News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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5 Things To Know About The Latest Supreme Court Challenge To Health Law
National Public Radio

The Affordable Care Act is once again before the Supreme Court.

On March 4, the justices will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, a case challenging the validity of tax subsidies helping millions of Americans buy health insurance if they don’t get coverage through an employer or the government. If the court rules against the Obama administration, those subsidies could be cut off for everyone in the three dozen states using HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange website. A decision is expected by the end of June.

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New scope-of-practice bill would boost role of nurse practitioners
Sacramento Business Journal

Sen. Ed Hernandez is again trying to change California law so nurse practitioners can do what they are trained for without supervision by a doctor. A similar effort died two years ago due to fierce opposition from the California Medical Association and other doctor groups.

Senate Bill 323 would grant California’s 18,000 nurse practitioners “full practice authority.” A “spot” bill designed to serve as a vehicle for discussion, it does not flush out what this means, but preliminary language suggests authority to diagnose, treat and prescribe medications for patients without physician oversight.

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Report: FBI close to finding Anthem hackers
Sacramento Business Journal

The FBI says it is close to finding hackers responsible for the attack on health-insurance company Anthem Inc. that exposed the personal information of close to 80 million customers, including 13.5 million in California.

According to Bloomberg, FBI officials are still deciding whether to reveal information about the attackers in one of the biggest thefts of medical-related customer data in U.S. history.

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Many Who Got Obamacare Subsidies Now Face Big Tax Bill
KQED Radio

Roberta and Curtis Campbell typically look forward to tax time. Most years, they receive a refund – a little extra cash to pay off credit card bills. But this year the couple got a shock: According to their tax preparer, they owe the IRS more than $6,000.

That’s the money the Campbells received from the federal government last year to make their Obamacare health coverage more affordable. Roberta, unemployed when she signed up for the plan, got a job halfway through the year and Curtis found full-time work.

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Replacing Obamacare presents conundrum for conservatives
Modern Healthcare

Obamacare inspired the usual red-meat rhetoric at the Conservative Political Action Conference just outside Washington on Thursday.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) described it as a “national nightmare.” Amy Frederick, president of the 60 Plus Association, a conservative senior advocacy group, declared that the law’s “DNA is imprinted with lies.” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) vowed to put a “death nail in Obamacare.”

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If Supreme Court says no, they’d lose health insurance help
San Francisco Chronicle

Millions of Americans have a big personal stake in next Wednesday’s Supreme Court challenge to the nation’s health care law: Can they legally continue to get subsidies to help pay for their insurance? If the court says no, people across more than 30 states could lose federal subsidies for their premiums. The legal arguments the justices will hear are complex. Opponents who brought the lawsuit argue the law’s literal wording only allows the government to pay subsidies in states that have set up their own insurance markets, or exchanges.

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Hospitals mount campaign against site-neutral Medicare payments
Modern Healthcare

Hospital leaders are working to head off any momentum in Congress toward overhauling Medicare rates to pay hospitals the same for outpatient services as the program pays for the same services in physician offices. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has pushed site-neutral payment policies for years. The panel will make the same recommendation to lawmakers in its March report, and the change could mean a $1.44 billion annual drop in reimbursement if Congress adopts it.

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CMS says software glitch caused 800,000 faulty IRS forms
Modern Healthcare

A software malfunction caused more than 800,000 HealthCare.gov enrollees to receive incorrect information on tax forms intended to help them determine if the subsidies they collected were too large or too small, an administration official said Thursday.

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Net-neutrality rules set level playing field for data-intense healthcare users
Modern Healthcare

The Federal Communications Commission embraced broad net neutrality rules in a 3-2 vote Thursday that ensures health technology startups and telehealth companies won’t face higher costs for Internet fast lanes. The FCC rules essentially reclassify the Internet as a public utility and will force network carriers to treat all internet traffic equally, prohibiting them from charging extra for faster service or selectively slowing down certain types of traffic.

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Bill pushes more nursing home oversight, transparency
Sacramento Bee

Nursing home owners with poor track records would face tougher scrutiny in California, and consumers would get better information about operators under a bill introduced by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.

Responding to a three-part series published last year in The Sacramento Bee, McCarty said Thursday he wants California to “improve oversight and transparency of the nursing home industry to better protect seniors and their families.

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Growth in outpatient prices raises hospital CPI
Modern Healthcare

The Consumer Price Index for hospital services increased 0.2% last month as outpatient hospital prices edged upward, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

Outpatient hospital prices increased 0.4% last month and offset the 0.1% decline to the inpatient hospital Consumer Price Index for the month. The figures are seasonally adjusted.

The Consumer Price Index is the narrower of two inflation measures the agency releases monthly. It measures the change in prices paid by commercial insurers and patients’ out-of-pocket spending. The Producer Price Index, a broader measure of inflation that includes prices paid by Medicare, Medicaid, private plans and other payers, declined for the first time in its history in January. Low healthcare inflation has helped hold down U.S. healthcare spending.

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New Care Continuum Partnerships
HealthLeaders Media

Despite a history that has included relationships at times friendly and beneficial, and at times antagonistic and costly, hospitals and skilled nursing homes are recognizing the need to develop new partnerships to improve care and control costs.

Though hospitals discharge one in five Medicare patients to these facilities, historically, they often don’t get along, sometimes blaming each other for lapses in care, incomplete or incorrect communication, premature discharges from hospital to nursing facility or nursing facilities to homes, and unreported infections such as C. diff.

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UnitedHealth tightens rules covering hysterectomies
San Luis Obispo Tribune

UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer, said Thursday it is tightening its coverage rules on hysterectomies.

The company says it will require health care professionals and facilities and providers to notify it in advance if they plan to perform some types of hysterectomies. UnitedHealth said in a notice to providers it won’t approve the procedure if it concludes that the operation isn’t medically necessary.

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San Pablo confirms details of its offer to buy some Doctors Medical Center properties
Vallejo Times-Herald

The City Council earlier this week issued a revised set of deal points, offering to buy a package of Doctors Medical Center off-campus properties for $7.5 million cash.

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TVHD selects Adventist in affiliation process
Tehachapi News

After a thorough presentation and robust discussion, the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District selected Adventist Health as its choice to enter round two of a proposed affiliation.

The board, district management and consultant Quorum Healthcare Resources said that it would be an ideal fit based on the responses to TVHD’s request proposal from both Adventist and Dignity Health.

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Expansion of Ukiah hospital approved
Ukiah Daily Journal

The Ukiah Planning Commission unanimously approved the permits requested by Ukiah Valley Medical Center in order to move its emergency department and helicopter landing site.

“This will relocate the Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit from the front of the hospital to the rear of the building to separate it from the main flow of the building,” Planning Director Charley Stump told the commission to introduce the project.

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