News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Ryan’s Medicare plan would be tricky to pull off
San Francisco Chronicle

The idea behind Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan is to slow growing costs and keep the program more affordable for the long haul. But it’s all in the details. The Republican-backed shift to private insurance plans could saddle future retirees with thousands of dollars a year in additional bills. That would leave the children of the baby boom generation with far less protection from medical expenses than their parents and grandparents have had in retirement.

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Nurse-led program cuts sepsis deaths in half
FierceHealthcare

A nurse-led fast-track sepsis screening and diagnosis program cut mortality rates in half at nine California hospitals. As a condition that almost always leads to longer length of stay and often death, severe sepsis occurs in about 750,000 U.S. patients each year, with 28 percent to 50 percent of these patients dying, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Innovations Exchange. However, many hospitals fail to diagnose and treat sepsis in a timely fashion.

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More Trauma Care Spending Doesn’t Raise Survival Rates
Health Leaders Media

Spending more on trauma care does not necessarily improve survival rates, a national study suggests. Research published in The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery finds that the cost of treating trauma patients in the western United States is 33% higher than the cost for treating similarly injured patients in the Northeast.

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Audit: Nonprofit hospitals provide varying levels of charity care
Sacramento Business Journal

There is no defined amount of community benefits required from hospitals with tax-exempt status and amounts vary considerably, a new state audit shows. Because there is no standard methodology for calculating the costs associated with uncompensated care, the four hospitals reviewed use different methods to calculate and report the cost of health care services they provide but are not paid for, concludes a report released Thursday by the California State Auditor.

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Is ACA good medicine? Many states have their doubts
San Diego Union-Tribune

California’s leaders appear to strongly support implementing the Affordable Care Act. But many states have different views about how or whether to expand Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that provides health care coverage for low-income individuals, and are exploring using the flexibility given them by the U.S. Supreme Court. Here’s an update based on various published accounts and a General Accountability Office report.

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Is ACA good medicine? State insurance commissioner says absolutely
San Diego Union-Tribune

The federal Affordable Care Act will provide health insurance for tens of millions of Americans who suffer without it. And it provides benefits to those of us who already have health insurance, including elimination of lifetime and annual medical treatment caps, allowing us to keep our kids on our health insurance until age 26, eliminating co-payments for preventive care and certain women’s health care services, reducing prescription drug costs for seniors – the list goes on and on.

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Kaiser income down 22% in Q2
Sacramento Business Journal

Kaiser Permanente reported net income of $514 million for the second quarter of 2012, down more than 22 percent from net income of $663 million for the same period last year. Operating revenue rose 6 percent, to $12.6 billion from $11.9 billion for the second quarter of 2011, but there was a big drop in nonoperating income, to $90 million from $273 million. This category generally relates to investment income, and it went down because of volatility on Wall Street.

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Kaiser membership and revenue up, but income down 22% in Q2
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente’s net income dropped 22 percent to $514 million in the second quarter ended June. The Oakland health insurance and hospital giant’s membership has grown by 87,000 since the end of 2011 and is over the 9 million mark. However, it seems possible that membership actually declined since the first quarter, since Kaiser said in May its tally of members had grown by 94,000 since the end of 2011. Now that figure is lower by 7,000 people.

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Ryan Plan to Revamp Medicare With Private Choices Draws Skeptics
San Francisco Chronicle

Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan wouldn’t, as Democrats charge, end the program as Americans know it. It likely would increase costs or reduce benefits for many seniors. Ryan’s proposal to overhaul the health-care program for 50 million elderly Americans, now at the center of the presidential campaign, would fundamentally reorder Medicare in a bid to control outlays that threaten to overwhelm the federal budget.

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GOP lawmakers seek probe into use of CMS funds
Modern Healthcare

House Republicans requested that Congress’ nonpartisan auditor investigate whether CMS funds were used for initiatives unrelated to Medicare and Medicaid and to report back shortly before the Nov. 6 election. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.), chairman of the panel’s Health Subcommittee and Rep.

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Lodi Memorial Hospital programs aim to educate heart and lung disease patients
Lodi News-Sentinel

In the corner of the room, a woman walks on a treadmill. Towards the center, another man works on a resistance machine. As the sound of whirring machines fills the air, Fred Hoffman puts on a pouch that holds a heart monitor. He says the device checks his heart while he is using the exercise machines. Hoffman is a patient in Lodi Memorial Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation program.

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Ambiguity in Health Law Could Make Family Coverage Too Costly for Many
New York Times

The new health care law is known as the Affordable Care Act. But Democrats in Congress and advocates for low-income people say coverage may be unaffordable for millions of Americans because of a cramped reading of the law by the administration and by the Internal Revenue Service in particular. Under rules proposed by the service, some working-class families would be unable to afford family coverage offered by their employers, and yet they would not qualify for subsidies provided by the law.

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Health care giants spend millions to expand facilities in Elk Grove area
Sacramento Bee

Elk Grove, once the region’s fastest-growing city, has seen housing construction slow dramatically in the past few years. Yet, at the same time, building in the tens of millions of dollars continues on hospitals and medical facilities.

Health care giants such as Kaiser, Sutter and Dignity Health are going where the people are in their quest to win customers.

During the recession, health care expanded when nearly every other industry stalled. It now employs more people than state government.

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Health reform confusion keeps consultants busy
Modern Healthcare

The Affordable Care Act’s long-term impact on employers is still uncertain. But one sector is already getting a boost from the law, recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court: Business is booming for benefits consulting firms.

“We’re swamped,” said Rich Stover, a principal with Buck Consultants in Secaucus, N.J.

Whatever the new law will ultimately mean for the cost and quality of health care in the U.S., in the short term it has meant anxiety and paperwork for employers.

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CMS adds medical practices to home-care pilot program
Modern Healthcare

Three groups of medical practices were added to an 8-month-old Medicare pilot program that aims to test methods for reducing unnecessary beneficiary hospitalizations. The CMS admitted three consortia of medical practices to the Independence at Home Demonstration Program that was launched in December and already includes 16 other practices.

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Bump in Medicare inpatient rates ‘credit-positive,’ Moody’s says
Modern Healthcare

Moody’s Investors Service called a scheduled 2.8% increase in Medicare inpatient payment rates to hospitals, announced on Aug. 1, a short-term “significant credit-positive,” though public policy is expected to squeeze hospital payments in coming years.

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Blue Shield, UCLA end long health insurance dispute
Los Angeles Times

Nonprofit insurer Blue Shield of California said it resolved a lengthy contract dispute with UCLA and other UC system hospitals over reimbursements for patient care.

Effective Sept. 1, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital will be back in the Blue Shield network.

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Nurses say patient care declining at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center due to cost-cutting measures
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Nurses at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton said patient care will likely decline if the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors imposes cuts to their pensions and the hospital continues expanding its use of registry nurses. Some nurses at the county-run trauma center are already talking about quitting because they are convinced the county is poised to impose concessions that will force them to pay the 7 percent the county now pays into their pensions, said Rhonda Watts, a nurse of 26 years who works in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

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Medicaid expansion can lift health care
San Francisco Chronicle

States do not have to be forced to board a runaway Medicaid budget whose brakes have failed. By combining Medicaid expansion with federal funding designed to reward innovations in health care delivery, states can better manage care, improve the health of more of their residents and reduce costs. Medicaid is under the microscope these days. And it should be. It’s one of the most important tools we have in the United States to protect our most vulnerable citizens.

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