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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Healthcare job growth continues
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare added 28,900 jobs last month to bring the sector’s employment across hospitals, ambulatory care, nursing and residential providers to 14.9 million workers, the latest federal data show. Robust growth in ambulatory care was largely responsible for the gains. November’s job growth was above the year’s monthly average of 23,550 jobs. Hiring this year has rebounded after a slowdown last year, which was most pronounced among hospitals, healthcare’s largest sector.

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Quality Reporting’s Influence on Clinical Outcomes Examined
HealthLeaders Media

Hospital executives overwhelmingly say quality reports published on Medicare’s Hospital Compare website affect their organizations’ reputations and stimulate targeted improvement activities. But they remain skeptical that their actions to move their scores on some measures, specifically 30-day readmissions and 30-day mortality, have much effect on clinical outcomes.

The measures may also prompt some organizations to “game the system.”

Those are among the conclusions of a survey whose results were published in last week’s JAMA Internal Medicine by Peter Lindenauer, MD, and colleagues at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA.

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Is Medicaid expansion reducing disability claims?
Modern Healthcare

The number of Americans applying for Supplemental Security Income benefits dropped in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year, and experts are debating whether the decline is partly related to the healthcare reform law’s Medicaid expansion to low-income adults. A total of 1,189,567 SSI disability claims —mostly related to physical or mental disability — were filed in the first six months of 2014, compared with 1,330,169 during the same period last year, a drop of 10.6%, according to data obtained by Modern Healthcare from the Social Security Administration through a Freedom of Information Act request.

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Map: See How Obamacare Transformed Health Insurance Coverage in California
KQED Radio

In 2013, 6.6 million Californians lacked health insurance.

Then came the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. By April of this year, Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, had enrolled 1.4 million people, although not all of them were previously uninsured. Today 1.12 million remain enrolled. An additional 2.5 million people enrolled through July in Medi-Cal, the state’s health plan for the poor.

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California health secretary talks about Obamacare, Medi-Cal
Sacramento Bee

Diana Dooley, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, oversees 13 departments and supervises the state’s rollout of the federal Affordable Care Act, including Covered California, the state’s insurance marketplace, and the Medi-Cal program for the poor. Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her in late 2010.

A native of Hanford, she earlier served as president and CEO of the California Children’s Hospital Assocation. She worked for Brown during his first administration.

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Health care torch passed … to nobody
POLITICO

Henry Waxman and George Miller spent nearly 40 years pushing universal health care. John Dingell — who helped pass the Medicare law in 1965 — fought for a vision of health care coverage for all Americans as far back as the Kennedy administration. They’re all leaving Congress at the end of this month. Who will be the new health care leaders for Democrats? Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Ben Cardin of Maryland want more delivery system reforms.

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Health law impacts primary care doc shortage
Yahoo! News

When Olivia Papa signed up for a new health plan last year, her insurance company assigned her to a primary care doctor. The relatively healthy 61-year-old didn’t try to see the doctor until last month, when she and her husband both needed authorization to see separate specialists.

She called the doctor’s office several times without luck.

“They told me that they were not on the plan, they were never on the plan and they’d been trying to get their name off the plan all year,” said Papa, who recently bought a plan from a different insurance company.

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New federal healthcare IT plan emphasizes adoption, interoperability among key goals
Modern Healthcare

The new Federal Health IT Strategic Plan covering the years 2015 to 2020 outlines five goals—expanding the adoption of health IT, advancing secure and interoperable health information, strengthening healthcare delivery, advancing the health and well-being of individuals and communities, and advancing research, scientific knowledge and innovation. The plan was released Monday morning by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS.

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Health Reform in California: A State of Accelerating Change
KQED Radio

Gail Fulbeck, 64, relies on her body for work. She hauls soda, energy drinks, snacks and water to the 23 vending machines she owns around downtown Sacramento.

The physical demands of her job, coupled with her husband’s history of migraines and bad knees, make health insurance essential.

Last year, Fulbeck and her husband paid a monthly insurance premium of $2,555.

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How Affordable Care Act changed California health coverage
Sacramento Bee

In 2013, 6.6 million Californians lacked health insurance. Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, enrolled 1.4 million people through April, some of whom were previously covered through private insurance. California leads the nation in embracing the 2010 Affordable Care Act. It enrolled more people than any other state this year, approximately 3.6 million, driving down the state’s uninsured rate from 17 percent to 11 percent.

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A year into Obamacare, results are mixed in California
Fresno Bee

Gail Fulbeck, 64, relies on her body for work. She hauls soda, energy drinks, snacks and water to the 23 vending machines she owns around downtown Sacramento.

The physical demands of her job, coupled with her husband’s history of migraines and bad knees, make health insurance essential.

Last year, Fulbeck and her husband paid a monthly insurance premium of $2,555.

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In Valley, Affordable Care Act called a blessing or a nightmare
Fresno Bee

The Affordable Care Act gets mixed reviews after its first year in the central San Joaquin Valley.

Many consumers say it’s a blessing to have insurance for the first time.

Others say it’s been a nightmare to find doctors willing to accept the new insurance plans.

There’s little doubt, however, about the effect of the law on the Valley, where about one in five people had no health insurance prior to the federal act.

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Medicare’s misguided long-term forecast on health spending
Modern Healthcare

Government experts recently published projections for national health spending between 2013 and 2023. After five years below 4%, a team of nonpartisan economists forecasts 6% annualized growth through 2023. Their projections calculate healthcare expenditures totaling $5.2 trillion in 2023, representing 19.3% of the gross domestic product.

Inefficient health spending is not our destiny. The government’s analysis neglects fundamental shifts in healthcare supply-demand relationships driven by market demands for greater healthcare value.

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Old And Overmedicated: The Real Drug Problem In Nursing Homes
National Public Radio

It’s one of the worst fears we have for our parents or for ourselves: that we, or they, will end up in a nursing home, drugged into a stupor. And that fear is not entirely unreasonable. Almost 300,000 nursing home residents are currently receiving antipsychotic drugs, usually to suppress the anxiety or aggression that can go with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia.

Antipsychotics, however, are approved mainly to treat serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. When it comes to dementia patients, the drugs have a black box warning, saying that they can increase the risk for heart failure, infections and death.

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Medicine’s Subtle Art Gives A Man The Chance To Breathe Again
KALW

Bob Smithson had been in the critical care unit at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for more than a week. He had a rare neuromuscular disease, and his 78-year-old body was being kept alive by tubes that delivered air to his lungs and food to his stomach.

Then Bob’s wife, Pat, got some really disturbing news. The hospital’s medical staff wanted Bob to have a tracheostomy, a surgical procedure that would carve a hole in his neck and allow doctors to keep him on a breathing machine indefinitely.

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The New Collections Challenge
HealthLeaders Media

The health insurance exchanges are providing more coverage opportunities for consumers, but the high deductibles associated with many of the plans—up to 40% in some cases—are causing new collections hurdles for hospitals and health systems. Additionally, many employer-sponsored health plans are moving to higher deductibles as a way of shifting more financial responsibility to employees. As patients become increasingly accountable for paying for their own healthcare, provider organizations need strategies to ensure that the self-pay portion of a medical bill does not become the no-pay portion.

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California struggles in national study of mental health access and care
Sacramento Business Journal

Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente has taken heat recently on the issue of access to mental health care, but a new national study suggests that any such problems extend throughout the Golden State’s health-care landscape.

California ranked 37th of the 50 states on mental health care access, according to the new national Mental Health America report, “Parity or Disparity: The State of Mental Health in America.” The report is said to be the first to rank every state on the adequacy of its mental health services.

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Online Consumer Ratings of Physicians ‘Completely Random’
HealthLeaders Media

Hospital marketing departments and physicians practices like to see their doctors get positive reviews on consumer websites, and online ratings are popular with consumers. One-third of consumers in the United States who consulted physician website ratings reported selecting or avoiding physicians based on those ratings.

But there is no correlation between online patient ratings and clinical quality, according to a study published in JAMA.

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UC-San Diego Expects To Be Part of California’s Ebola Preparedness, Response
California Healthline

UC-San Diego Medical Center officials expect to be part of California’s ramped-up preparedness efforts to treat patients with Ebola. A series of initiatives launched in the past six months to improve the safety and effectiveness of care at hospitals around the state to respond to the deadly virus raging in West Africa is culminating this month.

CDC announced last week that 35 hospitals nationally — including four in Northern California — have been designated as Ebola treatment centers. Several hospitals in Southern California — including the University of California-San Diego Medical Center — are expected to achieve CDC designation as Ebola treatment centers in the coming weeks.

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