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Health care news from around the state and nation


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Health care spending grows at slower rate
Sacramento Bee

U.S. health care spending in 2010 grew at the second-slowest rate in 51 years, as patients continued to postpone hospitalizations, fill fewer drug prescriptions and avoid doctor visits in the aftermath of the Great Recession, according to a government report released Monday. Because health care is considered a necessity, slowdowns in spending for medical services typically emerge about two years after an economic downturn. But high unemployment, the loss of job-based health coverage and plummeting household incomes caused national health spending to slow almost immediately after the Great Recession began in December 2007.

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‘Value’ in Health Insurance Acquires New Meaning
California Healthline

“Value” is gaining clout in the health care industry. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is set to test whether value-based insurance design can be a viable tool for aligning out-of-pocket costs and the value of medical services. National reform will further encourage value-based insurance design in 2014, when it allows employers to reimburse employees up to 30% of health insurance costs if workers meet health and wellness goals. The current reimbursement rate is 20%.

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Health Net to sell Medicare prescription-drug plan
Modern Healthcare

Health Net, a Woodland Hills, Calif.-based insurer, has agreed to sell its stand-alone Medicare prescription-drug plan to CVS Caremark for $160 million in cash, after five years of cooperation between the two companies, according to a news release. Health Net expects to earn $140 million from the sale after costs, which will be spent “in ways that benefit Health Net stockholders,” the release said. The sale will require regulatory approval, including from the CMS, and is expected to close in the second quarter.

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El Camino Hospital to expand board of directors
San Jose Business Journal

El Camino Hospital said Monday its board of directors is expected to expand from six to nine members by June 2012. Recruitment firm Russell Reynolds has been hired to conduct a search for those with backgrounds in finance, quality measures and health care policy. The hospital offers an acute-care, 542-bed nonprofit facility, with campuses in Mountain View and Los Gatos.

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Twin Cities Community Hospital recognizes extraordinary nurses
Paso Robles Press

Delane Arnold, RN, was recently honored with The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses at Twin Cities Hospital in Templeton. The award is part of the DAISY Foundation’s program to recognize the super-human efforts nurses perform every day. As the first award recipient, Delane Arnold RN, Perinatal Services, was nominated by her peers for being an extraordinary nurse. Delane first came to Twin Cities Community Hospital on a nine month contract in 2005.

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Doctors and patients struggle over discussing weight
Orange County Register

A friend of mine, who is obese and at risk of diabetes, told me about her recent visit to the endocrinologist. It had been two years since her last appointment and she’d gained 30 pounds. He pointed that out and she hung her head and said she’d eaten more with the holidays and slacked off on the gym. That’s where the conversation ended. She’s not alone.

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Low-cost health provider expands into Fresno
The Business Journal

Health care provider MedLion announced plans to expand into the Fresno area by including William Work, M.D. in its network of affiliated physicians.

Dr. Work, a board-certified family practitioner, runs the Ultimate Living Medical Clinic in Fresno.

“As people lost their jobs during this economic downturn, so too have they lost their health care coverage and have either gone without routine, preventive medical care or turned to emergency rooms for their care,” Work said in a press release.

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U.S. healthcare spending rises 3.9% in 2010
Los Angeles Times

U.S. healthcare spending grew at the second-lowest rate on record in 2010 as recession-spooked consumers avoided going to the doctor, taking expensive prescription drugs and undergoing costly elective procedures.

Public and private healthcare spending totaled $2.6 trillion, representing 17.9% of the U.S. economy, the same proportion as in 2009, according to a government report released Monday. That was a sharp departure from previous years, when healthcare consumed ever-larger shares of the economic pie.

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Study links statins to higher diabetes in older women
USA Today

Millions of people taking statin medications to lower their cholesterol are at a slightly higher risk of diabetes, a new study suggests. Study authors advise patients not to stop taking their medications without talking to a doctor, because statins’ proven power to prevent heart attacks and strokes outweighs any potential increase in type 2 diabetes risk.

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Health care spending drops, as do doctor visits
San Francisco Chronicle

Is health care relief finally in sight? Health spending stabilized as a share of the nation’s economy in 2010 after two back-to-back years of historically low growth, the government reported Monday. Experts debated whether it’s a fleeting consequence of the sluggish economy, or a real sign that cost controls by private employers and government at all levels are starting to work.

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Report highlights the sluggish growth of health care spending due to U.S. recession
Live Insurance News

The worldwide recession has had a major impact on the health care system of the U.S. The effects are quite obvious in terms of insurance. As thousands of people throughout the country lost their jobs, they also lost their health insurance coverage. The recession, which lasted from late December 2007 to the middle of 2009, suppressed health care spending in the U.S. significantly, according to the federal government. The Obama administration released a report this week from the Department of Health and Human Services showing the impact of the recession in this regard.

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Diabetes affects millions; society should not stigmatize its victims
Washington Post

The panic always takes me by surprise. It creeps in, a gathering fog of unease. Then I find myself unable to carry on a conversation. Or I start arguing, mindlessly. My scope of vision narrows, and my heart thumps like Bugs Bunny in love — except I’m not enraptured; I’m sick. I have been through this again and again, and still it takes me a few minutes to realize that I urgently need something to eat.

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Some doctors want your credit card number before they’ll make an appointment
Washington Post

After a year abroad, my daughter came home last summer, unusually fatigued and with more severe asthma symptoms than when she left. After a thorough checkup, her new doctor, a family practice physician, referred us to five specialists, so I put aside a morning, and my insurance card, to make the appointments. Turns out, though, that to guarantee appointments with two of the practices, I also needed my credit card — to make a down payment on the visit.

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Obama needs to find his backbone on healthcare reform
Los Angeles Times

It’s wrong to call the president of the United States a weenie. So I’ll just say instead that perhaps President Obama could show a little more spine when it comes to healthcare reform.

Sure, he flexed his muscles last week with the recess appointments of new consumer and labor regulators. But on the healthcare front, Obama has backed off from a “public option” for people who don’t receive coverage from their employer.

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Natividad negotiating with Anthem Blue Cross of California
The Californian - Salinas

Natividad Medical Center is negotiating a new contract with Anthem Blue Cross of California, hospital, officials announced Monday.

Blue Cross has issued a contract termination notice to Natividad for inpatient and outpatient services effective Jan. 15, if the hospital does not agree to the insurance company’s proposed reduced rates, officials said.While Blue Cross is asking for millions of dollars from Natividad, their parent company, Wellpoint, made nearly $3 billion in profit according to their most recent published financial statements.