News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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UCLA Study Finds Patients Consistently Treated By One Primary Care Doctor Visit the ER Less Often
Sierra Sun Times

Patients who are treated by the same primary care doctor on a regular basis go to the emergency room and are hospitalized less frequently than those who bounce between multiple providers, according to new research by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The study, published today in the July issue of the journal Health Affairs, was led by Nadereh Pourat, the center’s director of research. The authors looked at patient and doctor behavior before and after a 2009 policy change in a county-run health program in Orange County, California. The study found that disincentives, such as not reimbursing doctors other than a patient’s assigned provider, also play a role in reducing the number of ER and hospital visits.

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Patrick Kennedy On Moving Mental Health Policy Out Of ‘The Dark Ages’
Kaiser Health News

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., was a senior in high school the first time he checked into rehab. His struggle with drug addiction and bipolar disorder continued to haunt him through his 16 years in Congress. But his first-hand experience with these illnesses also drives his long-standing interest in shaping public policies to confront the challenges faced by people with mental health problems.

One of Kennedy’s greatest legislative achievements is spearheading the passage — with the help of his father, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. — of the landmark Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

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To Make Hospital Quality a Priority, Take a Page From Finance
The Health Care Blog

When you are a patient at a hospital, you want to know that the executives who run that facility put the safety and quality of care above all other concerns. Encouragingly, more of them are saying that safety is indeed their number-one priority — a fitting answer given that preventable patient harm may claim more than 400,000 lives a year in the United States.

Yet when you look at the way that most hospitals and corporate health systems are organized, weak infrastructure exists to support that priority. True, some hospital boards of trustees have made safety and quality their first order of business. At meetings, they might hear directly from a patient who suffered a medical error, sit through a case study of a unit that reduced complications, or get an overview of various efforts to boost the patient experience and improve outcomes.

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Medicare proposes to pay doctors to have end-of-life care discussions
Washington Post

Federal health officials are proposing that Medicare begin paying doctors to discuss end-of-life issues with their patients, six years after the “death panel” controversy erupted in the early days of the debate over President Obama’s health-care legislation.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the new plan Wednesday as part of its annual Medicare physician payment rule. The proposed rule includes reimbursement for “advance care planning.” The final rule is due Nov. 1, and payments would start Jan. 1. The discussions would be voluntary.

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Medicare to cover end-of-life counseling
San Francisco Chronicle

Medicare said Wednesday it plans to pay doctors to counsel patients about end-of-life care, the same idea that sparked accusations of “death panels” and fanned a political furor around President Barack Obama’s health care law six years ago. The policy change, to take effect Jan. 1, was tucked into a massive regulation on payments for doctors. It suggests that what many doctors regard as a common-sense option is no longer seen by the Obama administration as politically toxic. Counseling would be entirely voluntary for patients.

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Will mergers stifle healthcare reform?
Los Angeles Times

The 2010 healthcare reform law was supposed to promote competition among insurers, and for many policyholders it’s done just that. These days, though, the insurance industry is going through a wave of mergers that threatens to leave consumers with fewer choices. There’s no single motivation behind the mergers, although they all reflect the changing economics of healthcare.

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Bill by Sen. Lois Wolk on end of life care moves forward
The Reporter

The Assembly Health Committee voted unanimously yesterday to approve legislation by Senator Lois Wolk, D-Solano, to provide health care professionals with access to a secure, electronic record of their patients’ precise instructions for their end-of-life health care, ensuring immediate access to this critical information.

“A person’s decision relating to end-of-life care is among the most important one will ever make,” said Wolk, who authored a 2008 law that created the California Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining

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Not-for-profit hospital’s tax exemption case could signal trouble for others
Modern Healthcare

Many not-for-profit hospitals across the country could potentially lose their tax exemption if they became subject to the same type of reasoning that recently led a New Jersey court to erase one hospital’s property-tax exemption in that state, experts say. A New Jersey tax court decided in June that because Morristown (N.J.) Medical Center operates, in many ways, like a for-profit business, it should not be exempt from property taxes.

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ASCO Aims to Score New Cancer Treatments on Value
HealthLeaders Media

Cancer treatment is expensive. For patients, sometimes cripplingly so. New cancer treatments can cost tens of thousands of dollars per month, out-of-pocket expenses are sky-high, and a recent survey shows that more than one third of patients are worried about bankruptcy.

Whether high costs and novel treatments lead to a better value and what value really means in the context of cancer care, are yet to be determined.

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6 in 10 Physicians Work in Small Practices
HealthLeaders Media

More than 60% of physicians work in practices with 10 physicians or fewer, and that practice size didn’t change much between 2012 and 2014, the American Medical Association says in a new study.

“These data show that the majority (60.7%) of physicians were in small practices of 10 or fewer physicians, and that practice size changed very little between 2012 and 2014 in the face of profound structural reforms to healthcare delivery,” AMA President-elect Andrew W. Gurman, MD, said in prepared remarks.

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45 states get an F on healthcare price transparency
Modern Healthcare

State progress on healthcare pricing transparency has slowed around the country, and some states have even stepped backward in providing clearer information to consumers about their healthcare costs.

The Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute have released their third annual report card on state price transparency laws, and once again, a majority of states received a failing grade—45 to be exact. Two years ago, only 29 states received Fs.

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Opening of new S.F. General Hospital pushed back
San Francisco Chronicle

The opening of San Francisco General’s new nine-story, 283-bed hospital scheduled for December has been pushed back to the spring to allow more time to test new technologies and to train staff to use them, according to public health officials. San Francisco’s health director, Barbara Garcia, told the city’s Health Commission in a report this week that the public hospital’s opening has been “adjusted to accommodate the advanced technologies and critical care services that we will provide as the city’s only trauma center.”

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Scripps Mercy hospital’s roots go back 125 years
San Diego Union-Tribune

When Sister Rosanne McGrath walks through the doors at Scripps Mercy Hospital, she is extending a 125-year-old mission that began on July 9, 1890. That’s the day Mother Mary Michael Cummings admitted John O’Connell to St. Joseph’s Dispensary, an infirmary that occupied two floors above a men’s clothing store in downtown San Diego. According to the meticulous log kept by Cummings and fellow nuns of the Sisters of Mercy, O’Connell spent 13 days in bed with malaria before he was sent home in good condition.

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Stanford opens South Bay cancer center designed with patients’ feedback
Daily Democrat

When its doors open next week, Stanford Cancer Center South Bay will be more than just a medical facility that is closer to local residents than Palo Alto: It will also feature some of the comforts of home.

The 70,000-square-foot building at Highway 85 and Bascom Avenue could begin taking cancer patients for treatment and exams as soon as July 13. The vision for the center took off when Stanford announced in 2013 that it would occupy the vacant new building and asked patients and their advocates what they’d like to see offered.

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