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Hospital workers don’t always practice what the experts preach in getting flu shots
The Mercury News

This is the time of year when health care experts urge us all to get flu shots. But when it comes to practicing what they preach, some hospital workers do a much better job than others, statistics reveal. Influenza vaccination rates vary widely at Bay Area hospitals, prompting some advocates to call for mandatory policies and stepped-up educational campaigns to prevent hospital workers from infecting others.

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States, Not Feds, to Determine Essential Benefits
Health Leaders Media

In a surprise decision, Obama Administration officials on Friday announced they do not intend to prescribe specific features for essential health benefits beyond 10 general categories, but instead will let each state decide what’s appropriate for exchanges that start in 2014.

“The proposal we’re putting forward today reflects our commitment to giving states the flexibility they need to set up their state-based exchanges,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a news briefing.

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No payment update suggested for inpatient rehab
Modern Healthcare

Neither inpatient rehabilitation facility services nor long-term-care hospital services would receive Medicare payment increases in 2013, under draft recommendations that the program’s advisory panel will consider.

Glenn Hackbarth, chairman of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, suggested the flat-line rates Friday morning, following other rate suggestions the previous day. The panel will vote in January on its final 2013 rate recommendations to Congress.

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Digital Data on Patients Raises Risk of Breaches
New York Times

One afternoon last spring, Micky Tripathi received a panicked call from an employee. Someone had broken into his car and stolen his briefcase and company laptop along with it. So began a nightmare that cost Mr. Tripathi’s small nonprofit health consultancy nearly $300,000 in legal, private investigation, credit monitoring and media consultancy fees. Not to mention 600 hours dealing with the fallout and the intangible cost of repairing the reputational damage that followed.

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More doctors going the alternative route
Los Angeles Times

After a stressful day of seeing sick and sometimes dying patients, Dr. Aaron Michelfelder doesn’t reach for a beer to decompress. Instead, this family medicine doctor at Loyola University Medical Center opts for acupuncture or self-hypnosis.

While doctors are schooled in traditional Western medicine, a growing number like Michelfelder are turning to complementary and alternative medicine to stay healthy, then integrating the techniques into their medical practices. Michelfelder is board-certified in family medicine, acupuncture and medical hypnosis.

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Discovering Autism: Homing in on the right label
Sacramento Bee

When autism researchers arrived at Norristown State Hospital near Philadelphia a few years ago, they found a 63-year-old man who rambled on about Elvis Presley, compulsively rocked in his chair and patted the corridor walls.

Ben Perrick, a resident of the psychiatric institution for most of his life, displayed what the University of Pennsylvania researchers considered classic symptoms of autism. His chart, however, said he was schizophrenic and mentally retarded.

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Why It Takes So Long: One ER Doctor’s Views
Petaluma360.com

Time is of the essence. At least according to Shakespeare and of course modern man. Ever been on a slow computer where the connections take more than the usual split second? What about waiting for that Big Mac, when it takes more than a couple minutes? We are accustomed to things happening fast and are peeved when somehow that isn’t the case. The emergency room visit is a case in point.

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After eventful decade, county’s top health official signs off
Santa Cruz Sentinel

Rama Khalsa’s first week on the job wasn’t exactly one from the management textbooks.

There were 2,000 goats being kept for valuable biotech research causing trouble on a North Coast farm. Goats being goats, they’d turned a coastal bluff into a moonscape, and left a huge mess behind to boot.

“I was just amazed. They were even in the trees. I’ve never seen goats climb trees. If there was a leaf on the tree, they were there,” said Khalsa, who directs the county’s Health Services Agency.

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CMS slow to act on fraud weaknesses: report
Modern Healthcare

CMS contractors that work to prevent fraud and abuse in Medicare told the federal agency about 62 specific systemic issues allowing fraud to happen in 2009, yet the regulators had resolved only two of those issues by January 2011, according to a report. The HHS‘ inspector general’s office reviewed the legally mandated reports of Medicare anti-fraud contractors and found the CMS was either slow responding to the concerns or, in many cases, nonresponsive to the reports, the report released Friday says.

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Quality Expert Blanton Godfrey Predicts “Big Winners and Losers” After Health Reform
Sacramento Bee

International quality and productivity expert Blanton Godfrey, co-founder with Don Berwick of the National Demonstration Project for Quality Improvement in Healthcare that later evolved into the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), predicts healthcare reform will produce “big winners and big losers” among the nation’s 5,000-plus hospitals.

In a recent keynote address at TeleTracking Technologies 2011 Annual Client Conference, Godfrey told the record crowd in attendance that hospitals should take a page from industrial engineering and plan their workflow better as a way to mai

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States get a say on health benefits in Obama’s law
San Francisco Chronicle

The Obama administration on Friday rolled out a benefits framework for millions of people who will get private insurance through the health care overhaul, but states will decide the specifics. The new law calls for the federal government to set a basic benefits package for private insurance. But that’s tricky territory for the administration as it tries to avoid the “big brother” label on health care. Obama will be defending his signature domestic law on two fronts next year — before the Supreme Court and the voters.

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Consumer hospital prices rise 0.8% in November
Modern Healthcare

Consumer hospital prices increased 0.8% in November after the prior month’s rise of 0.7%, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In November 2010, hospital prices grew at 0.1%, according to the agency’s Consumer Price Index. For the 12-month period ended last month, hospital prices rose 6.2% compared with 7.4% the prior year. Inpatient hospital prices rose more sharply last month, increasing 1.2%, than outpatient hospital prices, which climbed 0.4%, the figures show.

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Deficit Poses the Biggest Threat to U.S. Healthcare
Insurance Journal

A mounting U.S. deficit could pose a much greater threat to the survival of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms than either the Supreme Court or 2012 elections.

Many health experts say innovations in delivering medical care and the creation of state health insurance exchanges for extending coverage to the uninsured are likely to continue in some form even if Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is struck down or repealed.

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Senate OKs two-month freeze on doc pay
Modern Healthcare

Wrapping up legislative business before the Christmas recess, the Senate on Saturday approved legislation that freezes Medicare payments to physicians until Feb. 29. In a vote of 89-10, the Senate passed an amended version of the House payroll tax bill that the lower chamber approved earlier this week.

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U.S. States to Weigh In On Basic Health Coverage
HealthNews

U.S. health officials will allow states to select the basic set of medical benefits that must be offered by insurance plans participating in new exchanges mandated by the federal healthcare overhaul, the U.S. government said on Friday. The Department of Health and Human Services announcement relates to the so-called essential health benefits for millions of Americans expected to qualify for coverage sold through state-based insurance exchanges beginning in 2014.

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Top 10 Health Plan Stories of 2011
Health Leaders Media

It has been a year full of health plan surprises as insurers prepare for the continued implementation of healthcare reform. Controlling the patient cost curve was the focus of mergers, acquisitions, and new alliances undertaken during 2011.

New rules set minimum standards for medical costs, and one insurer took a controversial step it hopes will help control healthcare costs. And as an early Christmas gift for health insurers, the Department of Health and Human Services declined to set a federal standard for essential benefits.

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Blink patterns may be a window into autistic mind
USA Today

Toddlers with autism show different blink patterns than other children, a finding that researchers say may provide a clue to the way people with autism process what they see. Blinking is largely an involuntary process that helps keep the eyes hydrated and protected. During that split second that your eyes are closed, you are temporarily blinded. And throughout a typical day, adults spend about 44 minutes with their eyes closed.

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FDA aims to boost inclusion of women in studies
Modern Healthcare

The Food and Drug Administration issued draft guidance that addresses how device manufacturers can design and conduct clinical studies that encourage the enrollment of women in order to ensure appropriate representation of men and women. Differences in genetics, hormones, body size, diet and social issues may affect the safety and efficacy of devices used for men and women, the FDA said in a news release announcing the guidance. According to the Dec. 16 draft guidance, women have been underrepresented or excluded from clinical studies.

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Health Care Law Will Let States Tailor Benefits
New York Times

In a major surprise on the politically charged new health care law, the Obama administration said Friday that it would not define a single uniform set of “essential health benefits” that must be provided by insurers for tens of millions of Americans. Instead, it will allow each state to specify the benefits within broad categories. The move would allow significant variations in benefits from state to state, much like the current differences in state Medicaid programs and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

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