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AHA offers advice for hospital execs mulling mergers, acquisitions
Modern Healthcare

The American Hospital Association has released 25 pages of tips and suggestions for hospital administrators who may be pondering a merger or acquisition.

Among the voluntary guidelines, the AHA suggested administrators ask basic questions, including “Will the merger or acquisition help fulfill the hospital’s mission?” Administrators should also consider whether a deal would affect tax-exempt status or existing labor agreements, according to the guidelines.

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Controlling Nurse Labor Costs
Health Leaders Media

Controlling labor costs is essential for a strong bottom line and, increasingly, healthcare finance leaders are looking to reduce personnel costs, particularly for the nursing staff. By taking a new approach to nurse overtime, the use of supplemental labor, and retention efforts, organizations can save money without sacrificing jobs.

Though there may be excess cost in your nursing line item, it doesn’t always rest within the wage, says Mary Nash, PhD, RN, chief nurse executive for the 932-licensed-bed Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, OH.

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EHR incentive payments doubled in last three months of 2011
Modern Healthcare

Total payments to hospitals through the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health-record system incentive programs more than doubled from October through December to more than $1.9 billion, according to the CMS‘ latest monthly report on payment and registration support. Combined payments to physicians and other so-called eligible professionals jumped 99% over the same period to nearly $570.4 million.

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Federal oversight of state prison healthcare to end
Los Angeles Times

Federal oversight of prison healthcare in California is nearing an end, a judge said Tuesday, six years after he ruled that abysmal medical conditions were contributing to an inmate death every week.

U.S. District Court Judge Thelton E. Henderson said Tuesday that healthcare in state lockups has improved significantly since he seized control of the system, a move that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

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Study: Many women can skip frequent bone scans
USA Today

New research could mean millions of older women can skip frequent screening tests for osteoporosis: If an initial bone scan shows no big problems, many can safely wait 15 years to have another one, the study suggests. Government advisers and leading doctor groups urge osteoporosis screening, but no one has known how often that should happen. The findings offer the best information to date on that question, experts said.

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Healthcare Individual Mandate Too Weak to Matter, Aetna CEO Says
Insurance Journal

Wall Street’s concern about the U.S. Supreme Court’s looming decision on President Obama’s healthcare overhaul is overblown because the provision at the heart of the law already has little teeth, the top executive at Aetna Inc. said.

The court in March will hear arguments on the part of the law that requires Americans buy insurance or pay a penalty, known as the individual mandate. A ruling is expected by the end of June.

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White House says Obama’s health overhaul on track
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul is on track in many states, the White House asserted Wednesday. But officials said the administration is preparing a federal backstop anyway for states in which opposition to the new law has blocked planning. The law calls for states to build new health insurance markets called exchanges, so that millions of middle-class people who are currently uninsured can buy taxpayer-subsidized private coverage.

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Local hospitals on the cutting edge
Chico News and Review

Both Enloe Medical Center and Feather River Hospital have recently installed cutting-edge radiotherapy systems. Enloe became the fifth hospital in California to introduce the TrueBeam from Varian Medical Systems, a linear accelerator that offers patients a faster dose rate and treatment time, the ability to track tumors as they move and change over time and a treatment option for patients with complex cancers previously untreatable with radiotherapy, according to an Enloe press release.

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New drug combo for hepatitis C shows promise
USA Today

A new cocktail of two investigational drugs appears to have successfully cleared the hepatitis C virus in people who don’t respond to standard treatment. What’s more, the approach seems to work without the need for injections with interferon alpha, an onerous medication that causes serious side effects in many patients.

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Insurer UnitedHealth’s 4Q profit jumps 20 percent
San Francisco Chronicle

UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s fourth-quarter net income jumped 20 percent and trumped Wall Street expectations, but the insurer left its 2012 earnings forecast unchanged as it saw signs of health care use starting to pick back up. The Minnetonka, Minn., company said Thursday it earned $1.26 billion, or $1.17 per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 31. That’s up from $1.04 billion, or 94 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.

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Health Insurance Exchanges — Which States Are Progressing?
Government Technology

Although health-care reform has become a political hot potato, 28 states and the District of Columbia currently are “on their way toward establishing their own Affordable Insurance Exchange,” according to a report released by the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 18.

The exchanges, also called marketplaces, are a key component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often derisively referred to as Obamacare. The websites are intended to become an online destination where Americans who need coverage can comparison shop for regulated insurance plans.

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Hospital participates in patient health exchange
The Press-Enterprise

Redlands Community Hospital has become part of the Inland Empire Health Information Exchange, which will link patient health information to medical providers throughout the area. Redlands Community Hospital is among hospitals, medical groups and more than 2,000 doctors in the network, which will link providers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The Inland Empire Health Information Exchange is one of 17 such networks in California.

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Melanoma drug’s link to other skin cancers identified
USA Today

The recently approved drug vemurafenib (Zelboraf) has been hailed as a breakthrough in the treatment of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. But roughly one-quarter of patients who take the medication develop a troublesome side effect: secondary skin cancers called squamous cell carcinomas. Now, a new study by researchers at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues identifies the specific genetic mechanism that causes this side effect.

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Consumers Union: Blue Shield of California should not hike rates
Consumer Reports

Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has called on Blue Shield of California to drop plans to hike premiums for some customers starting in March.

Consumers Union filed comments on Blue Shield’s rate plan with the Department of Managed Health Care, raising concerns about Blue Shield’s third double-digit rate hike in the past three years. Consumers Union’s comments are based, in part, on an actuarial analysis by AIS Risk Consultants.

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Hospital board plans expansion
Los Altos Town Crier

El Camino Hospital announced plans Jan. 9 to expand its board of directors by three members. In addition, the hospital declared its intention to expand its six board committees by adding 15 external, nondirector members. According to Chris Ernst, senior director of corporate communications, the hospital intends to complete its expansion by the end of June. Anyone interested in applying or nominating a new board or committee member can do so by Jan. 31, she added.

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Medicaid eligibility stable in most states: report
Modern Healthcare

Although Republican governors of states struggling with recession-related budget deficits sought new federal permission to pare their Medicaid rolls last year, only two states used their existing authority to do so, according to an annual Medicaid report on state actions. Meanwhile, 11 states enacted “targeted expansions” in eligibility that generally focused on children.

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Insurance-exchange establishment grants awarded
Modern Healthcare

HHS has awarded establishment grants to 28 states and the District of Columbia to set up insurance exchanges. The agency released a report providing additional details (PDF) about how some states have started to establish exchanges. According to the report, additional states have applied for establishment grants, which are expected to be awarded in February.

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