News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Some Value-Based Models Ready to Scale, Says CMS
HealthLeaders Media

Touting encouraging progress toward improving quality and lowering healthcare costs, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ chief medical officer attributed a 2% decline in admissions and emergency department visits to the agency’s increased support for primary care providers in recent years.

But skeptics persist, Patrick Conway, MD, told an audience attending the National Quality Forum’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

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Even In Nursing, Men Earn More Than Women
National Public Radio

Women outnumber men in the nursing profession by more than 10 to 1. But men still earn more, a new study finds.

Even after controlling for age, race, marital status and children in the home, males in nursing outearned females by nearly $7,700 per year in outpatient settings and nearly $3,900 in hospitals.

And as men flowed into nursing over the past decades, the pay gap did not narrow over the years studied: 1988 to 2013.  The report was published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

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Feds Claim Obamacare Launch Is Hindering Government Transparency
National Public Radio

A heavy workload caused by the Affordable Care Act, government technology limits and staff shortages are causing unusually long delays in filling public records requests, federal health officials say.

The waits in some cases could stretch out a decade or more.

The Freedom of Information Act requires federal agencies to respond to records requests in 20 working days, though providing documents often takes much longer. The FBI, for instance, recently reported that complex requests could average more than two years to fill.

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Obama mocks GOP on fifth anniversary of Affordable Care Act
Washington Post

President Obama delivered a staunch defense of the Affordable Care Act on the week of its fifth anniversary Wednesday as he continues his bid to frame the health care law as a success in the face of legal and political challenges from Republicans.

“It’s working despite countless attempts to repeal, undermine, defame and defund it,” Obama said during an event at the White House announcing a new network to help implement the law. “We’ve been promised a lot the past five years that didn’t turn out to bet the case: death panels, doom, a serious alternative from Republicans in Congress.”

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How Ted Cruz could wind up on Obamacare
Washington Post

So, irony of all ironies — Sen. Ted Cruz could now be joining Obamacare.

Cruz said Tuesday he may sign up for the health insurance program he’s promised to repeal “every word of” because he’s no longer on his wife’s plan. His wife, Heidi, is taking a leave of absence from Goldman Sachs during her husband’s newly unveiled presidential campaign, meaning the Cruzes will need to find health insurance elsewhere.

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Bipartisan Deal on Health Care Issues Hits a Snag Among Senate Democrats
New York Times

The deal is as politically remarkable as it is substantive: a long-term plan to finance health care for older Americans, pay doctors who accept Medicare and extend popular health care programs for children and the poor. It was cobbled together by none other than House Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the leader of House Democrats, who rarely agree on anything, with the apparent blessing of a majority of their respective members.

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On Medi-Cal Now, Lose Your House Later?
KQED Radio

Catherine Jarett ran into a nasty surprise after she sent a form to Medi-Cal on behalf of her clients. An estate attorney, Jarett was hired by the sons of an elderly Vallejo woman who had died. The woman had been enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state’s insurance program for the poor, for more than 20 years. After Jarett filed the form with Medi-Cal — a death notice as required — the state sent a bill for a hefty $76,349. Jarett was stunned. It was for the cost of “health insurance, vision insurance, dental insurance,” she said.

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Bipartisan SGR Bill Unveiled in House
HealthLeaders Media

The House on Tuesday unveiled a bipartisan proposal to permanently fix the Sustainable Growth Rate funding formula and transition Medicare toward value-based payments.

“This package is the best opportunity to turn the page on years of short-term fixes so that we can finally make the reforms we need to strengthen Medicare for our seniors,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, (R-WI), said in remarks accompanying the bill.

“This is real patient-centered reform—done in a bipartisan way—and I urge all of my colleagues to support it.”

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Obama says he’s ready to sign Medicare doctor payment fix
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he’s ready to sign good bipartisan legislation to fix Medicare’s doctor payment problem, without endorsing any specific legislation.

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Hospitals bless ‘doc fix’ deal, but approval still dicey
Modern Healthcare

The House is pushing forward with plans to vote Thursday on a permanent repeal of Medicare’s loathed sustainable growth-rate formula for paying doctors.

The full package unveiled by the House on Tuesday also includes a two-year funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and community health centers, a six-month extension of the moratorium on enforcement of the “two-midnight” rule for short hospital stays and a bundle of other Medicare payment provisions.

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Medicare doctor pay fix prospects brighten in Congress
Yahoo! News

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Tuesday that prospects were good for passage of a permanent fix to Medicare’s flawed doctor-pay formula, a move that would spare physicians from impending pay cuts.

The Republican leader said the House was intent on avoiding another short-term repair like the ones resorted to previously.

The plan’s prospects brightened in the Senate, as well, when Democratic Leader Harry Reid said he would look at the bipartisan House proposal, which would change the way doctors are reimbursed for Medicare costs.

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Right-to-die group offers aid, in secret, as California legislation is debated
The Mercury News

As legislators prepare to debate a “right to die” bill in the state Capitol, volunteers are already helping suffering people end their lives — surreptitiously, without authorization or official oversight — in bedrooms across California.

“The sneaking around … feels awful. It shouldn’t have to be that way,” said Myriam Coppens, a Santa Cruz resident who has served as a “guide” in the deaths of 16 people with advanced cancer, neurological diseases or incurable illnesses.

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Seeing medical records might ease hospital patients’ confusion
Yahoo! News

Letting patients see their medical records while they’re in the hospital might ease worry and confusion without extra work for doctors and nurses, a small study suggests.

“The hope is that increased transparency achieved by sharing electronic medical records with patients while they’re in the hospital would make them more engaged in their care, more satisfied, and more likely to ask questions and catch errors,” said lead study author Dr. Jonathan Pell, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

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Gilead stock drops on hepatitis C drug’s heart warning
San Francisco Business Times

Gilead Sciences Inc., which warned doctors and other health-care providers late last week not to use its groundbreaking hepatitis C drugs with patients on a well-known heart medication, saw its stock drop 2 percent in trading Monday. The Foster City-based drug developer (NASDAQ: GILD) said one patient taking its drugs Harvoni or Sovaldi as well as the heart drug amiodarone died of cardiac arrest and three required a pacemaker. In all, the company said, nine patients developed abnormally slow heartbeats.

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A Radical Proposal to Convert the Assets of Blue Shield of California
Nonprofit Quarterly

Michael Johnson, quoted in Rick Cohen’s newswire of last week talking about some of the same issues, is the former Director of Public Policy at Blue Shield of California. As readers may remember, Blue Shield recently had its state tax exemption revoked because it was acting more like a for-profit than a nonprofit.

Now, Johnson has written in a blog at about his own resignation from that organization two weeks ago. As Cohen reported earlier, he has “launched a campaign to pressure Blue Shield to put its nonprofit assets to work for the good of the community.”

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Blue Shield spends $1.25 billion on Care1st deal, records show
Los Angeles Times

Nonprofit insurer Blue Shield of California is spending $1.25 billion on its acquisition of Monterey Park health plan Care1st, records show.

Blue Shield had refused to disclose the purchase price when it announced the deal in December and then sought confidentiality from state regulators in late January. The California Department of Managed Health Care turned over Blue Shield’s filings late Monday in response to a public-records request from The Times.

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Sacramento County writes big check to ease mental-health crisis, take pressure off struggling hospitals
Sacramento Business Journal

Sacramento County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a $4.2 million increase in payments to local psychiatric hospitals as part of an effort to ease a mental-health crisis.

The board also approved county plans to apply for $5.7 million in grant funding for three new 15-bed crisis stabilization units in the region. It also directed county staff to develop a plan within 90 days for shifting care to less-expensive outpatient services that better serve the needs of mental health patients.

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San Pablo: Doctors Medical Center board to decide whether to close or hang on a few more weeks for a possible rescue
Contra Costa Times

A decision whether to begin an orderly shutdown of Doctors Medical Center, or continue operations for a while longer, could come this week.

On Thursday, the board of the West Contra Costa Healthcare District, which owns the financially struggling community hospital, will receive updates on finances and any late rescue proposals. The board also will vote whether to formalize the second phase of a real estate deal with San Pablo.

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Truckee hospital refinances Measure C to save more than $5 million
Tahoe Daily Tribune

Tahoe Forest Hospital District recently refinanced its Measure C general obligation bonds, which was approved by voters in 2006.

The move resulted in a total net savings of $5.1 84 million, or roughly $215,000 annually, according to a press release from the hospital.

“This savings will be directly passed on to TFHD taxpayers through lower annual property tax assessments,” officials said.

Refinancing does not extend the length of the original bond term, which will be paid off as originally scheduled.