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Calif. Hospital Report Cards Likely To Go Away
Kaiser Health News

On the Cal Hospital Compare website, conscientious consumers in California can look up scorecards for their local hospitals. How well does the hospital control infections? How often do patients die from complications that can be treated? How satisfied are most patients with their experience?

Most major hospitals in California give the data voluntarily to independent researchers who analyze and publish consumer-friendly reports.

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O.C. HMO patients stuck in contract dispute
Orange County Register

Nearly 20,000 Orange County HMO patients are caught in the middle of contract dispute between Blue Shield of California and Monarch Healthcare, an Irvine-based medical group with more than 2,000 doctors. Starting May 1, Blue Shield will no longer have a contract for its HMO patients to see Monarch’s network of doctors across the county. Yet the insurer alleges that patients are being falsely told they are losing their doctors this month, and in a few cases, have been denied care.

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More people turn to retail centers for flu shots
Sacramento Bee

As the number of residents showing up at public flu-vaccine clinics across greater Sacramento dropped over the past few years, some health officials worried. Were people getting complacent about the flu? It turns out that people are still getting their shots. They’re just getting them somewhere else. Supermarkets and retail drugstores such as Walgreens and CVS are increasingly getting into the vaccine business.

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New California nursing graduates find it hard to get hired
Sacramento Bee

Barbara Elwell wanted a midlife career switch from medical billing to nursing. Since graduating in May, the Marin County resident has applied as far away as Georgia and interviewed as far away as Texas.

That’s because Elwell has had no luck with hospitals in Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto or the Bay Area. Now she’s almost ready to throw up the white flag in her job search.

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Return of Bleak House: California budget’s trigger cuts weigh on adult day care center
The Mercury News

The California Legislature is not ordinarily a place people go in search of miracles, and yet that is exactly what lawmakers delivered in June: a budget that would balance as soon as the state Franchise Tax Board, California’s stalled economy and, presumably, the tooth fairy produced a windfall of $4 billion. Now that tax revenues have fallen far short, trigger cuts that the Legislature built into the budget are pointed at the rest of us like a loaded gun. And the triggers are about to be pulled.

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Clogged arteries pose different dangers for men, women
USA Today

Not all clogged arteries are created equal, with women and men facing different heart risks even when they have the same amount of coronary plaque, a new study suggests. Analyzing the results of coronary CT angiographies — non-invasive tests that look for coronary artery blockages — in 480 patients with acute chest pain, scientists from the Medical University of South Carolina found that the risk of major cardiac events was significantly higher in women when they had a large amount of plaque buildup and extensive hardening of the arteries.

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Study: More evidence links specific genes to ADHD
USA Today

Variations in genes involved in brain signaling pathways appear to be linked to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study. The findings suggest that drugs that act on these pathways may offer a new treatment option for ADHD patients with the gene variants, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia researchers said.

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The legacy of Romney’s healthcare Rx
HealthNews

For many years, Rebeccah Pearson, a retail store manager in Newburyport, Massachusetts, was among the state residents who had to forego medical insurance. “It was pretty much pay rent and eat, or go to the doctor. I chose the rent and food,” she recalls. “I would have to save up for two months before going to the doctor because it was ridiculously expensive.” When the state enacted comprehensive healthcare reform in 2006, Pearson, then 30, was able to buy into a subsidized Commonwealth Care insurance program.

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Pharmacists say business threatened by Medi-Cal cuts
The Press-Enterprise

The state’s decision to cut the amount it reimburses for drugs prescribed to Medi-Cal patients could cost pharmacists their profits and leave Medi-Cal patients with fewer places willing to fill prescriptions, pharmacists say. In October, the state’s Department of Health Care Services received the required federal go-ahead to make a 10percent cut to the amount it reimburses pharmacists.

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More hospitals can clear arteries
Monterey Herald

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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HealthRally raises $400,000 to launch “crowdfunding” health site
San Francisco Business Times

HealthRally, a San Francisco startup that wants to be the web version of TV’s “The Biggest Loser,” says it’s raised $400,000 in seed money to help get things rolling. The nascent “social health” company is developing a “crowdfunding platform for personal health motivation,” which basically means a site where someone’s friends and family can make contributions designed to motivate that person to make healthy changes in lifestyle.

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Medicare deadline: Many still unaware
Sacramento Bee

The Wednesday deadline to enroll in Medicare health care and prescription drug plans is fast approaching, and health officials are urging Sacramento area seniors and other Medicare recipients to heed the date.

“Seniors and people with Medicare should act now, review their plan coverage and compare their current plan with other available options,” said Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in a statement.

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Healthcare adds jobs, but pace weakens
Modern Healthcare

The healthcare sector continued to create jobs in November, albeit at a slower pace than previous months in 2011, with 17,200 jobs added, tempering the news that the nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.6%.

The drop in the country’s unemployment rate comes after two months of holding steady. The unemployment rate in September and October stood at 9.1%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Blue Shield, Monarch Accuse Each Other of ‘Misleading’ OC Patients
Voice of OC

Blue Shield of California and Monarch HealthCare are accusing each other of “misleading” Orange County patients about availability of coverage next year. At issue is the length of time Blue Shield coverage will continue for patients whose doctors are part of the Irvine-based Monarch HealthCare group. Blue Shield issued a news release Thursday asserting that Monarch is falsely telling about 20,000 Blue Shield commercial and Medicare patients they must immediately switch health plans to keep their current doctors.

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Colon cancer prognosis worse for the obese, type 2 diabetics
USA Today

People who have been diagnosed with colon cancer have a poorer prognosis if they’re obese or have type 2 diabetes, new research suggests. Two new studies that looked at the impact that body-mass index (BMI) and a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes had on survival rates after a colon cancer diagnosis found that both factors influence whether or not someone survives colorectal cancer. In addition, both studies found that deaths from any cause, including heart disease, were also increased in those who were obese or had type 2 diabetes.

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Medical marijuana jeopardizes liver transplant
Los Angeles Times

Norman Smith, who has liver cancer, was placed on the transplant list at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center last year.

But early this year, doctors removed him because he was using medical marijuana and failed to show up for a drug test.

To get back on the list, Smith, 63, has to spend six months avoiding medical marijuana, submitting to random drug tests and receiving counseling.

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Postwar care bills soaring
Sacramento Bee

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be winding down, but the long-term costs of caring for those wounded in battle are on path to rival the costs of the Vietnam War. While Vietnam extracted a far higher death toll – 58,000 compared with 6,300 so far in the war on terror – the number of documented disabilities from recent veterans is approaching the size of that earlier conflict, according to a McClatchy Newspapers analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs data.

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County emergency services stroke network to begin operations
Redlands Daily Facts

A network of hospitals poised to rapidly deploy the latest techniques to combat strokes is about to begin in San Bernardino County. Strokes are the leading cause of long-term disability in this country and the fourth leading cause of death.

Every minute a there is a blockage of normal blood flow into the brain means nearly 2 million brain cells die, said Dr. Dan Miulli, stroke center director for Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton.

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Putting off routine care can prove costly
Sacramento Bee

II recently suggested to my patient Judy, “Why don’t I see you again in six weeks? That way we can follow up on your diabetes and see how the new medication is working.”

“How about four months?” she said. “I can’t keep paying these $15 co-payments, $8 for parking, and taking time off from work.”

My response should have been that I really need to see if the medicines are working and 16 weeks is just too long to wait. I suggested we compromise on 10 weeks; when she would have none of it, I suggested 12 weeks.

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FDA sets path for key new diabetes device
Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new guidelines to medical device makers developing a potentially revolutionary device for type 1 diabetes, saying they should speed its delivery to patients. The guidelines reflect months of behind-the-scenes negotiations with patient advocates, medical device makers and researchers working to develop an artificial pancreas — a complex system of pumps and sensors aimed at automating the care and treatment of type 1 diabetes.

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Coalition Urges HHS to Consider Affordability for Employers in Developing the Essential Benefits
Sacramento Bee

Upon the conclusion of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) regional listening sessions on an essential health benefits package, employers, providers and other health care stakeholders urge HHS to heed concerns regarding the paramount need to keep the package affordable for businesses and individuals, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Opinion/Editorial

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Uninsured have several options for buying health plan
Sacramento Bee

If you have questions about the practices of your managed-care coverage, ask the experts at the Department of Managed Health Care.

Q: My 24-year-old son has no health insurance. He has had no insurance for more than six months. He cannot benefit from the new affordable health care law under my insurance because I am retired and receive Medicare coverage.

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A chance to revolutionize long-term care
Sacramento Bee

In Pomona, construction is starting on two modest homes that could revolutionize the way California cares for seniors who can no longer live independently. Residents will not experience the long sterile hallways, hospital-style rooms or the boredom and loneliness too often found in traditional nursing homes. Instead, these “Green House” homes – the first of their kind in California – will provide seniors with quality care and something just as important to their well-being: the feeling of being in a real home.

Blogs

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Should Doctors Make House Calls?
The Health Care Blog

In the olden days, doctors would travel from house to house when community members fell ill. Now, we usually expect patients to come to our office-based clinics. The modern model of care is certainly more efficient for us as physicians. But it’s also a barrier for patients to receive medicine; the highest-risk people usually make it to our clinics after being discharged from their first or second hospitalization, well after high blood pressure or diabetes has already taken its toll on their bodies.

  

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