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Today’s News Headlines

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Since when was health care reform authored in the House?
Washington Post

If you’re trying to convince the Supreme Court not to grant certiorari in a high-profile case, I suspect that publishing an op-ed in the Washington Post on the day the Court is scheduled to consider the petition is not the best strategy. I also suspect that it would be a good idea to ensure than such op-ed not include blatant falsehoods. It would be one thing for such an op-ed for forcefully advocate a given perspective on a contested issue. Quite another for it to simply make stuff up. In this case, however, we see the latter.

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Virus Sleuths Chip Away At Ebola Mysteries
National Public Radio

Vincent Racaniello, who studies viruses at Columbia University, says Ebola has recently become his obsession.

“I find myself reading incessantly about Ebola when I should be doing other things,” says Racaniello, host of the online show This Week in Virology, which has devoted several recent programs to Ebola.

The unprecedented Ebola outbreak probably has more virologists thinking about Ebola than ever before. And while scientists have learned a lot about this virus since it was discovered almost four decades ago, there’s still a lot left to wonder about.

Racaniello and his virologist buddies wish they knew some really basic things — like, how does the virus actually slip into cells? What part of the cell’s surface does it latch onto to get access? Knowing that might let scientists figure out ways to block it.

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Questions, answers about California’s Ebola policy
San Luis Obispo Tribune

The California Department of Public Health has issued a 21-day quarantine order for people traveling from Ebola-stricken areas who have had contact with infected patients, but the restrictions will be determined by county health officers depending on the individual’s level of risk exposure.

California health officials are trying to strike a balance between public safety and individual rights after New York, New Jersey and Maine received heavy criticism for imposing blanket quarantines, including a nurse who has shown no symptoms of Ebola.

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Medicare Concedes, Agrees To Pay For Woman’s Home Health Care
National Public Radio

A disabled woman with serious health problems who successfully challenged Medicare for denying her home health care coverage has racked up another win against the government.

In her latest federal lawsuit filed in June, Glenda Jimmo, 78, argued that Medicare should have paid for the nursing care and other skilled services she received at her home during 2007. On Wednesday, Medicare officials agreed, invalidating an April ruling that she was not entitled to coverage because her condition had stabilized and she was not improving.

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Medi-Cal application backlog is reduced, but challenges remain
Sacramento Business Journal

The backlog of Medi-Cal applications — which hit 900,000 in May — is down to about 172,000, state Medi-Cal chief Toby Douglas told a state Senate health committee Thursday. More than 2.7 million people have enrolled in the government health care program for the poor since October 2013, Douglas said, “but our implementation has not been without problems.”

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State inadequately investigates nursing home complaints, audit finds
Los Angeles Times

The California Department of Public Health has failed to effectively investigate nursing home complaints, a state audit released Thursday found, with a total of 11,000 unresolved complaints in its system.

The department, which is responsible for monitoring more than 2,500 nursing homes, classified more than 40% of these complaints and incidents as having caused or being likely to cause harm to a resident.

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Audit: California nursing home oversight haphazard
Sacramento Bee

The California Department of Public Health is stumbling in its oversight of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, weighed down by a backlog of more than 11,000 open complaints – and no clear path to dig its way out, the California state auditor has concluded.

The widely anticipated report, released Thursday, details how the department has failed to effectively manage investigations of complaints related to long-term care in California.

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What’s Your Growth Prescription?
HealthLeaders Media

Hospitals and health system leaders are facing both the biggest threats and the biggest opportunities for their organizations over the coming half-decade, as healthcare reform moves more firmly from theory to action. In the aggregate, they’re already facing declining inpatient volume and declining reimbursements. Those challenges are felt unevenly, but universally. Further, even those with the blessing of favorable demographics are competing ever more directly with narrowly focused competitors that are nibbling away at outpatient volume as well.

Should hospitals and health systems be the consolidator of those growing services or should they partner with someone else who does it better? How important is leverage in each of dozens of potential markets? How do you, as a leader, ensure basic survival, and what does that look like?

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Insurers steal a beat from Apple, open retail branding stores
Modern Healthcare

Health insurers increasingly are building and staffing bricks-and-mortar retail centers to potentially expand their membership base and, most importantly for now, enhance their brand image with the public.

The retail approach represents a major pivot in insurer tactics to grow their books of business brought on by changes in how consumers get insurance thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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Aetna Cuts 4 New Accountable Care Deals
HealthLeaders Media

With four new pacts announced last week, Aetna is continuing its nationwide push to rack up commercial accountable care collaborations with healthcare providers.

As part of the Hartford, CT-based insurer’s launch of its Aetna Whole Health health plan in Washington State, the insurer has inked accountable care collaboration agreements with Pacific Medical Centers, The Polyclinic, Providence-Swedish Health Alliance, and Rainier Health Network.

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Sutter Health restructures, creates new leadership roles
Sacramento Business Journal

Sutter Health plans to collapse its five divisions into two and tap doctor and nurse leaders to improve patient satisfaction across the health system. The changes, announced this week, will unfold in stages through the end of the first quarter of 2015. The goal is a nimble management structure that can deliver a better patient experience. “It’s leadership and strategy alignment, not front-line employees,” said chief operating officer Sarah Krevans.

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Natividad, county say hospital best for trauma care
Monterey Herald

Responding to concerns that patients were being “railroaded” to Natividad Medical Center’s new trauma center, officials at the hospital sought this week to assure the public that Natividad was the best place for their care.

The county-owned safety net hospital recently beat out Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital for the right to pursue the trauma center designation.