News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Five Years of California Health Reform: ‘A Tremendous Designed Experiment’
California Healthline

Nadereh Pourat, director of research at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, gives an involuntary gasp when she’s asked where California’s health care system would be without the reforms and changes of the past five years. “It’s not fathomable,” Pourat said. “I don’t know where we would be right now. California has made tremendous progress. It’s staggering what has happened in five years.” The state has launched the Covered California health benefit exchange, which has helped enroll 1.4 million into coverage.

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RAC Court Ruling Deals Blow to CMS
HealthLeaders Media

A US Court of Appeals ruling earlier this month that invalidates a provision of Medicare’s 2014 Recovery Audit Program contracts is the latest setback for federal officials who administer the program.

The 2014 contracts were slated to be awarded last year, but a series of challenges from Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) has delayed the rollout of the new contracts. In the meantime, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has temporarily extended the original round of RAC contracts awarded in 2008.

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Stats Split On Progress Against Cancer
National Public Radio

When someone asks whether we’re winning the war on cancer, the discussion often veers into the world of numbers. And, depending on which numbers you’re looking at, the answer can either be yes or no.

Let’s start with the no.

The number of cancer deaths in this country is on the rise. It climbed 4 percent between 2000 and 2011, the latest year in official statistics. More than 577,000 people died of cancer in 2011.

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Affordable Care Act credited with $7.4 billion drop in uncompensated care
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals’ uncompensated-care costs in Medicaid expansion states were reduced by $5 billion in 2014, according to an HHS report published Monday, the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.

The costs of uncompensated care declined $2.4 billion in states that did not expand the program, resulting in a total drop of $7.4 billion, down 21% from 2013. In these states, the uninsured populations dropped as some residents gained insurance through the law’s insurance exchanges and others who were already eligible for Medicaid enrolled as a result of the intense enrollment efforts tied to the coverage expansions, a dynamic known as the woodwork effect.

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Exchanges need new quality controls
Orange County Register

Millions of Americans battle chronic diseases every day. Their fight just got harder. New evidence shows that even as more people gain insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges, the quality of that coverage is getting worse.

The problem is that many of the exchange plans require patients to pay an increasingly high percentage of their medications’ costs. Excessive cost-sharing means many enrollees – especially the 50 million Americans who suffer from autoimmune diseases – can’t afford their treatments.

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Employers seeing benefits of high-deductible plans
Modern Healthcare

High-deductible health plans have aided employers in containing healthcare costs without immediately leading to more expensive healthcare needs for patients, new research suggests.

After three years of offering high-deductible plans, employees at several large U.S. companies did not record increased levels of care in the emergency department or hospital, according to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, a not-for-profit, nonpartisan research organization. The study contained several limitations, however, and won’t end debate about who benefits more from such plans—consumers or the employers offering them.

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Tax-Time Tribulations: Health Law Complicates Filing Season For Many
Kaiser Health News

This tax season, for the first time since the health law passed five years ago, consumers are facing its financial consequences. Whether they owe a penalty for not having health insurance or have to reconcile how much they got in premium tax credits against their incomes, many people have to contend with new tax forms and calculations. Experts say the worst may be yet to come.

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CDC: Uninsured drop by 11M since passage of Obama’s law
San Francisco Chronicle

The number of uninsured U.S. residents fell by more than 11 million since President Barack Obama signed the health care overhaul five years ago, according to a pair of reports Tuesday from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although that still would leave about 37 million people uninsured, it’s the lowest level measured in more than 15 years. The most dramatic change took place in comparing 2013 with the first nine months of 2014.

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States That Expand Medicaid Detect More Cases Of Diabetes
National Public Radio

Johnny Reynolds knew that something was wrong as far back as 2003. That’s when he first started experiencing extreme fatigue. “It was like waking up every morning and just putting a person over my shoulders and walking around with them all day long,” says Reynolds, 54, who lived in Ohio at the time.

In addition, Reynolds was constantly thirsty and drank so much water that he would urinate 20 or 30 times per day. “And overnight I would probably get up at least eight or nine times a night,” he says.

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Why The War On Cancer Hasn’t Been Won
National Public Radio

When President Richard Nixon declared a war on cancer in 1971, there were high hopes that scientists were close enough to understanding the underlying causes that many cures were within reach. We obviously haven’t won the war. In fact, a prominent cancer biologist argues that the conceptual framework for understanding cancer has come full circle over the past 40 years.

MIT biologist Robert Weinberg made that provocative comment in an essay he wrote last year for the journal Cell. He’s a luminary in the world of cancer and is a founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambrdige, Mass.

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As patients face death, doctors push straight talk on care
Yahoo! News

Dr. Angelo Volandes remembers performing rib-cracking CPR on a frail elderly man dying of lung cancer, a vivid example of an end-of-life dilemma: Because his patient never said if he wanted aggressive care as his body shut down, the hospital had to try. He died days later.

Years later, the Harvard Medical School researcher now tries to spur conversations about what care patients want during life’s final chapter through videos that illustrate different options.

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Many Doctors Who Diagnose Alzheimer’s Fail To Tell The Patient
National Public Radio

Doctors are much more likely to level with patients who have cancer than patients who have Alzheimer’s, according to a report released this week by the Alzheimer’s Association.

The report found that just 45 percent of Medicare patients who’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s said they were informed of the diagnosis by their doctor. By contrast, more than 90 percent of Medicare patients with cancer said they were told by their doctor.

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Doctors often fail to disclose Alzheimer’s, report finds
San Francisco Chronicle

Physicians often fail to disclose a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease to patients or their families, delaying relatives from taking steps to protect their loved one’s physical health and financial safety, according to report released Tuesday by a leading advocacy group for people with the mind-robbing, fatal disease. The Alzheimer’s Association, in a nationwide survey, found fewer than half of patients or their caregivers said their doctor informed them of their diagnosis.

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Business Roundup: Tenet Signs 3 Big Deals; Humana Sells Concentra for $1B
HealthLeaders Media

Monday was a busy, busy day for Tenet Healthcare Corporation, which announced three separate deals that will expand the for-profit provider’s footprints in its Dallas backyard, across the nation, and into the United Kingdom. For starters, Tenet and United Surgical Partners International announced that they will combine their ambulatory surgical and imaging assets under a joint management plan that will create the nation’s largest provider of outpatient surgery.

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San Francisco hospital to hire 100 nurses for expansion
San Francisco Business Times

San Francisco General Hospital & Trauma Center, the city’s primary safety net hospital, is hiring more than 100 registered nurses to help it staff the new $877 million inpatient tower expected to open in December. The new RNs are needed in specialty areas such as emergency care, medical-surgical, critical care and peri-operative services, officials said Monday, and “nurses with acute care experience” are especially in demand. The salary range for the positions starts at $112,788 and “tops out at $148,174,” depending on experience, said Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman for S.F. General.

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‘Topping Off’ ceremony held for new Stanford Hospital
Palo Alto Online

Patients, construction workers, employees, physicians, community members, elected officials and donors gathered at the new Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto today, March 23, for a “Topping Off” ceremony to celebrate a milestone in the construction of the new facility.

Thousands of people signed a 30-foot-long, 3,400-pound beam before it was hoisted atop the new hospital building.

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For Monterey County hospitals, Obamacare a (complex) positive
Santa Cruz Sentinel

On the fifth anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law, federal health officials on Monday touted a $7.4 billion decline in the amount of uncovered health care provided by America’s hospitals.

But in Monterey County and across California, hospital officials say the law has been a double-edged sword.

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French Hospital ranked among top 100 mid-sized hospitals
San Luis Obispo Tribune

French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo was named earlier this month by Truven Health Analytics to its “100 Top Hospitals” list for 2015 in the category for mid-sized community hospitals nationwide.

Truven Health Analytics, formerly the health care division of Thomson Reuters, has produced the hospital ranking since 1993.

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