News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Low HCAHPS Scores at Safety Net Hospitals Examined
Health Leaders Media

On nearly every measure of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Survey patient experience questionnaire, 769 hospitals that treat the largest share of low-income patients scored 5.6% lower than their 2,327 non-safety net counterparts, according to a review of survey responses between 2007 and 2010. “What we found was that these safety net hospitals generally do worse on this measure, and I don’t think we knew that before we did our work,” says Ashish Jha, MD, corresponding author for the study published in Tuesday’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

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Could The Health Law End Up Back In Court? Opponents Think So
National Public Radio

If you thought last month’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act was the final word on the legality of the health law, think again. Some conservative scholars believe they may have discovered a flaw that could send the law back to court, or at least cause some big problems for its implementation. To understand the potential problem, first you have to understand a little about how the law is supposed to work.

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HHS urged to clarify impact of reform ruling on Medicaid
Modern Healthcare

Health policy leaders on Tuesday called for HHS to provide more clarity about what parts of Medicaid were affected by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on the healthcare overhaul. The court’s decision eliminating penalties for states that do not expand their Medicaid programs’ eligibility left in doubt whether the law’s other Medicaid provisions remain in effect. The law required Medicaid eligibility for all people with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level with a 5% leeway up to 138%.

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Accountable care organizations aim to cut costs, increase quality
HealthyCal.org

Across the country, doctors, hospitals and insurers are forming new healthcare entities to increase the efficiency and quality of healthcare, and lower the cost of it. Called accountable care organizations (ACOs), these groups are gaining ground, even though critics consider them a repackaging of HMOs—some of which have given managed care a bad name.

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Women will see greater access to health care
Merced Sun-Star

Many women stand to benefit from having access to reproductive health care services without co-pays beginning Aug. 1. That’s one of several services that are part of a rule under the Affordable Care Act, which is moving forward after it was ruled to be constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court late last month. “It’s going to be very beneficial,” said Pedro Elias, director of Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, the region that covers a portion of the San Joaquin Valley from Merced County to Kern County.

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States saying no to ‘Obamacare’ could see downside
Fresno Bee

For Gov. Rick Perry, saying “no” to the federal health care law could also mean turning away up to 1.3 million Texans, nearly half the uninsured people who could be newly eligible for coverage in his state.

Gov. Chris Christie not only would be saying “no” to President Barack Obama, but to as many as 245,000 uninsured New Jersey residents as well.

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Experts offer strategies on launching exchanges
Modern Healthcare

As states play a game of “beat the clock” to establish their health insurance exchanges by 2014, a panel of experts in Washington discussed some effective strategies to form those marketplaces.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown served as the first of three keynote speakers to talk about health insurance exchanges at a healthcare reform event sponsored by Health Affairs on Tuesday at the National Press Club. Brown acknowledged that establishing a state exchange is a “herculean effort” and urged states to use the time they have left “in benefit of their residents.”

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UCLA Medical Center tops in state hospitals, Woodland Hill’s Kaiser is best-rated in Valley
Contra Costa Times

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center ranked No. 1 among state and local hospitals, and placed in the top five nationally, according to a U.S. News & World Report survey released Tuesday. The highest ranked hospital in the San Fernando Valley was Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills, which came in at 13th among Los Angeles-area hospitals because of its strength in specialties such as cancer, diabetes, endocrinology, gynecology, orthopedics and urology.

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UCI, Hoag named to best hospitals list
Orange County Register

UC Irvine Medical Center’s geriatrics program has made U.S. News & World Report’s list of best hospitals for the 12th year in a row. Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach also made the rankings. The Orange hospital was ranked 35th out of 50 for geriatric care, the hospital announced Tuesday. Hoag was ranked No. 43 for orthopedic care. The magazine ranks the country’s best hospitals for 16 specialties ranging from cancer to urology.

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Most office-based docs satisfied with their EHR system: survey
Modern Healthcare

About 55% of office-based physicians responding to a government-sponsored survey said they use some form of electronic health-record system, and by and large, they’re a satisfied lot, according to a report on the survey.

The overwhelming majority (85%) of those who said they use an EHR also indicated that they were either very satisfied (38%) or somewhat satisfied (47%) with their systems. More than 7 in 10 said they were happy enough with their selection that they would purchase the same EHR system again.

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Christians express faith in coverage plan that bills itself as not insurance
Ventura County Star

Faith. It’s why Robert Daniel Apodaca Jr. invests $345 a month into a medical bills payment program for Christians that’s most easily explained by what it is not: It’s not insurance. Not regulated by state or federal watchdogs. Not bound by contract to cover his family’s medical costs. Instead, the program called Medi-Share is sort of a cooperative of the devout that allows Apodaca, a born-again Christian, to help others pay for surgeries and treatments with the faith that when someone in his family is sick, they’ll return the favor.

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Melanoma treatment shows promise at UCSF
San Francisco Chronicle

The mole, a quarter-inch in diameter, had always marked David Amoroso’s forehead. But under the sun’s glare, it grew dark and jagged. By last spring, it had ballooned into a late-stage melanoma tumor.

Plagued with the deadliest form of skin cancer, the olive-skinned retired construction worker could have gone with the conventional route of drugs. But he feared they would have made him sick. Instead, the 72-year-old Woodside resident chose a treatment being tested in a small clinical trial by UCSF researchers.

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Multiple Sclerosis Drug Doesn’t Prevent Onset of Disability, Study Finds
New York Times

The most widely prescribed drug for treating multiple sclerosis has little or no effect on a patient’s progression to disability, a new study has found.

The medicine, interferon beta, does help reduce the development of brain lesions and limit the frequency of relapses, but until now there have been few well-controlled long-term studies demonstrating its effectiveness at preventing the onset of irreversible disability.

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Insurer told to stop chasing old overpayments
Modern Healthcare

Anthem Blue Cross has received an order from the California Department of Managed Health Care to stop trying to recoup overpayments on old medical claims.

The state department said that between 2008 and 2011, Anthem sought reimbursement from 535 providers for overpayments on medical claims that were more than a year old. Under California law, health plans have only a year to recoup overpayments on medical claims unless they can show that a provider engaged in fraud or misrepresentation.

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Patient advocates, drugmakers fight insurers’ pain pill policies
The Bay Citizen

Cynthia Toussaint is a passionate advocate for pain patients and the face of a small nonprofit – For Grace – that is sponsoring a bill in the California Legislature that would limit health insurers’ ability to steer patients to low-cost or generic medicines before approving stronger, more costly remedies.

Toussaint has testified twice before legislative committees about the devastation such policies, known as “fail first” or step therapy, can cause patients who need quick relief.

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SF supervisors to vote on CPMC appeal
San Francisco Chronicle

California Pacific Medical Center’s controversial $2.5 billion planned overhaul of its facilities across San Francisco faced a crucial test late Tuesday as the Board of Supervisors was positioned to deliver a pointed rebuke of the deal or potentially derail it.

The board was to consider an appeal of the environmental impact study on the hospital group’s long-range development plan for five sites, including building two seismically safe hospitals ahead of a state-mandated deadline.

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Rational healthcare, not rationing
Los Angeles Times

The Affordable Care Act remains in Republican cross hairs and very much in the news. In recent days, several patients have asked me what the law will mean for them. Many of the people I care for are incurably ill and need expensive medical care to stay alive. They’ve heard politicians say “Obamacare” will take away their choices, rob them of hope for living longer and cast their fate to “death panels” of faceless bureaucrats. Fortunately, none of this is true.

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Pro-Cathedral Hill hospital rally precedes potential live-or-die vote
San Francisco Business Times

A rally of trade union workers Tuesday in favor of California Pacific Medical Center’s $2.5 billion in construction projects wasn’t over in a New York minute… Roughly 300 members of construction trade unions supportive of CPMC’s plans to build a $2 billion Cathedral Hill campus, a $300 million rebuilt St. Luke’s Hospital and other construction projects gathered on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall for a rally scheduled to start at noon.

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How One Man Wound Up Deciding the Fate of Healthcare Reform
The Health Care Blog

Personally, I am delighted that Chief Justice Roberts voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act. But, I am troubled that the fate of U.S. healthcare turned on one man’s opinion. This is not how things are supposed to work in a democracy. Healthcare represents 16 percent of our economy. It touches all of our lives. If we don’t like the laws our elected representatives pass, we can vote them out of office.

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