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With CLASS out, future clouded for long-term care
HealthyCal.org

Now that the Obama Administration’s effort to offer government-sponsored, long-term health care insurance has crashed, it’s unclear whether any viable path exists to prod more Americans into recognizing the need for such coverage – and to buy it — as they grow older and more prone to debilitating illnesses. Last week, the administration ended the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act program long before it was due to be begin.

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Medicare premiums may offset Social Security hikes
San Francisco Chronicle

Seniors receiving Social Security retirement benefits will get a 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment in 2012, their first increase since 2009.

For a senior getting the average benefit of $1,186 a month this year, the increase works out to about $43 a month, or $516 a year. “Given what else is going on in the economy, with lost savings and pensions, lower home values, higher health care costs (and paltry returns on fixed-income investments), $500 is going to be some welcome relief,” says David Certner, legislative policy director with AARP.

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CMS offers guidance on EHR payment program
Modern Healthcare

The CMS has published a guidance to hospitals that are about to attest under the Medicare electronic health record incentive payment program as a double-check that they have what it takes to become meaningful users of certified electronic health-records systems. The goal of the guidance is “to make sure everyone understands what attestation entails,” said the statement, which was e-mailed Tuesday.

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Patient Safety Video Showcases Efforts of California Hospitals to Improve Quality, Safety of Care
PR Newswire

Every year, more than 50,000 sick or premature babies are delivered in California’s community hospitals. Typically, these vulnerable infants have immature immune systems and are at risk for acquiring infections. To address this problem, Riverside County Regional Medical Center in 2009 implemented a new program to eliminate infections in its neonatal unit. As a result, the hospital has reduced its annual infection rate to zero and saved the lives of countless newborns.

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Providers will put Blue Shield ACO grant money toward EHRs, HIEs
FierceHealthIT

Blue Shield of California is giving $20 million to 18 California hospitals, health systems, clinics, and physician groups to help them create accountable care organizations (ACOs). Some of the grants will be used to implement information systems, including health data exchanges, electronic health records and predictive modeling tools. Blue Shield is providing the grants, which range from $300,000 to $2 million, to help meet its pledge to cap profits at 2 percent of revenues.

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Kaiser Considering Second Site for New Hospital
San Diego Business Journal

County officials on Oct. 25 will consider a development-rights change affecting a Kearny Mesa county operations property that Kaiser Permanente is studying as a possible site for a new, 350-bed hospital.

The County Board of Supervisors is reviewing a proposal that would transfer development rights on the 19.5-acre County Operations Center Annex property on Ruffin Road, from Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group to Kaiser Permanente.

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Valley Physician Group Receives $1 million Blue Shield Grant
San Fernando Valley Business Journal

Facey Medical Group of Mission Hills will receive $1.09 million from Blue Shield of California, one of 18 California healthcare providers to share $20 million being awarded by the health insurer to encourage more efficient delivery of care.

Facey, a multi-specialty medical group with 150 doctors serving much of the San Fernando Valley will use the funds to create an Accountable Care Organization and a medical home, new care delivery models intended to provide patients with more coordinated care while reducing hospital admissions and readmissions.

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New emergency center opens
St. Helena Star

St. Helena Hospital Foundation celebrated a generous gift from the Weeman Family with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 13. The St. Helena No Wait ER has been named in their honor. The Weeman Family Emergency Center honors the gift of life and those that serve the community through medical intervention and comfort in times of need. A year ago Ken Weeman became overwhelmed with severe chest pain. His wife, Kathryn, rushed him to the emergency room at St. Helena Hospital Napa Valley.

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Hospital bond expenditures questioned
Tehachapi News

A Stallion Springs resident — Jo Ann Huckins — who has been active in the Tehachapi Hospital Foundation and Guild of the Tehachapi Hospital, issued a press release recently expressing concerns about the way hospital bond money is spent.

Huckins said she plans to make a presentation at a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District this week.

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Doctors Co. completes $362M purchase of FPIC Insurance
San Francisco Business Times

The Doctors Co., a fast-growing medical malpractice insurer based in Napa, said Wednesday it has completed a $362 million acquisition of FPIC Insurance Group Inc. The deal was announced in late May. Brendan Doherty, a Doctors Co. spokesman, told the San Francisco Business Times on Oct. 19 that the purchase price was unchanged since the earlier announcement.

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Hospital, doc-office CPI edges up in September
Modern Healthcare

Consumer hospital prices increased 0.1% in September after the prior month’s climb of 0.6%, newly released seasonally adjusted figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show. One year ago September, hospital consumer prices rose 1.5%. For the year that ended last month, the Consumer Price Index shows hospital prices climbed 5.4% compared with 8.1% the prior year.

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Use of IT can reduce disparities, study says
Modern Healthcare

Effective use of health information technology can reduce racial and ethnic healthcare disparities, according to a newly published study in the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. The authors recommended a series of steps, including using health data to find and fix gaps in care, and developing clinical decision support tools that specifically address areas where disparities are common. Those strategies can help providers identify causes of healthcare inequities, such as language barriers and difficulty navigating a complex healthcare system, they said.

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Benefit in Radiation After Breast Cancer Surgery
New York Times

Radiation treatment after surgery for breast cancer significantly lowers the risk that the disease will recur in the breast or spread lethally to other parts of the body over the next 10 to 15 years, researchers say. The new findings mean that radiation prevents recurrences for a longer time and saves more lives than was generally recognized, said Sarah C. Darby, a professor of medical statistics at the University of Oxford and an author of the report.

Opinion/Editorial

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Reinstate doctor database
Modesto Bee

California Physician No. 5039 has been the subject of 15 malpractice cases, including two in which he or she left items in patients’ bodies during surgery, and one that resulted in permanent injury. We also know that the Medical Board of California has taken no action against No. 5039 and more than 700 other physicians with similar records.

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Taking healthcare costs into our own hands
Los Angeles Times

While Democrats and Republicans tussle over whether to repeal the federal healthcare reform law, employers and individual consumers have to make choices about how to cope with the ever-increasing cost of health insurance and medical care. The Bay Area Council, an influential trade group for more than 275 large employers in Northern California, offered some guidance on that front this week, urging businesses to promote a more affordable, higher-quality healthcare system.

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Long-term care plan dies, but problem survives
USA Today

If you make it to age 65, you have about a two-in-three chance of someday needing help with some of the tasks of daily living, perhaps from a home health care worker, a nursing home or an assisted-living facility. Costs can be staggering. Nursing homes charge an average of $75,000 a year; half of all retirees have less than $61,000 in savings. If you can’t pay out of pocket, you could impose on relatives or bankrupt yourself to qualify for Medicaid, financed by state and federal taxpayers.

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Opposing view: HHS decision shows no CLASS
USA Today

The Obama administration blundered when it abandoned the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, the national voluntary long-term care insurance program included in the 2010 health reform law. CLASS would have been the first step down an important road — moving the financing of long-term care services in the United States away from the welfare-like Medicaid program to a self-funded insurance system.

Blogs

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The Untimely Death of Long-Term Health Insurance
The Health Care Blog

The Administration’s decision to pull the plug on long-term health insurance in the new healthcare law (so-called Community Living Assistance Services and Support or, as it was known by healthcare insiders, CLASS) offers an important lesson. As written, the law had three incompatible parts. First, it required beneficiaries to receive at least $50 a day if they had a long-term illness or disability (to pay a caregiver or provide other forms of maintenance).

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