News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Shining the Light on Cancer Surgery Volume
The Health Care Blog

New data just released on cancer surgery volume in California hospitals advance an important and complex discussion about how the frequency with which a cancer surgery is performed at a hospital might influence patient, care team and hospital decisions. An effort funded by the California HealthCare Foundation has recently made these data available for the first time for 341 California hospitals on www.CalQualityCare.org. Having these data readily available opens the door to important inquiries the hospital community is investigating closely.

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Education May Cut Dementia Risk, Study Finds
New York Times

The risk of developing dementia is decreasing for people with at least a high school education, according to an important new study that suggests that changes in lifestyle and improvements in physical health can help prevent or delay cognitive decline. The study, published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, provides the strongest evidence to date that a more educated population and better cardiovascular health are contributing to a decline in new dementia cases over time, or at least helping more people stave off dementia for longer.

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Number of uninsured children in state, nation has dropped since Affordable Care Act
Orange County Register

The number of uninsured children in California dropped by 2.2 percent in the year the Affordable Care Act took effect, according to a report released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In 2014, 5.7 percent of California children, or 550,000, lacked insurance coverage. The year before, 7.9 percent, or 760,000, were uncovered.

The health law requires most Americans to have insurance or pay a penalty. The 2016 fine for an uninsured child is $347.50.

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Providers must report Medicare overpayments going back six, not 10 years
Modern Healthcare

The CMS has finalized a controversial rule that will require providers to return Medicare over payments.The Affordable Care Act compels providers to return overpayments within 60 days of identifying them. Failing to report over payments can result in liability under the False Claims Act. The CMS estimates that the annual administrative costs for industry reporting and returns of over payments will fall between $120 million and $200 million. It did not estimate how much money it may recover.

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Burwell says administration is doubling down on drug price, opioid battles
Modern Healthcare

HHS Secretary Silvia Mathews Burwell told lawmakers Wednesday the administration is “pursuing every administrative option” for addressing high prescription drug prices, starting with a few provisions in President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2017 budget.Sen. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) said he supports the budget’s call for allowing the HHS secretary to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on prices for biologics and particularly expensive drugs.”Drug costs are scaring the daylights out of me,” he said.

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Insurers back proposed California health plan tax
Sacramento Bee

Most of California’s health insurance companies said Wednesday they’re supporting Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to restructure a tax on health plans.

As the administration worked to line up votes, state Assembly and Senate committees heard a generally supportive message from the industry that would pay the tax.

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Insurance Industry Backs Brown’s Tax On California Health Plans
capital public radio

Support is growing for Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to restructure California’s tax on health insurance plans. A key interest group is backing the tax – and some Republicans are hinting that they might too.

The federal government says California must overhaul its managed care organization (MCO) tax to avoid losing $1 billion for Medi-Cal, the state’s health care program for the poor.

The California Association of Health Plans has been locked in talks with the Brown administration for more than a year.

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Insurers Under Pressure to Improve Margins on Health Plans
The Wall Street Journal

After most health insurers racked up financial losses on Affordable Care Act plans in 2014, many companies’ results for last year worsened, creating heavy pressure to improve performance this year.

An analysis of filings by not-for-profit Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurers—among the biggest players in the law’s exchanges for buying individual insurance—shows the challenge facing the industry as it seeks a turnaround in the individual business. They paid out more for health care in the first three quarters of 2015 than they took in from premiums on their individual plans.

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4 Orange County hospitals report high rate of potentially deadly infection
Orange County Register

Some Orange County hospitals, and many others across California, continue to struggle to fend off a hardy bacterium that can inflict life-threatening diarrhea on their patients, especially those who are 65 and older. According to a report released Wednesday by the department of public health, 327 California hospitals reported 10,588 cases of Clostridium difficile in 2014 – far more than any other type of infection that patients commonly acquire, including MRSA.

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California hospitals struggle to control some infections
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Infection rates in California hospitals and other settings have shown some improvement, but the presence of one particular bacteria is on the rise, according to a report released Wednesday by the state’s Department of Public Health. There were 19,200 healthcare-associated infections reported in California hospitals in 2014, the last year for which data were available.

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Palo Alto: Children’s Hospital uses robot to help patients study, socialize
The Mercury News

Anuj Nanavati, an oncology patient, leaned toward an iPad and asked his science teacher how purple cabbage juice acts as a pH indicator.

Anuj, 16, was not actually inside the Hospital School classroom at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. He was inside another room, controlling a Double two-wheeled robot in the classroom.

In a staged demonstration, Anuj showed how the robot will be used by patients who cannot leave their rooms or be around other students as a way to continue their lessons.

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Blog: To curb inappropriate antibiotic prescribing, researchers try a little social psych
Modern Healthcare

If you want physicians to cut back on antibiotic overprescribing, don’t just give them guidelines, add a little social manipulation. At least, that’s what researchers comparing the effectiveness of various interventions for inappropriate outpatient prescribing found in a JAMA study published Tuesday. Most antibiotics in the U.S. are prescribed in outpatient settings for acute respiratory tract infections, but about half of those infections cannot be treated by antibiotics.

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