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Health care news from around the state and nation


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UC Davis to offer new open-chest surgery option
Sacramento Bee

For many heart patients, there is now another option to open chest surgery.

Doctors at UC Davis Medical Center have begun treating patients suffering from aortic valve stenosis with a minimally invasive procedure.

It’s called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.

UC Davis was the first hospital in Sacramento to offer the treatment recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, hospital officials said.

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High court has options on health care law
San Francisco Chronicle

The Supreme Court has several options in ruling on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, from upholding the law to striking it down in its entirety. The court also could avoid deciding the law’s constitutionality at all, if it finds the lawsuits challenging the law are premature. Here is a look at six potential outcomes, from the simplest to the most complicated possible rulings:

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Federal Infection Disclosure Mandates Urged
Health Leaders Media

Surgical site infection rates within the nation’s hospitals are largely a secret, with public reporting required by only eight states, says a new Johns Hopkins University report, which calls for federal disclosure mandates so problem hospitals are better motivated to reduce preventable harm.

“There’s a huge transparency problem within the entire industry of modern medicine,” says Martin Makary, MD, a gastroenterology surgeon at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the paper’s lead author.

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Googling bad for your health? Docs debate online health forums
USA Today

Making doctors wait is the stuff of dreams. But fantasy has become reality for those who choose health websites over waiting rooms, discussion boards over diagnosis, and public opinion over professional opinion. For many, online health message boards have replaced doctors and therapists as their first medical contacts, providing free support and (sometimes) valuable information to more than just the 50.7 million Americans living without health insurance, the latest figure from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Candidates duck health care
Pasadena Star

Now here’s a tag team for the ages: Richard Nixon, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama. The arc of history joins all three in the cause of universal health care, a goal promoted by Nixon four decades ago and advanced in laws enacted by Romney and Obama in turn.

So where are the high fives between the president and the former Massachusetts governor?

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Health Care Law Facing Year Of Challenges

Two years after President Barack Obama signed health care reform legislation — and with the U.S.

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Simi Valley Hospital Home Health Program Receives Certification
San Fernando Valley Business Journal

Simi Valley Hospital’s home health program was awarded a three-year certification from the California Department of Public Health.

The certification for the program – the Adventist Health/Home Care Services of Simi Valley Hospital – enables the hospital to receive reimbursement from Medicare and Medi-Cal for home health services, essential to the program’s ability to function. But the significance extends beyond the government-sponsored health programs, said Eileen Tondreau, home care services director.

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Blue Shield of California Fights Physician Group Over Optum Deal
AIS Health

Blue Shield of California (BSC) is asking an arbitration panel to award it $10.5 million from a physician group in southern California that the Blues plan said violated its contract when it agreed to be acquired by Optum, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group and one of the insurer’s main competitors in California. In a demand for arbitration dated Feb.

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Blue Shield, UCLA break impasse over pay
Los Angeles Times

After months of impasse, Blue Shield of California and UCLA finally have a proposal on the table to settle a contract dispute that’s caused worry and confusion for thousands of patients seeking treatment at one of the state’s premier medical facilities.

But don’t expect a breakthrough any time soon. The two sides remain far apart over how much Blue Shield should pay for members’ visits to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood and the nearby Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital.

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Ryan to push Medicare overhaul again in budget plan
Modern Healthcare

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says his fiscal 2013 budget proposal will include a premium-support model to reform Medicare—and will also include traditional fee-for-service Medicare as an option for the nation’s seniors.

That model was introduced last December by Ryan and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) as a way to give seniors a choice between private health plans and traditional Medicare.

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Administration Lays Out Annual Dollar Limits on Student Health Care Plans
Workforce Management

Colleges and universities offering health care coverage to students through the end of 2013 will be able to provide lower annual dollar limits in plans than other organizations, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said.

In its final rule, released March 16, CMS said student health insurance policies must provide annual coverage limits for essential benefits of at least $500,000 for policy years beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2012, but before Jan. 1, 2014.

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Sutter foundation has new chief executive
Sacramento Bee

Sutter Medical Center Foundation has a new executive director. Gregory Walaitis, a veteran of more than 20 years in fundraising, sales and marketing, was named to the post last week, said Sutter officials.

Sutter Medical Center Foundation is the philanthropic unit of Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento. The foundation raises funds for programs and technologies at the hospital. As executive director, Walaitis will help direct fundraising efforts.

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Health-Care Challenge Evokes Roosevelt New Deal High Court Clash
San Francisco Chronicle

In reviewing Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, the U.S. Supreme Court has pushed into territory it hasn’t approached since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt: ruling on a president’s signature legislative victory in the midst of his re-election campaign. Justices will take more time to hear arguments — six hours over three days next week — than for any other case in the last 44 years.

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Health care reform saves Medicare patients millions
The Desert Sun

More than 460,000 California seniors on Medicare saved millions on their prescription medicines in 2011 under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The California figures were part of a nationwide review of prescription benefits for Medicare patients last year that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released today.

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Study: Trimming obesity could save Sacramento region $260M
Sacramento Business Journal

The Sacramento region could save more than $260 million in annual health care costs if local residents could cut the current obesity rate of 23.6 percent down to 15 percent — the national target set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a new study shows. The estimated annual cost of the current obesity rate for area is more than $717 million, according to the 2012 well-being index published by the polling firm Gallup and disease management firm Healthways.


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California taking aggressive steps to care for the mentally ill
Capitol Weekly

According to DJ Jaffe, co-founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center which advocates for mandated outpatient treatment laws, California is “eliminating mental illness treatment.” This, of course, will be a surprise to the tens of thousands of mental health providers in California. Millions of Californians currently receive treatment for their mental disorders, both in the private and public sector.


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What Is Causing Drug Shortages?
The Health Care Blog

A number of people have asked me what is causing the current shortages in certain types of drugs. Here’s what I’ve been able to discern so far: In general, there are two reasons why shortages might appear in a market. The first is high fixed costs. These include regulatory costs, the costs of converting a manufacturing plant to a new use, or the costs of creating a new factory. Industries with high fixed costs will see temporary shortages after either supply shocks (e.g., a factory goes offline) or demand shocks (e.g., an increase in the population needing a drug).

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If Mandate Is Defeated, Obama Will Need Help From Allies to Salvage Health Law
The Health Care Blog

When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, he insisted the nation could fix its health care system without requiring everyone to carry insurance. As the Supreme Court prepares to weigh in on the health law, Obama is facing the possibility that he may have to make good on his campaign claim. Experts consider the requirement to hold insurance, known as the individual mandate, to be the most legally vulnerable part of the law.

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The Patient Will Rate You Now
The Health Care Blog

These days, I’d never consider trying a new restaurant or hotel without reading the on-line ratings on TripAdvisor or Yelp. I seldom even bother with professional restaurant or travel critics. Until recently, there was little patient-generated information about doctors, practices or hospitals to help inform patient decisions. But that is rapidly changing, and the results may be every bit as transformative as they have been in traditionally consumer-centric industries like hospitality.

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AARP Readying Armies for Medicare Battle
The Health Care Blog

“Imagine a world without Medicare.” That’s the rallying cry of a new grassroots campaign being unveiled today by the giant seniors group AARP that will include town hall meetings in 50 states and national television ads. Against a backdrop of proposals to overhaul the popular social insurance program and a presidential campaign likely to address entitlement spending, AARP is launching “probably the biggest outreach effort we’ve ever done on any issue” to activate its 37 million members, said Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s executive vice president.