News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

 

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Medicaid Expansion State Hospitals Report Less Bad Debt
HealthLeaders Media

Not-for-profit hospitals operating in the 29 states that expanded their Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act saw “significant” decreases in bad debt when compared with hospitals in non-expansion states, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

However, Moody’s also found that the Medicaid expansion did not affect the bottom-line financial performance of the hospitals. In fact, financial performance improved for hospitals in every state in 2014 thanks largely to an improving economy.

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The nursing shortage and the doctor shortage are two very different things
Washington Post

Nursing is bracing for what’s being called a “silver tsunami” — a graying Baby Boomer workforce entering retirement. On top of that, many other nurses are leaving the field out of frustration. Why? They don’t feel they’re making enough of a difference for their patients.

A 2011 study found that more than 20 percent of nurses who provide direct patient care expressed job dissatisfaction, compared to 13 percent of nurses in non-institutional settings.

While some experts caution that we don’t know how many nurses will be leaving the workforce, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 526,800 more nurses will be needed by 2022 — an increase of 19.4 percent from 2012 — to help keep up with patient growth and replace those who leave.

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Health data hackathon drawing a crowd
Sacramento Business Journal

A health-care related hacakthon this weekend already has attracted about 100 participants. That’ a lot of people for a hackathon in Sacramento, but this one is offering some serious cash prizes.

The Health 2.0 Developer Challenge at UC Davis Medical Center seeks to find innovative uses for the massive public data sets available at the California Health and Human Services Open Data Portal.

The data portal includes workforce statistics, health care information, environmental studies, demographics and all kinds of other information from various studies, research papers and just compiled facts.

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How Many Viruses Have Infected You?
National Public Radio

A cheap new lab test can use just a drop of blood to reveal the different kinds of viruses you’ve been exposed to over your lifetime.

The test suggests that, on average, people have been infected with about ten different types of known virus families, including influenzas, and rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, according to a report published Thursday in Science.

“Usually if you go to the doctor, the doctor might suspect that you have a particular virus, and then he or she will order a test to test that one virus,” says Stephen Elledge at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “But if you wanted to know about all viruses, there was really no way to do it.”

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Health chief: ObamaCare premium hikes will drop
The Hill

Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell argued Thursday that premium hikes floated by health insurance companies this week will likely end up being lower once they are finalized.

Republicans have seized on the higher rates to attack the healthcare law.

Tennessee’s biggest insurer has proposed an increase of 36 percent for some plans, while one of New Mexico’s biggest carriers is looking at a 50 percent increase.

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No Plan B? White House, states in bind if Supreme Court strikes ObamaCare subsidies
Fox News

With a major Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare potentially just days away, neither the Obama administration nor state governments seem to have a comprehensive plan in place in the event the court strikes down a key component of the law.

Rather than offering a plan B, the White House is only giving assurances of the strength of its legal case.

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Employer-covered insurance doesn’t drop despite ACA, report finds
Modern Healthcare

The percentage of workers covered by employer-sponsored health insurance has held steady, despite arguments that the Affordable Care Act would spur a decline. Between June 2013 and March 2015 just over 70% of U.S. workers were covered by a plan provided by their employer, according to a study released Wednesday by the Urban Institute Health Policy Center. To that end, employers regardless of company size continued to offer insurance coverage, the study found.

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Medicare vies to keep ACOs on board with more flexible rules
Modern Healthcare

More flexibility is coming for Medicare accountable care organizations under a final rule the CMS published Thursday (PDF). The revisions are intended to strike a balance between maintaining the program’s rigor and making sure providers continue to participate. The Medicare Shared Savings Program will offer a new track to take on more financial risk of patient care, and it will allow Medicare ACOs to avoid penalties beyond the initial three-year term. The CMS will also issue future guidance on benchmarking and rebasing issues that have been sources of contention for many providers.

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MSSP ACO Final Rule Released
HealthLeaders Media

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid on Thursday evening released its final rule on the Medicare Shared Savings Program. The rule goes into effect August 3, 2015.

The voluntary program, introduced by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aims to spur participation in accountable care organizations. According to CMS, highlights of the final rule include:

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California lawmakers advance right-to-die legislation
Modern Healthcare

California lawmakers advanced a right-to-die bill Thursday, giving hope to those who want the nation’s most populous state to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives under doctor’s care.

The state Senate passed the measure on a 23 to 14 vote ahead of a legislative deadline.

The issue gained traction nationally after 29-year-old Brittany Maynard moved from California to Oregon to end her life in November.

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Senate clears bill to require accurate doctor listings from health plans
Sacramento Business Journal

Legislation that would help consumers find doctors who work with their health plan sailed through the state Senate on Wednesday by unanimous vote.

Senate Bill 137 by West Covina Democrat Ed Hernandez would require health plans and insurers to post accurate provider directories on their websites. The bill responds to consumer complaints about difficulty finding up-to-date information on the networks of doctors that work with specific health plans.

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Study finds new path to HIV vaccines
San Diego Union-Tribune

A newly discovered response that alerts the immune system to HIV infection has been reported by a team led by Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute scientists.

HIV vaccines could be improved by incorporating this previously unknown molecular trigger, the scientists said in the study. It was published Thursday in the journal Cell.

A cellular protein called polyglutamine-binding protein 1, or PQBP1, binds to DNA produced by the virus and triggers an immune reaction. The response activates both of the immune system’s two arms, the innate and adaptive systems. The innate system mounts a general response to infections; the adaptive immune system produces highly specific responses, including antibodies, that seek out and destroy a certain pathogen.

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Nurse practitioners: a boon for underserved areas
Napa Valley Register

Let nurse practitioners in California have almost all the authority that doctors now possess, urges the state Senate via a proposed law it has already cleared. If this bill passes the Assembly unchanged and then is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, warns the doctors’ lobby, what would be the point of spending 10 to 12 years studying and training to become a physician?

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Limited defense of digitizing medical data
Orange County Register

I rarely do follow-up columns. I’m averaging one every 10 years. And while my last such exercise resulted in a written apology from the White House (for accusing me of making up facts over its removal of Churchill’s bust), today’s is not a complaint. It’s merely a recognition that the huge response elicited by last week’s column, “Why Doctors Quit,” warrants both rebuttal and clarification.

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New Preventive Health Services Approved For No-Cost Coverage
Kaiser Health News

The list continued to grow of preventive services that people are entitled to receive without paying anything out of pocket.

In 2014, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended two new services and tweaked a handful of others that had previously been recommended. Under the health law, preventive care that receives an “A” or “B” recommendation by the nonpartisan group of medical experts must be covered by health plans without charging consumers. Only grandfathered plans are exempt from the requirement.

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How UC Davis and Anthem found a way to provide better care — and save big money
Sacramento Business Journal

Better data and coordinated care helped six medical groups that teamed up with Anthem Blue Cross provide better care for chronically ill patients — and saved almost $8 million in one year. The UC Davis Health System is one of the groups in the program, which targets preferred-provider organization members with two or more chronic conditions. Each medical group is provided with member data so doctors can intervene to provide more coordinated care for the sickest patients. Providers work in teams — and Anthem pays a coordination fee to make this possible.

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Hospital construction, affiliate partnership take step closer to reality
The Record Gazette

A planned six-story patient building at San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital became much more realistic last month after the hospital’s board agreed to enter an exclusive affiliation agreement with Loma Linda University Health and Adventist Health. Loma Linda’s healthcare system had been courting San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital for months, and already provides services and resources in Banning.

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