News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

 

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EEOC Proposal On Wellness Program Earns Business Praise, Consumer Concerns
Kaiser Health News

Business groups praised a proposed new rule from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clarifying how employers can construct wellness programs, but consumer advocates said the new policy could harm workers.

The EEOC published the long-awaited rule Thursday.

“This is a big step forward, primarily because the EEOC has defined what it means for a wellness program to be voluntary,” says Steve Wojcik, vice president for public policy at the National Business Group on Health, which represents large employers.

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Healthcare reform marches on — 5 key observations for ASCs on 2015 & beyond
Becker's Hospital Review

Healthcare reform had a rocky first five years, and the next five are equally uncertain in today’s political landscape. Here are five key observations on how future healthcare reform implementation could impact ambulatory surgery centers.

1. The cost containment counsel will convene for the first time. The counsel charged with making recommendations on Medicare payments — with the goal of eliminating waste and overspending — will convene for the first time next year.

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Covered California hopes to reboot small-biz program with a new name
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California’s Small Employer Health Options Program — better known as SHOP — may appear asleep in the new insurance marketplace, but the numbers are up 36 percent since August. By March 1, the program had 15,644 members at 2,289 small employers statewide. That’s up from 11,500 members and 1,700 employers in August 2014. But don’t expect to see the SHOP acronym around much longer, Covered California executive director Peter Lee said at a board meeting in Sacramento on Thursday.

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Advocates lobby Covered California over cost caps for specialty drugs
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California executive director Peter Lee warned at the very beginning of a board meeting in Sacramento on Thursday that no decision was coming until next month on specialty prescription drug costs. But board members still got an earful. The state health benefit exchange was expected to vote on a proposal to cap consumer costs per high-end prescription at $500 in 2016. Depending on their level of coverage, some consumers would pay less. Proposed caps range from $200 to $500.

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Covered California weighs plan to reduce financial burden of expensive drugs for people with serious illnesses
Orange County Register

Covered California, the state’s Obamacare health insurance exchange, could alter the way consumers pay for extremely expensive specialty drugs, but patient advocates say that medications for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and hepatitis C will still cost too much.

The exchange’s board of directors, which meets today, is scheduled to consider a proposal that would set a maximum monthly co-insurance cost of $200 to $500 per prescription.

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Insurers fail to cover all prescribed contraceptives, study finds
Southern California Public Radio

Some women may be paying hefty fees for birth control pills, vaginal rings and emergency contraception, despite a federal requirement that insurers pay their full cost. And some women only have coverage for a less effective type of emergency contraception, according to a report released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The analysis looked at 20 health insurers in five states and found companies that provided limited or no coverage for some forms contraception. In some cases, the insurers imposed copays or required women to pay the full cost of a drug.

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Medicare Issues its First Star Ratings for Patient Experience
HealthLeaders Media

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Thursday rolled out its first and long-awaited five-star rating system for patient experience in hospitals. The ratings are based on responses to 11 of the questions in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey.

Of the 3,553 hospitals on Hospital Compare, only 3% received the highest rating of five stars. Most (40%) got three stars. Ratings were not available for 1,102 hospitals.

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Local doctors cheer end of fight over Medicare fee cuts
Sacramento Business Journal

It looks like annual fights over automatic Medicare cuts to doctor fees are finally over.

Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have approved legislation to reform the Medicare payment system and repeal the so-called “sustainable growth rate.” President Barack Obama said Wednesday he plans to sign the bill.

“This is good news for physicians and patients,” said Aileen Wetzel, executive director of the Sacramento Sierra Valley Medical Society. The change is good for doctors because it removes a regular threat of pay cuts, and it’s good for patients because it ensures access to doctors, some of whom have threatened to cap their Medicare business if the system wasn’t fixed, she said.

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Last Chance for Meaningful Use
The Health Care Blog

I mean: Last chance for patients as first-class citizens in Meaningful Use. The ghetto is abuzz.

As I write this #nomuwithoutme is just hitting Twitter. The reason the natives are restless in the patient ghetto is a recent proposal by our Federal regulators to downgrade a Meaningful Use (MU) requirement for Stage 3, in the final stage of a $30B + initiative to advance interoperable digital health records. The focus is on something called View / Download / Transmit (V/D/T) but the real issue and the Last Chance is broader and more important. The bad news is that MU may leave patients as beggars for own data. The good news is that the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC)  and Congress are paying attention and patients still have a chance to shift the terms of the debate to what HIPAA calls “the patient’s right of access” and demand that it apply strictly to MU Stage 3 Appication Programming Interfaces (API).

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Switching EHRs Adds Functionality but Not Always Satisfaction
HealthLeaders Media

Providers who switch from one electronic health record (EHR) to another do so to add more functionality, but often it doesn’t make them more satisfied, according to a recently published survey.

“I love my EHR, but I work with a lot of physicians who don’t,” Kenneth Adler, MD, MMM, a family physician in Tucson, Ariz., said here Thursday at the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. “I bought them an EHR and they still blame me for it.”

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Jerry Brown sidesteps immigrant health care question
Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown declined Thursday to specifically address a proposal to expand health care coverage to Californians in the country illegally. But what he said about legislation, generally, could give the bill’s proponents pause.

“As you know, I don’t give answers, almost invariably, on bills that have not reached my desk,” Brown told reporters at the Capitol. “I will just say generally that there are a lot of ideas that often are memorialized into bills that, when you price them out, they exceed the available money.”

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Only 251 U.S. hospitals receive top ranking on patient experience
Modern Healthcare

Just 251 U.S. hospitals got the highest score on a new five-star rating system the CMS rolled out Thursday.

The new ratings are part of a broader initiative by the federal agency to use a five-star rating system across all of its Web pages intended to help consumers compare the quality of healthcare providers.

Hospitals had a chance to preview the ratings last fall and many have already expressed concern. They question the methodology and whether the ratings reflect “meaningful reflections of performance.”

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Financial incentives OK’d for workplace wellness programs
Modern Healthcare

In a victory for business, federal regulators said Thursday that employers can continue to use financial penalties and rewards to nudge staff to participate in fast-growing workplace wellness programs.

But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—which enforces laws against discrimination—also proposed some safeguards for employees.

Those include limits on the size of financial incentives, confidentiality of employee medical information and prohibitions against firing workers who decline to participate or denying them access to the company health plan.

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FDA approves Amgen’s heart failure drug Corlanor
Los Angeles Business Journal

The Food and Drug Administration has approved Amgen Inc.’s drug, Corlanor, to treat patients with chronic heart failure, a disease that leads to frequent hospitalizations and oftentimes death.

Thousand Oaks-based Amgen(Nasdaq: AMGN) said Corlanor is the first new chronic heart failure medicine approved by the FDA in nearly a decade. The FDA said it approved the use of Corlanor (ivabradine) on top of current standard of care beta blockers, for patients with moderate to severe heart failure and a resting heart rate of at least 70 beats per minute.

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UCI receives $11 million grant to continue ground-breaking Alzheimer’s research
Orange County Register

What if researchers can take ethics out of the equation by reprogramming existing skin or blood cells to behave like embryonic stem cells?

According to Frank LaFerla, who heads up ground-breaking research on Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, scientists at UC Irvine’s Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders, or MIND institute, are doing just that.

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Tahoe Forest Hospital may help finance Truckee aquatic center
Tahoe Daily Tribune

Recreation officials are looking for Tahoe Forest Hospital District help close a funding gap for the warm-water pool at the Truckee aquatic center.

Of a $250,000 fundraising goal, roughly half ($122,000) had been raised or pledged to the pool as of Wednesday, said Amanda Oberacker, aquatic coordinator for the Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District.

Although the public has and continues to be generous, we don’t know many individuals that can fill that gap, and we’re hoping that Tahoe Forest Hospital District will step forward on behalf of the health and wellness of our community,”she said.

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Hospital’s helipad approved by commission
The Press-Enterprise

The Temecula Planning Commission this week signed off on plans for a new helipad that will be built near the Temecula Valley Hospital on Temecula Parkway. The commission’s action is considered a recommendation and the City Council will have the final say. Armando Villa, director of the Community Development Department, said Thursday the council could take up the item on the first meeting in June. The commission vote was 4-0.

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Kaiser Permanente to plant IT campus, 900 jobs outside of Bay Area
San Francisco Business Times

Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente will plant a $20 million information technology campus in Midtown Atlanta — a project that will create about 900 jobs. The Invest Atlanta board approved unanimously at its meeting Thursday $300,000 in incentives for “Project Big Chill,” as the expansion project was codenamed. Eloisa Klementich, managing director of business development for Invest Atlanta, said Atlanta competed with Colorado for the Kaiser Permanente project.

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