News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospitals note uptick in ER visits post-Obamacare
The Business Journal

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect last year, hospitals across the Central Valley have seen a dramatic increase in the number of patients visiting their emergency departments. According to annual reports from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, the number of Valley patients paying for emergency department visits out of pocket has decreased across the board. Hospital administrators attribute this to the simultaneous increase in residents having medical insurance through government programs like Medi-Cal.

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Why Doctors Are Trying A Skin Cancer Drug To Treat A Brain Tumor
National Public Radio

MaryAnn Anselmo feared for the worst when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor called a glioblastoma in late 2013.

“You start doing research on that type of tumor, and you’re saying, ‘Oh my God, you’re history.’ It’s like a death sentence,” says, Anselmo, now 59.

Only for her it wasn’t.

Anselmo’s successful treatment shows how precision medicine — tailoring therapy to each patient’s genetic needs — is beginning to transform cancer care.

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Patient load manageable under Affordable Care Act
Modern Healthcare

Physician practices have largely not been overwhelmed since the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate went into effect last year, contrary to concerns raised by ACA critics about the potential flood of new patients the law would bring. The proportion of new-patient visits at primary-care providers increased by only .3 percentage points between 2013 and 2014 and no evidence surfaced that cases were significantly more complex, according to a new report, part of a series called ACAView.

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Health exchanges struggle to sign up middle-income folks
Sacramento Business Journal

While health benefit exchanges have succeeded in signing up very low-income individuals, they struggle to attract middle and higher income members, a new study shows. At the close of open enrollment in 2015, the 37 states that use the federal marketplace had enrolled 76 percent of eligible individuals with incomes from $11,700 to $17,655, but participation rates declined dramatically as incomes grow, according to a study by Avalere Health. Only 2 percent of individual enrollees make more than $46,680, or 400 percent of the federal poverty line.

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The Health Care Blame Game
The Health Care Blog

Overtreated, overstaffed, over-administered, overpriced, over-regulated, and over-legislated: that’s for starters. How about over-diagnosed, over-medicalized, over-screened, over-digitized, and over-litigated? Then there’s unavailable, inaccessible, non-empathic, and even cruel when it comes to the disabled, disallowed the disaffected and the disavowed. To top it off there’s the American fashion of dying, alone and encumbered by the machinery of futility.

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Republican House passes budget to erase deficits, repeal reform law
Modern Healthcare

Normally quarrelsome House Republicans came together and passed a boldly conservative budget that relies on nearly $5 trillion in cuts to eliminate deficits over the next decade, calls for repealing the healthcare law and envisions transformations of the tax code and social programs.

Final passage, 228-199, came Wednesday night, shortly after Republicans bumped up recommended defense spending to levels proposed by President Barack Obama.

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High-Deductible Plans Bring Lower Costs Now, But Will They Bring Pricey Problems?
Kaiser Health News

Got a high-deductible health plan? The kind that doesn’t pay most medical bills until they exceed several thousand dollars? You’re a foot soldier who’s been drafted in the war against high health costs.

Companies that switch workers into high-deductible plans can reap enormous savings, consultants will tell you — and not just by making employees pay more. Total costs paid by everybody — employer, employee and insurance company — tend to fall in the first year or rise more slowly when consumers have more at stake at the health-care checkout counter whether or not they’re making medically wise choices.

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Survey: Businesses cutting back hours for part-timers following health-care reform
Business Journal

Even as Obama administration officials hailed the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday, a new survey shows that legislation may be having a negative impact on the hours part-timers are working.

The survey from the Alexandria-based Society for Human Resource Management found nearly one in five businesses have already reduced hours for part-timers or plan to as a result of the ACA’s mandate that employees working 30 hours a week receive health coverage. However, the survey of 740 randomly-selected HR professionals around the country also found few companies — about 5 percent — have reduced or plan to reduce their overall number of employees due to the ACA.

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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. Without a fix, doctors face a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees, the consequence of a 1990s budget law that Congress has repeatedly waived. The House is expected to vote Thursday on a bill with rare support from both top leaders in the House that would permanently fix the problem.

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Is Capitol Hill Ready To Rest Its Near-Annual ‘Doc Fix’ Exercise?
National Public Radio

Doctors who treat Medicare patients will face a huge cut, 21 percent, if Congress doesn’t act by the end of the month. This isn’t a new problem. While Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill agree that the formula that pays doctors who treat Medicare patients has long been broken, over the years they’ve been unable to pass more than temporary patches.

But the leaders of the House from both parties have come up with a plan that they think can fix a problem that has bedeviled Congress since 1997. On Thursday, it passed in the House 392 to 37. The Senate is likely to take it up after a two-week recess.

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Proposed SGR Fix Adds $141B to Deficit, Says CBO
HealthLeaders Media

While the price of ending the Sustainable Growth Rate formula is steep, the Congressional Budget Office says it’s cheaper than doing nothing, because the status quo would cost $900 million more than the proposed reforms over the next 10 years.

A bill before Congress that would eliminate Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate funding formula would also add about $141 billion to federal budget deficits over the next 10 years, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

The bipartisan bill, H.R.2, would increase direct spending by $145 billion from 2015–2025. It would also generate about $4 billion in offsetting revenues over the period, CBO said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

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Two-year labor ordeal ends after EMS workers ratify contract with American Medical Response
Sacramento Business Journal

It took two years to reach a deal, but emergency medical services workers in 13 Northern California counties have ratified a three-year contract with American Medical Response. The agreement between AMR and United EMS Workers covers 1,800 employees, including about 400 in Sacramento, Yolo and Placer counties. The contract limits the number of consecutive work shifts for the nation’s largest collective bargaining unit of private EMS professionals.

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Employer Incentives for U.S. Worker Wellness Programs Set Record
New York Times

Employers have ratcheted up the financial incentives they offer workers to participate in wellness programs to a record $693 per employee, on average, this year from $594 in 2014 and $430 five years ago, found a report released on Thursday.

And fewer employers are imposing penalties such as charging more for insurance if workers do not participate or achieve goals such as losing weight.

However, the findings – from a survey of 121 representative U.S.

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Lower Costs Linked to Minimally Invasive Surgical Techniques
HealthLeaders Media

The use of open incisions rather than less invasive surgical techniques results in complications such as such as infections in more than 4,000 patients annually, a Johns Hopkins surgeon reports.

“It’s one of the greatest disparities in medicine, that roughly half of surgical patients are cut open, and roughly half are getting minimally invasive surgery, though minimally invasive techniques have lower infection and complication rates, lower lengths of stay, and lower use of postoperative pain medications,” says Marty Makary, MD, professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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‘Cancer map’ looks for global matches for research, care
San Francisco Business Times

A team, which includes a nonprofit cofounded by a Stanford University cancer researcher and the federal institute targeting cancer, has created a map that will help doctors, researchers and government officials in even the poorest countries find ways to better treat patients.

The map will be unveiled Wednesday.

The Global Cancer Project Map is an online database that allows users to search for cancer experts and research projects by country and by cancer type. It initially contains more than 800 projects over six continents, according to the nonprofit Global Oncology Inc.  Later this year, said cofounder Dr. Ami Bhatt, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford, users will be able to upload vetted projects directly to the map.

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USC brain research center gets $50 million gift
Los Angeles Business Journal

The University of Southern California has received a $50 million donation from a Silicon Valley couple that will go to endow and name the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute. The gift will help fund the institute’s research on new therapies, preventions and cures for brain injury and disease, including Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and traumatic brain injury.

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UCLA team creates ‘gold standard’ for early Alzheimer’s detection

After six years of research, a UCLA-led team on Wednesday announced the first standardized protocol for measuring one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease — the atrophy of the part of the brain known as the hippocampus.

The finding marks the final step in an international consortium’s effort to develop a unified and reliable approach to assessing signs of Alzheimer’s-related neurodegeneration through structural imaging tests, a staple in the diagnosis and monitoring of the disease, according to UCLA.

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Growing FlexCare Medical Staffing plans to fill bigger space in Roseville
Sacramento Business Journal

Tenant improvements underway now will allow a medical staffing company to occupy all of a Roseville building purchased last year. Within the next few months, FlexCare Medical Staffing will move in to all 14,000 square feet at 990 Reserve Drive, near the popular Fountains at Roseville retail center. Company officials think FlexCare will need the space, with plans to add 100 jobs in the next few years.

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New urgent care complex debuts in Santa Ana
Orange County Register

Following a trend in urgent care expansions, HealthCare Partners last week opened a new, larger medical complex in Santa Ana. The facility, which is at 3501 South Harbor Blvd., includes medical offices and the urgent care center. It’s one of the company’s largest in the area, which should cut down on wait times, HealthCare said.

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Hospital gets new name as part of branding campaign
The Press-Enterprise

Those who avoided Riverside County Regional Medical Center can now seek treatment at Riverside University Medical Center. Just a couple of things worth noting, though. It’s the same place – the county-operated hospital in Moreno Valley – and it’s not run by any university, although medical residents from several universities train there.

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Hospital board seeks parcel tax support
Visialia Times-Delta

The Tulare Regional Medical Center Board of Directors will again seek local financial support to build the hospital’s expansion tower.

In action taken earlier this week, the board approved seeking to secure a $55 million parcel tax. Those funds will be used to finish construction on the tower.

“It will be up to the voters,” said Sherrie Bell, the hospital’s board chairwoman. “We had no choice. We had no collateral. We couldn’t get a loan. This was the only funding source.”

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Montebello’s Beverly Hospital names new CEO
Whittier Daily News

Starting off her career in healthcare as a marketing intern at White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles, Alice Cheng has been named CEO of Beverly Hospital.

“I never considered a career in healthcare, but it’s been a good fit,” she said.

The independent community hospital’s board unanimously appointed her to the top position at the 66-year-old facility citing her integral role in its success over the past decade.