News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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White House proposes $215 million, new regs for precision medicine
Modern Healthcare

The White House is proposing $215 million in new funds and new regulations in a sweeping effort involving the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to help fulfill the promise of what President Barack Obama has termed precision medicine.

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CMS bends on reporting periods for meaningful use
Modern Healthcare

The CMS just blinked in the ongoing cold war between providers and the agency over meaningful-use requirements for electronic health-record systems.

The CMS announced Thursday that it is considering proposals to shorten the meaningful-use reporting period to 90 days in 2015, something providers and others have been requesting.

Shortening the period essentially means providers can meet the meaningful-use requirements and avoid financial penalties with software in place for less time than is currently required.

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Stanford nabs $50 million grant for new approaches to vaccines
San Francisco Business Times

A new Stanford University unit, funded by a $50 million, 10-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will try to find new and better ways to develop vaccines for a wide range of diseases. The grant award, announced Thursday, will establish the Stanford Human Systems Immunology Center to learn more about the immune system and the best ways for vaccines to harness the body’s army for fighting off viruses and other invaders.

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Barriers to More Healthcare Reform Are Numerous
HealthLeaders Media

The lack of greater movement toward universal healthcare coverage — especially a single-payer system — in the U.S. can be boiled down to four letters: AFIG, according to Philip Caper, MD.

The “A” stands for Apathy, Caper said Wednesday during a briefing on barriers to healthcare reform sponsored by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). Caper is with Maine AllCare, an organization devoted to getting universal healthcare in Maine.

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Recession drove more companies to scrap healthcare coverage
The Hill

The number of private companies that offer healthcare benefits has fallen in the last decade, according to new research, with the sharpest drop coming just as the U.S. was beginning to feel the recession.

Just less than half of private workers said they could purchase healthcare coverage through their jobs in 2013, compared to 55.7 percent in 2005, a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows.

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Obamacare enrollment in California: Anthem leads, Kaiser draws closer
Los Angeles Times

Insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross leads Obamacare enrollment in California, but Kaiser Permanente is gaining on its archrival. Anthem Inc., the nation’s second-largest health insurer, has signed up 353,635 people, or 29.1% of Covered California enrollment through Jan. 15. That figure includes 2014 renewals and new enrollees since November.

Covered California declined to release this company data Wednesday, but The Times obtained the information from a public-records request.

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Obama’s ‘precision medicine’ initiative gets Bay Area face
San Francisco Business Times

As President Barack Obama offers more details on a “precision medicine” plan outlined in last week’s State of the Union speech, the Bay Area will have strong representation Friday at the White House and as a growing number of local companies seek to blend health care and Big Data.

Two UCSF officials — vice chancellor of research Keith Yamamoto and neurotrauma expert Dr. Geoffrey Manley — are expected to attend Obama’s announcement. They will join other academics, scientists and biomedical company officials at the rollout of a program that reportedly will include a huge “biobank” of medical records and genetic information.

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Employers caught in limbo with Sutter Health, Blue Shield rift
Sacramento Business Journal

Brokers and employers remained in limbo as a nasty contract dispute between Sutter Health and Blue Shield of California stretched into its fourth week. As of late Wednesday, the two sides were still talking. If they don’t reach a deal, as many as 280,000 patients across Northern California — including 31,000 in the Sacramento region — may have to change doctors or their health plan. Some employers knew negotiations weren’t going well and had a heads-up before the contract expired Dec. 31.

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Medicare Payment Reforms Spark Calls for Sweeter Incentives
HealthLeaders Media

Today, more than half of Medicare payments are linked to quality measures, such as those that depend on performance in the value-based purchasing and readmissions programs, or in innovative structure like the four bundled payment models and ACOs.

But the Obama Administration’s pledge Monday to raise that level to 85% by 2016 and to 90% by 2018—and from 20% to 30% for payments made to providers participating in accountable care and bundled payment models—may be an impossible goal. At least without some major changes to the rules, several healthcare analysts say.

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CMS proposes broader Medicare coverage for HIV screening
Modern Healthcare

The CMS has granted tentative coverage for HIV screening of all beneficiaries without regard to perceived risk behavior, it announced via a proposed national coverage memo. “CMS concludes that screening for HIV infection provides direct benefit to the Medicare population,” the agency says in its decision memo. “Evidence is adequate to conclude that screening for HIV infection for all individuals between the ages of 15 and 65 years … is reasonable and necessary for the early detection of HIV.”

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Kaiser reaching out to the unvaccinated as measles cases multiply
Modern Healthcare

A major California health provider, spurred on by the rising number of measles cases in the state, is taking the offensive to encourage unvaccinated patients to get the vaccine.“We do not want a single case of measles if we can help it,” said Dr. Robert Riewerts, regional chief of pediatrics for Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

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Some doctors won’t see patients with anti-vaccine views
San Diego Union-Tribune

With California gripped by a measles outbreak, Dr. Charles Goodman posted a clear notice in his waiting room and on Facebook: His practice will no longer see children whose parents won’t get them vaccinated.

“Parents who choose not to give measles shots, they’re not just putting their kids at risk, but they’re also putting other kids at risk — especially kids in my waiting room,” the Los Angeles pediatrician said.

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Medical Necessity and Unnecessary Care
The Health Care Blog

Unnecessary care that’s not evidence-based—usually associated with excess testing, surgical procedures or over-prescribing—accounts for up to 30% of what is spent in healthcare. In recent months, enforcement actions against physicians and hospitals have gained increased attention. But unnecessary care and over-utilization is not a new story or one that’s easy to understand. Medical necessity means something slightly different in every part of the healthcare industry.

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After Sen. Bill Monning introduces End of Life Option Act, local docs and faith leaders line up
Monterey Herald

The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas famously beseeched his father in his 1951 poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night./ Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” It’s remained a powerful refrain, one that appears in pop culture references as a rallying cry against human frailty (most recently in the film Interstellar, where the lines serve as a pep talk across time and space). Even hospice care, first introduced in the U.S.

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Supervisors approve $195,000-a-year contract to market hospital
The Press-Enterprise

An Orange County advertising firm stands to earn almost $1 million from Riverside County to market the county-run hospital to patients who now have more treatment options through Obamacare. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a contract with Johnson Gray Advertising to provide website and marketing services for Riverside County Regional Medical Center. The contract worth $195,000 can be renewed annually for up to four years, making the deal potentially worth $975,000.

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Children’s hospital reaches agreement with insurance companies
Visialia Times-Delta

Beginning today, 4,500 Valley Children’s Hospital patients were set to lose coverage. But following an agreement between the hospital and three insurance companies, a large amount of those affected patients will continue to get care from the medical center.

Valley Children’s Hospital’s contract with Fresno-based Santé Community Physicians ended today. Santé manages a group of physicians and HMO plans, including those with Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare. They also manage plans through Aetna, Cigna and Health Net.

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