News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospitals Seek Law Change to Preserve Programs, Align Paperwork

California’s not-for-profit hospitals support a diverse array of community benefit programs across the state that are tailored to meet specific local health care needs. Those programs would be strengthened by Assembly Bill 1046 by Assemblyman Matt Dababneh (D-Encino), which provides greater transparency and accountability in the reporting of these programs. These community benefit programs, which provide help to millions of vulnerable Californians, are the subject of a new video produced by the California Hospital Association.

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‘Doc fix’ gives physician assistants more authority, but will there be enough of them?
Modern Healthcare

Organizations representing physician assistants and nurse practitioners cheered the repeal of Medicare’s sustainable-growth rate payment formula. But a failed attempt by Yale University to add on to its existing PA program with a parallel online option reflects the difficulty of trying to rapidly grow the nation’s healthcare workforce.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners hailed passage of the bill, formally known as the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, and proclaimed it “more than a ‘doc fix.’ ”  The measure includes nurse practitioners in its Merit-Based Incentive Payment System, and ensures that NP-run practices operating as patient-centered medical homes are eligible to receive payments for chronic-disease management. It also authorizes NPs to document evaluations for durable equipment.

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Why Nice Doctors Are Better Doctors
Yahoo! News

Going to the doctor is an exercise in brisk communication, trust and vulnerability — talking about your health concerns isn’t easy. Add to this crunchtime a new doctor who rushes in, fails to provide an introduction and talks down to you throughout the session. But doctors with bad manners aren’t merely an added frustration while you’re sick: There’s evidence they could be hazardous to your health.

The role of bedside manner in medical treatment has been something of an afterthought in decades past, seen as secondary to a good medical education, proper experience and high-tech tools and resources. But this kind of caring could mean the difference between illness and health, according to experts, and with a growing focus on patient satisfaction, many doctors are taking note.

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Pioneer ACOs Saved Medicare $118 Million in Year One
HealthLeaders Media

Medicare’s 32 Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations saw modest improvements in quality at a marginally lower cost in their first year of operation, a new study shows.

The report, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, estimates that the Pioneer program saved Medicare about $116 per beneficiary each year, or about $118 million in 2012, its first year of operations.

“Contributing to these estimated savings were reductions in spending on acute and post-acute care as well as an apparent substitution of care in lower-priced office settings for care in higher-priced hospital outpatient departments,” the study found.

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Affordable Care Act approval rising slowly
Modern Healthcare

For the first time in nearly three years, more Americans approve of the Affordable Care Act than disapprove of it, according to the latest tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The difference between the opposing views was small—just one percentage point—but statistically significant.

The trend lines seem to indicate growing acceptance of the landmark healthcare law.

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What’s At Stake In The Supreme Court Obamacare Case
Kaiser Health News

The Affordable Care Act mandates that all Americans get health coverage or pay a penalty. To help people pay for that insurance, the federal government subsidizes insurance premiums for millions of Americans.

In just a couple of months, the Supreme Court will rule in a major case concerning those subsidies. The question is whether the law allowed for them across the country or just in the minority of states that set up their own insurance exchanges. A decision to take away those subsidies could leave millions without insurance.

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How does Covered California’s small employer insurance program compare?
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California’s small employer insurance program is growing, but a private-sector competitor is growing faster. CaliforniaChoice has 12,070 employers in its program and 218,648 enrollees. That’s up from 11,500 employers and 150,000 members last August. By comparison, Covered California has 2,289 employers and 15,633 enrollees, up from 1,7000 employers and 11,500 members in August. Both grew, but CalChoice boomed ahead with 45 percent growth in membership from a much larger base.

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CMS commits $3 billion to modernize Medicaid-enrollment systems
Modern Healthcare

The CMS intends to permanently boost funding to help states build and maintain Medicaid eligibility and enrollment systems.

In 2011, the CMS raised the matching rate to 90% from 50% for money that states spend on building eligibility and enrollment systems, and to 75% from 50% for maintenance and operations of those systems. The bump in funds was set to expire in December 2015, but the agency decided the aid should be permanent.

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IPPS 2016 Proposed Rule Raises Hospital Pay, Emphasizes Quality
HealthLeaders Media

In the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Inpatient Prospective Payment System proposed rule, released late Friday, the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services announced the usual changes to MS-DRGs and their relative weights, the market basket update, and the expansion of its value-based payment quality measures, as it has in previous years.

The proposed increase in operating payment rates to hospitals is 1.1 percent. According to CMS: “Hospitals that do not successfully participate in the Hospital IQR Program and do not submit the required quality data will be subject to a one-fourth reduction of the market basket update.” Further, the agency states that it “projects that the rate increase, together with other proposed changes to IPPS payment policies, will increase IPPS operating payments by approximately 0.3 percent.”

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Federal Panel Revisits Contested Recommendation On Mammograms
National Public Radio

In 2009, I was among the scrum of reporters covering the controversial advice from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that women in their 40s think twice about regular mammograms. The task force pointed out that the net benefits in younger women were small and said women should weigh the pros and cons of screening before making a decision.

Those guidelines kicked off a heated debate about the benefits and harms of mammography that is rekindled with every new study.

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Finding the Stars of Hospital Care In the US
The Health Care Blog

Now we’re giving star ratings to hospitals? Does anyone think this is a good idea? Actually, I do. Hospital ratings schemes have cropped up all over the place, and sorting out what’s important and what isn’t is difficult and time consuming. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) runs the best known and most comprehensive hospital rating website, Hospital Compare.

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Financially troubled Bay Area hospital closes
San Francisco Business Times

After years on life support, Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo is scheduled to close its doors at 7 a.m. today.

That’s when the emergency room, which was the last unit still serving patients, will close, according to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Contra Costa Times.

The 60-year-old safety-net hospital in San Pablo has been on the brink of shuttering many times over the last 25 years.

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New Urgent Care Facility Opens In San Pablo Amid Hospital Closure
ABC News

As one hospital closes in San Pablo, a new urgent care facility opened nearby Monday to help serve some of the patients. Hector Hernandez was the first patient to visit the new Lifelong Medical Care facility in San Pablo. “Really, really inconvenient, you know I think it’s a tragedy that Doctors Medical Center is closing, so this is a blessing you know having a clinic,” Hector Hernandez said.

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Fresno Surgical Hospital earns five-star patient rating
The Business Journal

Fresno Surgical Hospital announced today that it has received a five-star rating on the federal government’s Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (HCAHPS).

“We are honored to be awarded a five-star rating,” said Kristine Kassahn, CEO of Fresno Surgical Hospital. “It is our mission to give patients an outstanding experience in addition to high-quality surgical care. This ranking is truly a testament to our staff’s dedication to patient satisfaction.”