News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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No Boost to NFP Hospital Bond Ratings from Medicaid Expansion
The Health Care Blog

Medicaid expansion has played no role in rating the credit worthiness of acute care not-for-profit hospitals, a sector that continues to confront a negative credit outlook, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services analysts say.

“Is there any correlation to upgrades and downgrades based on if you’re in a Medicaid expansion state? The answer really is no,” S&P Senior Director J. Kevin Holloran said at a Thursday afternoon webinar hosted by the ratings service.

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Docs take note: Make quality-reporting deadline or face penalty
Modern Healthcare

Physician advocates are warning doctors to pay close attention to the CMS‘ recently released Physician Quality Reporting System data submission deadlines (PDF), because the 2014 data they report will be used to calculate their future Medicare payments. “I imagine that CMS is making an effort to be very explicit about the data submission deadlines because the penalty phase has begun,” said Karen Ferguson, senior director for public policy at the American Medical Group Association.

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Who owns health data? Supreme Court may try answering that question
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering hearing a case that could have implications for self-funded insurers nationwide and as many as 16 states that have passed laws creating healthcare data collection programs. The case, Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., asks the question of whether self-funded insurers should have to hand over certain information to state databases upon request or whether those insurers don’t have to under federal law. The state of Vermont argues that it needs such data — on claims, member eligibility and other issues — to help it improve the cost and effectiveness of healthcare.

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Stent average price drops in a competitive market segment
Modern Healthcare

The average price paid by hospitals for drug-eluting stents fell 6% over the past year as hospitals continue to push back on the prices of physician preference items, according to the Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index.

The average price for a drug-eluting stent is $1,340, said Amanda McShea, a manager for ECRI’s PriceGuide service. What hospitals pay for a stent varies widely, due to differences in a hospital’s product negotiations.

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ObamaCare fines loom for uninsured
The Hill

People without insurance are running out of time to avoid the hefty ObamaCare penalties that the IRS will be handing down in 2016.

Consumers face a Feb. 15, 2015, deadline to buy insurance, after which those without coverage could be hit with fines of $325 per adult or 2 percent of family income, whichever is higher. Uninsured people looking to escape the penalties are turning to the exchanges before they close, while insurance companies and tax preparers are seizing on the looming tax hit as a business opportunity.

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Americans like much of Obamacare, except the law itself
Modern Healthcare

Obamacare remains unpopular, but specific provisions of the federal healthcare law have broad support, according to the latest polling data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.At least 75% of respondents expressed support for health insurance exchanges, subsidies for low-income households and Medicaid expansion. The employer mandate, which takes effect next year for companies with at least 100 workers, was backed by 60% of those surveyed. The one provision that failed to receive majority support was the individual mandate.

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Preserving health coverage for kids will require more than saving CHIP
The Hill

In the coming weeks, Congress will determine the fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which was initially created in 1997 to bridge gaps in insurance for low-income children ineligible for Medicaid. Over the course of a given year, CHIP helps provide coverage for about eight million children, and is a major reason why the proportion of uninsured children is at an all-time low.

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When A Marketplace Only Offers One Health Insurer
capital public radio

As the Covered California open enrollment period continues, many people in Northern California find there is only one insurer available in the exchange.

Dennie Wright lives in Indian Valley, a tiny alpine community at the northern end of the Sierra, close to the Nevada state border.

“We’re back in the back country you might say. But it is a beautiful place to live, and that’s why we choose to live here,” says Wright.

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Covered California deadline near
Desert Dispatch

Casey Armstrong, owner of Armstrong Fairway Insurance Agency, Inc., said there are only a few days left for consumers to enroll in Covered California. According to a Covered California Agent Alert, the extension of time for enrollment was given for residents because of the large number of Californians interested in enrolling in health coverage. Service partners will have until midnight on Sunday to assist consumers with enrollment.

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Medicare reduces funding to St. Joseph, 8 other hospitals in O.C.
Orange County Register

Nine Orange County hospitals are being penalized by the federal government for having high rates of infections and other patient injuries, records released Thursday show.

In its toughest crackdown yet on medical errors, the federal government is cutting payments to 721 hospitals nationwide, including St. Joseph Hospital, one of the largest in Orange County, and three smaller O.C. hospitals belonging to the same health system, Integrated Healthcare Holdings Inc. The state hospital in Costa Mesa for adults with developmental disabilities also was penalized.

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Hospital-acquired conditions mean Medicare penalties for 700-plus hospitals
Modern Healthcare

More than 700 hospitals will see their total Medicare payments docked by 1% in fiscal 2015 as part of the first year of a federal penalty program aimed at reducing preventable harm and improving patient safety. The Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program, established by the healthcare reform law, penalizes hospitals that fall within the worst-performing quartile, based on measures of adverse events occurring during hospital stays, such as pressure ulcers, pulmonary embolisms and certain types of healthcare-associated conditions.

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Providers balk as CMS announces penalties for 2013 EHR issues
Modern Healthcare

A CMS announcement that many doctors will see their 2015 Medicare payments cut by 1% for failing to meet federal electronic health-record incentive-payment program standards has provoked strong reactions from physician and hospital groups. “The American Medical Association is appalled by the news,” said AMA President-Elect Dr. Steven Stack, who noted that “more than 50% of eligible professionals will face penalties … a number that is even worse than we anticipated.

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Aetna charging small businesses too much, California commissioner says
Sacramento Bee

With the bruising battle over Proposition 45 behind him, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said Thursday that another health insurer is preparing to charge small businesses “excessive and unreasonable” rates.

Jones’ actuaries determined Aetna Life Insurance Company’s filing for small-group policies – with an average 10.7 percent increase – will affect more than 64,000 people beginning Jan. 1.

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Insurance commissioner calls Aetna’s small-business rate hike ‘unreasonable’
Sacramento Business Journal

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones went back to the bully pulpit Thursday to decry Aetna’s pending rate increase for small business owners in California as “excessive and unreasonable.” He’s back to the bully pulpit after voters defeated Proposition 45 on the November election ballot by a margin of 59.8 percent to 40.2 percent. The measure would have given the state insurance commissioner authority to regulate health plan rates.

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Aetna rate hike excessive, California insurance commissioner says
Los Angeles Times

Health insurance giant Aetna Inc. is imposing excessive rate hikes on more than 5,000 small employers, according to California’s insurance commissioner.

Commissioner Dave Jones lashed out Thursday at the third-largest U.S. health insurer for raising premiums as much as 20% on some small businesses starting Jan. 1. The average increase of 10.7% will cost small employers and their workers $23.5 million in excessive premiums, according to the state.

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Kaiser buying downtown Sacramento building for $40 million
Sacramento Bee

Kaiser Permanente is spending $40 million on a mostly vacant office building near the new Kings arena in downtown Sacramento, a further sign of the rejuvenation of the central city real estate market.

The health care giant plans to turn the six-story Sacramento Corporate Center into medical offices and an outpatient clinic. The building, at 501 J St., is across the street from the arena scheduled to open in 2016.

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Kaiser buying building near Sacramento arena for medical offices
San Francisco Business Times

Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente is buying a six-story tower in downtown Sacramento that it plans to renovate for medical offices. Kaiser is spending $40 million for a building at 501 J St. that has been largely vacant for years. But it’s in a key location, across the street from the new Sacramento Kings arena, and represents another dramatic development for downtown Sacramento. Kaiser is a partner of the Sacramento Kings as the team’s official provider of medical services.

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Could Kaiser be eyeing railyard for a new hospital?
Sacramento Business Journal

Kaiser Permanente’s acquisition of a building for medical offices near the new arena may not be its last big real estate deal in downtown Sacramento. The next move, many commercial real estate insiders say, could be in the railyard. Kaiser typically starts regional development with a medical office building. Once there’s a solid patient base, an outpatient surgery center follows. When the numbers add up, a hospital is built.

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1 in 5 Eligible Hospitals Penalized for HACs
HealthLeaders Media

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Thursday announced the final list of hospitals that are now receiving a 1% penalty for having the highest rates of preventable complications, effective Oct. 1. In a separate move earlier in the day, the agency updated its Hospital Compare website. The formula that determines the penalties, authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, gives hospital a score from 1 to 10 and is based largely on rates of hospitals’ central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs).

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CVS Health: Making Health More Affordable
The Health Care Blog

More people are getting coverage…but there’s a shortage of doctors. So CVS Health is making health more affordable and accessible. With over 900 MinuteClinic locations for walk-in medical care, open nights and weekends.

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Adventist Health investing $13.3 million in Selma hospital expansion
Fresno Bee

Adventist Health announced this week it will invest $13.3 million to expand services at its hospital in Selma.

The board of the Roseville-based not-for-profit corporation approved funding to add a six-bed intensive care unit, seven additional emergency beds, an isolation room, cardiac catheterization lab and upgrades to the surgery department.

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Simi Valley Hospital is a top performer
Moorpark Acorn

Simi Valley Hospital has been recognized by The Joint Commission as a Top Performer on Key Quality Measures for achieving excellence in performance on its accountability measures for AMI (acute myocardial infraction or heart attack) and pneumonia care during 2013.

The Joint Commission is the leading accreditor of health care organizations in America. The Top Performer program recognizes hospitals for improving performance on evidence-based interventions that increase the chances of healthy outcomes for patients with certain conditions.

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Solano hospitals earn top nursing accreditation
North Bay Business Journal

NorthBay Healthcare on Thursday said it was informed it earned a top accreditation for its two Solano County hospitals from a national organization for quality nursing care.

Dozens of nurses and administrators of the nonprofit hospital system heard during a conference call Thursday morning that NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville have earned the coveted “Magnet” designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center in Maryland, according to an announcement from the health system. It was part of a five-year effort to gain that recognition.

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