News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Effective Ovarian Cancer Treatment Is Underused, Study Finds
New York Times

In 2006, the National Cancer Institute took the rare step of issuing a “clinical announcement,” a special alert it holds in reserve for advances so important that they should change medical practice. In this case, the subject was ovarian cancer. A major study had just proved that pumping chemotherapy directly into the abdomen, along with the usual intravenous method, could add 16 months or more to women’s lives. Cancer experts agreed that medical practice should change — immediately.

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Is Obamacare’s Research Institute Worth The Billions?
National Public Radio

On the ninth floor of a glassy high rise in downtown Washington, partitions are coming down to make more room for workers handing out billions of dollars in Obamacare-funded research awards.

Business has been brisk at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute or, PCORI, as it is known. The institute was created by Congress under the Affordable Care Act to figure out which medical treatments work best — measures largely AWOL from the nation’s health care delivery system.

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Obama Administration Urges States to Cut Health Insurers’ Requests for Big Rate Increases
New York Times

Hoping to avoid another political uproar over the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration is trying to persuade states to cut back big rate increases requested by many health insurance companies for 2016.

In calling for aggressive regulation of rates, federal officials are setting up a potential clash with insurers. Some carriers said they paid out more in claims than they collected in premiums last year, so they lost money on policies sold in the new public marketplaces.

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Obamacare reduces maximum out-of-pocket costs, but not enough for some
USA Today

Obamacare went a long way toward preventing the insurmountable medical bills that led to a large percentage of U.S. bankruptcies. But for many people, the $6,600 per-person, per-year cap on out-of-pocket costs might as well be $600,000, it’s so unlikely they could pay it.

This is a problem many people will never have to worry about. Without a major disease or accident requiring costly specialty drugs or surgery, very few of us will have enough co-payments and cost sharing to total $6,600 in any year, much less every year.

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Competition Improves Obamacare Choices In Rural Northern California
Kitsap Sun

People who live in rural Northern California will see more choice and competition in the health insurance marketplace next year, giving consumers a better chance of finding a plan – and a doctor – that can meet their needs.

The changes, unveiled last week by the state’s Affordable Care Act marketplace Covered California, will now allow some consumers to cross state lines for care.

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Covered California rate-hike reality
Sacramento Bee

Some Californians got good news last week about the price of their health insurance. But as always, it pays to know the details.

Covered California, the state health insurance exchange, announced that its premiums will rise by a weighted average of 4 percent next year. This year’s increase was 4.2 percent.

Both were welcome surprises after double-digit rate hikes in recent years. However, the increase – or decrease – in your premiums will depend largely on where you live. And plan changes next year will lead to more out-of-pocket costs for some people, less for others.

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Hospitals receive little from CMS inpatient payment rule
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals failed to wring many changes from the Obama administration in the final version of Medicare’s 2016 payment rule for inpatient care.

The CMS finalized widely panned proposals on new quality measures and site-neutral payments and declined to say whether the agency plans to extend the enforcement delay on the two-midnight rule governing short hospital stays.

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Medicare Advantage may be best program to power healthcare reform

Though some have championed Meaningful Use (MU) as a key tool for driving reform in the healthcare system, its power pales in comparison to that of the increasingly popular Medicare Advantage (MA) program, argues an opinion piece from Healthcare IT News.

MU has led to the rise of hundreds of electronic health records (EHR) vendors and enjoys considerable funding via the HITECH Act, yet it “it fails to motivate both payers and consumers who both play a role in sustainable reform,” writes Frank Ingari, president and CEO of healthcare communications network company NaviNet.

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Half Of Nation’s Hospitals Fail Again To Escape Medicare’s Readmission Penalties
Kaiser Health News

Once again, the majority of the nation’s hospitals are being penalized by Medicare for having patients frequently return within a month of discharge — this time losing a combined $420 million, government records show.

In the fourth year of federal readmission penalties, 2,592 hospitals will receive lower payments for every Medicare patient that stays in the hospital — readmitted or not — starting in October.  The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, created by the Affordable Care Act, was designed to make hospitals pay closer attention to what happens to their patients after they get discharged.

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Hospital Deductibles Are For Admitted Patients Only
Kaiser Health News

Question: Recently I took my son to see a pediatric gastroenterologist. When I arrived at the office, I saw it was located adjacent to the hospital. My insurance has a large hospitalization deductible so I worried that the visit would not be covered. Nobody in the office could tell me how much an office visit would cost. Why not? Isn’t that something I should be able to expect?

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Tax-exempt hospitals spend just as much on charity care as for-profits, study finds
Washington Post

Nonprofit hospitals get billions of dollars in tax breaks every year, but a new study shows that they may not be giving back very much to communities in return, as intended by law.

The study, out of the University of California San Francisco, found that some tax-exempt hospitals are spending as much on free or subsidized care as their for-profit counterparts. The authors say that’s because the criteria to have tax-exempt status is vague, specifically under the Affordable Care Act.

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For-profit hospitals give back as much as nonprofits, study finds
San Francisco Chronicle

California nonprofit hospitals — which receive tax breaks in exchange for the public benefit they’re supposed to provide — don’t necessarily offer any more free or “charity” care for poor patients than their for-profit counterparts, a new study shows. The study by researchers from UCSF and Oakland’s Highland Hospital found that nonprofit hospitals tended to spend a little more to provide free care to low-income patients than the for-profits. But when it came to paying patients’ unpaid medical bills both sides were even.

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Why Doctors Are Leaving Medicine For Tech
The Health Care Blog

The world looks different when you’re eighteen and when you’re thirty – in some cases because your perspective has evolved, other times because the world has changed. Men and women drawn to careers in medicine while in high school or college are finding that when they emerge on the other side, things aren’t quite what they expected.

Typically, this is portrayed as the (well-worn) “Narrative of Disillusionment” – i.e.

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California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine Announces Funding for 2 Projects
UCSF Today

Two demonstration projects that aim to yield quick results for patients have been selected by the new California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine, a public-private effort launched by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. The initiative is being hosted by UC San Francisco, in conjunction with UC Health, which comprises the University of California’s five medical centers.

Both projects involve extensive collaborations within the UC system and with other academic medical centers in California, as well as patient advocates and companies in Silicon Valley and the biotech industry.

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Most hospitals face 30-day readmissions penalty in fiscal 2016
Modern Healthcare

Most U.S. hospitals will get less money from Medicare in fiscal 2016 because too many patients return within 30-days of discharge.

Only 799 out of more than 3,400 hospitals subject to the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program performed well enough on the CMS‘ 30-day readmission program to face no penalty. Thirty-eight hospitals will be subject to the maximum 3% reduction, according to a Modern Healthcare analysis of newly posted CMS data.

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Aetna reports strong profit as Humana deal continues
USA Today

Aetna’s net income jumped 33% to $731.8 million in the second quarter, compared to the same period a year earlier, as the health insurance giant seeks to complete the $37 billion acquisition of rival Humana.

The nation’s third-largest health insurer raised its forecast for full-year 2015 operating earnings per share from a previous range of $7.20 to $7.40 to “at least” $7.40.

Aetna’s operating profit was similar to its net income. Operating profit rose 18% to $722.1 million. Total revenue increased 5% to $15.2 billion.

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Aetna tops 2Q profit forecasts
San Francisco Chronicle

Aetna’s second-quarter earnings jumped 33 percent and the health insurer raised its 2015 forecast again after receiving a boost from a government business it plans to feed with a $35 billion acquisition. Shares of the Hartford, Connecticut-based company started climbing Tuesday before markets opened and after it released results. Aetna said Thursday that higher underwriting margins or improved profitability helped balance a jump in operating costs. The nation’s third-largest health insurer easily topped Wall Street expectations.

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Sutter’s on the Move
Sacramento Magazine

A patient who wakes up in Sutter Memorial Hospital on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 8, will fall asleep that night in the new $812 million Sutter Medical Center in midtown. Before he does, however, he’ll have been part of an extraordinary process.

The entire contents of Sutter Memorial, including equipment and an estimated 180 patients, ranging from infants in neonatal intensive care to elderly adults, will be moved from 5151 F St. to 2825 Capitol Ave.—all in a single day. It’s a marvel of logistical planning that’s been in the works for years.

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Barstow Community Hospital part of corporate spinoff
Desert Dispatch

The parent company of Barstow Community Hospital announced Monday it plans to spin off 38 hospitals into a new publicly traded company. A press release from Barstow Community Hospital said the Barstow medical facility will be part of the new company, which will be named Quorum Corporation. “Quorum Health Corporation will be comprised of hospitals that are very similar to Barstow Community Hospital and that serve communities like Barstow,” the statement said.

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Cedars-Sinai looks to join Playa Vista’s fast-growing tech scene
Los Angeles Times

Medical giant Cedars-Sinai Health System is expanding to the tech hotbed of Playa Vista. Cedars-Sinai officials said they plan to open a medical office featuring primary-care doctors and specialists in Playa Vista’s central retail district late next year.

The Westside neighborhood is a key hub in Southern California’s technology industry, housing offices for Facebook, Microsoft and YouTube. Google and Yahoo are in the process of opening offices there.

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Providence, St. Joseph hospitals in talks to merge
Los Angeles Business Journal

Providence Health & Services and St. Joseph Health, two Catholic health systems with Southern California locations, are in talks to combine into a single organization that would span from Washington state into Texas. The two health systems said they have signed a letter of intent to merge, although their discussions are still in the early stages and specific details about a partnership have not been finalized.

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Queen of the Valley part of health systems merger
Napa Valley Register

The announcement Friday that St. Joseph Health, the parent of Queen of the Valley Medical Center, intends to merge with another West Coast health care system shouldn’t affect most of the jobs at the Queen, said the CEO of St. Joseph Health.

St. Joseph Health, based in Irvine, intends to join forces with Providence Health & Services, which has its headquarters in Renton, Washington. The two health systems would form a new, single organization, one that could offer more choice for patients and possibly even lower costs, the nonprofit organizations said.

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Embattled Daughters hospital system files to transfer control to New York hedge fund
San Francisco Business Times

The financially shaky Daughters of Charity Health System filed with the California Attorney General’s office Friday to transfer control of the nonprofit hospital system to a New York hedge fund. The Los Altos Hills-based Daughters system, which operates six hospitals in California, including four facilities in the Bay Area, is trying to transfer control of the hospitals to Blue Mountain Capital Management LLC.

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Petaluma Valley Hospital parent St. Joseph Health exploring merger

St. Joseph Health, which operated Petaluma Valley Hospital, and other facilities including Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, announced Friday that it was exploring a merger with fellow Catholic health system Providence Health & Services.

Irvine-based St. Joseph announced that it has signed a letter of intent with Providence Health & Services of Renton, Wash., which operates in five Western states, to create a new, single organization. The two said the talks are in “the very early stages” and would continue over the next couple months.

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Feather River Hospital now a stroke center
Paradise Post

Starting today, Feather River Hospital is a stroke receiving center.

The hospital earned the designation from the Sierra-Sacramento Valley (SSV) EMS Agency (AGENCY) effective immediately.

FRH is now the third center in north of Sacramento, with Enloe Medical Center and Redding Medical Center.

The hospital says that as a receiving center it will continue to offer quality stroke care per American Heart Association and American Stroke Association patient care guidelines.