marin General for 30 years to the Marin General Hospital Corp.; the private nonprofit was created in 2010 when Sutter Health returned control of the hospital to the Marin Health Healthcare district, before