News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Poll: Rate of Uninsured Americans Drops to 11.9%
The Wall Street Journal

The rate of uninsured Americans fell to 11.9% in the first quarter of 2015, down one percentage point from the end of 2014, according to a Gallup survey.

The rate was the lowest since Gallup began tracking it with the Healthways company in 2008, and a sharp decrease from a high of 18% on the eve of the rollout of the Affordable Care Act in the fall of 2013. The polling firm said the rate showed the effects of the health law, but also that it had some distance to go in fulfilling its goals of broadly extending health coverage.

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The Nightmare Outcome Of A Son’s Mental Illness
Los Angeles Times

Cynthia Hernandez was thinking about the missing dog when she awoke early that September morning in her family’s two-story tract home, tucked away in a residential enclave north of a busy commercial corridor in Chino.

The 10-year-old cocker spaniel, Sandy, hadn’t been seen since the day before. She went outside to call the dog again, without luck. She came back in, took a shower and began ironing clothes for work.

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Spending on hospital care soars in February
Modern Healthcare

U.S. health expenditures in February 2015 climbed 6.6% compared with the same month last year. A sharp rise in hospital spending was among the primary catalysts.

Spending on hospital care grew by 9% in the 12 months ended in February, according to the Altarum Institute’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending. That was a sharp divergence from same period a year ago, when hospital spending increased 3.1%.

The 9% jump was also more pronounced than what Altarum recorded from January 2014 to January 2015. In that 12-month span, hospital spending increased 6.1%.

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The Hidden Cost Of Mammograms: More Testing And Overtreatment
National Public Radio

There’s no question mammograms can save lives by detecting breast cancer early. But they can also result in unnecessary testing and treatment that can be alarming and costly.

In fact, each year the U.S. spends $4 billion on follow-up tests and treatments that result from inaccurate mammograms, scientists report in the current issue of Health Affairs.

That’s a “stunning number,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Kenneth Mandl, at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Biomedical Informatics.

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Nearly 9 in 10 US adults now have health insurance
Modern Healthcare

Underlining a change across the nation, nearly 9 out of 10 adults now say they have health insurance, according to an extensive survey released Monday.

As recently as 2013, slightly more than 8 out of 10 had coverage.

Whether the new number from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index turns out to be a high-water mark for President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, or a milestone on the path toward his goal of getting virtually all U.S. residents covered, remains to be seen.

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Many small firms may face health insurance rate changes under Obamacare
Los Angeles Times

In recent years, as millions of individual consumers coped with new and different kinds of health insurance, small businesses got some breathing room.

Millions of small businesses nationwide — and an estimated 70% of California’s small firms that offer employee health insurance — haven’t yet faced all the sweeping changes that resulted from the Affordable Care Act.

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MedPAC: Gut Two-Midnight Rule; Punish Aggressive RACs
HealthLeaders Media

Five far-reaching recommendations approved by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) include eliminating the controversial “two-midnight rule” and penalizing recovery audit contractors who erroneously deny hospital claims.

Under the recommendations, hospitals would further be required to notify patients that they have been placed in outpatient “observation” status and that subsequent skilled nursing care won’t qualify for Medicare coverage.

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Senate Wrangles Over Medicare-Payments Fix
The Wall Street Journal

Backers of legislation to set up a new system of Medicare payments to doctors and other providers are seeking to settle a flurry of last-minute skirmishes that threaten its quick passage in the Senate when Congress returns from a two-week recess Monday.

The main concern is from conservatives who are frustrated that two-thirds of the measure’s $214 billion cost would be financed through higher deficits and are looking at ways to pay for the measure without resorting to borrowing.

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EHR Data ‘Blocking’ Hobbles HIT, Says ONC
HealthLeaders Media

The federal government’s $28 billion investment in health information technology interoperability is undermined by vendors and providers who don’t want to share data with perceived competitors, a new study says.

In a report requested by Congress, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology said that “information blocking” is a significant problem that is likely to get worse as expectations and the capabilities for HIT mature and improve.

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More ICD-10 anxiety: Third-party billers say neither tech nor clients are ready
Modern Healthcare

More warning signals are flashing on the health industry’s readiness for the upcoming switch to ICD-10 diagnostic and procedure codes—this time from a key revenue-cycle-management sector. According to a recent survey by the Healthcare Billing & Management Association, a lack of preparedness by the billers’ clients—predominately hospital- and office-based physicians—remains a significant barrier. Many billers also lack needed ICD-10 software upgrades, the survey data shows. Respondents also indicated a dearth of rigorous testing of the software systems for claims throughput.

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Why Some Doctors Are Hesitant To Screen Smokers For Lung Cancer
National Public Radio

In February, Medicare announced that it would pay for an annual lung cancer screening test for certain long-term smokers. Medicare recipients between the ages of 55 and 77 who have smoked the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years are now eligible for the annual test, known as a spiral CT scan.

Medicare’s decision was partly a response to a 2011 study showing that screenings with the technique could reduce lung cancer deaths by 20 percent.

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Moving Out: Hospitals Leave Downtowns For More Prosperous Digs
Kaiser Health News

Nearly as old as the railroad that slices through this southern Illinois city just east of the Mississippi River, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital has been a downtown bedrock since 1875. Started by three nuns from a Franciscan order in Germany, the Catholic hospital still seeks “to embody Christ’s healing love” to the sick, the aged and the poor, according to its mission statement. It is so tied to the city that when the local economy slumped in 2009, the nonprofit St.

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Vaccine fears haunt L.A.’s west side as parents face off over personal exemption rule
Sacramento Bee

Mothers entering the mommy-and-me classroom at the Pump Station and Nurtury, a breastfeeding resource center, pass a sign urging access for “Well Mothers and Babies Only,” a testament to the fragile immune systems of the infants who enter.

A cough is enough for co-founder Wendy Haldeman to send parents home.

Because many of those babies are too young to be fully vaccinated, Haldeman also has a window on a raging debate over public health and parenting.

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Nurse-family partnership helps first-time Bay Area moms achieve success
Contra Costa Times

Just a month before giving birth to her first child, Megan Reynolds was making one of her long weekly bus rides from Concord to East Oakland when she had a glimpse of what she feared might be her future.

She saw a young woman on the bus, with a newborn baby and surrounded by suitcases, who had just been kicked out of her mother’s house. “She had no place to go,” Reynolds said, who herself had no reliable home, partner or job at the time.

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Hospital chief announces new partnership with Renown
Plumas County News

Collaboration continues to be the hallmark of Dr. Jeff Kepple’s tenure as the chief executive officer of Plumas District Hospital.

The latest effort is a pilot program with Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno. “The goal is getting patients back to their home towns,” Kepple said. When patients are discharged from Renown they typically are sent home or to another nearby facility for rehabilitation.

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