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Health care news from around the state and nation


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Dates Set For Health Care Reform Arguments

The Supreme Court has carved out a week in late March to hold oral arguments in perhaps its biggest case in a decade — the sweeping healthcare reform law championed by President Obama. The court announced Monday it will hear 5½ hours of arguments spread over three days March 26-28. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA) was signed into law March 23, 2010, passed by a Democratic congressional majority with the support of the president. It has about 2700 pages and contains 450 some provisions.

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Sharp Is Pioneer in Health Reform Pilot Program
San Diego Business Journal

Sharp HealthCare said Dec. 19 that it is the only health care group in San Diego and one of 32 nationally that the U.S. government has selected to participate in its pilot program for Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations — a program that’s expected to cut Medicare costs by $1.1 billion in the next five years.

“Through our network of hospitals and affiliated medical groups, Sharp has a long history of successfully delivering coordinated, patient-centered, high-quality care,” Mike Murphy, president and CEO of Sharp HealthCare, said in a statement.

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House rejects Senate tax measure; doc pay cut looms
Modern Healthcare

The threat of a 27.4% cut to Medicare physician payments Jan. 1 became more real Tuesday after the House of Representatives voted 229-193 on a motion to disagree with a Senate-amended version of a House payroll tax cut bill that would have placed a two-month freeze on payments to the nation’s doctors.

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The Uninsured’s Challenge To Find Good Health
Neon Tommy

While the people of Los Angeles County struggle to find work and put food on the table, maintaining health tends to lose priority status.

When medical problems arise, however, the underinsured are often left without options beyond emergency rooms and clinics. Now their growing numbers in the face of the economic downturn are threatening to overwhelm low-cost services in the Southland.

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Sutter Solano nurses to join regional strike to protest labor talks
Vallejo Times-Herald

Sutter Solano Medical Center nurse Sherry Ramsey said she can’t afford to give up a portion of her health insurance so she plans to take part in a one-day strike Thursday outside the Vallejo facility. Some 6,000 California nurses are expected to participate in the one-day walkout, including 4,000 working in eight Bay Area hospitals that are part of the Sutter Health corporation.

At Sutter Solano, an official said the hospital expects to conduct normal operations with temporary workers as it did in a previous work stoppage action.

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Hospital set for strike
Long Beach Press-Telegram

Hospital officials say patient services at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital will remain unaffected during the nurses’ strike Thursday.

Hospital officials signed a contract for replacement nurses to cover the registered nurses participating in the one-day strike and said they are prepared for the picketing.

“So far, it looks like we are going to be open and have full services across the board for patients,” said Dr. Susan Melvin, associate chief medical officer.

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Patients want to see docs’ notes: study
Modern Healthcare

Most patients are enthusiastic about viewing and sharing their doctors’ notes about them, while doctors—perhaps predictably—are more wary of the practice, according to two studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. One study examined attitudes of patients and physicians at Beth Deaconess Israel Medical Center in Boston; Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania; and Harborview Medical Center, a county hospital in Seattle. The other study surveyed users of the My HealtheVet U.S. Veterans Affairs Department Web-based personal health record.

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State site explains long-term health care
Sacramento Bee

The state has launched a website to help Californians with long-term health care planning.The site,, was created by the state Department of Health Care Services’ California Partnership for Long-Term Care.The site includes numerous tools, calculators and scenarios for individuals and households. Video presentations also are on-site. “Long-term care concerns can be emotionally and fiscally taxing, especially for those who wait to prepare,” said DHCS Director Toby Douglas. “It’s critical that Californians work to address this issue before the need arrives.”

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Ontario receives $1 million grant to encourage healthy living, eating habits to residents
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Officials announced Tuesday night the city had received a $1 million healthy living grant from Kaiser Permanente Hospital.

The grant will be used to educate the community on food choices, healthy activities, weight management, cooking classes and more.

“The idea of healthy city was birthed and constructed here in the city of Ontario,” said Mayor Paul Leon.

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Tri-City’s Reno wins Public Service Award
San Diego Daily Transcript

RoseMarie Reno, chairwoman of the Tri-City Healthcare District, has been named the recipient of the prestigious Public Service Award in recognition of her longstanding commitment to health care issues and her dedication to the public good through leadership and community service. Previous winners of the award, given annually by the California Hospital Association’s Board of Trustees, include former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (2010) and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (2007).

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Keeping primary care afloat in Santa Ana

Second year family practice resident Dr. Ernesto Medina is happy with his specialty, despite the challenges of primary care. “The value of primary care is found, quite simply, in the continuity of care you get for every member of your family,” Medina said, taking a break from his work at UCI Family Health Center in Santa Ana. Faculty and residents see twenty or more patients daily at the center.

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Mass., feds agree to $26.7B health care extension
San Francisco Examiner

Massachusetts has struck a multi-billion dollar deal with the federal government that Gov. Deval Patrick says will help the state move ahead with plans to overhaul the way it pays for health care coverage. Patrick praised the three-year, $26.7 billion Medicaid waiver — a $5.7 billion increase over the previous waiver. Patrick said the money will help the state preserve existing eligibility and benefit levels in Medicaid and Commonwealth Care programs.

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Tri-City adds $8m to capital budget
San Diego Union-Tribune

The public Tri-City Healthcare District board of directors decided Tuesday to expand the district’s capital budget by $8 million.

The extra funds allow the district to continue buying equipment for the flagship hospital Tri-City Medical Center and its operating rooms. The capital expenditures were set for$7 million, bringing the total for the year to $15 million.

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Will reading your doctor’s notes lead to better health?
USA Today

Could having easier access to the notes your doctor takes during a checkup help you stay healthy? In a study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the overwhelming answer from patients is yes. Doctors, however, are not so sure. The study, called the Open Notes Project, surveyed nearly 38,000 patients who saw primary care doctors in three states — as well as 173 physicians.

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Cigna, Partners in Care announce ACO launch
Modern Healthcare

Insurer Cigna and Partners in Care, a New Jersey independent physicians organization, announced they have launched an accountable care organization. Accountable care, a payment model that links quality performance and cost control to reimbursement, has emerged in the private market as federal officials have adopted ACOs under Medicare. The accountable care organization launched by Cigna and New Brunswick, N.J.-based Partners in Care, is expected to include 160 physician practices with 360 doctors and roughly 14,000 Cigna enrollees, according to a news release.


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Bay Area groups take part in Medicare test program
San Francisco Chronicle

This is only a test, but it’s an important one. Beginning in January, 17,000 Medicare patients in the Bay Area will be guinea pigs, of sorts, in a federal program meant to improve the quality of their care, and at the same time lowering the costs of a system that threatens to overwhelm the nation’s finances. But they’ll still be able to see their doctor of choice and keep all the benefits of Medicare, financial and otherwise.

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A detour on health reform
Los Angeles Times

The healthcare reform law passed last year requires insurers to offer, at a minimum, a set of “essential” benefits to individuals and small groups, including coverage for hospitalization, outpatient care and prescription drugs. The details of what is or is not essential were left to the Department of Health and Human Services to decide.

On Friday, however, the department put out a bulletin proposing to let each state come up with its own definition.

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A healthier bottom line

San Joaquin General Hospital seems to be on the road to financial recovery. One sure sign: officials are taking steps toward designating the hospital a trauma center. This is a sure indication things are on the mend. Years of ever-increasing deficits and never-ending cuts to programs and services led many to believe even intensive care could not save this patient.