News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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New State Rules for Catheter Procedures May Help Rural Patients, Hospitals
California Healthline

A new California law that took effect this year changed state regulations to allow more California hospitals to perform catheter-based cardiac diagnostic and treatment procedures.

The policy shifts could cut miles and hours off cardiac patients’ drive time in rural parts of the state and could mean expanded services and revenues for regional and rural hospitals.

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Calif. Hospitals Working To Cut Water Use Amid Severe Drought
California Healthline

California hospitals are working to reduce their nonessential water use amid an ongoing drought in the state, Modern Healthcare reports.


According to Modern Healthcare, U.S. hospitals in 2007 used about 133 billion gallons of water — about 145,000 gallons per bed (Kutscher, Modern Healthcare, 5/13).

In January 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) declared a state of emergency over the drought and directed state agencies to take steps to prepare for water shortfalls.

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Physician Data on Impact of Health Reform In 2014
The Health Care Blog

Over the past year, our athenaResearch team has been working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) on ACAView, an initiative that provides researchers, policymakers and the public with regular updates on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is affecting physician provider practices. To accomplish this, we curate and analyze data from a nationally distributed sample of 16,000 providers on the athenahealth cloud-based network. This gives us a timely view into national physician practice patterns and an ideal platform for measuring the impact of health care reform on the day-to-day practice of medicine.

After reporting some initial findings a handful of times, we’ve recently published our comprehensive report from the first year of the ACA rollout: “ACAView: Observations on the Affordable Care Act: 2014.” Here are some of the more interesting findings from the data:

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Amid slower growth, California’s Obamacare exchange cuts proposed spending
Los Angeles Times

After using most of $1 billion in federal start-up money, California’s Obamacare exchange is preparing to go on a diet.

That financial reality is reflected in Covered California’s proposed budget, released Wednesday, as well as a reduced forecast calling for 2016 enrollment of fewer than 1.5 million people.

The recalibration comes after tepid enrollment growth for California during the second year of the Affordable Care Act.

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AP Interview: Pelosi predicts GOP ruin on health care case
Yahoo! News

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi predicted Wednesday that Republicans will “rue the day” if the Supreme Court buys their arguments and invalidates tax subsidies for millions of people under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Republicans have said they will try to ensure people don’t lose insurance if the high court rules this summer against tax subsidies for health care coverage in certain states. But they haven’t said how they would do it.

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California’s Obamacare exchange to slash budget, 2016 enrollment projections
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California plans to cut back on spending and enrollment expectations for 2016, after 2015 sign-ups failed to match goals. The Obamacare exchange had hoped to enroll 1.7 million Californians this spring, but the final tally was 1.439 million, a slight increase from last year’s 1.4 million tally. Now its board is considering a plan to cut spending next fiscal year by 15 percent — or $58 million — compared to the current fiscal year. It also plans to slash its significant marketing and outreach budget by 33 percent, to $121.5 million.

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Covered California tightens belt
Capitol Weekly

Covered California, the first and largest state-sanctioned health insurance exchange created through the Affordable Care Act, is going to start the new fiscal year with less money.

A combination of lackluster enrollment and the loss of some federal funds that helped sustain it through its startup period are partly the reason, said Peter Lee, Covered California’s executive director.

“We are now in the process of standing on our own two feet,” Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said on a conference call with reporters.

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Covered California cuts budget, but not jobs
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California expects to reduce spending for the next fiscal year by $58 million, but the money won’t come from cuts in the workforce, executive director Peter Lee said Wednesday. A big local employer, the Sacramento-based health benefit exchange has almost 1,400 employees, more than three-quarters of them at program headquarters on Exposition Boulevard or a call center in Rancho Cordova.

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Hospital Networks Smaller in Covered California Plans, But Quality Comparable

Covered California health plans offer smaller hospital networks than commercial plans, a recent study reports.

The research backs up the claims of many enrollees who say their Covered California plans have narrow networks. However, the researchers add, the state marketplace plans still offer about the same level of geographic access to hospitals and in some cases allow enrollees to get care at higher quality hospitals.

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Learning A New Health Insurance System The Hard Way
Kaiser Health News

The insurance program was called “Believe Me” — but Kairis Chiaji had her doubts.

She and her husband Arthur were skeptical that the new health plan they purchased for 2015 would actually work out. That’s because their experience in 2014 had been a disaster, she said.

The Sacramento, Calif., couple had been thrilled to learn last year about the prospect of subsidized coverage under the nation’s health law, she recalled. Each of them had been uninsured for years when they signed up for coverage through the state exchange, Covered California.

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Hospital Ratings Linked to Patient Choice, but How?
HealthLeaders Media

Patients gravitate toward highly rated hospitals even though few report using public quality and cost data to get there.

Instead, researchers say, doctors, insurers, and word of mouth are more likely drivers of patient choice than quality scores generated by sources such as Medicare’s Hospital Compare or U.S. News & World Report rankings.

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Long-Term Depression May Boost Stroke Risk Long After Mood Improves
National Public Radio

Medical researchers have known for several years that there is some sort of link between long-term depression and an increased risk of stroke. But now scientists are finding that even after such depression eases, the risk of stroke can remain high.

“We thought that once people’s depressive symptoms got better their stroke risk would go back down to the same as somebody who’d never been depressed,” says epidemiologist Maria Glymour, who led the study when she was at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. But that’s not what her team found.

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California Pacific Medical Center, foundations launch major eye surgery center
San Francisco Business Times

The Pacific Vision Foundation plans to launch a major new eye institute at 711 Van Ness next spring, with help from California Pacific Medical Center, the Lions Eye Foundation of California and Nevada, and a group of San Francisco ophthalmologists — and a $10 million low-interest loan from the nationally known Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The new institute will provide eye care and surgery for people who can’t afford to pay, subsidized in part by leasing space to the ophthalmologists and by operating a for-profit surgery center.

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Doctors Medical Center approves two-pronged asset disposition plan
The Mercury News

Doctors Medical Center is for sale — as a hospital or as choice developable downtown real estate — according to a two-pronged asset disposition plan decided by its board Tuesday.

The decision followed a sometimes raucous meeting of the West Contra Costa Healthcare District board during which several would-be hospital turnaround operators complained that the board had turned a deaf ear to their rescue proposals.

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Patient safety paramount at hospital
The Acorn

Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center has been recognized for its record of patient safety by being awarded an “A” grade in the spring 2015 Hospital Safety Score, which rates how well hospitals protect patients from preventable medical errors, injuries and infections.

The Hospital Safety Score is compiled under the guidance of the nation’s patient safety experts and administered by the Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit hospital safety watchdog. It is the only hospital safety rating to be peer reviewed in the Journal of Patient Safety.