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California’s healthcare spending per person among lowest in U.S.
Los Angeles Times

For more evidence that the Golden State has lost some of its luster, consider this news from the federal government: California spends less per person on healthcare than all but eight states.

New data show that total spending by insurers, government agencies and individuals amounted to $6,238 per resident in 2009, well below the national average of $6,815. That puts California on a bottom tier with Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Idaho.

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Californians urged to get flu shots; vaccination rates for health care workers released
Lake County News

State public health officials are urging Californians to get immunized against influenza as part of National Influenza Vaccination Week, which this year takes place Dec. 4-10, and also are taking steps to encourage more vaccinations among health care workers based on the findings of a newly released report.

Each year in the United States more than 200,000 people are hospitalized, and as many as 49,000 people die after contracting influenza.

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Crowded ERs help urgent care centers thrive
USA Today

After Dwayne Duckenfield banged his right elbow working around the house on a recent Saturday, he grew worried when the swelling didn’t go down and the pain worsened. Concerned he may have broken a bone, the project manager who lives in Washington, D.C., didn’t go to the nearest emergency room or wait until Monday to call his physician for an appointment. Like an increasing number of Americans looking for fast and affordable health care, he went to an urgent care facility.

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California’s healthiness ranking improves a bit
Sacramento Bee

Compared with the other 49 states, California’s overall healthiness could be worse. But it also could be better.

And though officials nationwide are making progress fighting smoking and heart disease, the country’s overall health isn’t improving.

Those conclusions come from America’s Health Rankings, an annual report card produced since 1990 by the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the Washington D.C.-based Partnership for Prevention.

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Rating Hospitals
KQED Radio

The California Hospital Association has withdrawn its support for a project measuring the quality of care delivered by hospitals around the state. Could this move prevent consumers from getting important hospital safety information? We discuss hospital ratings, where to find them and what they can tell us.

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Riverside Community Hospital Now Offers Online Pre-Registration
Black Voice News

Riverside Community Hospital now offers patients online pre-registration for their upcoming procedures.

Patients at Riverside Community Hospital are now able to pre-register online through the hospital’s website. This includes patients who already have a procedure scheduled such as surgery or diagnostic imaging, and expectant women who want to pre-register for their baby’s delivery. Patients may also request appointments for screening mammography on-line.

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Healthcare coverage important for all CSUN students
Daily Sundial

Many college students risk not having any type of health coverage because they believe they are young, in good health and relatively safe from illness and injury. This is the mindset Carlos Maciel had during his time at Ventura Community College.

What Maciel did not realize was that being young did not mean he was invincible, and having access to health care is imperative at any age.

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Lowering Breast Cancer Risk
New York Times

A new report aimed at identifying environmental risk factors for breast cancer urges women to avoid unnecessary medical radiation, avoid certain hormone treatments for menopause, limit alcohol and keep their weight down. As Denise Grady, the New York Times health reporter, writes:

The report, 364 pages long and two years in the making, was issued on Wednesday by the Institute of Medicine, an independent group that is part of the National Academy of Sciences and advises the government and public.

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Loophole Closed on Health Care Ordinance
San Francisco Chronicle

After months of passionate debate, three proposals and Mayor Ed Lee’s first veto, the Board of Supervisors approved a veto-proof initiative last week to close a loophole in the city’s health care ordinance.

The plan, proposed by District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, calls for every employer to provide written materials for employees that detail their rights to the health care accounts; it also requires that the money contributed to the reimbursement accounts accrue for two years and be available 24 months after it’s contributed, and for 90 days after the employee is terminated.

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FDA panel backs Affymax anemia drug for dialysis patients
San Francisco Business Times

A federal advisory panel Wednesday approved Affymax Inc. ’s once-a-month anemia drug for kidney dialysis patients. The 17-member Food and Drug Administration panel of outside experts recommended that the agency approve peginesatide from Palo Alto-based Affymax (NASDAQ: AFFY) and partner Takeda Pharmaceuticals . Two Phase III studies showed that the drug is safe and effective for dialysis patients, but two other late-stage studies found that peginesatide could cause heart problems in kidney patients who weren’t yet on dialysis.

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NIH panel urges research on treating early prostate cancer
USA Today

The treatment may be worse than the disease itself in a growing percentage of men diagnosed with prostate cancer, so there is an “urgent need” for more research into the role of delaying treatment or avoiding it altogether, a panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health concluded Wednesday. Next to skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in U.S. men.

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Targeted drugs, lung screening top cancer advances in 2011
USA Today

As the war against cancer continues, a group representing U.S. oncologists has picked its “Top Five” list of advances in cancer care for 2011. Leading the list are approvals for a bevy of new, targeted drugs for tough-to-treat malignancies, plus promising results suggesting CT chest scans may be an early-detection screen for lung cancer. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) this week issued its annual report on progress against cancer. The report was published online Dec. 5 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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FDA panel backs Pfizer drug for kidney cancer
USA Today

A panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration has voted that the benefits of a Pfizer kidney cancer drug outweigh its risks. The FDA’s panel of 13 cancer experts unanimously backed the benefits of Pfizer’s axitinib for kidney cancer patients who have not responded well to at least one other drug. The agency is not required to approve drugs backed by the panel, though it often does.

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California Healthcare Groups Urge Healthcare Workers to Receive Flu Vaccine
Becker's Hospital Review

Seven California healthcare groups have issued a collective call to action urging healthcare workers to receive the flu vaccine, according to a Californians for Patient Care news release.

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Prostate cancer – to test or not to test
Orange County Register

For Ed Watson, a PSA blood test was as routine as checking his cholesterol during a standard physical. In 2005, a spike in his prostate-specific antigen level led to a biopsy and a diagnosis of prostate cancer. The Newport Beach dentist, now 65, underwent surgery and radiation. Watson is cancer-free and has managed sexual side effects through medication.

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CA health care systems pay $2M in federal claims
San Francisco Chronicle

Federal authorities say two California health care operators have paid $2.3 million to settle claims that they overcharged the government for medical services.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento said Wednesday that Sutter Health Association has paid more than $1.4 million to the United States and Catholic Healthcare West paid more than $875,000.

Federal Department of Health and Human Services auditors found the two improperly billed the government more than once for the same medical procedures.

Opinion/Editorial

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District’s plan speaks to woes of failed system
Bakersfield Californian

By all accounts, the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District’s plan to change its employee medical benefits has failed. The most controversial aspect of the plan, denying coverage to employees who can get insurance through a spouse’s employer, isn’t going to fly. Nor should it.

Teachers expressed unease about the proposal and ultimately voted down a new union contract that would have implemented that rather profound change. Other local employers also gave the proposal negative reviews amid fears that the district’s changes would merely shift the risk elsewhere.

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