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Refuse vaccines and risk dismissal by doctor
USA Today

It’s not unusual for a patient to change doctors. Doctors retire, families move, insurance changes. And sometimes, patients get fired. “Discharging parents from a practice is never easy,” says Thomas Tryon, a pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo. “I never did it without disappointment that I’d somehow failed to communicate enough with the family.” But done it he has, as have other pediatricians.

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How was the Affordable Care Act intended to work?
Southern California Public Radio

Controversy over President Obama’s universal health care reform is finally hitting the Supreme Court early next year, with oral arguments by March and a decision expected in June – just in time for elections.

Since the President signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, 26 states have banded together in opposition, questioning the federal government’s right to force individuals to buy health insurance. Other issues at hand is whether Congress went too far in overstepping its boundaries, and what it means for existing Medicaid funds.

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Few doctors screen young athletes for hidden heart trouble
USA Today

Tragic stories appear in the media about seemingly healthy young athletes dying on the playing field due to an undetected heart problem. In response, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued guidelines aimed at helping doctors and coaches detect these problems early on and prevent such senseless deaths. But new research suggests that only a small percentage of physicians are heeding the guidelines.

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Number of Uninsured (and Untreated) Americans Grows
All Gov

Americans are continuing to lose health insurance coverage and to struggle paying for serious medical conditions, according to two separate surveys. A Gallup poll found the proportion of adults with no health insurance has been above 17% for the last six months. The rate in the third quarter of 2008 was 14.4%. One positive impact from President Barack Obama’s health care reform is that the uninsured rate for 18-25 year olds is down to 24.2%; it was 28% in mid-2010.

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Doctors can help patients boost their weight loss
USA Today

Doctors have long struggled with how to help their heavy patients lose weight, given their limited time during office visits. A new study finds that physicians, with the aid of their medical assistants and meal-replacement plans, can help obese people lose and keep off 10 pounds over two years. Right now, many doctors don’t do weight management with patients.

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U.S. top court to hear health care law challenge
San Francisco Chronicle

The Supreme Court said Monday that it will hear a challenge to the health care overhaul act passed in 2010, with a decision on President Obama’s most controversial domestic achievement likely to come in the summer of his re-election campaign. The high court said it will decide whether the Affordable Care Act exceeded Congress’s power by requiring almost all Americans to have health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty, a powerful constitutional question that will probably make it the court’s most high-profile ruling since Bush vs. Gore in 2000.

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In battle of cholesterol drugs, Lipitor as good as Crestor
USA Today

The battle of the cholesterol drugs has been declared a draw. And given the rising cost of healthcare, the tie goes to the cheaper drug, experts say. In a head-to-head test of two of the leading statins — pills taken to lower cholesterol — high doses of blockbuster drugs Lipitor and Crestor did about equally well, according to a study of 1,385 patients presented today at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando.

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Whatever Court Rules, Major Changes in Health Care Likely to Last
New York Times

For the nation’s health care system, there may be no going back.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides about the constitutionality of the federal law adopted last year, health care in America has changed in ways that will not be easily undone. Provisions already put in place, like tougher oversight of health insurers, the expansion of coverage to one million young adults and more protections for workers with pre-existing conditions are already well cemented and popular.

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Local Hospital Union Fighting Proposed Budget Cuts
KERO

Health care providers are declaring an emergency as federal funding cuts threaten to pull more than $500 million from Medicare and MediCal programs. They said the cuts would deny care to millions of seniors, children and the disabled, and when there are fewer patients for whom to care, they say that will lead to layoffs that could cost hundreds of hospital jobs.

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Regular teeth cleanings could cut heart attack risk: Study
USA Today

People who visit the dentist regularly to have their teeth cleaned may lower their risk for heart attack or stroke, new research suggests. The finding is to be presented Sunday at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, in Orlando, Fla. Heart disease in the news

Sugary drinks may pose heart risk Small hospitals safe for angioplasty patients Athletes not screened for heart risks Teeth cleaning could cut heart risk New drug cuts deaths after heart attack In following more than 100,000 people with no history of heart problems or stroke for an average of seven years, researcher

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Justices unlikely to have last word on health care
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul divided the nation from the day he signed it into law, and that seems unlikely to change no matter how the Supreme Court rules on its constitutionality. Some legal disputes, like the 2000 presidential election, the court can settle. Others rage on, such as abortion. It may take another decade to find the balance between private and public responsibility for health care in America, a nation disdainful of big government yet historically unable to guarantee affordable basic coverage to its citizens.

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French Hospital earns national cardiac honor
San Luis Obispo Tribune

French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo is one of two hospitals in California and among 50 nationwide named as top centers for inpatient cardiovascular services by Thomson Reuters. In its 13th annual study, announced Monday, of hospitals that “achieved superior clinical outcomes,” French Hospital was among 15 centers named in the community hospitals category.

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Study finds many patients shun free heart drugs
USA Today

Give people free prescription drugs and many of them still won’t bother to take their medicine. Doctors were stunned to see that happen in a major study involving heart attack survivors. The patients were offered well-established drugs to prevent a recurrence of heart trouble, including cholesterol-lowering statins and medicines that slow the heart and help it pump more effectively.

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Hospitals to test strategies for better antibiotic use
Modern Healthcare

Eight hospitals will serve as testing sites for a program focused on improving use of antibiotics in hospitals, led jointly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (PDF).

The program will test strategies to prevent misuse and overuse, and will provide hospitals with methods for improvement, according to a news release from the Cambridge, Mass.-based IHI.

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Blood thinner Xarelto shows promise for heart patients
USA Today

When added to standard treatment, a new blood-thinning drug called Xarelto (rivaroxaban) may help people with “acute coronary syndrome” lower their risk of death, subsequent heart attack or stroke, a new study finds. Acute coronary syndrome is an umbrella term that includes people with angina or prior history of heart attack. Heart disease in the news

Sugary drinks may pose heart risk Small hospitals safe for angioplasty patients Athletes not screened for heart risks Teeth cleaning could cut heart risk New drug cuts deaths after heart attack.

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Marin General Hospital poised to acquire county’s dominant cardiology practice
Marin Independent Journal

Marin General Hospital has received the green light to acquire its seventh medical clinic in Marin since severing its management agreement with Sutter Health and returning to public control in summer 2010.

The publicly elected Marin Healthcare District board, which together with a hospital management board oversees Marin General Hospital, has given its approval for the hospital to purchase the assets of Cardiovascular Associates of Marin and San Francisco Inc. and contract with the group of physicians there to co-manage the business.

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HHS Earmarks $1B for Healthcare Jobs, Innovation
Health Leaders Media

The healthcare industry got a $1 billion shot in the arm Monday when the Department of Health and Human Services announced a competition to spark “innovative healthcare delivery models.” Preference will be given “to projects that rapidly hire, train and deploy healthcare workers.”

Most of the department heavyweights were on hand for the afternoon press conference: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Don Berwick, MD, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Richard Gilfillan, MD, acting director of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation.

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More hospitals can safely unclog arteries
Sacramento Bee

A large study finds that it is OK to have a non-emergency procedure to open clogged heart arteries in a hospital that doesn’t have surgeons ready to operate if something goes wrong. The results could help make this much more available in rural areas and at smaller community hospitals.

The procedure, called balloon angioplasty, has become so safe that surgical backup is no longer needed when treating low-risk, simple cases, doctors say. Only about 20 states allow this now, and hospitals in some areas have sued so they can offer it.

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HHS marks up to $1 billion for innovation push
Modern Healthcare

HHS announced Monday it will invest up to $1 billion in projects nationwide that test ways to deliver better healthcare quality and save money, with top preference given to models that hire and train healthcare workers quickly. Called the Health Care Innovation Challenge, the latest endeavor from the CMS Innovation Center is funded through last year’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and will award grants beginning next March.

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Alternative therapies sometimes help, and almost always pay off
Washington Post

As hospitals elbow each other to attract patients, increasingly they’re hoping to tap into Americans’ interest in — and willingness to spend money on — complementary and alternative medical therapies such as acupuncture and massage.

According to a recent survey by the American Hospital Association and the Samueli Institute, a nonprofit research group focusing on complementary medicine, 42 percent of the 714 hospitals that responded offered at least one such therapy in 2010, a significant jump from just five years earlier, when 27 percent of hospitals offered such treatments.

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CMS Kicks Off Second Year of Medicare Compliance Newsletters
Health Leaders Media

CMS has initiated the second volume of its Medicare Quarterly Compliance Newsletters, one year after the launching the inaugural edition of the publication.

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Intensive control of type 1 diabetes helps kidneys
USA Today

People with type 1 diabetes who maintain tighter control of their blood sugar levels help protect their kidneys from long-term damage, finds a new study. Those treated early with more intensive diabetes management halved their risk of a kidney complication called impaired glomerular filtration rate (GFR), the researchers said. An impaired GFR can lead to end-stage renal disease, the most serious kidney complication associated with diabetes.

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Blue Shield of California Won’t Contract With Insurer-Owned IPA
Becker's Hospital Review

Blue Shield of California is “shunning” 2,300 physicians with Monarch HealthCare, an Irvine, Calif.-based IPA in the process of being acquired by another payor, according to an American Medical News report.

In the summer, Monarch HealthCare agreed to turn over its management to Optum, the business platform of UnitedHealth Group. That acquisition is still pending, but Blue Shield of California said it won’t contract with Monarch if it is finalized.

Opinion/Editorial

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Healthcare reform’s deciding moment — maybe
Los Angeles Times

Good news. The Supreme Court is going to rule next year on healthcare reform. Or not.

Good news. The congressional “super committee” is going to decide this month on deficit-reduction measures.

Or not.

Sheesh. Remember when George W. Bush called himself “the decider”? Apparently, in Washington, he was the last of his kind.

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ObamaCare Goes to Court
The Wall Street Journal

The “constitutionality” of the Obama health care law, Harvard Law School’s Laurence Tribe wrote in the New York Times earlier this year, “is open and shut,” adding that the challenge against it is “a political objection in legal garb.”

In announcing yesterday that it will consider the law’s constitutionality, the Supreme Court said it would give an historic five-and-a-half hours to oral arguments. Perhaps by his Cambridge standard, Mr. Tribe thinks the nine Justices are a little slow.

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Will partisanship shape the healthcare ruling?
Los Angeles Times

Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare reform package passed in 2010. Under current constitutional law, this should be an easy case to predict — the law is clearly constitutional. But what complicates the decision and makes the result unpredictable is whether the justices will see the issue in terms of precedent or through the partisanship that has so dominated the public debate and most of the court decisions so far.

Blogs

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Understanding the Supreme Court’s Health Law Review
The Health Care Blog

By agreeing today to hear challenges to President Obama’s 2010 health care law, the Supreme Court set the stage for a decision – probably in late June and in the midst of the presidential campaign — that could be among its most important in decades. The case, which will probably be argued in March on a date still to be announced, is especially momentous because it not only will determine the fate of President Barack Obama’s biggest legislative achievement but also will cast important light on the Supreme Court’s future course under Chief Justice John Roberts on issues of federal gove

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Wal-Mart Care
The Health Care Blog

Can Wal-Mart provide us with health care as efficiently as it furnishes us with paper towels? According to a Kaiser Health News report: Wal-Mart — the nation’s largest retailer and biggest private employer — now wants to dominate a growing part of the health care market, offering a range of medical services from basic prevention to management of chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, according to a document obtained by NPR and Kaiser Health News.

Commands