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Rural medical providers say Medi-Cal cuts will slash skilled-nursing care
Sacramento Bee

Hospital officials in California’s rural counties say the latest round of cuts to Medi-Cal could leave thousands of the state’s neediest people without access to medical care.

At particular risk, they say, are elderly and long-term patients who need skilled-nursing care.

“This is a real crisis,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a patient advocacy group. “We have been skeptical of providers’ claims in other areas, but not with Medi-Cal cuts.”

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Kaiser Permanente to encourage new moms to breast-feed
Sacramento Bee

Only a handful of hospitals and birthing centers across the United States meet the highest standards for encouraging new mothers to breast-feed their infants.

Soon, all Kaiser Permanente facilities will join that distinct group.

“Astronomical” was how Richard Schanler of the American Academy of Pediatrics described the move, which Kaiser announced Tuesday.

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County expands health care, limits eligibility
San Diego Union-Tribune

One way federal officials are working to implement the new health care law in advance of its 2014 mandates is to offer states and counties money to begin enrolling clients early.

San Diego County took advantage of the effort, securing $50 million in federal funding by agreeing to match it with local money already set aside for indigent health care.

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Medicaid to take bigger bite of state budgets, report says
Modern Healthcare

While overall state budgets are expected to grow slowly over the next few years, according to a biannual report from state political and budget leaders (PDF), Medicaid is expected to consume an increasing share of them. State general-fund spending for fiscal 2012 is forecast to increase 2.9% to $666.6 billion, including a $19.4 billion increase for Medicaid and minus a $3.2 billion reduction for higher education.

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Only 28 percent of Americans with HIV are getting optimal care
Washington Post

Only slightly more than one-quarter of Americans infected with the AIDS virus are getting the form of medical care that maximizes their life expectancy, according to a new estimate.

The goal of AIDS treatment is to suppress growth of HIV until the virus is no longer detectable in the bloodstream. Only 28 percent of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States have their “viral load” controlled to that optimal degree, epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

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Lawmakers urged to extend health programs
Modern Healthcare

As Congress prepares for a busy last month of the year, the American Hospital Association is lobbying lawmakers to support legislation that will extend some health programs that are set to expire. In a letter Tuesday to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee, AHA Executive Vice President Richard Pollack emphasized that it is hard for the nation’s hospitals to plan for both patient and community needs when the future of a healthcare program is uncertain.

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Group mulls new districts for SVMH board
Monterey Herald

After nearly 60 years of electing its directors one way, the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System will spend the next two months coming up with a new way to do so that could have long-range implications.

Starting Dec. 12, a handful of district officials, hospital administrators and community representatives on the Electoral Advisory Committee will begin devising a zone election system they hope will be ready for the Salinas Valley Memorial board’s consideration by Feb. 1.

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Doctors’ financial ties may lead to needless MRIs
USA Today

There may be good reason to ask about financial ties if your doctor orders an expensive imaging test for your aching back: Patients whose physicians own the equipment are more likely to get scans they might not need than those whose doctors have no financial interest, a small study suggests. Researchers analyzed reports on 500 MRI scans performed on patients with lower back pain that had been sent for review to Duke University.

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State-funded elderly in-home care threatened by budget cuts
Los Angeles Daily News

The elderly and disabled who require state-funded in-home caretakers will soon see more reductions if the state doesn’t make its budget projection – a likely scenario that has left county officials scrambling.

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to form a task force to quickly develop a strategy and provide resources for those affected by cuts to the In-Home Supportive Services program.

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Advanced-payment program deadlines set
Modern Healthcare

The CMS announced application deadlines for Medicare accountable care organizations that seek to receive advanced payments (PDF) for capital investments.

Federal health officials unveiled the advanced-payment program when they announced final rules for Medicare’s accountable care organizations, which will begin next year in two groups on April 1 and July 1.

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Obama’s Medicare Administrator Berwick to Resign on Dec. 2
San Francisco Chronicle

Donald Berwick, who directed the U.S. health-care overhaul as head of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, resigned, and President Barack Obama nominated Berwick’s top deputy to run the effort. Berwick’s confirmation as chief of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been blocked by Senate Republicans, who say comments he made in the past criticizing the U.S. health system and complimenting the British National Health Service rendered him unfit for the job.

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Collaboration and compassion are keys to emergency care
Calaveras Enterprise

Illness and injury never happen at a convenient time; they don’t recognize holidays or weekends, and couldn’t care less if the hour is late or the weather is inclement. For those who need emergency care, the staffers in Emergency Medical Services at Mark Twain St. Joseph’s Hospital are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to serve the community.

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More negative MRI scans for docs who self-refer: study
Modern Healthcare

Orthopedic physicians who own or lease MRI equipment are more likely to refer patients for scans that may be unnecessary, according to a new study. The study, which was announced at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting in Chicago, looked at 500 lumbar spine MRI exams conducted by two orthopedic physician groups that serve the same community, according to an RSNA news release.

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Pfizer maneuvers to protect Lipitor from generics
USA Today

Lipitor is so valuable that Pfizer is practically paying people to keep taking its blockbuster cholesterol medicine after generic competition hits the U.S. market this week. Pfizer has devised discounts and incentives for patients, insurers and companies that process prescriptions that will, at least for the next six months, make the brand name drug about as cheap as or cheaper than the generics.

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Study: Fewer children in US lack health insurance
The Mercury News

Even with more children living in poverty because of the rough economy, the number of children without health insurance in the U.S. has dropped by 1 million in the past three years, according to a report released Tuesday by Georgetown University. Many states have expanded eligibility for, and simplified access to, the children’s Medicaid program. This has helped shrink the number of uninsured children from 6.9 million in 2008 to 5.9 million in 2010.

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States receive exchange funds, flexibility
Modern Healthcare

Even as HHS issued a second, $220 million round of state insurance exchange implementation grants (PDF) Tuesday, officials sought to give states more time to establish the exchanges as few look likely to become operational by the 2014 target.

The new flexibility includes a six-month delay in the deadline for states to apply for federal funding to help them implement the first operational level of their exchanges and a clarification that states will remain eligible for other exchange grants after the January 2013 deadline they are under to receive federal certification, HHS officials

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Medicare to pay for obesity prevention
USA Today

Medicare announced Tuesday it will pay for screenings and preventive services to help recipients curb obesity and the medical ailments associated with it, primarily heart disease, strokes and diabetes. “Obesity is a challenge faced by Americans of all ages, and prevention is crucial for the management and elimination of obesity in our country,” Donald Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a news release. “It’s important for Medicare patients to enjoy access to appropriate screening and preventive services.”

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UCD Med Center logs 70% jump in income
Sacramento Bee

University of California, Davis, Medical Center posted a 70 per- cent jump in income in 2011, even as patient visits and hospital stays fell slightly, according to financial statements released this week.

The nonprofit medical center reported $117.6 million in net income compared with $69 million in 2010 – a 70.4 percent hike from a year ago.

Admissions decreased 6.5 percent, from 33,169 in 2010 to 31,025, while outpatient visits fell by about 2 percent, from 970,390 to 951,811.

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Nearly 10% of PCI patients readmitted: study
Modern Healthcare

Nearly 10% of patients who undergo percutaneous coronary interventions, such as angioplasty, are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days, according to a study published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The CMS mandates public reporting of 30-day readmission rates for patients who undergo PCI, but existing data are limited because only about half of the procedures are performed on Medicare beneficiaries, according to the study.

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Health Information Exchanges: Get Everyone Onboard
Information Week

Why have health information exchanges turned into such a debacle in the U.S.? At first blush, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that HIEs–organizations that let healthcare providers easily share information–are just a large sandbox with a lot of big egos not willing to play well together. One player in the sandbox, of course, is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which mandates that hospitals and medical practices participate in an HIE in order to obtain Meaningful Use incentive checks. Ignore the mandate and you’ll eventually be penalized.

Opinion/Editorial

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Column: Don’t take the ‘medi’ out of Medicaid
USA Today

Medicaid is in desperate financial trouble. The states know it. Hospitals know it. Doctors know it. And as each group cuts back on services to try to save money, increasingly patients know it, too. Add 17 million people to the Medicaid rolls in 2014, and the problem grows exponentially. Indeed, that’s just what the Affordable Care Act will do unless 26 states facing insurmountable financial burdens win their challenge in a case now before the Supreme Court.

Blogs

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Joint Commission Says Texting Orders Is a No-No, but Maybe Docs Are on to Something
The Health Care Blog

The Joint Commission has issued a statement indicating that health care professionals should not text patient orders. It reads: “It is not acceptable for physicians or licensed independent practitioners to text orders for patients to the hospital or other healthcare setting. This method provides no ability to verify the identity of the person sending the text and there is no way to keep the original message as validation of what is entered into the medical record.”

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States Receive Health Care Grants
New York Times

Hoping to alleviate concerns of states, the Obama administration on Tuesday said it would award nearly $220 million in new federal grants to states to set up exchanges where uninsured Americans may eventually be able to buy medical coverage as part of the federal health care law.

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The Politics of Prevention
The Health Care Blog

If there’s one thing everyone in Washington can agree on it’s that prevention is good. And that’s about as far as the agreement goes. As for the rest of it – who is responsible for prevention, how to define prevention, what is the government’s role in prevention, how much to spend on prevention and when to spend it – is not so clear, and wrapped up in the bitter politics (and difficult economics) of the day.

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