News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Physicians’ ICD-10 Fears ‘Unfounded,’ Says AHIMA
HealthLeaders Media

The call by 100 physicians’ societies across the nation for a backup plan if snafus snarl the scheduled ICD-10 rollout in eight months suggests that doctors are reconciled to the Oct. 1 start for the diagnostic coding set, the leader of one health information technology trade group says.

The American Medical Association and 99 state and specialty societies, in a March 4 letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andrew Slavitt, express concerns that no contingency plans are in place to avoid failures that could result “in a significant, multi-billion dollar disruption for physicians and serious access-to-care issues for Medicare patients.”

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Leading by Empowering: Nurses and Patient Satisfaction Scores
HealthLeaders Media

Leaders at Winston-Salem, North Carolina–based Novant Health had identified a big problem, and it started with its nurses. According to a strategic plan that was meant to guide Novant toward a population-based business model — which some say is a fancy name for capitation — nurses weren’t spending enough time in direct patient care. Results from an internal survey that measured time at the bedside were shocking to anyone who envisions nursing as a patient-care profession.

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In Forecasting Health Costs, Let Technology Be Your Guide
New York Times

The expansion of health care insurance can drive the development of new technologies that can drive up health care spending. But it doesn’t have to.

By historical standards, health spending growth has been low since 2002. As the federal and state governments expand health insurance coverage, will this relatively low growth continue? The answer depends in large part on how investments in health care technology are encouraged.

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FDA OKs Novartis’ copy of Amgen’s Neupogen cancer drug
Los Angeles Business Journal

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first biosimilar drug in the U.S., Novartis AG’s version of Amgen Inc.’s Neupogen cancer drug, paving the way for cheaper therapies to treat diseases. The decision is a blow for Thousand Oaks-based Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN), which posted about $1.2 billion in global sales last year for Neupogen, a drug that treats cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy by increasing their white blood cell counts.

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Race, Ethnicity and Patient Engagement
The Health Care Blog

A few years ago, I was upgraded to First Class on a flight from California back to Chicago. Not long after I settled in, a tall, muscular man easily four inches taller than me walked up to my aisle seat in the first row and prepared to sit by the window. I envisioned him spending hours hemmed in by the bulkhead and offered to switch places. We began to talk, and soon he shared that his seatmates often hesitate to engage him in conversation.

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More Latinos And Young People Receive Health Insurance Through Covered California
capital public radio

Almost 500,000 people signed up for individual health insurance during the three-month open enrollment period that ended in February.

The vast majority of enrollees are getting government subsidies to help pay for their coverage. Covered California says consumers’ choice of insurance carriers shows that “price matters.”

Medi-Cal enrollment surpassed the private insurance marketplace.

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Does the ACA Actually Mandate Free Checkups?
The Health Care Blog

“Where in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) does it mandate that every health insurance policy must include a free annual checkup?”

I posed this question to Al Lewis and Vik Khanna in the comments of their recent post entitled: The High Cost of Free Checkups, where they argue against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that requires “free checkups for everyone.” They cite a recent New York Times Op-ed authored by ACA co-architect, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, that essentially debunks the link between annual checkups and overall health outcomes. For Lewis and Khanna the solution is simple, we need to “remove the ACA provision that makes annual checkups automatically immune from deductibles and copays.” But for me there’s an enormous problem with their argument: The ACA doesn’t actually have any such provision.

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After hours: Health care forum
Sacramento Business Journal

Health care experts joined a panel discussion organized by the Sacramento Business Journal on the future of the industry. Speakers touched on the financial challenges put on the health care industry, as more people are covered by health insurance, and especially Medi-Cal. Panelists included: Sutter Medical Center CEO Carrie Owen Plietz, UC Davis Medical Center chief operating officer Vincent Johnson, Dignity Health senior vice president of operations Laurie Harting, Kaiser Permanente senior vice president and area manager Ron Groepper and California Medical Association president and

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AP Analysis: Why does health overhaul drama continue?
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama’s health overhaul remains an all-consuming drama for many, even though millions of people are gaining insurance coverage through a law that’s now 5 years old. During oral arguments last week in the latest Supreme Court case brought by the law’s opponents, Justice Elena Kagan called it a “never-ending saga.” Five reasons why the “Obamacare” epic plays on:

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Brown plan may cut state retiree health payment
Calpensions

Something that rarely happens in California could result from Gov. Brown’s proposal to contain growing state worker retiree health care costs — benefits received by current government retirees might be reduced.

Part of the governor’s proposal allows state workers to choose a new low-cost health plan, increasing take-home pay. If enough choose the new option, the average cost of four health plans used to set retiree health care insurance payments would be lowered.

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Premium subsidies case could end federal Medicaid funding in many states
Modern Healthcare

Millions of Medicaid beneficiaries could lose their benefits if the Supreme Court rules against the Obama administration in the King v. Burwell premium subsidies case, some legal experts and state Medicaid officials say. On the other hand, the ruling might force states that have reduced Medicaid benefits to restore them.

While it’s widely known that millions of Americans likely would have to drop their private insurance if the high court invalidates the subsidies in states using the federal exchange, the potential impact on Medicaid beneficiaries has been little discussed. Experts say the fallout would affect both beneficiaries who are newly eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of the program and those who previously were eligible.

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Rural hospitals get billions in extra Medicare funds
Modern Healthcare

A law that allows rural hospitals to bill Medicare for rehabilitation services for seniors at higher rates than nursing homes and other facilities has led to billions of dollars in extra government spending, federal investigators say.

Most patients could have been moved to a skilled-nursing facility within 35 miles of the hospital at about one-fourth the cost, HHS‘ inspector general said in a report being released Monday.

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Measles outbreak: Bay Area day cares show high rates of unvaccinated kids
The Mercury News

With new measles cases continuing to surface every week, Bay Area parents are still on high alert.

While much of the recent attention has focused on kindergartners who aren’t fully immunized, preschools and day cares may also be beds of infection, state data show.

In Santa Clara County, 12 percent of preschoolers and day care kids 2 and older were not up-to-date on their shots at the beginning of this school year.

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Outpatient and hospital employment grows, but nursing-care jobs cut
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare employers added 23,800 jobs in February as physician offices and other ambulatory settings continued to propel the growth.

However, the month-over-month job growth last month was the lowest total since September, when healthcare gained 22,600 jobs. The slowdown may be explained in part by the severe winter weather that has ravaged most of the country, especially the East Coast.

Although ambulatory facilities and hospitals hired more workers in February, nursing homes and residential-care facilities cut jobs, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nursing homes and residential-care employment fell by 4,800. In January, nursing homes and residential-care facilities added 7,000 monthly jobs. The subsector still added 34,500 jobs in the year that ended in February, a 1% increase.

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The Gentle Cesarean: More Like A Birth Than An Operation
National Public Radio

There are many reasons women need cesareans. Sometimes the situation is truly life threatening. But often the problem is labor simply isn’t progressing. That was the case for Valerie Echo Duckett, 35, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. After receiving an epidural for pain, Duckett’s contractions stopped. By late evening she was told she’d need a C-section to deliver her son, Avery. Duckett says she has vague memories of being wheeled into the OR, strapped down and shaking from cold.

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Novartis cancer drug gets FDA’s first ‘biosimilar’ nod
Modern Healthcare

Federal regulators have approved the first “biosimilar” drug to be sold in the U.S. under a program intended to spur a new market of lower-cost alternatives to some of the most expensive treatments in healthcare.The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the drug Zarxio, a cancer drug produced by Novartis unit Sandoz as a biosimilar alternative to Amgen’s biologic drug Neupogen.While many see Zarxio’s approval as a crucial first step, a number of unanswered questions may determine how big of a foothold biosimilars ultimately gain in the U.S.

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Blue Shield hires former CalPERS executive
Sacramento Bee

Blue Shield of California said this week it has hired a former official with CalPERS and the state Department of Public Health.

Kathleen Billingsley is Blue Shield’s new vice president for its CalPERS and University of California accounts.

Billingsley has more than 25 years’ experience in the health care sector. She had been director of policy and programs at the Public Health department.

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First Patients Move Into New Cardiovascular Facility
NBC SanDiego.com

The first patients were moved into the new Scripps Health Hospital’s Prebys Cardiovascular Institute in La Jolla on Sunday. Lydia Johnson of Spring Valley was the first patient to make the move from Scripps Memorial La Jolla Hospital to the adjacent $456 million facility. The heart care institute is being called the most advanced of its kind on the West Coast.

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Closing Sacramento’s Sutter Memorial Hospital requires big relocation effort
Sacramento Bee

Come early August, a fleet of ambulances will shuttle 180 patients from the venerable Sutter Memorial Hospital, built in the Great Depression and scheduled for demolition, to Sutter’s gleaming new hospital tower in midtown Sacramento.

All of the patients will be moved in one day, meaning an ambulance will leave the old hospital in East Sacramento with a patient and a team of caregivers about once every 8 minutes.

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