News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospitals, Urgent Care Centers Find Common Ground
HealthLeaders Media

Over the past decade, health systems and hospitals have been adapting to a challenging market reality: the rise of “retail medicine.”

Traditional healthcare provider organizations have faced vexing market dynamics on two fronts: retail clinics at sites such as pharmacies that offer a relatively limited suite of services, and urgent care centers capable of treating most non-life-threatening conditions.

With few areas of direct competition in core services, hospitals and health systems have largely embraced peaceful co-existence with retail clinics, but urgent care centers have been more daunting.

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MRI safety targeted as new group offers credentialing test
Modern Healthcare

A new group of experts in magnetic resonance safety have created a credentialing test for technicians and radiologists aimed at reducing adverse events like the so-called missile effect, when the machine’s powerful magnetic field sucks an object into the scanner at high speed. The American Board of Magnetic Resonance Safety, a not-for-profit organization launched Monday, says existing guidelines are too device-specific, assess organizations rather than individuals and lean toward “polite suggestions” rather than strict standards.

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Big health data will turn over responsibility from doctor to patient
VentureBeat

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, used to point out that from the dawn of civilization to 2003 there were a total of one billion gigabytes of data. That seems an eon ago. Now the same amount of data is created almost every day with more to come. And much of this data will be generated from human biological and psychological sources. With genome sequencing, especially low-cost and high-throughput, we can trace and associate genes with all thinkable diseases and syndromes. Behaviors can be linked to mutations and symptoms tied to epigenetic marks.

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Americans protest Obamacare by refusing health insurance subsidies
HealthLeaders Media

Grace Brewer says she never thought she would be without health insurance at this stage of her life. “I’m a casualty of Obamacare,” says Brewer, 60, a self-employed chiropractor in the Kansas City, Kansas, area. She wanted to keep the catastrophic health insurance plan she once had, which she says fit her needs. But under the Affordable Care Act, the government’s health care reform law, the plan was discontinued because it did not comply with the law’s requirements, and her bills doubled to more than $400 a month. “I wanted a minimal plan and I?m not allowed to have it,” she says. “That seems like an encroachment on my freedom.”

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Quiet year in terms of tax changes, but ACA provides twist
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama’s signature health care law will bring a new twist to tax-filing in 2015, a year in which much else will seem familiar when you’re working on your return. “It’s been a very quiet season or tax year” in terms of congressional action, says Bob Meighan, vice president of customer advocacy at TurboTax, the tax-preparation software company. Sure, there have been adjustments for inflation in the tax tables, standard deduction and value of each exemption.

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More Evidence Obamacare is Good For White People
The Health Care Blog

The latest Gallup and Healthways poll doesn’t phrase it this way, but its findings that the Affordable Care Act “appears to be meeting its goal of reducing the percentage of Americans without health insurance” is more evidence Obamacare is good for white people.

In an interview with National Public Radio at the end of last year, President Obama was asked whether he and the Democrats had lost support among white voters. He denied it, comparing his share of the white vote favorably to that John Kerry in 2004 and pointing to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a program that benefited working-class white voters without many realizing it. I’d written much the same thing about Obamacare in a THCB blog post a couple of weeks before the 2012 presidential election. But as with other issues related to race, it’s a topic that the president has only reluctantly discussed, even when good policy is also good politics.

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HCA boosts insurance exchange contracts 37%, reaffirms outlook
Modern Healthcare

Publicly traded hospital chain HCA has increased the number of payers it contracts with in the federal insurance exchanges this year despite the U.S. Supreme Court question mark overhanging premium subsidies on those exchanges.HCA’s exchange contracts are up 37% for 2015, HCA CEO Milton Johnson told investors at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Most notably, HCA has added UnitedHealthcare in Texas. And in Florida, HCA hospitals plan to accept exchange patients from Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare.

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Older diabetics face overtreatment risks
Modern Healthcare

Many older adults with diabetes may be overtreated for their disease, potentially leaving them more susceptible to more serious health threats as a result of adverse effects from medication, a new study warns.Many adults reach a hemoglobin A1C level, a measure of blood sugar, of below 7%, including among adults ages 65 and older who are relatively healthy, suggest recommendations from the American Diabetes Association (PDF).

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Are hep C exclusivity deals taking power from doctors?
Modern Healthcare

Exclusivity deals for hepatitis C drugs by pharmacy benefit managers and a major health plan have raised concerns that the decision of which drug is best for a patient is being taken away from clinicians.Last week Anthem became the first payer to announce an exclusivity deal for a hepatitis C drug. As part of the pact, beneficiaries must try Gilead Sciences’ Harvoni before trying any other treatment for hepatitis C genotype 1, which accounts for up to 75% of all U.S. cases.

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Got help paying for health care? Watch your mailbox
San Francisco Chronicle

If you’re among the millions of consumers who got financial help for health insurance last year under President Barack Obama’s law, better keep an eye on your mailbox. The administration said Monday it has started sending out tax reporting forms that you’ll need to fill out your 2014 return. Like W-2s for health care, they’re for people who got health insurance tax credits provided under the law.

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What’s So Great About Retail Health Clinics?
HealthLeaders Media

For hospitals and health systems, relationships with retail clinics are a relatively easy sell: They help boost patient volume for inpatient and outpatient services while effectively outsourcing basic healthcare services such as vaccinations.

James Parobek, SVP of operations for Arlington, TX-based Texas Health Physicians Group, says affiliations between hospitals and retail clinics benefit both sides of the healthcare partnership and their patients.

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Up to speed: Aetna plans to raise wages, improve health offerings for lowest-paid employees (Video)
Sacramento Business Journal

The health insurer Aetna plans to raise its company wage floor to $16 per hour, which will increase the pay for about 12 percent of its U.S. workers, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. Those employees, who mainly work in customer service or billing, also will have their health-care costs cut sometime next year, the report said.

CEO Mark Bertolini cast the moves as a bid to remain competitive with other insurers, and was quoted in the report saying that Aetna (NYSE: AET) needs “a better and more informed workforce.” Bertolini went on to tell the WSJ that as the nation’s economy continues to improve, he expects the workers who tend to populate those jobs to have many more options, and so this is a preemptive move to keep them.

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Trinity Health, Heritage Provider Network Announce Joint Venture
HealthLeaders Media

Trinity Health System, an 86-hospital system active across 21 states, is joining forces with the 34,000-physician Heritage Provider Network to provide population health management in select markets throughout the country.

The joint venture, will be called Trinity Health Partners. “Trinity Health’s strategic plan calls for us to become a people-centered health system that extends beyond just providing acute and post-acute care,” Richard J. Gilfillan, MD, president and CEO of Trinity Health said Monday. Based in Livonia, MI, Trinity is one of the nation’s largest Catholic health systems.

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