News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospital Rating Systems Differ on Best and Worst
New York Times

Four popular national rating systems used by consumers to judge hospitals frequently come to very different conclusions about which hospitals are the best — or worst — potentially adding to the confusion over health care quality, rather than alleviating it, a new study shows.

The analysis, published on Monday in the academic journal Health Affairs, looked at hospital ratings from two publications, U.S. News & World Report and Consumer Reports; Healthgrades, a Denver company; and the Leapfrog Group, an employer-financed nonprofit organization.

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First analysis of Medicare bundled payments: Check back next year
Modern Healthcare

Medicare’s bundled payments initiatives are designed to reduce costs and improve care for beneficiaries. But the first analysis of whether the alternative payment model is succeeding provides few definitive findings.

“We are limited in our ability to draw conclusions about the effects of (the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement program) because of the small sample sizes and short time-frames,” reads the report, which was drafted by the Lewin Group.  “As a result, this first Annual Report may be better thought of as the outline for future analyses as more participants enter BPCI and gain greater experiences under the initiative.”

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10 Reasons Why CMS’s Cancer Payment Model Could Fail
HealthLeaders Media

The goals for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Oncology Care Model are laudable: to decrease costs while increasing efficiency, to support the practice or evidence-based medicine, and to support earlier palliative care.

But some oncologists and practice analysts say the payment model is laced with perverse incentives and presumptions that may doom it to fail.

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GOP Faults Shift Of Funds To HealthCare.Gov From NIH And CDC
National Public Radio

House Republicans are questioning why the Obama administration transferred money last year from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to pay for the operation of the federal health insurance marketplace.

“Now it appears that we are robbing Peter to pay Paul in order to finance the disaster that is HealthCare.Gov,” said Rep. Jody Hice, a Republican congressman from suburban Atlanta.

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Lawyer Put Health Act in Peril by Pointing Out 4 Little Words
New York Times

The first lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act were still in the early stages, but conservative lawyers were already working on a backup plan in December 2010 if the first line of attack failed.

It was Thomas M. Christina, an employment benefits lawyer from Greenville, S.C., who found a new vulnerability in the sprawling law. “I noticed something peculiar about the tax credit,” he told a gathering of strategists at the American Enterprise Institute.

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If you don’t have health insurance, you may have to pay a penalty
Washington Post

A “teachable moment” is one way to describe the consternation that people may feel when they file their taxes this spring and realize they may owe a penalty for not having health insurance.

According to a new survey, the number of people who may need to be schooled is substantial: Forty-four percent of uninsured people who may be subject to the penalty say they know nothing or only a little about the penalty they may face.

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‘Cadillac’ tax likely to diminish union health plans, study finds
Modern Healthcare

Health plans obtained through union collective bargaining agreements often include much more generous benefits than other employer-sponsored plans. But such benefits are likely to be pared down as the Affordable Care Act’s excise tax nears, a new study in Health Affairs contends.That excise tax, often called the “Cadillac” tax, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2018.

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What Can Meaningful Use Learn From Healthcare.gov?
The Health Care Blog

The US has spent several billion dollars on medical records, as part of the HITECH program. The goal of that spend was simple: portable medical records for patients. On our current path, we will have medical records, but without that magic word: “portable.” Ironically, the reason for this is identical to the root-cause of the problems with healthcare.gov The root-cause of the initial failure of healthcare.gov was a lack of accountability and empowerment.

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Supreme Court Challenge to Federal Health Law Won’t Affect California, Experts Say
capital public radio

Health policy experts say the upcoming Supreme Court hearing regarding the Affordable Care Act will not affect health insurance subsidies for Californians. But a ruling against the law could confuse people.

The King versus Burwell challenge at the U.S. Supreme Court deals with subsidies for coverage in states where the exchanges are federally-run.

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Medicare Imaging Standards Include Payment Penalty
HealthLeaders Media

Healthcare providers are bracing for new Medicare computed tomography (CT) scan standards that are set to go into effect next year.

The new rules, which embrace medical-imaging industry standards and which were adopted under the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, include Medicare payment penalties for noncompliance. Starting Jan. 1, 2016, CT scans conducted with noncompliant machinery will take a 5% Medicare payment hit.

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‘Extreme’ disagreement seen across hospital ratings sites
Modern Healthcare

Consumers should consider more than one rating site before making a decision about a hospital. That’s because facilities deemed high performers by one group might also be among the worst performers on another, according to a study looking at four hospital ratings programs.

“We were expecting a lack of agreement on some level, but we were surprised by how little agreement there was overall,” said Matt Austin, an assistant professor at the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at John’s Hopkins. He’s lead author of the new study in Health Affairs which revealed disparate outcomes for more than 800 hospitals across the four ratings sites evaluated.

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Nation’s top doctor visits Los Angeles, examines public health concerns
Los Angeles Daily News

America’s newly appointed top doctor made a house call to Los Angeles County on Monday to examine the region and to gather as much information as he could to help him assess the nation’s most pressing public health concerns.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was confirmed in December as the 19th U.S. surgeon general, toured the new outpatient center of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in the Willowbrook neighborhood and spoke with community and faith leaders as well as public health officials on various health issues.

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Kaiser Permanente will open new medical office in Tehachapi
KERO

Kaiser Permanente announced Monday morning that a new medical office building is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015 in Tehachapi. The outpatient facility will be located at 1100 W. Tehachapi Blvd., Tehachapi. In a statement sent to 23ABC, Kaiser Permamente’s Kern County Medical Center Executive Director David Womack said, “Kaiser Permanente’s Mobile Health Vehicle (MHV) has been providing care in Tehachapi to Kaiser Permanente members since March of 2012.

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Children’s Hospital Oakland Plans Major Campus Renovation
East Bay Express

Children’s Hospital Oakland is moving forward with plans to rebuild its North Oakland campus, with city officials releasing new documents outlining the potential environmental impacts of the project. The hospital, which is required to upgrade its facilities to meet state earthquake safety standards, has proposed major renovations to its main campus on 52nd Street in North Oakland, including a number of demolition and construction projects.

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New Chief Of Staff Elected At UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica
Santa Monica Mirror

UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica has a new chief of chief of staff: Dr. Roger Lee, a hospitalist physician who specializes in treating patients who are hospitalized.

He also serves as chair of the hospital’s Medicine Department, a position he has held since 2009.

For the past three years, he had served as secretary-treasurer on the hospital’s Executive Medical Board.

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Ailing East Bay safety-net hospital desperate for multimillion-dollar lifeline
San Francisco Business Times

Doctors Medical Center may really be on its deathbed this time. The safety-net hospital in San Pablo has been in danger of closing its doors many times over the last 25 years. But now officials say that unless they receive a multimillion-dollar miracle soon, they’ll have to shutter the ailing facility. “It’s really a miracle we need,” Eric Zell, the hospital board’s chairman, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Who’s going to voluntarily give us money without wanting anything in return?”

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SVH’s ‘aches and pains’ clinics start Thursday
Sonoma Index-Tribune

Sonoma Valley Hospital is offering two more sessions of its popular “Aches and Pains” clinics in March. There is no charge for Sonoma Valley residents, but pre-registration is required. The Neck and Shoulder Pains Clinic will be held on Thursday, March 5, while the Hip and Lower Back Pains Clinic will be held on Thursday, March 12.

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Doctors Medical Center needs a miracle to survive
San Francisco Chronicle

Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, the only public hospital between Berkeley and Vallejo, has been on the brink of closure many times, but its leaders finally appear ready to pull the plug unless it receives what amounts to a financial miracle. The failing hospital last week received a jolt of cash — $7.5 million from the sale of real estate owned by the hospital — but that was just enough to pay its employees and avoid starting to close down over the weekend.

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Miller Children’s Hospital to Open New Pediatric Nephrology and Urology Center
Long Beach Post

For Elizabeth Nario, life in a wheelchair hasn’t held her back.

The 20-year-old has been a patient of Miller Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Urology and Nephrology Program since she was just a few days old, when she was diagnosed with spina bifida.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, spina bifida is the most common neural tube defect in the United States, with an estimated 166,000 people in the country living with the condition. It occurs in about seven of every 10,000 babies born in the U.S.

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Plan to reopen Palm Drive moves forward
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

One of the first things you’ll notice about the future Sonoma West Medical Center are the new floors, revamped medical station, reconfigured patient rooms and donated artwork adorning the newly painted walls at the shuttered Sebastopol facility. Less visible, however, is a plan to revive the former Palm Drive Hospital by making it into something much more than a traditional acute care inpatient hospital, a model that has failed twice, resulting in two Chapter 9 bankruptcies.

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