News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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ACA repeal would hit for-profit ratings: Moody’s
Modern Healthcare

A repeal of the Patient and Protection and Affordable Care Act would disproportionately hurt the credit ratings of for-profit hospitals, according to a report from Moody’s Investors Service.

The report singled out for-profit chains HCA, Nashville; Community Health Systems, Brentwood, Tenn.; and Tenet Healthcare Corp., Dallas, as the largest acute-care operators. If the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down some or all of the healthcare law, these hospital systems will face increasing numbers of uninsured patients running up medical bills they can’t pay, the report said.

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Groups Urge Caution on 45 Standards of Care
Health Leaders Media

In an effort to promote care that is necessary and supported by evidence, nine physician societies on Wednesday identified a total of 45 tests and treatments they say should be questioned by physicians and patients because of the potential for needless cost, waste, and harm.

The “Choosing Wisely” campaign, launched by the American Board of Internal Medicine, has been seeking consensus on types of care that are overused or unnecessary, but which remain the standard of care in many physician practices.

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Corcoran hospital still exploring options
Hanford Sentinel

District hospital leadership in Corcoran said it wants to remain independent, but they may still find a way to partner with Adventist Health to create a bigger, better rural health clinic, CEO Jonathan Brenn said this week. At least that’s an option Brenn says he will be pitching to the board as part of discussions expected at Thursday’s monthly meeting. The future of Corcoran District Hospital has been in flux for months.

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California health insurance exchange moving ahead
San Francisco Chronicle

When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, was signed into law, two years ago almost to the day, California quickly got the ball rolling. It was the first state to set up the reform bill’s core feature, a health benefits exchange – a marketplace for consumers and small businesses to pick and choose among various insurance plans – that is scheduled to open in 2014.

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Salinas Valley Memorial narrows affiliation list to two
Monterey Herald

Two potential affiliation partners remain for Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital — county-owned Natividad Medical Center and for-profit hospital management company HCA Healthcare.

By a 4-1 vote Wednesday, the Salinas Valley Memorial board of trustees chose both organizations to proceed to the second phase of the hospital’s affiliation review. Board member Nathan Olivas cast the dissenting vote after arguing the process was moving too quickly.

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$1.185 million for county health care projects
Willits News

$1.185 million for county health care projects The board of supervisors approved a five-year $1.185 million agreement last week to implement the federal Community Transformation Initiative in Mendocino County. “Community Transformation Initiative’s core grant belief,” Director of Health and Human Services Stacey Cryer told supervisors, “is that communities have the power to shape their own health and well-being.”

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ACA Repeal Would Squeeze For-Profit Hospitals
Health Leaders Media

If the Affordable Care Act is fully or partially nullified by the US Supreme Court, for-profit hospital operators will face a credit-negative situation as costs increase and profit margins shrink, according to a special comment report from Moody’s Investors Service.

That could be detrimental to the credit position of for-profit, acute-care hospital operators such as Community Health Systems, HCA, and Tenet Healthcare Corp., which could find themselves with less cash flow available to reduce debt.

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Cancer diagnosis raises risk of heart attack and suicide, study says
Los Angeles Times

Cancer can kill long before malignant tumors take their toll, new research shows. A study involving more than 6 million Swedes reveals that the risk of suicide and cardiovascular death increases immediately after a cancer diagnosis.

Within the first week of being told they had cancer, patients were 12.6 times more likely to commit suicide than people of similar backgrounds who were cancer-free.

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US prescription spending again nearly flat
San Francisco Chronicle

Spending on prescription drugs in the U.S. was nearly flat in 2011 at $320 billion, held down by senior citizens and others reducing use of medicines and other health care and by greater use of cheaper generic pills. Last year, spending on prescription drugs rose just 0.5 percent after adjusting for inflation and population growth, according to data firm IMS Health. Without those adjustments, spending increased 3.7 percent last year. The volume of prescriptions filled fell about 1 percent.

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Aetna mistakenly tells 8,000 customers their doctors were dropped from coverage
Sacramento Bee

Thousands of Aetna customers across the state, including many in the Sacramento region, were mistakenly sent letters this week telling them that their health care provider is no longer covered in the network and that they need to find new doctors.

More than 8,000 Aetna customers were sent the form letters from the Hartford, Conn.-based health insurance company and have been receiving them in the mail over the past few days.

Since then, patients have been calling their doctors and the insurance company to find out if they are still covered.

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Survey results: Many want court to reject health care reform
Sacramento Business Journal

Our Business Pulse Survey this week asked: How do you think the Supreme Court should vote on health care reform? Health care reform apparently is a hot topic for our readers, just as it is with the rest of the country. Out of 857 votes, a majority of those voting said that the Supreme Court should reject the entire Affordable Care Act. Another 32 percent said the entire law should be upheld.

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Palm Drive Hospital OKs purchase of digital mammography machine
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Palm Drive Hospital is moving ahead with the purchase of a digital mammography machine that will allow the cash-strapped hospital to offer new medical services and generate revenue.

The Sebastopol hospital is also taking immediate steps to stem losses that are expected to amount to a $750,000 deficit when the fiscal year ends June 30.

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Mission Community Hospital’s San Fernando campus on a new path
Los Angeles Daily News

Mission Community Hospital is transforming its nearly century-old San Fernando campus into a primary and specialty care clinic that will employee about 65 people, officials said Tuesday.

The facility, which dates back to 1923, is also being renamed San Fernando Community Health Centers.

“It’s going to be a tremendous help to the community. This is an underserved area,” said Jack Lahidjani, president of Deanco Healthcare LLC, which provides management services to the hospital and is in the process of acquiring it.

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Volunteers make a difference at free clinic

Sixty-two-year-old Mary Haralson’s right hand and wrist have gone numb…probably from years of carrying heavy trays of dishes as a waitress. She can’t afford to see a doctor, so she relies on a free clinic in Indio called Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine (CVVIM). “I love it here because they’re so nice and so helpful and they don’t look down at you because you don’t have money,” Haralson says. “They help everyone. They’ve never made me feel awful about being in my predicament.“

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Doc groups list often-unnecessary tests, procedures
Modern Healthcare

Nine medical societies have identified five tests and procedures in their respective fields that they say are commonly ordered but often unnecessary.

The physician organizations, including the American Society of Nephrology and the American Academy of Family Physicians, are part of Choosing Wisely, a collaborative initiative led by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation and Consumer Reports. The project, launched in December, is aimed at decreasing healthcare misuse and overuse.

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Americans Cutting Back on Drugs and Doctor Visits
New York Times

Patients cut back on prescription drugs and doctor visits last year, a sign that many Americans are still struggling to pay for health care, according to a study released Wednesday by a health industry research group. The report, issued by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, said 2011 was also a breakthrough year for the drug industry, which introduced 34 new medicines, the most in a decade, to treat diseases including cancer, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C and others.

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Supreme Court begins hearings for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act
UCLA Daily-Bruin

Joey Pedroza waived his University of California health insurance plan at the beginning of the school year because he was already covered by his parents’ insurance.

Pedroza, a first-year political science student, said he had peace of mind that he would be able to stay on the plan until age 26 under the Affordable Care Act, which passed in 2010.

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Desert Regional Medical Center to lose chief development officer
The Desert Sun

Clifford Daniels, chief development officer at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, is leaving the hospital for a new position in Arcadia.

Daniels has accepted a new job as senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Methodist Hospital of Southern California, he told The Desert Sun in a phone interview today.

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The Greatest Health Risk to Children? No, It’s Not Drugs
KQED Radio

Nearly half of people surveyed in a poll released today say an unhealthy diet combined with lack of physical activity are the greatest health risks facing California children today. In addition, almost three in four respondents to the Field Poll — 73 percent — said prevention efforts, while starting with the family, must extend to the broader community, including health care providers, schools, community organizations and beyond — to food and beverage companies and fast food restaurants.

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Court holds fate of health care in its hands
Visialia Times-Delta

A series of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act has reached the Supreme Court. The final decision, due Ôªøin June, could have a profound impact upon the presidential election. Reversal of the Afford-able Care Act, President Barack Obama’s most ambitious legislative achievement, could provide a strong argument for his Republican opponent to argue wasted time, wasted effort and even a violation of the oath of office to uphold the Constitution.