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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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CMS proposes 1.4% rate hike and quality measures for nursing facilities
Modern Healthcare

Skilled nursing facilities would get a 1.4% Medicare rate increase for fiscal year 2016 under a proposed rule issued by the CMS Wednesday. It would lead to $500 million in higher Medicare payments.

The proposed increase is down from the 2% bump, or additional $750 million, that SNFs received between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015. There are more than 15,000 SNFs that admit more than two million patients in the traditional Medicare program each year.

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Vaccine exemption bill temporarily stalls in California Senate Education Committee
Contra Costa Times

A controversial bill to require vaccinations for all California school children ran into trouble Wednesday, when its author delayed a key Senate committee vote after enraged parents opposed to the legislation demanded lawmakers answer a central question: Don’t all kids — whether they are vaccinated or not — have a right to a public education?

With bill co-author Sen. Richard Pan facing similar questions from fellow committee members, the Sacramento Democrat put the brakes on a scheduled vote in the Senate Education Committee, promising to return with answers in a week for another hearing.

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Personalizing Cancer Treatment With Genetic Tests Can Be Tricky
National Public Radio

It’s becoming routine for cancer doctors to order a detailed genetic test of a patient’s tumor to help guide treatment, but often those results are ambiguous. Researchers writing in Science Translational Medicine Wednesday say there’s a way to make these expensive tests more useful.

Here’s the issue: These genomic tests scan hundreds or even thousands of genes looking for mutations that cause or promote cancer growth. In the process, they uncover many mutations that scientists simply don’t know how to interpret — some may be harmless.

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Are autism and diabetes linked? New Kaiser study says yes
Los Angeles Daily News

Research conducted using medical records of 322,000 children born at Kaiser Permanente Hospitals in Southern California shows that diabetes in early pregnancy will increase a child’s risk for developing autism.

The findings were published in this week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Children born from mothers who developed gestational diabetes by the 26th week of pregnancy were 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism, said Dr. Edward Curry, a pediatrician at Kaiser Fontana, who was the study’s co-author.

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Surviving the Affordable Care Act Grace Period
The Health Care Blog

Since the first open enrollment in 2014 more than 11 million people have gotten coverage through the insurance exchanges established through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While the plans offered through the exchanges are provided by the same insurers you deal with every day, there are some differences. The biggest one is the 90-day grace period. As we near the end of the grace period for 2015, many practices are still struggling to manage the ins and outs to ensure they get paid. Here’s why.

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State Senate committee votes to subsidize health care for immigrants here illegally
Orange County Register

A California Senate Health Committee voted 7-0 Wednesday to expand health care coverage for all Californians, regardless of their immigration status.

The bill by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would expand Medi-Cal eligibility for immigrants here illegally who are income-eligible.

It is one of 10 bills that aims to expand the rights of people who are living illegally in the country and offer them additional protections.

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Covered California wrestles with how to make specialty drugs affordable
Los Angeles Business Journal

Covered California’s effort to maintain affordable coverage that offers access to high-priced specialty drugs will play out in public at the health exchange’s board meeting Thursday in Sacramento. The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to about 3 p.m. The public portion of the meeting is expected to begin at 11:15 a.m. in the auditorium at 1601 Exposition Blvd. in Sacramento.

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The Big Fix. Medicare Doc Pay Enters a New Era
The Health Care Blog

It’s done. Congress on April 14 passed and the president signed into law a bill that terminates one of the most egregious and silliest examples of dysfunctional government in recent years—the so-called “sustainable growth rate” (SGR) formula for doctors’ fees under Medicare.

A previous blog explained the background and protracted lead-up to this moment. Now what?

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Party on SGR’s grave may end in hangover
Modern Healthcare

The permanent “doc-fix” deal that cleared the Senate by an overwhelming margin on Tuesday night ends a perennial fight over Medicare payments that’s dragged on for more than a decade.

The legislation repeals Medicare’s loathed sustainable growth-rate formula for paying doctors and averts a 21.2% cut in payments that would have kicked in this month. It also sets up a two-track payment system that’s designed to push physicians away from the traditional fee-for-service reimbursement model.

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State bill to force parents to vaccinate schoolchildren stalls
San Francisco Chronicle

A bill to prevent parents from opting their children out of school-required vaccinations could be headed for a major rewrite after lawmakers heard impassioned testimony from hundreds of parents who threatened to take their kids out of school. The controversial bill stalled in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday after committee Chairwoman Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge (Los Angeles County), cautioned bill author Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, that a vote Wednesday would likely kill the bill.

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Some Doctors Still Dismiss Parents’ Concerns About Autism
National Public Radio

Most children with autism get diagnosed around age 5, when they start school. But signs of the developmental disorder may be seen as early as 1 year old.

Yet even if a parent notices problems making eye contact or other early signs of autism, some doctors still dismiss those concerns, a study finds, saying the child will “grow out of it.” That can delay diagnosis and a child’s access to therapy.

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Tylenol Might Dull Emotional Pain, Too
National Public Radio

A common pain medication might make you go from “so cute!” to “so what?” when you look at a photo of a kitten. And it might make you less sensitive to horrifying things, too. It’s acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. Researchers say the drug might be taking the edge off emotions — not just pain.

“It seems to take the highs off your daily highs and the lows off your daily lows,” says Baldwin Way, a psychologist at Ohio State University and the principal investigator on the study. “It kind of flattens out the vicissitudes of your life.”

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Half of Cataract Surgery Patients Undergo Unnecessary Tests
HealthLeaders Media

Despite guidelines in 2002 that advised against precautionary testing of patients before cataract surgery, which is considered to be a safe, quick procedure, 53% were referred for low-benefit and costly tests days before their operations researchers have found.

A research team led by Catherine Chen, MD, and R. Adams Dudley, MD, of the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, conducted an analysis of more than 440,000 randomly sampled Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries who had a cataract removed in 2011. The team’s findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine Thursday.

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UnitedHealth hikes forecast, shares edge to new heights
San Luis Obispo Tribune

UnitedHealth hiked its 2015 forecast after soaring past Wall Street’s first-quarter expectations with a performance fueled in part by growth outside health insurance.

The nation’s largest health insurer said Thursday that earnings from its Optum pharmacy benefits management segment combined with strong growth in its core insurance business helped push net income up about 29 percent to $1.41 billion in the quarter.

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Simi Valley Hospital’s hybrid catheterization lab is licensed
The Acorn

Simi Valley Hospital recently announced that it has been granted state licensing as a fully functional catheterization lab, receiving approval from the California Department of Public Health on March 9.

The hospital has always had cardiac physicians on medical staff, but with the new cath lab they can treat patients at the hospital. The cardiac cath lab is the first-ever hybrid facility in Ventura County.

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County issues information on care alternatives in wake of pending hospital closure
Contra Costa Times

Contra Costa County this week began a multilingual information campaign to help patients in anticipation of the closing of Doctors Medical Center next week.

One flier in English and Spanish includes information on where people can get urgent care and phone access to a 24-hour advice nurse staffed by the county department of Health Services (call 1-877-661-6230, and select option 1).

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Cuts Coming To Two South Bay Hospitals
ABC News

In Santa Clara County, employees at two hospitals are devastated after learning about planned cuts to patient services.

It’s a tale of two medical facilities.

Both operated by the Daughters of Charity Health. Hospital officials tell ABC7 News this was the right move to make to keep the doors open for now.

Natalie Garza works in the ER at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose.

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