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Health care news from around the state and nation


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Hospital association questions Calif. budget plan
Modern Healthcare

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget for 2012-13 (PDF) would reduce Medicaid revenue for hospitals in the state by $86 million and could cause problems for rural health clinics, seniors and people with disabilities, according to a media statement from C. Duane Dauner, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association.

Brown proposes the state cut spending on Medi-Cal by $842.3 million, spending $59.7 billion in total on the state’s Medicaid program, according to the budget’s introduction (PDF).

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El Camino Hospital union decertification vote mired in controversy
The Mercury News

The ballots from Thursday’s hotly anticipated vote to decertify the union that represents as many as 1,200 El Camino Hospital workers remain to be counted because of questions over how the election was conducted. And union officials are crying foul. The vote took place 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at El Camino Hospital’s facilities in Mountain View and Los Gatos, as well as its Evergreen and Rose Garden dialysis centers in San Jose.

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10 Hospital Technologies to Watch Carefully
Health Leaders Media

Just in case some hospital chiefs have millions in the coffers to spend but can’t figure out what to buy, a report by the ECRI Institute lists ten high-priced gadgets and systems that bear at least a look.

“Hospitals have very high pressure on their budgets right now,” says Diana Robertson, director of ECRI’s health technology assessment information service which helped prepare “Top 10 C-Suite Watch List: Hospital Technology Issues for 2012.”

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Action coalitions embrace future of nursing

When California RNs and other healthcare workers created their state’s action coalition, they decided to take on not a few, but all of the Institute of Medicine’s eight recommendations on nursing’s future. The California Action Coalition formed in October 2010, becoming one of the first such groups in the country. A little more than a year after being accepted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the coalition has formed eight work groups, one for each recommendation, said Mary Dickow, MPA, statewide director for the California Action Coalition.

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California makes progress in reporting health infections
Sacramento Bee

California health regulators on Friday released infection rates for hundreds of hospitals statewide in what it called a major push to inform residents about the infections that can sicken patients during hospital stays. They vowed to make the state a national leader in disclosing those reports, saying that the publicity can prompt reforms and potentially save hundreds of California lives annually.

For years, the state has lagged behind other states in compiling such reports, required by a 2008 state law.

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PSA test for prostate cancer doesn’t save lives, study finds
USA Today

Screening men with the PSA test increases their chances of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, but doesn’t reduce their overall risk of death, according to a large, long-running government study. The results — the newest update to a study launched in 1993 — are the latest to question the value of using the PSA to routinely screen all older men for prostate cancer, a common practice since the 1980s.

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Children’s Health Initiative Napa County
Napa Valley Register

Too often, we take for granted the gift of a body that’s working as it should. Then the flu strikes or we trip and injure an ankle. If we’re fortunate, we have access to medical care. We visit a doctor, discuss options, perhaps pick up a prescription and go home for some chicken soup and TLC. At times like these, we’re wont to nod sagely and intone, “As long as you have your health …” If we’re not fortunate enough to have insurance, this all becomes a challenge. We need to prioritize, maybe gamble a bit to save a dollar that’s needed for rent.

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Radical collaboration

Focused on collaboration and prevention, Alameda County is pushing to expand health care and wellness to as many residents as possible. The county was the first nationwide to accept a federal challenge: provide healthcare to every child eligible under two federal programs: the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, and Medicaid (or Medi-Cal in California). More expansively, Alameda county aims to lead the state in progressive reform efforts by 2014, when most provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act take effect.

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St. Joseph’s Annadel Medical Group adds seven physicans
North Bay Business Journal

St. Joseph Health System announced that seven physicians recently joined the Annadel Medical Group in Sonoma County, bringing the total number of physicians in the foundation that contract with Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals to 43.

The physicians range is specialties from primary care to psychiatry to general and trauma surgery, and include several longtime Sonoma County providers as well as recruits from beyond the area, according to the health system, which founded the medical group in 2008.

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Healthcare Created 314K Jobs in 2011
Health Leaders Media

Healthcare created 22,600 jobs in December, finishing a strong year for job growth that saw 314,700 payroll additions in 2011. Healthcare accounted for nearly for nearly one in five new jobs in the overall economy, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.

Hospitals created 9,800 new jobs in December, and 89,100 jobs in 2011, more than double the 37,300 jobs hospitals created in 2010.

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CMS issues final round of health plan waivers
Modern Healthcare

Health insurance policies covering about 3.3 million people may temporarily continue under the final round of CMS waivers for employer-sponsored plans that do not meet provisions of the 2010 healthcare law. The waivers, announced Friday on a CMS website, apply to health insurance policies—mostly for mini-med plans—offered to the workers of 1,231 employers.

The waiver policy, meant as a transition to the implementation of policies in 2014 that effectively will ban most mini-med policies, started in September 2010 offering one-year waivers from the coverage policies.

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New swine, drug-resistant flu strains tracked
San Francisco Chronicle

The flu season hasn’t kicked in yet, but Bay Area infectious disease experts are on the alert for new strains of the virus, including another swine flu that’s popped up in parts of the United States and a drug-resistant flu circulating in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s possible that these strains of influenza will never arrive in California, where the flu season officially starts in October but doesn’t usually pick up steam until January or February. So far, very few cases of influenza have been reported statewide. One person, a Bakersfield man, has died from the flu.

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Justice Department files reform-law defense with high court
Modern Healthcare

The Justice Department has filed with the Supreme Court (PDF) its formal defense of Congress’ requirement in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that nearly all Americans obtain health insurance or face a tax penalty.

Lawyers with President Barack Obama’s administration say in the 130-page brief that the insurance mandate was a proper attempt by Congress to regulate interstate commerce because the overall healthcare market overall was affected when tens of millions of uninsured Americans shift billions in uncompensated-care costs to the insured population.

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Healthcare plan for low-income adults includes mental health benefit

Mental health care for low-income adults in California is haphazard. There is no state mandate for mental health treatment, and individual counties set their own standards. That’s changing, however, with a state and federal program that brings health services similar to Medi-Cal to low-income adults ahead of the 2014 national health care reform. The low-income healthcare plan uses federal funds to match money spent by counties on uninsured residents, allowing the counties to expand coverage.

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CHA website showcases hospitals’ efforts to improve safety of care

Three hospital “case studies” are featured in a four-minute video on the California Hospital Association’s new patient safety website.

“Hospitals across California are making huge strides in improving the quality and safety of patient care through focused initiatives based on best practices,” said CHA president/CEO C. Duane Dauner. “By sharing these case studies, we hope to advance the knowledge of clinicians and the public alike.”

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Fort Irwin plans new hospital
Desert Dispatch

Fort Irwin has plans to build a $400 million hospital on post that is expected to break ground this summer.

The new facility will replace the post’s current 40-year-old hospital, said Col. Michael Kiefer, Fort Irwin’s Medical Department Activity commander.

Construction on the new facility should begin in June and wrap up the summer of 2015, Kiefer said.

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Some Medi-Cal cuts averted; move helps patients treated at Visalia skilled-nursing facility
Visialia Times-Delta

Dodie Wickham has come a long way since a golf ball-size tumor was removed from her brain. The 52-year-old Kingsburg woman sat in a wheelchair and visited with family Friday at Kaweah Delta’s skilled-nursing facility. After being in a coma for three months and on a ventilator for six months, this Medi-Cal patient’s next goal is to go home.

“Her legs need a little bit more strength,” said her husband, Walt Wickham.

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White House defends health care overhaul
Monterey Herald

The Obama administration defended the health care overhaul in a filing Friday with the Supreme Court that calls the law an appropriate response to a “crisis in the national health care market.”

The administration filed a written submission in the high court’s biggest case this term, with the potential to affect President Barack Obama’s bid for re-election.

The government called on the court to uphold the core requirement that individuals buy insurance or pay a penalty.

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Path2Health gives medical coverage to 30,000 Californians; more people qualify for no share of cost
Redding Record Searchlight

More Shasta County residents now qualify for medical coverage through a new state program that essentially gives them a two-year advance on federal health care reform.

The County Medical Services Program, a low-income health care coverage program largely meant for rural counties, won federal approval late last month to launch Path2Health, which will give health insurance to about 30,000 more Californians in 34 counties starting Jan. 1.