News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation


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CMS Updates Star Ratings on Hospital Compare Website

Last week, CMS updated the star ratings on its Hospital Compare website, showing an increase in the number of five-star hospitals, Healthcare Finance reports (Powderly, Healthcare Finance, 7/23).

In April, the agency released its first five-star ratings for hospitals as part of a broader effort to offer star ratings on all of CMS’ consumer-facing Compare websites. Medicare first began using star ratings in 2008, when it applied them to nursing homes. It has recently implemented similar programs for home health providers, dialysis facilities and large group practices.

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Average Rise on Insurance Seen at 4% in California
New York Times

Health insurance rates will rise next year by an average of just 4 percent in California, one of the few states that actively negotiates prices, state officials said Monday.

In other states, insurers, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield, have requested rate increases of 10 percent to 40 percent or more. New customers under the Affordable Care Act turned out to be sicker than expected, many insurers have said. Some insurers reported financial losses on their exchange business, saying they paid out more in claims than they collected in premiums.

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Ensuring the healthcare system works for all
The Hill

The United States Supreme Court’s recent, historic decision in King v. Burwell, upholding the right of federal premium assistance, guaranteed millions of Americans the right to keep their healthcare. Last month’s ruling, along with the previous 2012 Supreme Court decision affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, was a profound victory for the ideal that healthcare should be a right of all Americans – rich or poor, individual or small business owner.

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Covered California premiums creep up in 2016
Modern Healthcare

Covered California enrollees will see premiums increase 4% in 2016, exchange officials said Monday.The increase is actually slightly less than the 4.2% jump consumers experienced between 2014 and 2015.The average increase in Southern California is 1.8%, for a total of $296 a month, compared to 7%, or a total of $384 a month, in Northern California, according to Covered California.“Covered California is holding the line on rates and keeping coverage within reach of hundreds of thousands of consumers, while giving them more choices than ever before,” Peter Lee, executive director of Co

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Covered California sets 4 percent hike in 2016 healthcare premiums; Northern Californians to pay more
Sacramento Bee

Northern Californians will pay $88 more in average monthly healthcare premiums than Southern California consumers, under new 2016 rates announced Monday by Covered California, the state’s official healthcare marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.

Statewide, Covered California officials trumpeted an average 2016 weighted premium increase of 4 percent, compared with 4.2 percent this year. The rates are preliminary, pending review by state regulators.

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CMS streamlines Medicaid waiver renewal process
Modern Healthcare

The CMS has taken steps to bring more transparency and ease administrative hurdles to the review and approval process of Medicaid demonstration waivers.The agency’s oversight over 1115 waivers was the subject of two recent Capitol Hill hearings, and numerous Government Accountability Office reports dating back to the 1990s. A primary criticism has been there is no process in place to quickly renew waivers that have been up and running for years. The CMS says implementation of a “fast track” federal review process for Section 1115 (PDF) will address this.

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FDA approves new cholesterol drug – at $14,600 a year
USA Today

Up to 10 million Americans will soon have a new option for lowering their cholesterol – at a price of $14,600 a year.

The Food and Drug Administration surprised much of the medical community Friday by broadly approving a new cholesterol drug for a vast potential patient population. The agency approved Praluent for people with an inherited condition that causes very high levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, as well as for the millions of Americans who have had heart attacks, strokes or other types of heart disease and whose LDL is higher than it should be.

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To Boost Patient Health, Rehab Sometimes Starts Before Cancer Treatment
Kaiser Health News

Cancer patients who do rehabilitation before they begin treatment may recover more quickly from surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, some cancer specialists say. But insurance coverage for cancer “prehabilitation,” as it’s called, can be spotty, especially if the aim is to prevent problems rather than treat existing ones.

It seems intuitive that people’s health during and after invasive surgery or a toxic course of chemo or radiation can be improved by being as physically and psychologically fit as possible going into it. But research to examine the impact of prehab is in the beginning stages.

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Medical bills sometimes contain errors. Here’s how to handle them.
Washington Post

Orly Avitzur, medical adviser to Consumer Reports, recently received an anesthesia bill of $1,459.90 for her husband’s colonoscopy. It took her by surprise because she knew that anesthesia for screening colonoscopies (what he was supposed to have had) is now covered by insurance. Before Jan. 1, anesthesia coverage was somewhat murky.

She also knew that the Affordable Care Act requires most private insurance plans and Medicare to fully cover many preventive services, including screening colonoscopy.

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Chico breast care center opens
Chico Enterprise Record

The newly constructed Chico Breast Care Center is open at 1720 The Esplanade.

The center is owned and operated by the physicians of North State Radiology in Chico, which has previously provided breast care services. A grand opening event and tours will be scheduled for October.

What’s different is the new center provides services “for every need a breast care patient could have,” according to medical director Dr. Jim Schlund.

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Hospital considers $1.29M property purchase
Lompoc Record

The Lompoc Valley Medical Center is considering the purchase of a property just south of the hospital to use for medical offices.

The site, located at 125 South 7th St., has been on the market for about two years and has an asking price of $1.29 million, according to Jim Raggio, CEO of the LVMC.

“What I’d like to do is get approval to put an offer on it,” said Raggio at the LVMC’s most recent board of directors meeting.

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Fresno hospital CEO in Washington for rural health hearing
Fresno Bee

Tim Joslin, CEO of Community Medical Centers, will be speaking before the House Ways and Means Committee’s rural health hearing Tuesday, a hospital spokeswoman said Monday. Joslin will be speaking for the expansion and better allocation of graduate medical education slots to underserved regions. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EDT. Community Medical Centers currently collaborates with the University of California at San Francisco to support the training of 250 medical residents studying in eight areas and another 50 fellows studying in 17 medical sub-specialties.

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Kaweah Delta’s new residency programs begin
Visialia Times-Delta

Two brand new residency programs have been added to Kaweah Delta Health Care District and doctors are getting some firsthand experience in the few weeks the program has existed.

Doctors who were enrolled in surgery and transitional-year residency programs, poked around a test dummy practicing chest tube insertion inside the Kaweah Delta Support Services building, where training takes place.