News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Small parts of spending deal could have long-term healthcare impact
Modern Healthcare

Buried in the spending deal that congressional negotiators announced on Tuesday are several nuggets that should be of interest to hospitals, home health providers and pharmaceutical companies. They won’t have any immediate impact but could lay the groundwork for significant policy changes. Congress is seeking answers from the CMS about its requirement that home healthcare agencies provide face-to-face certifications by a physician before the agency will cover in-home care for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

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Improve care by treating fewer patients: Column
USA Today

Hospitals are experimenting with a novel way to improve American health care — they’re treating fewer patients.

Consider Boston Children’s Hospital, which recently invested $5.6 million in community health efforts after deciding it could do more to advance kids’ health by keeping them out of the hospital. For every dollar spent on its Community Asthma Initiative, Boston Children’s has trimmed $1.50 from its overall health costs.

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Is Obamacare a Boon or Bust for Entrepreneurship?
California Healthline

When the Affordable Care Act was passed, there was a lot of talk about how the law could spur entrepreneurship across the country.

Specifically, the ACA meant potential entrepreneurs would have one less thing to worry about: access to health insurance. “One of the biggest impediments to starting your own business was worrying about not being able to get coverage … or exorbitant rates. That impediment is now just completely eliminated” under the ACA, says David Chase, the California director of the advocacy group Small Business Majority, adding, “That really opens the door.”

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Can Obamacare fulfill its promise in San Diego?
San Diego Union-Tribune

Will San Diego have America’s finest Obamacare?

Yes, it’s way too early for any verdicts about the Affordable Care Act and its implementation, even in California, which has embraced this messy mash-up of a law more rapidly and firmly than almost any other state. It may be that we’ll never be able to evaluate Obamacare coherently — it’s simply too complex and contradictory, a wave remaking one-fifth of the economy.

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Insurance exchange enrollment spikes as 2015 deadline nears
Modern Healthcare

More than 600,000 people signed up for coverage through during the third week of the open-enrollment period, according to HHS. That easily surpasses the pace of sign-ups during the initial two weeks of the enrollment window.

Nearly 1.4 million Americans have now selected a health plan for 2015 through the federal exchange. The marketplace customers are almost evenly split between those enrolling in coverage for the first time and those returning to

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Covered California Setting Strong Enrollment Pace
capital public radio

Numbers out today show between November 15 and December 3 nearly 49,000 people selected health insurance plans through Covered California. Another 81,000 were deemed eligible but have not chosen a plan. It took several more weeks to achieve those numbers last year.

But Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee says outreach is still important.

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Covered California reports robust health insurance enrollments
The Mercury News

For the second year in a row, California is posting robust initial numbers of legal residents signing up for health insurance under the nation’s new health care law, according to figures released Wednesday.

From Nov. 15, when the law’s second open-enrollment period launched, through Dec. 3, nearly 300,000 additional people submitted applications and were determined to be eligible for either private health insurance or Medi-Cal, the state’s health program for the poor.

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Medicaid cuts to hit doctors hard in 2015: California may see fee reductions up to 50 percent as federal subsidy ends
San Mateo Daily Journal

Primary care doctors caring for low-income patients will face steep fee cuts next year as a temporary program in President Barack Obama’s health care law expires. That could squeeze access just when millions of new patients are gaining Medicaid coverage.

A study Wednesday from the nonpartisan Urban Institute estimated fee reductions will average about 40 percent nationwide. But they could reach 50 percent or more for primary care doctors in California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois — big states that have all expanded Medicaid under the health law.

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HHS doles out $36M in grants for improvements in patient care
The Hill

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is handing out $36.3 million to more than 1,000 health centers across the country that have significantly improved the quality of their patient care.

The health centers that received funding have all proven “high levels of quality performance” that aligns with the government’s attempts to strengthen care and cut costs under ObamaCare, according to a release Tuesday from HHS.

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Physician Groups’ ICD-10 Delay Push Stalls
HealthLeaders Media

ICD-10 implementation remains on track for October 1, 2015, after a series of Congressional spending bills unveiled late Tuesday contained no new delay provisions, despite the efforts of at least two state medical associations.

Proponents of keeping the 2015 date, including healthcare systems and hospitals, stepped up their own campaigns in recent days, with several large hospital associations, including the American Hospital Association, America’s Essential Hospitals, and the Association of American Medical Colleges, sending a letter to Congress asking for no further delays.

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Patients like EHRs and use them more often, survey says
Modern Healthcare

Patients like health information technology, think it’s convenient, use it often and want more of it, according to a second national survey of U.S. adults by the National Partnership for Women & Families. The 66-page survey report, “Engaging Patients and Families: How Consumers Value and Use Health IT,” is based on the results of an online survey of 2,045 U.S. adults conducted for the partnership in April and May by the Harris Poll.

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Using health IT in underserved communities? Aetna has some money for you
Modern Healthcare

The Aetna Foundation hopes to award $750,000 each to six not-for-profit community or local government organizations to promote innovative ways of using health information technology to improve the outcomes of chronically ill patients in medically underserved populations.“We want to invest in grantees that are not just about creating technology, but that are improving outcomes with hard-to-reach populations,” said Dr. Garth Graham, president of the foundation.

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More sensitive (and expensive) tests increasingly tapped for breast cancer screening
Modern Healthcare

When Heather Reimer turned 40, she did what many women her age do: She had her first mammogram. But eight months later, after undergoing an automated whole breast ultrasound, a more sensitive screening method often used to screen women with dense breast tissue, Reimer was diagnosed with triple negative metastatic carcinoma.Reimer’s diagnosis surprised her, in part because she was unaware that having dense breast tissue gives her a higher risk of getting breast cancer and radiologists would have a harder time detecting a tumor on a traditional mammogram.

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Fewer Southern California parents opting out of vaccination
Southern California Public Radio

The number of Southern California parents opting to not vaccinate their children due to their personal beliefs has dropped significantly, according to data released by the California Department of Public Health.

The statistics on immunization for incoming kindergartners in 2014 show that the number of parents filing Personal Belief Exemptions fell 20 percent statewide from the previous school year, according to an analysis by the Sacramento Bee. The number of these exemptions had doubled since 2007, and this was the first drop in at least a decade, according to the newspaper.

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Health Net’s 2015 changes affect Santa Cruz County residents
Santa Cruz Sentinel

Santa Cruz County residents who bought health insurance through Covered California and picked a Health Net plan to see physicians with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation will have to change plans for 2015 to continue seeing those doctors.

The deadline to switch without a coverage gap Jan. 1 is Dec. 15.

The options are limited as people used to a preferred provider organization, PPO, will discover the meaning of EPO, exclusive provider organization.

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Children’s Hospital switching to old name, creating Valley health network
Fresno Bee

The name is old but new again at Valley Children’s Hospital, the crayon-colored hospital overlooking the San Joaquin River in Madera County.

Children’s Hospital Central California is reverting to its original name, officials announced Wednesday to loud applause at an event that also disclosed a new partnership with Stanford Children’s Health. The rollout of the Valley Children’s brand will begin in early 2015. But the hospital’s website already carries the new identification.