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Supercommittee Cuts Threaten Hospital-Bond Rally: Muni Credit
San Francisco Chronicle

Hospital bonds, the best-performing part of the $2.9 trillion municipal-debt market this year, may decline as federal and state lawmakers weigh cuts in health-care payments, the largest income source for U.S. medical facilities. Tax-exempt bonds backed by hospital income earned 9.7 percent in 2011 through Oct. 31, according to Barclays Capital indexes that include price gains and interest. That beat nine other categories of revenue debt including water systems, electric utilities and roads and airports. General-obligation securities returned 8 percent.

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Access restored to problem docs data, with limits
San Francisco Chronicle

The Obama administration is again allowing public access to a database of problem doctors, but with strings attached that a journalism group says may be unconstitutional. The Health Resources and Services Administration on Wednesday reposted the public use file of the National Practitioner Data Bank. It contains information on disciplinary actions and malpractice cases against clinicians, without identifying them.

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Pushing the portal: Health Exchange going high-tech
Capitol Weekly

California has until 2014 to create a system for enrolling its 4.7 million uninsured and underinsured citizens who are eligible for new benefits under the federal Affordable Healthcare Act. The state’s powerful Health Benefit Exchange Board is working to create a web portal with some ambitious goals: allowing Californians to check their healthcare eligibility, compare cost options, and enroll in an insurance plan, all in real time over the Internet.

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John Muir Health’s Physician Network Recognized for Clinical Quality
Market Watch

John Muir Health’s non-profit medical group, the John Muir Physician Network, was recently recognized as one of 11 medical groups in the state and one of three in the Bay Area to meet the Right Care Initiative’s gold level of achievement. The award also recognized the efforts of John Muir Health’s medical centers to prevent hospital acquired infections.

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IOM Issues 10 HIT Recommendations for Patient Safety
Health Leaders Media

Health information technology is said to be key to improving quality and safety. But even as providers rush to implement and master these expensive systems, there’s an underappreciated chance that computers might cause harm, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine.

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Proposed cuts ‘unsustainable’
Kern Valley Sun

CEO Tim McGlew wasted no time sugar-coating what he characterized as “extremely serious issues” the district will have to contend with in the near future. McGlew’s dire predictions were made at the Nov. 2 board of directors meeting. McGlew was alluding to significant cost reduction measures that are included in Governor Jerry Brown’s approved state budget. Specifically, McGlew referred to cuts affecting the state’s skilled nursing facilities and sub-acute units.

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Critics not satisfied after public access to doc discipline database is restored
Modern Healthcare

HHS‘ Health Resources and Services Administration has reposted the public use file of its National Practitioner Data Bank, but it has done so with conditions that has one critic doubting that these conditions would work and another calling it “unacceptable.” The data bank’s public use file contains de-identified information on disciplinary actions against physicians and, in a statement posted on the data bank’s website, HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield touts this data as being available for statistical analysis and reports on malpractice trends.

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KPC offers $31.1M for VVCH
Victorville Daily Press

KPC Global, a medical group that initially won a bid to buy Victor Valley Community Hospital, filed court documents stating it’s now ready to seal the deal to take over the financially strapped hospital.

KPC, bidding under Victor Valley Hospital Acquisition Inc., will pay the hospital $31.1 million, with most of the cash available by the closing of the deal, according to a declaration filed Monday in Victorville Superior Court by Executive Vice President Bill Thomas of KPC.

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HHS launches health-indicators app challenge
Modern Healthcare

HHS is calling on healthcare and technology experts to design software applications that will address the nation’s most pressing health concerns. The challenge is part of the federal government’s Healthy People 2020 campaign. HHS’ recently released list of updated leading health indicators, which are used to gauge public health, will serve as the basis for the LHI Apps Challenge, HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said in a blog post about the announcement. Park and HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Dr.

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Shortage of doctors in the Valley anticipated
Fresno Bee

Shortages of doctors and other health professionals in the central San Joaquin Valley could grow worse as more people gain insurance coverage under federal health reform, a new study says. The Affordable Care Act is expected to add millions of new Medi-Cal patients statewide between 2014 and 2019, said researchers at the Center for Health Professions at the University of California at San Francisco.

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Childhood obesity rates level off in California, L.A. County
Los Angeles Times

California’s childhood obesity rates remain dangerously high despite a slight drop in recent years, threatening the long-term health of children throughout the state, according to a study released Wednesday.

Thirty-eight percent of children statewide were obese or overweight last year, a 1.1% decline from five years earlier. The rates in Los Angeles County dropped by 2.5% to about 42% last year.

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Stop Letting Poor Scheduling Bleed Hospital Payrolls
Health Leaders Media

Just-in-time scheduling can often mandate when employees will work, when they’ll work overtime, and when they’ll be sent home with little notice for any contingency—all of which is designed to save money by more closely linking labor with immediate demand.

One human resources expert says, however, that a poorly designed just-in-time scheduling system will do exactly the opposite and will end up costing healthcare providers more money in higher absenteeism and turnover.

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New bypass surgery for stroke riskier than thought
USA Today

To prevent stroke in certain high-risk patients — those with a blocked neck artery who have already had a so-called “mini-stroke” — drug treatment appears as effective and far less risky than bypass surgery, researchers find. Their study evaluated nearly 200 patients, about half of whom had carotid artery bypass surgery. In the 30 days after surgery, patients had a 14 percent risk of having a stroke, compared with a 2 percent risk among those treated medically, the study found.

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Palm Drive Hospital seeks alliance with Marin General
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The Palm Drive Hospital board will begin negotiating exclusively with Marin General Hospital a possible affiliation that would expand both health care networks.

The 4-0 vote Monday to go with Marin General comes after the Palm Drive board received a number of proposals from health care providers, including St. Joseph Health System of Sonoma County and St. Helena Hospital, part of the Adventist Health system headquartered in Roseville, Calif.

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California group files health insurance regulation initiative
Sacramento Bee

A leading consumer group has launched an initiative drive to give state regulators the power to reject health insurance rate increases.

Consumer Watchdog has asked the state attorney general to prepare a title and summary for a proposed initiative for the November 2012 ballot to require that proposed rate changes are submitted to the state insurance commissioner for approval before taking effect.

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Anthem Blue Cross cancels Medicare Advantage plan in Marin; nearly 700 beneficiaries must switch
Marin Independent Journal

Nearly 700 Medicare beneficiaries in Marin County will be forced to switch their Medicare Advantage health plans by Dec. 7 because Anthem Blue Cross has withdrawn its plan.

Marin County has 46,757 Medicare beneficiaries, including 16,460 enrolled in Medicare Advantage.

“Anthem has made a difficult decision to non-renew our Medicare Advantage Freedom Blue RPPO plan in an effort to effectively manage financial and operational performance of our Medicare business,” said Darrel Ng, a spokesman for the company.

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Proposed health insurance rate regulation initiative submitted
Los Angeles Times

The consumer group that brought regulation of auto insurance rates to California now wants to do the same for healthcare coverage.

On Wednesday, the Santa Monica advocacy group Consumer Watchdog submitted to the state attorney general’s office a proposed initiative that would require insurance companies, health maintenance organizations and preferred-provider organizations to get prior approvals from the California Department of Insurance for proposed rate hikes.

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Local hospitals mandate masks for employees without a flu shot
KSBY

Some Central Coast hospitals will soon require all employees who don’t get a flu shot to wear a surgical mask. The policy will take affect November 16 at all Catholic Healthcare West hospitals on the Central Coast. They are French Hospital Medical Center, Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, and Marian Medical Center.

Both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County public health departments recommended the new policy.

Opinion/Editorial

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A conservative’s unlikely defense of the healthcare reform law
Los Angeles Times

Opponents of the healthcare reform law’s individual mandate frequently warn that if the government can require the uninsured to buy coverage, it can require Americans to do just about anything. In other words, there’s no limit to how far government could go. That’s been a particular rallying cry for conservatives and Republican judicial appointees, such as District Court Judge Roger Vinson of Florida. Finding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be unconstitutional…

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