News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Health IT Knowledge the Top Desired Skill for Hospital Executives

Knowledge of health IT systems is the most desirable skill for hospital C-suite positions, according to a new Black Book report, EHR Intelligence reports.

The report was based on survey responses of 1,515 industry stakeholders, who ranked the most sought after skills for hospital executives.

Report Findings
According to the report, technology and data systems management knowledge was the most important skill identified for almost all chief officer positions. In addition, about 80% of hospitals with more than 200 beds “relied on an internal, C-level executive” to lead their vendor selections and IT implementations.

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Cancer cells made to kill each other
San Diego Union-Tribune

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute say they have recruited an unexpected ally in the mortal struggle against cancer: The very cells of the cancer itself.

In lab experiments, a team led by Richard Lerner, M.D., turned leukemia cells into normal immune cells with up to 80 percent efficiency. What’s more, these “natural killer” cells seek out and destroy their unchanged cancerous brethren, the scientists say. If all goes well, a human clinical trial will be launched next year, Lerner said.

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Sacramento doctor is California Medical Association’s next president
Sacramento Business Journal

The California Medical Association has installed a new president and named a local doctor to be next in line. Dr. Steven Larson, an infectious disease specialist in Riverside, was formally seated as president at the annual House of Delegates meeting last week in Anaheim. Dr. Ruth Haskins, an obstetrician/gynecologist with a busy solo practice in Folsom, was named president-elect — and will be installed at next year’s annual meeting.

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Many Low-Income Workers Say ‘No’ to Health Insurance
New York Times

When Billy Sewell began offering health insurance this year to 600 service workers at the Golden Corral restaurants that he owns, he wondered nervously how many would buy it. Adding hundreds of employees to his plan would cost him more than $1 million — a hit he wasn’t sure his low-margin business could afford.

His actual costs, though, turned out to be far smaller than he had feared. So far, only two people have signed up.

“We offered, and they didn’t take it,” he said.

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A health law fine on the uninsured will more than double
San Francisco Chronicle

The math is harsh: The federal penalty for having no health insurance is set to jump to $695, and the Obama administration is being urged to highlight that cold fact in its new pitch for health law sign-ups. That means the 2016 sign-up season starting Nov. 1 could see penalties become a bigger focus for millions of people who have remained eligible for coverage, but uninsured. They’re said to be squeezed for money, and skeptical about spending what they have on health insurance.

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Potential delay on some upgrades to gov’t insurance site
Sacramento Bee

With sign-up season starting in less than two weeks, the Obama administration indicated on Monday that some long-awaited upgrades to the government’s health insurance website could take more time before they’re customer-ready.

At issue is a new doctor look-up tool for, as well as another feature that would allow consumers to find out whether a particular health plan covers their prescription drugs. Up to now, digging out that information has required additional steps.

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California will streamline Medicaid hospital admissions under new CMS waiver
Modern Healthcare

The CMS has granted California permission to change the hospital admission process for some Medicaid beneficiaries in the state.Under a newly approved waiver, California will launch a two-year process for hospitals to voluntarily transition to a more streamlined process for admitting Medicaid patients. Currently, all hospitals except for public safety net hospitals have to get pre-authorization from the program before admitting fee-for-service Medicaid patients.

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Right-To-Die Law Faces Delays, Challenges
capital public radio

A political move to make physician-assisted suicide legal in California may have long-lasting consequences. Supporters could not get the bill approved in the regular legislative session, so they reintroduced it during a special session on health care. The governor has signed the bill into law. But it won’t take effect until the special session ends. That likely won’t happen for months.

Jack Pitney is a Government Professor at Claremont McKenna College. He says lawmakers who supported the measure can already say they voted for it, so there’s no incentive to rush the special session.

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Private health exchange has options for small companies affected by new mandate
Sacramento Business Journal

CaliforniaChoice is bullish on expansion of the small-group market.

Like its public counterpart, Covered California, the private insurance exchange is prepared to welcome employers with 51 to 100 employees into the program Jan. 1, 2016.

California law still requires this group to be considered “small employers” for the purpose of health insurance, starting next year. That means they have to offer essential health benefits and adhere to different rating rules that could make coverage more expensive.

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New health care billing codes a headache
Orange County Register

Prior to Oct. 1, your doctor had 14,000 codes to choose from as a means to let insurance companies know what kind of ailment you had. You would think a list of 14,000 choices would cover nearly every possible problem. But according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, you now need more than 70,000 choices to cover what ails you.

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Your doctor’s on probation: Should you be told?
Sacramento Bee

Your doctor overprescribed narcotics. Your doctor was arrested on a hit-and-run DUI. Your doctor is accused of fondling patients. Your doctor’s negligent treatment resulted in a patient’s death.

In each of those California cases, the doctor is now on probation, ordered by the Medical Board of California.

Should you be told when booking your next appointment? That’s what Consumers Union wants to happen.

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Hospital-owned physician practices linked to higher prices
Yahoo! News

Outpatient care may cost more when hospitals own the medical practices or employ the physicians, a U.S. study suggests.

Hospital employment of doctors and ownership of physician practices has grown over the past decade as healthcare providers seek to curb expenses with economies of scale and deliver better-coordinated treatment to patients.

Research reported in JAMA Internal Medicine examined how the rise of tighter financial integration between doctors and hospitals impacted costs for people enrolled in private health insurance plans from 2008 to 2012.

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Weak Brain Connections May Link Premature Birth And Later Disorders
National Public Radio

Babies born prematurely are much more likely than other children to develop autism, ADHD and emotional disorders. Now researchers think they may have an idea about how that could happen.

There’s evidence that preemies are born with weak connections in some critical brain networks, including those involved in focus, social interactions, and emotional processing, researchers reported at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago.

A study comparing MRI scans of the brains of 58 full-term babies with those of 76 babies born at least 10 weeks early found that “preterm infants indeed have abnormal structural brain connections,” says Cynthia Rogers, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

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Seniors Who Don’t Consider Switching Drug Plans May Face Steep Price Rise
Kaiser Health News

When Mildred Fine received the annual notice informing her about changes to her Medicare prescription drug plan for 2016, she was shocked. If she stayed with the same plan, her monthly premium would more than triple, from $33.90 to $121.10, and her annual deductible would rise from $320 to $360.

The increase didn’t make sense to Fine, 84, whose prescriptions haven’t changed and whose drugs are generally inexpensive. She takes two generic blood pressure drugs and a generic antidepressant, as well as Estrace, an estrogen cream. This year, she didn’t meet her deductible until September.

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The Dangerous Patient Safety Delusions of Eminence-Based Medicine
The Health Care Blog

The eminent physicians Martin Samuels and Nortin Hadler have piled onto the patient safety movement, wielding a deft verbal knife along with a questionable command of the facts.

They are the defenders of the “nobility” of medicine against the algorithm-driven “fellow travelers” of the safety movement. On the one side, apparatchiks; on the other, Captain America.

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Aetna, Humana shareholders vote for merger, but deal still faces hurdles
Modern Healthcare

The merger between Aetna and Humana moved one step closer to the finish line Monday as shareholders from both companies voted to approve the deal. Shareholders gave their overwhelming approval to the transaction with 99% of the votes in Connecticut and New York cast in favor of the deal.

Aetna shareholders voted in the early afternoon with Humana shareholders voting two hours later.

The vote came less than two weeks after Humana settled a class-action shareholder lawsuit challenging the deal. The government-focused managed-care company agreed to provide additional background information on the $37 billion merger to settle the litigation.

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‘Cancer vaccine’ startup Gritstone ascends with $100M round
San Francisco Business Times

An East Bay biotech startup will use a $102 million venture capital investment to anchor its climb toward cancer’s latest, greatest summit. Gritstone Oncology Inc. aims to develop “cancer vaccines” that can be adapted to specific patients at specific times by targeting so-called tumor-specific neoantigens, or new, unique amino acid tags that emerge as cancer cells mutate. The startup initially well set up shop in Emeryville and Cambridge, Mass., and will be led by co-founder, president and CEO Dr. Andrew Allen, the former chief medical officer at Clovis Oncology Inc.

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Community Memorial Hospital robotic surgery seminar to focus on endometriosis
Ventura County Star

A seminar on robotic surgery will be held Tuesday at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura.

The free program focuses on robotic-assisted surgery in the treatment of endometriosis. The disorder involves tissue that usually lines the uterus growing outside of the uterus.

The seminar will be led by Dr. Edwin Ramirez, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology. It will run from 6-8 p.m. in the Nichols Auditorium at Community Memorial Hospital, 147 N. Brent St.

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Avanti Hospitals system appoints CFO
Modern Healthcare

Avanti Hospitals, a four-hospital system based in El Segundo, Calif., has appointed Steven Blake as its new CFO.

Blake, 62, started at for-profit Avanti on Oct. 13. For the past year, CFO tasks have been performed by Brian Buchanan, an Alvarez & Marsal consultant.

Prior to joining Avanti, Blake was president and owner of an accounting firm, as well as CFO and executive VP of Integrated Healthcare Holdings, a Santa Ana, Calf.-based hospital company now known as KPC Healthcare.