News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Prop. 63 is helping mentally ill Californians, Steinberg report says
Sacramento Bee

A massive tax program former state Sen. Darrell Steinberg pushed to fund mental health services is providing relief to tens of thousands of Californians and decreasing homelessness, hospitalizations and arrests among mentally ill people treated in the programs, according to a report Steinberg released Wednesday. The flattering report, which analyzed about half the $947 million spent on Proposition 63 services in 2011-12, follows two critical analyses of the Mental Health Services Act that voters approved in 2004.

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Calm Before Tobacco Storm in Sacramento
California Healthline

Over the past couple of decades, when California legislators proposed new tobacco taxes or other regulations dealing with the industry, reaction has been swift and well heeled. The tobacco industry has spent early, often and generously to combat threats to business. Facing four challenges this session in the California Legislature, the tobacco industry has been conspicuously absent from the debate so far. But Sacramento veterans don’t expect it to last.

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Healthcare spending picks up pace in Q4
Modern Healthcare

Perhaps healthcare spending is picking up again, data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate. 

Spending on hospitals, doctors and other providers in 2014 appears to have outpaced the slow growth rates of the past few years, according to the bureau. Healthcare spending grew at a 5.4% annual rate in the fourth quarter unadjusted for inflation or seasonal differences — a sizable difference from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s most recent estimate of 3.9% but very close to actuarial predictions from September.

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The Boss Can Force You To Buy Company’s Health Insurance
National Public Radio

Under the health law, large employers that don’t offer their full-time workers comprehensive, affordable health insurance face a fine. But some employers are taking it a step further and requiring workers to buy the company insurance, whether they want it or not.

Many workers may have no choice but to comply.

Some workers are upset. One disgruntled reader wrote to Kaiser Health News: “My employer is requiring me to purchase health insurance and is automatically taking the premium out of my paycheck even though I don’t want to sign up for health insurance. Is this legal?”

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Maximus moves into government healthcare IT
Modern Healthcare

Government technology contractor Maximus is spending $300 million to buy fellow contractor Acentia, expanding its business footprint into federal healthcare information technology services and software support.“The Acentia acquisition provides MAXIMUS with an additional growth platform, which is an important step in our long-term strategy to continue to grow our U.S.

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ICD-10 proponents ready to fight any delays linked to ‘doc fix’
Modern Healthcare

Proponents of implementing the ICD-10 diagnostic and procedural coding system are vowing not to be ambushed during this year’s “doc fix” legislation debate in Washington. A last-minute delay in ICD-10 implementation for 2014 surprisingly was tucked into last year’s federal “doc fix” bill.Talks about how to stave off a 21.2% cut in Medicare payments to doctors have heated up on Capitol Hill in recent days. Legislators have until March 31 to pass legislation to prevent the sustainable growth-rate formula from being implemented.

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House leaders looking for deal to halt Medicare payment cuts
Modern Healthcare

Aides to top House Republicans and Democrats are trying to negotiate a bipartisan compromise to permanently revamp a law that annually threatens cuts in Medicare payments to doctors, including a 21% reduction set to take effect April 1.

As part of the talks, bargainers are considering budget cuts that could offset part, but not all, of the measure’s costs, according to lobbyists following the negotiations. The estimated 10-year price of repealing the annual Medicare cuts is roughly $175 billion.

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Will Congress play politics by killing healthcare for 2 million children?
Los Angeles Times

In the fetid swamp that is America’s healthcare coverage system, there has been one consistent ray of light: medical coverage for children. Credit for that belongs to the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which was established in 1997 as an add-on to Medicaid with special rules and funding. Since its enactment, the uninsured rate for children under 18 has been cut in half, from 14% in 1997 to 7% in 2012.

Now that progress is under threat. CHIP funding is scheduled to expire on Sept. 31. Congressional action is required to extend it. If your guess is that the Republican Congressional majority is plotting to cut the program back–if it extends funding at all–you guessed right.

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Countering criticism, Steinberg says mental health law showing results
Los Angeles Times

Seeking to quell criticism that his signature mental health initiative lacks accountability, former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg pushed back Wednesday with a study he commissioned showing declines in homelessness, arrests and incarcerations for people receiving treatment under the law. “The public has every right to know exactly how these dollars are being spent and what results are being attained because of this investment,” Steinberg said at a Wednesday news conference.

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Cardiologist Blasts Patient Informed Consent Process
HealthLeaders Media

The healthcare system only gives “lip service” to the informed consent routine, says cardiologist Harlan Krumholz, MD, SM. “What if patient-centered informed consent actually meant something?” he asked clinicians and patient advocates attending a Lown Institute conference in San Diego this week.

Krumholz, director of the Center for Outcome Research and Evaluation at Yale University School of Medicine, wants to know what would happen if the consent process included a period of time when a patient could consider all of the risks and benefits of a treatment whether they would be appropriate, and whether there were alternatives with lower risks but similar outcomes.

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Flu deaths in county hit record high
San Diego Union-Tribune

A record 72 people in San Diego County, most of them in their 80s and 90s, have died from flu-related causes this season — and the total may rise even more by the time influenza wanes in the spring.

This unprecedented high for any flu season in the region since 2001-02, when county health official began tracking such cases, comes during a year when the influenza vaccine has been particularly ineffective.

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Study weighs debt financing for pricey breakthrough drugs
Modern Healthcare

The emergence of new specialty breakthrough medications has come with a hefty price tag that may demand alternative financing approaches to ensure they remain accessible to patients, a new analysis suggests.Researchers at RAND Corp. propose health providers could use borrowing instruments such as bonds, mortgages or issue lines of credit to pharmaceutical companies that make such specialty drugs such as Gilead’s Sovaldi for hepatitis C, where it can cost more than $80,000 to complete a typical 12-week course of treatment.

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Do Value-Based Payments Lead to Higher Doctor-Satisfaction Scores?
The Health Care Blog

Recently we wrote a blog post promoting the benefits of shifting from fee-for-service to value-based payments. We praised the recent decision by leaders at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to accelerate that shift, and we were then and remain convinced this shift paves the way for better, more affordable care. There were some strong reactions to the post.

Some people think capitated payments have been discredited, others believe the change from fee-for-service will change little. One physician told John Irvine, editor at The Health Care Blog, that he got the impression from our post that we were saying value-based payments would make physicians lives easier. “Really?” Irvine’s doctor friend said. “You’re making my life easier? Prove it.”

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Donation will help ease doctor shortage
RecordNet

A few more much-needed doctors will come to town through a $1.35 million donation to one of San Joaquin General Hospital’s residency programs, a move officials say would increase access to medical care in a region where physician shortages remain a concern. The gift from a private foundation of $225,000 per year over six years would increase the number of residents in the Family Medicine Residency Training Program from 21 to 24.

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O’Connor Hospital patients, staff anxious about possible county takeover
Contra Costa Times

For months, Santa Clara County government officials have watched the dance between Daughters of Charity Health System and Prime Healthcare Services, Daughters’ preferred partner to buy the struggling Catholic hospital chain that includes four Bay Area hospitals.

But the wooing abruptly ended Tuesday when Prime abandoned its $843 million deal with Daughters because the Ontario-based company believes the conditions imposed by Attorney General Kamala Harris were too harsh.

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Northstate medical school dean resigns
Sacramento Business Journal

Dr. Robert Suskind, dean at California Northstate University College of Medicine, resigned Monday to work on another medical school start up in Southern California. Dr. Joseph Silva, vice dean at California Northstate, took charge this week. He’s been involved with efforts to start a for-profit medical school in Elk Grove since the initiative was launched more than three years ago.

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Children’s Hospital gets $1M gift for infant mental health program
Los Angeles Times

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has received a $1 million donation to launch an infant and family mental health program at the hospital. The gift from Gene and Mindy Stein, made through the Tikun Olam Foundation, will establish the Stein Tikun Olam Infant-Family Mental Health Initiative to help families with newborns who had extended hospitalizations just after birth.

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