News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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U.S. predicts 5.8 pct average rise in healthcare spending through 2024
Reuters

The U.S. government expects healthcare spending to increase by 5.8 percent annually on average from 2014 through 2024 as more Americans gain insurance coverage and the improved economy drives patients to visit doctors and hospitals.

The aging population’s higher healthcare costs will also push health spending higher starting in 2019, according to a study from the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Happy 50th Birthday, Medicare. Your Patients Are Getting Healthier
National Public Radio

Here’s a bit of good news for Medicare, the popular government program that’s turning 50 this week. Older Americans on Medicare are spending less time in the hospital; they’re living longer; and the cost of a typical hospital stay has actually come down over the past 15 years, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Doctors, hospitals and government administrators have put a lot of effort into making Medicare more efficient in the past 15 years. Dr. Harlan Krumholz and colleagues at Yale University took on a study to see whether that effort has paid off.

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Rural hospitals blast ‘arcane’ policies
Modern Healthcare

The 96-hour rule and a possible direct-supervision policy are a danger to critical-access hospitals, rural health leaders said at a congressional hearing Tuesday. They also told members of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Health Subcommittee that graduate medical education slots need to be more fairly allocated to help rural areas recruit providers.

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California & The Mental Health Carve-Out
OpenPR

Last week, OPEN MINDS Market Intelligence Analyst Athena Mandros gave a great overview of all the many changes happening in California’s Medicaid program (Medi-Cal) and discussed why it’s important for other states to keep an eye on California’s system (see California As A Bellwether). Amid all of these changes, one of the most important policies that California’s behavioral health community is keeping an eye on, is the mental health carve-out. At the end of June, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved California’s 1915(b) Specialty Mental Health Services (SMHS) waiver for an additional five years. This preserves California’s county-based mental health system until at least 2020. In spite of the approval, CMS did voice some concerns about program integrity and access – this resulted in increased reporting and transparency requirements (see California’s Mental Health Carve-Out Preserved For Five Years, But With New Performance Transparency Requirements).

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U.S. Health-Spending Growth Jumped to 5.5% in 2014
The Wall Street Journal

Growth in national health spending, which had dropped to historic lows in recent years, has snapped back and is set to continue at a faster pace over the next decade, federal actuaries said Tuesday.

The return to bigger growth is a result of expanded insurance coverage under the 2010 health law, a revived economy and crunchtime as Medicare’s baby-boom beneficiaries enter their 70s.

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By 2024, health spending will be nearly a fifth of the economy
Washington Post

A sharp rise in prescription drug spending, driven largely by a new generation of expensive hepatitis C drugs, helped push the nation’s health-care expenditures to $3.1 trillion in 2014 — the biggest increase since the recession.

According to a new projection published on Tuesday in Health Affairs, the U.S. is at the beginning of a period in which health-care spending will creep up after years of a slowdown in spending growth. Health spending could even modestly outpace the growth in the economy. By 2024, health care is projected to account for nearly a fifth of the gross domestic product and federal, state and local governments are expected to foot nearly half the bill.

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Health spending projected to grow modestly, but faster
USA Today

U.S. health spending is expected to grow faster over the next decade than in recent years, reflecting a stronger economy, an aging population and higher levels of insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, a new federal report says.

The projections follow “six years of national spending growth hovering near historically low rates,” says Sean Keehan, an economist at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services who led the study, which was published in the online version of the journal Health Affairs on Tuesday.

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Health care spending again accelerating
POLITICO

Health care spending is rising at a faster clip than at any time since the Great Recession, with costs ticking up by 5.5 percent in 2014, CMS announced Tuesday.

Over the next decade, health care costs are expected to rise by 5.8 percent annually, according to the agency’s latest projections. The growth in spending is being driven by the coverage expansion provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the continuing economic recovery and a population that’s steadily aging.

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Health care spending expected to grow faster
CNN.Money

After years of historically slow growth, health care spending is once again on the rise — and it’s expected to continue to accelerate over the next decade.

Thanks in large part to the expansion of coverage under Obamacare, health care spending in the U.S. is projected to have hit $3.1 trillion, or $9,695 per person, last year. That’s an increase of 5.5%, according to federal estimates released Tuesday. It’s the first time the rate would exceed 5% since 2007.

Some 8.4 million Americans are thought to have obtained insurance through the Obamacare exchanges and from the expansion of Medicaid.

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Medicaid at 50 – also part of health care reform
Modesto Bee

This week, for its 50th anniversary, let us celebrate Medicaid – and how a great vision, powered by enduring partnerships, across political divides and from national to local levels, can deliver on the promise of quality health care access.

Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) continues to be an example of government service at its best.

After President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law in 1965, state and the federal governments worked to turn this first blush of health care reform into a lifeline for people who otherwise lacked coverage for the cost of their care.

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New study shows Obamacare is succeeding at one of its most fundamental goals
San Francisco Chronicle

It’s been nearly two years since the Affordable Care Act was fully implemented. And a new study suggests it’s succeeding at one of its basic goals: improving access to care. Through the first two open-enrollment periods, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported that as of March 2015, 11.7 million people signed up for private insurance through federal and state marketplaces.

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Congress Overwhelmingly Approves Bill Bolstering Medicare Patients’ Hospital Rights
Kaiser Health News

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation Monday night requiring hospitals across the nation to tell Medicare patients when they receive observation care but have not been admitted to the hospital. It’s a distinction that’s easy to miss until patients are hit with big medical bills after a short stay.

The vote follows overwhelming approval in the U. S. House of Representatives in March. The legislation is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama, said its House sponsor, Texas Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

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‘Jaw-dropping’: Medicare deaths, hospitalizations AND costs reduced
USA Today

The U.S. health care system has scored a medical hat trick, reducing deaths, hospitalizations and costs, a new study shows.

Mortality rates among Medicare patients fell 16% from 1999 to 2013. That’s equal to more than 300,000 fewer deaths a year in 2013 than in 1999, said cardiologist Harlan Krumholz, lead author of a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine.

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Americans report improved health, better healthcare: study
Reuters

Americans are reporting improved health and better healthcare two years after health insurance became available under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new study published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study of more than 500,000 Americans found improvements in insurance coverage, access to primary care and prescription medicine, affordable healthcare and overall health since late 2013.

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Healthcare improving for older Americans
Reuters

The number of deaths, hospital stays and healthcare costs decreased among older Americans on Medicare over the past 15 years, according to a new study.

“Although our health care system has its failings, we are making remarkable progress,” said Dr. Harlan Krumholz, the study’s lead author from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

“People are much better off today than they were 15 years ago,” he told Reuters Health in an email.

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Bad metrics put patients at risk, prevent providers from improving
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals most often penalized by the CMS for not reducing hospital-acquired conditions are those that do well on other publicly reported quality measures and are accredited by the Joint Commission, a new study finds.

That could lead to patients being inadvertently steered away from better performing facilities and it could also prevent low performers from receiving the feedback necessary to improve.

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We Designed An Industrialized Healthcare System
The Health Care Blog

Process improvement. The 80 / 20 rule. 6 Sigma. Lean. Defects. Waste. Efficiency. Output. Production. Value added. Automation. Productivity. Workflow. Capacity Management. Quality. Access. Costs. Scale.

I have noticed over the past few years that as I travel and speak to patients, physicians, ministry of health officials, CEO/COO/CFO, and various hospital administrators that the above words often come up in the midst of our conversations.

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Pricey hepatitis C drugs help Gilead eclipse big sales threshold
San Francisco Business Times

Gilead Sciences Inc. earnings zoomed past second-quarter Wall Street expectations, pushed along by its two groundbreaking but controversially priced hepatitis C drugs. The Foster City-based company (NASDAQ: GILD), led by CEO John Martin, said Tuesday that it earned just short of $4.5 billion, or $2.92 per share on a diluted basis, on $8.24 million of revenue. Analysts expected $2.71 per share on $7.6 billion of revenue, according to a consensus estimate by Thomson Reuters.

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Big Push: Hospitals Turn To ‘Laborists’ For Safer Deliveries
Kaiser Health News

When the only hospital in this southern Delaware town saw two of its four obstetricians move away, it knew it had to do something to ensure women in labor could always get immediate medical help. But recruiting doctors to the land of chicken farms and corn fields proved difficult.

So in late 2013, Bayhealth Milford Memorial Hospital shifted from using on-call doctors who came in as needed to a new model of maternity care that’s catching on nationally:

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Anthem Q2 income rises 18%, beats estimates
USA Today

Health insurance provider Anthem said Wednesday its second quarter net income rose 18% to $859.1 million as medical enrollment by new members surged.

After adjusting for some items, earnings per share totaled $3.10, beating analysts’ estimate of $2.74.

Operating revenue increased 8.4% to $19.8 billion, reflecting “premium increases to cover overall cost trends” and higher enrollment in the Medicaid and commercial self-funded insurance businesses, Anthem said.

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Insurer Anthem hikes 2015 forecast, 2Q earnings climb
San Francisco Chronicle

Anthem has pumped up its 2015 forecast again after earnings jumped more than 17 percent in its most recent quarter, helped by a surge in government money. The Blue Cross-Blue Shield carrier now expects 2015 adjusted earnings to top $10 per share, which is up from an upgraded forecast in April to greater than $9.90 per share. Analysts expect earnings of $10.04 per share, according to FactSet.

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Health care reform helps Roseville-based health system boost profits
Sacramento Business Journal

Net income at nonprofit Adventist Health grew in 2014, helping the Roseville-based health system record a solid profit margin of 3.6 percent. The company generated net income of $117.7 million on revenue of almost $3.3 billion, according to new figures in the health system’s annual report. This compares to net income of $55.1 million on revenue of $3.1 billion in 2013, a profit margin of 1.8 percent.

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How Sutter Health nearly doubled its operating margin
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Health’s operating margin almost doubled in the first quarter of 2015, the Sacramento-based health system reports.

Financial statements posted online show operating income jumped to $101 million for the first three months of this year, an operating margin of 3.8 percent. That’s up from operating income of $47 million and a margin of 2 percent for the first quarter of 2014.

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UC Davis plans $50M building on Sacramento campus for nursing school
Sacramento Business Journal

Five years after it launched, the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis has announced plans for a $50 million building on the Sacramento campus it shares with the medical school and health system. The school opened in 2010 with 33 students. In September the school expects to enroll 143. As the school grew, it spread to available space across three buildings.

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Temecula hospital helipad on council agenda
The Press-Enterprise

The Temecula City Council tonight is scheduled to consider a new spot for the Temecula Valley Hospital’s helipad, a location in the northwest corner of the property that is opposed by some neighboring residents. The new location — which will be used until the hospital constructs a second tower equipped with a helipad on the roof — was approved by the city’s Planning Commission in April.

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Supervisors chart hospital authority path
Bakersfield Californian

The Kern County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday blessed a year-long plan to create a hospital authority that will run Kern Medical Center.

The first step will be to pass an ordinance shaping the Kern County Hospital Authority. Supervisors will be asked to approve it Sept. 29 and finalize it Oct. 6.

A seven-member board of governors will later be appointed to run the authority. Supervisors will fill a majority of those positions — four or five.

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