News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Five daunting details you need to know from this new report on ovarian cancer
Washington Post

Of all the “women’s cancers,” ovarian is among the most diabolical.

A new, congressionally mandated report by the Institute of Medicine spells out, sometimes in unnerving detail, the challenges confronting researchers in understanding the disease and patients in getting good care. About 21,000 women will be diagnosed with the illness this year, and 14,000 women will die from it.

Partly because it sneaks up on women without announcing itself, the disease has a five-year survival rate of just under 46 percent, compared to nearly 90 percent for breast cancer, more than 80 percent for endometrial cancer and nearly 70 percent for cervical cancer. Still, that’s some progress. In the 1970s, only 36 percent of women survived at least five years. And there are ways for patients to improve their odds. Here are five takeaways from the report, which was released Wednesday:

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Supreme Court strikes at states’ efforts on health care transparency
Southern California Public Radio

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow Tuesday to nascent efforts to track the quality and cost of health care, ruling that a 1974 law precludes states from requiring that every health care claim involving their residents be submitted to a massive database.

The arguments were arcane, but the effect is clear: We’re a long way off from having a true picture of the country’s health care spending, especially differences in the way hospitals treat patients and doctors practice medicine.

It also means that, for the time being at least, we’ll remain heavily reliant on data being released by Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, to study variations in health care. ProPublica has used Medicare data to study differences in medication prescribing, surgeons’ complication rates and use of services by doctors, but it’s still not clear that Medicare is representative of all health care in the country.

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EMR Data show: The ACA has Improved Access to Care for Low-Income Patients
The Health Care Blog

As Barack Obama’s presidency draws to a close, we anticipate growing discussion of his legacy. Much of that discussion will focus on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), his signature legislative accomplishment. The legislation is complex and in some cases ineffective and cumbersome. It can be argued, for example, that the complexity of the ACA favors the same high-cost, legacy health care players that the bill was designed to address.

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Why patients who shop by price aren’t going to slow healthcare spending
Modern Healthcare

Don’t expect the market power of price-conscious patients to slow U.S. healthcare spending. Patients who sought what researchers consider “shoppable” healthcare—care that can be scheduled in a market with some competition—had out-of-pocket costs that accounted for 7% of all spending for privately insured patients, new research from the Health Care Cost Institute shows.

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California insurers want to build a huge data exchange … will providers come?
Modern Healthcare

Two of California’s largest insurers are trying to build one of the country’s most comprehensive health information exchanges, but they’re facing reluctance from providers who are hesitant to share their data.Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California—the second- and third-largest insurers in the state, respectively, after Kaiser Permanente—teamed up in 2014 to establish Cal Index. Their goal is to create a complete, longitudinal health record for every California resident.

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State Medicaid agencies seek permanent repeal of the ACA insurance tax
Modern Healthcare

State Medicaid agencies say Congress’ decision to suspend the Affordable Care Act’s tax on health insurers for one year is a good first step, but they are pushing for its permanent repeal.While most private health insurance plans have had to pay the tax themselves, states that contract with Medicaid managed-care plans have had to cover the premium tax to ensure that the health plans receive actuarially sound rates. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia contract with Medicaid managed-care plans.

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Brown expands health industry tax
San Francisco Chronicle

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday to expand a tax on the health insurance industry so that the state doesn’t lose $1 billion in federal funding. Under the expansion, managed-care organizations — such as Blue Shield, Cigna and Aetna — will have to pay the state tax regardless of whether they serve Medi-Cal patients. Previously, only those serving Medi-Cal patients had to pay the tax and received federal matching funds to offset it.

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Bridging The Gap Between Medical And Mental Health Care
Kaiser Health News

Even on her worst days, Tracy Young goes to her appointments at the San Fernando Mental Health Center. The counseling and medication, she says, keep her depression and schizophrenia at bay.

“I come here faithfully,” said Young, 50. “I have to come here or I be feeling I just want to give up.”

Young isn’t nearly as religious about her physical health, despite painful arthritis, a persistent backache and a family history of cancer. Until this month, she hadn’t seen a medical doctor in more than three years.

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Hospitals Say Anthem-Cigna Merger Will Empower Blue Cross, Hurt Consumers
Insurance Journal

U.S. hospitals are stepping up their bid to stop Anthem Inc.’s takeover of rival health insurer Cigna Corp., saying the deal will increase the dominance of Blue Cross Blue Shield plans and potentially raise premiums for consumers.

The enhanced bargaining power of the Blue Cross plans will undermine competition and should compel the Justice Department to stop the deal, the American Hospital Association wrote in a letter to the department’s antitrust chief Bill Baer.

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Blue Shield of CA pink slips up to 460 employees

Blue Shield told the San Francisco Business Journal that the workforce shakeup will help keep its plans affordable and improve access by “ensuring that we have the right talent, skills and capability to deliver on our strategy.”

Under the plan, 256 jobs are being outright eliminated, and 152 will be refilled to better support the firm’s strategy. No details were provided on the other 52 jobs being cut.

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Saddleback Memorial’s San Clemente hospital to close May 31; how many will be affected?
Orland Press Register

San Clemente’s 73-bed community hospital will close May 31 because of declining patient numbers and legislative constraints, its owners said Wednesday.

Saddleback Memorial Medical Center announced the decision to close its San Clemente campus, at 654 Camino de los Mares, in a statement. The closure will leave a nearly 40-mile gap in public emergency rooms between Tri-City Hospital in Oceanside and Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.

Saddleback Memorial did not mention any plans for the 6.6-acre site.

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SF hospital services for mentally ill suffer drastic cuts
San Francisco Chronicle

As everyone in San Francisco knows, there’s a population of mentally disturbed individuals on the streets who never get the help they need. It’s a chronic, troubling problem. But if you’re going to look into it with medical professionals, here’s a tip — set aside plenty of time.

The treatment of the uninsured mentally ill is a rabbit hole of regulations, acronyms and conflicting statements. Put it this way: If you were playing a drinking game and took a sip every time someone said “it’s complicated,” you’d be pie-eyed long before you got any answers.

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San Clemente Hospital’s Closure Spurs Calls For New Ownership
Orange County Weekly

MemorialCare Health System’s announcement Wednesday that its San Clemente hospital will close on May 31 was not exactly welcomed by the local physicians and residents who have been trying to save the 73-bed facility. “Today, MemorialCare decided to fire their employees and close its hospital doors on our community, prioritizing financial profits over people,” said Dr. Gus Gialamas, founder of the Save San Clemente Hospital group.

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Southern Inyo Hospital reopens
Sierra Wave

After extensive work by the hospital’s new partner, Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA), effective Tuesday, March 1, Southern Inyo Hospital has reopened to serve the healthcare needs of residents of and visitors to the Southern Inyo Healthcare District. HCCA’s Alan Germany, the hospital’s Chief Restructuring Officer announced today that “All departments are fully staffed and ready to take on a full range of services, including the emergency department, acute care, laboratory, radiology, physical therapy and the skilled nursing facility.