News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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CMS won’t expand dual-eligibles pilot program
Modern Healthcare

The CMS will keep enrollment in a coming national pilot project for dual-eligible beneficiaries below 2 million people, or more than a million fewer than states have proposed. Melanie Bella, director of the Medicare-Medicaid Coordination Office at the CMS, addressed the expected size of the pilot program at a Senate Aging Committee hearing on the controversy that has arisen around it.

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Report calls for more inpatient treatment for the mentally ill
Los Angeles Times

The number of state hospital psychiatric beds dropped by 14% nationwide from 2005 to 2010, pushing the severely mentally ill into emergency rooms, jails and prisons, according to a report advocating for more inpatient treatment. The report, released Thursday by the Treatment Advocacy Center, lauded the decades-old goal of treating patients in community facilities whenever possible, rather than institutionalizing them.

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Groups decry proposed public-health cuts
Modern Healthcare

Provider groups said a House-drafted budget bill for HHS next year targets the nation’s most vulnerable people, as it proposes to cut public health funding and end the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The House Appropriations Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee on Wednesday voted 8-6 to approve the full committee’s proposed budgets for those departments in the next fiscal year.

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Hospitals Reaping Financial Benefits of Telehealth
Health Leaders Media

While telehealth launched more than 40 years ago to address care for geographically isolated patients, its growth has been slow but steady. However, in the past 10 years, the growth of high-speed communication networks and the push to lower healthcare costs have made telehealth an idea that’s time has finally come, and in many instances is now getting reimbursed. Telemedicine, or telehealth, is the practice of patient caregiving through virtual office visits and virtual rounding.

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San Francisco supes punt on Cathedral Hill EIR, put more pressure on CPMC
San Francisco Business Times

The giant Cathedral Hill hospital project remains in jeopardy, now on multiple fronts. San Francisco city supervisors late Tuesday night postponed consideration of the controversial EIR for California Pacific Medical Center’s $2.5 billion Cathedral Hill hospital and related facilities, adding another potential obstacle to the troubled project.

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CMS names 15 advance-payment ACOs
Modern Healthcare

Fifteen of the latest Medicare accountable care organizations will receive upfront payments to help with startup costs, the CMS announced. The 15 small ACOs  were among the 89 ACOs announced earlier this month as the most recent additions to Medicare’s experiment with the emerging payment model.

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Cigna announces new ACO agreements
Modern Healthcare

In California, the agreement with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, an affiliate of Sutter Health, will include as many as 21,000 patients. Cigna’s agreement with New West Physicians in Denver will cover about 7,800 patients, according to a news release from the Bloomfield, Conn.-based insurer.

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HHS’ final rule sets data-reporting standards for benchmark plans
Modern Healthcare

HHS issued a final rule establishing data-reporting standards for health plans that will serve as benchmarks for defining each state’s essential health benefits under the healthcare reform law. The regulations specifically apply to the largest three small-group plans in each state. The rule also established the National Committee for Quality Assurance and URAC as interim accrediting bodies to determine whether plans satisfy the requirements.

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Mayor, CPMC vow to continue talks on hobbled hospital deal
San Francisco Examiner

Following a marathon session at which supervisors who oppose a proposed $2.5 billion hospital development agreed to delay a vote on the project rather than potentially killing it, Mayor Ed Lee insisted Wednesday that the deal is not dead.

On Tuesday night, a majority of the Board of Supervisors signaled that they weren’t inclined to approve the environmental impact report for the proposed California Pacific Medical Center development.

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S.F. board delays big hospital decision
San Francisco Chronicle

Faced with the possibility of dealing a fatal blow to California Pacific Medical Center’s $2.5 billion planned overhaul of its facilities in San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors voted late Tuesday to give the medical group a two-week reprieve to address a range of concerns.

California Pacific requested the postponement after it appeared the medical group did not have the votes to uphold the environmental impact study on its long-range development plan for five sites.

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Surgical technology program in Livermore accredited
The Mercury News

When a doctor asks for a scalpel in the operating room, there’s a good chance a certified surgical technologist is the one handing it over. Las Positas College began offering courses in the specialized, competitive field more than two years ago, becoming only one of two campuses north of Fresno to offer a program in which students learn proper techniques for helping surgeons in a clinical setting.

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Opportunities remain for smaller EHR vendors: report
Modern Healthcare

The game is still afoot for a swarm of electronic health-record system developers—in particular those that don’t have the best-known brands, according to the latest report from KLAS Enterprises on the ambulatory EHR market. KLAS, an Orem, Utah-based health information technology market researcher, found that turnover of systems is a huge ambulatory EHR market factor. The company said that half of the providers it interviewed for its report were considering dumping their current EHRs and buying something different.

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UnitedHealth’s 2Q profit rises 5.5 percent
San Francisco Chronicle

UnitedHealth Group said Thursday that its second-quarter net income rose 5.5 percent, trumping Wall Street expectations, as enrollment gains helped fuel revenue growth and consumers continued to moderate their use of health care services.

UnitedHealth’s enrollment grew about 4 percent to 35.9 million compared to last year’s second quarter, led by gains in Medicare and Medicaid plans and commercial coverage, which includes employer-sponsored and individual plans. That contributed to an 8.3 percent jump in revenue to 27.3 billion.

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House Bill to Press for One-Year SGR Delay
Health Leaders Media

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) said on Wednesday that he will submit legislation this week to delay for one year the implementation of the sustainable growth rate formula (SGR). Without the delay, or other action, physicians face a 28% cut in Medicare reimbursements in January 2013.

Burgess made the announcement at a meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee called to discuss innovations to reform Medicare physician payments.

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S.F. hospital pact wins 2-week delay
San Francisco Chronicle

California Pacific Medical Center peered over the brink late Tuesday night and took a step back.

Faced with the possibility of receiving a fatal blow to its $2.5 billion proposal to overhaul its medical facilities in San Francisco, the Sutter Health-affiliated medical group requested – and ultimately got – a two-week postponement of a vote that it was expected to lose on the environmental impact study for its long-range development plans.

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Imperial County asthmatics more likely to visit ER
The Desert Sun

Children with asthma in the dusty and impoverished Imperial County south of the Coachella Valley are far more likely to visit the emergency room, costing taxpayers for care often covered by state and federal health care programs.

One in five children ages 5 to 17 in the county has been diagnosed with asthma, which can be managed with medication. The rate of youngsters visiting the emergency room for asthma treatment is three times higher than the state average, according to the California Department of Public Health.

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Surgery unneeded for most early-stage prostate cancer, study says
Los Angeles Times

Most patients diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer will live just as long if they simply watch their cancers rather than have them surgically removed, according to the results of a landmark clinical trial that could upend the medical approach to a disease that affects 1 in 6 men.

The study, which focused on cancers still confined to the prostate, should reassure patients who want to avoid distressing side effects of surgery — such as urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction — but still protect their lives, cancer experts said.

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Judge tosses out reform-law contraception case
Modern Healthcare

A senior federal judge in Lincoln, Neb., has tossed out a lawsuit filed by seven states and several Catholic organizations and employees who claimed that the healthcare reform law’s requirement that insurance plans provide birth control services to women violates their First Amendment rights.

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Obamacare’s mandate really is a tax — with a penalty
Desert Dispatch

Whether Chief Justice John Roberts was trying to protect the U.S. Supreme Court from political attack or really believed in what he was doing, he held that the penalty for not buying health insurance was a tax and therefore Obamacare has a constitutional basis. I say ‘yes’ to the premise and ‘no’ to the conclusion. Mandated purchase of a commodity is itself a tax.

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Bill Frist To GOP Governors: Get Cracking On Exchanges
KQED Radio

A former GOP power player is urging Republicans to rethink their rejection of the health law and to implement state insurance exchanges –- and to do it now. Bill Frist, a former Republican Senate majority leader and a heart transplant surgeon, today argued in a column that state officials should not pass up the opportunity to build the insurance exchanges that are right for them.

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Sutter Health plans to consolidate some back-office functions
San Francisco Business Times

Sutter Health told employees last week of plans to consolidate some back-office administrative functions offered at the local level across its network to a new shared services center at a yet-to-be decided location. How many workers will be affected by the move is unclear, but the location will be announced this fall and the move is expected to occur next spring, Sutter spokesman Bill Gleeson said.

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For America’s “Best Hospitals,” Reputation Doesn’t Hold as Much Weight
The Health Care Blog

U.S. News and World Report has released its annual lists of the best hospitals in America, but this year the rankings were based more on performance data and less on reputation. U.S.

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U.S. News & World Report Ranks John Muir Health’s Medical Centers Among Nation’s Best
San Francisco Chronicle

John Muir Medical Center, Walnut Creek has been ranked one of the nation’s top hospitals for the sixth straight year by U.S. News & World Report in its annual list of America’s Best Hospitals. John Muir Medical Center, Walnut Creek was ranked in the Top 50 in Orthopedics, Gastroenterology and Gynecology, making the medical center one of the top-ranked facilities on the West Coast in those specialties and the only non-academic medical center in northern California to appear in the Top 50.

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