News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

News Headlines Article

House votes to kill medical-device tax; IPAB repeal delayed
Modern Healthcare

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto a repeal of the medical-device tax, primarily on the grounds that the legislation does not identify an alternative revenue source to offset the loss of $29 billion through 2022. Despite having bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, supporters of the tax repeal are unlikely to get enough votes to override a presidential veto.

The vote comes at a time when the Supreme Court is expected in a matter of days to issue its ruling in the King v. Burwell case. Nearly 7 million people in 34 states could be in jeopardy of losing their health premium subsidies if the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, making health plans unaffordable for many low-income individuals.

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How to Spark Growth and Efficiency in Gastroenterology
HealthLeaders Media

When Katie Couric underwent a colonoscopy on live television in 2000 as host of the Today show, she not only heightened awareness of the important role colonoscopies play in detecting colon cancer, but she actually boosted the rate of colonoscopies among men and women. Jay Monahan, Couric’s husband, died from colon cancer at age 42, and the experience led to Couric’s efforts to raise awareness about screening for the disease. The strategy worked and subsequently ushered in a boon to GI practices.

News Headlines Article

Mega-Mergers Among Health Insurers Bode Ill for Hospitals
HealthLeaders Media

With hospitals already jockeying for the best negotiating position with rival insurers, the news that some of the biggest players in healthcare insurance are looking to merge with competitors is turning up the summer heat for healthcare leaders.

If these multi-billion dollar mergers go through, hospitals may lose much of their negotiating power.

After months of speculation, UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Anthem, Inc., the two largest insurers in the country by revenue, have both made moves to acquire smaller health insurance companies. (Anthem was known as Wellpoint until last year.) The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that in recent days, UnitedHealth made an overture to take over Aetna Inc., a deal estimated to be valued at $42 billion.

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California on cusp of offering young immigrants health care
San Francisco Chronicle

In a move that adds momentum to efforts to integrate immigrants, California is on the cusp of extending state-subsidized health care coverage to children from low-income families who are in the country illegally. Democrats, immigration groups and health care advocates celebrated the announcement as both a cost-saving move and social progress for the state’s estimated 2.5 million immigrants who are in the country illegally. Critics, however, worry that the overburdened state-funded health program can’t handle another 170,000 children.

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Sacramento County, state expand health care for immigrants in the country illegally
Sacramento Business Journal

Both Sacramento County leaders and state lawmakers this week approved funding to provide health-care benefits to immigrants in this country illegally. The county expects to spend $6.6 million to help about 3,000 adults. The state move will cost $40 million to help 170,000 children. Sacramento County will restore services it cut in the recession, while the state of California looks to expand care to a sector of the population that’s eligible for only limited benefits, like emergency services.

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California Law Will Allow Pharmacists To Prescribe Birth Control
Kaiser Health News

Pharmacists in California will soon be able to prescribe birth control. That’s under a new state law that grants expanded authority to pharmacists. While some doctors’ groups are skeptical, lawmakers say pharmacists can fill a need for primary care providers, especially in rural areas. Reporter April Dembosky of KQED in San Francisco filed this story on the new law which will start going into effect as soon as the fall. This is an edited transcript of the radio story that aired on NPR’s All Things Considered on June 16, 2015.

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Documents Reveal Secret Legal Battle Over Medicare Overbilling
National Public Radio

Federal officials have spent years locked in a secret legal battle with UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s biggest Medicare Advantage insurer, after a government audit detected widespread overbilling at one of the company’s health plans, newly released records show.

The audit found that Medicare paid too much for nearly half of a sample of patients enrolled at PacifiCare of Washington state, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. The audit was part of a cache of heavily redacted documents released to the Center for Public Integrity through a court order in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

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Center strives to improve patient experience
Lake County Record-Bee

Hospitals are not on most people’s lists of places they want to be in. They often associate hospitals with needles, ill-fitting hospital gowns and bland food. However, Ukiah Valley Medical Center (UVMC) is pursuing ways to improve the patient experience through the help of an organization called Planetree.

In the 1970s, Planetree’s founder Angelica Thieriot was hospitalized in the Bay Area where she appreciated the technology and advanced approaches of treating disease, but was left feeling cold by her impersonal experience.

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How Not To Find Out Your Health Plan Lacks Hospital Benefits
Kaiser Health News

Marlene Allen thought she had decent medical coverage after she fell in December and broke her wrist. She had come in from walking the dogs. It was wet. The fracture needed surgery and screws and a plate.

Weeks later, she learned her employer health plan would cover nothing. Not the initial doctor visit, not the outpatient surgery, not the anesthesiology. She had $19,000 in bills.

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When Should Surgeons Stop Operating?
National Public Radio

Increased fatigue, forgetfulness, and reduced eyesight — these are some of the declines that can come with aging.

Certain professions keep a close watch for these sorts of changes, in hopes of protecting the public. And some jobs even have a firm age cutoff: Airline pilots are required to retire at 65, for example, and some firefighters must step down by 57. But there are no nation-wide, age-related cutoffs, required assessments or guidelines to make sure doctors can do their jobs safely.

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District May Pull Plug On Old Palomar Hospital In Escondido
KPBS

It may be the end of the line for the old Palomar Hospital in downtown Escondido.

The Palomar Health District board of directors will vote June 24 whether to close the 65-year-old facility.

Palomar officials said the hospital is costing the district $20 million a year. What’s more, they say it would need $165 million in repairs just to stay in business.

But critics say closing the hospital would break a pledge.

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Providence hospital dives into California’s water conservation efforts
Modern Healthcare

Providence St. Joseph Medical Center is joining the list of California hospitals taking steps to minimize water usage during one of the most severe droughts The Golden State has faced. The Burbank hospital is expected to save about 15 million gallons of water each year by using reclaimed water to run its air-conditioning system.

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NorthBay Healthcare posts construction updates online
The Reporter

Things are growing and changing at NorthBay Healthcare.

The local nonprofit healthcare provider is adding new facilities and replacing or modernizing aging ones and now the public has a chance to watch the work progress.

“There’s a lot going on in Vacaville and Fairfield on both of our campuses,” Steve Huddleston, vice president of Public Affairs with NorthBay, explained in a media release. “We wanted to provide our patients, employees and the community a convenient way to stay abreast of the work underway or soon to begin.”

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