News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Senators warn Medicare appeals system ‘buckling under its own weight’
Modern Healthcare

The Senate Finance Committee is demanding more attention on the growing backlog of Medicare appeals claims, which federal officials are continuing to blame on a lack of funding.

The Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals is receiving a record number of appeals, with the processing time for each claim more than quadrupling over the last five years to an average of 550 days.

“We definitely feel the urgency,” Nancy Griswold, the chief law judge at the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals, told the committee Tuesday. “We are keenly aware of the impact that these delays are having.”

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The Impact of Community Outreach
HealthLeaders Media

As hospital and health system leaders look for ways to improve their population health management capabilities, it is becoming clear to some that they need to develop community outreach programs to assist patients in overcoming the social barriers that exist in many areas.

Hunger and nutrition challenges, low literacy rates, and a lack of safe housing are among the biggest obstacles faced by many patients who are high utilizers of healthcare services. Through community-based initiatives, provider organizations can help patients get beyond these hurdles to be able to prevent and manage chronic diseases and other costly health problems.

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Earning Patient Trust Crucial to Health Care Reform
The Wall Street Journal

Maintaining privacy in health care used to be relatively straightforward. As a physician, I was bound by doctor-patient confidentiality. This gave my patients the confidence that they could share with me intensely personal information. Security focused on limiting access to paper charts. Breaches typically involved only a handful of individuals.

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Report: ObamaCare ruling would disproportionately affect small businesses
The Hill

Small businesses are among the most vulnerable to steep cost increases in healthcare coverage if the Supreme Court rules against ObamaCare, according to new data from the Urban Institute.

In addition to the 7.5 million people who could lose their subsidies if the Obama administration loses the case, nearly 3.5 million people on small business plans will also face “substantially” higher premiums, Linda Blumberg, senior fellow for the Urban Institute, will tell a Senate panel on Wednesday.

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Leapfrog Shows Hospitals’ Progress on Safety Grades
HealthLeaders Media

The Leapfrog Group on Wednesday rolled out the seventh cycle of its Hospital Safety Score for more than 2,500 hospitals, revealing to the public for the first time grades for each hospital going back to the first release in June, 2012.

Leapfrog spokeswoman Erica Mobley says Leapfrog is rolling out all the scores to show trend lines, which for some hospitals show dramatic improvement from SP to A, but for others show the opposite trajectory. We hope hospitals will use the safety score and the survey as performance improvement tools,” she says.

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New breast cancer screening guidelines explained
Washington Post

As a woman, I am keenly aware of the many decisions – simple and complex – that we make every day about our own personal health. As a physician who counsels women, I want to provide the best advice to help my patients lead longer, healthier lives. Like other health professionals, I want my advice to be grounded in the available science. I also want to make sure I share everything a woman can expect as a result of taking my advice – both the benefits and harms – to empower her to make the right decision for herself.

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FDA approves generic versions of antipsychotic drug Abilify
Reuters

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it approved the first copycat versions of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co Ltd’s antipsychotic drug, Abilify.

The FDA said on Tuesday that it had granted approval for generic versions of Abilify from four companies, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, to treat mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Abilify has an orphan drug designation for the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome, a nervous system disorder, in children.

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New meds help drugmakers weather strong dollar, other issues
Modern Healthcare

Revenue from important new medicines for various cancers, hepatitis C and more helped top U.S. drugmakers weather unfavorable currency exchange rates and other challenges. Pfizer, Merck & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., which reported first-quarter results Tuesday, all derive at least half their revenue from selling products overseas. Because they’re purchased in local currencies, the strong dollar is depressing the sales’ value.

Some highlights from the reports:

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Higher rates, membership fuel Anthem’s quarterly profit
Modern Healthcare

Anthem raised financial guidance for the rest of the year after the Indianapolis-based health insurer posted $865.2 million in profit, a 23.4% jump from the same period last year.

Premium rate hikes, large growth among its Medicaid health plans and lower medical claims all contributed significantly to Anthem’s profitable quarter, the company said Wednesday. Earnings per share totaled $3.09, well above Wall Street’s consensus prediction.

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800 local Health Net jobs on the line as military health contracts go to bid
Sacramento Business Journal

The next round of federal military health contracts could have a big impact on a large group of employees in Rancho Cordova. A request for proposals from the U.S. Department of Defense for the next round of five-year contracts for its Tricare program, posted online Friday, would combine the North and South regions into one region in the East, but leave the West region intact.

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Aetna submits 2016 Obamacare rates with eye on Supreme Court
Reuters

Aetna Inc, the third-largest U.S. health insurer, is submitting 2016 individual insurance rates to state regulators but said it might need to reexamine them after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the legality of most Obamacare exchange subsidies.

The nation’s top court is expected to announce a decision in June on whether federal subsidies can stand in three dozen states where the U.S. government runs an enrollment website. Opponents of the law say the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, allows for subsidies only in states that run their own exchanges.

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Ambulance worries grow with response times
The Appeal-Democrat

Nothing injurious has happened since Enloe Medical Center reduced ambulance service in Colusa County four weeks ago, but officials in Colusa and Glenn counties fear it is only a matter of time. In a business where every second could mean the difference between life and death, the ripple effect of just the recent 12-hour service reduction is being felt across the region.

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Sutter gets matching grant for 3D system
Lake County Record-Bee

Sutter Lakeside Hospital recently kicked off its fundraising drive for a new 3D mammography screening system, and has already received more than $35,000. Now, since the hospital received the Sutter Health Match Grant, donors can double their dollars toward this life-saving community resource.

“We’re asking our community to join us in the fight against breast cancer by helping to raise $264,000,” said Sutter Lakeside Chief Administrative Officer Siri Nelson. “Together we can improve the health and well-being of our community.”

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El Camino Hospital now working with dialysis company
Mountain View VOICE

El Camino Hospital kicked off a joint-venture partnership last month with Satellite Healthcare to continue providing local patients with dialysis services following the hospital’s decision to shut down all three of its own dialysis facilities.

The deal marks a culmination of several years of work between the hospital and Satellite, according to Glenn Davis, chief innovation and commercial officer for the dialysis company. With the partnership, El Camino now has a nearby dialysis center that nephrologists can refer patients to, Davis said. Satellite Healthcare recently opened up a dialysis center just up the road from the hospital at 247 West El Camino Real.

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Kaweah Delta earns an ‘A’ rating in patient safety
Visialia Times-Delta

Kaweah Delta has been given an “A,” the top grade possible for patient safety. The score is based on how well hospitals protect patients from accidents, errors, injuries and infections.

Specifically, across 28 national measures of safety, the Leapfrog Group, a nationally recognized health care rating agency, measured Kaweah Delta against 2,500 U.S. hospitals and found we were in the top-tier of those following safe patient care practices. Though we are quite proud of this accomplishment, we consider this only part of patient safety efforts.

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