News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Keeping Up with Stroke Advances
HealthLeaders Media

Hospitals and health systems have increased their focus on stroke care over the years, which in turn has helped contribute to reducing stroke deaths as well as improving outcomes for stroke patients; however, there are still significant gains that some hospital-based neuroscience leaders say can be made. “We feel attention to stroke care is underrated,” says Peter Rasmussen, MD, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Cerebrovascular Center.

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Insurance commissioner lobbies for a bill that would expand his regulatory reach
Sacramento Business Journal

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones blasted Anthem Blue Cross on Wednesday for a recent 8.7 percent rate increase. And he used the occasion to plug a bill that would boost his regulatory authority over preferred-provider organization plans offered by Anthem and Blue Cross of California.

The April 1 rate increase affected nearly 170,000 Anthem customers statewide. These folks are enrolled in “grandfathered” plans bought before Obamacare was signed in 2010.

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Appeals of Denied Medicare Claims Mean High Costs for Hospitals, Low Risk for RACs
HealthLeaders Media

Increased scrutiny and denial of hospital inpatient claims by Medicare’s recovery audit contractors over the last few years has been followed by growing numbers of denials being overturned in the hospitals’ favor. But instead of being more careful and selective about which claims to audit, three separate RAC agencies have continued to audit ever larger numbers of Medicare claims.

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California bill ending ‘beliefs’ exemption for childhood vaccines advances
Reuters

California’s senate education committee approved a bill making it mandatory for children to be vaccinated before starting school despite opposition from “ant-vaxxer” parents who have packed public hearings and flooded lawmakers with calls.

The bill, which has already passed the senate health committee, has several more hurdles to clear before becoming law. It next goes to the senate judiciary committee, before going to the state senate, and finally the assembly.

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Bill eliminating vaccine exemptions clears key California Senate committee
Orange County Register

A bill to compel more parents to vaccinate their children picked up steam Wednesday, passing the Senate Education Committee on a 7 to 2 vote.

The bill – which was introduced in the wake of the measles outbreak that started at Disneyland Resort – would severely tighten existing laws by eliminating the state’s controversial personal belief and religious exemptions so only schoolchildren with health problems could opt out of vaccines.

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California Vaccine Bill Approved in Key Hearing
KQED Radio

A controversial bill that would require vaccination for nearly all California children to attend school — both public and private — cleared the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

The committee voted 7-2 on the bill, co-authored by Sens. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica). Both Democrats and Republicans supported the bill. “It’s a strong sign that people want to be sure that we protect our kids, protect our schools and protect our communities from these preventable diseases,” Pan said of Wednesday’s vote.

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After delay, lawmakers advance California vaccine bill
San Diego Union-Tribune

Opponents of a proposal that would require California schoolchildren to be vaccinated vowed to continue their fight after a Senate committee overwhelmingly approved the bill Wednesday.

The Senate Education Committee voted 7-2 on the bill by Sen. Richard Pan, a Democratic pediatrician from Sacramento, with votes from both Democrats and Republicans.

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Limit on California vaccine opt-outs clears key committee
San Francisco Chronicle

A bill that would make vaccines mandatory for California schoolchildren passed its toughest committee Wednesday and now heads to a panel dominated by lawmakers who support the proposal.

SB277 stalled only a week ago due to lack of support among lawmakers after hundreds of parents poured into the state Senate Education Committee to object to its passage. Now, however, it’s closer to moving to the full Senate for a vote.

Opponents said they will keep up the fight against the bill to ensure that unvaccinated kids aren’t barred from public and private schools.

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Bill Requiring Vaccination of Children Advances in California, but Hurdles Remain
New York Times

A bill that would require nearly all children in California to be vaccinated by eliminating “personal belief” exemptions advanced through the State Legislature on Wednesday, though it still has several hurdles to clear. If approved, California would become one of only three states that require all parents to vaccinate their children as a condition of going to school, unless there is a medical reason not to do so.

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Financial losses lead rural Doctors Medical Center to close
Healthcare Finance News

Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, Calif. closed its doors on Tuesday after losing money for years, highlighting the challenge to health systems that serve the poor.

A new urgent care facility opened nearby this week to help serve the population. About 80 percent of Doctors’ patient revenue came from Medicare and Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program while fewer than 10 percent of the hospital’s patients had private insurance, according to published reports.

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More Whistleblowers Say Health Plans Are Gouging Medicare
KQED Radio

Privately run Medicare plans, fresh off a lobbying victory that reversed proposed budget cuts, face new scrutiny from government investigators and whistleblowers who allege that plans have overcharged the government for years.

Federal court records show at least a half dozen whistleblower lawsuits alleging billing abuses in these Medicare Advantage plans have been filed under the False Claims Act since 2010, including two that just recently surfaced.

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Officials Weigh Options To Hold Down Medicare Costs For Hospice
Kaiser Health News

Medicare officials are considering changes in the hospice benefit to stop the federal government from paying twice for care given to dying patients. But patient advocates and hospice providers fear a new policy could make the often difficult decision to move into hospice care even tougher.

Patients are eligible for hospice care when doctors determine they have no more than six months to live.

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More bad news for Daughters of Charity: Regulators halt key source of new customers
San Francisco Business Times

The financially rickety Daughters of Charity Health System, already buffeted by the collapse of a proposed $843 million sale of its six hospitals, confirmed Tuesday that it is laying off 4 percent of its workers. The latest blow: State regulators have ordered 10 California health plans to stop sending new customers to the system’s Medical Foundation, an affiliated medical group, due to solvency concerns.

The move involves most of the state’s major HMO players and will essentially shut off a key source of patients, new HMO enrollees, for the foundation.

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Ranking the Bay Area’s most-liked hospitals
San Francisco Chronicle

There are dozens of ways to measure the quality of a hospital. But one good way is to survey the patients who have visited that hospital for treatment. And now we can see how each Bay Area hospital ranks according to those patients thanks to a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services program, the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Patient Survey.

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Why Many Doctors Don’t Follow ‘Best Practices’
National Public Radio

For all their talk about evidence-based medicine, a lot of doctors don’t follow the clinical guidelines set by leading medical groups.

Consider, for example, the case of cataract surgery. It’s a fairly straightforward medical procedure: Doctors replace an eye’s cloudy lens with a clear, prosthetic one. More than a million people each year in the U.S. have the surgery — most of them older than 65.

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Cancer hospitals participating in at least some exchange plan networks
Modern Healthcare

Most specialized cancer hospitals say they participate in the narrow provider networks of some exchange health plans, but health insurers have not been shy keeping some cancer hospitals out, according to a new survey from consulting firm Avalere Health.

The Avalere analysis follows an Associated Press report last year which found that many of America’s most prestigious cancer hospitals were getting excluded from health plans sold on the Affordable Care Act exchanges in 2014.

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Obamacare check-up
Chico News and Review

First the good news: The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, has added millions of Americans to the health insurance rolls in the past year and a half.

Now the bad news: The program is dauntingly complex, unpopular with much of the citizenry, and vulnerable to political obstructionism. That last bit is a large part of why 30 million people remain uninsured.

This was the evident consensus of a panel of three experts who offered a “report card” on the ACA to an audience in the Enloe Conference Center on Thursday (April 16).

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Tulare hospital enjoying rosier financial outlook
The Business Journal

After years of financial struggles and legal woes, the prognosis for Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC) appears to be improving.

The hospital, which is now managed by HealthCare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA), reported a net profit at the end of last year after months of red ink, saw its Fitch credit rating change from “negative” to “stable” and had its “going concern” removed by an auditing team last fall.

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Ethnicity complicates patient-doctor discussion of death
Washington Post

Talking about death is never easy, even for medical professionals. But a new study has found that difficulty discussing end-of-life medical treatments is complicated further when there are ethnic differences that can create subtle barriers between the doctor and patient.

A survey of more than 1,000 medical professionals by researchers at Stanford University’s Medical School found that virtually all of them encountered difficulties holding end-of-life discussions with their patients.

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Poll: Consumers still have no idea what health care costs
Sacramento Business Journal

From the public sector to the private sector, there’s no shortage of groups trying to make the mysterious world of health care pricing more transparent for consumers.

And yet, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, two-thirds of people still find it too hard to know what doctors or hospitals charge, and only a fifth of people have seen cost or quality information about hospitals, insurers or doctors.

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Health insurers expand cash payment options
Orange County Register

A handful of California health insurers have started allowing consumers who prefer using cash to pay their premiums while out shopping at Wal-Mart or buying a Big Gulp at 7-Eleven.

Most health plans require customers to pay by check, credit card, electronic bank transfer or money order. But now that Obamacare requires people to buy health insurance, and provides subsidies to lower-income residents, some insurers are expanding payment options for customers who don’t use banks.

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