News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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California’s new law advances the right to die with dignity
Visialia Times-Delta

Have you ever thought about how you’re going to die? If you’re lucky, it’ll be quick and relatively painless.

Have you ever thought about how you’re going to die? If you’re lucky, it’ll be quick and relatively painless. A sudden heart attack, for example. Most of us aren’t that fortunate; we have a much better chance of dying slowly, while connected to half-dozen tubes in a hospital ICU. Nearly 70 percent of all deaths in the United States occur in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice facilities. One doctor, who blogs under the pseudonym Scott Alexander at the website Slate Star Codex, describes how many of his patients leave the world: “Old, limbless, bedridden, ulcerated, in a puddle of waste, gasping for breath, loopy on morphine, hopelessly demented in a sterile hospital room.”

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Called Back After A Mammogram? Doctors Are Trying To Make It Less Scary
National Public Radio

When I left my first mammogram appointment a few weeks ago, I felt fine.

Everything had gone smoothly, the technologist hadn’t made a concerned face when she looked at the screen, and I was convinced I’d get the all-clear from my primary care doctor in a week or so.

Then came the phone calls the following day — first from my doctor’s office, then from the mammography center — telling me the radiologist had seen something that didn’t look quite right.

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Medicare Rates Set to Soar
The Wall Street Journal

Congressional lawmakers so far have failed to agree on a way to stave off an unprecedented premium increase for millions of Medicare recipients for 2016.

That is creating uncertainty for many seniors on Medicare Part B, which covers outpatient care such as doctor’s visits. About 30% of the roughly 52 million people enrolled in Part B could see a 52% rise in those premiums if Congress and the Obama administration don’t find a way to freeze or reduce the increase.

Open enrollment for Medicare for 2016 starts Thursday, though Congress could subsequently act to prevent the rise.

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Investors fear ACA’s boost to hospitals is waning
Modern Healthcare

Acute-care hospital stocks took a hit Thursday after HCA previewed third quarter earnings results that were below expectations.Nashville-based HCA, the largest hospital chain by revenue, typically has the strongest performance in its peer group, and its quarterly earnings previews are closely watched as a bellwether for the sector.HCA reported after market close Wednesday that its pretax income declined 1% as rising labor costs ate into higher revenue.

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Is Obama’s health overhaul losing steam?
San Francisco Chronicle

The health care law’s historic gains in coverage may be leveling off: The Obama administration announced Thursday it expects only a slight overall increase in enrollment next year. With the 2016 sign-up season two weeks away, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell set a target of 10 million people enrolled and paying their premiums by the end of next year. That’s about as many as are covered now through the law’s online markets for subsidized private health insurance.

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HHS: Remaining Uninsured Worry About Costs Of Coverage
Kaiser Health News

Department of Health and Human Services officials Thursday predicted that about an additional 1 million Americans would sign up for coverage under the federal health law next year and acknowledged that prospective enrollees are worried about the cost of health insurance, even with the law’s financial help. “We know the remaining uninsured have a lot of concerns about whether they can afford coverage,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell told reporters.

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Dementia Also Takes Toll On Unpaid Caregivers, Study Shows
Kaiser Health News

Unpaid caregivers and family members spend more than 100 hours a month, on average, assisting elderly people with dementia who live in the community and not in residential care or nursing homes, according to a new study. The time commitment was significantly higher than for similar caregivers who helped elderly people without dementia, who themselves put in an average 73 hours each month. Overall, people with dementia make up 10 percent of noninstitutionalized adults age 65 or older, but they account for more than 40 percent of unpaid caregivers’ time.

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5 states that pay the highest nurse salaries
FierceHealthcare

Although most nurses didn’t receive a pay raise in 2014 and there are complaints that male nurses earn more than their female colleagues, several states across the country offer higher-than-average salaries to registered nurses. California tops the list of the states that offer nurses the best salaries, according to a new post by Insider Monkey, a finance website that based its findings by calculating average salaries using estimates from the Nurse Journal and Nurse Salary Guide.

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Consumers Union: Doctors on probation should tell patients
San Francisco Business Times

Consumers Union wants the Medical Board of California to require doctors who are on probation to notify their patients. The policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports filed a petition last week urging the board to take action. The board is expected to hold a public hearing on the issue at its Oct. 30 meeting in San Diego. Almost 500 doctors in the state are on probation, including 21 in the four-county Sacramento area.

Consumers Union wants the Medical Board of California to require doctors who are on probation to notify their patients. The policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports filed a petition last week urging the board to take action. The board is expected to hold a public hearing on the issue at its Oct. 30 meeting in San Diego. Almost 500 doctors in the state are on probation, including 21 in the four-county Sacramento area. Disciplinary action was taken against them for a variety of reasons, including repeated gross negligence, substance abuse, sexual misconduct and other violations of the law.

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Insurance commissioner slams Aetna’s small-business rate hike
Sacramento Business Journal

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones slammed Aetna Thursday for an “unreasonable” quarterly rate hike on small-business owners that brings the annual average increase to more than 27 percent. The hike affects small employers that renew their health insurance policies in the fourth quarter — and an estimated 40,000 employees. Dept. of Insurance actuaries reviewed Aetna’s rate filing and found the average 27.4 percent increase was not based on Aetna’s most recent claims experience.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones slammed Aetna Thursday for an “unreasonable” quarterly rate hike on small-business owners that brings the annual average increase to more than 27 percent. The hike affects small employers that renew their health insurance policies in the fourth quarter — and an estimated 40,000 employees. Dept. of Insurance actuaries reviewed Aetna’s rate filing and found the average 27.4 percent increase was not based on Aetna’s most recent claims experience. The department concluded the underlying medical cost trend should have been 7.7 percent, not the 8.6 percent cited by the health plan.

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State finds two problems at Parkview hospital
The Press-Enterprise

State health officials did not find Riverside’s Parkview Community Hospital at fault for an incident in which maggots were found on a patient in February. But an investigation found two other problems for the hospital to correct. The state Department of Public Health’s probe was triggered by a June complaint from the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West. The union is involved in a labor dispute with the hospital over its representation of about 500 employees.

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Student group pledges $25,000 more for Mission Hospital
Coastline Pilot

A group of students pledged to raise $25,000 to benefit behavioral health programs at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach, according to a news release.

Fresh off meeting a prior $25,000 goal for a new neuroscience and spine institute at its sister hospital in Mission Viejo, the Student Auxiliary of Mission Hospital has its sights set on a new goal.

“The auxiliary has been an active and engaged donor group since 2001,” Mission Hospital Foundation’s Chief Development Officer Cathleen Collins said in the release.

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Blue Shield gets whacked again by state regulators, this time over pricing
San Francisco Business Times

State regulators pressured Blue Shield of California to revisit project rate increases for individual, family plan and small group customers in 2016 and 2017, after a review by the state Department of Managed Health Care found that projected drug costs were “higher than estimates by Blue Shield’s peers.” Michelle Rouillard, the DMHC’s director, in an Oct. 5 memo, slammed Blue Shield, saying the public interest requires that the department monitor its medical cost projections “very closely” to see if they prove to be accurate in 2016.

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Lompoc hospital fails to sway commissioners in property acquisition bid
Lompoc Record

A request by the Lompoc Valley Medical Center to amend the conditional use permit on an empty building the center wishes to purchase was unanimously rejected Wednesday by the Lompoc Planning Commission.

The empty shell-like building, located at 125 S. 7th Street, has a condition that mandates 25 percent is used for retail, which the hospital wanted removed to maximize space for a physician clinic.

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Kaweah Delta to double beds
Visialia Times-Delta

Already seeing 93,000 visits a year, the busy Kaweah Delta Medical Center ER will expand in two directions, more than doubling beds from the current 32 to 66, says CEO Lindsay Mann. Construction is expected during the next year. The project was one of several phased improvements approved by the board of directors in recent days. First the hospital will add 10 beds adjacent to the emergency department inside the Acequia Wing of the hospital.

Already seeing 93,000 visits a year, the busy Kaweah Delta Medical Center ER will expand in two directions, more than doubling beds from the current 32 to 66, says CEO Lindsay Mann. Construction is expected during the next year. The project was one of several phased improvements approved by the board of directors in recent days. First the hospital will add 10 beds adjacent to the emergency department inside the Acequia Wing of the hospital. Then they plan to create an additional 24 beds adding new space in the east parking lot, he says. The hospital added a helicopter pad to the building attached to the ER two years ago as part of an upgrade to become a Level One trauma unit.

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Sutter sees higher revenue as outpatient activity grows
Modern Healthcare

Sutter Health, the Sacramento, Calif.-based system, continued to benefit from higher Medicaid payments and a decrease in uninsured. But like many of its peers, the 25-hospital group is grappling with higher labor and supply costs.Hospitals across California have been seeing higher revenue this year from the state’s provider fee program, which was on hold in 2014 and is now being brought up to date.

Sutter Health, the Sacramento, Calif.-based system, continued to benefit from higher Medicaid payments and a decrease in uninsured. But like many of its peers, the 25-hospital group is grappling with higher labor and supply costs.Hospitals across California have been seeing higher revenue this year from the state’s provider fee program, which was on hold in 2014 and is now being brought up to date. The program collects a fee from hospitals which is then matched with federal dollars and used to supplement Medi-Cal payments. Sutter credited the program’s return for contributing to a 14.2% increase in revenue in the first six months of the year compared with the same period last year.

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Mercury News editorial: Hospital deal requires firm commitment
The Mercury News

The question for California’s attorney general isn’t whether a New York hedge fund should be required to keep acute-care facilities open for 10 years if it buys Daughters of Charity’s six hospitals. It’s whether 10 years is long enough. California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ job is to ensure that any sale of the hospitals is in the public interest.

The question for California’s attorney general isn’t whether a New York hedge fund should be required to keep acute-care facilities open for 10 years if it buys Daughters of Charity’s six hospitals. It’s whether 10 years is long enough. California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ job is to ensure that any sale of the hospitals is in the public interest. The independent consulting firm hired by the state recommended that as a condition of approval, BlueMountain Capital Management should commit to providing vital health care services at most of the hospital locations for at least 10 years.

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