News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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‘Affordable’ Care Act? Not so much for Sacramento
Los Angeles Times

In Washington, it’s called the Affordable Care Act. In Sacramento, it could be become known as another budget buster. Obamacare — as it’s pugnaciously tagged by the political right — may not be affordable at all for California state government. Soon after the federal healthcare act was passed by Congress in 2010, the Schwarzenegger administration in Sacramento calculated a state price tag of up to $2.65 billion annually.

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How Bundled Payments Pay Off in Joint-replacement
Health Leaders Media

Before they met with vendors of joint surgery devices several years ago, top officials of the 1,674-licensed-bed Baptist Health System in San Antonio, Texas, didn’t realize that millions of dollars were at stake that day. The meeting included hospital officials, a team of orthopedic surgeons, and vendors. As Michael C. Zucker, FACHE, senior vice president and chief development officer of Baptist Health, recalls, hospital leadership had been talking with vendors for weeks seeking to lower costs for joint-replacement devices. But it wasn’t working.

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Healthcare job growth slows in June
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare added just 13,000 jobs in June, which was half of its average monthly growth rate in the past year but still comprised 16% of all new jobs in the national economy last month. Physician offices posted an overall loss of jobs, while hospitals showed a small gain. Healthcare employment overall had one of its slowest months in a year, growing by 0.1% in June, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Monthly growth has been averaging 0.2% since June 2011.

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Health insurers to reduce rate hikes for California small firms
Los Angeles Times

Tens of thousands of small businesses in California collectively will save $48 million on their health insurance bills starting this month now that three insurers have agreed to reduce pending rate hikes. State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced Friday that Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield Life and Health Co. and Aetna are modifying rate hikes that took effect July 1 for small group policies, covering employers with fewer than 50 people insured.

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CMS proposes 7% pay hike for family docs
Modern Healthcare

In a proposed rule released late Friday, the CMS included a slew of potential changes to the physician-fee schedule for 2013, including a 7% payment increase for family physicians and smaller increases for other primary-care doctors. The proposed pay hike for family physicians comes from a plan to reimburse such providers separately for providing successful follow-up care after a patient’s hospital or nursing-home stay, the CMS said.

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CMS proposes 0.1% cut to home health Medicare reimbursement
Modern Healthcare

The CMS is proposing that home health Medicare reimbursement be cut by 0.1% in 2013, that requirements be established for unannounced, standard and extended surveys of home health agencies and that new alternative sanctions be created for home health agencies that are out of compliance.

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WellPoint buying Amerigroup for about $4.46B
The Mercury News

WellPoint Inc. will spend about $4.46 billion for Medicaid coverage provider Amerigroup Corp. in a deal that more than doubles the health insurer’s enrollment in a market segment poised for expansion. WellPoint, the nation’s second-largest insurer, said Monday that it will pay $92 in cash for each share of Virginia Beach, Va.-based Amerigroup, which runs Medicaid coverage in 13 states, including Texas, Florida and New York. That price represents a 43 percent premium to Amerigroup’s closing price Friday of $64.34.

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Romney aides gave advice on state health care law
San Francisco Chronicle

California officials are moving quickly to deliver services to millions of people as a result of crucial legislation signed two years ago by former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Here’s the twist: Schwarzenegger consulted with advisers to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and presumptive GOP presidential nominee, before signing a package of seven health care bills after Congress passed the federal Affordable Care Act.

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Heart disease in men can be fought head-on
USA Today

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men (and women) in the USA, so it’s no wonder that cardiologist Gordon Tomaselli dispenses direct, no-nonsense advice: “Get up and move more, don’t smoke, make sure you control your blood pressure and cholesterol, and don’t ignore symptoms of heart disease, particularly if you have a family history.” It may sound difficult, but the results could be lifesaving, says Tomaselli, president of the American Heart Association (AHA) and director of the division of cardiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

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Proposed EHB Rule Draws Few Comments
Health Leaders Media

The latest effort by the Department of Health and Human Services to establish requirements for essential health benefits drew fewer than 30 comments from interested parties during the proposed rule’s 30-day comment period, which ended July 4.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires HHS to define EHBs. These are 10 categories of service that must be offered beginning in 2014 by health insurance exchanges, as well as individual and small group health insurance policies.

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Mayor Ed Lee ups ante to keep St. Luke’s open
San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Mayor Ed Leeis upping the ante on the California Pacific Medical Center project on the site of the old Cathedral Hill Hotel, saying he wants an ironclad agreement from Sutter Health that it will keep St. Luke’s in the Mission open for 20 years.

Otherwise, he says, no deal for a big new hospital and medical office building on Van Ness Avenue.

“That’s was bottom line for me when we started our negotiations, and it’s still the bottom line today,” Lee said.

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Key to health reform: Individual mandate or individual commitment?
Capitol Weekly

In the months leading up to the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), most of the nation’s attention was focused on the viability of the so-called individual mandate: the requirement for all Americans to have health insurance beginning in 2014. Conventional wisdom said that as the mandate goes, so goes the rest of law, regardless of how the Court ruled on other aspects of the legislation.

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Free clinic struggles to meet surge in demand
HealthyCal.org

Lestonnac, a free health clinic in Orange County, is struggling to keep up with increasing demand. Clinic resources can no longer cover the needs of patients, 60 percent of whom are from Santa Ana. People who lost jobs that once provided them with decent health policies, and do not qualify for Medi-Cal, the insurance program for the poor, now rely on free and low-cost health care services at the clinic. Undocumented workers also turn to the clinic as their only option. Sometimes, it saves their lives.

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Health law could affect 18,400 uninsured in county
Napa Valley Register

Nearly 14 percent of Napa County’s population — about 18,400 residents — are without health insurance, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but that should change with implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act.

An estimated 3,900 county residents could be eligible for Medi-Cal come Jan. 1, 2014, said Akon Walker, an analyst with Napa County Health and Human Services.

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Low-income patients want closer connection to health providers
HealthyCal.org

Low-income Californians want closer relationships with their doctors’ offices — but not only with their doctor, according to a new poll that plumbed the needs and desires of a population that will be at the heart of federal health reform. The survey, released Monday, found that most low-income patients would be happy to have a “team approach” to treatment that included not just a doctor but nurses, medical assistants, dieticians and health outreach workers.

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ObamaCare Constitution fight not over yet
USA Today

The Supreme Court’s decision narrowly upholding the Affordable Care Act as a permissible tax highlights an important aspect of our constitutional system: Even when Congress has the power to pass a law, it remains subject to the Constitution’s express protections for individual and organizational rights. That principle explains why the religious liberty challenges to the Health and Human Services contraception mandate —there are 23 cases so far— will continue despite the recent ruling.

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State insurance exchange can learn from big employers
Sacramento Bee

California leaders have signaled their intention to move full speed ahead with building a state health insurance exchange that has the potential to provide coverage to millions of Californians beginning in 2014. But if the California Health Benefit Exchange simply becomes another website where Californians can go to purchase health insurance, we will have missed a colossal opportunity to improve health care in the Golden State.

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There, there — it’s only Obamacare
Santa Maria Times

The surprising defection from the conservative canon by Chief Justice John Roberts on the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act — aka Obamacare — has infuriated opponents, some of whom have petulantly promised to defy it.

Devoted proponents of liberty and of limited government railed against the court’s decision to uphold Obamacare.

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States Should Opt Out of Medicaid — All The Way Out
The Health Care Blog

With over a dozen conservative states leaning against expanding Medicaid to cover poor workers without health insurance, perhaps it is time to resuscitate an idea embraced by President Ronald Reagan. Let the federal government take over Medicaid lock, stock and barrel. In 1982 the president who ushered in the modern conservative era offered to assume federal responsibility for the program that now consumes over 22 percent of state government budgets in exchange for states taking over welfare.

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Strike redux: Another CNA strike against Sutter, continuing stalemate
San Francisco Business Times

Another week, another California Nurses Association strike against longtime arch-nemesis Sutter Health. When nurses at seven Sutter workplaces in the Bay Area walked off the job Tuesday — some of them, at any rate — it marked the fifth such action since September. Contracts with CNA at the Sutter facilities expired last summer. The one-day walkout “affected” 3,500 nurses and several hundred respiratory and X-ray technicians, according to the union.

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