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Health care news from around the state and nation


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Public gets mixed messages regarding efficacy of Avastin for treating breast cancer
Public Radio International

On Friday, the FDA ruled that cancer drug Avastin should not be used to treat breast cancer because Avastin’s risky side-effects outweigh its benefits for breast cancer patients.

“Women who take Avastin for metastatic breast cancer risk potentially life threatening or serious side-effects, such as heart attacks or heart failure, severe high blood pressure, bleeding or hemorrhaging,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said.

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Decline seen in consumers seeking health info
Modern Healthcare

The share of individuals turning to the Internet for health information grew less than 2 percentage points from 2007 to 2010, though residential access to high-speed Internet grew 19 percentage points during that time, according to the Center for Studying Health System Change. Researchers from the Washington-based HSC, a nonpartisan policy research group, looked at telephone surveys of about 17,000 people in 2010, 18,000 in 2007 and 60,000 in 2001.

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Injunction sought against Calif. Medicaid rate cuts
Modern Healthcare

Legal battles over California Medicaid rate cuts continue. The California Hospital Association went to court to ask a federal judge to prevent retroactive Medicaid cuts for hospital-based skilled-nursing services. The trade group on Nov. 1 filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles after the CMS approved California’s plan to cut Medi-Cal rates for non-acute care. The most recent action seeks a preliminary injunction against rate cuts (PDF) the association said would reach 23% to 28%.

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Medtronic in Santa Rosa reports 13% sales jump
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Medtronic’s Santa Rosa-based vascular business continues to grow, as the medical device maker launches products in new markets.

On Tuesday, the division posted $564 million in revenue for the second quarter ended Oct. 28, up almost 13 percent from the same period a year ago.

Growth was driven by the U.S. launch of Medtronic’s Endurant stent graft, which repairs abdominal aortic aneurysms.

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Grossmont Hospital preps for major overhaul
San Diego Union-Tribune

Voter-backed bond money in hand, East County’s lone hospital is being prepped for major surgery.

The public agency that owns and leases out Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa is about to launch $225 million in improvements aimed at modernizing the hilltop medical complex and broadening patient services.

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Young Adults’ Coverage May Cost Parents Even More
New York Times

A popular part of the federal health care legislation that allows young people to stay on their parents’ insurance coverage until they are 26 is prompting some creative pricing by employers who are turning to new strategies to charge their workers extra for children on their benefit plans.

An increasing number of employers are turning to “per participant” or “unitized” pricing so an employee’s payroll contribution increases with each dependent a worker adds to their coverage, according to Aon Hewitt, a large Chicago benefits consultancy.

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Hospital board takes land
Tehachapi News

The Board of Directors of the Tehachapi Valley Hospital District plans to use eminent domain to acquire easements through land needed to build a street to the new hospital in the Capital Hills area north of Highway 58.

Public hearings were held during the board’s meeting on Nov. 16 on two resolutions “of necessity” — the first step in acquiring property needed for access to the property.

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CMS awards $9 million for anti-fraud efforts
Modern Healthcare

The CMS awarded $9 million to state-based Senior Medicare Patrol programs (PDF) in order to increase Medicare beneficiaries’ awareness about healthcare fraud.

Fifty-two organizations were awarded SMP grants for fiscal 2011. The New York State Office for the Aging received $446,624, the largest grant awarded this year, according to an HHS news release.

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Judge awards $2.8 million in local breach of trust case
Lodi News-Sentinel

A $2.8 million combined judgment has been awarded against the chief of staff at Lodi Memorial Hospital and her business partner for breach of contract and unfair business practices. Dr. Elivira Milano, Dr. Albert Sui and their company, Delta Pathology Associates Medical Group, were sued by Integrated Pathology Services four years ago. The case went to a jury trial and a verdict announced this week.

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Merck to Pay $950 Million Over Vioxx
New York Times

Merck has agreed to pay $950 million and has pleaded guilty to a criminal charge over the marketing and sales of the painkiller Vioxx, the company and the Justice Department said Tuesday. The negotiated settlement, which includes resolution of civil cases, was the latest of a series of fraud cases brought by federal and state prosecutors against major pharmaceutical companies.

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Los Robles Hospital named best hospital for stroke care
Ventura County Star

Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center recently earned national recognition by being named a Get With The Guidelines 2011Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award winner by the American Heart Association & the American Stroke Association. It is their highest rating available.

The award recognizes the hospital’s efforts to keep care consistent with the latest scientific guidelines developed within the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Get With The Guidelines program.

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Merck will pay $950M to settle Vioxx investigation
USA Today

Merck will pay $950 million to resolve investigations into its marketing of the painkiller Vioxx, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday The agency says Merck (MRK) will pay $321.6 million in criminal fines and $628.4 million as a civil settlement agreement. It will also plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge that it marketed Vioxx as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis before getting Food and Drug Administration approval.

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Democrats call for extending SGR fix by Dec. 16
Modern Healthcare

The Democratic Party leadership in the House of Representatives is calling for an extension of the sustainable growth-rate Medicare payment formula “fix” in order to delay a scheduled 27.4% slash in provider reimbursement that will take effect in January unless Congress acts. In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina called on Republicans to ensure three pieces of legislation get passed before Dec.

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San Francisco health accounts growing
San Francisco Examiner

Mayor Ed Lee quickly signed into law Tuesday legislation that closes a loophole in San Francisco’s landmark universal health care program.

The legislation ensures up to two years’ worth of employers’ contributions in the accounts is available for their workers. Employers must contribute up to $4,252 for a full-time worker each year.

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California medical groups seek to block Medicaid cuts
Sacramento Business Journal

A coalition of medical advocacy groups has sued the leaders of two California and U.S. health agencies, as it seeks to block a 10 percent cut in state Medicaid payments. The California Medical Association , California Dental Association , California Pharmacists Association and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores banded together to sue Toby Douglas, director of California’s Department of Health Care Services, and Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services .

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Lee signs law closing loophole
San Francisco Chronicle

Mayor Ed Lee wasted no time in signing legislation approved by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday intended to close a loophole in San Francisco’s groundbreaking law that mandates employers provide some health care coverage to their uninsured workers. Under the city’s Health Care Security Ordinance, employers contribute up to $4,252 a year to a health care reimbursement account for every uninsured worker. Until now, any money that had gone unused by the end of the year could revert back to the employer.