News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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PCORI is meeting its mission under Affordable Care Act, GAO says
Modern Healthcare

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute awarded 360 contracts totaling $670.8 million as of October 2014, according to a report issued Monday by the Government Accountability Office. The not-for-profit organization is operating in accordance with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the government watchdog agency concluded. PCORI was established under the federal healthcare law to promote research into how conditions and diseases can be most effectively diagnosed and treated.

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HIE Reduces Medical Imaging Redundancies 25%, Study Says
HealthLeaders Media

Health insurance exchanges are capable of reducing redundancies in medical imaging, which contributes significantly to care coordination and cost-efficiency gains for healthcare providers, research conducted in New York state indicates.

A study, recently published in the American Journal of Managed Care, focuses on the Rochester Regional Health Information Organization, a nonprofit HIE launched in 2006. The study found that dozens of healthcare providers shared medical imaging data through the Rochester HIE, reducing the odds of redundant medical imaging by 25%.

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Doctors study tumors’ genetic makeup to guide cancer treatment
Washington Post

When Jen Morey was diagnosed with colon cancer in June 2013, her oncologist began treating her with a chemotherapy usually prescribed for that type of cancer. But after a couple of months, the malignancy was still growing, and rapidly. The therapy was failing.

So her doctor ordered a test to identify aspects of the tumor’s genetic makeup that might be fueling its growth.

Morey’s oncologist was surprised when the tumor profile test, as the technology is called, showed that the cancerous cells in her colon had a genetic mutation found almost exclusively in breast cancer.

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Health-care law will cost taxpayers less than expected, CBO says
Washington Post

President Obama’s health-care law will cost taxpayers substantially less than previously estimated, congressional budget officials said Monday, in an upbeat note for a program that has faced withering criticism since its passage five years ago.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office attributed the savings to spending on medical care in coming years that will not be as great as previously forecast.

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Estimated ACA costs fall again, even as expected ‘Cadillac’ tax revenue dwindles
Modern Healthcare

Spending on the insurance coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act is projected to be $142 billion lower than the figure arrived at six weeks ago, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s primarily due to reduced enrollment projected for exchange plans and Medicaid, as well as lower than anticipated premium costs. But while spending on exchange subsidies is expected to be much lower, so, too, is revenue from the ACA’s controversial excise tax on health plans with generous benefits, the CBO said.

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Obamacare: Agents signed up 43% of new California enrollment
Los Angeles Times

California fell short of its second-year enrollment goal for Obamacare, but don’t blame insurance agents. They accounted for 43% of new enrollment in Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange. That compares with 30% of people who enrolled themselves online or 10% who turned to a certified enrollment counselor or navigator. The strong performance of insurance agents in 2014 defied some predictions that online sign-ups and thousands of new enrollment counselors would diminish their role.

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California farm-worker health care bill in pipeline
The Californian - Salinas

A state bill would use a little creative financing to provide round-the-clock medical coverage to farm workers in the Salinas Valley and around the state.

The bill would establish the Care of Agricultural Workers Fund, a pilot program that would be in place for up to three years and pay for “medical, surgical, and hospital treatment for occupational and nonoccupational injuries and illnesses incurred by agricultural workers.”

The program would be financed by redirecting a portion of the money growers and other ag employers pay for workers compensation into the new fund.

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With Medicare Pay On The Line, Hospitals Push Harder To Please Patients
KPBS

Lillie Robinson came to Rowan Medical Center for surgery on her left foot. She expected to be in and out in a day, returning weeks later to the Salisbury, N.C., hospital for her surgeon to operate on the other foot.

But that’s not how things turned out. “When I got here I found out he was doing both,” she said. “We didn’t realize that until they started medicating me for the procedure.” Robinson signed a consent form and the operation went fine, but she was in the hospital far longer than she’d expected to be.

“I wasn’t prepared for that,” she said.

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CMS, Rural Care Advocates Rip OIG Report Targeting Swing Beds
HealthLeaders Media

A federal audit that recommends cutting payments to rural hospitals for skilled nursing swing beds is being panned by hospital advocates and the federal government.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General released a report on Monday that estimates that the federal government overpaid critical access hospitals about $4.1 billion over six years to provide skilled nursing services using hospital swing beds.

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Supreme Court orders another look at birth control coverage case
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday took action in a case over how religious not-for-profit employers must meet the Affordable Care Act requirement to cover birth control for employees—a move some say could be significant for those employers. Others, however, disagree, saying the action changes nothing legally.The Supreme Court told a lower court to reconsider its decision not to grant the University of Notre Dame further protection against the birth control mandate.

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Accompanying Apple Watch, a medical surprise
POLITICO

And now, Apple will enroll you in a clinical trial. In a surprise announcement that overshadowed the presentation of its new Apple Watch — for the health care industry, at least — the Silicon Valley giant on Monday unveiled a new biomedical platform called ResearchKit. The platform, which will be available on the latest version of iPhone software next month, will allow any iPhone user to enroll in tests of new drugs and therapies by downloading apps from hospitals and providers who are recruiting patients.

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Dignity Health testing HMO with limited license in one county
Sacramento Business Journal

Dignity Health has filed an application with state regulators for a limited HMO license so its doctors and hospitals can have more control over patient care. The bid relates to Medicare members in just one county — Kern — suggesting the San Francisco-based health system is looking to test the market before it goes for more than a toehold.

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Sutter plans Roseville building for cancer services
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Medical Foundation will look to consolidate most of its Placer County cancer treatment services in one three-story, 60,000-square-foot building in Roseville. Groundbreaking is planned for May for the building, which will be at the corner of Medical Plaza Drive and Secret Ravine Parkway, on Sutter’s campus. “We’ve had good services, and we’ve just outgrown our space for those services,” said Eric Rasmussen, director of growth and development for the Sutter Medical Foundation, which also will be in the building.

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Hospitals to pay Sonoma County to care for psychiatric patients
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals want Sonoma County to assume responsibility for psychiatric patients who end up in their emergency rooms.

Under a two-year agreement, the hospitals will transfer patients in mental health crisis to the county’s Psychiatric Emergency Services unit on Chanate Road. St. Joseph Health in Sonoma County, which operates the two hospitals, will pay the county $200,000 over the two-year period.

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Valley Children’s Hospital opens clinic in Bakersfield
BakersfieldNOW.com

Valley Children’s Hospital Central California has opened an outpatient clinic in Bakersfield, with specialists who can see local kids.

Families say the new clinic on 34th Street will save them the long drive to the hospital, which is just north of Fresno. The local clinic opened Monday, and will start with six specialties. “I thought it was a standard doctor’s office, so the fact that it’s basically an extension of the Children’s Hospital is very nice,” Richard Harvill told Eyewitness News.

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San Clemente ponders new hospital in case MemorialCare closes ER
Orange County Register

The looming possibility that MemorialCare Health System may shutter its San Clemente hospital and emergency room has led city officials to look at another option: their own, brand-new hospital.

City Manager James Makshanoff said last week that city staff is trying to identify a site for a new hospital and emergency room on land the city owns along the path of Avenida La Pata, a road being extended to link San Clemente with San Juan Capistrano in 2016.

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Palm Drive Hospital board votes on plan to reopen shuttered facility
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Members of the Palm Drive Health Care District could give final approval this evening to a business plan aimed at reopening Palm Drive Hospital, which was shut down almost one year ago.

The district board will consider a management service agreement for the Sonoma West Medical Center, a 25-bed hospital and emergency department whose financing depends largely on the success of several high-profile outpatient services dubbed “institutes.”

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