News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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More docs report quality data and e-prescribe, but many prefer penalty
Modern Healthcare

The CMS paid out more than $380 million in incentive payments through its physician-quality reporting system and electronic-prescribing incentive programs, but more than 400,000 providers accepted pay cuts rather than participate.

The agency issued a new report on the programs late Thursday. The numbers come as the CMS and physicians prepare for the Physician Quality Reporting System, or PQRS, to be rolled into what’s intended to be a more cohesive approach to quality reporting and incentives under the recently enacted legislation repealing and replacing Medicare’s sustainable growth-rate formula.

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Little-known drug may halt multiple sclerosis, Gladstone study finds
San Francisco Business Times

Blocking a specific protein with a little-known, experimental drug restored balance in the immune systems of lab mice, preventing them from developing multiple sclerosis, researchers at San Francisco’s Gladstone Institutes found.

The early research, published Monday in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, could chart a new course for the drug against MS, a potentially fatal disease where the immune system runs amok and attacks nerve cells’ protective covers. But the researchers note that some scientists — including one now at Google Inc.-backed Calico Life Sciences LLC — have thought that enhancing the same protein could slow the aging process.

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Physicians in S.F. are prescribing park time to patients
San Francisco Examiner

Many of the prescriptions San Francisco physician Dr. Daphne Miller writes for her patients cannot be filled at a pharmacy. That’s because they look something like this:

Drug: Exercise in Glen Canyon Park
Dose: 45 minutes of walking or running
Directions: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 7 a.m.
Refill: Unlimited

Dubbed a park prescription, such instructions have become a common theme among health care providers in The City in recent years due to a joint effort between doctors and parks officials to increase a patient’s time spent outdoors rather than encouraging them to reach inside the medicine cabinet.

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When the hospital’s drug cabinet is bare
Washington Post

I worry about a lot of things that could go wrong if I’m taken to a hospital, but until today this hasn’t been one of them: Hospitals are routinely running short of critical antibiotics, often for months at a time.

When Larissa May, an associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, and a team of researchers checked, they found that hospitals across the country ran short of 148 anti-bacterial drugs over a 13-year period, from 2001 to 2013.  The average time without a drug was nearly nine months (injectable drugs generally ran short for even longer periods than medications taken by mouth). Thirty-two of the medications ran short more than once, including one, Meropenem, which was short seven different times for a total of 1,114 days.

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HealthCare.gov saps eHealth’s online insurance business
Modern Healthcare

Private health insurance exchange eHealth lost $2.1 million in the first quarter this year and has lost hundreds of thousands of individual exchange members in the past year, the company reported Friday.But in typical Wall Street logic, the stock price of eHealth actually swelled more than 20% in early morning trading as revenue came in higher than expected while losses were not as bad as expected.

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Obama uses hospital funds to push Medicaid expansion
Yahoo! News

The Obama administration is dialing up the pressure on a handful of states that have resisted expanding Medicaid coverage for their low-income residents under the federal health care overhaul. The leverage comes from a little-known federal fund that helps states and hospitals recoup some of the cost of caring for uninsured patients. The administration says states can just expand Medicaid, as the health care law provides, and then they wouldn’t need as much extra help with costs for the uninsured.

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Signing up late for Medicare Part B can trigger a lifelong penalty
Los Angeles Times

If Robert Bowman hadn’t casually mentioned his upcoming 65th birthday to a friend, he might have missed his window to sign up for Medicare.

“He said you better sign up now because there’s a penalty for signing up late. I didn’t know that,” says Bowman, a 65-year-old former tow truck driver who lives in Torrance.

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Blue Cross eyes Medicare growth through private exchange
Modern Healthcare

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association will build a private health insurance exchange in the hopes of retaining workers who age into the Medicare program, the not-for-profit health plan group said Friday.

The goal is to offer a site with “one-stop shopping for the Medicare population,” said Jody Voss, vice president of strategic business services at BCBSA. The exchange will allow employers to offer supplemental Medigap policies, as well as Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans, to their employees.

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Hospitals Increasingly Turn To Patients For Advice
Kaiser Health News

Jane Maier was one of a select group of patients invited in early 2012 to help Partners HealthCare, Massachusetts’ largest health system, pick its new electronic health record system – a critical investment of close to $700 million.

The system, which is now being phased in, will help coordinate services and reshape how patients and doctors find and read medical information. The fact that Partners sought the perspective of patients highlights how hospitals increasingly care about what their customers think.

“It’s such a great experience,” Maier said. “They treat us as a member – a partner – in their review process.”

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Caregiver Crisis: Technology to the Rescue?
HealthyCal.org

Will social networking and technology save the day for one of America’s most intractable social problems — caring for the country’s aging population?

The splashy launch of the San Francisco-based startup Honor — with high-profile backing from tech entrepreneur Mark Andreessen, politicians, and Hollywood celebrities alike — spotlights an issue that is devastating to families and finances.

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In suit, Blue Shield cites extravagant spending by fired executive
Los Angeles Times

Blue Shield of California fired a top executive last month after he spent more than $100,000 on his corporate credit card, the company says, including on trips with girlfriend and “Sharknado” actress Tara Reid.

The details surfaced in a countersuit the health insurance giant filed Tuesday alleging fraud by Aaron Kaufman, the company’s former chief technology officer.

Blue Shield cited numerous examples of Kaufman’s extravagant spending, some of which came to light after an employee event involving Reid at a San Francisco bowling alley. Some of the expenses cited by Blue Shield included $17,491 that Kaufman spent on a Florida vacation to see Reid.

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Blue Shield should give the public what it’s due
Sacramento Bee

Word that Blue Shield of California was stripped of state tax exemption last August should prompt tough questioning from policymakers about whether the public is getting its due from Blue Shield.

What’s at issue here goes well beyond Blue Shield’s state tax liabilities. If the revocation, which the insurer is challenging, is upheld, Blue Shield could pay about $40 million in taxes annually.

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Stanford cancer spinout lands big biotech deal
San Francisco Business Times

A young Stanford University drug-discovery spinout, aimed at getting unprecedented closeup views of tumor cells, will get $45 million upfront in a potential $485 million deal with Celgene Inc. Quanticel Pharmaceuticals Inc., which CEO Stephen Kaldor has described as providing in “exquisite detail” individual cells from a tumor sample, disclosed the deal Monday. It said Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) also will take equity in the San Francisco company and have an exclusive option to buy Quanticel.

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Rady launches birth defects project
San Diego Union-Tribune

A new plan to analyze the DNA of patients with birth defects puts Rady Children’s Hospital among a handful of facilities nationwide doing broad-based, pediatric genetic research.

The goal is to find new treatments and cures for an assortment of conditions — from cleft palate to heart abnormalities — that currently have no known cause.

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VacaValley medical, wellness center breaks ground
North Bay Business Journal

The official groundbreaking ceremony on April 7 launched a $58 million investment in a state-of-the-art wellness center on the NorthBay VacaValley Hospital campus in Vacaville.

“This is a long-awaited day for all of us at NorthBay Healthcare, probably for the city of Vacaville, and surely for many of our physicians, nurses, support staff, our managers and our Boards of Directors,” said NorthBay President and CEO Gary Passama. “This is an exciting project, something we knew the community very much needed.”

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Business Journal names 2015 Healthiest Employers
Sacramento Business Journal

The Business Journal honored 24 companies Friday as the healthiest employers in the Sacramento region. From on-site gyms to healthy snacks in the break room, these companies have made it a priority to promote the health and wellness of their employees. The return on investment: lower health-care premiums, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, improved morale and a greater sense of loyalty and camaraderie in the workplace.

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Sonoma Valley Hospital impact: $104 million in 2014
North Bay Business Journal

According to a new study commissioned by the health care facility, in 2014, Sonoma Valley Hospital (SVH) generated $104 million in economic activity affecting Sonoma County. It also supports 658 jobs within the hospital and in other business sectors.

“Hospitals in general are an important part of the economic engine for a region, and Sonoma Valley Hospital is a strong contributor both in the Sonoma Valley and throughout Sonoma County,” said Philip King, Ph.D., author of the report.

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