News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Leapfrog: Hospital improvement ’sluggish’ despite some stars
Modern Healthcare

The Leapfrog Group has released the second round of its bi-annual hospital safety scores, which show “sluggish” improvement in patient safety among the nation’s hospitals.Despite some improvement, Leapfrog says hospitals are performing worse in critical areas like the rate of foreign objects left in a patient after surgery and other critical measures that cause hospital acquired conditions. But 133 hospitals, about 5% of all graded facilities, have earned an A, the highest grade, in every score since spring 2012.

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California can train enough health workers
Sacramento Bee

The rising demand for skilled health care workers has earned headlines for years and is forecast to continue. The senior population is growing, health workers are retiring and more patients have access thanks to the Affordable Care Act – all increasing the shortage.

The situation is particularly true for nurses and others on the front lines of diagnosing and treating patients. These include laboratory technicians, respiratory therapists and imaging technologists. It is reason for concern, because a lack of critical workers can threaten timely access to health care.

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Poll: Majority Of Americans Agree That The FDA Should Review Drug Ads Before They Air
Kaiser Health News

There’s been a bipartisan outcry over the rising cost of prescription drugs – for instance, presidential candidates from both parties have identified high drug prices as a major concern. But there’s been far less discussion surrounding government oversight of how those medications are marketed to consumers and doctors.

According to a poll released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost 90 percent of people surveyed think the Food and Drug Administration should review prescription drug ads before they air – something it currently doesn’t do – to make sure they’re clear and accurate.  (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) Those findings held true across political affiliations.

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Health Law Increases Coverage Rates For Women Not Yet Pregnant
Kaiser Health News

The Affordable Care Act brought health insurance to 5.5 million women over the past two years, but many women still tell of unmet health care needs that could pose risks for them or future pregnancies, a new report finds.

Researchers from the Urban Institute and the March of Dimes Foundation underscored the ACA’s long-term potential to improve health care for women in their child-bearing years, 18 to 44. The report was released Tuesday.

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GOP candidates will likely bring up Medicare plans during next debate
Modern Healthcare

The differing plans Republican presidential candidates have recently outlined for revamping Medicaid and Medicare are likely to be discussed during Wednesday night’s debate at the University of Colorado.CNBC, which is hosting the debate that begins at 8 p.m. Eastern, has said the forum will focus on economic issues like retirement spending and taxes.

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Covered California signs $12M call center deal; hiring blitz starts Wednesday
Sacramento Business Journal

The scramble is on for up to 500 temporary call-center workers to answer questions and help enroll consumers in Covered California. Virginia-based Faneuil Inc., in partnership with InSync Consulting Services in Roseville, won a $12 million contract for the business early this month. Open enrollment starts Sunday at Covered California and runs through Jan. 31, 2016.

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Some health plans have no in-network doctors in key specialties
Southern California Public Radio

Say you bought health insurance through the federal health exchange, paid the premiums and followed the rules.

And then say you start having pain in your hands. Your doctor refers you to a rheumatologist to test for arthritis.

But when you search for the specialist, there isn’t one there.

That happens more often than you’d think.  In fact, as many as 14 percent of health plans sold on the federal government’s insurance exchange are missing doctors in at least one common specialty from their networks, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, by researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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Low-Income Elderly Reject Calif. Managed Care Experiment, Cite Fear Of Change
KQED Radio

Nearly half of low-income elderly Californians have opted out of a statewide managed care experiment because they feared losing their doctors and were reluctant to make any changes to their health care, according to survey data released Tuesday by the Field Poll.

California is in the middle of a three-year pilot project aimed at nearly 500,000 of the state’s most costly patients — so-called dual eligibles. The beneficiaries receive both Medicare, the health insurance program for seniors and the disabled, and Medicaid, called Medi-Cal in California, which provides coverage for the poor.

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Why the Annual Mammogram Matters
New York Times

Last week, the American Cancer Society announced changes to its influential guidelines for breast cancer screening. The society no longer recommends that women at average risk between the ages of 40 and 44 have mammograms and advises reducing the frequency of mammograms from every year to every other year for women 55 and older. The group is also recommending ending physical breast examinations by doctors entirely.

We profoundly disagree with these changes. All three of us, two breast radiologists and one breast surgeon, have been named “Mothers of the Year” by the American Cancer Society in recognition of our roles as mothers and physicians who have devoted our professional lives to the fight against breast cancer. One of us, Dr. Drossman, received her award the day before the new guidelines were issued.

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Patients should be told when their doctors are bad
Contra Costa Times

The principle of caveat emptor might be appropriate for purchasing a used car, but it doesn’t make sense when selecting a physician. Patients deserve to know in advance when their doctors are lemons.

That’s why a disclosure proposal from Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, is a no-brainer. The Medical Board of California, meeting Friday in San Diego, should require that physicians reveal their probationary status to patients.

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Death from heart disease, cancer down, study says
KCRA

Death is a certainty in life, but premature death has become less of a certainty in the United States, according to a new study.

Researchers compared the rates and causes of death in the U.S. population between 1969 and 2013 using death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System. They focused on the top killers during this period: heart disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, accidents, stroke and diabetes.

The researchers found that the overall death rate has dropped sharply (42.9%) over the last four decades. And all the leading causes of death, with the exception of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, claimed fewer lives in 2013 than in 1969.

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Anthem Blue Cross to end mid-year policy changes and repay consumers $8.3M
Sacramento Business Journal

Anthem Blue Cross has agreed to stop making mid-year changes that raise out-of-pocket costs for individual consumers — and to refund $8.3 million to people who paid them in 2011. Announced Tuesday, the agreement settles a class action in Los Angeles County Superior Court that alleged breach of contract and unfair business practices that reduced benefits available under consumers’ health plan contracts midway through the year.

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Blue Shield of California’s Medicare Advantage Plan Receives Four-Star Rating for Fifth Consecutive
PR Newswire

Blue Shield of California’s Medicare Advantage HMO Plan has received a four-star quality award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for the fifth year in a row.

CMS uses a five-star system to measure the quality and performance of Medicare health and prescription drug plans that relies on more than 50 metrics, including member health, management of chronic conditions, plan responsiveness, customer service, pricing and safety and pharmaceutical services.

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Anthem customer base grows in 3Q, tops expectations
Modern Healthcare

Anthem reported a 4% increase in third-quarter profit and beat Wall Street forecasts as the number of people the health insurer covers edged slightly higher.

It also boosted its annual profit forecast for the third time this year, saying it now expects adjusted net income of $10.10 to $10.20 per share. That’s up from its July forecast, when it projected adjusted earnings of more than $10 per share, but still below the solid $10.20 per share that Wall Street is looking for, according to a poll by FactSet.

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Anthem Blue Cross to repay $8.3 million to California customers
Los Angeles Times

Anthem Blue Cross agreed to end midyear policy changes that raise costs for consumers and to reimburse nearly $8.3 million to about 50,000 customers in California as part of a settlement of a class-action lawsuit announced Tuesday.

The settlement resolves two lawsuits filed by policyholders in Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2011 alleging that the state’s largest for-profit health insurer increased annual deductibles and other yearly out-of-pocket costs on individual policies in the middle of the year.

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Customers call foul on Blue Shield of California’s decision to dump Stanford
Becker's Hospital Review

In early October, Blue Shield of California said it is booting Stanford (Calif.) Hospital and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital out of its individual and family plan networks next year due to high costs. That decision isn’t sitting well with some customers, who say the insurer is raising premiums while decreasing their access to quality healthcare, according to a San Francisco Business Times report.

However, Blue Shield said premium rates for 2016 would have increased even more if it hadn’t kicked Stanford out of the networks.

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