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Palm Drive leans toward Marin General affiliation
North Bay Business Journal

The Palm Drive Healthcare District last night chose to advance affiliation talks with Marin General Hospital over four other proposals, a move that came earlier than expected.

The district, which oversees operations at Palm Drive Hospital, could reach a final agreement within 30 days. The board voted 4-0, with one absent, to select Marin General’s proposal. However, the board also kept open the possibility of one possible backup. Catholic Healthcare West was among the five suitors and will be put on standby, in the event that talks with Marin General break down.

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Health Law Survives Test in Court of Appeals
New York Times

A federal appeals court in Washington upheld the Obama administration’s health care law on Tuesday in a decision written by a prominent conservative jurist. The decision came as the Supreme Court is about to consider whether to take up challenges to the Affordable Care Act, a milestone legislative initiative of the administration.

Of four appellate court rulings on the health care law so far, this is the third to deal with the law on the merits, and the second that upholds it.

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Shasta Regional Medical Center fights insurers; Redding hospital files 18 new suits over bills
Redding Record Searchlight

Shasta Regional Medical Center has filed at least 18 new lawsuits alleging out-of-state Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Anthem health insurance providers owe the hospital millions in unpaid medical bills.

The suits are the latest legal salvo in a contentious and long-running battle the hospital and its parent company, Prime Health Care Services, have had with the private insurance companies.

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Federal court backs healthcare law
Los Angeles Times

One of the nation’s most closely watched federal courts ruled Tuesday that the new healthcare law’s requirement that most Americans get health insurance is constitutional, giving a surprise boost to President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

The opinion by the conservative-leaning U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia marked the second time this year that a federal appellate court with a majority of Republican appointees has backed the law and its insurance mandate.

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SRMC Awarded For Quality Care
MyMotherLode.com

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recognized Sonora Regional Medical Center for delivering high quality care.

Based on year six results from the Hospital Quality Incentive Demonstration (HQID) project, the Medical Center received a total of five awards for Top Improvement and Attainment in the clinical areas of pneumonia, acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), and surgical care.

Due to its successes, the Medical Center will receive a bonus payment of $24,720 from CMS.

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New report shows California child obesity rates leveling off
Sacramento Bee

More than one in three California children are still unhealthily overweight, but that number has finally, at the very least, stopped rocketing skyward.

The number of children packing extra pounds even appears to be declining – barely.

That’s according to a study released today by the Davis-based California Center for Public Health Advocacy and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

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Study Debunks Operation to Prevent Strokes
New York Times

An operation that doctors hoped would prevent strokes in people with poor circulation to the brain does not work, researchers are reporting. A $20 million study, paid for by the government, was cut short when it became apparent that the surgery was not helping patients who had complete blockages in one of their two carotid arteries, which run up either side of the neck and feed 80 percent of the brain.

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State childhood obesity rate takes a U-turn, but progress patchy
Inside Bay Area

In a heartening sign that California’s kids are starting to cut back on sweets and get off their couches, a report released Wednesday shows a small decline in the number of overweight and obese children across the state in the past five years. “It’s small but meaningful,” said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. “At least we know we can turn this epidemic around.”

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Lawmakers query insurers, labs about possible kickback schemes
Modern Healthcare

The two most senior senators with jurisdiction over the healthcare sector wrote insurers and clinical laboratories Tuesday seeking any evidence of kickback schemes between such entities, according to a committee news release. Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Finance Committee chairman and ranking member, respectively, wrote three health insurance companies and two clinical laboratory testing companies for information on whether they are involved in the practice of labs providing insurers with discounted pricing in exchange for referrals.

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Fewer CA kids overweight, but Bay Area struggles
San Francisco Chronicle

For the first time in 30 years, the number of overweight schoolchildren in California is falling, suggesting that the state may finally be making some headway in the long battle to prevent childhood obesity, according to a report released today. But it’s hardly time to start celebrating, public health officials said. Thirty-eight percent of public schoolchildren in fifth, seventh and ninth grades were overweight or obese in 2010 – only 1.1 percent fewer than in 2005.

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Sacramento County will continue medical subsidy for retirees
Sacramento Bee

Supervisors voted Tuesday to continue a medical insurance subsidy for Sacramento County retirees, a benefit that’s come under scrutiny as the county struggles to maintain basic services.

The county can expect to pay $1.86 million for the subsidy next year, according to an actuarial report from Bartel Associates completed in September.

The decision comes as the county will receive another bill this week for retirement costs.

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Fresno County childhood obesity on the rise
Fresno Bee

Childhood obesity remains on the rise in Fresno County even while it’s declining in the rest of the central San Joaquin Valley and statewide, according to a study released today. The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy report that the percentage of overweight and obese children in the state dropped 1.1% from 2005 to 2010. The study used data from the California Physical Fitness Test for fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders.

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Blue Shield of California Names Medical Director of ACOs
Becker's Hospital Review

Blue Shield of California has named John Hirshleifer, MD, MPH, as medical director of accountable care organizations, according to a company news release.

In his new position, Dr. Hirshleifer will be responsible for collaborating with the network management team to develop an ACO model that provides access to affordable and high-quality healthcare.

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Study finds health info exchanges lead to cost savings
Modern Healthcare

When hospital emergency departments use data accessed through health information exchanges, it results in “net societal saving” with corresponding financial savings as well—mostly through reduced hospital admissions, according to a report posted on the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association’s website.

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Hospitals sue over MediCal cuts
Plumas County News

The California Hospital Association filed suit in federal court last week challenging the legality of cuts to the state’s MediCal program. The trade group is expected to return to court this week to ask for a temporary restraining order to keep the cuts from going into effect until the case can be heard.

When it files for that restraining order, the plight of residents at Eastern Plumas Health Care’s two skilled nursing facilities will figure prominently.

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Safety risks seen in computerized medical records
San Francisco Chronicle

The nation’s transition to electronic medical records, now in full swing, risks overlooking potential patient safety problems, independent advisers warned the Obama administration Tuesday. Computerized medical records have been sold as a powerful tool to improve patient safety, for example by automatically alerting a doctor about to prescribe medication a patient is allergic to. But the report by a panel from the influential Institute of Medicine said such benefits shouldn’t be taken for granted. There are also risks.

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Primary care clinic opens at French Hospital
San Luis Obispo Tribune

The French Health Center, a comprehensive primary care clinic, has opened at French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo. French Health Center physicians are not obligated to send patients to French Hospital, and vice-versa, but their close affiliation is intended to make it easier for clinic patients to access hospital services, and for acute hospital patients to receive follow-up care and health education as part of a total care plan for patients.

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Autistic children may have too many brain cells, study says
USA Today

The brains of autistic children have far more neurons in the prefrontal cortex than the brains of kids without autism, finds a new study that could advance research into the disorder. “For the first time, we have the potential to understand why autism gets started,” said study author Eric Courchesne, a professor of neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and director of the Autism Center of Excellence.

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New Santa Maria hospital closer to opening
Santa Maria Times

Marian Medical Center’s new hospital in Santa Maria is getting closer to opening. In fact, it’s now 90 percent complete. The $210 million project has been in the works since the late 90’s. It will be double the size of the current hospital. We gave viewers a sneak peak at the facility back in July and since then, it’s come a long way.

Chuck Cova, the President and CEO of Marian Medical Center, gave us an updated look at the facility.

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Panel Emphasizes Safety in Digitization of Health Records
New York Times

Poorly designed, hard-to-use computerized health records are a threat to patient safety, and an independent agency should be set up to investigate injuries and deaths linked to health information technology, according to a federal study released Tuesday.

The report by the Institute of Medicine comes as the government is spending billions of dollars in incentive payments to encourage doctors and hospitals to adopt electronic health records.

Opinion/Editorial

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Column: How deficit committee should tackle Medicare
USA Today

With a divided Congress and a presidential election swiftly approaching, any hope for bipartisan solutions in Washington may seem far-fetched, but I believe the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction may be the last best chance this Congress has to do something meaningful to put our country back on a path to fiscal sanity and long-term growth. And we can’t afford to wait until after the next election to act.

Blogs

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What Difference Does Health Insurance Make?
The Health Care Blog

Almost everyone thinks we should insure the uninsured. I don’t recall even a single dissenter. Yet it is precisely when everyone agrees on something that thinking begins to get very sloppy. So let me be the devil’s advocate and challenge the idea. Why do we want to insure the uninsured? Forget about the costs, for a moment. Are there any benefits? What are they? I can think of four candidates. If people are insured:

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