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Medicare Cuts Could Slash 278K Hospital Jobs, Warns AHA
Health Leaders Media

Medicare funding cuts under consideration by Congress could cost the nation’s hospitals $61.4 billion over the next decade, forcing them to trim their payrolls of nearly 278,000 jobs, the American Hospital Association said this week.

The reimbursement reductions detailed in H.R. 3630 would take funding from hospitals and use it to cover the deficit created by the extensions of the Social Security tax holiday and unemployment benefits, and by the so-called “doc fix” that aims to address cuts to physician reimbursements .

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Three unions plan strike against Kaiser
Sacramento Business Journal

Three unions have announced a statewide strike against Kaiser Permanente on Jan. 31. The National Union of Healthcare Workers gave strike notice Tuesday due to stalled contract negotiations at five bargaining tables across the state. The California Nurses Association issued a sympathy strike notice Thursday. So did Stationary Engineers Local 39.

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Anti-infection drugs in short supply, study says
Modern Healthcare

Many of the drugs used to treat infections are in short supply, threatening public health and forcing clinicians to rely on less-effective therapies, according to an article published in Clinical Infectious Diseases (PDF). The scarcity of such drugs—used to treat illnesses such as tuberculosis, herpes encephalitis and neurosyphilis—is made worse by the growth of multidrug resistant organisms and by the lack of new anti-infective therapies coming down the pipeline, the authors said.

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Enrollment gains drive up UnitedHealth Group profits
Los Angeles Times

UnitedHealth Group’s profits for the last three months of 2011 jumped a higher-than-expected 21 percent on the strength of strong enrollment gains. The Minnetonka, Minn.-based company, the parent of PacifiCare, the largest private health insurance company in the state, also surprised Wall Street with its full-year profits, which were up 11 percent from 2010.

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New Definition of Autism Will Exclude Many, Study Suggests
New York Times

Proposed changes in the definition of autism would sharply reduce the skyrocketing rate at which the disorder is diagnosed and might make it harder for many people who would no longer meet the criteria to get health, educational and social services, a new analysis suggests. The definition is now being reassessed by an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, which is completing work on the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the first major revision in 17 years.

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Consumers see hospital prices rise 0.5% in December
Modern Healthcare

Consumer hospital prices increased 0.5% in December 2011 after the prior month’s climb of 0.8%, newly released seasonally adjusted figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show. In December 2010, consumer hospital prices rose 0.8%. For the year 2011, the Consumer Price Index shows hospital prices climbed 5.8%, compared with 7.6% the prior year.

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Last day to sign up for CMS’ ACO program that starts in April
Modern Healthcare

Today is the last day to submit applications for the April 1 start date of the CMS‘ Medicare Shared Savings Program, the government’s payment and delivery program for accountable care organizations. The CMS began accepting applications Dec. 1, and applicants will receive notice of their approval or denial by March 16, according to a timeline in the 21-page application (PDF). The application period for the program’s July 1 start date runs from March 1 through March 30.

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Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital workers approve tentative contract
The Californian - Salinas

According to a news release issued tonight:

Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital voted to approve a tentative agreement reached on Monday between the hospital management and the union.

A union membership turnout of 54 percent voted 388 to 1 in favor of ratification, with a 54% turnout.

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Eden medical office to open at year’s end
San Francisco Business Times

Eden Medical Center is making significant progress on a new 80,000-square-foot medical office building, which now has a $64 million price tag. Earlier, officials at the Castro Valley hospital, which is most of the way through a $320 million rebuild, had put the tab at an estimated $80 million. Both the medical office building and the 130-bed hospital should be ready for occupation by December, Eden officials say.

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Lack of dental coverage sends patients to ER for pain
USA Today

When a man recently visited an emergency room here with a toothache, consulting physician Alan Sorkey quickly diagnosed the dental infection was serious and even potentially fatal. The patient was on more than 25 medications and scheduled for a major surgery — not dental related — all covered by government health care programs, Sorkey said. Those same programs wouldn’t cover the estimated $70 to pull the rotting tooth. The patient didn’t have the money for it, and a local low-cost oral surgery clinic had a wait of as long as a year for an appointment, he said.

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Study hints that statins might fight breast cancer
USA Today

Amid hints that statins — cholesterol-lowering drugs — might also play a role in preventing or treating certain types of cancer, new research sheds some light on how these drugs may help stop breast cancer in its tracks among certain women. The p53 tumor suppressor gene stops the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells, but some women with breast cancer have mutant forms of this gene. In the new study, when the mutant p53 cells were treated in the laboratory with statins, the cells stopped their erratic growth, and even died in some cases.

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Health care law is working
RecordNet

A report released by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute notes what could be some really good news: The health care reform signed into law by President Barack Obama, which has been criticized by Republicans and challenged in court, appears to be improving the health insurance coverage of young adults.

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Report highlights promises, perils of social media for healthcare
Modern Healthcare

A report from the not-for-profit ECRI Institute, a patient-safety and quality-improvement organization, details social media’s potential as a public-engagement tool for healthcare organizations but warns that risk management is necessary. The 20-page report “Social Media in Healthcare” from the Plymouth Meeting, Pa.-based organization cites a 2011 National Research Corp. survey that found that 41% of roughly 23,000 respondents reported using social media to research healthcare decisions. Facebook and YouTube dominated their social-media selections.

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Doctors Prescribe Doses of Fruit to Fight Childhood Obesity
The Bay Citizen

If the doctor ordered you to eat one additional serving of fruits and vegetables each day as a way to improve your health, would you do it? Recently a group of pediatricians, trying to get young children to swap unhealthy foods like fries and burgers for eggplant dishes and quinoa salads, began to take a new approach: they’re giving children a prescription for daily vegetables.

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New program brings health care coverage to residents living in poverty
Redwood Times

More than 1,000 Humboldt County residents may be eligible for no-cost health care coverage through a new program called Path2Health. Sponsored by the County Medical Services Program (CMSP), Path2Health provides free medical, dental and vision services for low-income, uninsured adults in 34 primarily rural California counties, including Humboldt.

  

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